Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't Press Play and Walk Away! #DENSI2014

For as many years as I can remember, I've been helping teachers to use video more effectively in their classrooms. There is something about walking into a classroom and finding students falling asleep with a video playing that just annoys me. It's bad practice. It's not learning. Let's all agree to stop, NOW!

How then do we effectively use video in the classroom? It's a lot more than pressing play and walking away. The key to using video in the classroom is to engage with it. Stop the video as often as every thirty seconds to ask questions, provide time to infer what will happen next or even assign a writing activity for the students to create their own ending. In a typical 55 minute class period, I've never used more than 5 minutes of video.  

Check out the snippet below for a glimpse into a training that I provide for teachers. The video used is Dear America: Picture of Freedom: The Story of Clotee, a Slave Girl: Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859 from Discovery Education.
Shameless plug alert: If your district/school isn't a subscriber to Discovery Education, what are you waiting for?!?! Beyond thousands of videos aligned to standards, it offers HD images, educational songs, writing prompts, sound effects, and so very much more! It is one of the non-negotiables in our district every year. Now back to using video in the classroom!
All of the activities are content generic. They work well with most any topic and of course are cross curricular to bring in multiple subjects. The video below provides an overview of some of these strategies with details about them below it. This "cheat sheet" provides some strategies for using video in class.

My favorite strategies are:
  • Remove the "picture" from the video
    Simply turn off the projector, put on the lens cap or even put your hand in front if you have to. When learners do not have a visual, it forces active listening. Beyond the script, what other sounds will students hear? Footsteps? Water? Wildlife? Ask probing questions about dialect, accents, and colloquialisms. 
  • Remove the "sound" from the video
    Feel free to mute the speakers or even unplug them. This activity encourages active viewing. For the most part, the room will be completely silent. Students will then create the dialogue or guess what just occurred. Based on age and skill of the students, this is a great place to read body language, hypothesize on the setting, or even find background music for the scene. 
  • Create your own ending
    Depending on the skill or concept being taught and explored, this activity partners very well with creative writing, inferenceing, hypothesizing and more. Provide learners the time to create an ending for a clip/segment. It could be an extension of only the clip or a "what-if" ending. "What if" you were on there? What would the ending be? "What-if" that happened present day? What would the ending be? "What-if" that character had this trait or flaw? What would the ending be? This activity is really only limited by imagination. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What have you lost? @teach42

Greetings friends! I'm using my spring break to write a blog post that isn't exactly tech or edu inspired or focused. Read on knowing you've been warned. 

This past summer I bought the biggest pants I've ever owned in my life. I was crushed. And fat. And I dealt with it by eating out and too much again that night. Blame it on life, stress, personal or professional turmoil, it doesn't matter. I was overweight and shaving off days of my life. Days I will lose when I end up with diabetes or heart problems or ovarian cancer. All happen more often to women who are overweight and all run rampant for the females in my family. Summer 2013 was the worse I have ever experienced in my adult life. Consult previous entries for clarification. 

My life started falling back in place in Burlington, VT attending DEN Summer Institute. Professionally... Personally.... I found my footing again and spent the rest of 2013 getting to know myself. I got to tell you, I wasn't impressed. My life had fallen apart in more ways than I ever care to discuss and I have been on a mission to fix it. Laugh more. Love more. Learn more. Enjoy life more. And I have..... Except I've still been unhappy with the woman in the mirror. When my blood pressure read high for the first time in my life (I've always had low BP), I knew something had to change. 

Thankfully my near and dear friend Steve Dembo was already charting that path. I had been watching as he slimmed down to a size I had never seen. Just a couple of weeks ago I walked right past him at TCEA and stopped only when I heard his voice. He looks amazing! More than his physical appearance, he sounds happier. There's a pep in his step. There's..... Life. He's always had a spunk that is noticeably more excited when he talks about his wife and kids. This was even bigger. 

In the meantime, back on the ranch (actually in Nebraska) my bestie Beth Still had been inspired by Steve and was also dropping dress and jean sizes. Following along on her blog, I heard the truth and honesty in her voice as she came to terms with her own struggles. The transformation has already been amazing. I aspire to be half the leader and changer that she is and it has been a privilege to watch her take on even more challenges as she embraces her new shape. (PS You can do it Beth! You will overcome every challenge and step backward with the grace and exceptional positivity that you always have.)

As a community of people making life changes (and ironically all educators and involved in the EdTech world) I think it is important to set up a couple of rules. Think of it as rules for when life changes and social media combine.  Inspired by Chad Lehman's jersey rules.

1. If your avatar/profile pic is in clothes you no longer own or no longer fit you, change it!
2. If you aren't sure if your lifestyle change is reflected in your online presence, ask a friend. Then take their advice to make the two worlds match. 
3. Don't wear clothes that don't fit; it really is ok to let go. Donate. Have a sale. Just get them out of your house. You don't want a picture of you to show up online in clothes that don't fit (see rule number one). 
4. Share your story. We are all more than our jobs. It is completely okay for those online to see the experience that those offline get to. 
5. Live. Live your new life to the fullest extent. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Everything in Life I Learned from... YouTube #EdChat

Last week, two separate friends shared instances of personal learning with me. My near and dear friend Rafranz Davis was having more than her fair share of car troubles. After a run around with the dealership, her battery, and more rants on Glide than I will ever share, a young man just around the corner from her house was able to solve her problem. His solution? A diagnostic computer reader he had bought online and learned to use via YouTube. About that same time, a colleague was having problems with her computer. It had become infected with a small piece of adware. She "Googled it" and followed the instructions she found on YouTube to fix her machine. It got me thinking about the things I have learned from YouTube.

  • My clothes washer wouldn't drain. Turns out it was a sock in the pump. YouTube to the rescue.
  • Making butter in my KitchenAide. YouTube
  • Learn to knit. YouTube
  • Creating "bookshelves" for my youngest's room. Online! *Not really YouTube but you get the idea.*
Will Richardson has already started the conversation about Why School? No need to rehash that. Instead (or maybe even in parallel), what does it mean "learn something" or "be educated"? There is this generally held myth in society (for certain in American society) that the best plan for students post K-12 is college. Why do we hold to this context that you have to go to university/college to be able to do things? Certainly, it goes back to the day of old when that's where knowledge was stored. Of course times and technology have changed. Are we now raising and educating a generation that doesn't need (or maybe even want) a "formal" education? And if so, now what? How do we as a society become accepting of a "YouTube" education? At what point do we recognize that sometimes the ability to "do" is more important than the piece of a paper from an overpriced institution? Conversation welcome!