Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Creativity is knowledge

 "We have the gift of human imagination.. we have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely...And the only way well do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are and our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future...our job is to help them make something of it."

This quote is from Sir Ken Robinson in his TED Talks podcast entitled Do Schools Kill Creativity. In his presentation he talks about the fact that being creative is looked down upon with children and how this needs to change as the times change.  The thing that was most intersting to me is that this doesnt just happen in the United States...it happens ALL OVER THE WORLD!  Education as a whole is based around academic abilities and the system was created to help industrialization so schools are naturally more interested in math and languages and less interested in the arts.

His clear message is that with the world changing do to our technological advances and our interests in such arts as of recently children need to be able to explore and learn through arts and music as well as the other academic material.  He states in his podcast  "if your not prepared to be wrong you will not come up with anything original."  And originality is a huge part of our world recently..people are able to create videos, games, music, dance, and show case it all on the web for the world to view.  Children shouldnt be punished for wanting to create they should be rewarded for wanting to be original.

When I saw the title of this podcast I was instantly interested in what was to be said and I had to watch it.  As a mother who advocates for creativity this video was definitely right for me.  As I watched I actually felt better about myself for not pushing my two year old to be an academic genius and instead steering her more towards exploring her artistic side.  I had looked for a school for my daughter to go to that was more focused on creativity, which is really hard in case your wondering, and when I did I instantly got heat for it by my mother and several of my family members for not putting her in a school that will teach my daughter anything useful.

 My cousin actually had sent her child their the previous year and liked it but wasn't to impressed because her daughter didn't turn into a three year old genius who could write and read.  Once her daughter was put into a universal Pre-K and went to a different school who is much more structured and based on "education" she felt much better about her daughters learning.  I on the other hand have decided that my daughter will definitely not be attending her cousins school because I am pretty sure that it will be okay if shes not reading chapter books by the time she enters Kindergarten.  I like that she can go to school and learn through play, she has come home and sang me a song about the days of the week, she knows the difference between her right and left hand, she knows all her colors (shown by a very messy art project) and she is very educated in the five food groups from playing store in the drama area of her classroom.  All in all im pretty sure shes learning...even though shes not sitting in a desk like a drone!

The fact that being creative is okay will definitely be a main point in my classroom in the future.  I know that children have a creative side and I feel like you can pull that out through education and that children can still learn AND be creative.  I think that the best way for me to put this into play in my classroom is by giving students different options on being creative with projects and homework.  If you give children the option to create a movie, song, picture and so on they will not only want to do the work they will actually want to learn something to make it better! 

So the next time your teaching your students about the civil war give them a project and let them create a song to explain the main points or a lyrical dance to describe what happened.  Your children will be engaged and everyone will be entertained.  And as always...creativity is knowledge!     

Monday, November 19, 2012

Communicate Globally

 A new site to consider in a classroom...epals is amazing!  What better way to teach your students about the world then to actually connect with the world.  With this site you can collaborate with classrooms throughout the world by creating classroom lessons together or by giving your students pen pals to write to.  You can pick the age group that your classroom is in so that they can communicate and collaborate with students their age that speak the same or different languages and they will be able to learn culture and community by experience and expand their knowledge with fun. 

Their are several different activities that students can participate in on this site.  BY going to the learning center you can work on several different activities from games to writting resources.   A few of my favorite:

  • In the writting center you can go to the activity titled every picture tells a story in which students can go through pictures taken from other students around the world and then discuss what they see by answering some prompts in the pictures.  Pictures are from Cambodia, Spain, France, and even other places in the U.S.  This is a great way to teach children about differences in cultures.  Or for ESL students to show what their culture is like.
  • In the global citizens center you can do an activity entitled walk a mile in my shoes in which students post videos or pictures to make a presentation of how they get to school including whether they wear uniforms or what you see on the way.  Once the video is uploaded students from all over the world get to "Walk a mile in my shoes".  This could be a great way to talk to students about differences and similarities in cultures and is a great way to show students that even though they can be miles away from one another they can still have things in common.
 There are so many other things that can be done on this site, to much for me to write it all on here and I can't possibly do it the justice that is needed.  Check it out! Collaborate and create with your students, communicate on a global basis.  Dont just talk to your students about culture use this site and let them learn about culture from other kids their age!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stuperflix Videos for learning

This week I learned how to use a new site to make short videos!  Its always fun to create and Stuperflix is an amazing tool to use in the classroom, and to have some fun at home. 

