Monday, June 18, 2012

Images of the World

I recently joined Pinterest, mostly for personal reasons, but I discovered an unexpected educational use. I noticed that people were posting excellent photography of beautiful places from around the world. At first, I didn't think much of it and ignored those posts because they were not meeting the purpose of why I was browsing pinterest. Then, I came up with an idea...

I started downloading the images and putting them in a digital folder titled, "Images of the World." I kept the title of each image as the name of the place it was photographed and the country, if given. Many of the images are from the same region so I grouped those together.

I plan to show these images to students as introductions to learning about that country, region, and culture. I think taking the time to add information and create a solid schema about that region is more meaningful to the students rather than showing them several images in a row and merely telling them where each was taken.

These ideas could be used as a supplementary lesson for world cultures, a writing prompt in English, or whatever else your creative teaching mind can design. I'm sure there are many uses and I'd love to hear them!

Here are some ideas which could be added:

1. Due to the uniqueness of some of the photos, they could be shown with no explanation and the students could write or shout out questions the photos awaken.This could be continued with some research to answer those questions and embellish the knowledge surrounding the image and its region. Students could present their findings in a multitude of various ways OR they could simply informally share the answers. What I like about the latter is that it keeps the focus on the excitement of learning for the sake of learning without burdening it down with another project assignment.

2. Students could do a quick-write followed by a conversation about their thoughts and emotional responses of the images.

3. Images of animals could also be incorporated into the lesson on each region. There is also an abundance of these on pinterest.... mostly of bats right now... I'm not sure why. 

4. Viewing that region on Google Maps or Google Earth could also be incorporated, especially if you can use the Street View. Quite often, Google Maps shows images on the sidebar of special attractions from the area you are viewing at the time. 

5. Use Breathing Earth website to show students statistics about that country. Hover the mouse over the country and it will tell you the population, the death rate, the birth rate, and the amount of CO2 emission.

6. Add the image (if possible) of a family from that country with their food from the book, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Many of the photos can be found online such as on this blog.

I think this should be okay in regards to copyright because the photos are being used exclusively to teach students about that region of the world.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I love Stumbling!!!

I just set up a Stumbleupon account this semester after hearing so many of my friends talk about it. They talked about how fun and addicting it is. I'll admit that it is definitely addicting, but I was surprised at how much I have been able to use this for educational purposes. 

The way it works is you check mark a bunch of interests of yours and then click "Stumble." It takes you to sites that are associated with your interests. You can choose to give it a "thumbs up" and it will keep track of that site kind of like a bookmarking site, such as Delicious, would. It's like being zoomed across a city by a cab driver who knows what types of new places that you'd enjoy. I chose a few personal and fun interests but mostly stuck to educational ones just to see if I could use it for that purpose. It worked! It took me to sites that I could potentially use with my students such as Maps of Wars, Her Stories in History, Have Fun with History, and Breathing Earth. As you can tell, I picked a lot of history related interests... should have been a social studies major, haha. And if you've never been to Breathing Earth, I highly recommend it. It's a great tool to show your students and give them some perspective on life. Of course, whenever I come across a great site, I put it in the bookmarking site I use, Diigo.

Response Story Reflection

I made my second technology lesson plan for 8th grade language arts since I will be with 8th grade next year for student teaching and Language Arts is my subject area. 

I think Lan. Arts can be a difficult subject to incorporate technology into because so much of it is writing, grammar, etc. ….unless you count typing on the computer as using technology, which technically it is, but for the purpose of this class I think we usually think of something more advanced than Word. 

Actually, blogging and even microblogging such as twitter and facebook are forms of writing and maybe they can even be supported by the GLCE’s. For this lesson, I chose to use a combination of different online tools: Penzu, Google Docs, and a graphic organizer site called Read Write Think

Now, I almost regret doing my lesson on writing because I did not have enough time to actually write out an example story of high enough quality to post. Although I admit that attempting to write it helped  me write the rubric because I realized that the original page requirements were too long and that the Resolution Map is essentially unnecessary. Experiencing what the students experience while doing assignments is good for keeping the directions and rubric clear and reasonable.

I was disappointed that the graphic organizers I used limits the amount of writing. Being concise is good for some circumstances but not when I’m trying to encourage students to write with a lot of detail!

