One day I was sitting in my department office talking with my co-teacher. We were discussing some attitudes about computer and tablet use in the classroom.
I was rambling about how much time it takes to teach our students (maybe not yours…) how to use computers and tablets and how that often (in my experience…maybe not yours) gets in the way of engaging with the content.
“The funny thing is” my co-teacher remarks, “if you put a phone or ipod in their hand, they know exactly what to do.”
That comment gave me an idea.
Those of you who read my blog and interact with me on Twitter, are well aware of the tech infrastructure shortcomings at my school and district. I’ve grown tired of work-a-rounds and hacks.
I want my students to engage with the content, not the novelty. Novelty is fine and useful, but it does not replace thinking.
I then called up my wife and asked her to create a paper based iPhone home screeen. Ten minutes later, she sent me this:
I first tried out using the paper phone after reading selections from “Harriet Tubman: Conductor of the Underground Railroad”. I asked my students to imagine that modern tech was the same in Tubman’s time, what applications would Tubman and the people she was helping have on their phones.
There were some excellent papers turned in with quality thinking. I had my students not only come up with apps but they also had to explain the reason why Tubman would have the apps on her phone.
A month or so goes by…we read Out of the Dust…we focus on characterization…
I then realized, much like a lady’s purse or a man’s wallet (I use this), you can learn much about a person by looking at what applications are on their smartphone. You should check out David Spark’s awesome series on homescreens.
So I had my students create sixteen applications Billy Jo from Out of the Dust would have on her phone. They then had to explain why Billy Jo would have eight of the applications. The applications could be currently available or completly made up.
Below is an awesome example of both the phone and the explanation from one of my students, Ashley Han. My personal favorite apps she included were “How to Get a Guy” and “How to Cope with Death”. Combined with the discussions I had with Ashley, this project shows me that she understands characterization.
I plan on doing some sort of variation of this project with most of the major pieces of literature we read in class. The next piece is Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart”, I’m sure the kiddos will come up with some interesting apps for that poem!
You can find the template and examples HERE.
A co-worker of mine has already come up with a paper Instagram…more on that soon!
So I was reading a book with my Casen – that means looking at two pages and the him running off – when his book sparked an idea for a project for my students.
These books are super cool because they have little pictures that are at certain parts of the narrative. Kids are then supposed to push coresponding button off to the side that creates a sound relevant to the story and picture.
What if students created something similar with one of their stories or essays?
I asked on Twitter if anyone knew of a soundboard iOS app that allows you to record sounds that you can replicate with a push of a button. @rogre sent me THIS (watch the video – five minutes of awesomeness!).
Imagine the possibilities.
Let me know what you think!
Walking into Starbucks, you can hear my pre-coffee tiredness: shoes dragging on coffee stained cement, saying sorry to no one after opening the door and hitting my own head, and the
“Mr. Davis!…Mr. Davis!…Mr. Davis!!!”
I see a blur come racing towards me as the five people ahead of me turn around, mad that I have unknowingly interrupted their pre-coffee ritual of catching up on their vicarious life on Facebook.
It’s a former student, from about two years ago.
I absolutely LOVE seeing and talking to former students.
However, I rarely know what to talk about. After the obligatory, “How are you doing?” I seemingly ask the same stock questions: “So, how’s Cypress High treating you?” , “How’s the boys/girls treating you?”, and “How’s everyone else? Catch me up on _________________________________.”
That often takes about three minutes.
“Mr. Davis!…Mr. Davis!…Mr. Davis!!!” Another former student walks in.
Then a few uncomfortable, awkward moments for both of us. This is where I struggle the most. Where do we go from here? Yeah, I know, just ask more questions. But what questions? I am not so good at asking questions.
I feel bad that things do not go more smoothly, like when I talked to my students when they were in my class.
“Mr. Davis!…Mr. Davis!…Mr. Davis!!!” Another former students comes over to me while I am waiting for my half-calf with a twist of lemon. (I got the French Roast, fully caffeinated…I just love the above line from LA Story)
Eric Kim is a renowned street photographer whom I greatly admire for not only his quality content, but also his honest approach to photography. Here is one of my favorite pictures of his:
He is a big believer in books, not gear – big parallels to teaching there.
