Growing Green: A Story of Inspiration

I just stumbled upon  this TED story last night and thought everyone needs a bit of inspiration on a Monday morning. I love watching these TED talks that inspire and give me hope as an educator.

After watching this TED talk about this teacher in the South Bronx doing amazing things and truly making an impact, it reminded me of the dream that I have to start my own school one day. Dreams to start a school where students can nurture and grow their creativity. Dreams to start a school where students can follow their passions. Dreams to start a school where students can become agents of change.

What are your dreams and hopes as an educator?

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Digital Research: The Double Edged Sword?

I recently got an e-mail from Allison over at OnlineEducation.Net, who came across this post about the ISTE conference in San Diego, Jee Young wrote last spring.

Allison explained that she helped create a graphic that, “examines how todays students are conducting research in the digital era, as well as the impact technology is having on the quality of their research.”

I thought the graphic was interesting and wanted to share it, so here it is!

digital research image

What do you think about these statistics? To me, most of them make sense, especially concerning how distracting technology can be. It is an amazing tool we have, the internet, but when not used correctly— can be a student’s biggest downfall. There are a lot of arguments to be made for both cases.

I like the three tips at the end for how to research better, as I myself fall victim to multitasking. I am learning more and more how NOT to do that.

Speaking of technology, a school I heard about during my graduate studies that I found really interesting is Waldorf School in California, a school that doesn’t allow computers in the classrooms… I have to admit, after reading this article, I was intrigued. I am not saying that I completely agree with the article, if I had an iPad, you better believe I would be using learning apps in my Kindergarten classroom. Still… I like to look at both sides of the coin.

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Guest Blog Post: Pecha Kucha More Than Chit-Chat

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We are excited to start off 2013 with our guest blogger Jackie. She took the leap of faith and started teaching internationally at a school in Jakarta, Indonesia this past year.  I had the privilege of meeting her in person in Singapore a few months ago when she was visiting during her vacation. She is a faithful reader of our blog and currently teaching 7th & 8th English and technology. We are thankful for her thoughtful contribution! 

Seventh grade students in a growing English proficiency literature class struggled to comprehend Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman until the setting and social issues came alive through their compositions of pecha kuchas.

What is a pecha kucha and how did students compose them in our classroom? To begin, Pecha Kucha is the Japanese word for “chit chat.” The term refers to 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. The idea originated as a way to prompt presenters to create thoughtful, compelling representations as an alternative to a popular presentation method that tempts people to be wordy, not in a good way.

Our class took a cue from a previous teacher at our school, Jabiz Raisdana, to attempt amini-pecha kucha (10 slides shown for 20 seconds each) as a way to familiarize ourselves with the setting of Boy Overboard, Afghanistan. Because students appreciated the visual aspect of pecha kuchas, we decided to expand it to examine the themes of  the book, Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. Also, the Middle Years Program (part of the International Baccalaureate program) at our school, requires a “Visual Literacy” criterium for English Acquisition Learners which pecha kuchas provide an opportunity to demonstrate.

“Pecha kuchas helped me understand the book better,” was overheard by one student in the middle of researching this project. Boy Overboard proved to be somewhat challenging with its vocabulary referencing war and its Afghan setting. When asked why and how pecha kuchas helped her, the student responded that the slides allowed her “to see” scenes from the book.

Students gravitated toward the social issues surrounding the book as well. We tied the theme of gender equality, prevalent in this book set during Taliban control, to the UN Millenium Development Goals. Students followed the unfolding story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for her BBC blog and views on education for girls–and connected this to the characters in the book as they are forced to leave Afghanistan because their parents run an illegal school for girls.

We capitalized on the text-to-world connection and the visual nature of pecha kuchas to build a scaffold for students. My hope was not only that the students learn about Afghanistan and themes of the novel, but how to comprehend written and visual texts.

Here are the steps we took to compose our mini-pecha kucha reader responseassignment:

  1. Discussed the elements of the book: characters, setting, theme, etc.
  2. Identified setting or themes that would help students better understand the novel. (Made a list.)
  3. Partners chose a theme and began planning by copying and sharing this planner.
  4. Carefully evaluated and selected images that supported an understanding of the topic.
  5. Cited each image, while starting with a search of Creative Commons images.
  6. Composed text for each image that reflected an accurate reading of the image while connecting it to the topic and how it helped the students better understand the book.
  7. Recorded the pecha kucha while timing to be sure the slide was shown for roughly 20 seconds only.
  8. Screened the pecha kucha for the class, answering questions about why certain images were selected and explaining how the slideshow connected to the novel.

Pecha Kucha Evaluation Rubric.

Here is an example of a finished mini-pecha kucha on the topic of Desert Life in Afghanistan by 3 seventh grade students; Holly, Elaine and Da Ran.

Reflections: After the assignment, I had these thoughts:

  • We are still working on beginnings, middles and endings when writing. Although the pecha kuchas encourage writers to focus on the specific image shown, we are still thinking about we can incorporate a “wrap-it-up” ending and tie the topic to the novel.
  • Many students struggled with selecting images that “looked” like they fit the topic, but they were not sure if they were taken in Afghanistan or Pakistan or elsewhere. We discussed how Flickr images often include a description of the photo and could provide more context than a simple Google image search.
  • Students shared the citations with me on the planner, but where should they include them on screen in the final project? Rolling credits?

