Tag Archives: Video

Giddy Enthusiasm

Sometimes things are happening in your class that keep you excited at all hours of the day. You see kids fully engaged during class time, and BIG AND- they are participating in an ongoing month long project outside of class as well. You watch as pieces of this project come trickling in at all ours of the night, on weekends, during other classes. You know you are not meddling and teaching too much; you can feel your scaffold strengthening as the students produce content that exceeds what you thought they were capable of.

I am engulfed in such a unit! It is wonderful. It has little to do with tech really, but the tech knowledge, skills and tools we have in place are making everything run smoothly. When people ask me how I use technology in my classroom, I am always a bit stumped. I use it the same way I do in my everyday life- to gather, create, share, capture life around me with a community of people.

In grades six, seven and ten we are in the middle of a viewing text unit. Grade six is watching How To Train Your Dragon, grade seven is watching E.T. and grade ten is watching The Wall. We began by discussing the idea of reading a film.  After deconstructing each respective film, we looked at various types of shots. Last week we moved onto looking at scenes as shots and students have begun to create their own 8-12 minute films.

It was at this point when I realized that we needed a quick detour into photography. I wanted the kids to realize the similarities between basic photography concepts and film making. After a quick lesson on how to take Great Shots, we began our Daily Shoot! This experience is what has me so excited. Over the weekend I was in Hong Kong for a conference, but I was thrilled to see at least 80% of my students participating in the exercise. They would go to this page, find the prompt, take their pic and post (with tags and titles) to their appropriate page.

Some highlights:

I am hoping that they will see that shots like these will make great openings to their video scenes. We have already discussed music and camera movement to heighten suspense and creating mood.

The Posterous gallery has been great as it teaches them how to sort and tag their pics, and it allows everyone to see what everyone else is doing.

Giddy is the best word to describe how I feel about this unit so far. Giddy and proud and excited and …..well seems like there are many words. But, what does the tech look like? How can I teach other teachers to do this? Not sure. We are using iMovie, Keynote, Posterous, cameras, blogs. We are filming, shootings, tagging, writing, drawing. It is hard to know where the tech starts or stops. It is hard to know if this is Art, English, or Film. We are simply caught up in a storm of creating. Unaware of where we will end up, we use whatever tools we need, we learn skills as they become necessary and hopefully we will have some pretty amazing films to share, but if not…if the films are only mediocre, we already know we have learned so much. And that is all that really counts.


Brave New Voices

In the media and information saturated world in which we find ourselves, it is not always obvious what to do with the bits and pieces of digital content, fragments of knowledge, or pieces of learning that filter through our network feeds. I receive hundreds of links to articles, blog posts, jokes, youtube clips, bands I must check out, photos, and 8-Bit Computer Games That Do Not Exist a day!

Drinking from the fire hose, on any given day, can be exciting, exhilarating, or down right exhausting. I have to choose which Tweet link to follow, which Facebook recommendation to actually read, or which RSS blog post to skim or save for later. Not sure when this quiet reflection time is ever going to come, but I am assuming some day I will have time. Ha!

Anyway, sorry, I know you are busy, so let me end this verbose introduction. I received the clip you are about to see from @wmchamberlin a few days ago attached to a Tweet that said, “You are going to love this.”
He was right. My immediate reaction was to RT it and post it on Facebook, because I wanted to share it with as many people as I could, but after reading @cogdog‘s blog post about Are You Liking the Like Web, I got to thinking. I tell my students that they are welcome to embed Youtube clips into their blogs as long as the content does not conflict with our AUP, which they have signed. But I tell them, never to simply post the clip.

Anyone can watch a clip on Youtube, why is watching it on your blog different or special?

Well the answer is that if you are sharing a link of any kind, it would be nice to frame a conversation around the content. So watch this clip and I will meet you in the other side in 2:06 mins.

A lot has been written about education reform. Hundreds if not thousands of teachers around the world are trying to see public education in a new light, and for your effort I applaud you, but here is my question- What if the system is not broken? What if the educational system we have in the US is exactly what the people who designed it want it to be? A system that trains and produces low level, non-critical-thinkers who will be happy non-active citizens who do not question authority and do what they are told- work hard, try to be rich and consume. It keeps minorities out of the equation all togther, by making sure they are seldom properly educated, and allows the wealthy to continue to extract the nations wealth, while the population has been “educated” to admire them for it.

What if we realize that the public education system in the US is designed for the American free market capitalistic system, and until that changes, education cannot and will not change? Why would we expect that the wealthiest 1% of the nation who control the banks, Wall Street, the major industries and corporations, who depend on the population not only for the labor we provide, but also for our spending capital as consumers, why would they want us educated?

What better way for them to stay in power than to have us running through mazes of Ed-reform and standardization, Regents Exams and yet another new scheme? Year in-and-year out, a new administration comes to Washington with the answer. But it is working?

People talk about Ed-Reform; I say we start talking about revolution.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggestion Maoist revolt, so before you cry red take a look at the definition of the word: a fundamental change in power or organizational structures.  You tell me what that looks like. Education is not working because the Free Market is. I think the kids in this video have the right idea. Who is their teacher? Let’s get connected. Thoughts?


Life as an Open Book

On June 4th, I gave a talk called Life as an Open Book at Qatar Academy for the first ever Tedx event put together by Julie Lindsay.

