My Summary of Learning

It is what is says on the label – the summary of what I learned this semester in #ecmp355.

I don’t know that I really have anything to add.  I’m supposed to present evidence here that I contributed to the learning of others, but I honestly don’t know if I did.  It isn’t as if anyone has come out and said, “Holy cow, I never thought of that before! Thank you! My life has been forever changed!”  I certainly haven’t said that to anyone.  All I can say is that I’ve learned a lot this semester, and I hope everyone else has as well.

So with that, I’m going to sign off.  So long (until next time)!

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Imagination: It’s a Muscle, Too

I know I’ve referenced this gentleman before, but I find that Marvin Bartel (a professor of art in the United States) has quite a lot of excellent ideas for teaching creativity in schools.

Teaching creativity, you say?  Is that even possible, you say?

Why yes!  Yes indeed it is!

Something I noticed when I was in school – especially in art class – was that when teachers were going through their lessons, they often wanted us to be creative, but they never really taught us how to go about it.  I didn’t mind as much, because I am a creative person.  But even I had trouble coming up with things to draw or write or paint, and when confronted with that problem from me and my classmates, teachers would often simply say, “Well…I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

…Which was not as helpful as I would have liked, incidentally.

Until I read Marvin’s article,“The Secrets of Generating Art Ideas: an Inside Out Art Curriculum,” I don’t think I realized that this was actually a problem for a lot of people.  A lot of students have trouble coming up with ideas for art projects and writing.  One of the ways Mr. Bartel suggests teachers combat this is through the use of the Conversation Game.  If you were in my EAES 201 class, you played this game with me, but I just wanted to elaborate on it a little further.

The rules are simple.  You divide your class into groups, and make sure that each member of the group has a piece of paper and a pencil.  Then they go around to every member of the group and ask each other ‘getting to know you’ questions.  Each student writes down each question and their answer to it, but they don’t have to share their answers unless they want to.  After a certain amount of time has passed, the groups stop and tell everyone in the class what their questions were.  For every question they have that no other group has, the students get a point, and the group with the most points wins.

However, this is not a game you play once and then forget about.  This is a game you keep playing and keep playing, and over time the questions will evolve from the level of, “What is your favourite television show?” to  the level of, “If you could choose any superpower, what would it be?” As time goes on, students learn to ask critical, insightful, creative questions, and they can use those questions or their answers as inspiration for writing, for art projects, for drama – essentially any creative exercise.

I like the idea of being able to teach creativity and develop that skill like a muscle, through constant use.  How about you?

Writing in Proliferation

My dad once told me about his favourite high school teacher.  I do not know the man’s name, but I do rather wish I’d had him when I was in high school.  This gentleman was an English teacher, and one of the things he did at the beginning of the year was give every one of his students a notebook and tell them that they had to write at least one page in it every day.  Fiction, poetry, a journal – it didn’t matter what they wrote just as long as they wrote.

My dad told me that sometimes it was physically painful, having to produce that much work so constantly when he wasn’t used to it – but it was the best training he’d ever had as a writer.  It forced him to write even when he wasn’t feeling inspired, or when he wasn’t sure where a story plot was going, or when he wasn’t focused or driven or any other excuse a writer has ever given for not writing.  Today he’s a journalist, the editor of a newspaper, and he writes novels in his spare time.  Unlike me, I have never once known my father to suffer from writer’s block.

I think that’s a wonderful idea – it’s like long-distance running for writers.  But I also think that sometimes it’s important to give students a bit of a leg to stand on instead of just flinging work at them and hoping for the best.  So something I do when I can’t write is look at writing prompts.  There are probably hundreds of sites full of writing prompts, but this one is one of my favourites.  The creator, Meredith Willis, used to teach (and may still teach) writing classes and workshops, and she is the author of several books, as well.  There are over two hundred writing exercises on the site, which she still updates, so there are more than enough of them to present a lot of variety to your students if you choose to use them.

That’s all for now.  So long, and happy writing!

