If you haven’t already marked October 20th on your calendar to take part in the National Day on Writing, please read on! In recognition of how integral writing has become to all of us as we journey further into the 21st century, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is inviting our nation to come celebrate composition in all its forms by submitting a piece of writing to the National Gallery of Writing.
Why a National Day on Writing?
In light of the significance of writing in our national life, to draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives, October 20, 2009, will be celebrated as The National Day on Writing. The National Day on Writing will
- celebrate the foundational place of writing in Americans’ personal, professional, and civic lives.
- point to the importance of writing instruction and practice at every grade level, for every student and in every subject area from preschool through university. (See The Genteel Unteaching of America’s Poor.)
- emphasize the lifelong process of learning to write and composing for different audiences, purposes, and occasions.
- recognize the scope and range of writing done by the American people and others.
- honor the use of the full range of media for composing.
- encourage Americans to write and enjoy and learn from the writing of others.
What a wonderful opportunity to write as an individual, a family, a classroom, a school site, a department – to write from all walks of life. All the resources you might need to get started with your piece are available on the website, from a flyer about the event to a link to Writing Between the Lines – and Everywhere Else, a look at how young people are using forms of digital media to reshape the process of composing.
A huge thank you to all the folks at NCTE for your gift to the nation!
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:
No surprise that he answered question #4 with:
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.
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!
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!
Meet Boolean Squared, who has a lot in common with students in our classrooms in that he “loves computers with a passion, but he rarely uses them in the way that his teacher — Mr. Teach — would like.” And he fully believes that “there is no operating system or Web site that should not be tinkered with.”
Created by my NWP colleague the multi-talented Kevin Hodgson, this web-based comic strip will run every Monday via Masslive.com’s Newspaper in Education and will soon have an RSS feed available. I’ve mentioned Kevin many times in past Blogwalker posts, always about his innovative approaches to 21st century teaching and learning. How fun for Kevin’s 6th grade students, their parents, and the community at large to have this window into the world of digital natives and (or maybe vs.) digital immigrants.
Boolean Squared could make for great Monday morning class discussions too.
Kathy Yancy is the opening speaker for NCTE’s Institute for 21st Century Literacies.
Bonus of opening session: Kyene Beers‘ explanation of “dip in/dip out” approach to Holt Language Arts program – very different than the scripted approach! I’ll be doing a podcast with her later in the conference.
I’m sitting in a very packed room with Rushton Hurley (I’m actually hiding from the fire code folks up front where they can’t see that I’m exceeding the room limit). Low Tech Advice:
Resources: These resouces can be used as long as you cite them:
Titles and Screenshots:
Moving Beyond Freebies
Why do we do video?
Good news… You can contact Rushton via www.NextVista.org or email@example.com. Fabulous session!
Following on the heels of my trip to the CUE Conference, last Wednesday I headed over to our Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) to help judge the SEVAs (Students Educational Video Awards). As I sat with a team of teacher reviewers scoring middle school entries, I kept thinking about Mathew Needleman‘s second graders’ amazing going-beyond-Open Court productions , such as as Camouflage Jones – Private Investigator. Making an award-winning film requires more than a well-designed storyline and storyboard. A bit of background in basic camera shots can make all the difference in grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention (and scoring judges points)!
As part of my district’s DOLCHE project, we provided participating teachers with a copy of Niko Theodosakis’s The Director in the Classroom. As engaging and comprehensive as this resource is, it does not include a section on basic shots. Fortunately, to complement Nikos’s book and videoconferencing trainings, my talented DOLCHE partner Krishna Harrison-Munoz jumped in with both a teacher workshop and a student workshop on basic shoots, much of which is included in her Roadmap for the New Video Producer and her Roadmap for the Student Video Producer.* Combine this handout with Mathew’s Kinds of Shots Tutorial, and even I (Queen of Bad Photography) feel confident about taking digital storytelling to the next level.
*Note: This was my first time using the K12HSN’s edZone to upload a document. Very easy! And I love having all that free space for uploading!
Andy Carvin posted today about an amazing digital storytelling project/collection:One Story, 50 Tools, Infinite Possibilities. One of the challenges of working with emerging writers is getting them to buy into the need for revision. But, oh my, a visit to educator Alan Levine’s treasure trove of Dominoe the Dog stories introduces not only multiple tools for digital storytelling but also presents a beautiful model of the unlimited possibilities for constructing a storyline when storytellers embrace revision. If you listen to the story below, you will definitely want to visit the Levine’s CogDog wiki and check out the next 49 versions (and tools)!
