Better Together: United as One

Professional Learning Networks In consideration of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), it really dawned upon me what a small world it is. A teacher recently shared with me that she still serves as a reference for an individual that she worked with 13 years ago. Sometimes after you leave a place, you have a tendency to just become focused on the here and now, but it is nice to know that you have great connections no matter how far back you go.

There’s Someone Out There I have no idea how many schools I will work at across a career, but it is nice to know that there is someone out there who understands and can offer support from a building/county/state/or even country afar. I think this will especially be key in these earlier years in the profession and I hope that I will utilize these resources despite the inevitably of being buried in other tasks. “…the loneliness and isolation I felt as a new teacher has dissipated because I have found a community that supports me no matter what I might be grappling with in my practice” (Rodesiler, et. al. 2014). What encouragement it is to know that not only can I find this type of aid online (English Companion Ning, #engchat,) but also with other professionals in-person at events/workshops hosted by (NCTE, GCTE, Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project, etc….) Such can also be accomplished on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn (connect with me there at the link below).

My Past/Present Network
  • Teachers, secretaries, clerks, administrators, and para pros that I met and established professional relationships with during my substitute and supply teaching journeys.
  • My 1st Cohort at Kennesaw State University (I am doing an altered version of the Masters of Arts in Teaching Secondary English program that will provide me with the affordance of having two cohorts…more people to meet/have in my professional network!)
  • Professors from the Department of English and Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University.
My Future PLNs:
  • Professionals that I will meet in the high school and middle school placement of my Year-long Clinical Experience (YCE).
  • My 2nd Cohort at KSU (Fall 2019/Spring 2020)
  • The 2-3 remaining professors that I will have in the final year of my graduate program.
  • Professionals that I will meet wherever I land a job for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Professionals that I will meet from other schools within the county that I find employment (and neighboring systems).
  • Professionals who connect with me on LinkedIn.

Using Technology to Map My PLNs I have captured the above networks using mind-mapping tool, XMind: ZEN (see mine of my PLN below). To use the tool, you must download it from their website. It costs $1.24 (mobile) – $4.99 (mobile/desktop) a month, however, there is a limited free version. This version allows you to add topics (I chose- Schools, KSU, and Beyond), subtopics (here I broke down the names of schools/position titles), and draw relationships between different items on your map (I linked my YCE placement school from “Schools” to grad school under “KSU”). 2 other free features to use that I chose not to employ- summary and notes. While this presents my past/present/future PLNs in a visually appealing/organized format, I personally prefer the straight-forwardness of bullet-point lists.

Strategy to Expand My PLNs: During breaks (maybe not Thanksgiving and Christmas), I would like to evaluate at least one PLN that I am not implementing into my study and reach out or make plans to initiate that relationship. It may be signing up for a seminar or workshop, joining a certain online group, contributing my own writing on teaching ELA (on this blog or at writerswhocare.blogspot.com ), emailing a former professor questions that I have about my practice, or scheduling lunch with a former cohort member(s).

Mind map of my past/current/future PLNs. Created with XMind: ZEN.


Affordances of Mind-mapping with XMind: ZEN:
  • Allows you to add many topics and subtopics.
  • Users can share their work via PDF, Word, or PNG.
  • Program is easy to navigate. Users can go into the “outliner” view to form the map in a more traditional “bullet points” format.
Constraints of XMind: ZEN:
  • Requires users to download the program onto their PC or phone.
  • Options such as uploading photos to your mind-map are not available on the free/trial program.
  • A non-removable watermark is left present on products produced by the free/trial version.
Suggestions for Using XMind Zen in the Classroom:
  • Mind-mapping would be beneficial for ELA activities such as designing character charts/maps.
  • Could use such as a platform to list strengths and weakness of several arguments.
  • Additionally, mind-mapping could serve as a method of brainstorming topic ideas for writing assignments.
Cautions:
  • XMind: ZEN may not be the best program for students as it requires a system download (unless school computers already have the program ready for student usage).
  • It is important that students/teachers save their map sooner than later (I recommend downloading it by sharing it with yourself as a PDF) because if you do not properly save your work, the trial version will not save/recover it.
  • It is probably best that teachers do not mandate mind-mapping and allow for other forms of organizational diagrams to cater to a variety of learning styles.
Questions for Teachers About Mind-Mapping:
  • Have you used mind-mapping in your classroom? If so, have most students found it to be useful? What have been some of the drawbacks?
  • What is the best FREE mind-mapping program that you have discovered?
  • What types of assignments have you used mind-mapping for with your classes? How often do you think this tool should be employed in the classroom?
  • What advice do you have about maximizing your PLNs?
  • What PLNs do you utilize and which ones have you found to be most beneficial in your practice?

Reference:

Rodesiler, L., Rami, M., Anderson, G., Minnich, C., Kelley, B., & Andersen, S. (2014). Transforming Professional Lives through Online Participation. The English Journal,103(6), 52-58. 

Virtual Reality:The Cardboard Revolution

About Virtual Reality Virtual reality allows students to take classroom field trips to places that they may never have the opportunity to visit (perhaps due to economic means- this will be different depending on the demographics of the school) and also into fictional realms. In ELA, students can enter the worlds inhabited by characters of the great works of literature or experience the day in the life of a professional working in an industry that they are interested in learning more about. It can serve as an alternative method of conducting research besides search engines or unreturned emails to managers or secretaries. In Affordances of Mobile Virtual Reality and their Role in Learning and Teaching, Shailey Minocha also describes how this technology can support those who are unable to attend schools as a result of illness, imprisonment, and other factors (p. 9). Minocha also reports that an additional pro for those who are in classrooms surrounded by other students is that VR will allow users to become oblivious to their surroundings (their distracting neighbor) and focus on their exploration (p. 5).

