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)!

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*

Exceptional Children

Almost every teacher who has ever mentioned this subject to me says the same thing: they don’t teach you nearly enough about exceptional children in university.

The strange part about that, I find, is that many of the teachers who have told me that were university professors.  So they know about the issue, but…they have no intention of fixing it?  Or they are unable to do so? I understand that changing the curriculum for ANYTHING is extremely time-consuming, but…I don’t know.  I don’t blame any of my professors for the lack of training available; it just seems like a strange situation.

To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty nervous about teaching students with special needs.  I have been informed ahead of time that my training here at university will not even come close to preparing me for those students, and that is not a confidence booster.  I worry that I will fail them.  I worry that I will make mistakes, or I won’t do everything I can/should, and they won’t get the kind of care/attention/education they need and deserve.

I have every intention of doing everything in my power to help every single one of my students succeed.  But what good are my intentions when my training is insufficient?  I am a high achiever.  I don’t feel comfortable giving anything less than my best to anyone I serve, and the idea that there is no way I will be able to do that (even if it’s only at first) disturbs me.  I will learn on the job, or so I assume, but…how can that possibly be good enough?

If there is anyone reading this who has teaching experience in this realm, give me a shout.  My insecurities as a teacher-in-training could really use some beating down just now.

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Based on this documentary, I am going to answer this question from the study guide:

Do you think you can argue your creativity when it’s based on another artist’s work?

 

I would like to start off by saying that…people have overcomplicated this issue so much more than is necessary.  Well – I say people, but I mean corporations.  As far as I’m concerned, creative copyright should not extend to anyone who did not actually create something.  If it’s not yours, dear lord – just let it go.  It doesn’t belong to you.

But I digress.

I believe that you can argue your creativity even if it is based on another artist’s work – to a certain extent.  Yes, many forms of art and creative media are based on works from the past.  Artists learn their trade by watching other artists, picking up bits and pieces of what they like from everywhere.  That is only natural. Before I could draw, I traced pictures from other artists.  Then I stopped tracing and started simply looking at the way they drew forms and objects.  Even now, when I create only my own artwork, it would be a lie to say that the style I have now is completely my own and not cobbled together from a hundred different sources.  Somewhere along the line, everyone who creates something has looked at something or someone else and thought, “Hey…I like that.  That gives me an idea.”

But then, of course, I am reminded of something Mark Twain said:

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world doesn’t owe you anything.  It was here first.”

The world does not owe you anything – including the tools you seem to think are necessary to your creative art.  There is no law that says your creative license is without bound.  Nowhere is it written that you or anyone else has the RIGHT to create whatever you want from any source at any time, no matter the situation.  I believe that there are certain copyright laws that should be upheld, especially if the artist is still alive and/or has asked that their material not be used.  I know for certain that if I found out someone had taken a piece of my writing or my artwork and used it without asking my permission or giving me credit, I would be upset.  There is such a thing as showing respect to other artists.

Of course, I think most people – including the makers of the Remix Manifesto – understand that some things should not be part of public domain – at least while the artist is alive.  This issue only really seems to get complicated when corporations claim the copyrights to things they had no hand in creating, and then expect everyone to treat them with the same respect due to the original creator.  In that case, I would say the corporations are being as disrespectful, if not more so, than someone who would take an artist’s work without giving them credit.  They have taken something that was created as a work of art and turned it into a tool for obtaining money for themselves, and as far as I am concerned, that is theft and a betrayal of the public trust.

In the end, I think what it comes down to is this: be respectful.  If the artist is still alive and they don’t want their material used, don’t use it.  If they ask that you give them credit, give them credit.  Even if they aren’t alive, or they don’t ask for credit, give it to them anyways, because that’s the polite thing to do.

And as far as corporations are concerned, well…as much as the past might try to control the future, it can’t hang on forever.  Right now our future looks like it will be less free, but just think – someday the people of our generation are going to be the ones running the corporations.

Nothing lasts forever.  Not even copyright.

The Introvert Myth

This entry doesn’t exactly have anything to do with teaching, but it does have a lot to do with the fact that not every student we encounter in schools will be an outgoing little pillar of social confidence – and neither will every teacher.

I am introverted.  I’ve known that since I was about four years old, although it’s information that my parents and teachers have always had difficulty accepting – which sounds ridiculous.  I don’t have a second head and I’m not a serial killer or a giraffe in disguise.  And yet it was – and still is – as if they thought introversion was a disability or defect of some kind; like they thought I couldn’t possibly live a normal or happy life if I didn’t have twenty-eight best friends.

It isn’t a disability, although it can, at times, be a difficulty.  But even if I’m not going to be that teacher who is best friends with every one of her students, I am going to be the teacher who pushes everyone to be their best and to love what they do and seek/strive/thrive no matter what problems and challenges they face.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and I’m glad of every single one of them – even (if not especially) the ones that make life just a little bit more complicated.

Ten Myths About Introverts

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.