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/eMp-Fl-sXrU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
I spent the weekend revisiting some of my favorite mentors on the art of teaching writing: Nanci Atwell, Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins and Ralph Fletcher. Thank goodness the many, many post-it notes are still in place; so it did not take me long to find the gems that made for the perfect writers’ workshop while I was still in the classroom. A post earlier this week by Miguel at Around the Corner was a the impetus for revisiting my collection:
“In fact, blogging isn’t a medium for sharing what you’ve learned, but writing your way into understanding, or as Toby Fulwiler (Teaching with Writing) writes, a way of bringing order to chaos. To deny students the opportunity, and what Nanci Atwell refers to as the TIME and OWNERSHIP of their ideas, is incredibly problematic.”
This morning I read through Carolyn Foote’s Desparately Seeking Engagement post in which she mentions another hero from my past, Ken Macrorie, whose iSearch approach to research-based writing is structured to help emerging writers find a life’s passion to research and write about. Since this is the time of year many seniors in my district are expected to crank out a “senior project,” I want to thank Carolyn for her insightful list:
1. Give students time to consider their interests. How many of us could “generate” a topic when approaching it completely cold. The bells rings–okay, pick your topic.
2. Consider having students, as I mentioned above, write about things that interest them or collect information for weeks or months prior to the assignment.
3. As you move through your curriculum, have students keep a “research idea” log as things in the curriculum pique their interest.
4. Consider conducting research across an entire semester or year. Two of our teachers are trying this this year–having students gradually collect articles of interest, compare Wikipedia with other sources, use delicious or furl to bookmark items, keep their eyes out for news stories on their topics and so on. (Interestingly, this was partially driven by the fact that our main library will be closed in the spring when they will be writing their paper, but it’s been very very effective educationally.)
5. Consider completely rethinking the “research project.” Tell students they will write a research paper sometime during the year when it feels right to them. Scaffold everyone at the beginning with assistance on logistics, but let students “strike when the iron is hot.” (I know we are dealing with high school students, but….they might enjoy having this flexibility and spontaneity).
6. Have students establish a blog or use a class bulletin board online as a way to explore topics, ask others for help and work collaboratively. (What would have happened for the student above if the teacher had said–well, if you want to do this topic, and if you and the other student agree, how about the two of you working collaboratively on your research and your paper? And then supported that with sharing web 2.0 tools that would have assisted them?)
7. Consider how writing a blog entry or several blog entries is like writing a research paper–where you explore, document and share your investigations and passions. Could a “blog” be a research paper and be even more meaningful because it’s published?
8. Consider making the process more open-ended for students. Every researcher does not end up with the same product in “real life.” Why can’t the product grow organically out of the topic and student’s process? Some students may want to create a video to inform others, while others may want to write a blog, and yet others may want to create a slide show and present their information to their peers. Empower students to make those choices.
9. If you are a classroom teacher, then realize that your librarian is and wants to be a real partner with you in research(and your tech coordinator may as well!) Most school librarians have teaching degrees(in some states, this is required) and most have taught. (and many were English teachers!) Your librarian sees research in action every day, sees the problems students are having, sees where help is needed and wants to collaborate with you and plan with you. Seek them out and don’t feel like you are bothering them or inconveniencing them. (And librarians, don’t ever make teachers feel like they are inconveniencing you!)
But whatever you do–think about how to engage your students passionately in their research. Think about how to make it authentic for students. Rethink how you were taught the “research paper” and rethink how you teach it. Throw out the old “box” and see what happens, because your students will benefit tremendously in the end. And imagine “grading” research papers where every student was so engaged and passionate about their writing and their topic that they transcended the form. Wouldn’t that make the process worth it for everyone? It could even become the spark that leads a student on a life-changing path as they learn to shape their own learning.”
And my last resource and inspiration for writing comes from 9 year old Adora Svitak on Teacher Tube.
My favorite radio program NPR included a podcast on blogging’s 10th birthday in today’s Morning Edition – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17562078. What could I add to Vicki Davis‘s excellent description of blogging as a classroom tool for extending teaching and learning? Perhaps one blog post and two 30-second videoclips: