Play

Three weeks ago, I tried giving a quiz to my class using a website called Kahoot! We had been studying the beginning of the Cold War. I co-teach two of my World History class periods with another teacher and she said that the students had loved doing a Kahoot the previous quarter!

My colleague and I created a Kahoot! Here’s the quiz. I found myself terribly stressed giving this quiz using Kahoot! There were all these moving parts going on while the students typed in the quiz code into their cell phones or iPads. Many of us had to wait for others in order to start. I set each question at 20 seconds. Sometime 20 seconds was enough and sometimes it was just right. Many of the students really did enjoy taking a quiz in this setting because it is competitive and more of a game. I questioned the entire day why I had agreed to this because it made me stressed. Yes, it is a fun way to use technology but I wondered if they really learned and I could not really evaluate if they knew the answers to the questions.

I saw the Kahoot as a teaching failure. I had expected too much. I think in the future that it is a great way to review knowledge in a fun way. After I gave the Kahoot for a third time and the school day ended, I realized that I should have just relaxed and acknowledged that I had given it a try. I failed in the sense that I had expected it to be a quiz when in fact it is more of a fun, interactive way to review information.

 

Mediated Writing

The Arab Spring
For our Mediated Writing assignment in #BEDUC476 I chose to create a page about the Arab Spring uprisings that took place across North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. In my World History classes, our final unit or region will be learning about the Middle East & North Africa (MENA). I created this page with a high school audience in mind. I wanted to present the causes (which I am constantly researching), the countries where Arab Spring revolutions took place and finally what has happened & is happening in each of these countries today.

I really enjoyed this assignment and could have spent several more hours completing my page because the topic interests me so much. The idea of a mediated writing piece is to be able to insert images, website links and have a moving page which is non-linear and flows yet is still easy to read. Normal news articles or websites are read in a linear fashion (from top to bottom). I hope to finish this page and have all of the countries completed by May 2017. I will ask my students to read this piece. Some time before the end of the school year, I plan to assign a mediated writing assignment. You can create a mediated writing piece on Sway (Microsoft) or Spark (Adobe). Both websites are free! Have fun! Let me know in the comments section below if you see anything that I could improve on my Spark page? Also comment below if you assign a mediated writing piece and let me know how it goes?

#Educolor and Tweeting my way into the Seattle Times

I participated for the second time in a Twitter chat that members of #BEDUC476 suggested on Twitter. The topic was “The Walls Between Us: Immigration, Deportations and Education” on Thurs. Feb 23rd. Here is a recap of the questions and answers. I had learned from my first chat that when I am replying to a question or tweeting my answer to begin the tweet with “A#_”. Unlike my first chat which was Social Studies teachers, this chat included teachers, administrators, M. Ed. students and others working towards increasing Equity and Awareness in K-12 institutions and Community Colleges and universities.

Here’s a few of my answers to some of the questions:

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My tweets from #EduColor chat Feb. 23, 2017

Since the beginning of the school year, I have struggled to understand how to talk about issues with immigration and refugees. As a teacher, it is inappropriate to give political opinions. A few of my students have conservative views. Will Pres. Trump build a wall? Will he deport all illegal immigrants? What will his new refugee ban law look like since his first refugee administrative order was stopped in the courts? Not only are we feeling anxious and confused about the future of our country but so are our students.

My big takeaway was to try and keep my mouth shut. To allow students to discuss issues if they want. Yes, I may have very strong opinions on immigration and refugee policies but expressing them to students is not the place to do so. It is important to try and allow conversation to take place because students really learn best from one another. I’m still trying to figure out how to allow these conversations to occur in my classrooms when I only have a limited amount of time with students each week and so much content to teach.

It was a great chat! I shared about working in a school district and a city where politicians and educators are trying to display their sentiment of continuing to welcome all students. Many educators nationwide share the same responses that I have observed in my classrooms, that many students have been silenced and if they are in fact feeling fear and anxiety, these feelings are being suppressed. Its truly alarming. I’m try to do my best to read and learn from others to understand my part in supporting students dealing with personal fears and anxieties regarding immigration, refugee status and the famous wall.

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This chat was even mentioned in a Seattle Times article! I know when #BEDUC476 ends, I will continue to participate in Twitter chats. Learning from other teachers, just like students learning from other students is hands down the best way to learn.

