Tag Archives: final project

Final Project

I did it!  I made it to the end of course 5.  It was touch and go for a while there.  Being sick for the entire semester has made doing any work a major challenge, let alone an additional online course technology project.  But I managed to pull it off.

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The final course was the most challenging for me, even ignoring the aforementioned heath issues, as we were on our own.  Independence with technology was not something I had developed.  With my safety net gone, I was diving into a seemingly endless world filled with possibility, only I just couldn’t make up my mind which direction to head.  But I dove in anyway, and discovered that I didn’t drown.  I floated and even swam a few laps.

I choose to blog with my grade 12 English class to ensure they were able to understand the complexities of the novel 1984.  It’s a challenging book for the level of English I teach.  My hope was using online resources and reading each other’s responses might increase their understanding.  I had originally wanted to try flipping this unit, and I did provide my students with youtube links to lectures by other teachers, albeit mainly because I kept missing class, but the health gods would not allow me to muster the energy to do the flipped unit justice.  So blogging it was.

At first my students seem uninterested in their blogs, but I suspect that was simply their fight against all things academic as seniors.  Many of them choose to continue using their blogs in place of reading responses or journals when we started our next unit.  One student actually created his own personal blog to share his idea with the online community.  The feedback I received from students was overall positive, and I am pleased to introduce my students to 21st century learning as they head off to university in countries were the speed of the internet is no longer an excuse.

Making my video was a steep learning curve.  I watch a lot of youtube videos, looked up a lot of discussions online to trouble shoot my many headaches, and in the end I created a movie that I am proud of.  I am mostly proud of the fact that I was able to finish it.  Sadly the sound is a bit funny at the end as my neighbor’s generator was on when I was recording.  It was still on when I listened to the video for the last time before uploading it so I didn’t hear the background noise until later.  Life in Yangon.

Thank you COETAIL for helping me understand that technology is not the enemy!

Scaling back

Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass via Compfight cc

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have had some major obstacles to completing my projects this semester.  On the upside, I had already planned several units that would incorporate technology.  But I was forced to scale back.  I had visions of my grade 12 unit on 1984 as my experiment with flipped classroom in a country where the internet works less than 50% of the time. I have a class of 8 students so I figured together we could come up with ideas of how to combat the natural issues that questionable internet creates.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.

I did end up asking my grade 12s to dive into the world of blogging.  I had attempted to blog with my grade 8s, which was a few steps from a disaster.  It was a great learning experience and certainly helped me with my second attempt.  (Click on the links in the second sentence to see a sample of the grade 8 blogs.)

Photo Credit: marlonolram via Compfight cc

My Big Learning 

  1. Keep up with blog checks!  If you fall behind, you are in the big trouble.  Plus the students are then very aware that you are not keeping up.  
  2. Show more examples of the level of blog posts you are expecting them to produce.  I did some examples, but I think more would have helped.
  3. Provide more structure.  I let them blog about anything they wanted, but I think asking them to write specific posts would have been easier for many of them.  I was too loose in my desire to let them be creative.
  4. Bring the blogs back to the classroom.  With my 12s I started to put up their blogs on the project during class to bring their thoughts back into our discussions and highlight the interesting images they had included in their posts.  
  5. Some students will simply not blog, just like some students will simply never do their homework. 

Armed with this new knowledge, I started my 12s on their blogging experience.  I used my same teacher blog, where I posted information about how to complete part of their blogs like adding images.  The idea was to find a new way to create reading responses and attached images to highlight their understanding.  I was ready, they were ready.  Everyone was set up for some level of success.

What I didn’t anticipate was the rampant senoritis that would take hold of my class.


What to do, what to do

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As I begin to divide into Course 5, I am taking to time adjust my current teaching load to incorporate more technology.  As always I am met with the usual restrictions of living in Myanmar.  My students have a wide variety of devices.  Most programs are not available here; at least not the real ones.  Our internet is spotty at best.  The most high tech device I am provided with as a teacher is a projector, and you can’t imagine what I had to promise to get one of those permanently in my room! After weighing my restrictions in the hardware department, I sat back to consider which of my four different classes would benefit the most from my COETAIL learning.  I teach grade 8 LA, grade 8 social studies, MUN and grade 12 English.  My grade 8s are already working on their blogs in their spare time (more reflection on that in 2013) and my MUN classes use the internet constantly for research, our Wiki, and communication with other schools.

