Johnsen's Tech Exploration

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Final Course Project Intro

In just four days, April 28, we will present our final projects culminating our two year experience and education into technology. Wow! Now as the last day approaches the time seems to have flown by, but the countless blogs, comments, projects are still vivid reminders of all our work. My final project conducted with Dan Robinson (spear headed by Dan Robinson I should say) will be shared soon but that is not the end of this course. Working with peers like Dan, Jeff Utecht, Becky Maguire, Chris Fox, Kristen Rowe, and many others has taught me that collaboration in regards to technology is the best plan of attack. I will continue to collaborate either through blogs, twitter, or just face to face discussions regarding technology and education.

The project Dan and I created uses many different programs and platforms; too many to display here, but please look over our project website (https://sites.google.com/a/tas.tw/english—grade-7/poetic-devices-project) and UbD lesson plan and see our notes on our reflections: positive, improvements, and overall course learning.

 UbD of Literary Device Final Project

Reflection

Self-reflection of project/unit design and use:

Positives

  • Students met learning expectations
  • Students were engaged
  • Tons of Differentiation
  • Students were allowed individuality
  • Students became teachers
  • Students were given enough time
  • Presentations were fun to observe

Improvements

  • More models/examples would help
  • Use student lap tops not mainshare
  • Quality must be upheld even with innovation
    • New doesn’t mean good, still must meet expectations

Course reflection on learning:

Two years ago our eager group came together to learn, experience, and advance ourselves in regards to technology in the classroom.  While excited many of us were also apprehensive.  None of us can be considered digital natives.  We didn’t have computers when we were in high school, and when we got our teacher certificates computers were used for word processing and that’s it.  Now the technology is exploding, how were we going to keep up with our students and the many educational opportunities?

Jeff Utecht smiled at us and with kid gloves guided us down our journey.  From Google docs/sites/and surveys to Prezi, Mind-craft, and Virtual communities, we have encountered countless educational uses in regards to technology.  By course four we all realized the power of technology.  Students today are logged in and want immediate answers and connections.  Media and visuals are obviously powerful tools when research has shown that most students learn best from them, so of course the more we incorporate visuals the more effective we are as teachers.  Today’s technology is tailored made for visual media.

In our final course five project we found an immediate need for students to express themselves through media.  Our students had only a surface understanding of literary devices.  They could define the terms and even find them in text.  But when we asked students to do an analysis and explain the impact of literary devices upon a reader, we were treated with blank stares.  Thus was born our “Into the Text Project” that would ask students to express literary devices in a way that ”a story book can come to life”, and there is only one way we know to truly bring text to life…make it real, make it move, make it sound, in other words have students create media expressions of the literary devices.  As we have learned there is a plethora of ways to use and create media, so through our course experiences and learning we had only one avenue…we would set no boundaries, no parameters, the sky is the limit, the only expectation is that their chosen media platform will represent their literary device in a high quality manner that mere words and text could not.

Some rights reserved by Unhindered by Talent

Not only did our students achieve these expectations, but we discovered that the multi-media  presentations created became better teaching tools for the entire class than our previous teaching efforts.  The students had become the teacher through their unique media presentations.  Other students were intrigued by the visuals and sounds in a more dynamic way than the typical teacher led lesson.  Students went well beyond the work expectations as they found ownership, personal expression, and FUN as they created visual representations that their teachers had no idea how to make themselves.  Students were given an opportunity to show off and “wow” their teacher and peers, while still meeting the learning expectations.  Truly, their literary device visual presentations “came to life” as they proved that they had gone “into the text” and produced profound media connections with the literary device.

I attended the 2012 EARCOS this late March and attended the Keynote on Saturday:  New Media – New Literacies:  Transforming Learning through digital creativity presented by Jason Ohler.

http://www.jasonohler.com/index.cfm

Jason Ohler’s Keynote topic is one of great interest to me as it focuses on many areas that I see as important teaching points for the next decade: media, digital character education, fluency (writing), and how to approach this ever changing world.

Jason starts with saying, “Please continue to text, blog, and IT away…”  How many of us start our classes with the exact opposite statement, “Put your computer away please,”?  Immediately I knew I was going to like the speech, but I also knew my/our current teaching styles would be challenged by Jason’s constructs of a proper classroom.

