Category Archives: Media Fluency

Global Digital Citizenship: Elementary Physics Project Part I

I had a hard time coming up with an idea that incorporated global digital citizenship in a physics curriculum meaningfully. Ultimately I had my students work in small groups to plan and teach 20 minute lessons to small groups of lower school students. I had considered this idea initially, but was skeptical that it was practical. I owe a huge thanks to Roxanne Warner for putting all of the logistics together!

The planning stages of this project were very interesting. I wanted to ensure that my students were teaching meaningful physics vs. just playing with the elementary students. In that sprit, I let students know that a part of their grade would depend on the elementary students learning at least one thing from their lesson. They immediately bulked at this idea. What if their students didn’t pay attention or worse purposely sabotaged the lesson? As a teacher, it was great to see my students realize that teaching might not be as easy as they thought.

The lessons themselves were very successful – the elementary students loved them. It was fun to watch the elementary students experiment with and explain simple physics concepts. My students enjoyed the experience too. We used four class periods to complete the project  (two planning, one peer editing, and then the actual lessons), but I feel like it was time well spent. From a physics standpoint, my students were learning as they taught. I was also pleased when I heard my students say things like:

 

This [teaching] is hard.

You do this for five periods?

 

Continued….

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Global Digital Citizenship: Elementary Physics Project Part II

Global Digital Citizenship still feels like an abstract hodgepodge of all the other fluencies wrapped in one to me. The 21st century learning site even states:

All the 21st Century fluencies are learned within the context of the Digital Citizen, using the guiding principles of leadership, ethics, accountability, fiscal responsibility, environmental awareness, global citizenship and personal responsibility.

As my students saw, teaching is almost the embodiment of this fluency. My novice-teachers solved problems, interpreted and manipulated information, thoughtfully used media, and worked collaboratively/creatively while planning and executing their lessons. Several of the guiding principles including leadership, ethics, global citizenship and personal responsibility were also key to our success. I especially like the fact that my students bought into the project as something “real.” I think it is very hard to encourage characteristics like personal responsibility or leadership in venues that seem artificial to students.

I was glad that this fluency was our last – I feel like it was great closure for our journey through 21st century fluencies this year!

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!

Wiki: Skeptic Turned Supporter!

While reading through my student’s Wiki time logs and checking their contributions thus far (spring break was a partial deadline), I came across a comment I had not expected!

This was actually kind of fun and very helpful! Can’t wait to see next quarter’s Wiki!

This same student was very skeptical just three months ago! At that time, she felt like it was the “blind leading the blind” and seemed unsure how to contribute to the Wiki.

Likely because of the spring break deadline, the site has improved greatly even since I posted a couple weeks ago (check out a history page to see how it evolves). There is still much that can be done to improve it – but eventually I think it has the potential to approach the breadth and quality of a professional site.

Social Networking On Campus…On Purpose!

I have heard a fair share of complaints of children (and teens, well, ages across the board) spending too much time on their phones or on gaming systems and not enough time socializing and engaging in the world around them. Now that we are in this post-modern digital age, it is almost expected that children and teens be connected to their phones, gaming systems, or other digital media. Isn’t that engaging in the world around them as well?

I randomly came across an article encouraging schools to embrace this new age of technology, more specifically through Facebook and Twitter. It seems that we could have the best of both worlds in education…engagement on school campuses through digital social interaction and personal human interaction. The article is on the blog: “Not So Distant Future“, which is focused on libraries, technologies, and schools (this blog has won many awards I might add!) It offers snapshots of studies focusing on using the popular (and FREE!) Facebook and Twitter to engage students in campus events. I agree in this librarian’s take on the fact that educators/administrators worry about the use of social networking will hinder academic progress or social interactions, but should also focus on the opportunity, student reaction, student attendance, and student learning, etc. Junco, one of the researchers, has several articles published on the effects of Twitter and Facebook on many aspects of education.

I think that the studies they reveal could show encouragement and motivation for our school as we have a campus blessed with involved students and many technological opportunities and advocates! Facebook and Twitter are two of the most talked about social networks at school, work, and now on TV it seems…I think we should take a look at the success rate and think about its transition into education. It will happen whether it’s purposely used for school or if a student is updating their Facebook status under the table so the teacher won’t see. Let’s jump on board and see what we can do!

Honors Physics Wiki Update

My students have started constructing their Honors Physics Wiki. Right now the site is quite raw. We are almost exclusively creating content, mostly text-based. There are some errors on the site and it’s not polished yet. I’m itching to correct the errors, but I’m holding back because I think peer revision is an important part of the process.

Our first peer-comment was posted a few days ago! I’m hoping that as more and more of the obvious content appears on the site, students will begin to shift some of their attention to multimedia creation, revision, organization, and refinement. I’m excited to see where this site goes!

A couple example pages:  Relativity, Dimensional Analysis & Right Triangle Trigonometry.

