Sunday, July 13, 2014

Adobe Voice Virtual Vocabulary Process and Class Summary

This is a screen shot of the window that opens for the Adobe Voice video to play in.
For my project I decided to do a virtual vocabulary, where I could present spoken vocabulary words, online to support my ELL students.  I wanted to do one video, containing all of the vocabulary words, for each of the 9 units of our 9th grade Foundations in Physics classes.  I am in the process of writing our new science curriculum, as we are converting to the NGSS standards with the coming school year.  My preference was having the vocabulary lists in video form so that I could upload or link them to my class website.  I wanted them to include the word in English, the word in Spanish, a sentence, a definition and a picture.   One of the major reasons I chose this project was I wanted something elegant and simple, that I could actually get done in a shorter amount of time, so at least one piece of the new curriculum, the vocabulary, would be completed.  This project helps me with four of the major areas I am concentrating on for my classes right now;  1) Converting to/writing the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum, 2) Supporting my ELLs better, in particular in the areas of speaking and listening,  3) Adding more vocabulary support, and 4) Continuing to add resources to my class website for my students to access outside of class. 

From a curricular perspective, the reason to do a vocabulary list this way is to give my ELLs the extra support they need with what is one of the most challenging parts of my course.   Some of my ELLS are reluctant to speak and use their physics words in class because they don't know how to pronounce them.  This method of presenting the words supports my students' listening and speaking skills as well as their reading and writing skills.  The virtual vocabulary list gives them a chance to practice as much as they want outside of class.  It also gives them a chance to practice in private without any peer pressure.  

I was very fortunate to find the Adobe Voice app.  It is a slick user friendly app, that in my experience is bug free.  Voice combines pictures, text and recorded voice in an easy to use, elegant format.   The only faults I can find with Voice are that I can only include two lines of text, and that I can not upload my videos to YouTube from Voice.  Videos have to be watched through the link Adobe sends you, as they are compiled onto an Adobe owned website.  

I can see many additional possible educational uses for this program; from story books read to children to storybooks made by children.  I will definitely have using it as an option for future projects that my students do.  The ability to add narration to the slide show makes it ideal for classes with ELLs or foreign language classes.  I am very interested to see where Adobe goes with this program in the future.  Being familiar with Adobe I am sure this is just the beginning with this product.  Hopefully it will come out on other platforms besides iPad in the near future.

Due to Adobe Voice's ease of use I have already completed 4 of the 9 unit videos that I need to get done for next year.  The other five are started and more than half way finished.  I just need to review my textbooks and notes to make sure my vocabulary lists are complete and then fill in the missing words.  One of the joys of using Adobe Voice is that I can edit the videos at any point after I am using them, if I want to add words or think of any changes, as I continue to work on the curriculum.  In the meantime it is great to have one piece of the curriculum almost done.  Because of the limitations of Voice I could not add definitions for each word, only sentences.  I decided to look upon this as a positive as it keeps the text simple which is better for my ELL students.  

With my Pecha Kecha presentation I deviated from the Pecha Kecha format as I made mine more like the classic PowerPoint with words and animations.  If I had known when I made it, what I knew now, about Pecha Kecha I would have just done large pictures or split screen pictures.  Although I would have spent a significant amount of time looking for and picking out my pictures, this would have been much less work than the way I did it.  My problem with using just big pictures in my presentation is it wouldn't have detailed and communicated my project and process to the rest of the class as well as I would have liked.  Although I enjoyed the challenge of doing this format I don't think it (at least doing it right) is the best format for a final project like this.  I didn't think it made sense to show a presentation about short videos without at least showing a short piece of the videos.  My slide show was set to show a less than 20 second clip of one of  my videos but it didn't work at presentation time.  I do think Pecha Kecha is an awesome format for possible assignments in my class however and I'm sure it will be a format choice for my student projects in the future. I just need to make sure that I match the project requirements to the format.  

