Monthly Archive for: ‘July, 2008’
Even if I was in my most daring, come-what-may frame of mind, I would not show this video to my students. It would be a short and quick execution, and my professional head would bounce down the hallowed halls that commemorate teachers who have made drastically fatal career decisions. Probably not detentionslip.org worthy, but inadvisable nonetheless. Trust me: It starts out rather innocuous but quickly becomes risque.
Yet, I can’t help but think that there is a comparable project that students could tackle.
I had breakfast with one of my grade-level colleagues a couple of weeks ago in preparation for my move from classroom teacher to “technology specialist” to, once again, classroom teacher. During our back-and-forth banter over bagels and coffee, she encouraged me to think about what I might use for topics and thinking points during reflection time, a magical yet brief fifteen minutes when curriculum is secondary to thought-provoking ideas and student contemplation.
“What do you want your students to think about? What resources and ideas do you want to share?” asked said-colleague (I could be wrong in a misappropriated attribution). “Think about how you can set the tone for reflection time during the first few months, and then plan for students assuming ownership over leading the reflections.”
If our breakfast was a comic strip, then you would have seen a number of cloud-like thought bubbles appear in a single frame directly above my head. My train of thought would have looked like this:
- Hmmm. That’s kind of vague and overwhelming at the same time.
- Where should I begin? What should I start off doing?
- Current events. Yes, that’s what I will do. …No, that’s not right.
- I’ve got it: character values. Nope, too vague and nebulous.
- Come up with a reflection topic that ties into the curriculum. Possibly, but it doesn’t quite fit- too regimented.
- Forget about it for right now and finish eating.
The last thought won the struggle, and reflection time slipped away for the remaining 30 minutes of our informal breakfast meeting.
The hours immediately after this conversation and each day since, when I think that I should be focusing on reviewing educational theory and curricular techniques, I have found myself contemplating what reflection time will look like in the classroom that I manage. Perhaps this lingering notion is my subconscious mind telling me that this opportunity is as important, if not more so, than the lessons and activities that happen.
Then, just yesterday, I watched Chris Abani talk about “kindness through shared stories about humanity” and noticed that my uncertainty evaporated and the framework for reflection time emerged.
As odd as it might seem, Chris Abani served as a seven-year-old translator for his activist English mother working to teach birth control in Nigeria before and during the Nigerian-Biafran War (1967 to early 1970). During this trying time, one decisive event colored his existence and forged what would become a theme in his life’s focus:
My mother, myself, and four sisters and brothers were caught in the middle of the Biafran War. It took us one year going from refugee camp after refugee camp to make it to make our way to an airstrip where we could fly out of the country. At every single refugee camp, my mother had to face off with soldiers who wanted to take my elder brother Mark, who was nine, and make him a boy-soldier. Imagine a 5′ 2″ woman standing up to men with guns who wanted to kill us.
All through that year, my mother never cried one time. Not once. But, when we were in the Lisbon airport about to fly to England, this woman saw my mother wearing this dress which had been washed so many times it was basically see-through surrounded by five really hungry kids. She came over and asked my mother what had happened and my mother told this woman the story. This woman emptied out her suitcase and gave all of her clothes to us. Even the toys for her kids (who did not like that very much).
That was the only time that my mother cried. I remember years later when I was writing about my mother, I asked her, “Why did you cry then?”
She said, “You can steel your heart against any kind of trouble or horror, but the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.” -Chris Abani, Telling Stories of Our Shared Humanity
The final quote struck a nerve. “You can steel your heart against any kind of trouble or horror, but the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.” It seemed to explain why I inevitably tear up when watching the final ten minutes of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition but sit unaffected while a litany of atrocities stream past during the evening news broadcast. The quote explains why Greg Mortenson’s life mission, building schools for in war-torn areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, resonates within me but the contents of DetentionSlip.org pass through my mind like a fleeting afterthought. Examples of extreme selflessness and unfettered kindness are rare, welcomed, and identifiable in a way that the bombardment of humanity’s ills are not.
Kindness from strangers. Shared humanity. Stories. Ubuntu. These concepts will form the throughline that unites a multitude of mini reflections in my classroom. Fifteen minute snapshots that will undoubtedly include the Amazing Softball Story, Hannah’s Lunchbox, the Visa Go World Ad, and Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody. Glimpses into why initiatives like Hero Reports are important but uncommon. It is my hope that, in seeing the brighter side of compassion and kindness via fifteen minute reflections, the students that comprise my room will recognize their own humanity and the role they play in other people’s lives.
