Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a senior reflects

An absolutely tremendous film was shown today by one of my seniors. It was all about her family camp and her time spent growing up in Paradise--my own word for Maine, rural Maine.

This is her reflection on the process. I just love it.

Though the final presentation was work-intensive and time consuming, I am very proud of the final product that I produced. I have learned from this experience in many ways.
I have produced a video about my camp on **** Lake, in spanish, that I am proud of. I have achieved my goals, though not necessarily in the order in which I planned. My timeline was helpful, though I found that it was a bit unrealistic at times. Though I have finished all that I set out to do, I ended up readjusting my schedule as time went on and I missed class for various reasons (envirothon, etc.). This experience provided a good lesson. Though my plans were well-laid, I succeeded in attaining my goals through being adaptable and working hard, by knowing when to abandon my predetermined schedule in preference for a more realistic or attainable order of events. I readjusted my timeline by focusing initially on accumulating and ordering photos and video clips. This makes allot more sense then what I had originally planned in my timeline - I was set to come up with a script and translate in the initial stages of project work. With my materials all laid out it was much easier to write a script. I did not foresee the difficulty of writing a script without any visuals - I will not attempt to do so again. This change in my approach caused the major discrepancy in my timeline and my actual chronology of events.
I really have learned allot throughout the course of completing this project. I have learned a good deal of spanish - obviously. I have learned many new words, words that I will most likely remember because of their significance to my life and my repeated usage of them. I have also improved my spanish speaking skills. By recording voiceovers, I was able to practice pronunciation multiple times. I like the idea or recording spanish translations beforehand - I was better able to pronounce things because I didn’t feel pressured to achieve perfection on the first try, in front of the whole class. I will be able to relax and enjoy the exhibition of my movie on presentation day, rather then being consumed with anxiety.
As I said before, I am really proud of my finished product. I am excited to show it to the class and to my family. I just know that my Pépére will get a kick out of it. I am going to translate it back into english and make a longer english version after graduation. This project really helped me to learn more about my family’s history, spanish, and time management.

This particular class has been spiritually reaffirming. I am doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Her work is hers to own, to be proud of. I merely helped her find her voice. Now she has something she will treasure forever.

Friday, May 15, 2009

supah dupah

A while back I had this idea about having a work session after school for the freshmen who had no clue about portfolios. We have this portfolio program at my school, and I advise these freshmen. I adore them in their clueless-ness. In three more years they will be launching into the next step. I want to be there for that, and more importantly, be here, now, for them. For this portfolio process which even I do not really understand.

So, the idea was two-fold. Help them and educate myself.

So I asked my boss, and I talked to some people with some money to spare (the lovely grant ladies) and I got a little budget for food and paper and markers and stuff. And I made some posters and I invited the freshmen to come and hang out for two hours and just work on this stuff as a big group.

Tonight was session two out of three. And it was awesome. Every kid that came thanked me. Every kid that came made me smile. Every kid that came showed me something unique and priceless about themselves.

It wasn't that brilliant of an idea, but it worked. We came together and worked together and learned together about what the portfolio really is.

One more session. It'll be more celebratory than stressful. These kids have more confidence now that they have something of value to share. I feel like I know what to ask of them when it comes to proving to whomever what it is they have done this year.

It feels good to be a freshman adviser tonight, even if it means giving up a Friday afternoon that was absolutely gorgeous. In return there is this group of clued-in kids who feel better about school.

I remember how much I hated school. How ironic it is that I spend 180 days a year working in one, now. I think sometimes of the people who inspire me to just be real about what it is we are doing. I want these kids to not hate what they are asked to do, but to understand it. That really, we the teachers want them to know what it is they know and be proud of who they are and will become.

so very close!

I have a few remaining reading assignments to blog about and I am done with year one of graduate school. And man, it feel so good.

Last night, instead of looking at a stack of books and papers and my laptop, I actually:

1. Cooked my favorite comfort food
2. Did laundry
3. Started sorting my desk--which looks like a library threw up on it
4. Sorted recyclables
5. Started reading for pleasure! "The Farming of Bones" by Edwidge Danticat.

For the first time in 11 months, I felt "ama de casa"-ish, which is a way of saying house-wife-ey. As in, I walked into my home and saw it with fresh eyes and I actually had the desire to make it homey.

Grad school has definitely consumed me for the past year. Taking the summer off is sort of like...holy moly....wow....free time......

It feels good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

fab collab

Getting together to meet a final time has proved elusive. I emailed my colleague and his response was, "Nice job, a lot of work." To be honest I was hoping to hear critical feedback about how to improve the unit, the sample, the teaching, or anything. I don't want to push him for more help in an already over-booked season. So, I am going to trust that it is okay and when we roll it out in the fall, we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

second lifing it

Wow. I am now a member of Second Life. I am using my Dominican name. Amalia. And I think Second Life is nuts after being in a world for two minutes. It is not student safe. I would not put my students in Second Life! Not after my first attempt!

I need to figure out a safe world to learn in and for my students to learn in.

Monday, May 4, 2009

highlight of today

Early in the year I launched a campaign to inform students of how to eat healthier foods and to connect them with the foods they eat. We drew a huge map and we color in the origins of our fruit that we eat regularly. I did cooking units with two classes. There has been discussion throughout the year about healthy food.

Today got to the heart of the matter. In passing last week had mentioned composting. One of my seniors lit up like a 100 watt bulb. "We did that at my summer job!" Today at lunch she found me and asked me to guide her in crafting a proposal to implement a composting program at our school.

Uh, YES. YESSSSS. Yes I will help. The power of student-led change is amazing. Her enthusiasm was contagious. "I want to leave a legacy," she said. "I want to start something that is good for everyone."

Something that is good for everyone. Today is one of those days I love my job.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

TPACK 12--In-Service teachers

This final chapter of TPACK addresses how current, in-service teachers can develop strategies for integrating technology into pedagogy.

I was especially pleased to see the comparison between playing jazz and teaching, because it validates the practice of most experienced teachers. Knowing the melody is one thing, being able to riff and improvise takes experience. I think it is the same with teachers. I spent a good three years of the early career just learning how to play....and with time I have learned when to improvise.

Harris gives a basic definition of technology integration: "The pervasive and productive use of educational technologies for purposes of curriculum-based learning and teaching." I don't agree 100% with this definition because there is a need to clarify "educational technologies"--in my mind, it is ANY technology that serves me as a teacher. For example, social media is not designed with formal education in mind, yet it is invaluable to teach language. So, I want to clarify that for me, technology does not have have a label on it that declares it "educational." Glogster is another platform that was not designed for student learning yet is consistently utilized by students to present work done for school.

Based on my last semester course, I was prepared to hear that teacher usage ranges from productivity tools to mindtools. I would say this is the same breakdown as this semester's type I vs. type II technologies. Some technologies are used to be more productive, to organize data, etc, and some technologies are used to work at the higher level of Bloom's. Makine a movie, for example, is a higher level of cognition than using Google to make a calendar. However, these tools can and should work together--because making that Google calendar as a production timeline for making the movie allows one tool to help the user properly use the other tools to make meaning.

Something that really struck me was that Harris states that "teachers need curriculum-related content knowledge to do their jobs effectively" (254). Once that is in place, then the technological component can be maximized. I like what Gunter and Baumbach call "integration literacy". What tool, for what purpose, to what end?

When integrating the technological component, understanding the culture is essential. This makes it a wicked problem with no clearly defined overarching rules of integration. Basically each teacher, each class, is unique. Teachers need to be given the support necessary to develop content-specific technology integrated units. Because in-service teacher generally have more expertise than novice teachers, the integration approach can and should be different!

Activity structures were an interesting concept to read about and I hope that there is a taxonomy out there for modern languages because I know that I do several types of structures and I would like to see them defined and validated. Activity structures are "cultural tools that perpetuate and standardize interaction patterns" (257). Again, I need to review what I do and write it down and compare with a taxonomy.

I really enjoyed the BNIE concept of activity structures, which includes Bid, Negotiate, Instantiate, and Evaluate. To me this is student centered learning.

It is important, also, for content area teachers to develop a common language for activity structures. This will improve literacy as well.

When examining the chart on page 260, I identified 9 structures that are current in my classroom. Wow!

The last point I want to address is that adults learn differently than students and often must know "up front" the why behind the learning expected, in this case, why integrate technology. I again want to refer to the video posted in April about what kids want from us. They want us to guide them in their learning and they learn collaboratively, creatively, and with technologies that we struggle to keep up with. But, I believe we must make the effort as adults to reach kids where they are, socially and culturally. And for today, that means using technology to share, present, reflect, and re-do.


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