Inform CA!

Introduction

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in English 103. Kids have been making Google Sites to inform on issues, creating ads to bring traffic to those sites, and building surveys to collect information from peers on those issues. Yesterday, the project went live and public. Ads were posted in our school’s central atrium, for ease of access for the eighty-plus students in this class, and at the same time, opened these sites and surveys to the entire faculty and student body.


My motivation for this project

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Details About the Process

At the start, we told students that they had to create a web-site to inform peers about an important problem within the issues they were researching, that they would have to make an ad, and develop a survey to collect opinions of the peers on these issues. I’ve found in this project, those first days are the challenge as there are a lot of pieces for students to digest.

To keep things organized, all of the content and resource material are housed in Schoology. While we put these materials in as a series of steps, students jumped around between tasks and steps as they needed to. Little direction instruction was given. Instead, students watch videos, completed readings, and as teacher, I walked around to provide assistance and answer questions. If you look below, you’ll see the layout.

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This project was done by students over the course of 2 weeks. We originally aimed for a week and a half, but students needed time.

Outcome

Below are some pictures of ads that students created.

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Reflections and Future

 

Helping Them Navigate the Fake News Conundrum

Part 1: The Instructional Stuff

So, I came to the part of English 103 when we teach evaluative writing. This culminates in students creating Annotated Bibliographies on the sources they’ve been reading for research.

Leading up to this, we examine criteria associated with evaluation of sources, and how authorship, currency, domain, evidence impact the validity of sources and arguments.  We explore various resources on the web for collecting source material–students compare Google, online databases accessed through our library, the DMOZ, and Google News. They consider the kinds of information they find in each of these spaces and how each of these tools might be valuable in different research contexts.

These activities are par for a course on research. But, I had a couple of other things in play this year that forced some additional class time, but opened up some powerful conversations. More on this in Part 2, below.

First, I am working on my Common Sense Media (CSM)Teacher Certification, so I was looking to bring in instruction in that focused towards this end, and incorporated some parts of the vast wealth of resources found at commonsense.org. I would say this is one of the go-to places for developing media awareness and literacy. As an educator, if you are trying to figure out how to work with your community, you have to start here.

Second, I wanted to do work with students around the concept of fake news. I wanted to help them define what this is, how to spot it when it’s happening. I wanted to bring into the conversation words like perspective and bias. At the start of this conversation, students let me know that this was a topic that they were very much interested and concerned about. Many felt the inability to detect fake news or how to separate inaccuracies and falsehoods from

At CSM, they have a set of pre-created lessons on Fake News, which culminate in student making web-based products called “Digital Bytes.” I found one of these units on Fake News. However, I wasn’t too keen on just sending my students there, so I borrowed their material and repackaged and organized it in Schoology.

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This allowed me to be guided by the CSM materials, use their ideas and videos as a jumping off point while giving it to students in a format they were familiar with.

What we did:

  1. Watched videos on internet hoaxes, and then had a discussion in Schoology focusing on our own experiences with sham stories and the internet.
  2. Did close readings and analysis of “fake news stories,” and students generated lists of characteristics of fake news. We combined these lists into a master list of “fake news” characteristics.
  3. Created Google Sites of fake animals, like this one about the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus, and students had to use a required number of “fake news” characteristics. They published these sites so that peers could read them. These are available for world-wide consumption, because Sites allows for the audience to be inside of our school domain.
  4. Students went on to engage in evaluation of sources.

Looking back on this, I feel like this is some of the most important work I did with students all year, and I’m getting to the part that was super important. Students started this exploration saying that they weren’t sure how to identify fake news, to creating lists of characteristics, to producing it.

Part 2: The Interesting Part

The instructional stuff came a week after the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida. The media was full of debate about school shootings, gun control, school safety, arming teachers with firearms.

It’s easy in the midst of all of this washing over us, to forget that children are getting the same exposure.

