Book Study The Jungle: Let the Adventure Begin

Today I rolled out a new concept for my Honors US History and Government I class, a semi-independent book study.

The project has evolved from numerous ideas. After reading over my archived Tweets from PETE & C, a #KTIchat, and a #PAedchat on Twitter, I am intent on fostering a culture of learning in my class, not a system of work and grading. I want my students to be motivated to learn instead of just wanting to earn a score.

At first, I wanted them to become Muckrakers and find things about town and school that could be improved. However they will be my students again next year and I want them to have a meaningful Summer Reading Experience, this new project will be a test run for that adventure. On a side note, we may still do the Muckraker project later time permitting.

Anyway, I chose The Jungle by Upton Sinclair since we are studying the Progressive Era AND we have enough copies of the books for my class. (The Pennsylvania budget impasse has our district on a purchasing freeze.).  School finances are a major inhibitor of new things this year.

I borrowed a study guide from a colleague who used to teach the book in her class and adapted it towards student publishing.  Only the first 20 chapters are used in the book study, the last 10 can be completed for Accelerated Reader enrichment points.   The reading is grouped into four project sections, with each section needing some sort of published project to explain the discussion questions.  Students must create a blog post, a podcast, a video, and then have one project of their own design.  The project styles can be created in any order of their choosing.  The final aspect would be to create some sort of Book Trailer we would publish.  I created a very open-ended rubric of expectations, more to keep me somewhat objective in my grading than for restricting student creativity.  Students are not required to be on video in my class, they may have “Special Guest Actors” in their stead, but they must create on multiple medias.

When I explained the project to my students, they were not phased by the reading and the questions.  When explaining the project sections, some were nervous about the technology.  When I explained that the rubric leaves much room for THEIR creativity, I saw shear terror in some students eyes, and much trepidation in most eyes.

I asked the question, “Truthfully, how many of you are nervous or scared about this project?”  All students raised their hands, I joined in too.  I explained that it was okay to be nervous, we have not done something this open-ended yet this year.  I was even nervous because I was not sure how smoothly things would run.  But I tried to reassure them that we will adjust to any “bumps in the road” that we may encounter and we will work together for success.  This seemed to calm most of the students’ fears, some will take longer to calm down.

My goal is to get them to learn, create, and share as a second nature.  I want my students to be able to express themselves well and gain their voice on a public platform.  I want them to want to learn and be inquisitive, not just perform for a number or grade.  Hopefully this project in a step in that direction.  As we move forward I plan to record our progress, our missteps, our adventures, and my reflections on the journey here.

Thinking Outside the Box

Today I had two seniors ask me a question about a project they are working on…I was blown away by their thinking.  The project is a video on one of Freud’s Defense Mechanisms.  They are to be acted out to either explain the mechanism or quiz students about the mechanism.

Long story short, these two students asked if they could act out their idea via text message, instead of shooting video of themselves.  They explained further by stating that they would carry on the conversation on their phones, all dialog and details, while recording the screens.

Considering texting or some form of texting via multiple apps is one of the main forms of communication between that age group, I believe it could be a phenomenal idea and a first in the time this project has been in my curriculum.  Just a focus on the message, if well written can be very powerful and true to their form of normal communications.  Even more importantly, it is an idea and initiative all their own.

I hope plan on updating everyone once the project is complete.

Timeline Reflection: Progressive Era

So, my students added to their timelines in Honors US History I, overall they turned out well, I am extremely happy with how the project is progressing.

There are a number of things about the project that are in the running for my favorite aspect of the project, but I think I must say that having the students pick their own specific topics of research was my favorite aspect.  Their ownership of topics seemed to give them more interest in their work.  A close second was their presentations to the class, all of my students did well, and I see potential moving forward as they become more comfortable with speaking in front of everyone.

Some of the interesting facts that were shown by students were the fashions of the day.  Attire seemed much more formal, which still boggles my mind, even though I have taught this era for a number of years.  I wonder how I would have survived back in the day without Hawaiian shirts…

Looking back, I think we need to improve upon the turn in rate on Edmodo.  There are still students who turn in the wrong links to their projects or do not turn in their projects at all.  We are almost 3/4’s of the way through the school year, this should not be happening anymore.

Moving forward, I am implementing my students to reflect more on their projects.  It is a takeaway from what my review of all the PETE and C Tweets.  I used to have students reflect on their work, but it died out over time.  It is going to be reinstituted at all levels, including my own, starting with this project.  The reflections should help create better projects moving forward.