I like that he is a minimalist at heart, but not because it is trendy. But he also enjoys expensive, high quality gear…again, not because it is expensive and showy. He truly uses his gear as a tool: you really do not know that he is shooting with AMAZING tech ($6,000 Leica Camera…I mean, come on!) because of the stories in the photos he takes. Many teachers can learn this lesson.
Story trumps tech…
I am also intrigued by his concept of letting his photos “marinate” before posting/publishing anywhere. I can not really let my lessons marinate (at least I don’t think I can…), but I do like the concept of, well, waiting…
…I’m not sure….
Luke Neff is a machine of all things awesome. I strongly suggest you check out his Writing Prompts site….
However, a goldmine of awesomeness can be found on his Teachers Pay Teachers site.
I bought the 300 Common Core Creative Writing Prompts this morning. I tried one out on my classes today and, well, they want to continue to use these as our daily quick-writes.
Do yourself and your students a favor and check out Neff’s prompts!
P.S. Check out this, too: http://writingpromptsforenglishteachers.tumblr.com/
Yeah, I am addicted to looking at my phone. I know I do it way too much. Don’t judge me. Below is a list of my most frequently used iPhone apps of 2012. Apple has yet to allow an app that somehow keeps track of what apps you use most frequently, so the list below is purely off feeling, not hard data. No particular order…
Weather Bug Elite
Tweetbot – My Twitter client of choice: lots of options and I love the UI.
Weather Bug Elite – I love the weather even though I live in Southern California where it is essentially 75 degrees year round with minimal rainfall and even fewer weather “events”. I currently have five, yes five, weather apps in use on my phone. Nope, they do not all provide the same information and/or maps. Weather Bug seems to be the most accurate in my area.
Hipstamatic – My go to photo application. It took about a week or two to get used to the different sets of lenses and films and the results of different combinations. After a while, I began to know which combination would work best for certain situations. For example, the Loftus Lens and BlacKeys Supergrain Film combination works extremely well in harsh sunlight conditions with lots of shadows. I typically use it between 11 AM and 3 PM. The Loftus Lense and Kodot XGrizzled lense works well for anything shot that includes a blue sky (also in low-light situations). My “all-purpose”, daily combination is Jane Lense and Sugar Film: I find it evens out tones and helps to reduce noise. You might find THIS and THIS helpful.
Instagram – Yep. You know all about this app.
Noir – I LOVE this black and white photo app. Great controls and options. The UI is intuitive yet simple.
Snapseed – Now that this app is free, there is absolutely NO reason to not have this app on your phone if you post ANY pictures anywhere people can see them. I was overwhelmed at first, but after tinkering around, I finally got “it”. 90% of my images run through my standard workflow with this app: Crop to 1:1; Brightness lowered; Ambiance raised; Contrast increased a bit.
Lens Light – I have been surprised at how much I use this app. It’s a fun little app, well worth it.
Flickr – Wow. What a great app. So much power under the hood. I love how much control I have over organizing my pics into sets, groups, and tags – much, much better than hashtag management/highjacking on Instagram. You can find my Flickr photostream HERE.
Foursquare – I had known about this app ever since it came out and was not interested. However, December ‘11 I saw an IFTTT recipe that posted all your Foursquare check-ins onto your Google calendar. Nice! It has been easy to keep track of haircuts, getting gas, doctor’s appointments, and many other things this way. Plus, seeing all the place Ken Shelton checks-in at is awesome!
Any.Do – Like weather apps, I tend to have many of the “productivity – to do list” apps (I still get little done…). I used Omni-Focus for most of the year, but it was too, well, confusing. Orchestra was/is awesome because of the shared list ability. However, Any.Do’s ability to be integrated with gmail is what put it on this list.
MiCal – Great calendar app. I also use Agenda, but have stuck with MiCal for most of the year probably because of their AMAZING iPad version.
Countdown – Simple app that allows me to keep track of what day of the year it is for my 365 photo project.
