Saturday, July 21, 2012

Digital Story, kinda.

My digital story is finally done.... kinda. I've been struggling to get music behind it but while I work out the kinks of that, I wanted to share the story with everyone. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cell Phones in the Classroom

Recently we were assigned an article for class regarding 5 reasons to allow students to use cell phones in class. Prior to this course, I had never thought about allowing students to use their cell phone in class. When I was in school I wasn't allowed to use my cell phone so it seemed to make sense that current students also wouldn't be allowed to use their phones. Through class discussion throughout the semester as well as by reading this article, I've come to see the error of my way of thinking. 

As a big Harry Potter fan, I found the following quote especially meaningful. 
"Children, put away your wands. You won't be needing them." - Delores Umbridge 
One of our requirements as teachers is to prepare students for the future and to make sure that they have the tools necessary to succeed in life. Cell phones are a part of life and cell phone use will be required and integrated in every job a student has after graduation. It is important that instead of just teaching about the future, we provide the students with hands-on instruction to assist them. Teaching students without integrating cell phones would be similar to teaching young magicians without using their wands: ineffective and useless. 

 Not the kind of teacher I want to be

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PowerPoint is (kind of ) Evil

Wired posted an article on the evils of PowerPoint (article found here: that I recently read. After reading this article, I was struck by two points:

1. The line of the article stating that "The standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over content". 
2. The fact that this article was written in 2003.  

I agree with the first point completely. I have seen many PowerPoint presentations that contain no substantial information and are filled completely with fluff, but are considered acceptable in the workplace or school because of the way in which they present the information. At times in the past, I've been guilty of giving a mediocre effort on a presentation but sprucing it up enough so that no one can tell.  Although I understand why PowerPoint is considered effective, I think teachers and students (as well as people in the workplace) need to be aware that the information contained in these presentations should always be accurate and complete.  

I wonder if PowerPoint is less used, and thus less evil, in 2012 than it was in 2003. When this article was written, I had just started college and wasn't aware of any presentation tools other than PowerPoint. Now I've used Prezi and other tools, and created digital stories and enhanced podcasts. I still use PowerPoint, but it's not as much of a necessity as it was 9 years ago. Because of the decreased reliance on PowerPoint, I think it's become much less of a necessary evil and has a role in the education of teachers and students as a starting off point for other more technologically advanced tools.

Who are you online?

CommonSense Media has many lesson plans online to teach digital learning to students. I examined the lesson Who Are You Online?; a lesson designed for high school students about how students represent themselves online. I think this lesson was a great way to show students the differences between online and offline personas and how people can choose to represent themselves differently online. That gives students a valuable lesson in internet safety and being careful who they trust on the internet. Overall I really liked this unit of lessons but I'm not sure how practical it would be in an English classroom. If I chose to use a blog or some other form of social media in a lesson, it would be helpful to give an abbreviated version of this lesson. Otherwise, I'd have to spend some time examining the Virginia SOLs to make sure that this unit would fit into the state requirements.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Visual Thinking Strategies

As I've discussed in earlier posts, I'm a strong believer in the importance of visuals in the classroom to supplement learning. I wanted to do a little research on the web to find some information to support my arguments and I came across an article discussing Visual Thinking Strategies. From what I can tell, the premise behind VTS is that students are expected to look at images and come up with meaning, just as they would look at words in a textbook or novel and develop meaning. As their skills build, students are able to come up with meaning from more complicated and advanced images. 

Much of the discussion of VTS centers around using artistic images and teaching students in an art class. I think the techniques behind this idea can easily be implemented in an English classroom. Let's say I was teaching Hamlet for example. There are literally millions of artistic renderings from this play that can be used in the classroom. In undergrad, I spent a whole month one semester discussing various portraits of Ophelia's drowning. These images can be shown to students in two ways: 

1. In conjunction with their reading, to provide visual enhancement for the text. This might make things easier for some students to understand. 

2. As foreshadowing for what is about to occur in their reading. For example, if the following image is shown before the students read about Ophelia's suicide the students can be asked who they think this woman is, why she is floating, what caused this, etc. 

The students can then read Hamlet to find out what happened to Ophelia. 

I think there is a very important place for visuals in the classroom and the techniques and methods of VTS can assist teachers to find the best way to incorporate these ideas into their teaching.