Storify.com

I use a free web-based tool called Storify to archive information, mainly from conferences.  Storify allows you to search various types of Internet information and collates it into an interactive and embeddable web poster.  I usually use it to collect Tweets from myself and others using a hashtag # search.  There are a number of examples of such collections throughout my past blog posts, feel free to check them out.

While collecting Tweets from this year’s PETE & C, I learned that you can only collect and post 1000 Tweets to a Storify.  That is a plethora of information, but at PETE it is less than 1 day’s worth of Tweets.  So, create multiple Storifys…

 

You can locate Storify at Storify.com for a free account.

Storify from TRETC November 4 2015

TRETC, the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference was held at Bethel Park Senior High School this year.  TRETC is an excellent educational conference held in Western Pennsylvania every year, it has been growing regularly since I began attending them back in the early 2000’s.

Below is a Storify of the event, I collected Tweets and here they are:

 

My Labor Day 2015

This Labor Day weekend was interesting.  My wife and I attended the wedding of a family friend’s daughter, then we took a family trip with our daughter to Sandusky, Ohio and the Great Wolf Lodge.  It was our first time to visit that water park, but we have been to Sandusky many times.

The forecast called for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80’s, we decided to find a place with indoor and outdoor water areas.  I had checked Groupon to find a good rate, but after calling the Lodge 800 number, I found my AAA rate to be better.  We arrived early Sunday afternoon, actually before check in, so my wife did a quick social media search for local restaurants that we have not visited in the past.  We found the Dockside Cafe, a walk-up restaurant with bayside outdoor seating.

As we sat down and waited for our food to be ready, my wife found someone’s wallet that they dropped.  We returned it to the counter where the staff paged the gentleman over their PA system.  The grateful owner rewarded my daughter with $20 for our honesty, we attempted several times to respectfully decline the reward, but he was adamant.  Shortly thereafter our food was ready and we were paged to go pick it up at the side counter. The Perch Tacos were excellent!!!!!!  I would post pictures of them, but shortly after we left here, my trip took a precarious turn.

After our lunch we drove back to the Great Wolf Lodge and checked in to our room and the water park.  I planned on taking pictures and video of our stay for posterity.  I placed my iPhone in the waterproof case that I have used for two years.  The reliable case has kept my phone safe during water slides, pool adventures, rain storms, and other watery adventures.

Unfortunately, this time things would play out differently…in my haste to start having fun, I tucked my phone into the case with a few dollars for poolside snacks and rushed down to the water park.  My “Spidey-sense” of foreboding and onrushing doom, was triggered briefly, but I shrugged it off as a mild bout of OCD.

For the first few water slides and pool events, I kept checking the seal on my phone case.  All was good, so I let my guard down and further buried the sense of worry from my conscious mind.  Two water slides later I casually reached for my phone to snap a picture when I saw the water-tight seal was no longer water tight…the phone was in a small bit of water inside the pouch.

To make a long story less tedious, the iPhone could not be revived, and it would cost $200 for the replacement even though I have a protection plan on it.  That is cheap for a replacement, but not when I was due for an upgrade in two months.  My photo/video memories did not materialize, but the weekend was till fun.  Meeting new people, running into another family we are friends with, and enjoying the last “Summer Weekend” of the season made wiping out my phone less crushing.  I am now running an old flip phone, “two screens, two keyboards, and no Internet,” but that is fodder for another post.

 

Floating In-Service: Day One

We get a floating in-service day at the beginning of the year, at least the last couple of years have afforded us this option.

I use the time to prep my room and wrap up loose ends before the year starts. My best assistant, Arianna, usually comes with me to help out with my tasks.

Day One went much better than last year, when my room was not done being cleaned and put back together.

This year, my iPads were already in the cart, not all the way updated, but close enough. They have new management software on them and apps can now be pushed out remotely.

Arianna pushed out the new iOS update to each iPad, so they are all good to go. I just need to submit an email as to which apps need to be pushed out to the class set. That will be a future post.

While Arianna updated the iPads, I set up my desk and unboxed my class resources from storage. There were some class documents that needed updated, along with setting up my Edmodo groups for the year. My online gradebook was set up and rosters printed and converted to Google Sheets as needed.

We spent several hours organizing and setting up. I have to return for a second day, so we wrapped up our work and headed to Hank’s for tacos.

All in all it was a productive first day.