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Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

I work in the Technology Services Department for a large public school district. I love my job (technology integration specialist) and truly appreciate my department’s support of programs that promote digital literacy and the potential for students – and teachers – to advance from digital citizens to global citizens.

With this week’s start of the new school year, I’m getting lots of requests from teachers to setup Edublogs Pro classroom blogs, something I am happy to do … but not until we’ve had a conversation about their vision for their blogs. Because my department pays for our Edublog Campus accounts (worth every penny), I like to know how far up the SAMR ladder they – and their students – might travel via their classroom blog. If they simply want an online location to post homework and announcements, I suggest a free Google Site. If they need a little background on the SAMR model, I might send them a short video, such as John Spensor’s introduction, which makes the connection to the potential power of blogging:

Last week, in response to my blogging vision questions, a teacher sent me a link to the awesome Jeff Bradbury’s TeacherCast session: The Great EdTech Debate: Google Sites vs Google Classroom vs Blogger. I emailed back that Jeff was simply reviewing the suite of Google options; he was not commenting on the power and possibilities of  classroom blogging. (And I agree with Jeff that Blogger is not the best choice for a classroom blog.)

This morning, I came across Silvia Tolisano’s post Blogging Through the Lens of SAMR, I decided it was time to gather resources and rationale on moving a classroom blog from “substitution” (the “S” of SAMR) to “redefinition.” Silvia’s post, with its wonderful infographics, is a great starting point. I’m also including and highly recommending:

As a former classroom teacher, I witnessed many times the bump in literacy skills that happens when students know their work really matters, a change that generally requires an authentic audience. Blogging can provide a 24/7 microphone for students to join in virtual conversations with students and classrooms across the nation and world – and, in the process, cross the line from consumer of information to creator of information – and from digital citizen to global citizen.

I’m ending this post with two things: a blogger’s poem and an invitation.

#1) An if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie-style poem from Edublogger Ronnie Burt’s blog post A Rhyme? Why Not! Please note that “website” = “blog”:

If you give a student a website, at first, he isn’t going to be sure what to do.

He will start by wanting to decorate it and personalize it too.

He’ll no doubt choose some interesting colors and flashing widgets – making sure he has the most.

Once you go over expectations, you will assign the student to write his first post.

The student will ask, ‘is this for a grade?’, and he will probably groan.

But once he publishes to his new website, he’ll immediately want to pull out his phone.

He’ll post a link to twitter and facebook, out across the interwebs his post will be sent.

He’ll hit refresh in his browser, over and over, just hoping that a visitor has left a comment.

Before long he’ll see the comment notifications show up in his queue.

And an ongoing dialogue between his family, friends, and classmates will certainly continue.

So the next time he learns something new in your class, there won’t be much of a fight.

Before you even get the chance to finish, the student will ask if he can write another post on his website.

 

#2 ) An invitation to share classroom and student blogs I could showcase in my next post on blogging best practices. Please leave a comment with links!

Best wishes to everyone for the 2017-2018 school year.

PS Thank you Pixabay for cc licensed blogging image!

 

A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom

A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom

The great films have not been made yet. The ones who will make them are out there, though, riding a skateboard.” – Robert Altman

Why would a classroom teacher at any grade level or in any subject area consider adding one more activity into an already jam-packed curriculum? This is a question I ask myself repeatedly when teaching the filmmaking workshops I offer through the Area 3 Writing Project and through my school district.

Last October the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) invited me, as part of their SEVA teacher training series, to give a workshop that would provide teachers with the justification to bring video production into the K12 curriculum. Having a workshop deadline to meet was just the motivation I needed to sit down and articulate why I believe all students should have access to filmmaking (aka digital storytelling, video production, etc.) as part of their instructional day.

I  had three arguments in mind before even turning on the computer.  Within an hour, I had my presentation ready to go. Three arguments expanded to six – and I was on a roll, having discovered in the process how strongly I felt about the topic.

The following week, a group of teachers willing to rise early on a Saturday filed into my SEVA workshop. I lucked out. Not only was this a very awake and participatory group, they also wanted to return to their own sites and present the case for filmmaking. Based the number of requests for my PowerPoint, SEVA organizer Doug Niva suggested uploading my slideshow to their website site.

As much as I appreciate the number of slideshows educators around the world have generously uploaded to such venues as YouTube, or SlideShare, or their blogs, I wish more content producers would also provide a written piece to document how they moved from an initial burning question or challenge to a final product or solution. What follows is my attempt to share my personal learning journey, an experience that has been shaped by first-hand interactions and observations in classrooms (mainly grades 4-12) and the research and advise of others, beginning with filmmaker Nikos Theodosakis and continuing with filmmaker and literacy coach (Los Angeles USD) Mathew Needleman and many colleagues from the National Writing Project (NWP).

