Will this work?

Sarah Ludwig and I have been asked to join a discussion with the Middle/ Upper School History Department with these questions posed:

What technologies have real, authentic use in our classrooms? What technologies will have real, authentic use to our students?

My idea for this discussion is to create a list of the traditional components of a Gr 7 – 12 history curriculum, and then show the same skills including new/ updated tools.  I plan to show the advantages and potential drawbacks of each. I am hoping this will lead to a great discussion about teaching and learning.

Here’s my first crack at it:

History Department 2.0

Do you think this will work?  Do you have anything to add? Any resources to share? 



Creating Our Very Own

This winter, I began flipping my classroom. As a result, my Algebra 1 students have been watching a variety of videos from Khan Academy, MathTV and YourTeacher.com. The students have gotten into a pattern of informally “critiquing” the previous night’s video while they are getting their books out.  The students are also quick to review which “teacher” they like best on MathTV (Preston seems to be a favorite of ours) and have even discussed that the YourTeacher.com teacher (who happens to be our former Headmaster’s son) needs to iron his shirt sometimes. They talk about the videos being too long, too boring or too fast. The funniest discussion was about Sal Khan’s Introduction to Functions video.  In the 7th minute of this video, Sal uses the example of Sal(poison) –>death as an example of a function. The kids thought this weird and hilarious!

So, with all that they have to say about everyone else’s videos, our final tech project of the year is going to be for students to create their OWN math videos. This will be a great process for review for the Final Exam. I am just beginning to think about the rubric and the time frame, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

FIRST: As a class, we will brainstorm all of the characteristics of the “good” videos we have seen this semester using Corkboard.

Then, students will:

1) Choose their groups (2 or 3 people)
2) Choose their “film concept”  (topic to be approved by me so each group is covering something different)
3) Write their script collaboratively using Google Docs. (Students will have to share their scripts with me for approval) We will begin this in class, but by using Google Docs, a lot of this collaboration can happen outside of school.
4)  Storyboard their film. (We will have a lesson on Storyboarding from Sarah Ludwig, Academic Tech Coordinator)
5) Choose a filming location (with approval from me so we know the space is available)
6) Film it using our school’s Flips (Sad that these are going away. We are just starting to use our Flips A LOT!)
7) Use JayCut to edit their videos. (We will have a lesson on this).
8 ) Have a “Film Festival” the last week of school to view.

I will begin discussing the project this week in class. It’s perfect to introduce in the “extra five minutes” I have each day. I am excited to see what my students create!  These are the experiences they will remember for a lifetime!

If anyone has any advice to share, please comment!

“Why Is Everything About Technology?”

As I stood behind two colleagues in the lunch line, I heard one of them talking about spending time on technology at yet another meeting. I had just given a short presentation about our updated technology plan and our Academic Tech Coordinator had recently unveiled our new plan for the Lower School technology schedule for the following year. Those updates seemed harmless to me. And yet… the feeling was: “Why is everything always about technology?”

Personally, I don’t feel like we “always” talk about technology; it just so happens that technology is everywhere. It’s everywhere you look, in everything you do. It’s just a tool though… it’s a tool to organize, it’s a tool to communicate, it’s a tool to collaborate, it’s a tool to get information. It’s not the ONLY way we do these things, but it is a tool we need to explore and discuss and learn more about, hence we talk about it…often. Maybe too often for some…

Now I ask the question… what if we did the opposite of “always” talking about technology? what if we NEVER talked about it? What if we never explored it as a faculty, tried it out, were exposed to its possibilities? What would our students look like? What would they be prepared for? Would they be prepared for college? Would you hire them? Would you let them be your surgeon?  Could they be successful in this world?

I don’t think so.

“I can’t find Blaise Pascal’s friends….”

My FakeWall/ Diigo project was due this past week and, while the website’s instability proved to be a bit of a challenge, I am excited about what the students learned from this.  When myfakewall.com was working, the students found it very easy to use. When it wasn’t, they learned that things like this happen and they needed a little patience and resilience in the process. “It happens…” “Keep trying…” were phrases I used often. Ultimately, all students completed their work within the appropriate timeline.  On the research side, the students definitely saw the benefits of using Diigo (Digest of Internet Information Groups and Other Stuff  www.diigo.com) to organize their images, research and notes surrounding the mathematician that they chose to learn more about.  According to them, having all of their research available at home and in school or wherever they were working on the project made the process a lot easier.

The final walls were amazing, in most cases, but the creative component of this project forced some of my students out of their comfort zone. During our research phase, it was interesting to observe how they were figuring out how to put all the pieces of the project together. Some were very frustrated. One student looked up at me and said, “I hate this. I keep trying to google Blaise Pascal’s friends and the list isn’t coming up”. At first, I was a little surprised at this.  These students were in 9th and 10th grade.  Did this student actually think that a list was going to come up?  The answer is “yes” and I realized that I had to regroup and have a discussion about how to analyze information in the articles they were finding online.  Shame on me for assuming they knew this. We talked about how they actually had to READ the information, and I demonstrated how to use the diigo notes area and highlighter to help organize what might be helpful in figuring out “friends”. I continued to guide them through this process and most “got it”.  My bottom line message to them: “You can’t just “google it” and expect to get all the answers to a project like this.” Have they heard this before? I hope so. It’s just another reminder that we do need to continue to reinforce this to our students regularly.

Here are some of the final products:


Carl Gauss



Albert Einstein

For an additional perspective on students’ reactions with tech, see my colleague Sarah Ludwig’s post: “I hate technology.”

Here’s an update to this project from 2011-2012 school year.

Here are additional resources for using Diigo in the classroom:
Diigo for Educators
A Quick Tour of Diigo
Free Tech for Teachers: Diigo Teacher Accounts
Student Learning with Diigo
Will Richardson’s Annotating with Diigo
Three Uses of Diigo in the History and Language Arts Classroom