I redesigned an end-of-the-year unit for my Junior class over the drama A Raisin in the Sun. The purpose for the redesign was to increase the impact of the unit in light of the chaos in the world today. The text deals with discrimination and stereotyping. Recognizing the potential influence this text could have on my students, I wanted to delve a bit deeper, searching for ways to create ripples of impact outside of the four walls of my classroom. By requiring students to create questionnaires to distribute to community members regarding issues of race, gender, and economic inequalities, constructive conversations can be had around dinner tables and at social gatherings that could positively impact our society. Having difficult discussions can create a dialogue that could positively impact a nation…it has to start somewhere, so why not here?!?
One of the approaches to education discussed in one of my classes was Constructionism. This is the idea that students create mental models to help make sense of the world around them. It’s a form of discovery that is student-centered, affording learners the freedom to create in relation to the content taught. Often times, we think of constructionism only taking place in Science labs or some of the Trades classes offered at school. Well, I’m here to tell you that this type of learning can actually take place in the English classroom, as well. We may have to be a little more creative, or think outside of the box, but Constructionism can take place in practically every classroom.
What I love the most about this method of learning is the freedom it offers the students. When they truly get into the project, you can see their eyes light up, their excitement increase, and their voices get louder. 🙂 This is SO exciting to watch. Discussions that follow as students present their end products last a bit longer, become a bit more animated, and tend to take on a different form than simply the same old written responses to prompts. I’ve used this in creating body biographies of characters in novels or in the construction of personal logos by students. It’s interesting how students tend to take on a greater sense of ownership and pride when presenting their work.
Attached is a picture of one of the models a student made when creating a shelter out of sticks and grass. Freshman reading Lord of the Flies learned very quickly just how challenging building a shelter from outdoor resources really is.
As I was working on redesigning a unit of study for a text my students read at the end of the year, it struck me at how I might have been cheating my students regarding the richness of the content through the years. Since this text is situated at the very end of the year, my students are eager to complete the tasks and leave for summer break. However, after really evaluating what I do in regards to this unit, I recognized the need to dig much deeper into the core of what this drama is about and how these same ideas hold such value and relevancy over 50 years later.
The text which rounds off my Junior English classes’ year is “A Raisin in the Sun.” It’s a drama that focuses on dreams unrealized, as well as bigotry, racism, and prejudice. Recognizing that the majority of my students are white and can’t truly understand how offensive and prevalent this is, I realized I really needed to carve out extra time to examine these issues in greater detail. Even as I write this, civil unrest is brewing across our nation, reminding me of the need for my students to grasp the brevity of what is happening. I’m hoping that this text can act as a bridge to difficult conversations that need to be discussed in order for there to be constructive conversations regarding the unifying of our nation.
My redesign of this unit has evolved throughout the course of the last few months and seems to be taking shape. As I work to create meaning for my students, I’ve incorporated an opportunity for them to create a survey which addresses questions of prejudice within our community. In order for my students to really invest in this final unit of study, I’m having them design the survey, determining what are appropriate questions to ask (with a little guidance if necessary). Once the students have created their google surveys, they will distribute them to at least 5 people outside of the classroom. Once these surveys have been completed by their designated participants, the students will collect the data, analyze it for meaning, and present their findings to the class using a form of technology other than Power point. My desire is that this unit will be one that influences my students to recognize prejudice when they see it in order to speak up for what is right, or at the very least, change their own mindsets to ones that appreciate differences and embrace cultures of all types.
I recently researched the TPACK framework for a grad class. This framework interconnects technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge.
The goal as educators is to strive to identify that perfect balance of all three. After reading further about the different combinations of technology, content and pedagogy, I realized how purposeful we need to be in designing lessons for our learners. Those who are seated in our classrooms have been entrusted to us to do our very best in identifying innovative and intentional ways to teach. This framework help us to purposefully think through each element of our instruction to appeal to the various learners in our classes.
Below is a link which provides additional information regarding TPACK, as well as examples of its use in classrooms. I invite you to take a peak at an extended explanation of a framework worthy of your time.
The beauty of time passing is the fun of looking back and seeing just how far we’ve come as a society. Taking time to be retrospective allows us to really appreciate the advancements in society that have shaped who we’ve become. Likewise, it helps us better understand the younger generation as we realize what they know and what they’ve not ever experienced…things like typewriters, programming codes, dial-up internet, etc. Contemplating the old with the new helps us remember where we’ve been and see more clearly where we’re going.