My First Twitter Chat

My first Twitter Chat was a success! I participated in a Twitter Chat with other educators called #sschat (Social Studies). The topic was “The First 100 Days” and took place on February 21st, President’s Day! Click here to see a recap of the entire conversation.

Although I do not teach Civics, I am a Social Studies teacher and connecting with other Soc. Studies teachers was excellent! I would read a response or answer from a teacher half way across the U.S.A.. After reading their Twitter profile, they usually had a link to their blog. Once I got to their blog, I would decide if their blog had useful information that I was interested in reading later. If the answer was yes, I would follow their blog and usually follow them on Twitter. I must have added or followed a dozen educators. I felt that the Twitter chat really helped with my networking skills that we have been working on in BEDUC 476. During the #sschat I did not just connect with other educators but also discovered wonderful Social Studies infographics, info. for other Twitter chats and educational websites that I had forgotten about (Newsela, PBS, etc.).

SSchat Tweets

 

Barry Wellman Visits BEDUC 476 via Skype

Barry Wellman, co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System networked

spoke to our class BEDUC 476 via Skype on Monday, February 13, 2017. It was exciting because I had never been to a class or workshop where the speaker lectures through Skype. He reviewed themes presented in his book Networked and told us about his current research projects. Here some of his ideas:

The Mobile Network Revolution in which many individuals have bought and use their cellphones is only one to one communication. This mobile phone revolution is much more individualistic than his description of the transformation of human groups becoming Networked Groups or the Internet Revolution.

More of us have automobiles, woman are outside of the home working, we take airplanes more frequently than use our cars to travel, the decrease in church attendance and the study of interracial and interfaith marriages as being widely acceptable in the United States. These studies in sociology explain the reasons why we have become so mobile and the internet has taken down a lot of cultural barriers from previous generations (not entirely).

“Glocalization” we are more aware of conflicts throughout the globe but in fact they are less frequent.

Optimistic on the more individualistic movement that has emerged since the widespread use of the internet home/workplace and Mobile Revolution.

Cellphones being used creatively outside of his studies in North America, an example being in Kenya and using cellphones to wire money to people.

I feel a lot of what Barry Wellman said was presented very well in his book which we have been reading. However, see him talk brought a lot of his ideas to life. He made a lot of jokes, used himself as an example in many explanations and is a very happy and jovial man in his mid-seventies. Although many of the things that he explained over Skype were not new to our class because we read many of the concepts in his book, there was something fun and unique about actually hearing him talk about his work. One thing that I strongly believe is lacking in many of the technology companies that are a mere ten miles from our university campus: Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook are “internet sociologists”. When Barry used this term and I learned that he is a trained Sociologists, I really connected more to his work because I am a Social Studies teacher. I have a strong understanding of Sociology and believe that as an academic field, it is not seen as important in our country. However, just like the strong push towards educating our public K-12 grades in STEM education I feel that it is important for people like Barry Wellman and educators t not set aside Sociology studies. Because if we only focus on the material items, the new technology tools being marketed to us, and learning to use our tools then the most important lessons are left out of our collective history: humans and how technology may or may not actually be improving our lives for the greater good.

BSU Student Assembly & Digital Civic Engagement

This past week, we had two readings regarding youth participation online engagement for civil rights issues. Christina Evans wrote in The Nuts and Bolts of Digital Civic Imagination how youth participatory civic engagement, the authors introduced her idea of “digital civic imagination” has not yet been realized in part due to the lack of teaching such skills in the classroom. I feel that many young adults (middle & high school students) are aware of social justice issues, #Blacklivesmatter, and the current immigration fears. They read about these issues online by clicking on links in their Social Media feeds, news (sometimes) and by looking terms and ideas up when they hear about issues from their peers or in the classroom. Many of the skills that could enable youth engagement and discourse in order to work towards positive solutions are skills that we have been learning in BEDUC 476: creating a strong network on Twitter, reading blogs and creating content such as videos and blogs.

I am a recent addition to the staff at a high school in the Shoreline School District which is geographically located just “on top” of Seattle Public Schools (Seattle, WA). Although the student population is not as diverse as those in Seattle public high schools, there is definitely an increasingly diverse student body at our school. With a very noticeably non-diverse teaching staff we are nevertheless attempting to push forward with equity and diversity. One example is the attempt to move away from Eurocentric Social Studies curriculum in our World History courses.

