Honoring the Creator: A Reflection

* This is a reflection to my “Book Trailer Unit” which included my COETAIL Course 1 Lesson Plan: A Lesson in Creative Commons.

It was serendipity that I happened to teach this unit while enrolled in COETAIL Course 1 & 2.  Last year, my friend who is also our  librarian and I were talking about books and creating interdisciplinary units between the library and my MYP Design Technology classes.  We are both avid readers and identified a lack of a community of readers at our current school.  So, we decided to take matters into our own hands.

For Grade 8, we created a unit in which students were given the challenge to create and nurture a community of readers at our school.  It was a good unit and we have tweaked it a bit to try and get a better outcome next year.

In Grade 7, I wanted it to be a little less open-ended with the products because I wanted my students to improve their video making skills on the technology side of the project.  I’m not sure how we came up with the idea to go with book trailers, but it was a perfect fit for us to work together to promote reading.

Here is the task sheet for the unit.

Here are the blog posts I wrote for my students regarding this unit:

Using Visuals & Creative Common Media

How Do I Create a High Quality Book Trailer

iMovie Tutorials & Help – A did mini-lessons for some students and differentiated instruction with a playlist

As part of the investigation, I introduced Creative Commons to my students.  At the beginning it was frustrating for everyone in the classroom (me included), as we couldn’t always find high quality media that was Creative Commons.  Part of the problem was the fact that as readers, we visualize what we read differently.  There are not exact images of these visualizations and deep connections with the text available on line.  Although this caused frustrations, it also sparked great conversations on reading and choosing strong images.

At the beginning, I struggled with finding good sources for them to find good media.  I initially “sent” them to SoundCloud Creative Commons to get music for their videos, but quickly found that there was a lot of inappropriate and explicit media there, but also, that their media isn’t moderated really well.  There were many songs that were uploaded by people who were not the artists or who themselves had illegally (I think) modified the music.  Another issue I ran into was YouTube Creative Commons, because you have to use their video editor to use their Creative Commons media.  It was also more difficult to give attribution to those creators at the end of their video, because once it was added, sometimes it was difficult to go back and find that information.

In the end, I found that Compfight, Jamendo, Creative Commons Search to be the best places to find CC media.

My students created some really amazing projects.  I am really proud of their work.  They worked hard, they honored creators & authors and in turn I hope that they are proud of their work.

At the end of the unit, I had my students take a survey so I could get feedback about their knowledge of CC and for them to give suggestions when I teach it next year.

Google Forms End of Unit Survey to Stuedents

I got some interesting feedback, some of it was very positive and they really seemed to gain a good understanding about CC.  I did get a few kids say things like,”Creative Commons is a website where you can get all sorts of medias from other people legally and reuse it”.  I want them to have a deeper understanding than this, but it is a start.

For question #2 – most of them were about legally using other work and many wrote that they would use CC media for projects in other classes.  I did have a few students share that they are considering CC as creators.  This is where I would like more students to go.  Maybe it’s too much to jam into one unit.  Maybe this is something I should develop more in 8th grade.  I need to think more about this.

I decided in the last few weeks was to encourage students (if they wanted) to use social media to promote their book trailers and reading.  COETAIL has made me less afraid of using social media in the class.  It is my students’ lives and I need to embrace it more.  I am motivated and engaged by using social media to learn, why shouldn’t they?  My students are no longer creating projects for me or for the other 18 classmates in the room, they are creating for anyone they want.  I want them creating real solutions to real problems and I want them to make an impact.  I don’t want them to create for a grade.

Two of my students got responses from authors.

Many students have 50+ hits on their unlisted YouTube videos.

My students and COETAIL brought this unit to a different level.  The unit took on a whole new life – one I hadn’t planned, but one that turned out much better.  I wanted to celebrate the reader, but in the end we really celebrated the creator.  As a technology teacher, I am really happy with that.  Next year instead of focusing on promoting reading (which is a great effect of this unit), I want to change my essential question to something along the lines of respecting creators.  Now I just have to wordsmith that idea.


