Dance of Life

Though EC&I is complete in terms of this blog being “graded”, I have decided to continue my blogging journey.

Since the last post, my parents are settling into their new condo and truly enjoying the more relaxed lifestyle without the daily house pressures of shovelling snow, and upkeep.  Though they are still emptying boxes, they made the transition fairly smoothly.  I have moved back to Alberta and am getting reacquainted with friends and colleagues.  No time for much unpacking yet!

Last evening I had the opportunity to have dinner with two of my mentors.  Both individuals made significant impacts on my career and continue to be significant influences.  What stood out about this event was that one of the two individuals is currently in the midst of fighting cancer.  Here was someone who had taught me how to teach, now teaching me how to live…with courage, intelligence, passion, and vitality.  He gave each of us a gift bag, “not Christmas gifts, but mementos”.   I am so grateful for this man, his generosity, and his kindness.  I continue to pray for his healing and treasure my memento!

Final Summary of Learning

  • How have my experiences in EC&I 831 contributed to a greater understanding for myself of educational technology and media?
  • How can I present my experiences in a creative, thoughtful, and meaningful way?

I have decided to create a Prezi to illustrate some of the key topics and details that I have learned during this semester.  I had never heard of Prezis before so I wanted to try using this new format to present my ideas.  So many of these tools have been new to me, and as I have experimented, practised and observed others use these tools, my confidence has increased.  Though I had taken an online course prior to this one, it was on blackboard and not interactive like this one.  My main online tools were google search, email, and facebook prior to the class beginning.  While I had used specific tools used by my school board such as our attendance, grading programs ,and  desire to learn by regular technology use was limited.

Now, I have been introduced to Skype, Twitter, Youtube, Delicious, Prezi, Wikispaces, and WordPress to name a few.  There are also so many more things I want to learn within these tools and as I observe my colleagues, I am learning about so many tools out there I’d like to discover.  My confidence has increased in using these tools and while my learning curve continues grow, the arch isn’t so steeped.  I now have means to scaffold and my passion for and interest in educational technology continues to increase and sustain me during the challenging times.

For me a symbol of this semester is “boxes”.  One because I have been moving, sorting, etc. in my personal life and that has given me more opportunity to think about what we keep, sort, and disregard.  What goes into a box has been juxtaposed with thinking outside of the box as I have encouraged to do in this course.  So, I used the box shape to frame the different parts of the Prezi, and the pathways indicate the interconnectedness of my learning.

Initially, I couldn’t help but think of all the work using technology in my classroom would create for me.  I believe I was thinking of this aspect as an “add on” not as a regular component of my teaching and learning.  Two key turning points for me were the lectures from Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Zoe Branigan-Pipe.  The former speaker was so passionate, enthusiastic, and helpful that I couldn’t help but find myself caught up and wanting to dive in.  The next speaker, Zoe, cemented my turn around in thinking as I could see on a practical level how a “real life classroom teacher” used technology in her classroom and every day life.

I began to see how some of these new tools would make my life easier, and truly engage my students in classroom learning. For instance, Delicious is something I want to share with students and colleagues to organize sites, and assist them in research.  Skype, would circumvent my budgetary constraints while still permitting me to bring guest artists into my classroom.  Prior to this class, I had heard of Skype but only seen it in action on Oprah.  Now, I use it daily to communicate with family and friends and am excited to use this tool in my classroom.

Again, I had heard about Twitter, but had never used it prior to this class.  Twitter excites me because I feel less alone as a classroom teacher.  I have made some good connections and am following some really interesting and talented people.  I like the global connections Twitter permits me and my near real time connections with so many different educators.  I feel like I have a support system to ask questions, chat about ideas, or learn from. I have been using Twitter daily and I find it a great professional support.

Lastly, I guess I would mention the blogs.  I have really enjoyed reading my colleagues’ entries, and those of others I recently subscribed.  I have decided to continue my blog after the course ends.  I have so many topics I would like to discuss and explore in the field of education.  It is easier to process aloud and receive feedback and insights from others to continue the conversation and develop a deeper understanding of issues of concern.

http://prezi.com/za94xtfqulkh/summary-of-learning-eci-831/

 

Final Project

Part A:  Weekly Blog Entries

As a regular part of Drama 10.20.30, students keep journals to reflect on classroom experiences, comment on student work, and track their rehearsal progress.  I have exclusively used pen to paper journals, submitted in duotangs, with students using time in class or at home to complete their entries.  The only one that commented back to the students were myself and that involved me carting 90+ journals home to read.  There was no cross-flo between the students or outside readers to support the student learning.