So let’s return to my Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom presentation, starting with slide/argument #1:

#1: Addressing ethical use of the Internet – Picture the following scenario: an elementary teacher (yes, in my district), Googles herself. To her dismay she finds that on a day she was out, one of her students used a cell phone to film a lovely little scene of classroom chaos,  to which his middle school brother later helped him flavor with some racist, homophobic words, and then upload to YouTube. As school counselors in my district scramble to deal with an explosion of cyberbullying issues,  I argue that teaching the ethical use of video and the Internet must be woven into the elementary curriculum, before the onslaught of adolescent (mis)behavior.

In the case of the above siblings, the parents were clueless as to how their children were choosing to use both their cell phones and the computer in the kids’ bedroom. To illustrate the fact that too many students lack an ethical grounding in the appropriate use of the Internet,  I downloaded a YouTube video of a student getting his head bashed against a locker and linked it to Slide #1.

Try doing an Internet search on “locker room fight” and you’ll get back literally hundreds of links, such as the Norwood Middle School’s claim to fame. Granted, middle school is all about making wrong decisions, but what if districts wove media education into the elementary curriculum? It is my hope that such a program could play a pivotal role in keeping students safe from each other (i.e., cyberbullying) and from themselves (i.e, sexting) and in reversing what has become an alarming trend, too often ending tragically.

#2: Promoting critical media consumption – Thanks to support from the National Writing Project, I had the opportunity to attend last summer’s NCTE Institute on 21st Century Literacies.  The seed for this post was planted when Ernest Morrell took to the podium to deliver his Critical Literacy and Urban Youth: Pedagogies of Access, Dissent, and Liberation keynote address. Ernest opened with four questions that begged for discussion:

  1. What will be demanded of students in terms of literacy in the 21st century?
  2. In what ways is the nature of literacy changing?
  3. How should the discipline of English change in response to the changes in literacy?
  4. What are the ways that your students practice literacy when they are not in class?

No surprise that he answered question #4 with:

  • filmmaking
  • video games
  • virtual worlds – adopting different identities

Slide #2 is similar to one Ernest used, maybe not the same Seventeen Magazine cover, but definitely the same image from 50 Cents, complete with its phallic symbols and suggestions of violence.  I don’t know that the images from the covers of Seventeen, with the pitch, for instance,  on how to Get amazing abs!, actually promote any safer or healthier life style than 50 Cents‘ collection.  Given that the age range of Seventeen readers spans from 12-17,  I argue that there is a critical need to provide upper elementary and middle school students with first-hand opportunities to explore and manipulate media so that they might become as skilled in reading and interpreting images as they are with decoding traditional text.

#3: Providing students with multiple ways to access core content – No matter how many times I visit CogDogRoo’s (Alan Levine) 50+ Ways to Tell a Story, each time I find new Web 2.0  resources and tools for incorporating digital storytelling across the curriculum. Whereas filmmaking was once a medium that required expensive equipment and major technical expertise,  “we are at the point now where we can do some very compelling content creation with nothing more complex than a web browser.” Why would we not offer students filmmaking opportunities and options? To answer that question, I’ll call on an elementary school SEVA film producer and a middle school SEVA film producer to share their perspectives on how the process of filmmaking translates into learning venues.

A year ago, I drafted the RFP for my district’s application for Round 7 of the EETT Grant.  My goal was to integrate Web 2.0 tools into the 4th grade (Year One) and 5th grade (Year Two) English/Language Arts program.  In thinking back to the one-page summary that must precede the grant narrative, I remember pondering over this sentence: “Target teachers will participate in 42 hours of professional development on 21 century technologies followed by hands-on explorations with specific Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts, and multimedia applications) that will ‘power up’ Open Court lessons and engage students in the learning process.”  Given that every administrator will say “Yes!” when asked if he/she would like to be involved in a technology grant, often without understanding the professional development required to support teachers in adopting new tools, I hesitated to be too specific about exactly which ‘multimedia applications’ would be included, knowing that over a two-year period, new tools would emerge, adding to an already robust menu (i.e., Movie Maker2/iMovie, PhotoStory 3, VoiceThread, Animoto). But I definitely did not want the grant to be all about learning PowerPoint!