Analysis of Google Cardboard In order to discern just how easily one can become oblivious to their surroundings, I evaluated VR using Google Cardboard. I was either about to be wow’ed or disappointed that I just spent $15 for some cardboard (although actually, it is apparently inexpensive to encourage interest in VR). One thing that I did not initially know is that it is best to stand up when using Google Cardboard (but don’t walk!). I initially explored the pre-loaded tutorials/demonstrations before even realizing that I would need to download the Google Expeditions app to greatly expand my journey options. However, the pre-loaded tutorials are a great way to get a feel for the program.

Some notes on the pre-loaded demos: This adventure is called “arctic journey.” Users can choose to fly, play, learn, create, and/or relax. The “fly” option allows you to feel like you are a bird flying over a cliff. “Play” is a game where you get to go fishing in water surrounded by icebergs. Unfortunately, I was not very successful at fishing! “Learn” gives users the names of animals/plants such as- the arctic fox, the arctic tern, the Atlantic mackerel, reindeer lichen, and arctic poppy.

Screenshot of Arctic fox in “play” option. There was one point when I felt that it was going to charge at me!

The “create” option allows users to plant flowers on a landscape and the “relax” option is an awesome view of the stars/galaxy (along with a return from the Arctic fox).

“Relax” option

Outside of the “arctic journey,” there is an option to watch any videos that you have recorded on or downloaded to your device on Cardboard. It feels like watching your homemade videos in a movie theater on the big screen!

A hiking video from my personal collection…now on the big screen…water sounds and all!

When I discovered Expeditions, I search for “Atlanta” (for local purposes) and “Shakespeare” (because he is an ELA staple) and discovered that there is a tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and an opportunity to watch the Royal Conservatoire rehearse “Macbeth,” respectively. Unfortunately, these tours are currently waiting in my queue because I frequently had difficulty establishing an internet connection with Expedition. It seems to only support Wi-Fi, which I do not have access to at all times. In my time of Wi-Fi availability, I was able to download a tour of the American Museum of Natural History, where I was able to learn about the American Bison (among other animals). I have been to this museum before and this seems like an interesting way to maybe learn what a museum is all about when planning a trip to a place like Washington DC. However, it can’t beat the real thing! I was not able to see as many parts of the museum as I had hoped and found the tour to be rather constraining with being able to select pathways around the museum.

Affordances
  • Allows students to virtually experience places that they may not ever get the chance to visit. This includes historical events and settings of the past.
  • Has a “colleges” category. Students would be able to investigate what some college campuses physically look like as they consider their applications. I could not find KSU.
  • Permits students to explore what a day in the life would look/feel like in a range of various careers.
  • “Locks up” phone in the box, preventing students from using them for non-educational purposes during the VR lessons.
Constraints
  • Because we become so glued to our phones, there was one point when I was using Cardboard that I was wanting to check something on my phone and for the life of me could not find it. Then it dawned on me where it was hiding.
  • Really have to make sure that the lenses and your phone screen are both clean….otherwise, it will hurt your eyes!
  • Uses up a lot of the cell phone’s battery.
  • Only seems to work with Wi-Fi and not the phone’s internet.
My Suggestions
  • Connectivity issues are likely (especially if Wi-Fi is poor at your school). Make sure to test technology ahead of classes and to have a backup plan for if some students cannot connect.
  • Find ways to utilize the available games as many students love competition and interactivity.
  • Would be great to use as an entry point for descriptive writing compositions. Students could explain what they see on their tours and how they believe they would feel if they were actually in that place.

Cautions

  • Protect your eyes! Be careful with prolonged usage or dirty lenses to prevent eye strain.
Questions for Teachers
  • What types of assignments have you used Google Cardboard for in your classroom? Was it effective? What did you do when some students experienced technological difficulties?
  • Is there a tool/platform that you feel is superior to Google Cardboard that your students have used?
  • How frequently would you recommend employing VR activities/strategies in the classroom?

References

Minocha, Shailey; Tudor, Ana-Despina and Tilling, Steve (2017). Affordances of Mobile Virtual Reality and their Role in Learning and Teaching. In: The 31st British Human Computer Interaction Conference, 3-6 Jul 2017, University of Sunderland’s St. Peter’s Campus, UK.

Parallel Pedagogy: Make New Friends…But Keep The Old…

About Parallel Pedagogy …One is silver and the other’s gold. In Digital Literacies: Social Learning and Classroom Practices, Kevin Leander defines parallel pedagogy as “a way of describing how old and new literary practices, including print texts and visual texts, may be fruitfully taught side by side, rather than the ‘old’ being a precursor to the new or being replaced by it” (2009).

I decided to explore how to potentially use such parallel composing in the classroom for vocabulary instruction. Unfortunately, a lot of vocabulary instruction (presently and for many years) looks something like this book below…

Definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and complete the sentence…You would think that Vocabulary Workshop must be effective as many schools have been depending on this little orange book for decades. Well….WRONG! (probably, mostly…) Students memorize the words to get the grade they want on a quiz/test and then “dump” the knowledge! In other words, there is not continued application. So how can learning transfer more effectively occur in classrooms?

