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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Using Show Me to Create Lessons on iPads - Guest Post

As the technology integration teacher for Seymour Public Schools in Seymour, CT, I get to spend a lot of time exploring new tools which make teaching and learning more engaging and ultimately more successful for students. Earlier this year, I discovered one of these tools called Show Me, which is an online learning community for students of all ages.  My initial thought was that it was just another Khan Academy.  The difference, I quickly discovered, was that on Show Me you can also create your own lessons...not just watch.  This makes Show Me a very powerful educational tool.


As a student looking to learn about a particular topic you can search Show Me by topic and subject.  As a teacher, you can create your own videos or assign one from the community for students to view.  If you would rather share your knowledge with your class (or the world) a la Khan Academy, you will need to download the free iOS app.  Currently there is not an app available for Android device but Show Me has plans to develop one in the future.  Once you have created something on Show Me you can share it with the world or keep it personal.  Sharing is made easy with one click posting to Facebook and Twitter as well as through the use of the embed code for websites.


Moving forward, Show Me seems to be in the initial stages of building a database of SAT preparation videos.  This would be a tremendous resource for high school students and also can be used as an exemplar for how to create an effective tutorial on Show Me.  On the website there is also a link to their blog called the Show Me Voice which has some great information for teachers looking to integrate Show Me into their classroom.  I found a “How To” section and some featured videos from the public community to be very useful.


Using Show Me, teachers and students have the ability to both teach and learn from the community of videos.  Used as a student directed activity, Show Me empowers students to think about a topic and how it should be presented.  As educators, we know that the highest level of understanding is achieved when a student knows the material well enough to teach it.  Show me give students that opportunity through the use of technology.  Below is an example of a simple lesson on the parts of the tuba created by a Seymour High School student in @Brandt Schneider’s class:







Now What?
If you have some iPads in your classroom it’s time to get recording!  Use Show Me to assess your students rather than using a paper and pencil.  Creating an account on Show Me is free and will have you up and running in seconds.  A tip for beginners is to use a stylus with the iPad to have more control over your drawing.  Also, In order to create more advanced videos you can pause your recording and then clear the canvas which will simulate a multi-page file.  Have fun!

About the Guest Blogger
Mike Oberdick is a Technology Integration Teacher for Grades 6-12 in Seymour, CT. His blog is Tech Messages and he Tweets at @mikeoberdick
Blog  |  Website  |  Twitter

Interpreting Political Cartoons - Guest Post

The inspiration for this lesson came from an article by John Bickford discussing how political cartoons can and should be used in the classroom. The article is copyrighted but I have recieved permission from Social Studies Research and Practice to share the article with freetech4teachers. If you would like to view more articles from their online peer reviewed journal click here.

In an effort to encourage class discussion I had my students watch pre-selected video clips of the GOP debates. This assignment can be done just as well by using primary source documents.

Then they create their own political cartoons on Toondoo (others will work but I like toondoo the best). Using a computer program or website works better than allowing the students to free hand the assignment. The point of the assignment is to draw meaning and historical significance from the videos or documents not draw lines an characters.

Depending on your students ability this assignment will take a week or even two to complete.  The cartoons should be well thought out and well presented. Then when the students are finished they will present.

In every piece of art two messages exist. An intended message and a conveyed or received message. This idea is at work in this lesson. 


The students who created cartoons will present the cartoons to the class but will not be able to share their intended message until prompted by the teacher.

Meanwhile the remainder of the class is discussing the conveyed message. It becomes particularly interesting to see how the two perspectives make up the whole message.

Student engagement is always essential to an effective lesson. I have rarely achieved the same level of student engagement in class discussion. I believe it has something to do with the fact that they created the content in which we are discussing.



My big points that I attempt to get across to my class throughout this process are as follows:
  • Why a political cartoon is different from a comic strip
  • How to find the message of a cartoon (imagery, symbolism, sarcasm etc.)
  • Perspective
Perspective is the big one. I want my students to try to figure out the creators perspective and what they are trying to accomplish by the cartoon. If they can successfully learn this it will help them understand professional cartoonist.

If you are feeling like a super overachiever you may see if you can contact a political cartoonist from a local newspaper to come in as a follow up activity a week or two after the lesson.


About the Guest Blogger
My name is Marcus Byrd and I write at TeacherAde. I have only been blogging for about 4 months but have really enjoyed the experience of learning from and connecting to other educators. I am studying at the University of West Georgia while I work in the Paulding County School District. I am always interested in building a larger network of teachers and collaborators.