 

Some rights reserved by proctoracademy

Jason challenges us to be “door openers” in the sense that we use whatever materials/tools available for us in order to help each student.  We must realize that students learn and express in their own way, and only when we recognize and allow students to personalize their learning and expression will all students find success.

 

Help open doors

Some rights reserved by Kasia_Jot

 

In order to be a good teacher, it takes special listening to hear what kids are saying.  They are saying, “I learn differently.”

Some rights reserved by Brett Jordan

As teachers we must find a way to take the school life and its expectations and then meld in with the desires/needs of each student.  Many of our students don’t want nor will they need the expository essay in their futures.  And if we don’t help them, then they will teach themselves online and disconnect with school and the important impact we can make in their lives.  Where will these students who disconnect with school get their character education, especially in regards to the internet and media?

Some rights reserved by Brett JordanSome rights reserved by giulia.forsythe

 

Some rights reserved by giulia.forsythe

 

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – in the United States schools are telling their kids that they can’t afford to give them the most up to date thing, for instance I-pad’s, they just bought lap tops, but can’t afford the next thing.  So they have begun to say, bring your own device if you have one.  This is great if you do have one, if you don’t…Well are you left behind?

 

Jason points out, that we shouldn’t spend too much time teaching media and technology tools.  One they are changing and advancing at alarming rates, and two they are just tools.  Spend more time teaching and connecting with students.  Google Docs, Word, whatever doesn’t matter what they bring to record, create, and design, it is just a tool.  Students want to bring their own device, gizmo, whatever.  They want to bring what they are using, their device, their own app loaded, personalized tool.  Don’t we as teachers use our own smart phones?  Students see that we have our own devices, why wouldn’t they want to use their own personalized devices as well?  This is the future, and within a decade this will happen.  We can’t keep up with the advancement and change in technology.

Some rights reserved by quinn.anya

This is where Jason’s beginning encouragement to continue to use your cell phone and laptop comes from.  He states that we need to change how we have been using our “On/Off” with our students.  Do we start our class with, “Turn your computers off because we are going to work.”  Or should we state, “Turn your computers on because we are going to work.”  OR should we find the proper place between the two and realize that the applications of technology are great tools that when used properly only enhance our learning.  Yes, if at all possible find a way to use the great software and tools provided by new advances in technology.

The advantages are great compared to the simple text book and paper we were given as students.  But don’t let technology drive your class, connect with students, let them express individually through technology, and still meet the high standards of thinking and writing that we as educators must demand.  Writing is perhaps more important than ever to these students as they are publishing and writing more than ever through text, blogs, e-mail, facebook, etc.  Teach writing, teach values, teach students!

I absolutely love how technology has changed and improved my teaching.  The 1 to 1 classroom is fantastic and I can’t imagine teaching in any other arena.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t difficulties.  My school is in its fourth year of 1 to 1, and is very supportive of the technology initiative, they have provided multiple resources to the teachers and to students.  I when I say multiple, I mean multiple.  Every morning I must open and sign in to seven sites no matter what I am teaching:

1.  BlackBoard Online Classroom, where I can place announcements and assignments.

BlackBoard Online Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Power School, Daily Bulletin, so I can take attendance.

Power School

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  TAS Website, to catch any announcements for the entire school and other such TAS info.

TAS Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Google Mail, this is our all school, students and teacher alike, mailing system.

All School Google Email

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Outlook Calendar/Mail, which is my personal and team calendar/email.

 

Outlook Calendar/Mail

 

 

 

 

 

6.  OneNote Lesson Planner, I use to create lesson plans with my team and department.

OneNote Lesson Planner

7.  Homeworknow.com, a site we use to post daily homework which can be viewed by student, parent, and teacher.

Homeworknow site

All these sites must be opened just for me to start my day, and most of our students must open the same sites to for every class.  In addition to these everyday sites there are plenty of additional sites that must be opened according to the need of my classroom resources.  For instance our Write Source online text must be opened often:

Write Source Online Text

So my point and difficulty lies in the fact that our students must open way to many sites and resources in different windows on a daily basis.  Yes, students bookmark and make favorites.  Many even go further and use Diigo to organize all their bookmarks.  But there must be an easier and better way to organize my English classroom online needs.  Yes, there is!  I plan, with the extensive and expert help of my teaching partner Dan Robinson, to create a Google Site that when opened will provide all of the needs listed above in one single site.  The site will easily link to their Google Mail as this will be a Google Site, but the site will include all of the following:
1.  Email
2.  Homework (link to Homeworknow.com additionally)
3.  Daily Lesson plans for students that are sick or just want to look back at a lesson
4.  Links to all resources
5.  Copies of all material, media, and files used in instruction and practice
6.  Calendar
7.  Unit Goals
8.  Announcements
9.  Syllabus
10.  Expectations and Guidelines
11.  Communication
This is seems like a lot, and it is, but how wonderful for our students.  A student enters our classroom and opens our English Google Website and whalah, they have access to all that will be needed for our classroom instruction.  Sounds good to me, now we just have to create it!  DAN!  ROBINSON?  I need your help!

