Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Writing in Math Class

Great teaching isn't always tech dependent. Good thoughtful teaching asks kids to reflect on their learning. Master teacher, Ryan Tozer presented today to our faculty on having his students write in math class. He has discovered that it allows kids to deepen understanding. It also gives him, the teacher, a window into kids thinking for their teachers,

Ryan also reminded us about the power and importance of anticipatory sets and the role of writing in them.

He shared a lesson that included Rene Descartes and his invention of the coordinate grid system. The students write for reflection and understanding before and after the "math" part of the lesson.

Ryan also shared with us the four step plan via the four square plan. 

  1. Read
  2. think
  3. Solve 
  4. Justify

An aside. Ryan introduced us to the book, Math Curse... The horror for the kids is that they see math everywhere! Sounds subversively brilliant.

I also learned from Ryan that only Myanmar and Liberia join the USA in refraining from using the metric system. Who knew?

Though I said that great teaching isn't always tech dependent, I'm going to get Ryan to use class blogs to further their writing. He's already on board. Exciting things are ahead. 

Cultural Appropriation

So, I'm taking off my tech hat and putting on my social studies teacher's hat. For years, I've been interested in diversity work and for many years was a board member of the Philadelphia MCRC. In preparation for Halloween and to keep children from wearing costumes which might offend, we had a lesson by two colleagues who are expert in diversity work and then a discussion on cultural appropriation.

Sometimes it is very clear what is offensive. Sometimes it can be fuzzy. This article discusses and shows some recent controversy, Popmatters 7/20/14  Perhaps you've seen this I'm a Culture, Not a Costume campaign. The photo on top is one of many posters the campaign has created.
Of course, dominant culture can't see the problem in appropriation, mistaking "same" as fair. Thus, there's been a counter- campaign. See an example below left. At a certain level, I get the point. Yes, I actually do think we can be too sensitive. But there's a lot of offensive ground one has to first cover before we get into "too sensitive" territory.

I have a student who perfectly explained what's offensive about cultural appropriation in a recent post in her class blog. The majority culture doesn't carry the baggage. This young woman wrote, "People are willing to take everything except our oppression. They'll take the Native American headdress but leave behind the reservations. They'll take the hijabs and leave behind the stares and constant surveillance and suspicions. The thing about them and black face is that they can choose to take it off. They can wipe off the distasteful makeup and still go about with their lives with privilege and respect still intact."

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tagul, Phoetic, Word Clouds

    I was working with a close colleague this morning. This man and I have taught Middle, Lower and now Upper School together. For his class, he was hoping to use Phoetic, a word cloud app. He remembered me using Phoetic last year in class as a summary activity to my Maniac Magee unit. Phoetic takes an image and replaces the image itself with text. Below you can see Phoetic in effect.
I liked Phoetic more than a regular word cloud but until today I hadn't seen something web-based that does this same thing. Hesitant to make students buy an additional app midstream, we discovered Tagul.com. Here's Tagul in action:
It does the much the same thing as Phoetic and it's free. I've used WordClouds and Phoetic in teaching for several years. I've used it as an anticipatory set, I've used it to teach metaphor, and I've used it as a part of a larger project https://goo.gl/GpAOvi.  To see other ways to use word clouds in the classroom, check out this post from edudemic. If you want to go the word cloud route there is Wordle- though it won't work on an iPad. This morning, we also discovered worditout.com.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Padlet, Exploration and Blogging

I had a good class today. I got out of the way and good stuff happened. The unit of study in class right now is Buddhism. We have rich, though difficult (maybe too difficult) texts for the students to read about the origins and beliefs of Buddhism. I wanted to give the kids a chance for some exploration and discovery. On my Class Blog, I posted websites containing many links about traditional and contemporary Buddhist practices and principles. Students shared their findings via this Padlet wall. (Padlet is a virtual wall/ whiteboard that lets students share thoughts, videos, documents easily. People can put this content anywhere, work with anyone, from any device.)

Students then had to comment via the blog on the padlet post of another student. I don't have to lead a class to lead a class. The whole time, kids were engaged and on task. They learned. Their commentary was rich. This was no great shakes of a class. But, it was a good one and I should teach like this more often. It's hard though to do in a class which emphasizes the coverage of curriculum, "But we have to get to _______". Coverage is the bane of history teachers if and when we let it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Creative Writing via Inklewriter


Students don't do a whole lot of story writing in school past elementary school. This, though, is a terrific tool to use in 6-12 social studies, history and language arts classes. It is a choose your own adventure template website. It does the tech work. The student only needs to write the story. As a MS social studies and 5th LA teacher, I have ideas on how I could have applied this to past projects.

Two ideas for how to use this going forward include:

  1. Students could write a story where readers are characters in a story or witnesses to a historical event. Imagine the story of the civil war, slavery, revolution, holocaust, Romeo and Juliet, Maus told from different perspectives!
  2. Perhaps High School teachers could consider a story in which the reader talks back to the protagonist who speaks in first person. Maybe one could write back to Pi? This idea is the germ of this amazing (and over the top) Frankenstein work. (I'm not expecting kids to make this!) http://www.inklestudios.com/frankenstein/

Friday, October 9, 2015

Leveraging Google Earth

So, tagging Google Earth isn't a new idea. A half dozen years ago, I had students map the travels of Art Spiegelman, the protagonist of Maus using Google Earth. This project/ site takes the idea a bit further. It is a repository of created Google Earth Lit Trips. Its relevance to the classroom is self evident. This isn't one of those tech tools which needs its relevance explained. If you teach Literature, Language Arts,nHumanities, Classics, Social Studies or History, you should find this useful. Take a look. Google Lit Trips

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Using Slides to Create a Presentation

My students are studying the rather archaic and difficult to understand Ancient Chinese Philosophies. To make them more accessible, I asked them to find movie lines and song lyrics that best capture the philosophies on Confucius, the Legalists and the Taoists. I feel that being able to put find connections across centuries and being able to put these philosophies into contemporary language helps make meaning. Take a look. I thought it well done.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Using Autorap App


How could you use this in your classroom?
Poetry Slam?
Rap a history project?

Lucidpress Review.


I used Lucidpress for the first time to create the above report on Hinduism. It is a versatile tool. I wish I could embed my own audio. That would be the one addition I would make to the tool.

Someone needs to hybridize this with the app, bookcreator. It would be a close to perfect report tool.

Lucidpress is web based. I needed a computer to make it. Using the iPad to create it was too cumbersome. I can't say if it wouldn't work, but it was rather cumbersome.

I'd think this could be a very powerful way for students to augment a traditional writing assignment. Imagine a report with video, charts, and live links embedded.

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