This video is an interesting example of a few different things that I think we’d like to see in our classrooms. While it’s true that this was produced by a network of some of the best people working in motion graphics, it is still the result of an ethically motivated, thoughtfully engaged, and entrepreneurial group. It is a product that we can point to as being both a learning experience and an active statement.
We have the technology available for our students to create such videos and networks. I would say that the vast majority of them are already very capable with the collaborative tools and networks necessary to participate*. Our job, to paraphrase Mr. Holland’s Opus, is to give them something to collaborate about.
* I should note that I am not just concerned about making videos. I am interested to see teachers creating opportunities for students to develop skills, knowledge, and values via problems posed by the real world (see Inquiry Method).
I was going to try justifying posting this trailer because some of my students are reading the Scott Pilgrim series and I want to make a connection between graphic novels and their often flimsy film adaptations. The fact of the matter is that I do not believe that this film adaptation will be flimsy and I am just excited about it because it’s awesome.
I regularly love posts from Will Richardson’s blog Weblogg-ed, but one that George Couros tweeted today is particularly prescient. Will’s post, called “The G-Portfolio,” is exploratory inasmuch as he is seeking feedback about the subject of online portfolio management for students. He intends to write an article with the help of the responses he receives via his blog. The conversation has caught my eye because my school is looking seriously at having all students leave our school with an electronic/Google-able portfolio. Here are my two cents with regards to the questions posed in the blog:
What types of literacies should be displayed in this Web portfolio?
This is hard. The trick will be to not have a student’s portfolio be a container for everything he or she creates in school; it’s more important to have the students choose their best work based on criteria that are relevant to their career goals*. Without going on forever, the literacies demonstrated by the portfolio ought to be the ones that are the most relevant to areas of interest or aptitude as selected by the youth and critical advisors (teachers, counselors, parents). The bottom line is that the portfolio must demonstrate the best examples of a student’s work (and students need to be taught the ability to constructively critique their own work).
What role will this play in “reputation management” or the personal brand of the student?
The portfolio doesn’t play a role in this; the portfolio is reputation management. When a person takes ownership over his or her web presence, that person is making a commitment to cultivate the message sent by all content online that is associated with their names. It’s a big step but it’s worth noting that a digital footprint will exist for everyone anyway, so you might as well be in control of what yours looks like.
What are the challenges and complexities of the process?
The biggest challenge for me is logistical. There are a million things to do in your senior year. Unless a student has time set aside to dedicate to cultivating his or her portfolio, it very easily gets shifted to the back burner (don’t roll your eyes…when was the last time you updated YOUR portfolio or CV? :)). Time needs to be built into peoples’ days or weeks for students to critically consider their content.
To what extent should educators have their own “g-portfolios”?
My answer to this is connected to my previous answer. As lovingly as I speak it, the truth is that educational pros are among the worst out there for saying, “do as I say and not as I do.” It is difficult to sell the importance of personal brand management when we don’t pursue it actively ourselves. I would say that regularly examining one’s own portfolio (electronic or otherwise) is as necessary to professional development as flossing is to dental hygiene (when was the last time you did THAT?).
What are the best tools, sites, etc. to create and organize these portfolios?
As with all things, the tool is best chosen after you know what you want to do. But, for my ease of use and flexibility, I would look to WordPress as the glue for this. It’s just dead easy and free. It can be connected to a million things and easily display images and video.
* I am writing this with a prejudice towards secondary education. This is not to say that portfolios aren’t a good idea for younger students. In fact, a lifelong and “evergreened” portfolio would actually be the best of all results in our web-focused world.
I am bad at Math. A lot of people will make this confession wholeheartedly, but I would bet that few of those people have ever had to TEACH Math to people. I took on such a challenge and found two things:
1) Teaching Math is like teaching anything else: be clear about what the learner must accomplish, demonstrate it, get the learner to do it, assess, repeat.
2) I liked it a lot.
The second thing is more important for me than the first. It’s important because I was scared to do it. When I did it, though, I found myself really reaching back into my troubled Math past (the teary-eyed nights of struggling through long division) and my toolbox of real-world situations that I swore would NEVER involve math of any sort (just order too few pizzas one day if you want to see what I mean).
A few things have happened recently that have made me see that my little epiphanies are old news for the seasoned Math pros. These things have also shown me that there is something going on in Math education that the rest of us (yes…even in the humanities) should be paying attention to.
I recently had a great talk with a new, passionate Math teacher who just can’t wait to get kids pumped about polynomials. Now, new teachers like Tara (on Twitter at @tleipert ) often are the manifestations of both piss and/or vinegar, but what was great was about the conversation was that I could see her evaluating ways to take Math out of the textbook and into the real world.
Next, as is my tendency, I was looking for an interesting TED video to show to my homeroom class and I stumbled upon this talk by famous Math teacher Dan Meyer (you KNOW you are special when you are a famous Math teacher). You can see the video for yourself here, but the main thrust is that Math classes and textbooks take STUDENTS out of the equation by giving them all the information they need to solve problems. He espouses a type of Math study that asks simple questions as a starting point for a conversation about how to solve them.
Finally, I came across Shawn Cornally’s blog about being on a constant quest to be a better teacher. The things he tries in his classroom are really out of the box thinking for getting his youth excited about exponents. He awards game-like experience points for successes in his classes. He then allows the students the opportunity to “win some back” when they make mistakes. Take a look at this excerpt from his blog about how he allows students to re-try concepts they missed on before:
Cherub: “Mr. Cor nally, I was look ing at my grades, and I see that I don’t really under stand how to draw the graph of a function’s deriv a tive, I have a 5/10.”
Cor nally: “Did you review the con cept with your notes, the book, and or try some by yourself?”
Cherub: “Yes, I tried a few from the book, and I think I get it now. Can I show you?”
Cor nally: “Sure.” The stu dent draws a func tion (sim ple parabola) and then draw its deriv a tive fairly accurately.
Cherub: “Is this correct?”
Cor nally: “Yes, but I need you to show me with a func tion that may not have already been in your head.” Cor nally draws com pli cated func tion. Stu dent draws deriv a tive fairly well. “Ok, you didn’t quite get this part … but you’ve def i nitely shown improve ment on some of the basic ideas behind this stan dard, I will change your score to a 7.5/10, a ‘C.’”
Cherub: “OK, thanks. I’ll be in tomor row morn ing to try again.”
This. Actu ally. Happened.
The point of all of this is not that I want to go teach Math. I would still generally suck at it. The point is that the approach of creating relevant, accessible material in an area that has historically been such a huge block for people should be an inspiration to us all. In short, if Math can do it, why aren’t we all striving to make our classrooms THIS exciting?