Saturday, April 18, 2015

Digital Video Editing

     Having students design and create their own digital videos in the classroom is a powerful tool to get students engaged in what they are learning. My favorite curriculum to teach is World History I. Having students design and create a tourism commercial at the end of the year on their favorite civilization would be an excellent way for students to synthesize the content and skills they have learned throughout the year.

     Students could work in teams based on the civilization they chose. They would go back and look at what they have learned about that civilization and choose places someone would want to visit that were important to that civilization. They would then create a treatment for their commercial complete with design, color, music, look, feel, and special effects.  They need to design who their audience will be and make sure there are designing for that audience. After the treatment is approved by their teacher they will then begin to film.

      There are two ways to edit video. Students can do it in-camera which takes longer to film but is easier or they can digitally edit the video after the filming which takes longer but looks more professional. For this project, the students would be editing the video after the filming occurred. Students could then add backgrounds to make the reader see the civilization, edit in music, animation, and even voice-overs. I like Movie-maker because it allows students to edit easily and is free.  When the videos are complete, students would share them with their peers, reflecting on what worked and what may have been a challenge. By creating videos in the classroom, students are linking living to learning, they are finding meaning in what they do, and using real world skills to do them. 

Have you ever had your students use video editing in your classroom? What worked? What were some of the challenges

Friday, March 13, 2015

Social Media

     I can see the practical aspects of using social media in your classroom to help with the everyday organizational tasks. It can be used to keep parents informed as to what is going in not only their children's lives but also what the class is doing. I can use Facebook or Twitter to contact both students and parents to explain assignments, give or change due dates, and posting students work. It allows not only students work to be visible but it also is another contact source for parents to reach the teacher. I definitely have a strict policy of not becoming Facebook friends with my students, but I could create a classroom page which would include all students and their parents. 
     Another reason I would love to begin using social media in my classroom is for the students benefit. They are growing up in a technology rich world where they can communicate in an instant if they want. In order for them to do it safely, they  need to learn certain skills such as sorting, searching, creating, and communicating. If they can learn them in the classroom along with social studies content and netiquette why not?!  I found this article pretty interesting on the topic. 

Do you teach netiquette in your classroom? How? What tools do you use and how do you incorporate the curriculum into the lesson? 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Social Media in the Classroom

      Due to the security at the JDC, students are not allowed to access social media in any way. They may not use their e-mail accounts or instant messenger. The security reasons stem from students ability to contact the outside world and alert others as to who may have made deals or given statements. This in turn could allow for an attempt at retaliation as well as so many other issues. This makes my job as an educator difficult because there are so many ways for them to go around our filters. There was a point last year when my principle almost had to stop internet access by student’s altogether. He asked a few teachers to write briefing papers on the need for internet access to the superintendent and ultimately we installed Synch programs in all classrooms which allowed for us to put real time images of what students were viewing on their laptops on our Whiteboards. This has drastically cut down on students attempting to access social media.

       While I have never used social media in my classroom, I can definitely see its appeal. Students are familiar with the look and feel of Twitter and Facebook. They understand how to use it and most do on a daily basis.  There are so many Twitter feeds directly related to history. The Twitter site, World War II in real time includes tweets consisting of pictures and events from that day seventy years ago. I can see how it would be great to use as an opener or closer while discussing the World War II unit or even building a project based around it, having students create their own feeds for units they are currently studying.  

WW2 Tweets from 1945
World War 2 Tweets from 1945

 Do you use social media in your classroom? If so how and what were some benefits or challenges to its use?

Sunday, February 22, 2015


     A podcast is digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.  I have never designed or created a podcast personally but I do listen to them. I download and listen to NPR and BBC podcasts when I am walking my dog, which are both excellent sources of news. I have also used NPR’s StoryCorps in my classroom.

