Seven Things

Adina Sullivan over at How Do We Get From Here to There tagged me to do this Seven Things thing.  Having a moment to breathe, I decided to do it.

Here are the rules:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter and/or Plurk.

Here are my Seven Things

  1. I first decided to be a teacher in elementary school when I took an extra copy of a worksheet home to store it safely until I became a teacher. When my parents finally told me to move all of my stuff once I graduated from college, that paper and a few others were still in pristine condition, complete with the purplish ink.
  2. In college I was a history major, but I spent an equal amount of time (if not more) working as a photographer for the UCSD Guardian. I even did a couple internships at a couple of the smaller local papers.  I considered photojournalism as a career – everyday provided a vast array of great experiences where I got to see parts of the school and the local communities that I would have otherwise, both the high and low moments.  After going to a hit-and-run accident that involved a seven-year old on a bike and seeing the distraught parents, I decided that the I just couldn’t do it.  So I switched gears and turned my photography obsession into a hobby.
  3. I have terrible organization skills.  It is a curse.  Drives my wife crazy.  Drives me crazy much of the time.  I have the desire, just not continuous ability to follow through.  Not to say that I don’t know where everything is – I know exactly what pile or folder to find everything!  Plus, I always get what needs to be done, done
  4. I am a music freak.  I always have been.  I started with a tape and record collection, moved on to CDs, and now I fill my hard drive with mp3s, etc.  Back in college, that newspaper photographer position got me into just about every show I wanted to see.  That got me hooked on live recordings of shows, which only has made the collecting of music more intense.  Some of my favorite bands include U2, the Decemberists, the Cowboy Junkies, and the Grateful Dead.
  5. I used to really want to spend some time traveling through Europe, but in the last few years I’ve really been more interested in Indian and Chinese history.  After working on the Story of India project, India currently sits at the top of my must-visit list.  It will take a few years still.
  6. I have braces, again.  I had them when I was younger, but some severe TMJ pain has forced me once again to be metal mouth.  I could have worse problems.
  7. My family is everything.  While the kids occasionally drive me crazy or keep me from getting any real sleep, they are my world.  My wife and I make an amazing team, don’t know where I would be without her support on a day-to-day basis.

Hmm.  Who do I tag?  I’ve been somewhat “out of the loop” for the last couple years, so I’m not going to tag anyone.  If you want to do it and haven’t been tagged, leave a comment.

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Media Infusion Blog – January 2009

Teaching World History in the Digital Age

Like so many other Americans, my early perception of world history was focused through American and European lenses. The civilizations that shaped the West were considered to be more deserving of our attention than those that had fallen under the boot heels of European imperialists in the 18th and 19th centuries. This attitude was certainly a reflection of the times. Throughout the 20th century, Western civilization dominated world affairs, caused the bloodiest conflicts in human history, and pushed forward some of the most innovative technological advancements ever seen.

Read the rest at the PBS web site.

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Should Have, Would Have, but Didn’t

The emptiness of this blog gives me some guilt. I have great intentions, but something else always comes first in my constant shifting of priorities to get what needs to be done today, done. So here are three ideas that I have jotted down – in some cases even started, but never finished…

  • And the winner is…. Not me! While I was selected as Grossmont Union High School District Teacher of the Year (a great honor in itself), I was not selected as San Diego County TOY. I thought I had a good shot, but in the end it didn’t happen. Maybe I sold my staff development training experience too much, let my introverted person-to-person personality show through too much in the interview (as opposed to my in front of the class personality), or those who did win were just better (and they were inspirational). While disappointed, there was an upside, I got to get out of the spotlight and get back into all of the other priorities of my professional and personal life.
  • Drinking the Google Kool-Aid – Back in 2006 I did become a Google Certified Teacher, but since last spring I’ve been living la vida Google. I’m sure I’ll revisit this…
  • Accreditation Coordinator – I took over as our WASC Coordinator this year, got a little more than expected, but have used Google tools to organize it.

There were more, but I want to move on.

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Looking Forward?

I am a big fan of all of the ed tech visionaries out there. My Bloglines account includes the likes of Will Richardson, David Warlick, Chris Lehmann, Vicki Davis, and about 50 others. Plus, in the last few months I have grown fond of Twitter (other than it’s regular downtime) and have followed what I will call the “conversation” that drives the cutting edge of educational technology as it currently exists. I respect the insight and discussions about where we should go shared by all of the edubloggers in extended (blogs) and abbreviated forms (Twitter). However, in the last few months I have begun to start asking myself where are they/we all going. The need for change is blaringly obvious – to me and most of those who are part of that community, but for most teachers, I don’t think they even know there is a conversation taking place. You certainly have your exceptions – Chris’s Science Leadership Academy sounds like an amazing place to work. There are a collection of teachers like myself who integrate these ideas into our classrooms and then share those experiences with the world through workshops and our blogs, but it isn’t enough to change the world.

