Friday, July 23, 2010

Learning from the Greats

I had several glorious days with the likes of Patricia Kuhl, Bruce McCandliss, John Mighton, Patricia Bauer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Talk about learning from the best. This was a conference about the brain and learning and I'll warn you now, cognitive neuroscience is liable to infuse everything I write about for the next while.

At first listen, it can sometimes feel that the work of these people is very isolated and pointed at solving particular problems or answering particular questions and there is little overlap in their insights into learning and memory. However, now that there is so much more work of this kind being done, common threads or findings do seem to be emerging which we educators would do well to consider when designing learning activities for our students.

The work of combing through my notes for those key ideas and themes still awaits. Next week I'm off to Chicago to train with the Discovery Professional Development group. In preparation for that and for my next two assignments in DST (504), I've used the pre-learning assignment sent out by the DE team as a way to begin tying to fit together the research with best practices. Here's the preliminary result. If you have feedback to offer, please leave a comment.

For those of you who read this blog in Facebook, here's the link -- .

Free website - By

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

504 (DST) -- the power of story mapping

We're well into the digital storytelling course and I'm already turning in videos late. I've found with Wilkes courses that there are no simple assignments. Last week's challenge was to figure out how to blend unit's lesson about how to create stories with emotional impact for an audience with the assignment requirements to introduce myself and where and what I teach to the others in the class. (This was doubly difficult because I no longer have a class or students or even access to a school now that I've retired.)

I found some great online resources by Jason Ohler to help me understand the purpose of story mapping using a process he calls VPS (creating a visual portrait of a story). Although at first glance, VPS seems to be about the plot line, it's really intended to add a sort of emotional tension to a story by ensuring that 3 key elements are present: a problem, a solution, and a transformation.

At the end of a presentation to a group of teachers in Alaska, Ohler was asked by someone in the audience how to guide her students to turn photos taken of a school trip into effective stories and her replied that they should be asked: "What did you learn? How are you different?" and to think: " I was one person who did not know something, but now I'm a different person because I learned this thing" and then tell the story of that change.

Ohler says that this VPS mapping-- the building of the emotional flow of the piece -- must come between the idea and the story boards: "Transformation keeps us watching. ... The story fails without our being able to witness that change. ... The new you has to win and the only way for the new you to win is if you change."

Twenty Revelations about Digital Storytelling in Education- Jason Ohler
View more presentations from jasonohler.
My first idea for the Introductions assignment did not meet Ohler's criteria at all. It was a cute take on how to present my story, but did not contain that essential transformation, and I was completely stuck. Finally, my husband persuaded me to take a night off and we headed to the Harrison Festival of the Arts to hear Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks amongst an audience of mostly over 50 counter-culture folk. The next morning the new idea seemed to be waiting for me in the shots I'd already taken and the images I'd been experimenting with in my video editing program.

Here is the final cut and I'm pleased to say that this one has received Bob's seal of approval. It means a lot to me that he likes it because week after week during the Portable Video course he patiently sat and walked and posed and acted as I fumbled with my camcorder and tried to get shots that would show some originality and a minimal attempt to follow lighting guidelines and the rule of thirds. Tomorrow and Thursday he'll be out with me again so I can take pictures for this week's door scene. I could not do these courses without his constant unselfish support, and having finally created a video that speaks to him touches me deeply.

Final reflections:

(1) I've been thinking back to my math presentation at ISTE and now understand that part of the reason it succeeded so well is that it incorporated Ohler's 3 elements: problem, solution, and transformation.

(2) Lesson planning is all about going directly from an idea (content, skills, standards, learning outcomes) to the 'storyboard' (plot line/instructional sequence). But what if teacher training institutions took Ohler's ideas to heart and added his 3 key story elements to that conventional process? What if we all had to think deeply and incorporate into each lesson and each unit the ways it would transform the students we teach? What if before we were allowed to plot out the what and how of any lesson we were required to let go of tired generalizations and pat answers and dig for personally meaningful changes that should emerge from we're doing in the classroom every day? I think that would truly revolutionize formal schooling. Instead of "No Child Left Behind" -- we'd be in the vanguard of a new movement called: " No Child Left Wondering Why."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

'Discovering' Canadians at ISTE & upcoming DE webinars for all

The folks at Discovery really know how to throw a great party and I want to thank you all for showing us Canadians a great time while we were at ISTE. The food was great, the speeches were short, and we had a chance to meet up with other Canadian teachers interested in educational technology and instructional media which hardly ever happens.

The event was also a celebration of Discovery's first year in Canada. They now offer over 3 million Canadian titles to us. If you're in the IM program and missed the memo from Karena about how to get an account with DE Streaming Canada, Karen Goldman and Austin Dolan are the people to contact. You'll need to a different user name and email for your Canadian account.


There's a wonderful webinar series coming up in August (FREE!!!!!) and you don't even need to have Discovery in your school to participate.

(Click the image below and select Adobe reader to see the full-sized pdf version of the brochure. My blog columns are too narrow for the full-sized image.)

DEN summer 2010

If you haven't been to a webinar before, Discovery makes this easy. In addition to your computer, you'll need either a phone (no charge) or a headset to participate.

YOU start by registering. Using the DEN Blog link above or this sign up page, click each title that interests you. Each webinar has its own online form like the one below. (If you aren't seeing all of the next image, please click it.) I like to change the time zone to Pacific so I don't have to remember whether to add or subtract the 3 hours on webinar day.


When you register for your first session, it's also a good idea to check to be sure you have all the necessary media players. Use the "click here" link at the bottom of the registration form and check each all 3. If any need updating, Discovery has provided all the links you'll need.

Once you've registered, you'll be sent an email with the code for the session and information about how to log in. The email will also give you the toll free number for dialing into the session. The phone/headset option is needed so you can hear the speaker. My old phone is very tinny so I us my headset -- a wireless USB type that I wear on one ear. If you want to use your phone instead, when the webinar begins set it to speaker and prop it up so you can concentrate on your screen.

On the day of the session, use the link and the information provided in the email to join the session. If you don't want to use your phone, now's the time to choose 'headset' instead. Mine sometimes doesn't work unless I go to the control panel on my machine test the audio device settings before I log into the webinar. If there's a problem, you can always quit the session, readjust, and then rejoin it if you need to.

During these webinars the speakers share slides and their desktops with you as they talk. You can ask questions or participate in the conversation using the chat box on the bottom right of your screen, or you can speak directly with the presenter when the moderator is taking questions. He'll enable your phone/mike at that point so you can talk. Don't hesitate to ask your question or add your comment. Perhaps you have an idea or past practice of your own that worked really well and you'd like to share it. Perhaps you want some clarification. In my experience the more that listeners participate, the more interesting the session becomes -- but it's also OK to watch and type. That's the cool thing about these Discovery webinars -- whatever your comfort level, you'll come away with interesting information and cool ideas to use in class.

Generally the sessions are archived and if you ask either at the beginning (before everything gets rolling) or at the end, the moderator will tell you how and when you can access the links to the archives. These are often posted in the DEN blog, but ask anyway -- just to be sure.

I know that August seems like a long way off right now -- but I thought I'd let you know about this series now so that if you're heading off to the cottage or out on the road, you can find your wifi hotspots and join these webinars from wherever you may be.