A Lesson in Creative Commons: COETAIL Course 1 Final Product

This is a lesson, a snapshot of a day, in my seventh grade Design (MYP) Technology class.  

The purpose of this lesson is for my students to understand  Creative Commons and to get them to start thinking about media usage – creating, sharing and giving appropriate attribution to creators. (Book Trailer Project Task Sheet)

Outcomes of the Lesson:

First of all, I was shocked by my students’ lack of knowledge of Creative Commons.  I placed the CC icons on the board and told them that the icons were all interrelated.  I asked my students what they were and got many answers… “Upload”, “CC – like on an email”,  “Closed Captioned”,  “Pause”, “No cost, it’s free”.

While I felt I did a decent job of relaying the information to the kids, but when I was asked, “Why can’t we just use anything we find on the web, but give it an APA citation?”,  I felt that I couldn’t articulate that answer well.   I talked about sharing and the collaborative spirit of the internet and how communities of designers and creators can together make amazing products and you are using media that people really want to share, but it didn’t seem like a great answer. – Any help with this one?

Some of the students struggled with searching for images, but that’s something I’ll continue to address throughout different lessons.  I did feel that most students had a good grasp of finding CC media through the Creative Commons website and Advance Searching on both Google Images and Flickr.

All of my students got at least 4 out of 6 correct on their exit cards (which I used as a quick formative, nongraded assessment), I will continue to do quick check-ins and I ordered a large poster that shows the CC images and licenses to post in my room.

Reflection of the Lesson:

I need to develop intellectual rights and media sharing in our ICT scope and sequence.  While this lesson focuses on my students using other people’s media, I want them to really consider how they want to share their own media in the future.  Some of my students got frustrated by the lesson because they felt their searches were limited.  Part of this was due to the fact that they were searching for images for a book trailer they will be creating.  They have visualized characters from their books that don’t exist in real life, so that was an added frustration.

I’m glad I did the pre-assessment activity.  Sometimes I gloss over this in class with some of our projects.  It was really good to see what the students didn’t know.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great differentiated lesson if some of the students did have more knowledge of Creative Commons media.  I’d love to hear if any one else is explicit teaching Creative Commons in their classes and how they are introducing it to their kids.

As I type this, I’m not super passionate about this lesson as my culminating product for course 1.  I feel like it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned so much in the past 5 weeks, to turn in a not-so-amazing lesson.  Since I teach technology everyday, I feel there are much “cooler”, more skilled, more engaging things I teach.  But this is teaching technology and one day in one unit.

This is a new unit I’m teaching and I created this lesson last week to enhance my students understanding of media sharing, so it is a product of this course and what I’ve been learning.  It has also impacted the way I post media on my own blogs and I’ve changed the CC settings on my Picasa albums, as well, for more sharing.

I’d also like to share this with our faculty at some point.  We need to be better models when it comes to copyright, attribution and sharing media.

Reflection of Course 1:

I’ve gotten so much out of COETAIL already.  I’ve bragged about the class to anyone who will listen.  The combination of the knowledge obtained through the readings and the collaborative spirit, I feel very empowered and feel like I can’t help but learn on a daily basis, just checking in on my Google Reader.  I love to hear and see what everyone is doing at their own schools and how we all have our ups, downs and thoughts about technology in education.

Some weeks I feel more in the loop, but some weeks, if I post later in the week due to being busy at work, I feel I miss a lot of the collaboration.  I hope for comments and interaction just as my students do.  This makes me promote my students’ blogs more so they can get feedback on their work, as I know it adds motivation and engagement to learning.

Being a student makes me a much better teacher.

Technology is Changing Everything

Photo Credit: dhammza via Flickr

Since I started teaching a little over ten years ago, technology has crept into my classroom.  It was always there, mind you, but in the beginning it was mostly a basic search tool.  I remember talking to my mother, a former teacher, explaining that I couldn’t imagine teaching without being able to search the internet for ideas for lessons, to get find more information about a topic I had or to find the answer to a question a student asked me that I had no idea how to answer.