Our entire middle school experiences a week away from school every September.  But more importantly for our students they are an entire week away from their laptops.  Our school has been 1 to 1 for four years now, and our students have become use to technology and their laptops to the point that carrying laptops is normal/natural.  So how natural is it then to go without a laptop and the internet for 7 days?  Please view the following video clips I took before camp, during, and after.  They are hilarious and revealing.

Just lost my laptop for a week!

Empty without laptop

So typical responses from these teenagers, but one student found the answer:

Survived without laptop by using other technology

Hmm…not quite a tech-fast with all the other technology out there, but here is how a few students viewed their life without their laptops.

Can’t communicate without laptop

So many kids view their laptops not as a teaching tool, but as a way to communicate with their friends out of class.  Kids come to school and look forward to school because of the social aspects.  The laptop is another way to keep social. Luckily though some kids get what a week with friends and camp can do for them socially as well.

No Facebook, but camp is social reality

Other kids use it for entertainment/gaming and without it they feel lost.

No laptop = no life (gaming)

In fact it was HORRIBLE for many:

Horrible weekend without laptop

And very lonely for others:

Lonely but my laptop completes me

During camp the kids didn’t seem to notice.  They were having fun and no technology was in sight.

No laptops camp activity

But all I had to do was ask some laptop questions…

Fun but still miss laptops

And another student explained that technology and the internet means being connected to the world; connected to the news and sports:

Laptop= news and sports, being in the know

So on the way home I asked a bus load of students about their laptops and what they would do when they get home:

Last day without Laptop on Bus Question

So they had fun at camp, but they all admitted they would log on and use their laptop in some manner that night.  And when they got their laptops back dancing occurred:

Dancing and happy with laptop

Hugging and dancing occurred:

Hugging and Dancing after ten days without Laptop

And laptops became animated, humanized, and relationships were renewed with their machine:

It’s my BABY

Students couldn’t wait to get on their laptops at home:

Waiting in Hallway with LAPTOPS ON

Waiting for Bus LAPTOPS ON

One astute student did seem to get it.  Laptops are only tools.

Laptop is a worker a slave

In fact when another student was asked about how laptops help at school  he clearly stated that laptops aren’t what make school good, but they do help at home with the homework.  Just another tool at school.

Laptop helps with homework not school

And ultimately technology and laptops can’t help teachers…

A laptop can’t help hula hoop

Poor guy!

So what did I learn about our 1 to 1 students in regards to their dependancy on technology and laptops?

1.  They like their laptops (LOVE)

2.  They like them because they help them socialize, listen to music, play games, and watch YouTube.

3.  Though they may not admit it, they can survive and enjoy time without the laptop.

4.  They recognize that the laptop is a tool for homework, organization, and keeping contact with friends and the world.

5.  Can they give up their laptop for a week?  YES, no problem.

6.  But is you give them the choice?  No, they wouldn’t give up the laptop.

Camp was great not because of the activities, but because of the students.  They are great and they love to have fun.  That hasn’t changed and nor do I expect that to change.  I admit I also missed my internet and laptop, but it was nice to escape and see that our students aren’t the technology zombies we worry they may have become.

Flip my classroom?  Some rights reserved by xacSounds radical, but is it?  My current school prefers teachers to lead instruction and in fact lecture at the higher level courses.  But when we look at the Flip Classroom we actually see that these teachers are conducting Flip classrooms, if in some moderation, they just don’t know it.  Am I running a Flip classroom, and more importantly how can I?  I am interested in the Flip classroom mainly because my teaching contact time has dropped from 90 minutes to 45 minutes.

*The below YouTube video discusses the Flip Classroom.  At the 3 minute and 30 second mark the video sums up the same problems that I currently have:

The Flipped Classroom

Some rights reserved by Orange42

Time Passing...