I was also pleasantly surprised at how much the organizers helped me write my story… and I’m in college! Hopefully my students will find it useful as well.

Peeps R Emotionless Online

This is my first online class and I have really enjoyed it. I love the freedom of choosing what I want to explore and when I’m going to work on it. 

The major downside I have noticed with communicating with people online is that it is much less personable. I don’t know how much this affects other people, but it made a huge difference on me.  When someone is merely words on a page, it is easy for me to be harsher and more critical than I would if I was talking to their face. This is why I really enjoyed listening to my House members’ Highlight Showcases. I’ve read their written words and seen pictures of them all semester, but it wasn’t until I heard their voices that I felt they were humans with feelings. 

I did this with one of my best friends as well. I became very upset with her and was determined to give her a piece of my mind, but she called me on the phone and as soon as I heard her voice I wasn't sure if I could talk to her about it even meekly. I also immediately felt remorse for even being mad at her. 

I am not a very confrontational person and maybe it’s because I struggle with addressing issues when I can hear the emotion in their voice and see it in their eyes. 

I want to conclude that I think the internet is great, but we need to be aware of the negatives it poses. It is easy to say things that you normally wouldn’t when you are anonymous or you don’t have to deal with the consequences. 

What are ways to prevent this?
-Use real pictures of yourself? Some might not feel comfortable with that and want to keep their identity private for good reasons.
-pretend you’re saying it to someone you know?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Historical News

Quick Lesson Plan Idea:
I was watching the news this evening while eating dinner and wondering what the news would have been like hundreds or thousands of years ago. Then, I thought that would be an awesome project for students to do and it could apply to a wide range of ages. It could be an entire class project, smaller group projects, and/or an option on a list of projects students can pick from. Students could pick a time period or just do it on the time period you're currently studying. Then, they would research the daily lives of those living during that time as well as major events of the area. Students could make a video of their 'broadcast.' They could even cover sports of that time! They could try to dress up similar to the way they would at that time or even just create a comic strip of the news instead of doing it live.

Another idea is integrating this into the morning announcements for the entire school especially if they are done by video.

OR, instead of assigning this as a project to students, the teacher could prepare this type of thing as a creative way of presenting history. Yeah, I know it would be a lot of work, but a possibility would be to assign it to students one year and then use their base work to expand upon it and show it to future grades. I had a high school history teacher who presented time periods in a similar way. He created slide shows of scenes from that time and place as well as inserting figures with student faces pasted on the heads. The figures had speech bubbles commenting on events happening at that time.

They could also do it in written form such as a newspaper which could be another option on a list of possible projects to pick from.

Thinking from the students' perspective, I think the key to making this worthwhile and fun is to provide valuable and engaging resources for the students to use for research. And they could try dressing up for it.

You could have them start out with questions. Questions are good to drive the motivation for research and to guide the research as opposed to students feeling like they're looking stuff up but aren't sure what they're looking up.

Question: Do you have the students cover world events in their news as if it's similar to the way we do news now? OR do you have them do it more authentically which means they would only do regional news since various cultures of the world were not in communication especially in any efficient or speedy sort of way.

Now that I think about it, this is probably not that original of an idea but why haven't I seen it done more often?

Something else that could go on the list of optional projects is a digital storyboard about the a time period similar to this lesson plan which involves researching the history surrounding a particular piece of art. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The biggest downside I have come across with wikis is turning in assignments by posting them on a wiki page. We end up erasing each others’ contributions because people edit at the same time and it only saves the last person who saved it. It’s not like Google Docs where multiple users can edit at the same time. You think you’ve posted your assignment to find out later that you didn’t get the points for it because it ended up erased when someone else saved at the same time as you. It’s highly frustrating but can be easily solved by designating times when each person or group can edit. 

One of my major fears of wikis was that if someone deleted something, even accidentally, it would be gone forever. So, I was relieved to find out that you can simply go to the revision history. That solves that problem!
I have had experience with both PBworks and wikispaces. At first, I chose PBworks because I have never actually created my own wiki using it whereas I have with wikispaces. My main memory of working with PBworks is from a class I took at MSU. I was very confused on the organization and had trouble finding the files and information I needed unless my instructor sent me a direct link. I’m usually pretty good at figuring things out, but I’ll admit that I can be impatient as well. After trying it out, I understand the layout a little bit more but still do not like the way they choose to organize everything. It just looks like one giant mess to my brain. I need something straightforward and simple. So, I switched to wikispaces. 

