Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Longfellow 10

For a few weeks this Spring I tried an experiment in my classroom. One of my sections joined the super hip student-run Longfellow 10 Productions. The LF10 is a loose confederation of unknown students in undisclosed locations in cyberspace looking to promote awareness of important literary terms (and Science Concepts!) through absurd stop-motion films. Check out our Longfellow 10 movies here. For information on an upcoming film festival, click here.

Mr. Mayo and one of the LF!0 give valuable advice via Skype.

Instead of doing the usual assignments, labs and activities we got into groups and began working on stop-motion movies around science topics and concepts. Each group got a piece of butcher paper for story-boarding, a bag of materials and a topic. Five class periods later we posted eight new videos to the LF10 site.

LF10 member (MN faction) shows off storyboard for Orographic Cooling

One of the coolest parts of the project was a very valuable 15 minutes of advice from from the Maryland faction via Skype. It was the first time I skyped in classes but I instantly realized the value of this tool. We learned that there were lots of bumps in the road, that it took a lot of time to make a good movie and music and sound effects are critical for quality movies. The students saw other students being successful and caught a glimpse of the classroom of the future. I'm looking forward to finding authentic reasons to incorporate Skype next year.

Anyone interested in connecting classrooms?
Check us out!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Twittering the Solar Oven Cookout!

"Twitter?!...that is like Facebook for old people" - 8th Grader

Every year, the big finale for our Earth Science course is making solar ovens. Students parade into school with boxes made of foil, plastic wrap, construction paper, mylar, and spray paint. There are ovens that somehow get colder when put in the sun, ovens that are 100% created by parents, and ovens that light themselves on fire. If you doubt the ability a cardboard box to cook hot pockets, I assure you that it is possible. The high temp on Friday was 305 F.

This year we tried an experiment. I put a desk on the field within range of the wireless and we live-blogged and twittered the events on the web. I have done online chats with students before and from my experience it was most successful when focused on an event. For example, the homework/review session chats didn't work at all, but the lunar eclipse chat had 20 students chattering like monkeys for over an hour.

The Solar Oven Cookout was the perfect opportunity for the students report the events live. In one block we live-blogged and for the rest of the classes we Twittered. Check out our SO09 tweets and blog posts from Friday. I would highly recommend setting up a Twitter account for your classroom. For privacy reasons, I will not follow my students, but the Twitter account gives us a chance to broadcast events with one button. 140 characters forces the students to be concise and I think the next time we watch Bill Nye the Science Guy, the students at @science619 will be tweeting summaries, science connections and applications to the topic of the day. Check us out and see how our experiment evolves.

How do you use Twitter in the classroom? Please comment!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Silo: Oink, Mooo, Cluck

The other day I walked into the computer lab and saw a group of students using Google Docs to work on cool Supreme Court case assignments. I chatted with the teacher and saw a cool extension of the assignment that I never though of (more on that in a future post). In the distance I heard a cow moooo, a chicken cluck and a pig go oink. I am living in a silo. I am one of the Tech Integration people at my building and I have no idea people are using the same tools that I have been trying to hype.

Teachers (at least I do) live in silos. We are in our rooms, doing our thing and occasionally we get out to see that is happening around the barnyard (I have failed in my goal to each lunch in the lounge). The busier I get, and the more things I have on my plate the higher and more constricted my silo gets. The tools, like Google Presentations, are intuitive and do not require a lengthy sit-down. I'm not frustrated that people are not getting me involved and asking for help, because they are plenty capable. I am frustrated because I would like to collaborate and have discussions about new ways of doing things and making the classrooms more relevant.

I know there is a discussion happening about silos of information in education. I know that we shouldn't be in them.

Don't you wish you had more time to collaborate with those around you?

I do.

photo: onlinewoman