Anchor Podcasting App

Anchor, Dundee WaterfrontCreative Commons License dun_deagh via Compfight

A new and FREE podcasting app came across one of my networks and caught my attention, Anchor.  This FREE podcasting app is available for both Apple and Android devices.  I downloaded it right away, but had not tested it out until yesterday, when my daughter and I relaxed at National Grind, a coffee shop in Ellwood City, PA after school.

I was grading student work, essay tests and projects, while she played Cool Math Games, Snail Bob was the specific game.  After awhile we both needed a break and decided to enjoy our beverages, I had a mocha latte, she had a Smore Hot Chocolate.  During our respite from work, she jumoed back into her Edublogs account; she is participating in the Edublogs Student Challenge again this year.  She updated her About Me page, and created an avatar to place on her blog.

I thought this would be the perfect time to try out Anchor, it took seconds to set up the account on my phone, link it to my Twitter account and start recording.  After a couple of miscues with releasing the record button, we recorded the following podcast.

You can even invite others to join your podcast from remote locations, we will try that soon.  I will follow up with another post once we officially try that out.  We ran a quick test later last evening, it is super simple to do.

Want to Podcast, give Anchor a try.  This is an unpaid discussion of the app and in no way endorses the product…all said for legal reasons…

Student Choice

Lately, I have been researching student choice, differentiated learning, and hybrid learning. At the most basic levels they allow for students to claim some ownership over their learning by giving them a say in class tasks and assessments.

I have been expanding this concept in my classes, slowly but surely. My current goal is to build consistency into my classroom pedagogy, this will provide students with a comfort level necessary to adjust to the changes.

For this past assessment in my non-honors classes, we were prepping for an essay test, open notes, but essay. My students had posted some self-reflective answers in Edmodo and on paper, I was trying to gauge their comfort with the topic, “The Cold War” and the specifics cd that went with the general heading.

At first I received responses of: “I have all of my notes, I understand my notes, and I have no questions about the upcoming test.” Some students responded with, “How many questions on the test,” but all responses were fairly bland.

Students were given class time to form study groups and review and discuss their notes. I floated among the groups and pulled informal feedback by listening to their comments both on and off topic.

After reading their second reflections, I decided that it would not be fair to shift questions from period to period. Topics that were strengths for some students were weaknesses for others in the same class.; I wanted to avoid any appearance of favoritism or targeting students.

An option popped into my mind, make some questions mandatory and the rest offer students a choice to pull from. So the set up was as such: Fifteen total questions, two mandatory questions, all students had to answer, then a series of choices. There were seven ten point questions, from which students needed to answer two. Followed by four six point questions, students needed to answer one of these. And finally, two four point questions, one of which needed to be answered.

Students did not need to answer in order, they could break up their answers to give themselves a bit of a respite while working. Obviously, (channeling my inner Mike Tomlin here), the more points for the answer, the more details were needed.

One of the first comments I heard from my students, and actually ones who usually offer honest feedback even if it is critical of what I do was, “I really like this option.” They seemed to truly appreciate the ability to show what they understood from a menu of sorts. Through class discussions and reading their reflections I had an understanding of what most of them were comfortable with, so I was not worried about students only knowing one or two answers. I am certain there were some students who fit into this category, but the majority had an idea about the smorgasbord of topics, just not necessarily a strong sense of confidence in their knowledge.

This post is under construction from my iPhone.

Josh Gibson Reflection

Jackie WeaverCreative Commons License Thomas via Compfight

I created a sample project to model an assignment for my Honors classes this past week.  The topic for my project was Josh Gibson; the assignment was to research a person or event for Black History Month and then post the research on a web page.  Students are to follow up their project with a reflective blog post on what they learned from the project, what they liked about the project, and anything they would change about the project.  Here is my sample reflection…

I researched Josh Gibson, one of the best power hitters in the history of baseball, why do many people not know of him…he played in the Negro Leagues.  He has been called “The Black Babe Ruth” others have gone as far as as calling Babe Ruth, The White Josh Gibson,” that is how good he was.  He was finally voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, the second of the Negro League Players to make it there.

I learned many things during this project, some were about Josh Gibson.  I admit I knew of him before the project, I am 51 years old, a history teacher, and love to focus on the Mon Valley, a place that is still dear to me.  I did come across an interesting fact about Josh Gibson and several other Pittsburgh Crawford players; I am not sure of the veracity of the story, but it was found on several sites that attest to varying degrees of truthfulness to the events.  They played one season in the Dominican Republic for Ciudad Trujillo, the team of Dominican Dictator Raphael Trujillo.  Players were followed by gunmen the entire season, including while in stadiums, with gunmen lining the field during play.  You can find my sample project by clicking here.

I also learned some new skills and tools, some out of necessity.  My preferred platform, Wikispaces, is closing, our district’s Google domain is a walled and locked garden, and time is the ultimate scarcity, so I had to adjust quickly and bounce ideas off of my PLN on which platform I should host my students’ projects.   By the way, PLN refers to Personal Learning Network or Professional Learning Network, your choice.  I ended up going with Google Sites, the old version, because it still allowed me to share the student sites with the world.