For more from Jackie, go to: http://jakartajackie.wordpress.com/

Our Changing World

I love that we cannot teach the way we were taught to teach (or the way we were taught) because education is constantly changing. The way we teach now is not the way my parents were taught, or I was taught. My parents were educated to be part of a world where things had yet to exist (the internet, cell phones, 3D movies!), and I was educated to be a part of a world where things did not exist (wi-fi, tablets/kindles, smartphones, 4D/Imax!), so are we educating the youth to be a part of the future world (can you imagine the things that have yet to be invented?).

One thing I hope never ceases to exists are real books, and putting a pen to paper. There is something about holding a book, smelling the ink on the pages, and getting lost in a story that you just can’t get with an electronic device (don’t get me wrong, I loved my kindle— before it broke/I broke it— it was so convenient). I have heard that teaching cursive (even handwriting) is a lost art now, no one hand writes anything anymore, it’s all typed. LIES. I write every day, haha.

Teaching Kindergarten is new for me (did you know? have I mentioned that yet?!), and one of the joys I have found this year is watching students discover books for the first time. When they pick up one of those small, simple books, and can read the words from the beginning to the end for the first time without your help— their smiles are infectious, the joy is actually contagious. Would it be the same if they learned those words on a screen and flipped pages on a tablet? I don’t know.

Will hard books cease to exist? What do you think? What is something you hope will never leave the education world?

A Class of Over 1000 Students

Imagine being the teacher of over 1000 students all in the same class. Yes, it sounds a bit crazy. Yet, it’s possible today in the technology driven world. Melody and I have started taking this FREE online class from Stanford University, more of a learning experiment on my end. It’s called designing a new learning environment. I blogged about it here. At first, I was intrigued by the idea of offering “free” education. You know that economic theory how they say there’s no such thing as a “free lunch”. Well, I wanted to see what a free online class from Stanford would be like.

The hardest thing so far is keeping on top of my deadlines for assignments! They don’t really send us reminders about assignments, so you need to be on top of it. Well, this class is obviously not my number one priority right now, and I’ve found myself in a panic when I realize my assignment is due in the next 17 hours. Good thing I’m in a different time zone, it helps me a little bit. So far, the time commitment has been reasonable and I’ve been reflecting and learning already. There are short video clips of lectures we watch, weekly assignments, and a final group project. It has been interesting seeing how this whole online class thing works. It’s weird not really being graded and assessed on every assignment especially by the teacher. Our assignment we just submitted will be “graded” by my peers. I’m think of posting some of my assignments as a blog post as well.

I wonder if this is the direction education will take in the future, where there’s no physical classroom, but being connected to your teacher and classmates through the Internet and various technology driven learning platforms. I’m not sure if I’m ready to let go of my notebooks and pencils. I’m not sure if I’m ready to let go of giving my students high fives. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the change that will come.

Have you taken any online classes before? If so, what has that experience been like?

A snapshot of our video lecture!

TEDEd YouTube Channel

I have always talked about what a huge fan I am of TED talks… I feel so behind. I had no idea there was a youtube channel devoted to educational TED talks until I was reading Jee Young’s latest blog post!

I just watched this talk on taking GOOD and BAD out of our vocabulary. You need to watch it, show it to your upper elementary students (heck, I might even show it to my kinders!) and tie it in with a lesson on how to add more descriptive adjectives into our writing.

Integrating technology into the classroom is vital in today’s world. Working at a school that doesn’t have laptops to check out, or iPads to use, doesn’t mean I can’t include technology into my lessons. These great videos are a good way to start.

What are some ways you integrated technology? Have you used one of these TED videos in your lessons?

Google Summit in Singapore

This weekend, I attended a google apps for education summit held by my school here in Singapore. It was pretty nice to have it hosted at my school campus! There were people from various schools in Asia here for the conference, plus a lot of amazing google presenters. Here are a few fun videos shown at our first keynote by Suan Yeo and some important nuggets of information from the workshops.




Two funny follow ups to that…

One of the workshops I attended was called Harnessing the Power of Youtube by Patrick Green, who is our middle school technology coordinator. Here is his link for the presentation:

Harnessing the Power of Youtube

He goes through the steps of how to create your own youtube channel and making your own youtube playlist! It was a really helpful and useful session. I really liked that he gave us time in the workshop to actually do some of the things he said.  So I updated my youtube channel profile and started subscribing to a few different educational youtube sites! Take a look:

Ms Kim’s Youtube Channel

One of the best ideas I heard today was using google forms as a way of assessing students. You can use them for short start-up/do now questions, and get the instant feedback. You can also use them for quizes and exit slips! I’m definitely going to try that with my students.

Learn with us by following the twitter #gafesummit and/or checking out the google summit’s resources pages. I have a few more technology related blog posts in my head to write this week! Stay tuned for more from the summit.

What are some ways you use google apps in your classroom?