Simplenote – This is my primary writing app. I have long used this app because of their web app that is not blocked at school. I keep all my snippets of random thought here. The phone app and the web app sync together so everything I write is with me whenever I want/need it.
Instapaper – I read articles while waiting in line at Costco.
Day One – I want to write more and I really like how each day you write, the day of the month on the calendar turns blue. I once read that Jerry Sinefeld would put a big X each day of the month he wrote a joke, trying to string together as many X’s as possible. Another great thing about this app, is the syncing through Dropbox with the iPad app. So, while my student teacher is teaching class, I can do some journaling on my iPad. Then at night before I go to bed, I can close the day out with a few thoughts. Yesterday, I was listening to MacPower Users Episode 117 and they mentioned how you can use Day One as a journal for your professional work: I am going to explore this option!
Instacast – I love listening to podcasts! I used Downcast most of the year, but it felt too bloated for some reason. I went back to Instacast a few weeks ago and have been very happy. My favorite part of both of these apps is that you can adjust how far you want to skip forward or go backward. I know it’s bad to skip the commercials in podcasts as they are trying to support themselves, but I still skip them!
Once again, I can not escape the messiness of “and”.
There has to be more nuance in this whole Instagram TOS thing happening. After backing off the cliff, I have decided what I am going to do about Facebook’s shadiness and future ramifications of ubiquity.
I am trying to lose weight…Dr.’s orders…wife’s orders…clothe’s orders.
So I am cutting out soda, snacks, candy, and ice cream as much as possible. There are good days and bad days. But every day I do like to give myself a little treat: an extra glass or Maker’s Mark and Pepsi Max as a night cap; hand assembled Double Stuffed Nutter Butters; “fun sized” candy that is ever present on a middle school campus; current obsession is Starbucks Java Chip…yummy…
As much as possible…lot’s of wiggle room to eat the stuff I love.
Avoiding sweets all together is not going to do me any good and will result in me missing out many small, simple joys.
After much thought, I am not going to completely leave Instagram. Rather, I am going to only post randomness…Pictures of my breakfast burrito lathered in salsa…pictures of silly things my middle school students do…pictures of my kids’ art work.
Flickr will be my new place to put the pictures of which I am proud, the pictures on which I have spent much time, the pictures that express my inner procrastinator.
I really like the following about Instagram:
-Social…I get to interact with many cool, talented people
That’s pretty much it.
I really like the following about Flickr:
-Social…Mass potential to interact with many cool, talented people (80 million users?!!!)
-Analytics…Far more detailed and depth of data regarding my pictures
-iPhone app…Super cool – downloadd it now!
-Organization of photos…Sets and tagging are EASY on the website and the new iPhone app
-Groups…Check out the lego album cover group
-Not blocked at school…Self explanatory
-Built in storage/back up
-I believe Yahoo’s new CEO see’s the importance of mobile digital photo and am certain more awesomeness is on the way!
-Pro account…$25 and I am in control, not Zuckerberg.
I will definitely still eat candy from time to time, likely daily. But my daily food intake, my best photos will be on Flickr.
While reading Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement, I continually thought about my school and how everyone there needs (not should) to read this book and educate themselves on what is really happening with the Common Core.
Many at my middle school have implicitly and explicitely communicated that the Common Core is “An English Thing.”
It is with these things in mind that I am starting a true Personal Learning Community (PLC) at my school. We will begin discussing Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement in a few weeks. This is not a book club; rather, after reading/discussing this book, my hope is that we continue to share our successes, failures, resources, and laughs throughout the transition from NCLB to CCSS.
My district has offered no resources, directions, or vision regarding the Common Core. The only thing they have provided was a super cheesy video that spoke in generalities and offered bland hope of mythical improved excellence. It felt degrading and was reminiscent of political ads. Here, take a look for yourself!
I am excited that starting the PLC on campus has been well received. My vision is for us teachers to educate ourselves about future changes and begin adjusting/creating lessons to be in line with the Common Core.
I hope that this PLC will become a group of teachers who exemplify pedagogy and lesson design leadership and be agents of change. I will keep you posted!