Photograph by Linda Cronin on Flickr.

(We are probably not the center of the universe.)

The Scale of the Universe.

This is a little piece of wonderfulness that the science teachers out there should appreciate – and even if you’re not a science teacher, it’s still some crazy cool nonsense.  The scale starts with quantum foam (the fabric of Einstein’s space-time theory) and works its way up to the estimated size of the entire universe (and everything in-between).  Plus, it’s got some lovely mood music.  Go check it out!

Love and Literature in School

Tech Task #7: a podcast from yours truly!

The examples I use in there relate specifically to teaching English literature, but I feel the principle is the same for any subject.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson poem at the end can be found here, along with the rest of his work.  The group of writings entitled ‘Conduct of Life,’ from which ‘Beauty’ originates, can be found here (‘Beauty’ is in part 8).

Enjoy!

Resource Site for New Teachers

Betsy’s Classroom Teaching Resources

I ran across this website the other day, and I just thought I’d share.  It’s mostly for elementary school teachers, but there are still some really great ideas, aids, and a ton of resources there if you’re looking.

The site creator, Betsy Weigle, posts resources for student teachers, new teachers, classroom management and discipline, and all that sort of thing.  Her site is geared towards helping teachers not get stressed out about their work, so that they can be happy with their jobs and help their students be successful and happy at the same time.  Giving it a look-see will be well worth your time, especially if you’re as new to this as I am and are looking at teaching the younger grades.

That’s all.  So long!

Edmodo vs. Schoology

Battle royale!

…Teachers have the most boring battles, it would seem.  This saddens me.

 

 

 

 

 

But! On to the topic at hand.  Edmodo and Schoology are both social media-based sites where teachers can connect and communicate with their students.  The sites are designed to let teachers give out assignments and feedback, deliver grades, keep track of attendance – all that good stuff.  In class, Ashley Parker and I got together to compare/contrast the two sites.  Now – everyone seems to prefer Schoology, but I found that I actually liked Edmodo better.

Both sites were free, and allowed teachers to give/students to view their grades.  On both sites, teachers and students could add resources to a library (from their own computers or from the internet), and both sites had simple, Facebook-like designs that just about anyone could navigate with a minimum of difficulty.  Teachers could send out assignments from both sites, and could send messages to specific students or a group of students on both sites.  However, I found that Edmodo had a few features that Schoology did not.

  1. Edmodo allows teachers to create tests and quizzes right on the site.
  2. The Edmodo help section was organized much better – it included categories and common questions, whereas the Schoology help section required us to use a search box to find a specific topic.
  3. Edmodo also provided a code for parents, so that parents could go online and look at how their child(ren) were doing, and so that teachers could contact them directly if necessary.
  4. On Schoology, grades had to be accessed from the home page, but on Edmodo, the link to a student’s grades could be accessed from any page on the site.
  5. Schoology allowed students to create a profile of interests and activities they enjoyed, like a Facebook profile, but Edmodo took it a step further. They allowed students to create a profile on how they personally prefered to be taught, which I think is much more relevant and useful on a school site. (This was my favourite feature.)

There were really only two things that I felt Schoology did better than Edmodo.

  1. Schoology allowed students to view their attendance records along with their grades.
  2. It was easier to delete my account on Schoology than on Edmodo.  For Schoology, I had to click a link; for Edmodo, I had to send an e-mail to tech support asking them to delete my account.

All in all, I found Edmodo provided a more complete service, and was quicker and easier to sign up for and use.  However, again, they were both designed in such a way that I think students would find them easy and appealing to use, insofar as education is ever appealing to most students.  Neither of them should be particularly difficult for parents, either, because even a lot of parents have Facebook pages, and these sites are likely quite a bit simpler than Facebook.

I could see myself using one of these sites in my own classroom.  The tools available on both sites would make at least a few of my jobs much simpler, and I do so hate to have my time wasted.  And that’s about all I have to say about these two sites, so…

…I was right.  That wasn’t really an exciting battle at all.

*sigh*