Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fortune Cookies and Teaching with Technology

It's strange that a fortune cookie I ate had a message that has caused me to reflect on how I have been teaching with technology. 

I am considered an early adopter of technology and its integration at my school. Some would even go as far to say I'm a "keener". There is sometimes a professional stigma that accompanies someone like this, and for this reason, I have been apprehensive to share with my own peers in house, yet I feel comfortable throwing it out on the web, where I am more at home in the ed tech blogosphere. Speaking to several peers about this including Terry Kaminski and Apple Educator John Maschak, its time to listen to the cookie. Have any of you been in a situation like this when being an early adopter? 

This fortune cookie comes at the right time, as I continue to develop the Arkanada Project with Jim Billings, and I see a new colleague and friend Neil Stephenson who is doing awesome work with his Humanities classes. The wiki was only started yesterday, and is a work in progress. If you want to contribute, you can join by emailing me: 

The Arkanada Project

Through the use of a NING, wiki, and a blog, students in Jim's class in Arkansas will be collaborating, sharing and peer teaching my students in Cold Lake, Alberta. Jim does a student news cast live each day on local cable, and I hope to pair up students to learn about journalism, ENG, using pro tools, with a focus on real world projects. His classroom is a TV studio, complete with a newsroom, and I will be using a combination of Boinx TV and Cam Twist to do our own weekly news show. I have shared how I use Cam Twist and which we will now both use to stream our shows live on the web.

We will be using Skype to introduce each other's classes, and then will be setting up time when individual students can talk face to face- this is where the real world learning will begin! 

Stop Animation

To start off my multimedia class today, I introduced them to stop motion films, but with a wonderful resource from the NFB. Norman McLaren's Neighbours is a masterful film and at almost 7 minutes of stop motion, it drives home to the students the complexity of the genre. Students then watched selected short films I linked for them from Youtube, and had 10 more minutes to watch films of their choice. The they had to post their thoughts on our class blog about the elements that we should focus on when creating and evaluating their own films. While I wish I have iStop Motion for all my iMacs, but we will have to work with student's own cameras and the iSight cameras. We are shooting for a 1 min film, and despite film being almost 30 frames per second, we will be playing the pictures back at around 10 frames per second, and will use Final Cut Express for putting it all together. Last time we used iMovie, and had to change the number of frames each picture was displayed hundreds of times over! 

Digital Literacy

Language Arts 9 started fresh today, and my first unit is Digital Literacy and writing with technology). We signed up for Gmail, tried out Google Docs, and tomorrow we will learn about developing student PLN's, and taking ownership of eduction. We will use Google Reader and iGoogle to start monitoring the blogosphere for writing , tech blogs, and blogs that of interest to each student. I asked them to find out what web 2.0 means and they responded in our class blog. 

Leading by Doing

There must be other teachers who use technology seamlessly in their classroom, and are in a similar position as I am. Pursuing innovative uses for technology and pairing them with sound pedagogy is something that I will continue to do, and now want to share more often with peers in my building to help inspire them to try something new with technology. My advice for them is to start with one thing, and you'll find yourself wanting to do more very soon. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

To Hell with Manners

Tonight I watched a documentary entitled To Hell with Manners narrated by William Shatner. 

Among very good points about the decline of civility, there was a section of the film that posed the idea that technology has actually caused us to be more isolated because of the loss of human contact. 

While this certainly seems true and we can all see many examples of technology affecting society negatively, I would like to emphasize how technology in education has actually brought our profession out of isolation. 

From Flat Stanley to The Flat Classroom

The award winning Flat Classroom project is an excellent example of how technologies such as wikis, blogs, email, IM, video chat are all utilized to connect students around the world. In some ways, this is a more purposeful, technologically advanced version of the idea behind the Flat Stanley Project based on the book from 1964. It took the idea of connecting students across the world and brought in into the here and now of 2.0.  

PLN's for Teachers and Students

A union of 2.0 tools brings this all together: while I am getting ready to comment on PLN's, someone follows me on Twitter, I check out their blog and they have a recent post about the same topic. So thanks to Simon Pankhurst and the beauty of PLN's and ed tech blogs! The importance of developing a PLN will be one task that teachers who are a part of our upcoming 1:1 project must make a priority. The development of the idea of PLN's represents a noticeable shift in the approach to professional development from a centralized model to one that suits the schedule, lifestyle and interest of any teacher. This is a must read post from Simon Woessner.