Our superintendent, Jamie Farr (@BravesSupt), was interviewed by local TV as part of coverage of how schools were operating in the wake of what happened in Florida. Shortly after the story aired, Farr wrote to community members, expressing dismay at how the coverage was inaccurate to his interview.

We were directly in the midst of fake news. My colleague, Tallie Giuliano (@TallieGiuliano) suggested we invite Farr to our classes to discuss the media coverage and his reaction. We did.

What followed was a day of kids asking really good questions about media, school safety, mental health. Their questions were thoughtful, concerned.

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What started as an intended look at source evaluation and writing an annotated bibliography, turned into an experience of critical reading on the web, media creation, real-world connection, working with adult-expert speakers, and thinking about our consumption.

George Couros at Marcus Whitman

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of listening to George Couros’ keynote address at this year’s Connecting for Kids conference held at Marcus Whitman. I’ve been a fan for several years, and it felt like I was checking-off an item from my educator bucket-list.

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Couros’ talk came at a great time. The mid-March doldrums are in full swing, and his words inspired me out of the blahs and reminded me to get to work.

Below are my notes coming out of his talk:

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Meet them Where They Are

In my role as technology integrator, I’m working to to help people in my building  with a 1-to-1 Chromebook implementation, Schoology use, Google Apps for Education. I’m also fortunate to develop training curriculum on how to implement this technology. I offer to help people take what they learn in their training and apply it to their classroom practice. In doing these things, I’m pretty psyched–I get to help others learn.

Teachers in my building are busy. Finding time is tough. Feeling overwhelmed with the day to day work of teaching comes easily. Learning how to implement technology, even with its benefits, only adds to these feelings.

In reality, as an integrator, I’ve learned that I need to find creative ways to get small dollops of technology PD to the people they serve–short newsletters, videos, infographics. These things can be consumed quickly, offer something important that can make tech usage more streamlined, or solve a problem that they are finding with devices and apps in the classroom.

In an effort to help with this, I’ve taken to developing a quick newsletter and series of weekly videoes for teachers with either a quick tip or to address some issue I’ve heard that people are struggling with. It’s my goal to keep these short–less than 3 minutes. Although, I’m feeling like even 3 minutes is too long, and am hoping to get tips down to a minute.

Particulars:

  1. Video tech tips are made using Camtasia, and while I could also easily use Screencastify or Wevideo. Learning Camtasia is a goal of mine, because the district dropped some money on buying me a subscription, and I want to get my money’s worth. Several videos in and I’m feeling more comfortable and proficient with it.
  2.  The tips are each housed on a Google Site. This keeps the delivery free, allows me to share only within our domain, and is so super simple to use.
  3. Along with the tech tips, there’s a simple form for teachers to complete.
  4. Tech tips are sent to our Curriculum Area Lead Teachers, with encouragement to forward them along to the faculty.

Some examples:

Pretty much any kind of video–the good, the bad, and the ugly–I make winds up on my YouTube channel.

Here’s one example of my work:

Don’t expect the people that you serve to line up at your office door begging for help. But, even though they aren’t asking for it, doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Continue to push yourself to find innovative ways to provide assistance.

 

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Schoology Pages

I’m setting out and trying something new–a podcast. Here’s some of my thinking on using Schoology Pages to create a culture to foster student responsibility.

In reflecting on pages, I realized that I was lumping together to concepts, which really need to be differentiated. These two terms are student-centered and student-responsibility. In student-centered learning, students have choice, authority and autonomy, in different degrees, over topics, voice, products, content. Teachers should work whenever possible to create such environments. However, student-responsibility should always be at play. It’s the student responsibility to know directions, expectations, outcomes, and the details of the course once they are provided to them. Schoology pages makes it possible to create an environment where student-responsibility is always possible.

I won’t say anything else here about Schoology page, but I do want to comment that podcasting and creating videos is brand new territory for me. I don’t know if what I’ve created above fits the definition of podcast, it was longer than the tech tips I’ve been creating for teachers I work with, and thus I landed on this word. I’m also tired of the phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” In terms of videos and podcasting, I hope to do some more and I hope to get way better.