I spent quite a bit of time planning the talk, but the execution was not exactly what I had in mind. I was plagued by repetition, false starts, and a general sense of incoherence. I have attempted to piece together as much of the original talk as I could.

The main idea is:

How can we encourage teachers to look beyond their fear, follow their passions and begin to create open honest online identities that reflect their true selves in order to better connect with their students for a more authentic learning environment. Eventually creating a system that not only allows for teacher creativity and expression but actively promotes and encourages it, so teachers are not too busy or scared to express themselves online, and actually given time to reflect, create, and share.

Life as an Open Book from Intrepid on Vimeo.

I would appreciate any and all comments.


Reading Plants

At the beginning of this year, I was asked to teach a Reading Enrichment class for students who were having trouble reading. Their Language Arts teachers had labeled these students as troubled readers who needed extra support. While I have an ESL background and have taught a few enrichment classes in the past, I am by no means a literacy teacher. I know how to teach students the elements of literature, or how to write effectively, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to teach them how to read. To this day, I am not really sure how that is done. So I started to think about what reading actually means. I came across definitions like this:

Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation. Learn how readers integrate these facets to make meaning from print.

Reading is making meaning from print. It requires that we:

  • Identify the words in print – a process called word recognition
  • Construct an understanding from them – a process called comprehension
  • Coordinate identifying words and making meaning so that reading is automatic and accurate – an achievement called fluency

Sometimes you can make meaning from print without being able to identify all the words.

These definitions, however valuable, seemed academic; they did not seem to really answer what reading is. This research was great and I spent a lot of time looking for ways to motivate my students to become active engaged readers, but I still had to design daily lessons and activities.

I had no idea which direction we were headed. So I took the easy way out and decided to “enrich” what they were already doing in their Language Arts classes, which was reading Where the Red Fern Grows. I figured it would simply be enough to slow down the text and spend time learning how to be more active readers by: questioning the text, taking notes, visualizing imagery, connecting to personal experiences, and asking questions for comprehension.

Because of my own frustrations with adjusting to a new curriculum and a new school, I had a hard time getting into Where The Red Fern Grows. I was coming from a place where I had nearly complete control over the books I taught, and it was difficult to teach a book that I had never read. We started to examine the text looking for ways to apply basic literary criticism. I found it to be a very sexist book; that made it easy. We tried that angle. We then looked at it historically, socio-economically, but we finally chose to cling to one of the main themes- working hard and being persistent.

We decided that we would start a gardening project to try and better understand what it means to be patient and work hard for a delayed reward. The students themselves were aware of their generation’s need for immediate rewards and felt that a slow moving project like growing plants would prove to be educational.

So we started planting. We brought in pots and plants and seeds and away we went. We journaled. We read stories about plants and seeds. We talked. A lot. We took photographs. We documented growth. We shot video and answered questions. Things started to grow. We started to grow! We explored the idea of the seed as symbol. We made connections. We constructed meaning. Were we reading?

This brings me to my point-

I felt a bit guilty about this project, because I wasn’t sure if raising plants had anything to do with reading enrichment. What if someone would come in and ask me what I was doing? What would I say? So I decided to take the safe route and look at my Benchmarks. I know that proper assessments should be built backwards from benchmark to activity, but this project lent itself to work the other way. I noticed that while it seemed like we were only having a great time planting and tending and discussing, we were actually covering lot of curricular ground:


  • Generate interesting questions to be answered while reading (we generated many questions to be journaled and discussed)
  • Recognize the use of specific literature devices (we talked a lot about figurative language and symbolism)
  • Summarize and paraphrase complex concepts in informational texts (substitute informational texts with plant cycle and we definitely paraphrase complex concepts)
  • Use new information to adjust and extend personal knowledge base (seeing their own growth reflected in the plants added to their knowledge base)

The others are pretty self-explanatory.

  • Use descriptive language that clarifies and enhances ideas
  • Use a variety of pre-writing methods


  • Ask questions to seek elaboration and clarification of ideas.
  • Listen in order to understand a speaker’s topic, purpose, and perspective.
  • Convey a clear main point when speaking to others and stay on the topic being discussed.
  • Use explicit techniques for oral presentations (e.g., modulation of voice, inflection, tempo, enunciation, physical gestures, eye contact, posture).

I also started to compare the skills that are required while one reads to the skills necessary to be a good gardener, and again there were striking similarities.

Both reading and gardening require:

  • Patience and dedication
  • Seeing it through
  • Not giving up
  • Enjoying each word like it is a tender new leaf
  • Need to make sure you have sun(proper reading area), soil(vocabulary/dictionary) , water(support or place to ask questions)
  • You have to do it everyday
  • Be aware of growth
  • Start small and read more complicated books later
  • Don’t rush the process


  • Takes time to learn and grow
  • Not very exciting, very little action
  • The rewards come later not immediate

Skills Strategies

  • Communicate with the text and/or plant (give them both attention)
  • Check in daily and make sure that you don’t stop taking care of the plant or your book.

In the end, I feel this was a worthwhile first draft of a project. I would like to do it again. The connection that the students made with their plants was a very organic way to engage them in something they would otherwise seldom do. The plants connected them to nature in a very real way, while at the same time giving them a rich source of material to write about, reflect on, and read. Yes, I said read. We spent the last semester reading plants looking for meaning and this is what we found:

Music by Ben Harper and Jeff Nesmith. Please be patient while video loads.