Taking strong foundational best practices from educators like Barrie Bennett and pairing them with technology can only serve to improve how we teach. The next level of this is to use 2.0 tools such as iGoogle, RSS aggregators to help students take responsibility for their own learning in my classroom. Teachers also need to get over the idea that they are the great harbingers of knowledge and power and get used to the idea of themselves as being a more of a personal learning guide (PLG- a new acronym is born) working with students. I get a fresh set of students after exams next week with whom I get to share this idea with. 

Use Their Gadget to YOUR Advantage

So a kid gets a new cell phone in your class? Ask them to show it to you. A new ipod touch? Spend a couple extra few seconds asking them what apps they have downloaded and suggest they get Pull My Finger!  Last fall, my media arts class had done a project called Cellywood (Project summary and evaluation tools will soon to be on the Apple Learning Interchange). Students were able to use their cell phones, digital cameras, iphones and anything else that can fit in their hand to create 90 second movies. They used a blog to suggest "ingredients" that had to be in the film (like cinema sports) and they had 4 classes to storyboard, shoot, edit, add voiceovers, ambient sound and email the movie to me. Students voted on the ingredients using their cell phones and ipod touches with my free account from Polleverywhere. A couple of the exemplary films were sent to a contact of mine at Apple Education and got great reviews. This was the project that created the most buzz among my students so far this year. I will see about getting permission to post them here. 

Now, Hall Davidson from Discovery Channel is doing the same thing. I will definitely be getting my students to participate in this one! He is the one who got me on to the idea of using cell phones in the classroom at NECC last summer. His project is called Film on the Fly which will be a highlight of my Saturday, February 7th. I am even thinking of hosting something at my school so students have access to the Macs for editing. 

So has there been a decline in civility? Sure.We see it everyday. Let's use the tech at our disposal to connect to our students, promote 21st century skills, and just maybe one or two of them will see the importance of developing their own PLN and will be just a little bit more civil to you knowing you are a tech savvy teacher. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Finally Final Cut and Awesome Animoto

Two great things are happening in my class this week- three actually, but the third is for another post. 

Exciting thing #1. I got approval this week to go to Vancouver to take the 5 days of Final Cut Pro training at the Emily Carr Institute on Granville Island. This is my plug for PD when getting teachers to use technology. Despite using Final Cut Express for the past few years at home, there is simply too much in FCP to know without some serious hands-on PD- the type a book and data DVD just can't give me. This course will also allow me to be one step ahead of my students who are quickly passing me in ability with FCE. Teachers have too often been asked to be a part of new initiatives with technology without proper training. Thankfully, I'm a part of a 1:1 project that is going about things properly and is concentrating on getting teachers comfortable with the Mac platform (again). PD is is now integrated with our PLN's online, which makes for exciting times! It still amazes me that I can iChat with Jim Billings in Little Rock for advice while a colleague of mine, Terry Kaminski Skypes with a contact in Asia and regularly seeks guidance from a 1:1 project in Boston. These are exciting times indeed. You'll have to forgive me if your reaction to this is "been there, done that."

Exciting thing #2. Animoto! What a sweet 2.0 app! Signing up a few days ago I received my authorization for an educator account. This gives you all access for 6 months for free! After that, it's 45 bucks a year. The nice thing about the educator account is you can share the registration link with your students and they can sign up and get the same all access! 

Why does this rock for my classroom? The videos produced from the students' uploaded pictures look professionally done! So much so that tomorrow I am going to have my entire class sign up, upload pictures of their author they are researching, and use Animoto to create a cool looking video. Then, after they download the mp4 file version of it, they will import it and post it on their poetry glog page. The idea is to do a multimedia representation of a poem from their assigned author with images and music that compliment the mood tone and meaning of it. One teaching moment that I will have with the students in this crazy tech savvy world is about the importance of giving credit for the photos and music that they use on Animoto. The exported Animoto movies add a music video style credit in the bottom left corner to the artist they have picked and of course, an logo. Possible workaround for this include uploading the original music created by students in Garageband or recorded with instruments and my Blue Snowball USB mic. I'm looking forward to using to create an intro for my Apple Educator application. 

The final cool thing about Animoto is that they now have an iPod Touch/iPhone app that you can watch and create sweet vids right from your photo library on the coolest mobile device ever!

Check out a sample Animoto video that I created today with some pics of my 6 week old daughter, Madelyn Rhys Nichol! I did one when she was born with iMovie and a Worlde title graphic, but this one is much better, so I'm calling it Madelyn: Redux. Enjoy...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Light Sabre Test

Here is the link to our first attempt at doing the light sabre effect! Still needs work, but is pretty cool! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Glogster in the classroom and light sabres!