My teaching career began as a paraprofessional or teachers aid. After two years of working alongside the teacher I realized how much that teachers are responsible for. My attitude from early on became that I like to help teachers teach. So I began the blog to do that on a larger scale and have been thrilled about where it has taken me in 4 months. I am even more excited about where it will take me in the future. If you know something that will help teachers teach then by all means share it!

Video Games in Teaching - Lessons Learned

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of teachers who have expressed interest in using video games in their teaching, but they are not sure how to start, and what their options are.
In this post I’d like to share some tips for success garnered from working with talented teachers who have successfully integrated video games into their teaching.


1) Know where to look, there is a lot of good free stuff out there, but it can be hard to find: iCivics, Playing History, BBC School Games (variety), The JASON Project (science), and PBS Kids (literacy and early math skills), are a few places that will list several games and interactives. These are great places to start to see what is out there. 

2) Know the value and drawback of games. If you want to hear what some academics have to say about it, there are some provocative video clips available from Frontline. Good video games encourage students to make mistakes,good video games give immediate feedback. On the other hand, they divorce kids from solving real world problems and tamper with realistic expectations about the nature of solving difficult problems.

3) You don’t have to jump in with both feet.  If you don’t have one computer per student, there are plenty of ways to integrate games in your classroom. Good games will involve a great deal of decision making on the part of the player. Thus, video games serve as amazing discussion prompts and get students to really open up. By playing with small or large groups of students, students will need to discuss their decision-making strategy with co-players. You can very successfully use games with one computer and a projector or in  small groups working together. If you aren’t ready for large group play, you can communicate availability of these games to parents via your school web page or newsletter. 


4) Kids love transgressive play. Students want to break the rules. They want to re-write history and push the boundaries. When you evaluate games for learning, look at how the game designers foster learning in transgressive circumstances like crashing a roller coaster, reflectively Jamestown to the ground, or legislating the U.S country according to their own values. It is the lack of these opportunities that often differentiate “edu-tainment” from games authentically designed to be true learning experiences. Beware games that enforce skilling and drilling. Plenty of resources already to that. 




5) Use a belt-and-suspenders approach to assessment.  I favor games websites that come with down-loadable curriculum and worksheets. You are still the teacher, not the game, and you need to make students accountable for learning. Create assessments that let students capture and make visible their thinking as they play the game. You’ll promote metacognition for your students and you’ll have evidence that playing the game was time well spent. 
What if Jamestown was settled inland, in the Virginia foothills? Students toy with historical facts and gain a deeper historical understanding in the process.

6) Work closely with your technology support person. Whether the game requires installation or is played online, there might be unforeseen technology barriers. Utilize any technology support available to you or recruit students to test-drive and, if needed,  trouble shoot with you. 

Games on iCivics come with worksheets and lesson plans, allow teachers to take a belt-and-suspenders approach when implementing games. From www.icivcs.org


If you’d like to read about this topic more deeply, I recommend the SIIA’s report on best practices in integrating games in education. Their findings mirror my experiences. All of the games and resources mentioned in this post are available for free. 


About the Guest Blogger
Marjee Chmiel is an instructional technology specialist at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. She is a former chemistry and physics teacher.
She is currently a doctoral candidate at George Mason University and blogs about educational technology issues running the gamut from practical to research perspectives at www.marjee.org and you can find her on twitter @mchmiel 

The Arts and History - Part 2

Cover scan of ''The Americans''
1969 2nd printing
from Wikipedia
Robert Frank is one of my favorite photographers - I discovered The Americans in a History of Photography class as an undergrad, and it has resonated with me ever since. Back in the Fall semester of 2009 I was able to take a group of students to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the collected photographs of The Americans on display. Here is a story NPR produced about that show, and here is another. This one is from The New Yorker. You get the idea.

When this show was on display, the creators of Selected Shorts aired a program comprised of short stories written by authors who were inspired by a particular photograph from the Frank show. You can download the podcast of the stories being read and have students listen to the readings as part of an examination of the photographs. They could choose their own photograph to be the inspiration for their own creative writing or research or select work from a different photographer or genre all together to inspire their writing. Lots of possibilities!

In a history or American Studies class, these (or any) photographs can be used to identify important moments in US history and the array of perspectives from which the event can be understood. My students used photographs as the starting point for researching and writing historical fiction; working in groups, they shared the historical event which was the focus of their stories, but each author developed a narrator with a unique perspective on that particular event in history.