When I started teaching this year I tried to pack in three teaching points in my 45 minutes.  By the end of the first week I was frustrated and way behind my planned lesson plans.  After taking roll and then transitions between each lesson, I was hitting a lesson in about 1o minutes.  Then I was sending students home to do homework.  Rush in, rush the info out, rush the student out the door, and then HOPE they understand the homework.  It wasn’t working.  So without even hearing about Flip my stragety changed, it had to change.

The next week I asked students to read our writing resource at home regarding Topic Sentences, then they came to class and I asked students to share the main point they read.  Then with a hard copy planner I asked students to write three topic sentences.  I was then able to bounce around the room watching, helping, and commenting on student work.  Some students had a solid grasp and wrote solid Topic Sentences, others needed slight adjustments, while even others needed specific help to complete successful Topic Sentences.  But by the end of the guided work every student had at least one Topic Sentence that was acceptable.  This allowed me enough time to introduce the next homework assignment:  read about Supporting Details.  Which became the next in class guided work…

 

Some rights reserved by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

A Flipped and Working Classroom

So yes, I am conducting Flip classroom work, and it seems to me that this isn’t a totally radical idea.  It seems very similar to Constructivism, but what it is doing is bravely labeling an instructional style that many schools would deny as good education.  My classroom is not 100% Flip, but it is more Flip than in years past as it benefits my students in clear categories:  TIME, Student QUESTIONS, GUIDED work, IMMEDIATE help, teacher can activily lead understanding and practice.  I no longer worry about students not understanding their homework, they aren’t suppose to, they come to class with questions and then together we prove and demonstrate understanding in class.  Pretty nice!  And no longer are the students frustrated because they know all questions will be answered the next class, and I am not frustrated that I have run out of lecture time.

Flip works.

The classic research paper…mainstream education…backbone…essential? Hmm?

My previous blog already discussed the validity of the research paper in the new technology age, but my blog only seemed to blur my own opinions as it raised good points on each side.  So just as my previous blog suggested, I went to technology and searched the internet for other opinions that could guide my thought process…maybe a research paper already flushed out this debate?

Is proper research a pile of paper?

Or can research be something more...

 

Immediately this opinion page (sorry not a research paper) from the New York Times printed this August 28 jumped to the forefront:

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/08/28/are-research-papers-a-waste-of-time?hp

Are Research Papers a Waste of Time?

“Is the research paper still justifiable as a means of grading a college student’s performance?

Critics of the form say it is outdated because the Internet has made sources so readily accessible. In addition, argues an article
published recently by
the John William Pope Center for Higher Education, research papers promote deference to conventional opinions. Thomas Bertonneau, the author of the article, “Down With Research Papers!” argued that students should instead be assigned essays, focusing on concise arguments staking out a point of view rather than long, informative surveys of a subject.

Many of the professors who assign research papers would disagree that they are encouraging students to think conventionally, and point out that the essay has its own limitations.

If research papers — or dissertations, for that matter — were to become a thing of the past, what would we lose in our pursuit of
knowledge? Is there a better way to assess knowledge?

 Read the Discussion »

Many opinions and a great discussion.  Though the discussion focuses on the college research paper, the points can be directed to high schools and middle schools as well.  As my previous post stated I don’t currently teach the research paper, nor do I plan to, but the points in this article cause me to reflect on my current practices as a teacher.  Yes, the basis behind a research paper has value as students learn to dedicate themselves to proving their opinion.  They must fully complete their thoughts and substantiate their opinion.  This is often a tough task in our quick and surface oriented society where opinions are thrown across the internet and twitter, without the ounce of factual support.

What are facts? What are opinions? Do our students know the difference?

At the same time spending a lengthy amount of time on such a singular point of education seems outdated as the students of the future have adapted to a world which promotes and encourages creative, instant, and more concise thoughts.  The world no longer seems to tolerate the long multiple paper opinion, but expects a short paragraph, and more often a short sentence or two statement.  The communication society has changed, will the educational world change as well? And more importantly is this change for the better or what will be lost if we forget the research paper?

What do we lose if we lose the research paper?

Your thoughts?

 

The school I teach at is dedicated to rigor and the pursuit of elite higher education.  So the question has risen in our middle school, “Should we teach the research paper?”  It is a good question, especially since our school is also dedicated to technology as we are a fully integrated 1 to 1 school.  In the English department andthe History department we are asking ourselves, “Does the ‘Research Paper’ fit our school model and goals?”

