Make the Ordinary seem Extrodinary

I was watching Helen Papagiannis on TEDxYorkU this past week and was struck by her supposition, ” make the ordinary seem extraordinary”.   This really is the key, I believe in education today. Students are bombarded with technology and are constantly entertained. If their is no element of entertainment in our classrooms we will inevitably lose the attention of many students. Like it or not this is a conditioned response of the current generation. Educators need to acknowledge this fundamental component of their clientele and address it in their classrooms.   I am not saying to become full fledged entertainer and I do realize that students need to learn how to interact in a traditional educational setting. However educators must acknowledge they need to make the ordinary seem extraordinary to create a true learning environment.

If you have not seen Helen Papagiannis’s “How Does Wonderment Guide the Creative Process” check it out below.

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A Vision of the Future and the Importance of Education

I was reading Charlie Barrow’s Blog the on Sunday and came across a great video that I have not seen before.  It was created and produced by Microsoft and displays possible future technologies and communication tools. Check out the embedded video below.

This really captivated my students attention and got them thinking about other technologies that we might see in the future.  As they pondered the possibilities I asked them if they would like to be part of creating these type of new technologies.  The overwhelming answer was yes. As an educator I saw my opportunity to discuss the importance of a college education and took it.  The great thing was they were more responsive and seemed to make the connection that if you really want to create these types of technologies and enter this field you must go on to college.  Either way this video opened up some great discussion. Try it out with your classes and let me know what they thought.

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Students Know Technology NO THEY DONT!

This past month I received a set of netbooks for my classroom.  I feel very fortunate to have received these and wanted to incorporate them into my class as much as possible. So I decided to make my class a paperless classroom.  As my classes have begun working in this new digital learning environment I have found that many students really do to know how to use technology and really need to be shown how to correctly use a computer.

So often I hear teachers say things like, “I don’t want to teach kids technology because they already know it all and I don’t.” Or that “the kids know more about this stuff than I do.” To put it bluntly, NO THEY DON’T! This is a myth and in fact I believe that you will find that things like file management, proper email, and using many online tools will be foreign to them.  Although many students will pick up how to use these digital tools quickly we must remember as teachers, students need to be taught how to use many of these tools. Assuming that students can use technology is a pitfall that many educators and schools fall into. Any technology to used in the classroom must be taught to the students before its use to ensure the best possible application of that learning tool.  This is a lesson that even though I knew, really has been pointed out to me in the past few weeks.

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Video Editing & Collaborative Learning WOW!

Wow, today was one of those Ah-Ha moment days for me.  I had recently decided to have my students create a simple 30 second promotional video.  My intent was to create some awareness for upcoming events in our school and to expose my students to the basics of making a good video.

As I expected when I asked my students who knew how edit video using imovie, Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Premiere Elements only one or two students raised their hands. So my plan was to sit them down and walk them through how to use all three software applications.  I decided that I would use students to demonstrate how to do basic tasks in each application and I would utilize the Promethean Whiteboard so all students could see the demonstration.

Moments after I began something amazing began to take place.  The students began working as a collaborative unit.  Students began assisting the group up front and with-in a couple of minutes I became obsolete.  As I faded into the background I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently the students began to teach each other how to use the video editing programs. This immediately made me think that my plan would have just slowed them down and possibly confused them.  The examples and analogies that they used were amazing and highly effective.  I quickly found myself in the role of coach/facilitator, not teacher and the lesson was highly successful.  By the end of the period all of the groups had chosen an application to use and were editing video.  I was left thinking WOW, I have got to figure out how to utilize that type of learning again!

Below is a small video clip of my students in action during this lesson.

20 Student Favorite Cartoon Creators

As I watched Tom Wujec’s TED talk today I was struck by the simplicity of his message. All teachers know that a good visual is key to success in the classroom. But what really intrigued me was the concept of students creating visuals to cement their learning. Over the past two years I have noticed that students who create visual projects in my class often retain information better than those who wrote papers.

In my project based classroom one of the most popular mediums for students projects has become cartoon creators. Not only do students enjoy creating these projects but the the process of taking their knowledge and depicting it visually on paper seems to be very effective in their learning process. I have often talked to students about one of their projects that they created at the beginning of the year and not only can they tell me about the project but they still remember the underlying concept taught at that time. This has always intrigued me and led me to create a long list of cartoon creators for students to use.

For those of you interested in giving this a try here are 20 of the most popular cartoon creators my students like to use.

  1. GoAnimate.com
  2. Toonlet.com
  3. Toondoo.com
  4. Pixton.com
  5. Chogger
  6. Comic Creator
  7. Comic Lab
  8. Make Believe Comix
  9. Strip Creator
  10. Strip Generator
  11. Zimmer Twins
  12. Do Ink
  13. Comic Strip Generator
  14. Comic Master
  15. Captain Underpants
  16. Comicbrush
  17. Marvel Comic Creator
  18. Witty Comic Creator
  19. Cartoon to Customize
  20. Bitstrips

Master old Technology Before Introducing New!

As we enter a new year teachers often look at new tools and techniques to enhance their teaching in the classroom.  This can be a daunting task since there are literally thousands of applications, programs and gagets available to teachers.   But this year I decided to stick with the applications and gagets that I am currently using and really learn to master them.  Often times teachers are so busy trying to stay up with the latest trends that we never get to really see the true potential of the applications we are currently using.  Over the past year I have tried out many different applications and found that they did not work as well as I had hoped.  Then later found out that I had not use that application in the correct manner and missed out on the true effectiveness of that application. So this year I am going to stick with a few great applications and master them before moving on to any new ones.  My hope is that me and my students will then truly get the true benefit of the technology used in the classroom.

The Dark Side Me and Wonderland

Well It has been great to take some time off and recharge the batteries.  Over this short break Santa was very nice and gave me a MacBook Pro.  This was somewhat of a surprise since I have been a PC guy my entire life. But over the past year I have been courting the dark side and considering making the switch due to a variety of issues and needs that I have developed over the past year.  I must say that the switch was not that difficult.  Now that I have made the switch I feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland.  I have a general idea of file management and general workings but often am in awe of how simple this machine really is.  I still am lost frequently and need to learn how to do all of the shortcuts to improve my productivity but am sure that this will come over the next few weeks.

Hope that all of you had a great holiday and found it as relaxing as I did.