Here is the outline of the exercise that I presented to the students. Once they selected their groups, identified their event and their narrator perspectives, they had to research to find the authentic answers to these questions about their fictional narrator’s experiences. The students were required to submit an annotated bibliography before submitting their responses to their questions so I could check the sources they were using for depth and accuracy. For citations I usually recommend they use a resource like BibMe, but they prefer EasyBib. When they were ready to began crafting their short story, I provided them this rubric (according to which their final story collections were assessed) and links to several online writing assistants and resources like writing advice from Barry Lane, literacy education online, and the Roane State OWL.
By writing historical fiction students develop research skills, critical reading and writing skills, become intimately familiar with a period of time in history and engage in authentic inquiry. 


About the Guest Blogger, Jacquelyn Whiting:
This is my fourth year as a member of the humanities department at Joel Barlow High School in rural Redding, CT. I have been teaching social studies since 1993 during which time I have taught all different levels of US History including AP, as well as American Government, Art History, Women in American History, Psychology, Environmental Studies and integrated US History and English. My work with my classes is archived on my website: http://jackiewhiting.net as is my contact information. I also write a blog about incorporating digital resources into the study of the humanities, http://www.thedigitalhumanities.com/. I am currently the chair of the professional development committee for my school and offer workshops each year focused on exploring and integrating into the curriculum web resources that enhance our teaching and our students learning. Outlines of and resources for these workshops are also available on my website.

The Arts and History - Part 1

The Topic: Is it Art?
Many lesson series or units can begin with this question and push students at any grade level and in many different disciplines to consider the purpose of art. In some manner we always consider this question at the beginning of the semester in my Art History class, but it also emerges in my US History class as well.

Depending on the grade level and experiences of the students they can consider a host of examples of what is considered art by some critics or audiences but not others, like Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain:

Or art that is valued monetarily and aesthetically today but was criticized and dismissed when it was created:
“The Parliament in London,” Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The Yorck Project, public domain Wikimedia Commons

This question, what is art?, has even been explored in pop culture outside of the fine arts world. A Murphy Brown episode (“Is it Art?”) was once dedicated to exploring this question as was an episode of The Simpsons (“Mom and Pop Art”). I have used excerpts from both of these shows to stimulate conversation among my high school art history students.

The Method:
Duchamp and Monet have an established place in the art world and art history. To help students explore this question, what is art?, in a way that engages them in their place and time, a debate over the merits and value of street art or graffiti art works well. When asking students to consider these images we begin with this set of questions:

Why do artists make art?
Why do audiences consider it?
Is the role or purpose of the artist to inform? entertain? amuse? enlighten? satisfy?

Wrestling with these questions in the context of selected images helps students gain the vocabulary, insight and vision that allows them to consider What is Art? in an informed way.

Online Resources:

The Brooklyn Museum has an extensive, entirely interactive exhibition about Jean Michel Basquiat. He began as a street artist under the name SAMO and evolved into a member of Andy Warhol’s cohort at The Factory.

Unurth is a site dedicated to displaying street art from around the world. It is built in part by the site owner and in part through submission by site visitors. By clicking on a city, viewers can see a selection of street art from that location. There is a section dedicated to the work of Banksy.

KQED EdSpace in their “Do Now” section pose the question “Is Graffiti Art?” They acknowledge that it is a controversial form of self-expression that is viewed as destructive on one hand and valuable on the other. To inform this discussion KQED offers both a still image and a video based around San Francisco street art.



Curricular Applications:
The examination of graffiti can be an integral part of an art history unit. Or, considering such work - and the ways in which it is exalted and diminished - can be an interesting component in a study of free speech perhaps comparing sanctioned political murals with political graffiti. Or, students could evaluate a work of art or an artist for potential grant funding or write a legal brief for or against the protection of a street art 
display. Similarly, the issues raised by street art (censorship, isolation, youth and rebellion, social and political commentary) resonate through many selections of literature from the 20th Century. A consideration of street art could be a springboard into or companion to a literary exploration. 


About the Guest Blogger, Jacquelyn Whiting:
This is my fourth year as a member of the humanities department at Joel Barlow High School in rural Redding, CT. I have been teaching social studies since 1993 during which time I have taught all different levels of US History including AP, as well as American Government, Art History, Women in American History, Psychology, Environmental Studies and integrated US History and English. My work with my classes is archived on my website: http://jackiewhiting.net as is my contact information. I also write a blog about incorporating digital resources into the study of the humanities, http://www.thedigitalhumanities.com/. I am currently the chair of the professional development committee for my school and offer workshops each year focused on exploring and integrating into the curriculum web resources that enhance our teaching and our students learning. Outlines of and resources for these workshops are also available on my website.

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