Student Narratives–This I Believe

August 27, 2006

This past week our English I Pre-AP class wrote narrative autobiographical essays. Within class we read and analyzed a selection from Arthur Ashe’s autobiography Days of Grace. We also listened to three selections from the NPR series This I Believe. I provided the students with the link to the NPR series to listen on their own. I elected to listen to the essays by Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder, Josh Rittenberg, a junior at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Manhattan, and Sen. John McCain. I wrote my essay back in April and the link to my essay is still viewable under teacher entries on our Class Blogmeister page.

Besides working on our understanding of narrative essays, my goal for our class is to work on the editing process. This class is also taking AP Human Geography and will be taking the AP exam in May. As we work on our writing, my first goal is to get students comfortable with the revision process. I am publishing the originally submitted drafts; however, I am requiring students to submit a revised copy before we record these essays for publications. We will be revising and podcasting these essays later this week. Check back for the student podcast.


Motivation for another year

August 20, 2006

As I sit at home editing, once again, my semester and quarter plan for my courses this year I am reminded of a podcast from Wesley Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. The podcast is from a presentation by Marco Torres that Wesley originally aired in May. As Wesley notes Marco is a passionate teacher and points out several things that sometimes we assume are obvious. The main item I took from Marco’s presentation is that you can not fake teaching. As I told most of my classes during these first couple of days, I have not worked in four years. I have friends who work, and they sometime complain about getting up and going to work. Me, I go to school in the morning and practice after class. Sure some days are difficult, but I feel that many people forget how hard life can really be.

Last night I watched an episode of Thomas L. Friedman Reporting on the Discovery Times channel. Actually, I recorded it on my Tivo. Yes, I am an admitted nerd. Mr. Friedman was researching a wall the Israeli government is building to deter suicide bombers. At one point during the episode Mr. Friedman talked to both Israelis and Palestinians who had to either climb an eight foot tall cement wall to get to class or walk around the walk. Obviously walking would seem easier; however, the walk around is a twelve mile trek. I wonder if we had to face such difficulties in our daily lives would we stop complaining about reading assignments and traffic jams.

If you missed Wesley’s podcast it is worth going back to hear. At the minimum check out the commercial Mr. Torres’s group produced. It is a parody of the Monster.com commercial from the 1999 Super Bowl and it should give you a new look as you finish planning your lessons.

Enjoy your day,

Kyle


New courses and iPods

August 19, 2006

My goal of using this summer to write on a semi-daily basis did not go completely as planned. As per usual I had several projects working at the same time and was not able to complete everything before school started. That said, the school year offers something that summertime lacks, routine. With teaching multiple courses, coaching and graduate school I do not expect to be able to write on a daily basis; however I do plan on several articles a week. The majority of my writing will focus less on new technology that I find and more of my ideas and how these ideas work out with such technology in my courses.

This year I am teaching on freshman level English course. This is a new course at our school as it is specifically paired with AP Human Geography, a first time offering at our school. This is the first time that we have offered an AP course at the freshman level. It is exciting to think about the possibilities that will await these freshman who are challenging themselves by taking a college level course. As Ms. Lipscomb, my social studies counterpart in this pairing of courses, stated to one of the classes this week, “Welcome to your freshman year…in college.” It should be a great year.

Another new program for our freshman is our partnership with Apple. Following the lead of several prominent universities, Bishop Dunne Catholic School is issuing iPods to freshman students for academic use. Last year I explored the use of podcasting in my World History courses and I feel that it went well. My ideas for academic use this year include my podcasts, students created podcasts and interviews.

Personally, I will try to podcast several of my lectures. The idea is that students who are absent can review the discussion and not completely miss out on the class experience. I would say that students could review the lecture on their own time, but the realist in me understands that few students will listen to a discussion a second time. Some of these lectures will be recorded prior to class using Audacity and the $15 microphone I purchased at Fry’s Electronics. If you have questions about how to create a podcast see my previous posting. Also check out Eric Langhorst’s posting from the Midwest Summer Institute. I intended on using Belkin’s new iPod recorder to record in class lectures as I pace a lot when I talk; however this will now be delayed by about a week as FedEx dropped the ball.

Not to side track too much, but since I have your attention. Apparently FedEx’s policy on obtaining signatures for purchases that require such confirmation of delivery is a waste of time. FedEx delivered my Belkin recorder yesterday, but someone other than myself or my wife signed for the package. Since no one else lives with us I am not sure who that was, but they signed my name. Afterward someone, presumable the same person who signed for the package, opened the box and stole my new recorded. Thankfully they left the boxes and the packing slip for me the throw in the trash. Apple is investigating and I should receive a replacement in a week. After speaking with FedEx’s customer service representatives I doubt high that I will every use FedEx or purchase a product from anyone who uses FedEx again.

Back on track.

I will also use podcasting to distribute exam review sessions. I spent the past eight months listening to several teacher podcasts to gain ideas. Following the lead of some of these podcasts I will included some type of bonus question within the podcast as an incentive for students. Our students, like most, have a commute to school that provides a perfect opportunity to listen to podcasts.

My students will also be creating podcasts. I plan to have students create audio for some of the presentations in our class. While I recognize that students must become comfortable with presenting in front of an audience, I feel that creating a presentation and performing in front of an audience are two different skills. If we as teachers can isolate these skills, then possibly students will understand the differences and be able to excel at both.

Additionally, interviews and field research is another addition to courses that iPods enable. By using recorders such as the Belkin device I purchased both teachers and students can bring into the classroom the expertise of people who normally do not have the time to present within normal school hours. While I have no specific plans for this, I am keeping my mind open and my eyes lurking.

Finally, let me say that I do not believe that those students who are not issued an iPod will be excluded from this program. In addition to the freshman English course, I am teaching a pair of sophomore English classes and an AP Economics course to seniors. Ninety percent of the students in my classes have internet access at their houses and will be able to take advantage of these podcast. Since iTunes does not allow for transferring of files except to iPods, I will outline some of the other podcatchers in future articles.

In addition to my how to posting on podcasting and the Speaking of History blog there are several articles on educational resource. Make sure that you check out Wesley Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity.
Enjoy your day,

Kyle