Project Ideas

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1. MUN: For the last unit of the year, my students will be creating the documentation to continue the training for future MUN students, particularly the after school club.  Part of the unit would be making training videos after our conference in March.  Before the conference we will spend time working on the basics of video making, digital photography and script creation.  I can look at the benefit of iMovie with them and considering using programs like Animoto  and Xtranormal. Although the danger of anything web based is the potential lack of access on a daily basis. The video would allow me to flip parts of my MUN class in the future.  I would also like them to continue to build our Wiki.  I have no concerns about the concept of creating an online training program for my MUN course, but I have very real concerns about our internet access and equipment access.  We will just have to get creative.  Some of the information can be stored on the school serve for offline access, although only in the computer lab.  The biggest shift my students would need to make is in their thinking about independence.  Right now I am the sole expert in the room, driving the curriculum and discussion in the direction of my choice.  I need them to step into the driver’s seat and make the course their own.

2. Grade 8: A unit on digital storytelling would be welcomed by my current grade

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8 section. They love anything to do with technology.  Again our major restriction would be anything that requires consistent time online.  I found a few sites with lists of ideas to enhance the digital storytelling experience like iLearn Technology and 10 Tools for Digital Storytelling.  I would like them to make Choose Your Own Adventure stories and if I am feeling ultra creative, I can use one of my social studies themes to enhance the experience.  But this idea seems like the easy way out and something that will not demonstrate my true learning from the COETAIL experience.

3. Grade 12: Flipped Classroom – I admit I am intrigued yet terrified of the flipped classroom. I kept putting it out of my mind as a possibility and then I read an article on NPR about flipped classroom.  Somehow it struck a cord with me

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and I realize I owe it to my students to give it a go.  But I have some many questions.  How can I possible find the time?  Where will I get the needed materials to make videos?  How will my students and I share information?  I have a few answers.  Although the internet goes down frequently and we are not allowed to let students use a USB in our school computers, my students have bluetooth capabilities.  I can make all videos and other necessary flipped classroom materials on my personal Mac and bluetooth them to my students.  We have a unit on 1984 coming up around March.  I can use this book to teach them a variety of analysis skills and literary devices.  It’s a book I find my students require additional time to understand.  I can also provide them with videos to help them understand the historical context; something we tend to run out of time in class to focus on.

I appreciate any and all feedback.  I know I will definitely do the project listed for MUN this year whether or not it becomes my COETAIL project.  I am ready to take on the challenges of this major project in a country where people get excited by the landlines working!


Diving into the world of video

I dove head first into the world of video creation this week.  I admit it, simply reading the word video terrified me.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Sure, iMovie is on my computer, but no part of me was ever curious what it could do.  I sensed, and rightly so, that video creation would be a major time commitment.  To really make a decent video you need to be organized and have a lot of time on your hands.  Sadly, I possess neither of these qualities.

Nevertheless, I am not one to shy away from a challenge, so I took the plunge.  I decided to make a video explaining the basics of conferences for my MUN students.  Well, for my future MUN students.  I actually used my current students for parts of the video.  I put together photos from old MUN conferences with video from my current students trainings.  I set the whole thing to “Be Somebody” by Kings of Leon.  Feedback is certainly welcome, but please be gentle.  It’s my first try and  I am lucky enough to go public with it.  Enjoy!

You want me to do what?!

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Video creation is something in the realm of Physics for me; I have no frame of reference and can’t say that I have any burning desire to develop one.  I was quite happy in my ignorance.  Yet, I admit.  I am that teacher who assigns video projects without being able to create on myself.  However,  I do warn my students that I am not the person to ask for assistance and send them in the direction of the IT teacher.  Not fair, I know.

In essence, this project is the push I need to build up my skills and not be embarrassed that my students run circles around my movie making knowledge.  I can stop asking “Who knows how to use iMovie?” and begging for help from middle schoolers to edit the videos of my musicals.  So, here I go, pushing out of my comfort zone.

