Friday, June 24, 2011

Civil War Newscasts: Part III

So I finally have some time to finish this three part post on a major collaborative project that my classes did over the Civil War at then end of the school year.  If you haven't had a chance please check out my first two posts here and here. 

Immediately after filming was completed, students began the arduous task of editing their work.  I knew this would be time consuming so the students had three days in class as well as the weekend to finish editing their newscasts.

The students had an option on what type of editing software they could use. 

The first choice was an online editing service called Jaycut.  This was the option for those students that either didn't have a Mac or weren't proficient with Windows Movie Maker.  Jaycut, in theory, is a great idea.  Everything is saved in the cloud.  In reality, it took a lot of time for videos to upload.  Part of the issue was probably the school server, so I'd suggest that students use Jaycut from home.

Another editing choice was Windows Movie Maker.  I like this software, but it was not an easy fit with some of the flip cameras (see previous post) that we used.  Files had to be converted which can be a lengthy process as well. Here is a video tutorial:

Options three and four were two bits of editing software using the Mac:  Final Cut (more expensive) and iMovie.  Both of these worked the best for classroom use, and they did not have the issues of Jaycut and Movie Maker.  Of course, the drawback is that we do not have a Mac lab at school.  However, we were very fortunate that our principal allowed students to bring their Macs to class. 

The final part of the project was to have the students present their newscast.  Most students brought the video in on a flash drive or sent it via email if they were using Jaycut.  We watched these in chronological order, and I graded them using the checklist on the teacher instruction sheet.

All in all, this was a great cumulative project to end the year.  It incorporated a project based atmosphere, dug deeper into content, and allowed for students to become active learners.

 If you enjoyed this post please consider joining my Twitter PLN @HistoryandTech. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
Continue to enjoy your summer,


Friday, June 10, 2011

Civil War Newscasts: Part II

As you start planning for next year (I know, I know, summer just started), I recently posted a big collaborative project that included a lot of technology as well.  You can find the first post here as a guest post on @techforschools blog titled Tech Tool's for Schools.  Now the second part of the project: 

After scripts have been finalized it will be time for the students to begin the process of filming.  There are many things to consider before this even takes place:
     1) What parts of the school are off limits?
     2) Will you have a specific pass for the students to take with them?
     3) What type of cameras will you be filming with?
     4) Will you allow students to bring their own cameras?

We quickly established filming norms, including a hall pass, off limit areas, and signing in and out for the cameras.  The next step was to actually issue the cameras.  The students actually had three options.  Option one was the RCA Small Wonder. 

This camera works well with Windows Movie Maker.  The drawbacks are that the batteries are not rechargeable and you'll find yourself changing them out a couple of times per day.

Option two was the Kodak ZI8.

This camera worked well with most editing software (except Movie Maker).  It also had rechargeable batteries so it was less of a hassle during the school day.

The third option was to allow students to bring their own cameras.  They were required to sign a waver, but many groups went this route and it worked out well as they could film at home if needed.

The entire filming process lasted around 3-4 days depending on the group.  I timed it so there was also a weekend between filming days so the students could film from home with the extra time.  While the students were out and about, so was I.  The were aware that I could be anywhere which curbed any behavior problems.  I also emailed the rest of the faculty and asked for the names of any students that were caught misbehaving.  Finally, the students were given a participation grade during the days of filming.  All in all, the students stayed busy and engaged.

Look for the final post of the project soon...the dreaded and feared EDITING PROCESS.  If you enjoyed this post please consider joining my Twitter PLN @HistoryandTech.  As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

Take care,


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Music in the History Classroom

I can't sing at all.  I still listen to late eighties rap and hair metal (I'll always stop down and belt out "Paradise City").  So I clearly have no clue when it comes to music.

What I do know is that music is a nice change of pace in the history classroom.  Recently, I've played a couple of songs for my classes to "spice" up a lesson. 

The first was "The Battle of New Orleans" originally by Johnny Horton.  I play the version sang by Boxcar Willie.  The students listen to the song (with much joy at first--sarcasm) while the lyrics pop up on the screen.  We then took a closer look at the words and I have the students point out key words or phrases that they heard while listening to the song.  This, in turn, leads to further discussion of the importance of the battle, the rise of Andrew Jackson, the geography of the battle, etc....  Oh, and by the way, as we neared the end of the song my eighth graders were singing along!

The song that I played today was "James K. Polk" by They Might Be Giants.  I simply purchased it from iTunes and posted the lyrics up on my projector screen.  We had just finished talking about Polk's term in office and the Mexican War.  The students quickly made connections and were able to do some higher level thinking with lyrics such as "Napoleon of the Stump" and "Young Hickory."  Sure, it wasn't Justin Bieber or whoever the in musical "talent" is, but it was a nice change of pace from a normal discussion.

Some other suggestions come from my PLN on Twitter.  @ColoradoHowe suggested "War of 1812" by 3 Dead Trolls.  Check out his blog!  Also, I would suggest following @historytunes and take a look at their selection on their website.

I hope this helps shake things up a bit in your classroom.  Please consider joining my PLN on Twitter.  I'm at @HistoryandTech.

Take Care,


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Diggin' Livebinders

I'm always on the lookout for ways to expand my communication with students and parents outside the classroom.  Over two years ago I started a classroom blog.  It has been a great success.  Parent and student communication is such a breeze.  The amount of parent emails for missed work, "what is Johnny doing today", or "when is the next test" have decreased dramatically.

The next step was to add a virtual notebook to the blog.  This would be a table of contents of our current unit with all assignments that the parents and students could print off in case the student was absent or lost the work.  It has been a bit of a pain, and didn't include the additional needed resources (ppts, websites, images, etc...).

Recently, I discovered Livebinders.  Problem Solved!!! 

Today I created my first "binder" for our current unit.  I was not only able to include the current assignment, but Livebinders allows you to include links to websites, download power points, images, text, and so on and so forth. 

Tomorrow I will use another great feature of Livebinders:  embedding to my blog. Now the students and parents will be able to access so much more.  I could also share my "binder" via email, Twitter, and Facebook.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much more that can be done.  I look forward to exploring the many more uses for this wonderful website. 

If you enjoyed this post please consider joining my  or subscribing to this blog.

Monday, February 28, 2011

iTouch and the Industrial Revolution

For the past two days my classes have been involved in a project over the Industrial Revolution.  We are doing some of the usuals such as discussion, notes, and even a foldable over the major inventions.  However, this year, I've added a new element to the mix.  The students are using our iTouch lab and an app for Audioboo to create "boo's".  Boo's are simply a recording that the students make using the iTouch.

Check out this short video on Audioboo.

The process is so stinkin' simple!  We had already downloaded the free app on each iTouch.  I also made sure that every teacher in my department had created an Audioboo account.  The students then pull up the app in class, make sure they are logged into my account on Audioboo, and simply record their thoughts.  They next publish, title, and upload their "Boo".

That's it!

I had a prepared set of questions that students answered on their iTouch.  For example: "How did the cotton gin actually lead to an increase in slavery?" or "How was the telegraph significant to American life?".

I had a student ask, "why don't we just stand up and tell the class our answers"?  There are several answers that I gave him.  For one, I wanted the students to practice using the iTouch for a future major project.  I also told the students that I would play their responses to other classes.  So it was like they had a partner helping them from every class.  Plus it was just a nice way to get all students to answer questions rather than those same three kids that always raise their hands.

I would highly recommend getting whoever controls your technology budget to look into buying at least a few iTouches.  There are so many apps out there, and it is a way to bring the computer lab to you.

Thanks for taking the time to read over my ramblings.  If you enjoyed this post please consider joining my PLN on Twitter @HistoryandTech or following this blog.

Oh yeah, and apologies for any punctuation errors in this post.  I can't ever remember if the question mark goes inside or outside of the quotation marks. 

Take care,


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Digital Frame Reflection

Today in class we did a Black History Month gallery walk using digital frames (for more details please see previous post).  I thought I'd offer up a few reflections in case anyone is thinking about doing this in the future.

Overall, the lesson was a success.  The students were highly engaged.  This was due to factors such as use of technology, they were on the move throughout, and higher level questions. 

I will change a few things for next year.  First off, if you use digital frames, make sure all your fonts are at least 16 or larger.  Anything less is difficult to read on the smaller screen.  We ran into this on a couple of frames so I had to print off the slide for them to read.  The second major adjustment would be to upload darker pictures to the frames.  A few of them didn't transfer over well and were too light to see on the digital frame screen.

For all new teachers and yes, even those of us that have been doing this for a while, it is always good to reflect.  Blogging is a nice way to put it into words. 

Well, that's it for now.  I would love to hear your suggestions or comments.  If you like this blog please consider joining my PLN on Twitter or subscribing to this blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Let's Start the Right Way

A big welcome to everyone to my first blog post.  I really don't know exactly what direction to take this blog.  I got great advice from @gregkulowiec  (a must follow on Twitter by the way) who basically said just write what inspires you. I figured what better way to start than just diving into what I love and talk about a lesson that I'm doing this week.

For Black History Month, we used to do the boring old routine of either watching a video or doing basic research.  I began thinking, "how can I incorporate technology into this lesson"?  I also know that our students are weak in primary sources and DBQ's (document based questions).  So here is what I came up with.

The students will do a gallery walk looking at primary sources that encompass a timeline through Black History in 18th and 19th century America.  The part that got me excited was that the gallery walk will be done using DIGITAL FRAMES!  The students are in groups of 3-4 and will rotate from frame to frame analyzing each frame with higher level questions.
It was very easy to create once I decided what primary sources to use.  I went through several great primary source websites such as Docsteach, Docs in a Box, and Slave Voyages. I just created a quick 3 slide power point presentation for each document and our tech. facilitator converted for use on the frames.

If your technology faciliator has thought of using digital frames in the classroom, I would highly recommend bringing it up in a professional discussion.  They are fairly inexpensive and all you really need are 6-10 for the entire school.  We simply reserve them like we would reserve a computer lab.

Well, that's it for post number one.  I hope it sparked an idea or two for something that you are thinking about creating.

If you enjoyed this, please consider joining my PLN (professional learning network) on Twitter.  I am at @HistoryandTech. You could also subscribe to this blog.