Actually, I also started out trying to create a wiki which was to attempt to be an ultimate time line resource. I don’t believe that memorizing dates is the way to learn about history, but I realized that time lines really help me see how history connects. So, maybe it could help others as well. Sadly, I ended up dropping this idea for now because I just couldn’t figure out a feasible way to use the current wiki technology available to to the common person to create the vision in my mind. I think I might end up needing the help of a web designer if my idea has a chance of ever coming to fruition.

So, I decided to do a simple alternative and create a wiki which I could use for student teaching next year. Since my CT co-teaches as well as teaching her own classes, the wiki will pull all of her students classes together. Almost everything up there right now is fabricated to show a sampling of what it will look like. It is difficult creating a wiki for classes which I know nothing about as of right now. However, I know I want a page for each class that any of the students are in to help both the teachers and the students keep track of everything. I know I want to include a class list and perhaps contact information that students are willing to share voluntarily to help each other out with homework. I want a calendar for each class to provide a visual of when assignments are due. I’ll also have links to the class syllabus as well as notes if possible, assignment directions and rubrics, and any other information that could benefit students related to each class respectively.
For this type of use, using a wiki instead of a website provides some advantages. Students would be able to edit which is beneficial for adding their own names and contact information and contributing other resources. Perhaps I might end up also using it for turning in projects or sharing in-class work, but it will all depend on what is happening in the school. 

I like how simple wikispaces looks. It has the navigation on the left and tabs at the top. I also like the ease of adding widgets and other media. I do not like the tabs at the top because every time any of my classes have tried to utilize the “discussion” tab, it becomes confusing. I think the main hang-up is that there is a set of tabs for each page as opposed to one discussion forum for the entire site. So, when someone wants to create a discussion they have to specify the page it’s on. I also do not like the fact that I cannot change the alignment of text, at least I have not figured out how to do it if it’s possible. Everything automatically aligns to the left.

Has anyone had good experiences with wikis other than PBworks or wikispaces?

I just want to point out the importance of having a discussion with your students before unleashing onto a class wiki. I think some ground rules need to be laid down about respect and how using the wiki is privilege. If they misuse it, even once, they will be removed from the member list. Otherwise, you could end up with jokesters putting inappropriate words, images, etc. on something endorsed by the school.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Don't Create Frustrating Surveys!

I hate taking personality tests or polls or surveys or anything like that. Actually, it’s more like a love-hate relationships because I enjoy coming up with my answers since they are usually easy questions. It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you!* The part I don’t like is trying to figure out how MY answers fit into the options that are provided. Sometimes it could make me feel like an outcast when my answer doesn’t fit in or I feel like I'm being untrue to myself by choosing an option that doesn’t truly reflect my response.

The following are tips I have accumulated to avoid causing frustration for the users.

-optional comment box for explanations behind WHY they answered the way they did after each question

-optional general comment box at the end- there’s always something that a user has to say that the creator did not think about whether it’s a question or pointing out a problem with the survey or something else.

-include  a "not applicable" option- Forcing users to choose an option when the question doesn't even apply to them can screw up your data

-include a "neutral" option-Forcing users to lean one way or the other when they really don't care about that particular question can also screw with your results. Or you could just put a comment box after each question as bullet 1 suggests. Then the user has a chance to say, "Hey, I don't care either way." However, I guess some might want the users to be forced to pick a side to discern their "true" feelings or something like that.

-always offer an “other” option and a space to fill in the blank unless it is just completely inappropriate given the question and options.

-provide an estimated time for completion next to the survey link- This is not entirely necessary and sometimes difficult to estimate especially since we all spend different amounts of time completing a task. However, saying it takes 5 minutes verses 30 minutes at least gives the user an idea of whether it’s a short quick and easy thing or something they are going to need to sit down and do when they have a good amount of time free.

-being able to save and come back later or retake it because it stinks when you are filling out a survey and the internet disconnects and you can’t get back into it because it only lets you take it once. Or something comes up and you’ve already done most of it but you have to leave and you don't want to lose your work and start all over again.

*”It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you.” That’s something to remember as a positive for giving students a beginning of the year assignment about themselves worth points for completion.

Please add other tips to these because I’m sure I did not cover everything.