At the October EETT kickoff meeting, I noted a look of shear panic by at least four or five teachers as we started the day by connecting for an interactive videoconference with Mathew Needleman and ended the day by passing out a complete camera set (bag, tripod, microphone, two cameras) for each site. I wondered if I was being overly ambitious in my vision for taking student voices beyond the classroom via video production.  But eight months later, as we approached the end of the school year and with movie making projects happening at all three EETT sites, I had the opportunity to observe students firsthand as they moved though various stages of multimedia writing. EETT teacher Tara McCartney’s commitment to providing her students with multiple modes of writing is clearly making language arts standards more attainable for her 4th graders:

#4 Supporting a collaborative learning environment – In his book The Director in the classroom: How filmmaking Inspires Learning, Nikios Theodosakis points out that “Filmmaking is a collaborative art, requiring dozens of passionate craftspeople to bring about a focused vision onto the screen.  Each brings with them their own experiences and insights and makes the final film richer and truer than the director originally imagined” (p 7). Yet not all students have access to such 21st century skills as collaborating, connecting, and creating . The more high-poverty + low-performing a school site is, the greater the pressure is on administrators and teachers to deliver instruction per the ‘sit ‘n get’ model. I stand in awe of those educators who seek innovative ways to make learning engaging and memorable – despite top-down mandates that can lead to what teacher/writer Kelly Gallagher refers as “apartheid programs,” effectively denying students access to the “participatory culture” described in Henry Jenkin’s white paper.

Florin High School English teacher Bob LeVin is one of the innovators.   I met Bob five years ago when I sent out an email to my district’s Technology Advisory Committee asking if anyone knew an English teacher who might be interested connecting with other classrooms in the Youth Voices online project. Bob’s enthusiastic response was the start of a yearly connection in which we meet at the start of each new school year to talk about tools and possibilities for taking his students’ voices beyond the confines of their school site and and increasingly impoverished community.  What began in the first two years with a productive exploration of blogging has evolved into an annual integration of filmmaking into Bob’s program.  Former student Michael Fuentes explains well the benefits of making a movie:

On the ‘same side of the tracks’ as Florin High School, Prairie Elementary School students in Lesley Mckillop’s  4th grade classroom have started the long journey to the red carpet, SEVA (Student Educational Video Awards) style. As Lesley’s young filmmakers made their way onto the stage to receive an Honorable Mention Award for Blog Safely!, I wondered if the crowd filling Sacramento’s historic Crest Theater to capacity understood what it meant to have students thanking their principal for driving them to the awards ceremony. Lesley, an innovator and an EETT teacher, came to me following the October kickoff and shared that she knew nothing about technology. Her initial reaction to bringing filmmaking to her 4th graders was the feeling of being completely overwhelmed while at the same time wanting to get on board and, more importantly, bring her class on board. By the time the school year drew to a close, all of her students had participated in the making of one or more movie productions, and for a handful, including the young man who is the last to step up to the microphone in the clip I’ve inserted at the end of this post, filmmaking has rocked their worlds.

# 5 Responding to current research – During the October SEVA workshop, I shared some snippets from Daniel Pink‘s A Whole New Mind and Thomas Friedman‘s The World Is Flat, passed around my Time Magazine issue, and promoted the work of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – all of which point to the many “c” words associated with new literacies, such as  connecting, collaborating, and creating .

In April, I traveled down the road to Berkeley for a NWP Digital Is meeting, where I had the good fortune to meet Liz Stephens. As an opening activity, the meeting coordinators asked our cozy group of 12 to think about and share a “whack on the head” about the intersection between writing and technology.  Liz’s statement that  writing in a digital age is “more about ‘frames’ than ‘stages’ was an instant jolt for me and brought to mind recent conversations with teachers and students, such as Xavier Carillo (former student of Bob LeVin), who shares a “no duh”:

In a test-driven climate, it’s easy for teachers and administrators to view filmmaking as a ‘when-testing-is-over’ activity. I think if they could sit in on a session or two with students from my EETT classrooms, they would see that, unlike worksheets, as students delve into their filmmaking projects, a major shift happens. They typically begin a project with the idea of “completing an assignment.” And then the shift happens: they see themselves as producers of content that others will see and benefit from.  They have – with much enthusiasm and pride – ascended to the top level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (as revised in 2001 by Anderson and Krothwahl).

#6 Engaging students -Well this one is pretty much a no brainer.  No matter what their access is during or beyond the school day, students like technology. From brainstorming, to storyboarding, to filming, to narrating, to editing – many students find a niche in the filmmaking process that pushes them as learners, as contributors, as team players. As they shift from consumers to content producers, there is also a shift in ownership of the learning. Step into their classrooms, and you will see the collaborative efforts start to happen, you will feel the synergy, and you will witness new levels of student engagement.

