Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Bully Project: What’s the Solution?

13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year. That’s the problem. What’s the solution?

Recently, I was blessed to attend a private screening of the new documentary Bully, arranged by my school as part of a professional day. The movie is a powerful and emotional portrayal of one of America’s biggest social problems – and probably the most significant issue faced by American schools today. On a side note, I thought the cinematography and film editing were phenomenal. Lee Hirsch has outdone himself on this documentary. But I digress…

The problem is obvious. The most profound observation I am left with following the movie is a question of solution fluency; that is, how do we solve the problem?

Traditionally, bullying is viewed as an act of agression and the focus is on punishing or rehabilitating the bully to protect the victim. However, this movie illustrates the global nature of this problem across several demographics. Bullying isn’t just about the bully. It’s also about the victim. It’s about witnesses. It’s about parents. It’s about teachers. It’s about administrators. It’s about law enforcement. It’s about politicians.

Why haven’t any of these groups found a solution to this insidious social problem? I think the answer lies within another fluency…collaboration. There is no one person or group that can solve this problem. We have to work together to put an end to this. It’s about us. Teamwork will lead us to the solution.

Please, comment and share your thoughts on the movie and the issue.

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digital citizenship…in the early stages

Teaching technology in Kindergarten has been really fun because we have wonderful options…iPads, laptops, flip cameras, etc. In this day in age, we know that most kids already know how to use the basic functions of these technologies. What I have found most useful though, has been treating my 6 year olds like they have not touched any of these devices before. To ensure safety with these technology mediums, we practice walking across the room and using two hands to hold iPads or laptops. We have discussions about good choices…such as, making sure our hands are clean, not using food/drinks in close proximity, and knowing the locations of the on-off buttons.

Every time my students use technology, we approach it with safety in mind first. This has been extremely beneficial in building their awareness and knowledge in keeping things safe, borrowing from school’s property, and learning age-appropriate functions. We take it slow! I would highly recommend this approach until students show independent responsibility with these awesome and delicate machines!

Practicing safe computer use at home is also an important aspect. This includes setting boundaries with your children on what they can explore on a device, practicing good posture while using devices, as well as developing appropriate time limits.

Media Fluency

Timing is everything. Every semester I try to find a creative way to let my Film Criticism students demonstrate their understanding of the work that we have done during the semester. Projects that find examples of film terms, outlines, and film clip analysis are ideas that I have used in the past. I was trying to come up with something new and challenging for my students with little success. Media fluency defines what I am looking for from my students-the ability to look at media to understand the real message. We talk about how different directors influence and guide their audience to an artistic and emotional message. The good director takes an audience on a journey of discovery for a variety of purposes that should be well defined and create a platform for the director’s vision. The second component is to create an original product that matches the media to the understanding of the purpose of the film.
Then we visited New Tech High in Coppell, Texas, on April 2. The young man, Jack, that was one of our ambassadors and tour guide on the visit, inspired me. One of the classes that he is passionate about creates videos and movies. He was so enthusiastic that I started thinking about how I could let my students create a movie about movies. After working with iMovie, I wondered what options would suit my 7th and 8th grade students.
I then sought professional help – my colleague Ami, who has been a true inspiration to my education into all things technical. As I explained my goal, she immediately pulled up the new version of iMovie that allows students to create a movie trailer- a perfect project that will ask students to use a variety of camera angles and other terms that we have discussed this semester. Our plan is to have them work in teams with the goal of having a trailer film festival at the end of the project to show to the other elective classes. I hope that this will allow the students to show their knowledge of films through the creative process and get more experience with iMovie.
It has always been my goal to have my film students be intelligent consumers, and enhance their enjoyment of an activity that they choose to pursue in their free time. I am excited about plunging into this project!

Deprogramming Students for 21CL

“Just give me the answers.”

“Why won’t you help me? You’re the teacher.”

“This project is going to take FOR…EVER. Ugh.”

“You mean I actually have to think on this assignment?!?”