There was a lot of other exciting learning that went as I was working on this project.  I found some other great apps while I was searching to find one that would work for my project.  I learned how to do animations and Smart Art in PowerPoint while making my presentation.  I also refamiliarized myself and fell in love with my iPad again.  I hadn't used it for teaching in a few years.  I resorted and organized my apps and loaded some of the new apps we talked about and some I found in the search.  I am going to try to switch for next year so my iPad is my primary for class and my computer is my secondary.  The iPad is easier to carry around my classroom and, since our student information system is now completely online, I can input grades and checks as I walk around my classroom.  Imputting them directly to the iPad saves me the step of transfering them from paper.  This will help me with my goal to work smarter and not harder.

With what I have learned about digital media and its use from this class I have many more tools that I can use to make sure my students become "digital natives" who understand digital media and its uses.  It is my responsibility to make sure that I use the tools at my disposal appropriately in order for my students to learn and communicate content rather then just "how to make cool videos."  I also have to make sure my students view the media critically.  I loved all the discussion around the topic of Disney Princesses but at first did not think I could take it to my physics class.  I later realized that a perfect way to bring critical consumption of the media into my class would be a few lessons on the "image of the scientist in the media."   I think doing that might be a great hook in the very first days of class since one of my goals is for all of my students to be scientists and think like scientists.  

I guess I will leave with a few questions:
What does a scientist look like?  How do you know?
I see a curated collection of media in my future!



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Link to my Donors Choose page for Christina and Melissa

Here is the link to my Donors Choose page.  If you click the completed projects tab you can see all of the projects that I have raised money for and their details.  As soon as I post a project I post the link to my facebook page and also I e-mail friends.  I always ask my mom to pass along the information to her friends too.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me to ask me!

My Daughter's Rabbits

Here is a Weebly made by an 11 year old.  I wrote the sales policy page and edited the rabbit care page but that is all I contributed.  She wanted to make a website for her rabbits.  My directions were: "Go to Weebly at and join and make a website."  This is her result mostly done in one afternoon  She is a digital native!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Turkle and Wesch, Symptoms of the Digital Age

As I read Turkle's "The Flight from Conversation" I couldn't help but compare it to a situation I came across in my basement a few years ago.  My children's computers are placed side by side on a long desk, and they were each sitting quietly at their computers with their eyes glued to the screen.  When I came up behind them and asked what they were doing, they said they were playing together.  Upon further questioning, they told be that their characters were playing together in some seemingly virtual world.  I was blown away as in the old days we used to "play together" by going outside and kicking a ball around and today kids "play together" in virtual worlds where they interact through electronic devices, never touching, actually talking or making eye contact.  I think this is a concrete example of Turkle's "alone together" where my children were expecting "more from technology and less from each other."  This is the new reality of how people are interacting more and more through their devices and less and less in person.  

Once again I think the main message Turkle and Wesch have for us is that our students have changed due to the avilability of information in the digital age.  They way they communicate and interact has changed.  Because of that their priorities have changed.  Who is to say whether these changes good or bad?  At this point these changes are here to stay.  The bottom line is that we have to adapt as teachers to the new technologies and the changes they have wrought in our students.  

Before the digital age there was nothing to distract students.  The only way to get any information was through books or their professors at school.  For many students professors and teachers were a whole lot more exciting to watch and listen to than reading a book.  Along comes computers and smartphones and suddenly students can get whatever information they want exactly when they want it.  Suddenly listening to a professor passing along the information the professor wants to pass along, when they want to pass it along, isn't so interesting or convienient by comparison. 

Now students have the unprecedented opportunity of actually taking the information and doing something with it.  Being able to do something with the information and pass it on to other people, possibly lots of other people, makes it very significant to the students.    This is now the hook, getting them to do something with the information, and actually process it.  It is this, that gives us as educators the opportunity of setting up a situation for much deeper longer lasting meaningful learning.  Wesch definitely sees the necessity of adopting new teaching strategies to take advantage of this fact.