Kazze. “Help me!.” Flickr. 28 May 2006. 23 July 2008 http://www.flickr.com/photos/10065201@N00/184623835/.
I am in the process of searching for Google Earth overlays, tours, data arrays, and visualizations for curricular topics that our school will cover during the upcoming year. I now have quite a few potential resources, but I know more is out there hiding as undiscovered “0′s” and “1′s.” A little detective work led me to the conclusion that a custom search engine that uses FOUR websites to find Google Earth resources is insufficient given all of the lessons, blogs, BBS, and KML files on the web.
What does a person do when this type of dawning realization appears? Answer: Create a new search engine (see below). Although not as comprehensive as it could be, I now trust that my Google Earth search results are a little more robust. Plus, I can add additional sites as I discover them because it is mine!
At the time of this post’s publishing date, the Google Earth search engine below gathers results from the following websites: Juicy Geography’s Google Earth Blog, Google’s 3D Warehouse, Google’s Lat Long Blog, The Google Earth BBS, The Earth Explorer, Ogle Earth, Google Earth Blog, Google Earth Hacks, and Best of World Maps.
Azrainman. “Earth Egg.” Flickr. 19 Nov. 2007. 22 July 2008 http://www.flickr.com/photos/10646468@N02/2047910540/.
The SQ3R reading method is on par with apples as a staple of the American, upper elementary school experience. Rarely will you find a student that hasn’t been exposed to SQ3R during their early academic journey, and you would be hard pressed to find a classroom without a reference to an apple (desktop ornament, wall hanging, sweater). I am not implying a correlation- just an observation that the SQ3R methodology is about as common as what has become the American symbol for teachers, teaching, and education.
I remember using the SQ3R reading method when I was in fifth grade. It was used while reading in a basal reader or social studies textbook, and the rationale for its use was nearly always recall for a pencil-and-paper test. I would (in no way is this the proper way to use SQ3R):
- Survey: Glance at the headings, look at the pictures and captions, and skip to the end of the chapter and read the questions/summary.
- Question: Turn the headings and captions into questions and then write them on a piece of notebook paper. I admit that I was fairly lazy and often just inserted a “What is…” phrase for a lot of the headings.
- Read and Recite: Read the text while highlighting phrases of importance (from chapter questions), underline bold words, re-read unclear sections, and then answer chapter questions. Sometimes I would summarize what I read at the end of a section, but this was a rare occurrence.
- Review: Return to the text, memorize highlighted parts, and recite answers to questions. I reviewed only when I had a test, and this usually happened at 8:00 PM on the evening before the big assessment.
Disregard the fact that I did not model the proper methodology AND strip away some of the context (using SQ3R for printed, nonfiction texts as a way to understand/prepare for assessment)…
I believe that there is a place for SQ3R in the digital classroom with untraditional texts like websites, wikis, and blog posts. Why? A mental framework for a topic, one that can form through active reading methodologies like SQ3R, is as essential in reading digital texts as it is in printed pages. Yet, how often are websites treated as different beasts that don’t require the same reading focus? Most teachers’ relative lack of digital proficiency leads me to surmise that this is quite common. How many teachers approach the web and all of its words, conventions, links, and styles with an analytical approach? I suspect that there are relatively few in comparison to the teaching profession. At the same time, our children’s learning is an amalgam of digitized and traditional content- just ask a middle school student where they turn when a question arises.
What might the application of SQ3R to digitized text look like?
The practicality of reconstructing SQ3R in the digital abyss is somewhat daunting from the standpoint that much of its success requires activities like writing and highlighting. Yes, printing a page or using a piece of notebook paper and/or a second application like Microsoft Word circumvents this problem. However, this unnecessarily complicates the methodology when a much simpler solution exists: The Awesome Highlighter (TAH).
TAH allows readers to highlight and add notes to a web page without leaving the page, opening a second application, or printing a hard copy. With just a click of a button (bookmarklet), all of the physical markup tools appear on the web page- it’s that simple. It is akin to a stack of sticky notes, pen, and a highlighter on your computer. The annotated web page can be saved and shared with others. It requires no user accounts or passwords which makes it a viable solution in the upper elementary and middle school classroom.