I liked a good number of things about this project, but most importantly for me, I liked that what I believed about my students was true, even my students who shy away from technology can grasp its use and run with it in a creative fashion WHEN THEY CHOOSE!  (Yes, I just dropped all caps, but they deserve that.)  They handled the uncertainty of trying something new, along with the malleable nature of the project due to conditions mentioned above and rose to the occasion.  With a bit of prodding I got a number of them to open up with their concerns and questions towards the project and we were able to adjust due dates

There are plenty of things I will adapt as I move forward with my class and this project.  My students, or at least some of them may not be happy with this section, but they were very influential to my thoughts.  I believed, incorrectly so, that giving the students a brief introduction to the project and turning them loose on research would not cause stress. Students were charged with researching a topic and when I returned from the conference we would work on building their websites on the chosen platform.  I explained that I wanted to test a few websites before declaring a definitive project landing space. I was leaning towards using Wikispaces.com as the home for the project and when I discovered the site was closing down I was thankful for my hesitation.  Over the next several days at a conference, PETE and C, I polled my PLN on possible replacements, attempted a weak and unsuccessful Twitter campaign to change Wikispaces mind.

When I returned from PETE and C, I discovered how wrong  I was about student stress.  It took a bit of time upon my return from a conference to calm the frayed nerves, but things settled down with the extra effort.  Eventually students opened up with their concerns and questions and we worked through the process to clear any confusion, or at least I think we did.

This showed that I still need to work on lines of communication. I try to encourage student feedback and input, the attempt is there for them to feel comfortable offering their opinions.  That being said, a number of students were not very willing to open up about their concerns.  Even after I witnessed a number of eye rolls, heard some huffs of frustration, it still took a bit of cajoling to get some to share their thoughts.  I have no issues with giving students a voice and ownership in class activities, it is a good practice for all involved.  It is just an ongoing process we all have to adjust to and this project showed that I still have a ways to go to keep a comfortable setting for open communication.

The projects have not been turned in for yet review, but watching the students work and talking with them as they turn their research into online presentations has made me confident that the projects will be successful.  Students are purposefully trying out new tools such as Smore and Voki to add depth to the content of their presentations.  they seem to understand the concept of adding technology or new tools just for superficial reasons will not benefit their work.

 

 

Pittsburgh’s Bomber Mystery

This image was originally posted to Flickr by anyjazz65 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/49024304@N00/360485598

Dateline January 31, 1956

A B-25 Mitchell Bomber crash lands into the Monongahela River somewhere between the Homestead High Level Bridge and the Glenwood Bridge, these bridges are between Kennywood Park and Pittsburgh, PA for those not familiar with the Mon Valley Area.  There were a number of witnesses, thus many differing details to what happened that day.  There was no Internet at that time, social media as you know it did not exist, television was new, I do not believe we had helicopter breaking news stories, this limited access to first hand details for the populace.

The Backstory or How I Heard about the Event:

I have always been a History Buff, even as a child.  I love reading about history and I especially love hearing about history; add LOCAL HISTORY to the mix and I am hooked.  I first heard about this story as a kid in Leo Gigliotti’s barbershop in Duquesne, PA.  I knew him as “Mr. Leo” he was a great friend of my Grandpap.

I was in Mr. Leo’s shop getting a haircut around the anniversary of the bomber crash and several regulars were talking about it.  They mentioned one of their buddies who had assisted in the rescue efforts, he had just been driving by when he saw the bomber crash.  He helped pull crew members out of the river that day; when he showed up late to a family function his family accused him of being out at a bar, due to the peculiarity of his story.  The story hooked me immediately, I listened intently to the men discuss the actual crash details and how the crew was rescued.  Then the discussion turned to the conspiracy theories and my mind raced with images of the threads they weaved together.

I longed to find out more about this event, as I grew older I conducted research at the local library, but information was scarce.  From time to time information would be published in a newspaper, or there would be a brief but tantalizing segment on a local news station.

Stories such as this one piqued my interest with the conflicting details about the event and its aftermath.  I admit, I love to read these stories that are “off the beaten path” they give the mind a chance to wonder.  Due to meeting those gentlemen in Mr. Leo’s Barbershop all those years ago, I keep an open mind about the event.

The more traditional or “official” stories contain the same facts and some even mention the controversies surrounding the plane crash.  The most recent story published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review can be found here.  The Heinz History Center has information posted on their History Blog, about the crash and the recovery efforts by Marion Hill Associates, a New Brighton based company.

Your assignment is to read the articles about the plane crash that are linked above, there are three articles.  After reading the articles, post a reply with your thoughts about the event, review the “Commenting Guidelines” that are posted on the Class Blog.  I will be posting a reply rubric here shortly.

You can check out the more information on Mr. Leo Gigliotti here.

 

 

Cartoons Go To War 2017

Enlightening-The United States’ effort to explain and teach both citizens and soldiers how to handle the war effort was truly enlightening.

In the video “Cartoons Go To War”…five examples.

The article”When Dr. Seuss Went to War” states 3 supporting details.

One lingering question that has intrigued me during this lesson was Ted Geisel’s use of anti-Japanese imagery and how he adjusted after the war to become more inclusive and accepting of others.

Digital Breakout.edu: My first attempt

At this past February’s PETE and C  in Hershey, PA, I learned more about a concept called Breakout.edu.  The premise is that students or adults solves a series of puzzles and/or problems to achieve a predetermined learning goal.  Breakout.edu allows for critical thinking,  collaboration, and creativity.

These lessons can be either digital in nature or actual physical lock and puzzle boxes.  There is a growing and strong support network for teachers online, with numerous resources, but that is a topic for another blog post.

I chose to work with a digital breakout to start, it is free and I have access to all of the necessary online resources.

This post is currently under construction.

EverFi Experiment

Recently I encountered the opportunity to try out EverFi, a free website/program that offer courses in Digital Citizenship and STEAM Activities.  Digital Citizenship fits nicely into my curriculum, so I am giving it a try.

I started out the pilot project today with several of my classes; our school’s Winter Semi-Formal is tonight and many students had early releases to prep for the dance.  I thought it best to work with start with small groups and see how things work.

Overall it was a fairly painless experience, I will post a bit later on how to set up classes and how to sign up students for the lessons.