Stereotype Project

Sarah and I dove right into our stereotype project changing the "classic baby doll" into "Bad Ass Baby."   We had a blast giving the baby rude tattoos, a mohawk and camo shorts, but when we were done we felt like we needed more to complete a whole project, so we came up with the commercial idea.   The biggest improvement, we could have added, was an actual script for the commercial, because Sarah had some great lines she didn't use during filming due to rushing.

We had a few technical difficulties, such as filming in 4 sections, so we chould change the background music for each.  We then realized we had to put them together into one film.  We fixed this by puting them together with iMovie.  I also had a panic moment when filming as I was holding the camera/phone in portrait orientation rather than landscape.  I lucked out on that one, because luckily the iPhone actually lets you make a movie in that orientation, unlike my Droid which would have left Sarah laying on her side throughout the movie.  If we had a few more minutes, we could have put title frames in and cleaned up the transitions using iMovie, and it would have even looked more professional.  To hasten things along we just dumped the movie directly to Youtube.

If Sarah's overwhelming excitement and enthusiasm at being in a movie on Youtube is any indication this activity would be a huge hit with students.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Year with Nike

For my chapter I choose "My Year with Nike: A Story of Corporate Sponsorship, and Ethics in Public Schools" by Rachel Cloues.  I chose this chapter because I previously worked as a senior scientist for a major corporation.  While working in this job I was one of the patent holders on a major product that can still be found on the shelves in every Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid in the entire country.  While working on the R&D team for this product I had the opportunity to interface with the marketing department while they were developing names and branding for the product.  I was fascinated by the time, money and effort that they put into coming up with the brands.  We often "grabbed" groups of people for focus groups.

Also while working with this company I was instrumental in implementing their public outreach program.  To give themselves a caring giving but science forward image they came up with the "Making Science Make Sense" program where their scientists were involved with schools and science education across the country.   The even hired "celebrities," space shuttle astronaut Mae Jemison and TV Personality David Heil, to make public appearances and push the program.  It was very interesting for me to see how the public relations and marketing minds of a major corporation work.  I still look at products and companies through this lens.

In this chapter Rachel tells about the year she was teaching 4 th grade in Beaverton, OR, Nike's hometown, where her school chose to participate in a program offered by Nike.  As part of this program, Nike would help the school meet the state's physical education standards, the students would have 4 field trips to the Nike campus, and Nike would give the school money for P.E. equipment.  Although Rachel wasn't thrilled with the program in light of Nike's use of sweatshops and poor conditions abroad, she went along with her school on the program.

Nike supplied the students with Nike T-shirts for their first trip.  The trip contained a lot of ironic moments such as the students going from a nutrition class to an auditorium where they were all given cans of soda.  The children sat for an hour in the auditorium watching new Nike commericals while all of the teachers were brought to the auditorium for a nice lunch.  After the first trip the teachers complained about the soda and commercial watching and these were not done again.

On subsequent field trips the children got to experience rock climbing, hip hop dancing, yoga, tennis and other sports.  Rachel thought it was a great opportunity for the students and they got wonderful attention from the Nike employees.  The children got goodie bags of Nike branded items after each trip.  Rachael thought they were "being indocrinated into corporate culture."  Rachel tried to counterblance the Nike trips with activities in class such as doing graphing activities about where the class' sneakers were made.

In conclusion Rachel states that with limited school budgets, partnerships like the one between her school and Nike are becoming more frequent, but the school and teachers should have some say into what goes on.  Planning and dialogue between the teachers and the companies, before the events take place, are a must.  Rachel's experience closely mirrors my experience with Bayer and the "Making Science Make Sense" program except that I was on the corporate side.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Someday My Prince Will Come!

I don't remember seeing many movies in my first 15 years of life, but I clearly remember seeing my very first movie, Disney's Bambi.  I must have been three or four at the time, and we had no TV at home  so going to the movies was a treat that happened once or twice a year.   I  clearly remember how lovely Bambi was, and how absolutely terrifying the fire scene was.  The message I came out of the movie with was that fire was extremely scary and dangerous.  I was terrified of fire into my late teens and thinking back I think this movie is one of the reasons why.  The only other movies I remember seeing in my childhood years are Fantasia (which I found visually captivating but didn't "get" at all), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jungle Book and Cinderella, all Disney films.  Clearly Disney owned the "magic" of the movies.