It’s been my privilege over the past few years to watch colleague (same district, same Writing Project) Jim Faires weave filmmaking into his 6th grade curriculum at Butler Elementary School. Through filmmaking, Jim is often on the receiving end of inspiration.

But how does a teacher justify integrating filmmaking in a textbook and test-prep driven school day? In my state, California Standards for the Teaching Profession provide a ready-made argument. Checkout the first standard: ENGAGING AND SUPPORTING ALL STUDENTS IN LEARNING:


Teachers build on students’ prior knowledge, life experience, and interests to achieve learning goals for all students. Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies and resources that respond to students’ diverse needs. Teachers facilitate challenging learning experiences for all students in environments that promote autonomy, interaction and choice. Teachers actively engage all students in problem solving and critical thinking within and across subject matter areas. Concepts and skills are taught in ways that encourage students to apply them in real-life contexts that make subject matter meaningful. Teachers assist all students to become self-directed learners who are able to demonstrate, articulate, and evaluate what they learn.

Back to my initial question: How does a teacher find the time to integrate one more activity into the school day? Take three minutes to watch Lesley McKillop’s students as they ‘walk the red carpet.’ At the end of the this on-the-spot video, shot collectively (without a tripod) by her students, Lesley provides an answer to that important and often-asked question.

The Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom from Gail Desler on Vimeo.

I actually started this post several months ago but didn’t publish it, thinking there were probably more points and definitely more resources that I could add. I’ve recently rediscovered, for instance, Edutopia’s What Works in Public Education site. A search on ‘filmmaking the classroom’ brought up a list of great articles – more than enough to justify my hitting the Publish button. If you have ideas and/or resources to add, I invite you to join me in this conversation and post a comment. I’m pretty sure my six arguments could easily be expanded to a dozen or more!

Shift Happens

Shift Happens

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Edublogger community. As as veteran Edublogger (my first EB post was in March 2006), I’ve have been through a few upgrades and therefore know that when EB returns, it’s even better than before. I’m thinking back to June of 2007, when there was a two-weekwindow of down time during upgrades. I was attending a NECC Conference in Atlanta where a number of “big names,” such as Will Richardson, were attempting to introduce EB as part of the their blogging workshops. Because they’re used to working through technology issues, not having access to EB was not that big a deal.

But here’s what’s changed for me … Over the past two weeks, I’ve received many emails from teachers who’ve been in my EB workshops wondering what was going on. OK, this is a huge shift. Since most of my district, county, and A3WP workshops are free, I’m never really sure if my attendees truly want to learn about blogging, or if they are just looking for free units to apply to their salary schedule.

So about those emails….bring ‘um on !What the flood of questions means to me is that I now have a growing bank of teachers who are incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their teachers’ toolkit. What felt like just a ripple a year ago is starting for feel a tsunami. Welcome back EB!

Joining the Comment Challenge – 31 days to becoming a better blog citizen

Joining the Comment Challenge – 31 days to becoming a better blog citizen

I’m joining the 31-day Comment Challenge, which I first read about this morning in my friend Kevin‘s blog. In a way, I think Challenge organizers Kim Coffino, Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, and Michele Martin have added structure to a direction I’ve been moving in the last year or so – moving away from reading “first wave” bloggers, who are typicallycomment_challenge_logo_2.png convention keynote speakers, published authors, etc., and, instead, reading blogs of fellow teachers, from near and far, who work directly with students. Twitter, I think, somehow has much to do with my switch in blog reading habits. It’s so easy and fast to read 140 character microblogs, and from a Tweet, I’ll often click on the Tweeter’s link and journey over to their blog. What I like about the 2nd wave of bloggers is that, unlike the 1st wave, conversations are more likely to happen, as opposed to a zillion people posting comment after comment. I feel a sense of community. With this idea of community in mind, I look forward to joining the challenge to becoming a better blog citizen.

Heading off to read Gina‘s Guide to Weblog Comments and to figure out the best way to jump start the challenge (since I’m beginning in Day 4;-)

Happy 10th Birthday to Blogging!

Happy 10th Birthday to Blogging!

Four days ago, I clicked on a link in an email from Steve Hargadon, via Classroom 2.0, with an invitation to celebrate blogging’s 10th birthday by posting a Voice Thread.

“Some of us believe that blogging, as one of the great entry points into ‘read/write’ web (or “Web 2.0″), is having a transformative impact on education and learning, and that we are at the start of a new renaissance that will be defined by the participatory, contributive, and collaborative nature of the Web.”