Apart from the classroom and curriculum, I am astounded by the BSU (Black Student Union) and the assembly they put on for the school last Thurs (2/16) and Friday (2/17) which is an annual tradition in February for the African-American History Month. These students worked tirelessly on the assembly and the students were very impressed. The BSU incorporated the following topics throughout the assembly: microagressions, Euro-centrism, White Privilege, being an Ally, and Intersectionality. The assembly included the following: a video following an African-American student titled “Day in the Life”, a poem read by four students, slides defining their topics, an act where eight students walked on stage one by one reading names of innocent African-Americans who lost their lives due to unjust police brutality, a student singing the black national anthem and all throughout the presenters asked students to try and see from multiple perspectives if they were not Black, Latino, Muslim, or LBGTQ. I was blown away! I will end by posting a clip from the Step teams performance which was a favorite. Before they performed, BSU explained that Step routines are historically done in sororities and started in South Africa where drums were outlawed. This performance was live and not digital, but I only hope that these amazing students never stop in their pursuit to open eyes and spread the message of love for all. I left with so many ideas and hopes of helping all of my students find their voices just as the BSU has done.

Click to see BSU Step Perform at Assembly

Weekly Play in Class

This week, my four sections of World History started a unit on Africa. I had two goals at the beginning of class (each class period is a 100 minute block period). The first goal was to activate prior knowledge. I asked students to write in their notebooks a KWL chart. We compiled a class list of what we know, the K column and a list of what we want to know, the W chart.

Next, I wanted to discuss our personal Perceptions. I described perceptions and bias as a collection of images, activities and learning that begins at birth that shapes our cultural filters as learners. An example would be that as children, many of us watched the disney movie The Lion King. Many of us imagine these large and “exotic” animals such as lions when we think of the word Africa thanks to The Lion King and/or visits to our local zoos. Many of us have never stepped on African soil. Although we want to learn more about the people who live on the continent and live within recently independent nations, we are coming into this unit with a lot of perceptions.

To compose a class visual of our perceptions, students were asked to pull out their iPads. They created a profile and downloaded the Padlet app. Some of the students took out their phones. Next, they needed to navigate to the Padlet page that I had set up for each class period. Here is an image of our Padlet from 1st period.

Made with Padlet

I say that this was an exercise in Play because many variables were new to us. We were kind of experimenting. I did not present a ton of new content in this activity but instead asked students to participate in finding out our perceptions that we have in our data systems as learners when we hear the word Africa.

I am excited to try out other apps in class in the future. Padlet was fun but it also presented a few challenges. Many students struggle to type on Padlet (either their iPad was not cooperating or they were not prepared). My goofy sophomore students, who know that they are not receiving a grade for this assignment, sometimes typed onto our Padlet goofy things or images. I think that it is fun to collaborate, work together and use our iPads but I am not quite sure in what capacities the Padlet will serve as a useful tool in my future course lessons?

Snow Day! Play!

Last Monday, February 6, 2017, the Seattle metropolitan area came to a halt. It snowed! We woke up Monday morning to school closures and a few inches of wet PNW snow. I had all these intentions to get caught up on my work and my school work but ended up taking some time to play with my kids! They are quite adorable aren’t they?

Which leads to a part of my coursework that I’ve been dreading. Play! We are experimenting with memes, GIFF (I did not even know what a GIFF was until January 2017, ha!), and SnapChat tools. Basically part of BEDUC 476 is to play! What graduate student would not want such a fun assignment. Well the answer is, me. All of it just throws me off. It reminds me of teaching a new innovative lesson. At first, teachers like me are nervous. The lesson is usually out of one’s comfort zone. Yet, after giving the lessons and seeing that it all went okay, hopefully the students learned something and enjoyed it. You feel relief but also pure satisfaction that you tried something new and had fun doing so! So maybe I need to just role with the punches, do my play assignments and get over the fact that I do not think I’m that funny and that I may fail.

Weekly Play!

Technology Improves Access to Relative Content

When I first started teaching in 2007, we used desktop computers, email and programs (for grading, attendance and school documents) however the true access to technology like we have today was not present. Most teachers did not have smartphones and without laptop computers, like many teachers use today, the work that I took home was papers to grade and lessons to plan. Today, in 2017, I can access everything from my work laptop anytime and anyplace. I can ask a question to my colleague at any time through email, evaluate curriculum from other teachers around the country but the downside is that all of the work that I do at school can also come home with me.