The digitized SQ3R methodology below and the picture above references a TAH example that I created from Dean Shareski’s post, Student and Teacher Blogging that Succeeds. I chose this post as an example because the school where I teach encourages student blogging, I believe that students would benefit from reading Dean’s ideas, and I hope to use my highlighting/notes as a model for students to learn from as they explore SQ3R on the web. You can see all of my highlights and notes by visiting this link.
With a web page loaded and The Awesome Highlighter in hand…
- Survey: Decide if the source is credible and true by looking for clues (readership, author, spelling errors, domain name). Examine the structure of the page and figure out what is important and relevant to the topic. Briefly examine the links by clicking on them. Note any bold, colored, or italicized words. Look at the headings, subheadings, and pictures to mentally create the major ideas in the text.
- Question: Re-frame all of the headings and subheadings as questions using TAH’s note tool. Ask yourself, “What do I know about the topic?”
- Read: Using self-generated questions as a guide, read and highlight the page but stopping at section breaks if present. Use TAH to highlight answers to questions. Visit links when finished with a page.
- Recite: Briefly summarize the major points of the page as a TAH note but use personal words and voice. Save your highlighting and notes by clicking on the Make Public button as well as bookmarking the link to the specific TAH page.
- Review: Review and re-read highlights and notes. Reviewing in the SQ3R method is generally situated in the context of preparing for recitation and recall. This is fine and good, but I prefer to couch the final step in a 21st century light: Review to reformulate, connect, or comment on the author’s message. (I believe that I incorporated all of Dean’s points in this post in one way or another!)
Hester, Darren. “Green Apple.” Flickr. 21 Mar. 2007. 20 July 2008 http://www.flickr.com/photos/36045027@N00/2053320817.
It’s funny that I found the pictures that make up the slideshow below at about the same time that Laura wrote about wanting “One Image, One Line.”
It is very kfisch-esque and “already done,” but it was pretty easy to create so I thought that I would share. Use the arrows and/or the scrollbar in the flash frame to navigate between pictures.
I used VuVox to create the video/slidesehow.
I wish that I was creative enough to think of juxtaposing quotes against random Flickr photos, but I am not. Lynetter is the insightful remixer, this movie’s photos come from one of her sets called Interesting Photos, and all image are sweetened with Creative Commons goodness.
I make subject-based RSS feeds because they help me make sense of the clutter and magnitude of mass publishing and user-generated content. Plus, I like to stay current on my personal interests in education, and discovering what others find is one of the best ways to stay on top of it all.
I am including my feeds below (after the Details) as a gift to the people who share with me, whether they know it or not. If you aren’t one of these people, and I am not sure if you would know anyway, then consider sharing what you know… At the very least, make your social sharing tools (like del.icio.us and diigo) apparent to people browsing digital footprints. You never know.
- The picture on the left shows most of the content sources.
- I go through each account (see picture on left) and personally select tags that apply to a particular feed. In other words, there are two filters- the source (only edtech-affiliated sources) and then the particular tag.
- The feed will generate mostly websites and not blog entries unless a post is tagged by one of the people in this list using one of the folksonomic labels I identified.
- There is a chance that I will update any of the feeds with new resources which will result in a flood of new hits.
- No duplicates. All URL’s that appear in the feed, regardless of source or date posted, are unique.
There are more, but they haven’t been updated.
Sign systems, according to Professor Jerome Harste, are the ways in which humans construct and share meaning. Rooted in the study of semiotics, sign systems are essentially forms of commuication that include well-known domains like art, music, drama, mathematics, and language.
For example, I might read about the Napoleonic Wars and, if I was sufficiently creative and attuned, create something like the 1812 Overture (music sign system) or the unnamed painting of the Battle of Borodino (art sign system) to reflect my interpretation. Both samples incorporate different representations and conventions that convey meaning to an audience. “In the case of a song or story, the [recipient] is presented with signs arrayed across time. There is a linear quality to the media. Music can express feelings we cannot put into words…” (Berghoff et al, X). An artistic sign system like painting, on the other hand, use the “elements of color, shape, and line in a simultaneous presentation. When viewing a picture, the [recipient] is presented with all the information at once” (X). Both Tchaikovsky’ 1812 Overture and the unnamed painting of the Battle of Borodino describe the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, but each are unique.