Slowly, it became more of a tool for my students.  At my first school, access was a major issue, so I reserved the computer lab for a few weeks twice a year to publish a newspaper-type assignment and for basic word processing, but that was it.  Our network had so many filters that I don’t think searching on the internet was worth it.

Then, my students started to create in my classes.  I was lucky to work in a school with a strong integrated-technology model with teacher roll-out.  The tech teacher would teach the lesson to the first section of my English class, then I would have to teach it to my next section and then in following years.  This was a bit intimidating, but I was young and keen and just did it because it was the expectation.  That environment pushed me to listen and learn and see what exciting things the kids could create.  Eleven year olds were using Adobe Fireworks to create a graphic plot line to The Giver, Adobe Flash to animate a cell for Science, they were using Garageband to make music with students all over the world, and they were making robots, and, and, and…  I didn’t know how lucky I was to be in that environment, I thought it was just status quo and I rolled with the tide.  All of this great creation barely made it out of the school walls.  We’d print some projects, put some on the school website, but it was heavily “guarded” with only teacher and parent access.

Now, I’m at a school that openly embraces sharing and I love the idea of students collaborating and sharing with the world.  With the influence of the COETAIL class and recent PD experiences, I am inspired to extend some of my current upcoming projects for students to make a larger impact and reach a wider audience than just sharing their work with their classmates and maybe their parents.

My seventh grade students are creating a book trailer.  This is a collaborative unit the librarian at our school and I created to try to get our kids more enthusiastic about reading and to create a larger reading community at our school.  The student’s challenge  is to encourage people to read a book of their choice.  While we’d like for them to encourage our own students, they can also encourage many more.   I’d like them to try to do that with their social media reach.  We’ll see how it goes and if we have any impact on teen reading and if they can measure that impact in any way.

While I love collaborating, I have made mistakes with collaborative projects as well.  Being an international teacher, I have a lot of teacher friends back home who frequently ask me to participate in a project with them because my class seems exotic to small schools in the US.  I’ve done a couple of projects on different topics.  Unfortunately, I’ve never really been on the planning part of these projects.  While I think the projects are interesting and it’s good for my students to understand other people’s perspectives, it isn’t always connecting to our content.  This leaves me feeling like I’m forcing the communication and I don’t think the kids  get as much out of the experience as they could.  And, by the end of it, I am ready for it to be over, ready for the weekly or biweekly obligatory post or assignment to be done, so I can get on with what I’m really doing.

So, I am declaring here, oh blogosphere, never to say “yes” to another collaborative project that all parties have not planned together.  I’m not swearing them off entirely, I just need to do them better and really make sure they better connect with my school’s curriculum so that I can been more engaged in the project, therefore getting the kids more excited about their collaborating and learning.  Or even better yet, get the kids to create their own collaborative projects to create a larger impact and take more action in the world.  That sounds best.

Making connections with other teachers, allowing students to make connections and sharing their work with a larger audience,   this is shaping education.  Collaborating, discussing ideas, sharing content and creating together… I can’t wait to see how education continues to evolve over the next ten to twenty years.

Creative Commons Photo courtesy of brewbrooks via Flickr


So Much to Say, So Much to Say, So Much to Say…

Creative Commons Image by WarzauWynn
“32::3 – A messy room”

Today I finished the last section of the report, Living and Learning with New Media by the MacArthur Foundation, which summarizes findings from a three-year study of teenagers and how they use media.  Over the past few weeks, this article has really made me think and reflect on what my students are learning and how they are using their laptops and other devices, both in and out of school.

It states that, “contemporary social media are becoming one of the primary “institutions” of peer culture for U.S. teens, occupying the role that was previously dominated by the informal hanging out spaces of the school, mall, home and street.”

This is maybe obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it like that before and it is so true.  This mall metaphor brought me back to my middle school and early high school days with my braces and horribly permed hair.  My mother would drop me off at the mall for a few hours to hang with my friends.  Even though she wasn’t there to monitor my behavior, there were rules I was expected to abide by for this privelege – not running around, yelling or being otherwise disrespectful or rude to other shoppers.  There was also the obvious expectation of not stealing or participating in any other sort of illegal activity.  While, I pretty much followed these rules, I’m sure in a group with six other teenaged girls with equal amounts of Aqua Net in their hair sporting pegged Guess jeans, that we were at times loud and took up the whole walkway trolling for cute boys.

