Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Power of Twitter in Education

A quick anecdote about how Twitter is the best communication tool for sharing ideas among those in education. 

At 9:47 I retweeted something from the Alberta Teachers' Association about Bill 44. Don't get me started on this issue, but let's just say the government is not going about this in the correct way. I applaud the members at our Annual Representative Assembly of the ATA for condemning this proposed bill. 

Jonathan Teghtmeyer, the Executive Assistant to Government in the ATA was then kind enough to retweet my recent post about movies in the classroom a few minutes later. The ATA is very progressive in adopting web 2.0 technology as a communication tool for their members. It is something that individual locals could look at as well to share local news, retweet ATA news and post links of interest for local members.

By 10:10, or 23 minutes later I had 4 more followers and an email message from a teacher in Edmonton Catholic who is at ARA this weekend. He was asking about a rubric I used for movie making which I shared with him. Aaron Ball is a grade 6 teacher who uses his class blog and web tools to infuse technology into his teaching each day. Those are some lucky grade 6 students! Drop by his blog or follow him on Twitter: @TomalakChop . I'll be picking his brain in the future about his work with video games as instructional tools. 

Keep up the great work @albertateachers and Aaron (@TomalakChop). I think we've just scratched the surface of the many possibilities where Twitter can be used to further education. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Creating Movies in the Classroom part 1

As many of you know I like to share the 'real deal' when infusing technology into teaching. Creating movies is a double edged sword that must be approached carefully keeping the curriculum outcomes close at hand. The excitement of movie making can leave your outcomes/standards in the background.  Here is one of two recent activities in which I incorporated movie making...

Part of the Language Arts 9 curriculum in Alberta outlines that students need to:

4.3- Present and Share
- select, organize and present information to the interests ... or various audiences
- integrate a variety of media and display techniques... to enhance the appeal of presentations
-  use effective oral and visual communication

The 4-5 day assignment was for students was called "Shakespeare in 2 Minutes." Students had to take a scene from Taming of the Shrew, rewrite it in their own words, change the setting of the play to a high school (hey, we're going with what we know best), and record it. Later, they used iMovie 08 (or HD it was their choice). 

To start the assignment I asked them what makes a good presentation on our class blog. Using blogging has been the best way to get students to "buy in".  Most often it's a guiding question that focuses their thinking on the task ahead of them, and asks for them to outline possible expectations for the assignment. As you can read from their responses, most students were right on. They talked about the quality of the acting, camera angles, the lines are loud and clear, and so on... 

Some even commented that they should be mindful of how they translate the original into a modern setting in order to preserve the essence of the scene:

I then shared with them the rubric that my students from last semester had developed based on the same guiding questions. It was one of those "a ha" teaching and learning moments where the students' opinions were validated. I reminded them that I was not solely evaluating them on the quality of the videography or the editing, because these things are not in the curriculum. In fact only 12 out of a total possible 60 marks were in what we called the "support"  category.  

Email me (coolpoolteacher at and I'll send you a pdf or Word version for you to edit and use at your leisure. 

Total introduction time was about 25 minutes. Students got the rest of the 80 minutes to work on translating their assigned scene. All students used Google Docs in their groups to rewrite the scenes. This allowed them to finish it collaboratively at home when time ran out in class 1. 

Classes 2 and 3 were given as filming days. Students got a 10 minute lesson on shot composition and use of the cameras and they were off! We used the Kodak Zi6 with a tripod for each camera. I'm lucky to have many of these at my disposal as part of my multimedia program. I can't stress enough the importance of the tripod here. Whether it's a $20 mini tripod from Walmart or the $100  Velbon D500's that I have, make them mandatory for each movie project you assign because your eyes and your stomach will thank you! Have students film in VGA with the point and shoot video cameras. They won't notice the difference in the end, and your computers don't need the file size that HD footage can bring. Hopefully you can make them available for download on a wiki or other site so students can load them onto their iPods.

Last Thursday and Friday were editing days. about 1/3 of my class had taken my grade 9 multimedia option last semester, so I didn't have to do any instruction on how to edit as there was at least 1 person per group who was comfortable with iMovie. 