Fortunately I was born and raised before Disney "everything."  I was raised in the time of Disney World however.  Disney World opened when I was seven and soon became the end all vacation spot for families in the eyes of children.  In school it was a huge deal if someone was going there on vacation.  In my middle class town only the lucky kids traveled there and everyone always knew about it.  When I was 12 it was my turn to go.  I remember being excited about the trip for months before hand.  I don't think I ever owned any Disney products before the trip.  I came home with a stuffed Eyore that was one of my prized possessions for a very long time.

Fast forward almost 30 years when I have my own small children, a daughter, Athena and her brother, Alexander, who is two years her junior.  When Athena was still in preschool Disney reissued the original princess movies, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  Soon every Walmart in the country started selling princess dresses and a Disney store full of princess dresses opened in every mall.  At some point during every playdate that Athena went to, the girls came out wearing princess dresses from the host's dress collection.  To compliment the dresses there were tiaras, jewels and shoes with heels.  We went to princess birthday parties, and at one party Sleeping Beauty even drove up in a red convertable, told the girls a story and had tea with them.   I hate to admit it but Athena had princess dresses, princess toys and even had a princess themed birthday party.  Luckily this stage lasted a very short time with Athena as compared to many of her friends.  

At some point during the period of princess everything, I started to think about the message that princess everything was pushing on my daughter, and got a little bit disgusted.  Disney, on the other hand, during this same time period, looked at what the princesses meant to them and saw dollar signs. They started coming up with a new princess, complete with dress and movie, every year.  It was during this timeframe where we saw Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontus, Tiana, Mulan and Beauty.  The critics also started complaining about the ethnic norms and feminine roles portrayed in the first movies, hence role models of color such as Pocahontus, Tiana and Mulan and of course Beauty the princess who reads. 

During this same period my son was completely unimpressed with the Disney princesses, and Disney with their ever increasing purses, thanks to the princesses, realized that there was half of the population that they weren't making any money on, i.e. boys.  Out came the movie Cars, complete with car toys, very similar to matchboxes, the favorite of boys everywhere.  Along with the toy cars came race tracks, panoramas, pajamas, t-shirts, video games and various other items.  And don't forget the Happy Meal toys.  McDonalds even got in on the act.  Once again the message we see in these movies is the hero who gets rich and famous is the fast handsome McQueen.  He also gets the "girl," the beautiful Sally.

Clearly my experiences with Disney support Linda Christensen's claims that our children are being brainwashed by the themes in Disney movies.  Traditional male and female role models are reinforced by the seperation of boy stuff (i.e. Cars) and girl stuff (i.e. Princesses).  Popular culture pressures parents to buy certain toys for their children.  Disney leverages this by producing movies so that they can choose and define what becomes popular culture.  The Disney brand is synonymous in children's and parent's eyes as being wholesome and family oriented.  Disney has a reputation for upholding family values.  I think parents are lulled into a false sense of security by the Disney brand as it represents appropriate safe materials for children and families.  

The movie Brave totally challenges our memories of the "princess" culture.  In comparison to Disney's main princess theme, where the goal of all beautiful rich privilaged women is to meet and marry a handsome prince, Merida, the main character in Brave, does not want to marry a prince.  She has no desire to sit around and look like a pretty princess and do silly princess things like embroidery.  Instead she wants to be racing through the woods like a wild thing on her horse and shooting arrows with her bow.  In the Disney sense she totally redefines the term "Princess" and that is exactly what she wants to do personally too.   This movie finishes differently from the other Disney princess movies also.  In the other movies the princesses are overjoyed that they have found their handsome prince.  In Brave Merida is thrilled at the end too, but it is because she is free to make her own choice and live life on her own terms.  A happy princess and not a handsome prince in sight.  Way to go Merida!  Finally a great role model for our young ladies. Now all we need is a princess who wears jeans and fixes cars and a prince who is a fashion designer.