Making an Impact: a few ways #Edci569 has shaped my practice

Without any cliche or amplified insincerity, this semester’s experience in Edci569 has been utterly inspiring. Each week there were numerous takeaways whether from our video conferencing as a cohort, through the collaborating through twitter and google+, or through the blog reflections from my awesome peers. To jump in to the graduate studies deep end and be greeted with a personally and professionally memorable experience has been a gift that I have not taken for granted.

To illustrate this I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve begun to use in my classroom.

Alan Levine’s visit had an immediate impact on me. He presented a number of resources that stoked creative fires, all online and all super intuitive and engaging. I returned to my classroom the following day ready to remix a few lessons that I use each semester and also introduce some of Alan’s tools to scaffold what I had planned for my students. I decided to have students play with Pechaflickr in order to begin building a foundation for what digital storytelling is all about. I had them grab a device (we have class set of iPads in our room), find a place in the school where they could be alone or with a partner, and give the impromptu challenge a go. Some students shared a single device and swapped turns with each photo. Some students worked alone trying their best to come up with a creative, humorous, academic, or personal narrative to match the images they were given. The feedback was great. We discussed how the web tool got their creative juices flowing and how being able to respond to something with little to no preparation, being able to improvise, is an underutilized and undervalued skill they felt they’d like to hone and strengthen. We then played with the Daily Create and viewed a handful of past assignments to see how others were dabbling in rising to this creative challenge. Students were shocked to see what some participants were able to create in 15 minutes or less. They were inspired and in awe and perhaps best of all, they wanted to give it a go. We brainstormed ways they could include the Daily Create in to their own lives and classwork and we vowed to return on a weekly basis. So cool! We then discussed how we could incorporate some of what we’d learned from the Pechaflickr exercise in to our current studies and we agreed that the best place to do so would be their blogs. Each of my students maintains a blog that acts as a portfolio of their learning from their coursework. We agreed that a great task would be to toss out our old About Me content and replace it with their digital story, 5-10 photos that reflect who they are and what they’re about. The results were awesome. See the below gallery for a few examples. And a huge thank you to Alan for his guidance!

Another great takeaway from the course were two particular videos shared by our professor and Edci569 guru Alec Couros. During one of our video conferencing sessions Alec referenced these videos as a sort of an aside rather than the focus of our discussion. I bookmarked them and later had time to watch them both. Not only did they resonate with me and my pedagogical approach to teaching, but I felt I could easily utilize some of what they were suggesting immediately in to the classroom. Have a look:

Many of my English 12 students are history buffs. They are enrolled in our English course while simultaneously taking their History 12 course. Therefore when it comes time to begin planning their own Inquiry Unit including a novel, research, authentic piece, and essay, many of them chose a driving question that is connected to their love for both subjects. An example that one student is currently working on is “How can studying the past help our future?” One way that I can inform students of connections they can make between our history and their outlook of the future is reflected in the above videos. By understanding that studying our past is more than just memorizing facts and spitting them back out and that it’s also interpreting the past in a critical light and sharing your understanding of it in your own way. What some students have decided to do is include an analysis of propaganda posters, in this case from WWII, in their Inquiry Unit but take it a step further and remix their selected posters to create a new, perhaps sarcastic or ironic take on the original intended message. This exercise has clear connections to Alan’s digital storytelling stream and one that I am in love with because it synthesizes the critical thinking skills with student’s natural creative juices and their adept use of web tools. I don’t have any student work to share at this time but when I do I’ll be sure to post and share here.

I’ll post some more thoughts on the many takeaways from the course in the coming weeks. Although the course is coming to a close the value of what was learned and can be shared does not end.

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