In the book Networked: The New Social Operating System by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman that we have been reading in class (B EDUC 476), in chapter 7, the authors discuss “Networked Work”. I agree with what these authors wrote and had to say regarding networks in our daily lives, families and in the workplace. Communication between educators has become so infinite. Even since I have started this graduate course, I have discovered so many individuals on Twitter, blogs and websites that I could never have enough time to tap into all the available resources to enhance my lessons in the classroom and my job as a teacher.

I still find that I learn a tremendous amount from just conversing with other teachers in my school. My students had finished learning about WWII in their World History class when I started working as their teacher this past week, beginning 2nd semester. A fellow World History teacher recommended this incredible data-based documentary to me called The Fallen of World War II. I had my students watch this as a transition piece from WWII to the Cold War. Once they finished watching the video, I asked how it made them feel? There are no people, no actors and it is not a traditional documentary. The video is all data visual info-graphics yet after watching it, it makes you truly understand the destruction of WWII, and feel moved or sad about the number of lives that were lost.

In order to show this to my class, I used technology. However, I discovered this amazing documentary through word of mouth. As Rainie and Wellman wrote in their book Networked, “The success of collaboration in the network operating system often depends on a delicate balance of computer networks and human networks that provide the trust and incentives to share information and knowledge” (p. 194). I fully agree with this interesting balance of using computers in the workplace to enhance our ability to organize, display information, access knowledge and overall work better as teachers, however we can never fully replace the camaraderie, the friendships and the personal networking that takes place between educators in schools face to face.

Give me your attention please! Mindfulness, evaluating attention and students!

Reading Net Smart: How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold, I absolutely loved reading from an author who has spent years dedicating his work to evaluating how our tools: laptops, smartphones, Facebook and media have truly changed the teacher (he is a professor) and student relationship.

I am very passionate about teaching World History to students. I will begin teaching 10th grade World History this week. When I observed my new classes last week, one thing I noted was that I need to grab their attention, but I will not get it for very long. How can I make my directions, brief lectures and instructions valuable in such a short amount of time?

In our course for BEDUC 476, we are reading Rheingold’s book and discussing attention because we are able to connect with family and friends, read news articles 24/7 and have the ability to create valuable online social networks in order to improve our teaching and help students learn in new mediums.

We have all seen news articles out there questioning if in fact social media, the internet and our ability to feel so connected at any time is detrimental to humans. I do not think so and this week, along with our reading, I have just been thinking about how I truly hold the power to my technology devices and I have really been trying to evaluate where I turn my attention. One of my favorite quotes is when Rheingold wrote, ‘the way we communicate today is altering the way people pay attention-which means we need to explore and understand how to train attention now, so that we, not our devices, control the shape of this alteration in the future’ (p. 14-15). So Rheingold and many others do not see technology as a detriment to humans but instead see it as training ourselves and constructing self-discipline in how we use technology in our daily lives.

After working all day, graduate school classes two nights a week, and feeding and caring for my children, I want to literally check out and just read posts on Facebook. However, recently since being introduced to valuable networks that we can craft online with other educators, I’ve been rethinking how and when I spend my time online. I am enjoying Twitter, learning from many scholars, like-minded teachers and technology gurus. I no longer wish to see all my long lost acquaintances babies on Facebook who I barely even knew in the first place.

Last week, our new President really sparked and lit a new fire when he signed an executive order temporarily banning refugees from entering the United States from seven particular countries. Due to my marriage, my volunteer work with refugees, my friends, students, and former colleagues, refugees in America hold a deep place within my heart. I stopped opening my Facebook, I did not read the news and instead chose to shut it all off. I chose to turn my attention elsewhere. That was the power that I had in the midst of a very controversial and heartbreaking (to me) national security order.

I survived. I am still processing national political events along with my friends, peers and colleagues. Reading about attention and thinking about where I spend my valuable precious resource called attention was really insightful. Applying principles of mindfulness, as Rheingold suggests, to our attention and use of technology is a remarkable exercise. And sometimes if you do not like what is going on in the world, turn down the volume, step away from all the chatter and think about the power that we still have: our attention.