Research, research, research

 

In today’s world knowledge is at our fingertips, instant, and the multitude of opinions on any subject abound.  So why do we need to teach the research paper that is based on a form focused on length, one opinion, and drawn out evidence pointed in one direction.  The answer…because it keeps students grounded and helps them create a conventional opinion based in a well-developed thesis that is substantiated in fact.  The counter answer…it shouldn’t be taught as it is old-school, no longer relevant, does not recognize alternative opinion, is to singular in purpose, too conventional, and does not recognize the various points of view in our modern world.

As high school student, Anthony Chivette from Missouri put it, “The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer. Rather the students of tomorrow need to be able to think creatively: they will need to learn on their own, adapt to new challenges, and innovate on-the-fly.”

Old Paper style or...

Is the research paper creative, adaptive, innovative?  Not so sure.  It almost seems to be the anti-thesis, but what it does do is teach our children to research and back up their claims with fact, which is SO important in this opinion media age.

Questions

The Teacher NETS 2008, http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers/nets-for-teachers-2008.aspx, asks teachers to bring technology into education in a manner that improves their learning.  NETS 2.b states: Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.  So yes, a research paper can be presented in a manner that promotes a student to investigate their own interest, creating their own educational purpose, allowing a student to manage their own learning, and ultimately they can assess their own progress by finding facts that support their opinion in a well proven thesis.  But is there a lot of technology-enriched learning?  Yes, there can be in the research that must sift through the never ending opinion vs. fact on the internet.

Buried in loads and loads of research?

The Student NETS 2007, designed by ISTE, http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007.aspx, definitely apply here:

3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
a. plan strategies to guide inquiry.
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
d. process data and report results.

Facts vs. Opinions

And so do the Student NETS 2007 regarding critical thinking apply:

4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:
a. identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
b. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
c. collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
d. use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

Students must learn to evaluate

The research paper can meld with technology and perhaps more importantly the research paper can be a catalysis to imbed the necessary NETS points above in our students.  Without the essential “Research” (Student NETS 3) and “Critical Thinking” (Student NETS 4) skills our children will be dangerously exposed in the media and opinion flooded modern world.

 

Is the research paper the best vehicle to teach these essential NETS?  That is a point perhaps best answered in a “Research Paper”, not a blog?

 

The United States Constitution can be a daunting and boring study for eighth graders, heck for anyone.  Reading and plodding through the primary text will overwhelm the most attentive of students.  We knew that in order for our students to acquire the essential understandings regarding the three branches of the US government other teaching techniques would need to be applied.

Applying visual techniques were the center piece of our lesson plan.

1.  As a hook we started our unit with “Three Ring Circus” created by School House Rock.  The perfect visual and fun story line to grab the interest of our eighth grade students:

YouTube Preview Image

This short video incorporates entertaining cartoon characters, catchy corny music, and a simplistic but effective metaphor with the US three branches of government.  PERFECT, especially when you consider our final assessment project; a poster of a metaphor of the Three Branches of Government.

2.  Next we presented the information in a 12 slide power point presentation:

US Three Branches of Government PowerPoint

To be honest this visual we created wasn’t perfect.  While the text was limited to two to five bullets, and were in structured in phrases not sentences, there still were a lot of words.  This broke some of the rules for an ideal digital story.  But we wanted this PowerPoint to not just be a one time presentation, but to represent the foundation to our student notes. So there is a lot of text/information (words, words, etc.) on most of the slides.  In order to counter this we highlighting the key three or so words on each slide.  We also included precise images that would link the message to a visual.  On slide four and ten we varied the slide form by presenting the notes in an Inspiration style web, which added variance and kept the students intrigued.  Further this Inspirational web style will be used in the next exercise, so it also served to introduce the next step in the unit.  After going through the 12 slide presentation we Dyknow-ed (sent) the presentation to each student’s dedicated student D:drive for notes and study.

3.  PowerPoint notes aren’t enough, we wanted students to create their own notes and we wanted it to be visual.  Inspiration Webs were the perfect solution:

We created a basic web as a starter for each student.  This starter web was accompanied by a word bank.  Students must use every word in the word bank and place them on their Constitution Web.  Below the web we placed numerous links that would not only define, but also show examples of the words in the bank.  Students could work in pairs and took a couple of days to complete their Constitutional webs.  Now they have all the terms expected in this unit and in a visual style that they created!