From my own learning use of blogs this semester, and my new knowledge of kidsblog, I have created three classes one for each level of students, to be used my students.  The classes are empty as I currently am not in the classroom.  Drama 10, 20, and 30 will each have their own class.  I will maintain each class all year long so each semester’s students can comment on one another if they desire.  I have made the settings to allow me the accept comments and entries before they are published.  This is to alleviate any untoward work from being posted.

In a theatre setting, students do not have computers readily accessible so in order to mediate this portion of their course work, I will book the computer for each of the classes on Fridays so that they may submit their entries and comment on one another’s.  Students are free to write additional entries from home, or other computers but in order to permit equal access for each child we will write in class.  Some of my students do not have internet at home, or must share the computer with several siblings, so writing in class continues to foster the sense of community and equal access for all students.

I will comment on student journals each weekend.  This will be easier for me to monitor student progress as all I need is a computer/internet access to write back to the students.  I am excited about this opportunity to work with students in this manner.  I will also approach my current staff, and professional learning community to comment on student work.  I am considering the possibility of involving parents in writing comments as well.  In Drama class, parents don’t always have the opportunity to participate in daily learning via tests/essays/homework so this would be a positive way to connect the dots in the student, parent, and school triad.  I may need to have a parent meeting, and lab time to show parents around the kidsblog site, and provide samples of entries for them to comment on.  I may also create sample comments or phrases to get the parents started in responding to the blogs.  Many parents at my last school were English as a Second Language learners so they would appreciate such supports.

Students will be given weekly prompts to assist them in their journal writing.  It may be a quotation that relates to the work we have done that week, or a photograph or artifact.  Additionally, students will be given a hand-out with phrases to assist them in making comments and connecting to one another.  As the semester progresses and students become more comfortable with the process, fewer prompts and scaffolding will be needed.

The evaluation of these blogs will be two-fold.  One aspect will be on the blogs, and the secondary part will be on the ways students comment and connect to other bloggers in class.  Thanks to my colleague, Angela, she has shared two such rubrics for me to use.  I will share these samples with my classes and adapt them as per the needs of each class through group discussion.  These samples can be found:

http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1352

http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1282

Part B:  Skype Guest Artists
One challenge I have encountered in my Drama class, is lack of funding to bring in guest artists to meet with my students.  There is something special about the lived experience of professional artist meeting with students.  I want my students to be able to ask questions from practising artists about their specific craft, training, and career opportunities.

I will begin with whole class presentations (Q&A) with guest artists and then move into small groups with students interviewing and chatting with someone that relates to their current project.  Students will be  prepared in advance for the speaker visits but not every minute of each presentation will be programmed so that there is room to move as the conversation leads and as time permits.  As the smaller groups interact with the guest artists, there will be more opportunities to share their own work for critique and conversations from the artist.

I have secured some unique guest artists for my classes thus far.  I have one professional writer, a sound engineer, theatre producer, artist director, stage manager, professional actors, costume designer, make-up artist, and director.  I have also made connections with a couple theatre arts schools, event planner, arts administrator, and fight choreographers.  I am excited to embark on this new adventure with my students in the fall.  So much can be learned through the mentorship and insights of practising theatre artists.  Thank you to the people who have been reading my blog and suggested guests or volunteered themselves for conversations with my students.

 

Drama Class: Updated Project

Okay, as outlined earlier, my project involves blogging and skyping in my drama classes.  I have recently returned from Calgary where I had the opportunity to talk with colleagues about this project and idea for future implementation once I am back in the classroom.  Most of the chats were positive and excited that I was  planning on using my new knowledge in a practical way and was able to share my learing with my colleagues.

Since I posted about my project, I have been able to secure  speakers through personal contacts and others suggested by readers of my blog.  Thank you!

I have also found some rubrics thanks to Angela, to use as a springboard for work with my students.  One is for blogging and one is for commenting on others blogs.  I like the detailed nature of these rubrics as they make clear the expectations for students.  I want to have the opportunity to go over each rubric with my students and change things as needed to meet the needs of each of the three classes.

Changes have been made to my project outline entry.

Others have suggested using Voice Thread and Ellumninate for my sessions with students and guest artists.  The former could be used to help other students connect rather than one large group.  This may help other students become involved in the discussions.  The latter is not one I want to try at this time but will keep it in mind.  If need be, the latter might work in a whole class lab session but I like the idea of our guests coming to the theatre via Skype.  These are both great suggestions and I welcome the feedback and encouragement as I continue to evolve in my practise and work with students.

Updates

As I continue to read, connect via twitter, and follow my eci831 colleagues, I continue to grow in my professional thinking and practise around being a connected teacher and a connected classroom.

