Today is my parents’ Anniversary. They have given my brother and I so much support through out our lives and our academic careers. Every year I try and think of a gift I can give them that can sum it all up. Unfortunately Apple does not have an ‘App’ for that. So how do we repay the ones who have given us every piece of their lives, made endless sacrifices and have simply been there? How do we show them our gratitude? For me, it’s simple. I always try and find something that will make my mom cry (in a good way!). With my mother that is never hard. And my Dad loves looking back at old photos, but hates posing for them. So this year I wanted to combine these ideas in a way that both visually and musically capture 32 years of marriage. George Lucas was busy, so I turned to my good friend Animoto!
A colleague of mine recently informed me of her troubles with incorporating the idea of a social network into her classroom. The primary concern is the safety and privacy of her students. This cause for concern is completely warranted and should be addressed anytime you allow students to engage in a web based social network forum. However, my concern with the social networking scare is that our children and students are privy to a social network everyday of their lives. It is called school.
The 21st century student is connected in myriad of ways. Most have a cell phone, iPod and a digital camera. Some simply have an iPhone. These devices allow students to connect, share and collaborate with anyone. Furthermore, students have more accessibility to each other outside of their social networks. The social network, whether it is facebook or myspace is exactly what, those of us who grew up in a pre-online social network world, did everyday!
We took pictures of our friends. We hung them in our rooms or dorms. We relayed secretive notes to those who made our heart flutter through back channels. We snuck out late at night to visit our significant other while our parents were fast asleep, just to steal a kiss down at the end of the block. We sent letters to each other in college and would call from our telephone. Instead of texting in class, we would doodle or write notes about plans for the weekend. Instead of “sexting” we would just write dirty notes to our girlfriends or boyfriends. We had hundreds of friends at our disposal everyday at school and every Friday night at dances when the neighboring schools would join.
Facebook and myspace are not a new concept. I repeat, this is nothing new. I once had a corkboard in my bedroom as well. This is what was displayed on it along with the facebook equivalent:
Pictures of friends posted with pushpins
Pictures of friends posted via digital
Clippings from the newspaper that were of interest to me or that featured my
favorite team or friends.
Links to websites that feature our friends, interests or favorite teams.
Buttons from elections or causes
Digital clip art that represent our causes and political affiliations.
Notes from friends
300 birthday wishes from your network (two who actually say something more than just “happy birthday”
Again, social networks are nothing new and we should not be scared of them. Yes, there have been awful stories about the downfalls of all of these networks, but in the grand scheme the stories that get the headline news coverage are…
A. About as frequent as hearing about a plane crash.
B. Dramatized and sensationalized for ratings.
C. A Situation that is unmonitored and unstoppable in any social forum.
So what is the big scare with social networks? We are all a part of them everyday and have been without knowing for years. Today’s student simply has the abridged version of what we had all but 15 years ago. Let’s be honest, today’s student is lazier then we have ever been. Yes, they are precious and we are all, “so proud of them”, but lets face it, they have it pretty good (well that’s if you exclude graduating into the worst economy in history).
There are many great upsides to allowing students to be part of social networks. One of them is the website called Zinch. Zinch is a social networking site used by many major colleges and universities across the nation. Like facebook, Zinch allows pre-college students to set up a profile that lists all of their major academic achievements. Universities and colleges actually look at this information and in some cases, students can even apply for scholarships directly through this site. It is a great way for students to access heaps of information and showcase themselves in a positive manner.
The fine line between virtual networks and actual socializing is that you can veil certain elements of your life. They allow you to be someone else; someone you are not (although we are transplanting faces now). In any case, social networks belong in the classroom. There is no way of pushing back what is already a part of our students’ life. With anything, we as teachers and administrators, need to set parameters for the social networks we decide to use in our classrooms. There needs to be…
1. Open invitations to all – parents, administration, superintendent, school board, grandparents and cafeteria ladies (yes, they no more about our students than you would think!)
2. There needs to be complete transparency with any virtual social network. Like reality, all content should be on the surface for all to see.
3. The social network should focus on content only. It should be viewed as a social forum for academic dialogue, nothing else
4. There should be a district wide “Social Networking Constitution” that every parents, faculty member and student should have to sign. A team of all of the above including administration should create this document.
There, fairly simple. With great power comes great responsibility. Venturing off into a social network with your students should be taken very seriously, however, you should not be afraid. If you plan it out and cover your bases it should be a wonderful, collaborative environment.
I hope all who read this understand that social networks are nothing new. They have been part of our lives for years. The functionality is all the same, however, the medium* has changed greatly. Please leave me feedback on the parameters your school district has set for using social networks. And let’s collaborate on the best practices for implementing social forums into the classroom.