I totally looked like this back
in my “mall” days

Have our students explicitly been told expectations for social media/screen time at home or in school?  

I wish I could say “YES!” as the MS Tech teacher and curriculum integrator at our school, but I can’t.  I think sometimes I feel those skills and rules are obvious, but they are not to most young adults.  Most of their parents and teachers do not participate in social media, but they allowed to sign up and then need to figure it all out on their own.

What I’m finding now in my classroom is that while kids use social media A LOT, no one has ever taught them how to use it.  Most teens figure out the general rules and learn what is expected in these “hangouts”, but many don’t and then many are brought to the attention of the school because of inappropriate use or their inability to manage their time well.

I was doing a lesson in my class this week on “Keeping Our Computers Happy”.  I spent a whole hour class on giving my seventh graders some general guidelines and then just giving them TIME to – do a software update, clean off their desktop, clean out their emails, organize their Drive and even physically clean their screen and keyboard.  I have to say it was one of the most valuable lessons I think I’ve taught recently.

As I moved around the room, I was shocked at what little my seventh graders knew about basic maintenance of their laptop and the systems/software we use.  For example, when I was moving around, I noticed THOUSANDS of emails in their inboxes.  Many of them had twenty-plus email notifications from Facebook per day.  They had no idea how easy it was to turn those off and unsubscribe from other mailing lists.  They were almost in awe by this and were generally relieved to know that their inboxes weren’t going to get full as quickly.  These little nuggets of information are something very easily I can pass on to my students.  I’m also thinking that I will provide PD time for the faculty and staff to do the same sort of activity.

While I found the report interesting and it overall gave me a lot of examples and everyday metaphors to use when explaining today’s media to faculty and parents, I didn’t agree with everything that was written.

I don’t agree with the part of the article that states:

” we don’t believe that educators and parents need to bear down on kids with complicated rules and restrictions… about how they should engage on line.  Simple prohibitions, technical barriers, or time limits are perceived as ill-informed exercises in power.”

I’m not sure what they mean by “complicated rules”, but our kids need rules, they need boundaries on their tech use. I see so many kids floundering because they can’t get organized, they try to multi-task too much and they are online into the wee hours of the night.  As educators, this is maybe where a big shift should be happening.  We all know that content acquisition is shifting, we aren’t the beacons of knowledge in our classroom anymore, but we do need to model and teach our kids how we manage our content and our resources, so they successfully can do the same.

In our advisory/middle school block time, there is frequently time carved out for study skills and organization, but only recently has it started to include digital organization, in combination with locker and agenda checks.  Even though many educators don’t have the knowledge or comfort level to teach these skills (YET!), I hope we start to teach these crucial learning 2.0 productivity and balance skills to our students, as they may be the most crucial.

Image Courtesy: KarenSaraGaches on Flickr
“Organize Me Please”

A Flurry of Reflections

8th Grade Ski Trip to Kikoro Mountain Resort,
Hokkaiko, Japan

I’m coming off of a three-day ski trip with 50 eighth graders to Hokkaido, the Northern island of Japan.  So, I write this with about fifteen tabs open on two different browser windows, trying to have many things ready to start the week tomorrow.

As a first reflection, let me just say that I’m so excited to be right where I am…  a teacher with technology and so many resources in my “pocket”.  I’ve loved teaching since the first minute I walked into the classroom, but it feels different now.  Lately, I feel like we are on the cusp of something big. So many of us are adapting our lessons, our curriculums, our daily routines to better suit our students’ needs and to keep up with advancing technologies.  I love to see what other people are doing and now I can find similar classes all over the world with many teachers willing to share their ideas.