Before I launch into my recent discoveries, I want to update my readers on some of the challenges that I mentioned in previous posts and the progress in those areas.  My parents MOVED from our childhood home.  Today is the last day of possession as things become cleaned, and left in order for the new buyer.  It has been difficult to watch my parents sort, deal, and discard so many things of their lives these past forty years.  Worse yet, has been observing how tired and weary they have become in the past twenty-eight days since the house  sold.  They are happy to be in a new, clean, safe, and smaller location with less maintenance and NO shovelling!!  My sister and I are grateful this came to pass while they are both healthy and able to make the decision to leave the ancestral manor.  I hope they are able to relax and enjoy their new surroundings for many years to come.

Additionally, I have moved back home to Calgary.  The movers showed up a week early so things were rapidly packed and moved despite blizzards and cold weather at either end.  Our summer home is listed and hopefully the right buyer will pick it up and that will be done by the end of the year.  I must admit that I am tired of packing and living out of suitcases!!  I am back in Regina trying to wrap up my courses before heading back to Alberta.  I am happy though overwhelmed with the MANY boxes to contend with in the near future.  It is amazing what we carry, keep, and part with in our lives.  I remember reading a book in my undergrad entitled, “The Things we Carried” by an American author and it was about what soldiers carried in the war, and how heavy their packs were and of course the metaphors and lessons contained within.

In amongst the chaos of the past few weeks in my personal life, I have felt challenged to be successful in school while still dealing with life.  It is true as teachers that we expect our students to make school a priority, to be focused, and prepared.  We want our students to be successful and as teachers many of us see only what occurs in our company and can’t understand why our students are distracted or falling behind.  While I would never want to repeat the challenges of this semester, I am grateful for the understanding and insights it has brought me.  While we spend a great percentage of our students’ days with them, sometimes personal things conflict with their abilities to focus.  I have had students find out they are moving suddenly and remember being upset that as a result they would miss a play rehearsal.  WE can’t control everything in the lives of our students no more than we can control everything in our lives.  Death, illness, relational issues, financial issues, and so many other things affect each of us personally, so do they affect our students.  I am grateful for the real life reminder…but am anxious to close a chapter on this real life lived experience!!

Project Outline: Continuing the Journey

Essential questions:

  • How can I meaningfully integrate technology into my classroom?
  • How can the use of an open classroom circumvent budgetary restraints?
  • How can curriculum objectives and outcomes be better addressed for optimum student learning?
  • How can students create meaningful relationships with one another and extend classroom learning outside of school hours?

Program of Studies:

  • Drama 10, 20, 30 classes
  • 5 credits, 125 hours per semester
  • as per the provincial program of studies/curriculum guide
  • meet daily with students for 90minutes of face time per day

Required Tools/Equipment:

  • weekly lab time in the computer room, every Friday for each course
  • LCD projector, film screen, portable computer for Skype sessions
  • list of guest artists, teachers, practitioners for guest lectures
  • network of adults to respond to student blogs
  • in-school support via school technician, facilities, and library services

**Thank you to all of the readers who have suggested guest artists for my classroom.  Thank you also to my own mentors, colleagues, and friends who have agreed to participate in Skype sessions.

Journals:

  • I have used student journals in a variety of ways in the past twelve years of teaching with varying degrees of success.  I have discovered students reluctancy to write pen to paper in class, sporadic submission of journals for grading, and differing degrees of depth of writing.  I have used story starters, quotations, and class content as impetus for writing.  I know I have not tapped the full potential of possibilities in this area and I want to encourage my students to continue to examine, critique, and grow through their writing.  The practise of writing helps students articulate their thoughts and practise their English language skills.
  • To address this area of concern in my classroom, I have decided to have the students create online blogs.  Students will have class time every Friday to write a weekly entry and respond to comments received.  Scheduling class time levels the field for students without computers or internet access at home, and enables them to write in community with one another.  This will hopefully encourage students to write, use editing tools, and create a positive writing experience for them.  Having a network of people to respond to my students will also be an important component with regards to the success of this project.  I plan to ask current colleagues/staff at the school as well as members of my  online community to comment to the students.  I am hoping to increase this group of readers to include artists, writers, directors, and other theatre professionals.
  • Other considerations will be privacy issues and other school board considerations.  Students will not use their full names. I have created three classes at kidsblog.org to facilitate this.  There are no students listed in any of the three classes as I am currently not teaching this semester.  I have adjusted the privacy settings so that I must approve posts and comments before they appear.  I think this is a good screening process for students and accountability for myself given open learning.
  • Evaluation:  Student blogs will account for 15% of their overall grade in each of the three sections.  I will create a rubric for student evaluation.