Yet, sign systems are undoubtedly interpretive; for example, a musician may create a piece of music infused with personal meaning that causes an unknown reaction or interpretation from what was intended. The 1812 Overture is a French original, but it is a staple of Americana and firework explosions on the fourth of July (America’s Independence). The discrepancies between the delivery and the receipt arise from different knowledge sources, life experiences, cultural norms, and personal ways of knowing. Just look at Radiohead’s “All I Need” and experience its literary and visual interpretations…
|Radiohead’s “All I Need”
The Official MTV Version
|Radiohead’s “All I Need”
The J. Tyler Helms Version
- Many people believe that Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer, wrote “All I Need” to describe love and longing for an unknown woman.
- For whatever reason, Radiohead’s official video for “All I Need” (see above) is a poignant commentary on the ills of human trafficking and western society’s blind naivety towards the creation of cheap modern conveniences.
- J. Tyler Helms, the producer who created the second video (see above), felt that “the sensual pace and delicate melody of the song reminded me of a world much smaller than ours, with all the love and violence we experience.”
Helms and the director of the official video knowingly, but probably unable to label or define, engaged in an act of transmediation: Taking what is [perceived] in one sign system and recasting it another sign system (Suhor, 1992). They re-purposed and mashed Thom Yorke’s original melodies, meanings, and lyrical prose (music sign system) into two separate and distinct videos with markedly different interpretations and purposes. They married Thom’s meaning and tonal mood with a purposeful cinematic uniqueness (art sign system), and the results are two entirely different works that evoke new ideas to contemplate.
There is a group of educators and researchers (Jerome Harste, Phylis Whitin, Kathy Short, Vygotsky) who contend that, when someone engages in an act of transmediation, comprehension and understanding becomes visible. Someone can see, hear, witness, and experience understanding through the juxtaposition of personal knowledge and the interpretive qualities of a reframed, transmediative reproduction. Even better, transmediation coupled with an explanation like Helms’ video description is the equivalent of a telescopic window into one person’s understanding of the original sign system. The interpretation might not be right in the creator’s eyes (Thom Yorke), but it is a window nonetheless. The water drops in the J. Tyler Helms video seem like bombs to me, but bombs are much different then the love I hear when processing Thom’s words without the visual element of J. Tyler Helms.
Transmediation is alive in the remixed and republished videos on YouTube, and it’s visible in classrooms and the educational cultures like Konrad Glogowski’s. In a recent post entitled Learning to Avoid “School Talk” (Part 1), Konrad describes a series of activities involving students, modern music, and Anne Frank’s book, Diary of a Young Girl.
Konrad and his students (the teacher participated as well) made virtual soundtracks for Anne Frank’s life based on their personal interpretations and feelings from the text. They explored the book, questioned the inferred qualities of what Anne Frank probably felt or experienced, and then searched for music that exemplified their interpretations. Whether it was the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love” or The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” every person justified their choice of music in relation to the text, and conversations unfolded… conversations about the book, conversations about personal connections, and (I am assuming) conversations about understanding. Everyone was engaged. Everyone became music critics and text analyzers.
Why? Transmediation. Konrad and his students juxtaposed their personal interpretations of various songs (one sign system) with the words and meaning in Diary of a Young Girl (another sign system). The collection of songs that became each person’s soundtrack as well as the verbal or written justifications became their transmediated reproduction, the equivalent of J. Tyler Helms’ version of Radiohead’s “All I Need.” The musician’s lyrical and melodic meaning faded and a message with different contemplative potential emerged. I have no doubt that, in the abstract qualities of this open-ended experience, Konrad had a window for viewing EACH student’s understanding and personal connections that no multiple choice test or classroom discussion could provide.
I wholeheartedly believe that transmediation needs to be a part of each classroom. Just examine Konrad’s reflective experience and you will see engagement, learning, understanding, and conversations. It’s messy, difficult, and undefinable, but I love it.
Berghoff, Beth, Kathryn A. Egawa, Jerome C. Harste, and Barry T. Hoonan. Beyond Reading and Writing: Inquiry, Curriculum, and Multiple Ways of Knowing (Wlu Series). urbana, il: Natl Council Of Teachers, 2000.
Pensiero. “Dichotomy.” Flickr. 11 Feb. 2007. 10 July 2008 http://www.flickr.com/photos/63894760@N00/392756763/.
Onkel_wart. “Whirlpool take me to the Deeps below.” Flickr. 12 June 2007. 10 July 2008 http://www.flickr.com/photos/26405526@N00/542877013/.
Suhor, C. (1992). Semiotics and the English language arts. Language Arts, 69, 228-230.