While often times I find myself overwhelmed, I’m still charged and excited after skimming through Twitter or reading through my RSS feeder.  I have the privilege of teaching both students and teachers.  I love middle school kids – they are disorganized, super social beings, who are still pretty keen and overall want to do well.  I learn so much from them and they always crack me up.

However, I sometimes get frustrated with adults, mostly for their lack of trying, but this challenges me to find ways to inspire them rather than harp on my frustrations or the lack of technology in some classrooms.  I realize that I may be their only tech teacher.  They may never have had a technology teacher growing up, and even finished university before the internet was mainstream.  I need to make it accessible for them.  I need to make them realize, without scaring them too much, that technology and social media is a major part of our students’ lives and should be a part of their education – making things more accessible, making connections, and showing them how to use it properly.

Our school has been working on an ICT-Media Literacy Scope and Sequence.  We felt that we couldn’t just adopt the NETs or another organization’s standards.  We do depend a lot on other school’s and organization’s documents when creating our own.  After looking through the International Society of Technology Education’s NETS (National Education Technology Standards), I really liked how they had different standards for students, teachers, coaches and administrators.  Our school only has technology scope and sequence for our students.  I think it is equally important to have one for our teachers and our administrators.  We have an ICT team meeting this week, and I think I’ll propose we at least start with the NETs for teachers and administrators.  We can self-evaluate at the end of this year and then create technology goals for next year, keeping in mind the amazing PD opportunities available in South East Asia to help us reach our goals.  I will definitely be recommending COETAIL, Learning 2.0, and the Google Apps for Educators – Japan Summit, since we fully integrate Google Apps at our school.  I think this self evaluation will also help me figure out better ways to help people in our school use their technology better or integrate it in their classroom.

What are other good technology PD opportunities for teachers living in Asia?  Anyone have any others they would suggest?

Messing Around: How I Became a Technology Teacher

Messing Around with Chocolate & Technology

The beginning of my learning journey to the position I am in right now, which I love, is quite windy.  I started university as a Computer Science major, but about one week into the program, I realized that:

1. I wasn’t going to make it

2. This is not what I wanted to do

I loved graphic design, but felt I was not artistic enough to attend art school.  After the first semester in Programming C++ and some other equally uninspiring and difficult courses made me change gears totally.

To make a long story short, I found my way back into computers and technology.   I am a product of messing around and geeking out.  What I struggle with now is that I feel like I am almost totally self taught as a technology teacher, and that doesn’t sound as great as a EdTech degree, although hopefully I show my passion and skills in my classroom and faculty PD sessions.

The professional development I have participated in this year has changed me and made me a much better teacher.  I love school.  I love learning, and have had great PD opportunities the past ten years, but this year, something changed.  It started when my colleague, Liz Durkin presented Twitter and the term “PLN” to me in an in-house Technology PD day we had at our school.  I was hooked and immediately found great ideas and read provoking articles that I found by scrolling my Twitter feeds.  Unfortunately, I soon found this a bit overwhelming – I had so many ideas and I couldn’t make them happen.

I also attended Learning 2.0 after a hard week of work, and I found myself surrounded with MY PEOPLE.  I haven’t always been surrounded by people who thought like me and shared the same passion for teaching and technology that I do.  This past weekend at the Google Apps for Educators in Japan, I continued this professional development with new ideas, and more inspiration.

After reading, Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out, explaining the genres of participation of New Media from the article, Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings form the Digital Youth Project, it gave me terminology and language to describe our student technology usage better.  I can now share this when training colleagues and consider allowing for messing around and geeking out time in my classes.

I think play is an important part of technology instruction, and I always allow my students to play in the early stages of software introduction.  Often times when I do this, students end up learning how to do something that I never though of, and would have taught them.  Messing around gives students more motivation and independence in their learning.

What I found really interesting in the article was a few of the examples they gave of middle class students being “able to translate their interest in tinkering and messing around into financial ventures that gave them at least of what it might be like to pursue their own self-directed careers” (28).

