Category Archives: Student Work

Student Assignment

One of the reasons I love teaching is when a student connects the class work to their life. When an assignment becomes more than just a grade. For my English Composition course the students end the year with a research based persuasive essay. I have all kinds of assignments built around helping the students produce that final essay. One of those assignments is to write a letter to an authority connected to their topic. Throughout the last 18 years those “letters” have actually been used by students to make a difference in their schools or communities. This year one student tackled a serious issue, binge drinking.

Now, Anthony is a non-traditional student. He is a father and is working a career change. And his letter to an authority was an honest letter. After you read it, you’ll understand why I wanted to share his work.

18 November 2016 

Dear Parent,  

 This may go without saying, but I’m asking you to stay very involved in your child’s life as they go through college and into life beyond. Please make sure they are not falling prey to an issue many young people face today. There is a problem that is not only prevalent in this area, but all across the nation. This problem is binge drinking in our student body. As I write this, college students across the nation are gearing up for a fun Friday night. Going to the liquor store for the first eighteen pack of the weekend, maybe a bottle or two of fireball. There is a game tomorrow, so surely the booze will be flowing at tailgate parties. That’s tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night to drink as much alcohol as one can.  

Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks in a two-hour period for men. For women, it’s more than four drinks in the same period of time. According to the C.D.C. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), almost 90% of alcohol consumed by binge drinkers in the U.S. today is by people under 21 years old. Those who admitted to binge drinking are fourteen times more likely to get behind the wheel and drive while impaired.  

As a student myself attending college I have seen this first hand. Not only in the student body but in myself. I have been in the shoes of the hung over youth. The boy who wakes up not knowing where he is or how he got there. Trying to make sense of the night or day before. Only guessing at whether I hurt anyone or just what happened. All of these situations seem to be the social norm. Usually talk during the week consists of how much was drank or just how drunk they got. Blacking out seems to be the goal. This is activity is very dangerous.  

Drinking and college go together like a hand and glove. It has been a cultural rite of passage for American youth for generations. It may be impossible to completely stop drinking for a good time or to relieve stress, but discouraging underage drinking and binge drinking could lead to better grades, increased overall health, and decreased chances of alcoholism. All while diminishing accidents or fatalities associated with alcohol.   

I’m asking you to let your children know that you care. Your influence may mean more to them than you think. Just talk to them about the dangers of overindulging. Education, love, understanding and communication are the best tools to reach them. Misery is not required for one to be happy. 

Sincerely,  

Anthony

 

Thank you, Anthony, for letting share such an honest and powerful letter.

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Class Research

The TECHS students did a simple Google Presentation on future technology. Each student, across four class periods, were assigned to find something cool happening in the world of technology.

Technology allows any of us to collaborate with ease.

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Coursebook

Overview:

Coursebook is a personal video textbook.  Coursebook features videos from Ted, Khan Academy, Stanford eCorner, Yale, Railscasts and other educational sources.  You can also connect your Facebook and Linkedin accounts to see what your friends are studying with Coursebook.

 

Why I like it:

Coursebook is a simple idea, but designed so well that it is easy to get lost in learning.  The idea is to build your own learning path by selecting videos to watch.  Coursebook then keeps track of what you have watched, which ones you have tagged to watch later, and even which videos you have started to watch. The app then gives you recommendations based off your course work.  You can share your videos through Facebook and Linkedin; also you can share with the Coursebook community.

You can access your course work on their website, too.

 Use in the classroom:

This app is perfect for flipping your classroom or enhancing your curriculum.  At the moment Coursebook is just over two years old and you can’t just type in any keyword and get video results.  But I see great potential in what they are developing, and it can release the ownership of learning to the student.

For example lets use the study of cells in a high school class.  How can Coursebook be used in this situation?

First, I did a keyword search with “cells” and Coursebook provided 11 results.  The top three videos are “Using nature to grow batteries,” “Transplant cells, not organs,” and “Printing a human kidney.”  What an interesting way to enhance information about the importance of cells in our life!  What if there was a day or a project in the science class that allowed the students to connect the classroom lesson with a video of their choice?