**Thank you to Angela for her suggestions of the following rubrics for blogs.  One is for student blogs and one is for evaluating connecting assessments.  I will use these rubrics as a springboard for evaluation discussion with the students.  As a class, we will negotiate the rubrics, to make sure they are accessible and appropriate for each of the three classes.  These rubrics can be found here:

http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1352

http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1282

  • Teacher management:  I like the notion that the student journals will exist inside my computer, and provide me the opportunity to respond each weekend, rather than carting journals back and forth from my classroom, to my car, to my home, and back again.  Having all of the journals in one place online will assist me in the marking, reading, and overall management of this aspect of the class learning.  This method of journalling also provides more privacy in class for students in that their journals are not open in the class, easily lost, instead, they are available online.  This method also permits me the opportunity to teaching students about writing for a public audience.

Guest artists/lectures:  (via Skype)

  • I am not sure how to record these sessions, but it would be nice if that were possible to refer to again in subsequent classes.  *I have not ever recorded a session but have since learned how to do so.
  • Each of the three grades have different units of studies.  I would like to include guests for each of the three courses into the curriculum.
  • I am creating a list of guests from artists I know, people who have referred suggestions from my blog, teacher/directors in other schools, and people the students wish to approach
  • For instance, Drama 10:

-Orientation (getting to know one another, no speakers for this unit)

-Movement

-Mime (we will look at youtube videos of mime artists)

-Voice (storytelling, reader’s theatre, monolgues, choral speech, radio drama)

-Technical Theatre (sound, props):  **sound engineer, props master

-Greek Theatre/Commedia d’ell arte

-Improvisation:  *improv artist, actor highly trained in improvisation

-Scene Study: *professional actor

Drama 20:

-Orientation(getting to know each other, no speakers)

-Movement

-Children’s Theatre *artists from a professional children’s theatre company, playwrights who write for children/young audiences

-Shakespeare Scene Study *professional actor

-Playwrighting  **professional playwright

-Theatre History

-Technical Theatre**costume designer, make-up artist

-Major Scene Study **professional actors (this can be done in small groups with the student actors and different professional actors

Drama 30:

-Orientation(get to know you, no guest speakers)

-Docudrama (guests vary on topic, such as domestic violence , or the Great Depression)

-Theatre History

-Technical Theatre  **lighting technician, professional stage manager

-Acting/auditions **professional actor

-Director’s Projects**professional director

Process:

  • As the students move through the grades, they will take more responsibility for choosing, hosting, and interacting with the guests.
  • Sessions will be booked in advance so that guests, equipment, and students prepared.
  • Guest artists will be from a variety of backgrounds that connect to the curriculum.
  • Sessions will be whole class as well as small groups.

Critical Reflection on eci831

So, it is now November 1, 2010 and the course “officially” ends in terms of projects, etc. in just about a month.  So, now that such time has passed I need to truly examine my thoughts on open and networked learning.

a)  First of all, this is an exciting and new type of learning for me.  I have felt both enthusiasm and tension (ovewhelmed) for most of this journey. Until recently, I had never tweeted, blogged, or knew about ‘delicious’ or google reader.  I have enjoyed listening to the different guest speakers, having mentors, and being connected to my colleagues in this way.  I feel I have learned SO much through this experience that I long to take more online courses and continue my interactions long after this course.

If one is uncomfortable or slow to warm up as I have been, it can be easy to fall behind or feel pressured to compress learning differently.  Many of our speakers have talked about finding/maintaining balance.  This is truly a challenge as someone is always online, there is always work to be done, more to do, learn, and create.  However, families, and other priorities come into play too.  I haven’t scheduled my screen time but I do like how Michael Wesch commits evenings to family time.

b) Pros of this type of learning is that I can work independently, in hours that work for me.  I am glad this class doesn’t have group work like some online courses at other universities.  I feel like I can learn at my own pace and work on aspects that align with my philosophies and needs as this time in my career.

c) Cons of this type of learning…well, this would be a critique of both of my classes this  semester but I am just not sure where I stand in terms of marks/grades.  I am enjoying the learning and I feel that I am making great strides in my progress yet I do not know if I am passing.  This is a concern to me because at the end of the day, I want to be successful in my classes this year so that I am able to obtain my degree.  Though I am so excited about what I am learning it would have been easier to learn some of the material and tools in advance.  By this I mean, an intro about what we would be covering so I could practise in advance of the course rather than doing it all right now.  Having the meeting time published at the time of course registration or earlier on would have been helpful to me given that I am taking concurrent classes.

d) The guest speakers and variety of material covered is wonderful.  I am not sure how I would improve this course/type of learning.  I love the mentors and opportunities we have been given.

e)  This work, learning has been informing the way I teach/learn.  For instance, this course has shed light on possibilities in my classroom.  I am excited about the potential available to me as a classroom teacher.  I love using ‘delicious’ for keeping track of sites and this has come in handy for writing papers, and other research.  I need some work on learning how to organize such material.

***How does one get SMART board certified?  I have heard speakers talk of this, tweeters tweet the same thing….and I am confused.

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