Wiggins and McTighe (2011) discuss that learning transfer is more likely when students are given multiple opportunities to apply their learning in meaningful (authentic) contexts or new situations (p. 4).  Using digital platforms is extremely authentic for Gen-Z. Furthermore, when the learner is able to understand underlying concepts and principles, transfer is much more likely to occur.  Wiggins and McTighe offer the flip side by examining that poor conditions for learning transfer include when knowledge is learned at the level of rote memory (p. 5) (i.e. memorizing words from an orange book) .  An example of proper transfer conditions would be using these new vocabulary words in multiple contexts and to continuously employ them throughout not only the semester, but also across grade levels.  Otherwise, students “dump” words that they have memorized as soon as the corresponding quiz has passed.  Wiggins & McTighe cite experiential learning as a method of avoiding memorization-only knowledge as it stimulates multiple senses in students and it is likely to be stored in long-term memories (p. 6). 

So while some of the activities in the orange book may be beneficial, for students to gain long-term transfer and to move beyond memorizing words just for an assessment, students must apply their learning to other contexts in the classroom and also to their lives. Many teachers are having students create vocabulary flashcards where they draw a picture depicting a word’s meaning (or they can paste on computer graphics). I decided to take that a step further and investigate using storyboards for vocabulary instruction. Enter StoryBoardThat.com. Before I started making my own storyboard, I selected six commonly taught vocabulary words for ninth graders: absolve, escalate, mediate, alleviate, mortify, and pacify. The story that I wrote is about a student who gets his calendar dates mixed up and shows up to school dressed as a cowboy and utilizes/revolves around these words. In my model, all vocabulary words are underlined and in all caps to make them stand out for the student.

Panel #1 of my storyboard creation. Using the 9th grade vocabulary word- “Mortified.”
Panel #4 of my storyboard. Using vocabulary words- “Escalate” and “Pacify.”

VIEW MY FULL VOCAB STORYBOARD!

About/Analysis of StoryboardThat:

StoryboardThat is relatively easy to use and the free option includes a large image library and flexible layouts. There are specialized versions available for the education, business, and film industries. Constraints Teachers get 2 weeks for free and then can choose to pay monthly or annually based on the number of students in their classroom.

Affordances The free version allows you to select from a number of Scenes, Characters, Textables, Shapes, Infographics, etc.. In my example, I mainly just used scenes (different school settings- music classroom, basketball court, hall with lockers, etc.), characters (can select adults, teens, jobs, sports, cultural, etc..), and textables (where I got the speech bubbles and a banner that I used in the final panel). With the characters, users can select a color for their hair, eyes, clothes, and shoes). There are also options to record audio and to comment on your own and other users’ creations. Users can run their storyboard as a slideshow presentation on the site, or download the individual panels and insert them into a program such as PowerPoint.

A blank storyboard with the image library and layout options listed across the top two menu bars.

StoryboardThat serves as a strong example of using parallel compositions in the classroom because it takes the traditional strategies of writing a sentence (print texts) and/or drawing a picture (visual text) using a vocabulary word and fuses them together with digital technology (animations). Students (especially those who love animation) will have a fun time creating their own characters and placing them in various situations that may either mirror their lives or implement some fantasy options (monsters and myths option). Because students/users are coming up with an original, continuous story across several panels, they are more likely to remember the words and their definitions beyond a quiz as they are using them in multiple contexts and are stimulating multiple senses. Furthermore, students can print, download, and share their storyboards with each other, permitting them to learn from each other as some may be using the words in contexts/situations that others had not considered.

Connection to Standards:

Using storyboards as a means of parallel pedagogy aligns with the following ELA/Georgia state standards for 9th and 10th grades:

  • ELAGSE9-10RI4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.
  • ELAGSE9-10W3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • ELAGSE9-10W6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
My Suggestions: 
  • Have students plan out their storyboard on paper first (how they are going to use the necessary vocab words and what their story is going to be about) prior to creating it on the site (in the event that their work does not get saved/technology issues).
  • Be Flexible! While there are a lot of options available with the free version, there will be some characters/settings that are not possible. Adapt/overcome!
  • Permit Student Choice! Don’t confine students to StoryboardThat. Perhaps they know of another storyboard platform or another way to parallel compose that will better suit their preferences/learning/creative approaches and allow them to transfer their knowledge using the old and the new.
  • Have students share their storyboards with one another as this will allow them to question how might different people understand this message differently from me? (Bruce, p. 40).
  • Save Money!!! Be strategic and utilize StoryboardThat just a few months out of the year to either stay with the free version or just buy a few months of the pay version.
Cautions:
  • Users must sign-up for a free account with an email address and verify that address prior to saving their work. It would be best for teachers/students to go through this verification process prior to spending too much time on their creations to ensure that everything gets saved! If you do not push “save,” your work will be lost (constraint).
Questions for Teachers:
  • What types of assignments/activities have you used storyboards for in your classroom? Which have you found to be successful and which would you advise against?
  • When using parallel compositions, do you find that students tend to embrace/push for one (perhaps the contemporary/digital) over the other (traditional print)? (Potenital constraint to parallel pedagogy).
  • Have you experienced students having too much fun with storyboards (creating big characters and grand adventures) to the point that they miss the learning objectives? (Potential constraint).
  • How often would you employ storyboards for vocabulary instruction? Is it best to keep trying other forms of parallel pedagogy in order to connect with a variety of learners?

References:

Bruce, D. (2012). Learning Video Grammar: A Multimodal Approach to Reading and Writing Video Texts. In Multimodal Composing in Classrooms: Learning and Teaching for the Digital World (pp. 32-42).

Leander, K. (2009). Composing with Old and New Media: Toward a Parallel Pedagogy. In Digital Literacies Social Learning and Classroom Practices (pp. 147-163). 

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2011) Understanding by Design, Modules A & B

Multimodal Argumentation: Save Money…Live Worse?