OK, now let’s expand that science class to the whole year.  The student can build a coursebook with videos of their choice for the whole year.  If there were videos you wanted to use in your class, you make sure all students add it to their playlist.  This is the power of the flipped classroom idea.  It’s not about just watching a video, but about watching something that sparks the students’ imagination and you, the teacher, providing them the freedom and time to work with their ideas and questions.  With Coursebook the videos can be watched anytime and anywhere, the classroom is where you take that spark and ignite their learning.

Share your ideas with me via Twitter (jdog90).

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Snapguide

Overview:

Snapguide is designed for users to create visual based how-to guides.  That’s it.  Sounds simple. It is and that is what makes it great.  The guides are built around teaching how to do something through pictures and videos.  Adding text is a part of the process, but you are limited to 200 characters a page.  Once your guide is finished you publish it to Snapguide’s site, then you can share it through other social media sites. Guides can also be viewed on their website, but can only be created through the app.

Why I like it:

It is easy and fun to make a guide with your mobile device.  One night I decided to make a Snapguide about one of my family’s favorite dinners, Pizza Sandwiches (click to see the Snapguide). So, I grabbed my iPad to take the pictures as I cooked, then designed the guide later that night.

Another bonus to the app is the Snapguide community.  You can investigate other guides, or follow someone who makes guides covering subjects your are interested in.  Be prepared to interact through the comment option with people who like your guides.

Use in the classroom:

I have a Process essay unit for my writing class.  I showed the students Snapquide as an option to create a “visual how-to” assignment (the students had a number of options).  Three students used Snapguide.  Below are their guides.

How to French Twist Hair

How to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to Make Ramen Noodles in the Microwave

Each guide was viewed at least 500 times.  Each had at least 50 loves.  And each got at least one comment.  This is the power of creating work that connects beyond the classroom.

The other side of Snapguide is finding guides to enhance what you are doing in class.  There are guides that could be used in art class, industrial arts, or music. Just browsing through the categories will spark ideas for you.

Snapguide’s focus is to allow users to make and find great step-by-step guides.  It is a great example of how we can share our knowledge with people who also enjoy our interest.  Using Snapguide is a great way to enhance any lesson that is centered on how to do something. Share your guides with me via Twitter (jdog90).

Series Note: I decided to use Tagwhat in the upcoming website series that I will be doing in December.

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Pic Collage

Overview:

Pic Collage is a fun, easy, and powerful app to create collages. It allows you to access photos from your camera roll, the web, Facebook, or take a picture from the app.  The app comes with a standard set of stickers, with the option to buy more sets.  You can add text, colored borders, and even crop your photos by tracing around the section you want. You can even send your collage as a postcard for $1.99.

The finished collage can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  You can also save it to your photos or send it in an email.  Pic Collage now has an account option that allows you to share your collages on Pic Collage’s site.

Why I like it:

Designing the collage is easy.  Rotating, resizing, arranging, and even trimming the photos are gesture based.  In no time you can create a nice looking collage. The ability to access images from the web makes the app a creative tool for the classroom.

Created by Kaylee, English Comp student.

Use in the classroom:

I have used the app as a poster alternative.  The example above is a poster of a student’s persuasive topic.  I think Pic Collage can be used for any class or grade level.  Being able to access images from the web enables students to research and show their understanding of any topic in a new and inviting form.

Whether it is for the classroom, or a collection of photos from Thanksgiving, I think you will enjoy Pic Collage.  Share your collages with me via Twitter (jdog90).

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The American Scholar Today?

I have been thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s speech “The American Scholar” lately.  The speech is a part of the American Literature course I teach in the spring semester, and it is one of my favorite pieces of literature.  I agree with so many of the points he expresses about true scholarship.

I wonder what he would think about the state of education today?   At the beginning of the speech Emerson reveals the three main influences in a scholar’s education. The first is Nature.  Simply stated, being outside.  Emerson goes much deeper in his speech, but the idea is that scholars spend time with Nature, spend time reflecting, as he states, “And, in fine, the ancient precept, ‘Know thyself,’ and the modern precept, ‘Study nature,’ become at last one maxim.”