At that time, Steve and three others had posted. Since it was already late, I jumped in the next morning (I think I might have been the 6th person to add a comment). Just checked back…to find 28 people have added their thoughts. I am still in awe of the participatory possibilities of Web 2.0!

I saw the “transformative” impact of blogging on teaching and learning five years ago, when I delved into my first student blog project and discovered that a group of disengaged high school students (already “dismissed” from the traditional high school and attending a continuation school) were reading a posting after school hours – when they did not have to. The new tools, such as Voice Thread, Slideshare, and podcasting, continue to make a good tool even better.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=33484" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" wmode="transparent" /]

Happy Birthday, Blogs!

For some reason, I feel the need to end this post with a slightly different Happy Birthday wish (?) for Web 2.0 – from THE Journal’s Steve Weinbstock – http://thejournal.com/articles/21374.

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Edublogs Resources – Keep ‘um coming!

Edublogs Resources – Keep ‘um coming!

Thanks to Kevin H’s post, I found Mike Temple’s very useful site on Edublog Tutorials. He has great beginning how-to video tutorials, but also advanced (for me) user tips on customizing your sidebar and adding all kinds of snazzy widgets. As an added bonus, you can follow along his discussion with my Sacto neighbor Alice Mercer, plus a link to her online tutorial. I’ll throw into the mix the handout I’ve put together for teacher workshops – with a commitment to keep it updated 🙂

Many thanks to James Farmer for his huge part in bringing teachers on board with Web 2.0. And, oh my, I just checked out the wonderful tutorials he has added – starting with a slide show on Why Blog? and moving on to Mike Temple’s start up videos – and links to Alice’s classroom blog .

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Good Things Happening at Nicholas Elementary – SCUSD

Good Things Happening at Nicholas Elementary – SCUSD

Alice Mercer, 5th grade teacher at Nicholas Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District is experimenting with a number of Web 2.0 tools to support and engage her students in learning. Through a visit to her Ms. Mercer’s Class Website, I discovered very cool FREE – and “not-yet-blocked” tool that Alice is using to host her online Homework Club – http://vyew.com/room/170301.

“Vyew (pronounced “view”) is an Anytime Collaboration and Live Conferencing™ platform that provides a virtual space for Web users to create, collaborate and communicate with each other. Vyew includes a rich set of tools that enable collaborators to work together on documents, images, screen captures, desktop shares, whiteboard annotations, and more. ”

I met Alice in last week’s EdTechTalk. Very exciting to discover a teacher doing good things for kids right one district over!
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Electric Pen Chosen as Tech Learning Site of the Week

Electric Pen Chosen as Tech Learning Site of the Week

Kevin Hodgson‘s Electric Pen classroom weblog site provides teachers with a window into Web 2.0 possibilities at the elementary level. It is also Tech Learning‘s site of the week. What a well-deserved recognition! Kevin is my friend, mentor, and also a fellow NWP Tech Liaison. I’ve had the good fortune to join him in the Youth Radio project, a project he developed to connect students across the nation, and now across the world, in blogging and podcasting about thoughts, stories, and issues in their own communities.

Kevin mentors and inspires teachers as well as students. His SciFi novel in Six Words wiki, for example, was my first experience with collaborative writing in a wiki. Whatever learning adventure he is sponsoring, I know it will be worth the learning curve – which he manages to keep to a comfortable minimum.

Kevin’s projects serve as examples on the “New Bloom,” an updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which points towards technology-enhanced activities as the means for taking students beyond “Remember” (the old “Knowledge).

Yeah Kevin!
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Showing Web 2.0

Showing Web 2.0

During a recent workshop on Internet safety, I attempted to provide teachers with classroom-related examples of Web 2.0 use. It might have been more information than they needed since they arrived expecting to hear about iSafety, not student projects. As I rethink the workshop agenda, I’m collecting sample videos to provide quick – and maybe inspiring – glimpses into the Read/Write web. Here’s what I have so far:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE (Thanks to NWP TL Tanya Witherspoon.
  2. http://learningismessy.com/blog/?p=196 (From Brian Crosby)
  3. http://www.infinitethinking.org/2006/12/itm-4-welcome-to-blogosphere.html  (Chris Walsh).
Moving from Manila to WP

Moving from Manila to WP

I’ve followed a few of Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed posts regarding his switch from Manila blogs to WP. I am making the same switch via edublogs. Many thanks to James Farmer for offering a free site for educators. My only suggestion would be to offer a theme or two geared to elementary classrooms. The WP interface is user-friendly enough to bring teachers on board with blogging within a two-hour workshop. Jumping in to edit a theme’s CSS, however, is definitely for the advanced user.

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