Book report – 21st Century Skills Learning For Life In Our Times

After looking at several choices for books to read on this subject, I selected Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel’s book in digital format. I had hoped to find a book that provided a great overview of the topic as well as practical suggestions. This book did not disappoint. The prologue sets the tone with the title, “The Search for Innovative Learning,” that took us to Napa New Tech High School. They are famous for their project approach to learning. It was a fascinating glimpse into one school’s mission to keep the spirit of innovation and invention alive. My favorite focus word for the book also appears- balance.
The introduction to the book makes the case that the world has changed so much in the last few decades that learning and education have also changed. The authors then present a four question exercise that challenges the reader to explore past successes and future possibilities. The answers fuel the nine chapters of the book as they present a handy guidebook for the topic.
I liked the past and future comparisons that focused on the shift from the Industrial Age to the “Knowledge Age.” The statistic that stood out was that with new skills, the job shift will mean that people between the age of 18-42 will have 11 different jobs. It presents a powerful case for the shift from “brawn to brain” while retaining critical values and traditions. The key concept is again balance and learning balance.
Part Two outlines 21st Century skills that reminded me of traditional fundamental ideas with the addition of media literacy and applying technology effectively. The career and life skills section hit home with concepts that I would like to see my students master- initiative and self direction, accountability, and leadership.
Part Three puts the learning into practice with an in depth discussion of project and design based learning. There was a brief discussion of obstacles. Since the emphasis was very positive and directed, I think the obstacles were mentioned primarily in passing.
The creation of a productive, prepared student is a goal that educators have had for years. This book presented a new look at the challenges and the shift of ideas and tools that our students will face in the coming years.
The resources at the end of the book were very well organized. Section A was by chapter, section B was Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and section C was a summary of skill sets. The book was infused with diagrams and charts for those of us who like the visual as well as the text.
For those who are looking for a great overview of the topic with thought provoking ideas, I can highly recommend this book.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Howard Gardner

One mind is not enough. It takes five minds to be successful.

This according to Howard Gardner, author of many books, including Five Minds for the Future. Gardner was selected to write the first chapter of 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. I found his comments very interesting, and look forward to reading his books in the not-to-distant future. Here are some of the stand-out points I gathered from this selection.

How can we create well-rounded citizens of the future? Howard Gardner says we can give them Five Minds.

Gardner says that there are five minds that educators should strive to cultivate in the future:

  1. The Disciplined Mind
  2. The Synthesizing Mind
  3. The Creating Mind
  4. The Respectful Mind
  5. The Ethical Mind

The Disciplined Mind. Gardner states that there are two connotations in play regarding this mind. There is discipline, as in art, craft, scholarly pursuit, or profession. And then there is discipline, referring to a continuation of practice and hard work to remain at the top of one’s game. Interestingly, he stresses four disciplines for precollegiate institutions to focus on: math, science, history, and at least one art form. It’s not about mastering the content of these disciplines, but rather the skills. Can you think like a scientist? Do you analyze like a historian? Can you appreciate fine art? Gardner says that in previous times, mastery and refinement of a single discipline may have sufficed; however, in today’s world, “mastery of more than one discipline is at a premium.” Bottom line: We must help our students learn to think in different ways.

The Synthesizing Mind. In the Age of Info-whelm, our students are bombarded by information 24/7. As Gardner says, “Shrewd triage becomes an imperative.” Those who develop a synthesizing mind will rise to the top. Synthesizing is not a one-time process according to Gardner; “new information must be acquired, probed, evaluated, followed up with, or sidelined…there is constant reflection and tinkering.” Good synthesizers always keep an eye on the big picture while securing and arranging the smaller details in useful ways; “one must know what works for himself and for those who make use of his synthesis.” Bottom line: We must help our students learn to make use of information and media in meaningful ways.

The Creating Mind. In order to truly acquire a creating mind, one must first develop an adequate level of disciplinary mastery and some capacity to synthesize. Gardner states, “You can’t think outside the box unless you have a box.” Creators must take risks, tackle the unknown, fail, and then fearlessly try again. Creators are motivated by, and keep their eyes on, the prize. Educators must pose challenges, obstacles, and boulders to their students. According to Gardner, if the Disciplined Mind involves depth and the Synthesizing Mind entails breadth, the Creating Mind features stretch. Bottom line: We must help our students learn constructively and in innovative ways, to solve never before seen problems.

The Respectful Mind. Gardner says, this mind “starts with an assumption that diversity is positive and the world would be a better place if individuals sought to respect one another.” Bottom line: We must help our students appreciate the ideas, methods, culture, and values of others in the world.

The Ethical Mind. According to Gardner, a person who has an ethical mind can think of himself or herself abstractly and ask questions about their own quality of life. What kind of worker do I want to be? What kind of citizen am I? What would the world be like if everyone too the stance I do? What happens as a result of my decisions or actions? Bottom line: We need to teach our kids to think abstractly, make predictions about outcomes, and weigh their options against what they know is right or wrong.