I have been trying to conduct my DL classes as if I was in my own classroom, and so my CCC writing course went outside to write.  I instructed that they could take pictures, too.  As students will do, they had some fun:

Burwell Students

Then this morning 1011 News reported about Kearney public school’s “Outdoor Days.”  Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a really good idea.  But what does it say about the norm of our education, that having kids outside learning is news? Emerson states this is the first thing that influences scholars. Yet, we set up learning to be done inside, during the best time of the day and in rows.

The second influence is the “mind of the past” that at his time was best reflected in reading books.  We know that today that influence is even greater. I won’t spend time on this point because my thoughts have been on the fist influence, Nature, and the last influence…

Created at PicLit.com

Emerson makes a strong argument that true learning is done in living, “Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.”  He states that we can only truly understand that which we live, that true scholarship is produced through our lives.  Emerson states, “Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.”

I show this clip of Neil Gaiman at the beginning of the CCC writing course, listen to what his first piece of advice is for writers.

In my position I am immersed in technology, but I also see our students immersed in technology to the point that I do wonder if they understand the beauty and heartache of living.  Or are they just skimming the surface of life one statues update at a time?  I believe technology and especially mobile devices can enrich our lives deeply.  But that has to be the focus for the use of technology. It should be a tool we use in living. Living is our greatest teacher, “Time shall teach him, that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives” (Emerson).

I have been thinking about Emerson’s speech, “The American Scholar,” lately. I wonder what he would think about the state of our educational system?

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Mobile 2012 Reflections

As the weekend winds down and I get some time to reflect on the Mobile Learning Experience, a couple of things come to mind right away.

Point One: The energy from the conference was intense.  The conference was big enough to meet a new person at every breakout session, yet intimate enough to make real connections with people.  Even the schedule worked into this with the meals.  I was able to sit with my colleagues, yet have new people to meet at every meal.  The keynotes were also an integral part of the energy.  Each message was connected to the conference, but unique to each keynote.  I walked away with different ideas because of each speaker.

Point Two: The power of mobile devices. The first aspect is from Graham Brown-Martin’s keynote, which is we are still not tapping into the power of mobile technology.  We are using a technology designed to be mobile in an immobile environment. Now, what educators and schools are doing with them is awesome!  I’m pushing the idea farther, as I was thinking during Graham’s keynote and tweeted the idea that teachers use Mondays as a “Keynote” day, then, let the students go the rest of the week.

I understand that wouldn’t work all the time, but it brings up the second aspect of the mobile devices and technology: options.  There is a time for lectures (think about how powerful the keynotes and breakout sessions were), a time for worksheets, a time for tests even.  A buzzword right now is differentiation.  Simply put, options.  Mobile devices equip both students and teachers with that.  As an example, I will use simple story structure as a lesson.  In class we might read, listen, or even watch a YouTube video of the story.  I would have some vocab, which I could have a stack of flashcards for them to study, or even have them design their own.  Then, allow the students to show they understand story structure by writing a story, filming a story, or creating a cartoon.  All of which can be done on a mobile device.

Which moves me to the third point: the Teacher – Student relationship.  I started an interesting discussion about app development for teachers between breakout sessions, but I didn’t get the opportunity to finish.  Understand this discussion had the chance to be one of those incredibly deep pedagogy challenging discussions, but I never had the chance to bring it up again.  At the beginning, my inquiry was on the idea of equipping teachers to be able to build apps that would help students in their study of a lesson.  The opposite side was that the students should build them.  I don’t disagree with that, but one aspect I see of technology is the empowering of teachers to be what they went into this profession for, to teach.  Teachers can be the experts again of their field.  If fostered correctly, teachers should be the experts of the curriculum, not the textbook or a website.  The “options” available to connect to the content pushes teachers to raise their game.  And that, as a professional, is exciting.  Our jobs are changing.  Our challenge is to actually design a learning experience that gives students the tools and motivation to live by the highest expression of their talents.

Mobile 2012 was an incredible opportunity for me as a teacher.  I cannot wait to hopefully be a part of Mobile 2013.

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