INTRODUCTION: When considering a multimodal argument to make, I thought of Walmart. Many arguments can be made about Walmart (foreign labor, treatment of employees, etc…) However, I chose to focus on an argument against them that quality trumps low prices. Their current slogan is “Save Money. Live Better.” I see something like that and immediately think- you get what you pay for! I might be a little biased. My dad is a small business owner and he grew up in a small town where Walmart eventually showed up and left the downtown area a ghost town and put all the little guys out of business. This argument is really directed at many big box stores, Walmart just may be the greatest perpetrator. While you may save money, the frustration of a lack of customer service and products that quickly fall apart leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. My dad has a sign hanging up at his business that reads: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” (Benjamin Franklin). This philosophy is what I built my argument around.

To make this argument, I am utilizing the Toulmin Model of Argument. Stephen Toulmin believed that for a good argument to succeed, it needs to provide good justification for a claim, which will then allow for it to stand up to criticism and earn a favorable verdict (Wikipedia). For the purposes of this, I will utilize three of his six components of argument- claim, evidence, and warrant.

MULTIMODAL TOOL I found the three images below on Google and then joined them together into one frame using PhotoJoiner….more on that in a just a moment…. but without further ado…my creation…

ANALYSIS OF VISUAL ARGUMENT I chose the picture of the Walmart lady in the vest because I chuckled at the irony of what it reads and what that line represents. It seems to be well known (and certainly from my experience) that it is near impossible to find someone to help you at a Walmart (it can even be hard to find more employees than the one at the one cash register that is open to serve 36 angry customers who may or may not know how to form a line). I wanted an emoji to the left of her representing what a Walmart customer may feel going into the shopping experience (happy because of all the money that they are going to save) and one to her right that portrays the struggle of the consumer in the store and in the days/weeks/months (if they are lucky) following their purchase (because even though they could not find any help, they still wanted to get that supposed bargain). I figured emojis would be great as they seem very straightforward and trendy and because Walmart has frequently used a smiley face icon.

My visual argument may not be clear to all people. I think that most audiences will understand that someone is in a positive state and something happens that then places them into a negative state. Because Walmart is so widespread, I feel that most viewers would recognize the woman’s vest as a Walmart uniform because of its color and font. Regardless of whether or not someone likes Walmart, I believe that most will acknowledge the perceptions of this particular retailer. This visual argument may take more than one glance to decode what exactly has gone wrong.

ANALYSIS OF PHOTOJOINER 

Affordances PhotoJoiner is free. On the home page, users have the option of creating a collage, meme, Facebook cover photo, or stitch (joining multiple photos). I decided that a stitch was best related to my intended purposes. Next, on the stitch page, users can upload up to eight photos and select the size, border background, and border color. Constraints I uploaded my three images and was rapidly frustrated when I found out that while you can choose “custom size,” you are unable to have the pictures as large as I would have preferred. I knew I could go into Paint or some other tool on my PC and resize them, but I first decided to toy around with them as they were on PhotoJoiner and came to discover that I actually liked how they were cut off/condensed. Outcome The limited size of the three pictures (cropping) gives it more of a transitioning effect and also conveys that the likelihood of landing between the two emojis is far-fetched. After reaching a level of satisfaction with your stitch, you can choose to either upload/save it or share it.

TOULMIN MODEL OF ARGUMENT

CLAIM: The Bitterness of Poor Quality (products and customer service) Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten.

EVIDENCE: Someone may go into Walmart smiling and thinking of all the money that they can save. However, they are likely to never find anyone in a vest that reads “how may I help you?” and this lack of customer service is only the entry point to greater disappointments. After purchasing products of poor quality from an impersonal business, customers remain in a state of screaming and crying.

WARRANT: A lack of customer service and product quality lead to bitterness and the stress and
disappointment outweigh the thrill of low prices (this explains why the evidence supports the claim).

This particular warrant is situated in a particular culture in that there are some people who can only afford to shop at stores like Walmart. They may know that the products may be of poor quality, but they do not have the option of going elsewhere. They also may have not ever had the luxury of purchasing higher quality products or encountering robust customer service, so they do not know the difference. Additionally, people in small towns (like the one my dad grew up) do not always have other options without driving long distances. Finally, there are some people who have gotten lucky and never had poor experiences at Walmart. Experience may vary by location.

USING MULTIMODAL ARGUMENTS/PHOTOJOINER/TOULMIN MODEL IN THE CLASSROOM

Creating multimodal arguments would be a beneficial exercise for students. It would allow them to either take jabs at or celebrate certain companies, products, or philosophies. In conjunction with the Toulmin model, students can practice argumentative writing in a few sentences to gear up for more substantial argumentative assignments. I would recommend using PhotoJoiner in the classroom, but only if the teacher and/or students are in need of something quick as there are likely other tools out there that are more flashy with more features.

Cautions:
  • It is important to make sure that students are able to position their arguments in an original way and not just ripping something off of the internet. This should be evident by how strongly their warrant is formed as it should explain their claim-supporting evidence.
  • Set some guidelines to make sure that students are not purposefully offensive to others in the classroom (by arguing against particular groups or individuals).
My Suggestions: 
  • While the Toulmin Model breaks down a practical argument into components, it may be confusing to students and the teacher will likely need to model several different examples before turning the students loose (and be ready for additional scaffolding needs).
Questions for Teachers:
  • Have you taught the Toulmin Model in your classroom? Has it been difficult for students to grasp? Is there a different argumentation model/method that you prefer to gear students up for more formal writing assignments?
  • Do you find your class is somewhat split between those who can support their claim better in writing out the components of an argument vs. those who can support it better with other modes (images, audio)?
  • What app/tool is your favorite to produce multimodal arguments? Do you frequently include multimodal arguments in your teaching (lecture presentations)?
My product for this entry initially started off as a (DeMotivational Poster). Big Huge Labs allows users to upload an image and add a caption at the bottom (much like the meme generators).

This is…The ReMIX!

INTRODUCTION When reflecting on ways I can utilize remixing and address double exposure in the classroom, I started reviewing classroom annoyances of the past. Earlier this year when I was working as a supply teacher, I quickly learned a common frustration that most teachers have when students return from an absence and ask if they missed anything. It is so vital for teachers to either update a class blog with attachments of assignments and/or have a file in the classroom for students to check. In the middle of doing 549 other tasks, it can be difficult to recall exactly what the student needs to know and it seems inevitable that the “Did I miss” question (NOT “what did I miss”) will arise. And when it does arise…despite their innocence and your desire from them to get away from you ASAP because they may still have germs in some instances, you must keep a cheery disposition. This is where the “Unhelpful High School Teacher” comes into play.

Remix #1 (because sometimes one just isn’t enough…looking at you Diddy and Ja Rule) “The Unhelpful High School Teacher” is an available meme on memegenerator.net. Most of the memes built around this character have condescending messages. They seem like they could be based around annoyances that students want to air about teachers. While this image is already available, I created this particular caption. The site is free but asks for you to create an account. It is simple to use and I the only drawback is that it places a watermark in the lower right corner (even on pictures that you upload from the web or your personal collection). You can then either select an existing image from their database or upload an image. Other pre-loaded images include- Kermit the Frog, Oprah, Willy Wonka, Jackie Chiles (Seinfeld) Law School, and a guidance counselor. Next, it will ask you to fill out what you would like the text at the top and bottom of the image to say, respectively. Additional hashtags can also be added. I chose- “kidsaskthedarndestthings #annoyingquestions #checktheblog. By creating this meme, I remixed the original as it swapped the perspective from the student to the teacher. However, I thought I would take it even further….

Remix #2 Enter Chris Traeger, a character from NBC’s Parks and Recreation. I kept the captions almost the same. I cut down the top line some as it got a little long (and will start covering up the character’s face) and I modified the last line to include “literally,” this character’s favorite and overused word. Using Chris Traeger transforms the meaning as his character is super positive and if he were a teacher, his meaning would differ from “The Unhelpful High School Teacher” as he would not say it sarcastically. In fact, he would probably say it LITERALLY. Chris Traeger would probably either LITERALLY shut down the class for an entire week for the absent student or he would have them come in after school to LITERALLY make up all of the time missed because he would be afraid that their education may be forever damaged. SIDE NOTE: I really like Parks & Rec and I think they might have missed the boat on this “Teacher Traeger” idea (which would in itself be a remix). A teacher could ironically place this meme on their missed work box to maybe give students somewhat of a smile as they collected their dreaded piles of missed work. I do not think that most high schoolers would take the meme LITERALLY. Caution may be needed with younger middle school students. The Chris Traeger image is one that I got off of Google and uploaded to memegenerator.net.

Affordances:

Memes could be a part of a class project to assist students with learning vocabulary, grammar, plot points, characters, or writing techniques. The memes would help them because they would be able to connect school content with familiar TV characters, musicians, athletes, and/or animals.

Another TV favorite. This meme is NOT my creation. Credit.
Constraint:
  • Students are “boxed in” to the design of the application and may not be able to fully communicate their intended meaning if it is too narrow or niche.
Reflection:

I am glad that I checked out memegenerator.net as I know that memes are quite popular with students and CONFESSION—this was the first time that I have ever created a meme! I have seen them all over social media for some time and can recall how many different meanings have been attached to one image. I would like to continue to check out further meme apps to weigh out what would be most contemporary and student-friendly. The Chris Traeger meme represents double expose as it superimposes my experiences (from the classroom) on a found image through remediation with text (Rish, 2012). The meanings carried by the Traeger character prior to my remix were those intended for the character (by the collaboration between the writers and producers of Parks and Recreation and actor Rob Lowe). Even though my remediation places the character in a potentially different role than a state auditor or city manager, his character traits are not wiped away. Students familiar with Parks and Recreation may even not initially understand his usage in the meme and it may open up the floor for an interesting conversation about character analysis and even remix, employing the idea that learning should be a conversation, not dictation (Dail & Thompson, 2016).

Cautions for Using Memes in the Classroom:
  • Students may have a difficult time reeling it in when necessary as memes present ample opportunities to be goofy and perhaps go too far out in the deep end.
  • memegenerator.net is not an appropriate site for younger students. It contains explicit language and suggestive content.
  • Teachers must make sure that students are not uploading pictures of each other (or anyone connected to the school or community) as it may lead to potential bullying issues. Consistent monitoring and firm guidelines for assignments using memes are a must! This includes informing students what and what they cannot use in relation to copyright laws.
My Suggestions for Using Memes and Remixes in the Classroom:
  • Ensure that a proper connection is drawn from the meme (or other form of remix) to the learning (current content and critical thinking).
  • Make sure that students are comparing and contrasting their remix creation with the original and why and how their deconstruction alters the original’s meaning (and how it stays the same).
Questions for Teachers:
  • Are there G-rated meme apps available? Are high school students turned off by their “clean” nature? How do you monitor potential bullying threats?
  • What are some suggestions for appropriate assignments to employ memes? Have you had bad experiences using memes or other forms of remixes in your classroom?

References:

Dail, J. S., & Thompson, N. (2016). Talking Back: Remix as a Tool for Helping Students Exercise Authority when Meaning Making. The ALAN Review,35-48.

Rish, Ryan (2012). Double Exposure. RyanRish: Playing and learning with ideas and media.

Remediation: My Steer’s Waltz

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Keep reading to see who these guys are!

Introduction/Background I selected to remediate Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” as we have been discussing it in terms of literary meaning in ENGL 7721. One of the main talking points in regards to this poem is that most modern day readers believe that it is a tale of an intoxicated father physically abusing his child (lots of discussion on whether the child is male or female). However, earlier audiences did not speculate violence at all, but rather just a nice little evening dance between a father and his child. Why the change? Sheridan D. Blau explains, “before the mid-eighties, ideas about abuse and dysfunctional families and discussions of alcoholism in one’s family were not part of the public discourse” (2003). With that in mind, consider how one might have viewed this poem in the 1950’s, 1990’s, and today.

My Papa’s Waltz

The whiskey on your breath

Could make a small boy dizzy;

But I hung on like death:

Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans

Slid from the kitchen shelf;

My mother’s countenance

Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist

Was battered on one knuckle;

At every step you missed

My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head

With a palm caked hard by dirt,

Then waltzed me off to bed

Still clinging to your shirt.

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

In my initial reading (and mostly now), I certainly saw the poem as a story of abuse. It would be nice to see it as just an innocent dance, but being a millennial, I suppose my mind did not stand much of a chance on settling on that sort of interpretation (too many “After School Specials”). Words such as— whiskey, death, romped, not unfrown, battered, knuckle, buckle, beat, and palm strongly lend to the case of the poem’s predicted violence.

My Remediation I chose to use Screencast-O-Matic for this assignment as I wanted to experiment with a different video recording platform. I wanted one that was free and would permit me to produce a MULTIMODAL TEXT with the inclusion of video, the recording of my voice and soundtrack. The free version permits minimal editing, but I did not find any to be necessary. Out of all the platforms/tools/apps that I have experimented with so far….this was by far the easiest! Affordances I would like to create an additional project with Screencast-O-Matic to try out the screen capture function as I only used the webcam function for this creation. The tool allows you to use both simultaneously. The free version permits recordings lasting up to 15 minutes and has a closed-captioning option. Constraints The only downsides were that the background music was not as loud as I had hoped for and I could not embed the video on this site. I had to upload it to YouTube in order to present it to you here. Screencast-O-Matic Users also have to subscribe to the pay version in order to feature other multimedia text in their recordings and to alter the speed of the video. Without further ado…ladies and gentlemen…My Steer’s Waltz...

Soundtrack courtesy of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaxTRX9oAV4

Reflection

Okay…I know…that got kind of weird. It was definitely TAKING A RISK!

Because I interpret “My Papa’s Waltz” as a story of violence and abuse, I wanted to capture that in this remediation. However, I did not want to just straight up declare that as the only interpretation. As a result, I decided to “cast” stuffed animals as the three mentioned characters. The Steer as The Father, The Deer as The Child, and The Dalmatian as The Mother. While I am having the stuffed animals do things that could be construed as a literal interpretation of violent acts, because of the waltz music and silliness of this cast of characters, there is an ambiguity left to the work. While using stuffed animals may make a difficult topic such as child abuse easier to handle, others may think of actual animals and struggle with the “suggested” content as much as if it were done with human portrayals. Luckily, using the mode of video grants continued uncertainty as far as interpretation is concerned, as shared by Jones and Hafner, “images tend to be more ‘polysemous’, that is, they are capable of sending numerous messages at the same time” (2012). While it seems on the surface that the Steer character is intoxicated and beating the Deer character, it remains uncertain to the viewer and perhaps the characters are just goofing around or putting on a show for the Dalmatian character? So while I see the original text being about abuse, I wanted to leave my remediation open to different interpretations based on continued changes in public discourse and the consumers’ life experiences. I would categorize the relationship between my work and the original poem as COMPLEMENTARY.

This would be a robust assignment to employ in middle and high school classrooms. Because modern day adolescents have grown up in an image-driven world (there are fewer words on websites today than several decades ago), making a multi-modal text would help them to more easily attach meaning to the written text, exercise their creative muscles, and interact with the text as individuals. It would place the story in their world and through their eyes.

Affordances:
  • Selecting the video (sequence of images) mode allows for the affordances of images to be mixed with the affordances of writing (Jones & Hafner, 2012).
Constraints: 
  • Sending multiple messages at the same time through multi-modal texts may distract from the main message of a text. May be inappropriate for some readings.
Questions for Teachers:
  • What type of assignments have you utilized Screencast-O-Matic? Have you used it for purposes beyond video-style lectures?
  • Have you allowed students to remediate texts in your classroom? If so, how often? What are some of the challenges faced? What kind/how many limitations do you place on them?
  • How do you discuss literary meaning in your classroom without opening the doors to- every interpretation is valid?
My Suggestions for Using Screencast-O-Matic & Remediation in the Classroom:
  • If possible, teachers should look into the pay version for the benefits of longer videos, more editing features, and usage of additional multimedia text. The free version should be sufficient for students.
  • Have students write about the decisions they have made regarding their remediation to ensure that all components of the product have a purpose and relate back to the original text.
Cautions for Using Remediation in the Classroom:
  • Parameters must be well-defined. While such assignments would provide a strong creative vehicle for students, they also may go too far out in left field if not reigned in a little bit.
  • Students may be indecisive about whether or not their work is meant to be ambiguous. Have them state definitively which direction they have chosen to go with their interpretation.

References

Blau, S. (2003). The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: A practical introduction. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Let’s Get Ready to ARGUE (or persuade)!!!

Mr. Michael Buffer all set to announce our opponents in the ring!

Introduction When setting out to review the affordances (the aspects that extend certain parts of us) and constraints (the aspects that amputate certain parts of us) of using GroupMe for class communication, I decided—what better way than to search for a digital tool that would help me to visually distinguish and display these two sides. First, a little bit on GroupMe…

About the Digital Tool of GroupMe GroupMe is a mobile messaging app that specializes in creating group chats in lieu of texting or emailing large numbers of people at a time. For younger generations who are not embracing email and are looking for alternative ways to mediate their relationships through technology by communicating with various groups, GroupMe is certainly a viable option. Jones & Hafner write, “human beings are continually creating and adapting cultural tools to meet the needs of new material or social circumstances or new psychological needs” (2012). Adolescents quickly disregard or seemingly deny the technology of their parents or even the next generation up. The current generation is searching for applications that both simplify systems and create community. Apparently, GroupMe has been quite popular since 2010. I just heard about it for the first time last year…guess I’m getting behind the times….or set in my ways….yikes!

About ReadWriteThink’s Persuasion Map The digital tool that I found to exhibit the two sides of the argument of using GroupMe for classroom communication is the persuasion map, an interactive graphic organizer from ReadWriteThink. This was not the first platform that I came across to outline positions. I looked at several argument map applications, particularly one called MindMup, but really struggled to find one that was not a headache to use, free, and/or visually appealing. GroupMe is such an easy app to use and it felt irregular to review it on a platform that was not.

Compared to some of those other argument map tools, ReadWriteThink’s persuasion map does not allow one to place two sides of an argument on the same presentation. I was really looking for a tool for mapping arguments and not persuasion, but using either tool could be a way to open a class conversation on the difference between argument and persuasion. This improvisation aligns with research provided by Jones and Hafner, “constraints, on the other hand, can sometimes spur us to come up with creative solutions when the tools we have at hand do not allow us to do what we want to do” (2012). Next, some students could create a map with pros or affordances and the other half of the class could create one with cons or constraints. Students could be paired off after individually composing their maps and debate one another using the strengths of their points. Or it can be used as a partner or group exercise where each member comes up with a reason or fact (as modeled in my example where some fields have been left blank). Ultimately, this provides a great way for students to digitally fill in maps to plan out their points for argumentative (or persuasive) writing. Applications such as MindMup do allow the user to control how many stems are added to each side, which makes it a little less restrictive than ReadWriteThink’s product.

It would be best for students to either print out their persuasion map or to share them at their computers because embedding and direct links are not available options. There are options to 1.) email it to the teacher (or classmates) and 2.) save your map as a PDF and upload it to a site such as Google Drive….which is exactly what I have done!

Click the following links to view my persuasion maps on Google Drive:

Affordances of Using GroupMe for Class Communication

Constraints of Using GroupMe for Class Communication

How it Works/Components of ReadWriteThink's Persuasion Map:
  • THESIS- compose a statement that describes one side of an arguable point.
  • 3 REASONS
  • 3 FACTS or EXTENSIONS (to support reasons)
  • CONCLUSION

Affordances 
  • One can compose their own titles/descriptions, creating more of a personal connection.
  • Because different sides of the argument are composed separately, students can use their maps for persuasion/debate exercises.
  • Can share via email or Google Drive.
  • Students could compose while doing other activities. “Because they facilitate new ways of distributing our attention, they allow us to participate in many practices simultaneously- we can work and study and shop and hold conversations with any number of people all at the same time” (Jones & Hafner, 2012).
Constraints 
  • Students may be less likely to complete work as it requires having access to the technology (versus a printed hand-out they could fill out easily on-the-go).
  • There is a limited number of characters available for each field. Therefore, it would only serve the purposes of drafting. It is also limited to the pre-designed format. User cannot add extra stems.
  • Have to create a separate presentation to map out the other side of the argument.
 Questions for Teachers about Using Persuasion/Argument Maps:
  • Is there something lost when activities are digital and students do not have to draw the boxes and write with a utensil (re: research regarding the connection between memory and recording information by hand)?
  • Have you found an argument or persuasion map application that is free, user-friendly, and has many features?
  • What are some of the best “warm-up” activities you have executed in your classroom to teach persuasive and argumentative writing?
  • Do you use GroupMe for communication in your classroom?
My Suggestions for Using Persuasion Maps from ReadWriteThink:
  • Only use for pre-writing. It is a great way to have students map out what they will ultimately write about, but character limitations minimize this tool to that purpose.
  • Keep searching for higher quality tools/applications.
Cautions for Using Persuasion Maps from ReadWriteThink:
  • Students will need to share their work with the teacher (or print it) to verify productivity and appropriateness.

References:

Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: A practical introduction. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

The Differentiation Dragon

The Differentiation Dragon presents… 5 GOALS for Using Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom. Check out The Differentiation Dragon’s video on Blabberize.com

Introduction The Differentiation Dragon is a character that I have created to do exactly what his name suggests…magically differentiate! This vehicle of differentiating using technology is made possible through the talking animation capabilities of Blabberize. This photo editing tool is a potentially fun way for visual and auditory learners to both consume classroom content.

The content of this video presents goals for using technology and digital media in the classroom. I decided to keep it simple with a list of five to demonstrate appropriate lengths of lists to use with students. These are goals that I hope to return to and flesh out in upcoming blog posts.

Here are the 5 goals that are verbally listed in the video…a transcript if you will….for further differentiation:

  • 1)Allow students to feel that they are in the modern world and haven’t jumped in a time machine to a 1970’s schoolhouse. Kids feel a disconnect in school when it doesn’t match the present culture.
  • 2) Link the technology’s usage to career paths the students may be considering.
  • 3) Mix it up frequently to keep students surprised and to appeal to multiple learning styles.
  • 4) Provide a platform where students can communicate with those that they may have not ever chatted with-allowing new friendships to be formed.
  • 5) To always stay up-to-date- exploring the best new ways for students to learn through interaction with one another.

About the Technology Blabberize is a free site that allows users to insert a picture and record a voice-over. After registering for an account, users upload an image of their choosing, crop it, and signify where they would like the “speaking” to come from on the image (may or may not be from a mouth). In a classroom, this would allow students to learn lessons from talking animals, celebrities, and even inanimate objects. There are certainly many comedic outcomes with these creations. There may be other sites that produce less clunky-looking creations, but I think that it is that awkwardness that is a part of this tool’s charm and one that will grab students’ attention.

Affordances In addition to presentations from the teacher, Blabberize would be a great way for students to create their own characters to help them learn course material or make voice-blogs for characters from literary studies (a student could have a pony playing the part of Jay Gatsby). Additionally, because the students themselves are not on a camera, it may help those who are nervous about public speaking as they can use a pretend voice as modeled with the Differentiation Dragon. This tool would permit students to respond in a manner beyond a standard writing entry and could assist them with developing their public speaking skills. Furthermore, Blabberize creations energize content that tends to be dry, such as vocabulary lessons or writing a list of goals.

Constraints The biggest restraint to using Blabberize in the classroom is that it may become so zany that some students may struggle to be serious when necessary. I feel that characters like the Differentiation Dragon can be recurring in classroom lessons but must be used in moderation to prevent things from becoming stale. As I mentioned above, I believe that many students would embrace the “awkwardness” of these creations, but there would certainly be some who would roll their eyes and prefer something more “high-tech” looking. In keeping with the goal of mixing it up, I would try and find a tool that would serve those preferences for some occasions. It would also be nice to be able to include text (captions or additional unspoken notes) that would allow further differentiation. Finally, the recording process can be a little frustrating. The buttons at the bottom of the player do not always do what it seems like they are going to do. I had to re-record my video two times.

Questions for Teachers about Using Blabberize: 
  • What activities or assignments do you find the usage of Blabberize to be appropriate for in your classroom?
  • When would you never use it?
  • Is there a photo editing tool that is more effective with high school students? One that is more high-tech? Is there one that includes more features (such as the inclusion of captions with the video)?
My Suggestions for Using Blabberize:
  • The “crazier” the character….the more memorable! Allow students to exercise their “imagination muscles!”
  • Have students create character journals using this tool.
Cautions when Using Blabberize:
  • Students need to be closely monitored and the teacher will need to screen the videos prior to being presented as there is an “adult” category option and students may take advantage of the liberties available with this tool.

INTRODUCING…MR. WATSON

Check out my VoiceThread to see and hear parts of “My Story.”

Introduction So here it is…the inaugural blog post! Much like the first day of a school year, this post is intended to work in conjunction with my About Me page (see navigation at the top of the page) to tell you about who I am before we go on our upcoming journey together. A traditional teacher intro would probably look something like one reading the bullet points found on my About page. However……keeping with this blog’s theme of “The Digital ELA Experience,” this first post will look at the experience of using modern technology to potentially better support the purposes of hello activities.

About the Technology VoiceThread allows users to upload photographs, audio, and video files. It has a slideshow functionality, allowing the user to record videos or audio narration as each photo appears. It also includes an option to provide text to either add more commentary to the images or captions to the narration. This makes it an effective classroom tool for differentiation. Additionally, If the user chooses, other viewers can comment on their presentations in text or with an audio recording.

VoiceThread in the Classroom I chose to use VoiceThread as a way to experiment with how I may better introduce myself to students because it is a good way for my audience to have visual aids along with my voice. It could be something that students could even potentially view outside of class in the event that they are absent during “syllabus day.” It could also be a way for them to present similar material to me as well as their classmates in lieu of traditional “getting to know you” welcoming activities. Perhaps students could have a choice between making one of these, using a different digital platform, or drawing or writing about what they would like the class to know about them. They could even speak to why their selected technology best represents their personality.

Affordances As a potential tool option for project presentations, students who struggle with public speaking can practice formulating their verbal responses in a more controlled environment. Additionally, the mix of images, audio, video, and text allow for the content to be accessible to many different types of learners. Finally, it presents a modern method of classroom discussion and offers students who do not regularly participate in class to make their contributions in an interactive way that is likely more comfortable to the tech-savvy student of 2019.

Constraints While VoiceThread is fairly simple and quick to use, there are some shortcomings. It takes a little too much time to find a few of the features and the layout seems somewhat dated. Additionally, the audio quality is not as strong as some other digital tools that I have experimented with for different assignments. I think the biggest issue that I have with it is that you have to click when you are ready to go to the next slide during a presentation instead of having continuous play. It is not as flashy or contemporary as some of the applications that the students may be used to using. Finally, if students were to use it for their assignments, it would likely be necessary to require that they turn off the commenting feature or to heavily monitor what they write or say in their replies to ensure that cyber-bullying does not occur as a result of someone anonymously creating an additional account.

Questions for Teachers about Using VoiceThread:
  • What kind of assignments (besides introductions) have you employed VoiceThread?
  • Have you had or have you heard about a negative experience concerning students and inappropriate reply comments?
My Suggestions for Using VoiceThread:
  • Use this tool (or one like it) instead of the standard/traditional “getting to know you”/welcome day activities.
  • I would advise other teachers to search for similar platforms that seem more user-friendly and cutting-edge. If they do endorse VoiceThread in their teaching by commonly employing it, they should continuously check to see other options if VoiceThread does not update with new versions somewhat regularly.
Cautions Using VoiceThread: 
  • The audio quality may be poor.
  • Potential issues with cyber-bullying. Have students turn off the commenting feature.