I see learning as a roller coaster ride–fun for some, terrifying for others. This take on learning connects with the Constructivist theory, as students build on their experiences to create learning. As students approach the first big hill of learning, it can seem a bit overwhelming. Some students embrace the challenge while others become anxious. As they take in information, they face the challenge of applying what they’ve learned. They may rely on previous knowledge, or their own real world experiences to construct learning based on what they know. This then affords them a greater self-confidence as they face the next learning challenge. Since their knowledge builds on their prior experiences, they apply this prior knowledge and face the next hurdle with a greater sense of control. As in each visual cartoon, students experience learning together. They reflect on their experiences, share what they’ve learned, and continue the ride.
Upon completing my final HOMAGO, I feel a bit accomplished. In recording myself and walking through the setting up of flipgrid, I realized that I have learned a lot more than I even realized. I’ve definitely felt “stretched” through the HOMAGO process, but appreciate the space to explore, connect, and create. After reviewing the uses of flipgrid, it really got my mind racing as to the different ways I could apply this technology to my classroom. Since my goal is to open the minds of my students to the idea of exploration beyond the classroom walls, I’ve found that I, too, need to expand my own knowledge, and find new and alternative ways of teaching. I’m hopeful that I can hand down the HOMAGO process to my students, making time and the space for them to experiment and search different apps and tools to enhance their learning.
The video is not the smoothest, but hopefully, it shows what I’ve learned.
When considering HOMAGO as a learning device, I think it’s a really good way to gain insight into different tech tools, as well as gaining insight from peers. The greatest challenge I’ve faced is the time component. Being able to carve out a time to investigate and experiment with different technologies has been the most difficult for me. Maybe it’s partially due to the fact that I’m a little older and haven’t grown up with social media, making it a bit more time consuming for me than the average person. And yet, I know it’s really good for me as I’ve gained insight into the uses of different technologies that could enhance student learning. Moving forward, I can see the benefits of incorporating HOMAGO in some way in the classroom. I’m still trying to figure out what that might look like in light of the required content we are expected to cover in the school year. However, I do see the benefits in the long run, for both the students and for myself.
My Technology/Teaching Manifesto:
Be the kind of teacher that I wanted, and needed, when I was their age.
Don’t forget what it was like to be a teenager. Embrace the energy, address the angst, and uplift the weary.
Encourage my students to be the very best they can be…for no other person than for themselves.
Instill a sense of accomplishment within my students so that they get a taste for success, and like it.
Be willing to do for my students what I would expect them to do for me.
Always remember: by showing them respect, I gain their respect. It’s a two-way street.
Incorporate technology in a way that advances my students in a rapidly advancing technological world. Be innovative and creative.
Constantly revisit curriculum to update it and keep it relevant in each teaching year.
Maintain and update my own learning to better address my students’ needs. I can do this by challenging myself to learn new and better advancements in technology.
Create a welcoming environment that fosters student growth.
Create a risk-taking environment in which students feel comfortable pushing the boundaries of their own education.
Remind students often: “If they never try, they’ll never know.”
Communicate to my students that mistakes are proof they are trying—so welcome them.
Recognize the anxieties involved in using unfamiliar technologies and be the safe place to experiment. Address fear head-on with empathy.
Don’t allow complacency to find its home in my classroom—for my students or myself.
Encourage collaboration among my students, as well as among my colleagues.
Establish an open learning community among the staff at my school, to share ideas and address issues in order to become better for our students and for ourselves.
Try new things and experiment with new technologies.
Bring joy back into learning!
Dream big…and encourage my students to do the same.
So, I’ve decided to focus on Flipgrid and figure out ways to incorporate this into my classes. Because of the back-and-forth nature of quarantined students and the high school as a whole, I’d like to connect better with my students and get them to connect better with each other. I don’t want to just use Flipgrid as a replacement for “journal” responses. I’m looking for other creative ways to use the tech tool. I’ve looked into different ways to use it online, one of which is connecting with those outside of our school. I was thinking about seeing if our students might be able to connect with those of another school, covering similar topics. This may be a stretch and not possible. I do know it’s been used to connect those in the community with students. So maybe another way we could reach out could be by appealing to a local author or expert in an area we are working on. We could pose questions to them through Flipgrid and, if they’re willing, they could respond to the students. This is just a start…a work in progress.
Any suggestions would be SO appreciated!