4.  Now it was time for them to practice and apply their understanding without high risk.  The website, www.icivics.org/ provided an excellent forum for this play.  And when I mean play, I mean play.  The site includes various games that focus on all three branches of the US government: legislative, executive, and judicial.  These games were educational and fun, many students played the games when on break and at home.  These games were highly visual and interactive, all fantastic for learning.

5.  Let’s see if students could now apply their learning to a task?  Planet Drajplit (www.docstoc.com) is a new planet in need of a high functioning government, can students help this planet?  In small groups students design their own government (modeled after the US constitution/three branches) and answer tough questions from the Drajplit citizens regarding governance.  This exercise effectively put responsibility on the students to prove their understanding, plus it empowered them as experts.

 

Planet Drajplit Constitution Exercise Pages 1-2 (http://www.docstoc.com)

Planet Drajplit Constitution Exercise Pages 3-4 (http://www.docstoc.com)

Planet Drajplit Constitution Exercise Pages 5-6 (http://www.docstoc.com)

Planet Drajplit Constitution Exercise Page 7 (http://www.docstoc.com)

6.  At this point we had a week long break from excessive homework as our students were taking a standardized test (CTP4), so we lightened the study load.  To re-engage the students after the standardized testing we had students independently watch BrainPops and take the corresponding BrainPop quizzes:  “The US Constitution”, “The Bill of Rights”, and “The Three Branches of Government”.

BrainPop "Three Branches of Government" (www.brainpop.com/socialstudies/usgovernmentandlaw/branchesofgovernment/)© 1999-2011 BrainPOP. All rights reserved. BrainPOP is a business name of FWD Media, Inc. Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

These BrainPops are great digital stories with fun characters, accurate information, and presented In an age appropriate current style.  Plus it pre-assesses the students and allows them to take the quizzes as many times as they like.  These independent reviews perfectly brought the students back to the three branches of government unit.

7.  Finally students were ready for their finally assessments, returning full circle to the initial School House Rock “Three Ring Circus” metaphor, students were instructed to create their own metaphor(simile) for the three branches of government.  This project creatively titled “Three Branches of Government Metaphor Project” asks students to create their own visual metaphor poster, which they then present and display for the class.

3 Branches Metaphor-Student Example-Record Company

Three Branches Metaphor-Student Example-Play

Interpretive, creative, personal connections, and visual, this project has all the necessary educational techniques to enable authentic and powerful understandings in our students.  Plus I can display them inside and outside the classroom so other students can benefit from the unique visual connections and further their understanding of the three branches of the US government.

Here I sit on my couch on Sunday, April 10, 2011, and I start writing a blog for my technology course, but all I can think about is how lucky we all are, and that we live in a fantastic time.

Those of you that follow golf at all will know that it is Masters week and one of the biggest weeks in golf of the year.

Attribution Some rights reserved by pocketwiley

The tournament takes place in the United States, Augusta, Georgia, thousands of miles from my couch, which is located in Taipei, Taiwan.  I love golf, and enjoy those lazy afternoons watching golf as I nap periodically between shots (by the way I feel the same about tennis and baseball, all slow sports, but wonderful for lazy Sundays), but distance, time zones, and tv coverage have been a huge hindrance the past 12 years that I have been overseas.  NO MORE!

It’s my lucky day, my wife is allowing me to watch sports for half a day!  My i-phone 4 sings the “ESPN” intro theme song to announce that my “ESPN Streak for Cash” pick is complete, “Yes!  I won, Portland beat the Lakers, time to make another pick for tonight.”

Attribution Some rights reserved by JD Hancock

I finger flip through the touch screen to find a perfect choice, “What will be Tiger woods’ score on the Par 5 8th?”  I check “Any other score than par.”  And then double click to find Messages, find Chris Fox, and quickly type a smack talk message, “That makes 5 wins in a row!  Nice three loses in a row you’ve got going!”  Heheheh, sucker.  I just returned from church, and It’s early afternoon in Taipei, so I have missed the entire third round of the Masters from last night.  Or did I?