I found that half of the groups finished after 4 classes, and so I had a final blog post ready on our class wiki for them to work on to wrap up our unit. We will be sharing and evaluating the movies on Tuesday. Students will be given a group self-evaluation using Google Forms which they will complete as they watch their own movies with the class. Feedback will come from the class and formally from me. 

Stay tuned. I will send home permission slips for parents to sign so I can post the videos on our class wiki. 

How might you incorporate movie making into your teaching?


Monday, May 11, 2009

Video Cameras with Students

Last week my school division hosted a HUGE youth conference in Cold Lake. The theme of the conference was CARE TODAY: IT'S OUR TOMORROW! We had Farley Flex (Canadian Idol judge) as the emcee of the event. In addition to Farley Flex there were speakers like Spencer West, and Craig Kielburger from Free the Children. Theo Tams (Canadian Idol contestant) and local artist who has been very successful in the Canadian music scene Lex Justice were among them many other performers. 

Basically the whole day was a rock concert environment to bring awareness to local and global issues and to encourage our youth to play an active role in trying to make a difference no matter how small. 

I gave my LA 9 class 6 Kodak Zi6 cameras to use for the day to get some of the mayhem from the crowd. You would not believe how much noise 800 grade 9 students can make! (actually you probably can if you're a teacher). I just thought it was a cool way to get an alternate perspective. 

Following the event I asked my students about what they thought was good about the day, what needed to be improved and what they learned. Here is what they blogged. Some posts give an interesting look into the mind of our impressionable grade 9 students. 

I was the 'video guy' along with my high school multimedia crew who shot the event and will be editing our highlight video for our school board. We shot with 2 Canon FS200 SD memory card cameras, which I highly recommend. You get manual exposure and focus plus a mic input all for around 300 bucks Canadian. I got ours from Vistek for 309.99. 

Once we get permission from the artists for our 10 minutes highlight video, I'll post a link to it on Youtube. 

Has anyone else used video cameras? What do you use? What projects have you incorporated them into?


How are teachers assessing with technology?

So it's been 3 weeks since I blogged last. Thanks for sticking with me. Last time I blogged I talked about the Shakespeare podcasts that my students were working on. Overall they were good, and after talking with some colleagues who have been allowing students in their classes to make videos with my class cameras I have learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes technology becomes the driving force and the curricular connection is lost. 

The Shakespeare podcast project was meant to have students learn about Shakespeare's Life and Times, and it did that very well. Students had to use to maintain logs of the websites they gathered information from, and then had to write a script from that research. Students added complimentary pictures and Shakespearean era music to add to the presentation of their enhanced podcasts. I did not however evaluation them based on these items. How the podcast sounds, the fading of the music and the quality of the pictures are not in the curriculum. How the product "engages the audience" is. 

This is were focus on the curriculum outcomes is critical with teachers who incorporate technology into their teaching. Here are the outcomes that I assessed when marking this project (Alberta LA 9 curriculum):

2.3- summarize the content of media texts, and suggest alternative treatments

3.1- select types and sources of information to achieve an effective balance between researched information and own ideas

3.3- use own words to summarize and record information in a variety of forms

3.4- integrate appropriate visual, print and/or media to reinforce overall impression or point of view and engage the audience. 

No where does the curriculum say, "students will using ducking, fading, images timed to the voiceovers, and audio editing through enhanced podcasting to learn about Shakespeare". 

While many teachers get excited and want to incorporate technology because it can create "cool looking products" that look great, its the learning through curricular outcomes that must be a priority. I can only hope that I can help other teachers focus on the outcomes sooner than later, so they don't have to learn the hard way, like I did. The first time I did this project, I was not focused on the outcomes. 

My advice is to ask yourself some questions before embarking on that technology infused assignment:

1. What are the students REALLY learning? Specify the outcomes, and if you can't get your program of studies out! 

2. How is technology INFUSED into the project, and not just a stand alone gimmick. Going to the lab to type out an essay, or do research is not seamlessly infusing technology. 

3. What have others done like this before? Don't reinvent the wheel. Use all of your 2.0 resources to get ideas. Tweet your idea and watch people return great advice! 

Hopefully next time you embark on your next technology infused project you'll have your program of studies out! How do you plan your assignments?