With this site you can put images to music and make a video to explain or explore almost anything.  For students this is a way to express themselves and their knowledge through their creativity.  Imagine the work you could get out of your students when you ask them to create a video describing the story of Romeo and Juliet, or WWI! You could have students work together collaboratively to create something or individually to show understanding.

I created a video to see how easy it was to navigate.  I did have a hard time adjusting the photos to make them appear as I wanted but other then that it was pretty simple.  You just pick the layout you want the slideshow to be in, upload your photos and order them, upload your music, and add any text you want and the duration of the slide, and your done!  I would definitely use it in the future, I think its a great way to connect with your students and engage them in the lesson.

The video I made, I feel, is a great way to introduce Stupeflix to your classroom.  And introduce yourself to your students so they realize that your a real person (trust me they do tend to think you come from another planet!).  I feel that if teachers open up to their students then students will be more willing to open up to the teachers and in a community setting like that where everyone feels comfortable then learning tends to happen more naturally.  In my video I just gave a sample of my family through out the year and I would suggest having your students create one as well.  It doesn't have to be long, just enough for everyone to get to know their classmates so they can start to build a lasting relationship through out the year.

So as always, enjoy...and create!  Change the mold of how students learn and of how teachers teach!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Be creative...Voice it!

Through out this technology I have been taking for my teaching degree I have learned a lot about implementing technology into the classroom I hope to have soon.  Children are so involved in, and drawn to, technology and the connections they can form from it. 

 One of the things that I had never heard of is a VoiceThread in which you create a page with a question for your students to answer, a thought provoking one that can get different answers from different students.  Then you have your students comment by video, microphone, or typing a response and they can see others responses.  With this type of technology it is especially helpful with ESL students who may have some reservations about speaking in front of a class.  With a VoiceThread students will be able to practice their verbal skills and get the same classroom community feel without the nerves and stress of a face to face interaction.  Although students will still have to communicate within the school setting, this could be the extra help some quieter students need to be noticed by their teachers and be accepted as a part of the class team.

Their are two Voicethreads that I have participated in that I think give a very good example of its usefulness in the classroom.   One was made by a fellow classmate of mine, Wen Guo, entitled Healthy Diet in which she gives her students a scenario.  In the scenario the man, Jon, is suffering from high cholesterol and she is asking her students to consider the effects of fast food and give some advice to Jon to become a healthier person.  This specific lesson could have a huge impact on students in our society since obesity is such an epidemic now.  It will get students to discuss and think about ways in which to become a healthier person and teaching children how to be and eat healthy is very important.  It gives kids a creative way to think and voice their opinions.

Another great voice thread is, again, by a fellow classmate names Alyssa Boron posted as a spanish review.  In this case she is posting the lesson as a way for students to practice their vocabulary and verbal skills outside of the classroom.  I think this is a great way to give students the opportunity to practice speaking at home.   Giving a student a homework assignment like this in which they are actually able to be verbal will better build vocabulary and give students a fun and entertaining way to get their homework done.

No matter how a VoiceThread is used I highly suggest you DO use it in a classroom.  Let your students get their creativity out while still being able to assess their skills and knowledge set.  Be creative and give it a voice!   

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bookr book lesson

I was playing around with bookr today and decided to create a book for a young ESL class to use in the future.  I thought it might be a good idea to write a book for the first week of class so the kids can discuss where they are from and know that even though they are all different they can all still get along and be friends.  This is great for them to start a bond in their class with new students while still keeping their culture alive in them. 

The objectives of this book would be to teach culture awareness and acceptance.  While also teaching children how to compare and contrast with differences and similarities.  And it can also be a good opener for teaching reading skills, vocabulary, and oral skill and comprehension by answering questions about themselves addressed in the book.  I only asked a few simple questions in the book but it is great to ask more: schools in their culture, beliefs, holidays, transportation...the list is really endless depending on what your plans are.

Don't get to caught up in the objectives just yet though, make sure you let the children tell their stories to because it can make them feel comfortable to talk about themselves and tell some stories about where they are from.  Its a great way to teach about community as well.  If children feel important they will be more likely to participate in classroom lessons and activities.  And be sure to tell a story about yourself too! If you connect with them they connect with you, so take the time to talk.  Remember if your in an ESL classroom that some children will have little to no vocabulary so the objectives should be lax the first few weeks (hint: drawing skills are usually pretty good..what kid doesn't like to color.  If they cant answer a question orally ask if they can draw a picture.)