Click HERE to hear some stories 


     StoryCorps is an archive created by NPR of just what it sounds like, people’s stories.  NPR has both a mobile and a permanent booth that is equipped with a recording room. Anyone who wants can go into these and tell their stories. Most are less than ten minutes and range from interviews of children and parents to just a single person discussing a moment in their lives. All of the stories are archived by the Library of Congress.
     I use this as an opener to a class, lesson, or unit. I play the podcast to the whole class and then give them ten or fifteen minutes to free write making connections to their own lives or just how they felt about it. I don’t usually give the students more direction than that because I want them to be able to feel free to write about whatever they can connect it to. I find that it is a great way for me to get to know my students on more of a personal level, and I encourage them to write down any other questions they have about either the person or time period they are talking about in the podcast. I would love to have my students create their own StoryCorps stories. Due to safety and security measures, I don’t think it’s feasible at the JDC, however…… I could just have them create their own and not upload them to StoryCorps. OR…. To make it a bit more standards based, design and record podcasts of a day in the life of….. say Cleopatra or Louis Farrakhan.
How do you use podcasts in your classroom?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Using Wikipedia

        Bringing 21st century skills to the classroom can be time consuming and frankly pretty hard. It is well worth it though. It is extremely important for students to be able to not only navigate through the information that is available to them through the World Wide Web but also to sort through that information for relevance. This can be taught using many different mediums. Social networking sites such as Blogs and Wikis are great for just that as well as teaching collaboration which many jobs today don’t just recommend, they require.
     Wiki is short for the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki which means quick. Wikis offer just that, quick information and the ability to change that information just as quickly. All of our students use Wikipedia in their internet searches. They use it not just for quick answers but to also get ideas for papers and resources. It is interesting to note that Will Richardson states in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, that the Denver Post “graded” Wikipedia by asking experts to review entries in their field of study. “Four out of five agreed their relevant Wikipedia entries are accurate, informative, comprehensive and a great resource for students.” Founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales stated in an interview with Business Week in 2005, “ I don’t think people should cite it, and I don’t think people should site Britannica, either… People shouldn’t be citing encyclopedias in the first place. Wikipedia and other encyclopedias should… give good, solid background information to inform your studies for a deeper level.” I found this article on using Wikipedia in the classroom very useful in helping me to explain the affordances and constraints of Wikipedia.
     I would love to find the time to go through and change a few Wikipedia articles related to the unit my students are studying and as a final or even ongoing assessment, have them collaborate and go through to find the errors.
How do you use Wikipedia in your classroom?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Technology and Blogs in the classroom

     I have been very lucky to be able to work at a technology rich school. I have enough laptops, Ipads, and desktops that each student can be using a device without sharing in all classes. That being said, safety and security are at the forefront of our minds at all times. If a student accesses social media at a base school such as Facebook, it may be frowned upon or possibly encouraged depending on the school. At the JDC, if a student accesses Facebook or Twitter he may be able to post if anyone turned him in or even try to get someone to help him escape. Because of this, we have a SYNC program in every room that projects each laptop on the Whiteboard so I can see what sites students are visiting at all times.
     I have tried many different interactive computer based projects. I use Fakebook quiet often because the students are familiar with the layout and it has so many examples already for them to use. I like this site primarily because students can then write on each other’s Walls when they are done designing and creating their Fakebooks. I have also used Kidblog with them which is very easy to use and free.  I used Kidblog as an opener every day first quarter. We would go over a famous quote as a class and then students would blog about what it meant to them and any connections they made. It was going really well for the first month and then we had a few new intakes who would only write with emoticons, I took those off the toolbar and they began communicating unit to unit about topics not school related. I ended up having to shut it down. However…… if I go to a base school next year, I think it would work well with some serious monitoring.
     I follow one blog religiously. Ken Halla is a teacher at Hayfield High School in Fairfax County and has a paperless classroom. His blogs are usually very short but he gives you some really good resources and I am all about that!!!! Check out his World History Blog here.

       Do you use Blogs in your Classroom? If so how? What works and what doesn't? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why study history?

      I teach secondary social studies at a Juvenile Detention Center. It has been a very rewarding and challenging four years. A crash course in curriculum design and implementation on MANY different levels. I have learned that I love the population of students here at the JDC, government is not my favorite subject to teach, and that I truly enjoy the challenge of designing curriculum. I am in my final semester of graduate school, earning my masters in curriculum design and technology integration in the classroom. 

     One of the many challenges I face here at the JDC is that the students are grouped by charges, not grades. I may have a class of only six students but two are in World I, one may be in Civics, another in government, one is getting their GED, and the last is double blocked in Virginia United States History and light years away from my pacing guide. On the first day they come in, I show every students a video on why studying history is important. They watch the video and as they are watching they write down any event they know already. This gives me some basic idea of where their knowledge is already as well as answers their question that they all inevitably ask, "why do we have to know this"?! 

Does anyone else have anything they use to answer that question students ask in my class at least once a day regarding either the social studies or another content? 

Why Study History?