Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Technology Generation Gap: Introducing iMovie to English 12 students

          I think we assume that all teenagers are inherently tech-saavy. Recently, after having successfully integrated iMovie into a component of an English 8 project for the novel The Outsiders, I set out to do the same for my English 12 class as we embarked on a culminating activity for William Shakespeare's Hamlet. When I asked the class how many of them were familiar with iMovie, a solitary student raised their hand. When I had previously asked the same of my English 8 class, the majority of students raised their hands. What a difference a few year makes...the grade 8s had begun their technology immersion in Elementary school, while the grade 12s were still relative newcomers.
         Having established some confidence in the "user friendly" nature of the iMovie App through previous experimentation, I was fairly certain that with relatively little technical instruction, my grade 12 students would quickly become proficient. Introducing iMovie trailers to my students was akin to watching a four year old opening presents on Christmas morning. Exclamations of "Wow!"and, "That's soooo cool!"echoed through the classroom. After some time to experiment and familiarize themselves with the basic functions of the App, within two class periods, students had scripted, filmed and uploaded their Hamlet iMovie trailers to my teacher YouTube account. And so, within a relatively short period of time, I was able to successfully bridge the "Technology Generation Gap" between my grade 8 and my grade 12 students.
          Hamlet iMovie Trailer samples:

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sullivan Heights Technology Innovation Grant- A Time For Reflection

          As we near the end of the school year, and by extension the end of our Technology Innovation Grant, I was recently interviewed by one of the teachers who was instrumental in applying for, and gathering evidence in support of the grant, including evidence of innovative technologies and/or teaching practices that Sullivan Heights teachers have integrated into their classrooms.
          I must admit, I was initially quite hesitant to engage in the interview process, especially as it was being recorded for inclusion in a larger presentation. And quite honestly, my first thought was,
          "I don't really think I've done that much this year..."
          I cautioned Nicole that I hadn't prepared anything specifically for the interview, and that as it was 7:20am, I wasn't sure how animated and/or coherent I would actually be. Much to my surprise, however, as Nicole led me through a series of questions on topics ranging from my use of webnode, to Twitter, to iPad Apps, to emailing parents and students through Mastergrade, and embarking on student led conferences, the interview was over before I knew it. With a distinct feeling of relief and confidence in the power of Nicole's editing capabilities, I didn't give the process any further thought.
          Until, that is, Nicole sent me the youtube link to my interview. And quite honestly, my first thought was,
          "Holy cow, I've done a lot this year!"
          As teachers, we don't really get much "down time" to meaningfully reflect on our teaching practices. And we certainly don't often have individuals who are interested enough that they want to interview us about them! Although I did initially feel somewhat self conscious and awkward, probably much in the same way my students do when I ask them to reflect on their learning, I am now very thankful to have been "forced" to reflect on the professional growth and learning opportunities that I have given this year. Although this blog offers me an opportunity to examine and comment on various activities and experiences, I don't often take the opportunity to read back over my entries once they have been posted.
           This interview process afforded me the insight that my participation in the sd36 Digital Learning Series and my various technology initiatives in support of our Technology Innovation Grant have empowered me, and by extension my students,  in ways that I couldn't have imagined in September. Having now been provided with a much needed opportunity to look back over a year of change, challenge and innovation, I can look ahead to further learning, exploration and growth for the 2013-14 school year.      

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Facilitating Oral Language- Decreasing Student Anxiety with Book Creator

          Statistics claim that people have a greater fear of public speaking than of death. Combine this inherent fear with an increasing dependence on digital communication, and I see many of my students struggling to meet even basic oral language learning outcomes. Recently, as part of a combined public speaking/myths, legends and fairy tales English 8 unit, I encouraged my students to begin by finding a story that sparked their interest, whether it was a traditional Grimm Brothers fairy tale, or a legend or myth specific to a particular culture. I then challenged them to create an adapted version of their chosen text using the App Book Creator. Working individually, or collaborating with a partner, they first had to determine the significant events of the original story. Then making use of this condensed summary, they began to create their adapted version. Book Creator allows users to create text, import pictures and most importantly for the purpose of developing oral language skills, record voice. I narrowed their focus and asked my students to concentrate on vocal expression, pacing and volume as they took turns recording their voices to accompany the text they wrote. With iPads in hand, they set off to quiet corners of the school to record their text and craft their adapted stories. As always, I cautioned them to keep a close eye on their iPads, and the clock to ensure that they were back in the classroom before the bell. Occasionally I would make the rounds of the school grounds to touch base with various students to ensure that all was going smoothly and to answer any questions they might have. And honestly, they had a blast writing their text, choosing pictures, picking font styles and colours, and trying out various character voices. They also enjoyed the freedom of being able to work anywhere on the school grounds rather than being confined to my classroom.
          The process of creating their books took two full classes, and once they were complete, it was time to share. Students are able to save their books into iBooks or DropBox, but we used Apple TV, so that they were able to project their books using the LCD projector, onto the classroom screen and play their recorded voices from their iPads. The magic of Apple TV is that students were able to "present" from their desks, eliminating the anxiety filled experience of standing in front of their classmates (don't get me wrong, we will move towards that by the end of the unit). As well, it seemed that my students felt much less self conscious about their expressive and dramatic readings as they were collaberating with a friend, or working individually, while they were recording their voices. Even students who were generally reserved and somewhat self-conscious in class, were able to read with amazing feeling and expression.
          An outcome that was expecially rewarding was that one of my students, who is on the autism spectrum and a relatively new reader, was able to work alongside his SEA to record himself reading and then "present" his book with greater ease and confidence. He read with fluency and expression. As someone who I know dreads standing in front of the class, he suddenly found himself on an even playing field, able to share his work in a safe and comfortalble setting. Technology is his "thing" and Book Creator enabled and empowered him to share his work using a medium that he excelled in.
Students presenting adapted version of Cinderella using Book Creator and Apple TV.

Students presenting adapted version of Little Red Riding Hood using Book Creator and Apple TV.