So as promised, I will be sharing with you some of the 2.0 tools that I am currently using in my teaching. For my poetry unit I am using Glogster, and have even called my project "The Poetry Glog Project".

Students were introduced to poetry yesterday with a not daily sweatshop session where we write as much poetry as possible, right after we read a short poem and respond to focus questions on the class blog. I have found that using the blog as a starting point for discussions allows each an every student to have a voice, and not just those who would normally. Some kids write a few lines and others write many paragraphs, but they are writing! Ownership and accountability also goes way up when they know that others will read and respond to their posts. 

Today we wrote list poems and used Wordle to get a visual representation of this poem, three word form poems, and one entitled "Things I Just Don't Understand."  Students are saving all of their poems in a Google document, as they have been with all assignments this year. 

The education side of Glogster is great for setting up a class and getting a private account for each of your students. It generates passwords and emails them to you. A tip for setting up your accounts would be to their Glog pages will only be seen by the accounts you have created. The only drawback I see is that they can change their own passwords, which they figured out within 2 minutes of logging in. We spent the better part of 30 minutes logging in, figuring out the interface and starting their home poetry page. 

The idea of this project is to showcase the students' poems, have them research about a poet, and connect to poetry by creating original visual representations of that poet's work. This will include a visual poem with text, music and images created in iMovie, oral recitation of poems using Garageband, and making Glog pages for 3 of their own poems. Not a small feat in only 2 weeks. I am also walking the talk and I created my own poetry starting page with Glogster for the class to see. We even funkified ourselves at for our home Glog pages.

In my grade 10-12 media arts class we are working on scripting their final movie for the semester. Scripting and storyboarding is taking place a a furious pace (for most, but not all). I am struggling with students who are not intrinsically motivated by the video arts. In high school I would have killed to have a course like this! This is a nice segway into the light sabre that was a part of my day.

Last week a pair of students in my Media Arts 10-12 class asked if I knew how to do a light sabre effect using the Mac. They had just watched this video called Gnar Wars on Youtube, which is really well done, and was obviously a lot of work. I told them that I had seen the effect done online, but I had never tried it. Yesterday, a couple students went out and filmed a 15 second shot with a stick and came back. Thanks to the AFI website and a recent contact of mine named Jim Billings, I was able to put together a 10 second clip using Motion. It turned out pretty well! The sound sucked, but that wasn't the point. The point was I did it, all 300 frames of it, which meant moving the mask for the sabre 300 times! 

I showed the students who had inquired that it could be done and their response was it looked like too much work so they weren't going to bother. Motivation and fostering enthusiasm is going to be something to work on in the future in my MM class.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Years Resolutions, Looking forward as well as back.

First blog post for the New Year. The main purpose of this blog is to share ideas about technology integration and not sugar coat the problems that I go through. There is learning that can occur by listening and seeing the mistakes that others make, and using that to improve one's teaching. What I will share with the reader is the real front line application of 2.0 tools and technology in my Language Arts and Media Arts- Video Production classes.

So let's get this year rolling!

I was listening to the latest Seedlings Ed Tech Talk podcast tonight and they were reflecting upon the amazing things that they have accomplished over the past year, and it made me think- where will I be after a few years of working in a 1:1 environment? How did I get to where I am in such short amount of time? With all of these amazing tools out there, where do I go, and how do I encourage others who have not embraced 2.0 tools to give them a try? These are the things that are on a novice 2.0 teacher's mind this New Year.

Reassurance came from a comment from Sarah Sutter who said that a year ago, she had barely heard of the term Web 2.0. This was me! Finally, someone who has admitted that they had to start somewhere, and that in a short amount of time, they have made significant changes in their teaching. Sarah is now 0.5 technology integrator. It is scary when you scour the blogosphere how much experience in this area people have. Now all I have to do is to use my relatively recent entry into the Ed Tech field to my advantage. Suggestions? Youth? Not anymore? Enthusiasm? You bet. 

I too was a rookie in the technology integration field and a trip to NECC 2008 in San Antonio opened my eyes. In my multimedia classes I used technology everyday, but I was not using it effectively (or at all) in Language Arts. After NECC, I came home to find that I was getting 22 iMacs for my classroom from my school division and implementation of the

Where do I go from here? Just keep it going. Primarily, I have been using wikis and blogs in my classroom for all subjects, but am looking for feedback and a way to evaluate the effectiveness of their use. 

My recent efforts with Glogster will hopefully prove successful. Using a glogster education account, students are going to create online poetry portfolios linked to our class wiki. Sounds fun,  I'll share how things go!