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Shifting through this week’s reading, I realized I was probably overreacting.  The entire concept of digital storytelling is familiar.  To end my deer in the headlights reaction, I must dive in and become a creator of digital stories rather than depending on other’s to create the stories I require, especially since I am beginning to use images with a greater frequency.  I find myself creating more Zen Powerpoints and sharing links with my students.  My poor projector keeps being dragged out from it’s hiding place in the file cabinet.  I reference images I have shown my students to help them recall information.  With You Tube no longer blocked, I can take advantage of videos that have already been created.  Overall, images are taking over my teaching experience, and I love it.

Images, particularly ones a screen, are what we remember.  The article Becoming Screen Literate brought up an excellent point.  We will watch anything.  When I was living in China, I would watch the TV in the back of the taxis.  I couldn’t understand a word, and it was unbearably loud and high pitched, yet I would watch.  And, notably, I can still picture many of the clips two years later.

The additional beauty of digital storytelling is that our students are familiar with the format.  Although I personally still enjoy the feeling of a book in my hand or printed photos,  it’s clear they have limitations. They cannot be altered in the way our students have grown accustomed to, or manipulated for lessons.  Digital storytelling opens the door to endless possibilities, and with that learning has no limit.

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Course 2 Final Project

As I began my journey to acceptable use policy (AUP) creation, I took the obvious first step.  I sought out the IT department at my current school and requested a copy.  The student hand book refers to an AUP that the students are asked to sign each year, so I assumed there would be one in existence.

At YIS the high school students are required to bring laptops.  The middle schoolers are requested to bring one when a teacher asks.  Students have mandatory IT classes from Kindergarten through grade 9, with optional courses in grade 10, 11 and 12.  Yet there appears to be no AUP.  At least not one that I could locate; thus, reaffirming the school’s need for this type of document. I also had to accept that I would be starting from scratch. (Note: Two of the documents would not load due to security reasons.)

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Luckily, I joined forces with Marcello and Andre to start a conversation and the gathering of ideas.  We utilized Dropbox to keep track of the example AUPs we discovered to draw from.  We started a written conversation on Google docs to bounce ideas off each other.

Once I began examining AUPs that we had gathered, I realized that an AUP for YIS must be simple and clear.  The students are unfamiliar with such a document, plus our entire population is made up of non-native speakers.  Looking at the document from Concordia, I determined that I would need a numbered list rather than paragraphs for easier presentation to the students.  Examining TAISM’s policy, I noticed many regulations for the students that YIS would not be able to enforce.  We don’t have the infrastructure and blocking capabilities as well as no school email addresses for students.  Mount Kiara and SIS (my former school) have AUPs that are fitting for my students; short and clear.  They also leave room for issues that might arise but were not explicitly stated, providing the school with more flexibility.

I choose the short list with additional explanations for both the students and the teachers who are unfamiliar with the idea of an AUP.  This allows a quick glance at the basics, yet provides details.  One of the most important items to include on an AUP in Myanmar is avoiding slowing down the network.  Students frequently forget this message and are found downloading large quantities of information, bringing the network to a halt.

Presenting this high school/middle school document to the students should be primarily in the hands of the IT department.  With the grade 6-9 students in required classes, it’s the logical space to present the material.  I showed this document to my English department colleague who helped me continue to edit the information and readily agreed to present the material in his classes to grade 10-12.   Each section will need to be reviewed and taught as our students are unfamiliar with this type of document.  Through discussion and review with the IT coordinator, he agreed that this AUP would suit our school needs.

In the end I sought out the help of Jason Spivey (ADE) who teaches high school social studies with me.  Together we discussed point by point what our students need to understand before this policy could be implemented and the necessary wording.  We also discussed the difficulty in adding a section about copyright as most programs are not available in Myanmar with using a pirated version.  We did set a time to review this part of the AUP and consider adding a section involving use of Creative Commons and the citation of others‘ work.  For now, I feel it can be covered by teaching the students about the issues covered in this AUP and the idea of respecting others.

Before this document will be presented to our administration (the goal is implementation in the secondary next school year) I will be attaching links to each expectation.  Each link will be an article that helps demonstrate the need for the statement.  This link will provide additional information for administration and parents.  Please check back in the near future for my links.