Here's the book: Different People Different Stories.  I know how hard it is to write so feel free to use mine or think of your own...or get really creative and create a book as a class!  As always the possibilities are endless!

storytelling with a digital twist

TSDIGS 4 Collaborate by dreamponderCreate
TSDIGS 4 Collaborate, a photo by dreamponderCreate on Flickr.

"Digital Storytelling is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories." (University of Huston; the Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling).  I've been using digital storytelling software for a while now.  As you can tell from previous posts I have small children and this type of digital storytelling has been a great way for them to have some fun with their aunt who lives in California.  To keep communication alive in our family we make books using storybird; we can either do this collaboratively by making stories together (you can make them open to groups) or we share things we did in story format (going to the zoo or on a vacation).  My daughter thinks its great because we read so many books at home and with this she gets to read books that she helped make (you can even buy them and have them shipped to you in hardcover format so they can actually flip through the pages!) 

We use it at home to stay connected, but why not use it in schools to stay educated!  Digital storytelling can be a great way to keep students engaged in learning.  "Digital stories let students express themselves not only with their own words but also in their own voices, fostering a sense of individuality and of “owning” their creations. At the same time, digital stories give students an opportunity to experiment with self-representation—telling a story that highlights specific characteristics or events—a key part of establishing their identity, a process that for many is an important aspect of the college years." (7 Things you should know about Digital Storytelling).  What a great way to get kids involved right! So next time you have to teach a lesson on the Civil War (or any social studies lesson really) why not make a digital story about it.  Or better yet, teach the kids the lesson and let them make some stories of their own that way your testing their comprehension and their having fun doing it.

Another great idea; if your teaching ESL students and you have a large diverse class you could have everyone make a book about where they are originally from.  It doesn't have to be anything to complex since most of them may not be able to write to many words, but even if they are putting 2 or 3 words on each page they can feel like they are doing something fun while learning spelling and word recognition and then they have something to present to the class to work on oral skills as well.  They can do it collaboratively (if some of them are from the same areas) or individually.  It could also be a good idea for the teacher to put a book together in the beginning of the year on everyone being equal even though they are from different places (great way to teach cultural acceptance and awareness).  You could even collaborate with different classes in different states or countries! Talk about global learning and cultural awareness!

Downside?  "Many people find that piecing together a coherent narrative is considerably more difficult than they thought, and students not comfortable producing original work are likely to find themselves simply modeling their efforts on digital stories they have come across." 7 Things you should know about Digital Storytelling).  I know we had a hard time when we first started this in our family; you find all these pictures that you like and then think 'okay, now what?'  or you have this great story in your head but when you try and write it you think 'this makes no sense!'  Well rest assured it does get easier as you get more comfortable with the concept.  And most of the time it works to start with writing the story down first on some paper, then figure out the best places in that story to split into pages, then find the pictures to go with it.  Even if you have some great pictures you love they just might not fit well in the story your trying to get across, save them for another time maybe you can fit them in a new story later!  Its also a good idea to model a story first for your students (especially ESL students) and let them modify that for a while before you have them create on their own, although you may be surprised to find out that you have a harder time thinking up stories than most student do!  Either way, storytelling with a digital twist is definitely a great way to teach and learn!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

serious games for learning

Citizen Science is a great game to send kids home with after a science lesson on lakes and being environmentally conscious.  It would be most effective with older children in an environmental science class who are ESL students.  I have personally played it about 4 times and found great information from it. Objectives of this game can be learning how to choose appropriate topics to make good arguments as you have to be able to convince people not to do things or to do things by using information you have been collecting through out the experience.  Its also a good way to get kids to learn vocabulary.  A great way to assess this would be to have kids write down any words they come across that they do not understand and find a definition for it that way they are learning on their own and you can see that they are playing the game as well as giving them guidance when they need it by seeing what they are bringing in to class the following day.

Their are other games to promote learning on the site games for change that can help students learn on their own to reenforce knowledge learned in class.  These games incloude games on poverty, the environment, and economics, to name a few and can be classified by age groups to see what is most appropriate for your class.