I plop down on my couch and snatch my Logitech Harmony One touch screen multi-remote from its charger.  I finger flip the screen through the devices, find “Air Conditioner” and touch it, the AC units comes to life, the room cools.  Finally I touch “Cable PVR” and the TV, wireless surround speakers, and PVR cable box come to life in precise order.  I scroll through the PVR recordings to find what I believe says 2011 Masters, in Chinese, select, and yes, it is the Masters I recorded last night.  As the familiar guitar/piano/violin Masters music starts the third round play I reach over and security thumb swipe my laptop to life.  On the desktop I use my stylus to click on “SlingPlayer”, as I recorded the Mariners last night from my DVR cable box located in my friend’s closet in Seattle.  I hope they beat the Cleveland Indians.  I find the recording in my DVR listings and begin replay.

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Golf and baseball, both playing at the same time, one on my 42 inch flat screen, the other on my laptop, what else could I ask for?  Well, I could split screen and play the replay of the Portland/Lakers NBA game, but let’s not get too crazy.  As I mentioned Golf and Baseball aren’t the quickest of games, so I might as well type a blog while I half listen and watch.  And that is exactly what I am doing.  Love it.

An hour passes by and I hear the kids and wife at the door after spending lunch with a friend’s family.  Oh-great there goes my serenity, I mean, “Hi kids, how was lunch?…Great!  How are you honey?  …Good…Golf is great, Tiger is on a birdie streak and only three strokes behind the leader.  Though the Mariners are losing…I just need another hour to finish the games and the blog…Thanks.”  I pick up the wireless headphones off the coffee table, place them on, and the thundering of my children are lost behind the golf commentators hushed comments.

I swipe my i-phone 4 back to life.  I find the “Masters” app I downloaded earlier this week, it gives me live scoring.  I want to check if I should continue to watch golf or something else.  Yes, some surprise scores, I’ll keep watching.

My lazy Sundays have returned, though perhaps lazy isn’t the correct word as my eyes, ears, and fingers are busy at work, but I can’t complain,  it’s fantastic.

Oh-wait, I need just one other thing, “Honey can you get me some lemonade?”…  …  Oops, I guess technology can’t do everything, yet?  Though I have heard of those recliners with refrigerators built into the side…

Our school just had a visit from Gina Rojas.  She is an expert in the area of ESL.  We spent a day with her learning and hearing about the best ways to reach our students who are not native English speakers.  She gave us 400 or so strategies and lessons to try with our students.  One of them struck an interest with me especially after reading John Medina’s website, Brain Rules.

I wanted to help my students remember and connect with the various poetry techniques we have learned during this last quarter.  I was going to test my students on their understanding of these terms, but first wanted to review the techniques with them.  Gina Rojas  explained a strategy for teaching vocabulary described as “4 Square Vocabulary”.

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In her strategy students would fold a small piece of paper into fourths.  In one box they would write the vocabulary word, in a second they would write in their own words the definition of the word, in a third box they would look up the exact definition from a dictionary, and in the last box they would use the word in a sentence.  Not bad.But after reading material from “Brain Rules” and all the stresses it places on vision I decided to adjust and adapt her “4 Square Vocabulary” into my own “2 & 1 Vocabulary” strategy.

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Students in pairs would again fold a small piece of paper into fourths.  The students write the definition of the poetry technique in their own words in the first upper box, in the small box to the right they would give an example of the poetry technique, and in the bottom half (the two lower small boxes) students would draw an illustration of the poetry technique without using words.  This process helped students know the definition of the techniques, but also know how to use it, and forced them to think creatively and make a connection through art with the term.

Then the pair of students would fold the small paper so only the illustration was visible.  This pair would then find another pair of students and show them the illustration.  Only after two different pairs of students guessed correctly what the illustration represented can the pair tape/pin their folded piece of paper in front of the class (if the pair is having difficulty finding another pair that can guess the illustration then they can show them the example as a hint).  Then the pair would repeat the process with a new term given to them by the teacher.  This is repeated until all the terms are displayed in front of the class.  Students could then view all the illustrations, examples, and definitions.

This strategy was very effective.  Students enjoyed the game aspect and creativity required while getting out of their seats and interacting.  I was pleased as students enjoyed learning and found new connections and understandings of the poetry techniques.  It is my hope that John Medina’s point rings true:

BRAIN RULE RUNDOWN

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.

  • We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.

I believe he is right and I will definitely try this exercise again.  Not only that, I will incorporate visuals as much as possible in all my lessons.

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