Ever heard one these grumblings from one of your students? Believe it or not, it’s a good thing. It means your learning environment is transitioning. Our students are programmed to succeed in the traditional educational system. They want to continue to use BASIC while the world now requires them to know Objective C.

FACT: The recent shift to 21st century learning – promotion of skills like creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, curation, and innovation – is just as difficult for students to embrace as it is for teachers. Shocked?

Our kids are accustomed to the age-old game of content acquisition (passive learning) and testing (regurgitation). And many have gotten downright amazing at it. You know them. They’re typically your honor students. The ones who breeze through the homework and ace all your tests. They average a 98% or better in your class. And they’ve found a nice, warm, cozy niche in your educational environment. The problem is that information, once scarce, is now abundant and instantly available in today’s world.

So now, you’re challenging them to move. You’re asking them to take knowledge  and do something with it (other than just spew it back to you). You’re asking them to design. Create. Innovate. Share. Debate. Present. Choose. Imply. Ask questions. Manipulate the content – and do so in a team with others.

It’s not going to be an easy adjustment for some of them. And, as teachers, we must understand the challenge involved in figuring out the rules of this new game – 21CL. So, what can we do to help our students then?

Have you encountered student resistance to 21CL activities in your classroom? How have you handled it? Found anything that works? Share your experiences with the E21 blog community. Comment on this post.

We have to “deprogram” our students by increasing the 21CL opportunities. We have to talk with them about the fact that the game is changing. Discuss the new “rules” when you implement a PBL unit. Explain that it may seem at times like you’re not teaching them, but that’s because you want them to learn. The active process is now theirs, not yours. It’s because you want them to take ownership of their own learning. Assure them that you are not abandoning them – and they can call on you for help and guidance as they explore. Expect mistakes along the way…and encourage your students to learn from failure. You are their 21st Century Tour Guide.

Failure is okay. Some of the world’s most successful people failed miserably while learning to succeed. Remind your students that they fail time and time again playing video games.

And yet, in the end, they always save the world.

Collaborative Fluency: Lab Practica

Application: Lab Practica

In order to compliment our written tests, I’ve been experimenting with a lab test or lab practica. In many ways, the lab practica is an opposite to the written test. Where the written test is solitary, the practica depends on a team effort (students earn team grades). Where the written test rewards theoretical knowledge, the lab practica is as much an engineering challenge as a theoretical one. In the practica, strong laboratory skills, construction aptitude, common sense and interpersonal skills are critical to success. Surprisingly, the students who do the best on the written tests often have the most trouble with the practicas.

One simple example of a lab practica I have used pits students against two different battery powered cars. Students must predict where the cars will collide starting from arbitrary starting positions. Each group is able to use an array of tools to come up with any of many ways to predict where the cars collide. However they can’t manipulate both cars at once. When they are ready to test, they roll a dice to determine where each car will start and then have three minuets to use their solution method to predict the collision point and run the test.

Lab practicas are always intense class periods. With a significant portion of the lab practica grade relying solely on the accuracy of the predicted result for the single test, everyone usually gathers around the group who is about to test. Many groups will accurately predict results within 3% or less. Others are wildly off. Many times the smallest detail is responsible for huge errors – not unlike the NASA rocket that blew up because engineers forgot to convert English units to SI units.

Although students sometimes stress over practicas (uncertainty is inherent), I think they are very powerful. I rarely see students more focused then during a practica. All those soft skills suddenly become important – and students know it. Working together on something that matters to everyone is a huge team builder for physics groups.

The Big Picture

Although the lab practica format is specific to science, the larger idea of creating a real world performance based group test is applicable anywhere. I think there is hesitation about grading based on performance (outside of established performance-based subjects like the arts, speech, & foreign language) Additionally, having students earn grades as a group instead of individuals presents some obstacles. With care, I think both of these concerns can be managed to a reasonable level. And ultimately, adults are almost exclusively evaluated on performance instead of knowledge. Additionally, and especially in the future, team performance is often just as important as individual performance. It’s not perfectly fair, but then no one said it would be.