This is what we did growing up.  We fixed things, we tried to make things better, we created with our neighborhood friends and siblings.   What I’m afraid of and what I see in my Design Technology class in an international school, is that kids don’t always have that mentality.  If it broken, they buy a new one.  If there is a new model, they trash the old one and buy a new one, rather than try to modify.  I hope to inspire my kids to want to create, modify, and fix.  I just need to always encourage them to mess around and share with them things that I am messing around with.

Messing around is so important, especially for my middle school students, but they also need to learn management skills to balance their connected time.  Recently, I have recently started to teach my students the skills of how to survive being so connected.  I, too, had to set boundaries for myself.  I cannot produce good work if I have all my social media running in the background.  So I made “rules” for myself –  I would allow myself to decompress after my kids went to bed with a bit of mindless Facebook-ing, then close the tab and start on my school work.  I also set up a different user in my Chrome browser to separate my school and personal accounts to help with my focus, but to also make sure my two main Google Accounts weren’t getting confused.  After hearing concerns from parents and other teachers about the amount of time it was taking our students to finish homework and how they try to multi-task too much.  I added these important skills to my curriculum.  I need to really develop a scope and sequence of these management skills as well as everything else.  I simply shared my social media use with my students and wondered why I hadn’t before.

Author’s Note:  I am struggling to become a writer for all of you.  I am trying my best and have read and re-read my posts, but am still unsatisfied by them, even though I know you are not judging me ^_^.  I have a lot of ideas but need to find focus with my writing.  Please bear with me.  I hope one outcome from this class through weekly posts that my writing gets better!

Inspired: Learning 2.0

Image Credit: http://www.personal.psu.edu/mbm233/

Starting the first week of COETAIL, I’m excited and a bit nervous.  I’m so excited for all the new connections and all the new tools and techniques I’ll get to learn about.  I’m excited that this class is pushing me to reflect in a public manner via the blogs.  I’ve always reflected, but when it’s made it outside of my head it’s only been published on my unit planners or on goals documents just shared with my principal.  I’m also a bit nervous about how I’m going to fit it all into all the things that already on my plate.  I am conscientious of the fact that I want to turn in good quality blog posts, even though I’m not the best writer, and I don’t want to do my work for this course in a rushed manner.

After reading, Will Richardson’s, “World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others” I immediately made connections to how my teaching and learning has changed in the past few years.  I went to the Google Apps for Education Summit this weekend and I was able to make more connections and put faces with some more of my fellow Twitter colleagues.  I am almost always inspired when I go to conferences.  I love to hear and see what people are doing in their classroom.  I was able to keep collaborative notes with four of my colleagues on a Google Doc to get information from sessions that I wasn’t able to attend.  I made a point on the Shinkansen ride home to go through and highlight the 3 most important “things” that I wanted to implement this week.

Unfortunately, this brings me to one of my greatest challenges: TIME.  I’m not going to complain about it here.  We all want more time.  I feel like I just need to find balance.  I find amazing resources through Twitter and my PLN, but can’t always follow through.  The expectations at my school are high.  I live with two little “monkeys” and husband who deserve a lot of my time.  I have to remember that.  I’m doing okay.  My students are learning great things.  One of my professional goals this year was to inspire them to create more (I’m a MYP Technology teacher).  I think about how people like Kim Cofino and other teachers and amazing presenters (like Jim Sill and Rushton Hurley who I never even knew existed before the conference this weekend) inspire me and how to transform that into my own instruction and classroom environment.

Will Richardson states in his article, “The process of collaboration begins with our willingness to share our work and our passions publicly…”.  I love the movement of free sharing and really respect that teachers are doing this.  I have tried to share units and ideas I’ve done in my classroom on Twitter, but I don’t want to come off as too “show-offy”.  This weekend, Kim mentioned that we should share, share, share.  I’m going to make more of an effort to do this.  I have gotten a lot of resources from other teachers and in the spirit of giving back, I will try to post more.

After starting COETAIL this week and going to the Google Apps for Education Summit this weekend, I am again truly inspired.  I’m going to find time – during my planning periods, when my kids are sleeping, when I have a few minutes each day,  to organize myself better, therefore making more time,  to create more and share more.