*This aforementioned medium will be outdated tomorrow
Threadless.com is a user generated t-shirt site that promotes user design and sale of a t-shirt. The basic concept can be seen here from an image from threadless.com…
Users log in, and submit an original design that they created. The design is then put into a forum for users to critique and praise the design. If the design receives enough recognition, threadless will put it on a t-shirt and feature it in their store for sale. I liken this site to a student-writing contest. The author submits an original idea and gets recognized for it and in some case, will receive a monetary gift. Plus, imagine applying to art school with a best selling t-shirt in your portfolio! That will surely get the attention of admissions officers!
I think every art classroom should make a strong push to have each student design a t-shirt for threadless. Even if the students’ design is not selected they are interacting with their peers and getting the opportunity to see and learn from other designs. Just by replying on a threadless forum, students are networking with other artists. This forum can create opportunities and lead to possible internships or job experiences.
I’ve never taught art, but if I were to incorporate threadless design into my art class, here is what I may cover.
- Students create an original design that has to focus on
- A specific style of art (cubism, impressionism, abstract, etc.)
- An artists style (Warhol, Monet, Picasso, etc.)
- Take an object and make it into a design
- Students create their design and present it to the class. They have to address their process and inspirations for creating the design as well as field questions and criticisms from their peers.
- Once they have been through the class presentation gauntlet they will submit their design to threadless.com and report back on the responses they receive.
This is a fun project any art classroom should welcome. It incorporates technology, creativity and social networking. Plus it gives the student portfolio a little extra flare!
I hope you give threadless.com a try and I look forward to hearing how you have used or plan on using this site in your classroom!
Today’s post is not so much of a lesson, but what will become the future of reading. I’m referring to the Kindle from Amazon. Yesterday I read this article that chronicled the launch of Amazon’s Kindle DX. This new gadget immediately alerted my attention and got me thinking really fast about the future of reading and its effect on the classroom.
Two years ago, I attempted to enhance my weekly vocabulary units that I was presenting to my bored-out-of-their-mind-please-just-let-me-graduate-seniors. So I coordinated with our school librarian who was anxious for teachers to come visit her and present ideas that she could assist in developing! Plus, she was very fond of web 2.0 learning tools and was one of my early inspirations in transitioning my content out into the World Wide Web (that sounds like such an archaic term these days). Our goal was to liven up the vocabulary unit and utilize web 2.0 tools and some of the fancy new CFF (Classrooms For the Future) equipment we just received as part of a grant from the state. Here is what we came up with…but first, a brief video of what we did and how we got started…
Objective: When this unit is completed, students will be able to
1. Identify and understand new words in context
2. Define and use the word
Process: After the class discusses each word, students will be then be assigned one word. Students will perform the following tasks for Vocabulary Unit 4 with their Vocab Partner:
- Come up with five sentences for their word. Make sure you utilize context clues in each of your sentences.
- Take one sentence and create a way in which you can visualize that word for your peers to see and understand.
- Present the idea to the teacher for approval
- Once your idea is approved, you will take a digital camera and spend no longer than 3 minutes capturing your photo. MY NOTE: Anytime you use digital cameras, video cameras, microphones, etc. make sure you give the students a specific timetable to use that equipment. This will allow all students to move along in the process and will use class time efficiently.
- Once you have your photo taken, show it to the teacher for second approval and then obtain a USB cable for upload. Upload to our class flickr page.
- Once your photo is uploaded make sure you post the
- Word – SPELLED CORRECTLY!
- Part of Speech
- Definition that correlates to your photo
- You may also enhance your photo by visiting big huge labs dot com.
You will have 30 minutes on Monday and Tuesday to complete this project.
Grading will adhere to the following criteria:
- Spelling and Grammar……………..10……7…….4……..0
- Visual Appeal and Clarity……..10…..7……..4……..0
And that was the assignment in a nutshell. The rubric is a rough sketch. I cannot find the original rubric we used, but it was similar to those guidelines.
Once we finished the project, we had a viewing of the words on Wednesday. Each group presented their word to the class. It was a fun and engaging way to jazz up learning new vocabulary and retention. I noticed my vocabulary quiz grades improve significantly after this project. The students actually looked forward to vocabulary and I actually caught some of them looking ahead to future units!
This lesson put a fun, easy twist on something that had been boring and trite to my students. It did not take a lot of class time and in the end served as a valuable learning and retention tool. If you are worried about class time being eaten up by projects like this, then put a time stamp on tasks and enforce your time cap! Tell students they will lose points if they lag behind. I found this project to take a little more time during the first run through, but as we approached each new vocabulary unit, students became aware of the process and time it would take to get it done. I rarely had to subtract points for time.
Here are some examples of student work with flickr and Big Huge Labs
When I initially set out to start this blog, my goal was for it to serve as a universal resource for all educators. My mission was to have weekly contributors, sharing practical ideas for implementing technology into the classroom. It is still my hope that this will happen and to promote this new phase, I want to introduce Collaboration Fridays!