In conclusion, Gardner names the Synthesizing Mind as the most important for the 21st century. He goes on to states that integration of all five minds is more likely to occur, and more quickly, when role models – parents, teachers, coaches – regularly display aspects of discipline, synthesis, creation, respect, and ethics.

The (Ultimate) Bottom Line: Show your students how you use all five of your minds.

Media Fluency: AP Physics Wiki!

Application: AP Physics Wiki

I must admit I that I probably wouldn’t have tried this Wiki project if I weren’t a member of this committee. Although I’m not convinced AP scores are the best way to measure progress, it’s undeniable that they have practical importance. I already expect a great deal from my AP students and was hesitant to add on an “extra.” Especially since I didn’t see an obvious connection between the Wiki and the AP test.

After some unsuccessful brainstorming/browsing I decided use the Wiki project despite my reservations. Since the AP physics curriculum is so broad, I thought it best to use the Wiki as a review tool where each student would write an article on one of our major topics in first semester. I “stole” this idea from one of my graduate classes over the summer where we wrote a Wiki (I created most of the pages on “State of Classical Science in 1900!”)

I was pleasantly surprised by the outcomes from the Wiki project. Where I had expected students would complain when I announced the assignment, several students actually said they liked the idea (in hindsight: I think it was a nice change of pace-we don’t do a lot of writing in AP physics). Since other people could read their work it felt more real to them. They also said that summarizing/explaining major ideas helped them solidify their understanding of the challenging material that we had moved through at whirlwind speed. What had started as an “extra” had become a sustentative activity that very well might help them on the AP test.

As you can see if you check out our Wiki (please do!), the site itself is nothing fancy. Based on this unexpected success though, it’s a work in progress.

The Big Picture

When I first learned of Wiki’s in my grad school class I was impressed by the technology. However, I was more impressed by my professor. He knew what the technology was capable of and had an idea for it’s use, but he didn’t have any clue of how to edit/create pages or accomplish other technical tasks in Wikispaces. It was up to us to figure out (it is surprisingly easy to learn). Talk about really jumping into something.

Wiki’s are great because they can be written for any subject or topic. A small Wiki like we created doesn’t require any big commitments. For those interested, there is potential to create a huge interconnected web of ideas through Wiki’s.

Second semester I’m going to add a Wiki component to my freshmen physics class too. I’m planning on leaving it wide open: students will be able to write articles and add pages & physics content relevant to anything we learn. Students will have the whole semester and I will make a general rubric for assessment (you can see which members edited which pages). Finally, I’m tossing around the idea of having new physics classes build/improve/revise one constantly evolving freshmen physics Wiki. I think it will either be really successful or a complete failure. Either way it should be interesting and I will let you know how it goes (:

Media Fluency Definition

According to the 21st century fluencies blog media fluency is:

“Firstly, the ability to look analytically at any communication media to interpret the real message, how the chosen media is being used to shape thinking, and evaluate the efficacy of the message. Secondly, to create and publish original digital products”

In my own words, I think of media fluency as the natural extension of rhetoric and composition into the digital age. We need to be able to communicate electronically just as clearly, efficiently, and elegantly as we do verbally or on paper. Just as important, we must be able to see beyond the surface to evaluate the purpose, strategy, and effectiveness of other digital communications.

Digital Citizenship Fluency

All the 21st Century fluencies are learned within the context of the Digital Citizen, using the guiding principles of leadership, ethics, accountability, fiscal responsibility, environmental awareness, global citizenship and personal responsibility (http://www.fluency21.com/fluencies.cfm).

The first week of school I used a paper magazine produced by the FTC to discuss with the students how to “Live Life Online.” This was a great resource because it includes several articles and short quizzes for the kids on crucial issues that they face almost on a daily basis such as sexting, cyberbullying, online etiquette, and how to analyze advertisements from companies. It also provided several real life dilemmas to the students that I used as bell ringers and also some as closing activities for the end of the hour.

This was truly beneficial because I found out that most of the students were not aware of the legal consequences that accompanied actions of sexting or simply forwarding a message they received by email or text. They were also not aware that typing things in all caps on text, email, or social networking sites is considered to be “online yelling” and they need to make sure they monitor their tone of voice.

These lessons helped me lead into the use of our class edmodo.com page because I first had the students and parents sign a responsible use policy before they were aloud to create a profile on the website.

I approach the global aspect of this fluency by using the CNN Student News in my class at least once a week. This news cast is written on a middle school level but allows the students to have insight on the issues of our country as well as issues that are affecting other nations of the world.

This fluency is critical to Heritage Hall due to the 1:1 movement beginning to take place. Our students will be “connected” on a daily basis while at school and must have the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate and contribute to the online world.

Going beyond the use of technology Heritage Hall is already approaching some aspects of this fluency by adopting a new set of core values; courage, responsibility, kindness, and intellectual purpose.

Resources used: