Monday, April 27, 2009

Iron Teacher - "A Separate Peace"

Tom’s Bionic Teaching blog and my good friend Michelle's blog have inspired me to attempt this first of hopefully many "Iron Teacher" Challenges. This challenge is as follows:

The Audience: 2 classes of 10th grade General Level Literature students.

The Secret Ingredient: The novel “A Separate Peace

The Challenge (as defined by the teacher): Students are beginning a book discussion of the novel “A Separate Peace.” These particular students struggle to demonstrate understanding of content through writing, but have recently become more motivated to read and respond to literature as their teacher has incorporated audio books and modern literature into the curriculum.

The teacher shares that the class performs better when asked to discuss personal experiences and would like to incorporate the book themes of envy/conformity into the book discussions. These students in particular are not easily motivated to participate in class activities. Their teacher is looking for an original and fun way to have the students discuss and share while demonstrating understanding in a way that goes beyond writing an essay or taking a multiple choice test.

Here’s my submission to the challenge.

BIG IDEA: Sacrifice

Essential Question: How does human sacrifice intensify during times of conflict?

or How does sacrifice affect our world during times of conflict?

When the Devon students return to school in the Fall, they are appalled at the idea of having no housekeeping services, along with many additional changes, due to the war. Sacrifice in "A Separate Peace" ranges from this minor discomfort to Gene's self-deprivation of sports while Finney is away, to the highest sacrifice one can offer: service to one's country during times of war.

Students in the 10th grade literature classes would start by brainstorming the examples of sacrifice in the story, along with the motivation and the result of each. Then, while applying ideas of parallelism, they would be in charge of searching for examples of human sacrifice in the world around them-- either from people's memories of historical conflicts or resulting from current political, cultural, or additional categories of conflict.

Motivate the students with a challenge of their own....

CHALLENGE Statement: Strengthen intergenerational connections by sharing stories of human sacrifice collected from around the world.

To collect and share others' stories of sacrifice during times of conflict.

Students could (in teams or individually) set out to find others' stories of sacrifices and bring them back to the class. The possibilities for collection methods are endless, but here are a few:

  • Cell phone calls
  • Audio recordings
  • Digital cameras - still pictures and/or video
  • Written transcripts of conversations
  • iSight camera video capture
  • Record an iChat or a Skype call
  • Emails
  • Creating a VoiceThread and collecting comments

A time limit (somewhat short to make it more challenging) should be imposed from the beginning.

This could even be fashioned as a "scavenger hunt" type activity with different point values assigned for varying degrees of complexity, for example...

Bonus pts for:

  • Someone from a different state
  • Someone from a different country
  • Story from more than 40 years ago
  • Collection of the story with video, as opposed to just audio or taking notes from a conversation

Once they have captured their examples of sacrifice, there is so much that students or student teams could do to compile the stories. Some ideas I considered include:

  • Creating a digital "scrapbook" of sacrifices
  • Organizing the stories in a "living timeline"
  • Using Glogster to link the stories to one main webpage in a "digital poster" format
  • Creating an iMovie video montage, slideshow presentation, or a podcast highlighting the stories
A Step Further....
To encourage narrative writing, students could be asked to choose ONE example of sacrifice and turn it into a longer piece of writing. Including references to the historical background of the story, would incorporate research writing skills as well as narrative writing skills for the students.

The Iron Why: What’s the justification for this challenge solution?

Open-endedness and student choice is at the core of my lesson. Students need practice in the interpersonal skills of interviewing, listening, and storytelling. Parallelism as well as compare and contrast comes through when analyzing the idea of sacrifice in the novel as compared to real-life sacrifices. Hopefully empathy is being developed by the students as they search for the stories to bring back to the class in this project.

Teachers' Note:

While fine details and procedural writing are not my forte, I truly enjoy thinking of ideas to engage my students. Working with another teacher to hammer out the smaller details, any challenge of this type could be much improved. No matter what, I did truly enjoy the experience of reading a great new piece of adolescent literature: "A Separate Peace."

Challenge Based Learning... the message is spreading!

Challenge Based Learning
Momentum is gaining for a innovative approach to K-12 education and evidence of its positive effects on learners was witnessed this past weekend in Nebraska. The NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology) 2009 Conference featured keynote speaker Stephanie Hamilton of Apple Computers who predecessed her of Challenge Based Learning with years of research, references, and examples of why change is needed in education. I had the privilege of sharing my involvement in Challenge Based Learning in two breakout sessions. The first, with fellow ADEs Joanna Seymour, Ross Abels, and Therese Laux, overviewed the ACOT2 Initiative and our involvement in the curriculum development team as well as a call to action for schools to begin using the widely scalable CBL framework. In the second, fellow teacher Deb Barelmann co-presented with me to share the story of the CBL pilot at O'Neill Public Schools as our students took on the challenge of apathy in our school community.

Saturday, April 25 was the date for the annual "Digies" Student Media Awards. In addition to promoting excellent student projects from across the state of Nebraska, announcements were made for changes to the contest for next year. Instead of focusing on specific media types (digital photo, informational movie, etc.), the contest will use Challenge Based Learning as a framework for all student projects. Students are encouraged to find a challenge in their school or community, form teams, and work together find an actionable solution to that challenge. Digital Media projects could highlight the process or the solution itself or both! Age divisions will be K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 and up to five smaller film festivals will be held across the state in communities that have the most entries. This exciting announcement for Nebraska education shows the scalability and adaptability of the Challenge Based Learning model and should definitely help promote some positive practices in K-12 education.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

NETA 2009

"Exploring New Territories" was the conference theme of NETA 2009, and the message resonating from the new venue to the sessions couldn't be clearer: We must change our teaching today to prepare our students for their world tomorrow.

In addition to finishing up my three-year term on the NETA Board of Directors, I was honored to be able to present four different sessions at Nebraska's annual Educational Technology Conference.

I've linked to the materials and/or presentations below:

Rising to the Challenge- CBL at O'Neill Public Schools (with Deb Barelmann) (NETA 09)
Enthusiastic and Innovative. This project takes learning to a different level.

iCollaborate Workshop
Katie Morrow's iCollaborate session was absolutely awesome! It was packed full of inventive ideas. In fact, she probably could have spent a couple of days on them. I would love to attend a more in depth session to see exactly how she manages some of her many projects!

Transform your Classroom into a Classroom of Tomorrow
(with fellow ADEs: Joanna Seymour, Therese Laux, and Ross Abels) (NETA 09)
They had a great message to share and others should hear it.

iWork: Productivity and Projects

For a fun "roving reporter" view of NETA 2009 check out Dale Holt's video highlights at ""

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Student Essay

During the late 19th Century there was a dilemma that many common citizens faced, the fact that technology needed to stay up to speed with the people. However living in the 21st Century, that isn’t the case. Technology right now is moving at a faster rate than most have time to figure out and understand the programs that one device can contain. Traveling through my education years, from elementary school to high school technology has taken many levels.

Starting my learning in Kindergarten and moving through to my fourth grade year, I encountered my first stage of the technology advances dealing with floppy disks and CDs. Initially when I first started using the computer and understanding some of the programs that it contained, my visions of the technology world had widened. In school I did many educational projects on programs such as powerpoint and word processor; however, in order to show my instructors the projects I was required to save them on floppy disks. Floppies were an easy way to keep important things on because they were portable, inexpensive, and simple to use. As the technology wheel kept on turning floppies became less used and out of date. Later another use of saving information was introduced, keeping data on a CD. This allowed people to have more storage capacity than the floppies. As technology kept on taking more steps, I later come upon the next stage of the technology advancement.

The next stage of the technology advances that I seen growing up was during my fifth grade through sixth grade years with the introduction of the handheld Palms and the S.M.A.R.T Boards. To begin with having Mrs. Morrow, a technology equipped teacher, made learning more enjoyable than ever. She had expanded my knowledge in academics with the use of a handheld Palm. Using the Palms to write journals, accomplish DOL, and draw sketches of topics that I was being educated on; made learning an adventure. Next, She even broadened our horizons with the S.M.A.R.T Boards. Having a larger view of a computer screen in front of the classroom made it easier to understand the steps of the procedure that we needed to take on our lab computer, worksheets, group projects, and much more. The frontal projection of the S.M.A.R.T. Board transformed the classroom into a more dynamic learning environment.

The third stage of the technology advances that I come across as I developed into Jr. High was the usage of USB flash drives. The USB flash drives are very convenient to use and allow you to save GB of information on a smaller device. Data can be very quickly written to, or read from, this convenient portable device. USB Flash drives were a very unique way to keep information because many computers today don’t even have floppy drives, and while CDs can be used to exchange data, writing a CDrom can take time and not everyone always has a CD burner.

The fourth and final stage of the technology advances that I have encountered as I came into contact with high school was the use of the MacBooks. Taking a MacBook to every class and interacting with learning on a whole new outlook has made learning more enjoyable than ever. Using a series of programs to fully educate myself on new topics, I have had a different perspective on learning. With so many applications to use there is a wide variety of ways to make projects including imovie, powerpoint, keynote, pages, word, photoshop, and garageband are just a few of the ones that are offered. When unable to attend school because of illness, school activities, or any other reason, assignments are available on Angel, a school assignment webpage. The MacBooks have tremendously enhanced my typing ability by improving my speed and accuracy. I believe that this will help me in years to come in the business world because in many jobs you need to be skilled at typing. Now that I have been in this stage for about a year, Technology is still improving.

Living in the 21st century I have been through many improvements of technology. Technology is progressing at a very fast pace. Each time you start to thoroughly understand how to incorporate a piece of equipment, a new and more advanced device is introduced. Getting involved with technology at a young age will help you to more understand how to use the new developments because of the rapid tempo of the new technology. I will keep trying to stay up with the increase of technology devices because of the impact that they can have on your life. With the pace of improvements that technology has provided for us we won’t be having a dilemma any time soon like the common citizens encountered during the 19th Century.

By Bobbi Walters

Friday, April 10, 2009

Classroom Connectivity in Math and Science

For the past four years, Janice Vosler and Deb Barelmann, OHS Math teachers, have been involved with a grant/research study incorporating TI calculators and the TI Navigator in the algebra classroom. To help bring the research study to a conclusion, Dr. Doug Owens from the Ohio State University recently visited O'Neill High School to see the use of technology in action in math classes. Listen in to an interview session with the three above-mentioned educators about Classroom Connectivity in Math and Science.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Learn about Challenge Based Learning on 'Always On' Episode 4

If you're ready to move beyond the traditional classroom structure, to one where learning is embedded in real world application, then Challenge Based Learning is a concept to explore. In this episode, we invited Dennis Adamson, Mike Amante, and Bob Lee to join us in a virtual round table discussion on how Challenge Based Learning is providing a new way to engage secondary students.