There is a great quote from the movie Gandhi that I have been thinking about for the last few months (I have done some research and haven’t been able to confirm if he actually said this, but I know he believed at least in the spirit of the quote that appeared in the movie). Here it is:

This Congress (the Indian National Congress) tells the world it represents India. My brothers, India is seven hundred thousand “villages” not a few hundred lawyers in Delhi and Bombay. Until we stand in the fields with the millions who toil each day under the hot sun, we will not represent India – nor will we ever be able to challenge the British as one nation.

The plight of education differs significantly from the independence movement in India, but there are some parallels (While I won’t delve into the comparison between colonial Great Britain and NCLB, let’s not overlook that fun observation). There are a growing number of us (educational technologists) both in and out of the classroom who are participating in this conversation about how to bring technology and skills that will be valuable in the coming years to the classroom, but despite the explosion of educators participating there are thousands who aren’t. Those thousands of classroom teachers are literally bound by state standards, limited/no access to technology, a lack of institutional support, little/no understanding of the importance, and even an outright reluctance to break with our industrial revolution model of education (it was good enough for me….). You start talking about blogs, wikis, social networking, and podcasts with educators in anyone of those categories and most of it will be lost (or at least filed away) when they return to their classrooms. I think in a lot of ways many of those who talk about Web 2.0 and widespread technology integration are as disconnected to the real situation that most teachers face as the British-educated Indian National Congress was to the rural population of India. I don’t know that we have Gandhi in our midst. Plus I don’t think hunger strikes will get teachers to start a blog, but hey – who knows? Any takers? I’ll write about it.

There remains no simple solution. Really widespread institutional change needs to occur within the educational system. I do not believe I will see that level of change in my career. We have too many standards, tests, textbook companies, federal acts, and even unions. So now what? We do the best we can. We recognize our limitations and work with them. We will not see these changes permeate all classrooms in the immediate future, but hopefully the movement will grow. Certainly it won’t be fast enough, but it will have to do.

I know this sounds a little pessimistic. As a history teacher I’ve come to recognize that many great ideas that should be implemented are often ignored, corrupted by politicians, or lost amongst bad ones. I have the spirit of an idealist and the mind of a pragmatist. Sometimes I hate myself :)

I have another post in draft form to follow up on what I think we should do.

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More Cool Tools: Comiqs and Jumpcut

Teaching summer school to students who were mostly retaking the course allowed for some experimentation over the last few weeks.

The first is Comiqs.com. My students used this tool to summarize their understanding of the events of the French Revolution. I provided links to a number of French Revolution-related images and gave them a basic tutorial of the tool (which I had played with for about 20 minutes before giving the demo). From there the students put together short comic books, complete with voice bubbles and other text. The only problem that they experienced was about 5 of 35 students were unable to save and therefore publish their project. Saving errors were displayed causing them to lose some or all of their work. That number of students who had problems is somewhat concerning, especially if I used it during the school year with 120 students. The main lesson: save often. So even if something goes wrong, you don’t lose much. Given the amount of time I provided them (about two hours), I was happy with the final products. Like many of the other online multimedia Web 2.0 applications, you can embed the finish comic in your blog, web site, etc.

Below is an example. There is a lot more here.

The second tool my students used was Jumpcut. For this project students had to first read a number of poems written by World War I soldiers and select one. Next they reviewed hundreds of images from WWI from a list of image sites I provided them. They were specifically looking for visuals that connected to the imagery described in their poem. Once they had their images, they set up an account at Jumpcut.com (owned by Yahoo so you need a Yahoo login). Then they could import their photos and add their poem to the images. It also does video, but because of our time constraints, I did not have them even look at some of the cool WWI footage out there on the web. The editing process went very smoothly – many of the students have iMovie or Windows Movie Maker experience, and Jumpcut is even easier to user. Overall the editing is a bit clunky and doesn’t allow for much finesse. Adding the text was also a bit difficult in that you could only add a limited amount of text.

Here is a sample, click here for a bunch more.

During the regular school year my students actually write their own poems add images to the text at my WWI Poetry Wiki. If I can squeeze the time in, I would love for them to use Jumpcut in this same manner. Perhaps I could set up a record station and the students read their poems (you can add sound to your Jumpcut video) that immortalize their poems even further. To keep all the poems in a centralized location, the finished products could be embedded into the wiki.

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