Instructional Media or “What’s an Overhead?”

Entries Tagged as 'Differentiated Instruction'

The Power of Video – The Empowerment of Media Literacy

April 28th, 2010 · No Comments

Take 5 minutes and watch this video. Then follow the comments and discussion below. Just how powerful is a viral video?

So, how does video send powerful messages? More importantly, how do we teach Media Literacy in our classrooms? There are two things we can do. One- teach students how to craft good media themselves. Two- In creating media messages, we can then deconstruct them easily and understand how they create strong messages directed at particular audiences.
There are some excellent resources available to assist teachers in the instruction of Media Literacy. The Media Awareness Network has a huge store of resources for teachers, students and parents to use to help youth see through the media that bombards them every moment of every day. It is a fully bilingual site, offering rich materials in English and French.
To help students learn the skills and craft of media creation and production, I highly recommend the American Film Institute’s Screen Education Program. The infamous “Door Scene” exercise really gets students engaged in film making and the production process.
There are lots of other resources on the internet:

Now, think back to the video. If you did not notice that the hero in the film was me, watch again. A media company created this viral video campaign in Sweden to encourage people to pay their broadcast access fees. Every time the video was passed to another person via email and social networking, it could be edited with the picture of a favourite person or whoever one chooses. Pretty powerful media. Even more powerful message. Brilliant delivery. And I’m the hero.
The real heros, actually, are the ones helping students to be more literate, more critical and more creative with media.

Tags: Differentiated Instruction · Web2.0

Blog Roll

April 26th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I couldn’t help being truly shocked, as well as puzzled by one of my classmate’s Blog posts this past week. There was such frustration in the tone of the Blog post, that I had to weigh in with a comment, which can be found at the bottom of the link. Jamie Horvath wasn’t being heard either. There’s so much to be gained having teachers fluent in technology, and we’re not talking about reluctant teachers here. The Blog post was a plea for help, and the teacher’s school district just didn’t sound like they were about to budge from the “We gave you new MacBooks, what more do you want?” point of view.

But school districts have to make choices, and I know that many of them south of the border have their hands somewhat tied by a ridiculous law, some Orwellian sounding thing like “The We’re Leaving the Kids Behind and the Staff aren’t Getting any Help, just Hardware…” or some such legislation.

But seriously, here’s an initiative that would actually help the children, by helping the teachers to be better models of what a 21st century learner could look like, since students themselves aren’t really sure, other than it might look a lot like Facebook and Twitter. We can be more than that with our students, if the training we have makes us confident about technology, knowing full well that most of our students are light years ahead on the tech part, but still need the guidance of a confident teacher to make tech experiences lasting learning experiences.

Edutopia has just published a Blog post about whether teachers should be forced to receive technology training. Edutopia, the website of the George Lucas Foundation, which is subtitled What Works in Public Education, often presents challenging discussions to encourage public discourse. What do you think? Read their post and weigh in with your vote to see the results of those who have taken it. You’ll be surprised, perhaps, about what the readers of Edutopia are saying. Would tech training help teachers be better at Differentiated Instruction? There are already technology standards for teachers that are drafted by the ISTE. The School Districts need to ramp up the help they give to teachers to better help students use technology.

Tags: Differentiated Instruction

A sad day for Canada, a sad day for the World – Earth Day 2010

April 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

To quote Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star: “Earth to Canada. What happened?”
Once a leader in environmental issues, and now, the laughing stock of the world, Canada’s government marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day today by…well…doing nothing.
In sharp contrast to the United States, which only a few years ago completely frustrated the rest of the world by its intransigence on the existence of climate change and other environmental issues under President George Bush, Canada once fought for and lead the western world on environmental policies. Canada’s leadership was well regarded, that is, until the agenda was highjacked by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A quick search of Youtube today shows that President Obama’s Earth Day speech has already received almost 8,000 views. It was notable in that he specifically challenged teachers and students to continue working for a cleaner, healthier environment.

And what was said, of note, by Canada’s Prime Minister? Nothing. Rien. Mr. Harper seems to have forgotten that our two nations share a continent. For years Canada battled with the USA over cross-boundary pollution. Now that we have a government south of the border that actually listens to and acts on trans-boundary and global issues, the Canadian government has taken the approach that all this is of little relevance, and the celebration of Earth Day is just like any unremarkable day.
And what kind of example does that leave our children? The message is clear. The environmental issues that the next generation will face just don’t matter anymore, and children might just as well learn about other things. The struggle of teachers to help students understand the challenges of energy, the environment, ecosystems, biodiversity, climate and health issues using unique teaching and learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, has very little support from the Government of Canada, and particularly its leaders.
It all seems a little hopeless. But just as governments come and go, teachers, and the children they serve, the ones who become the next leaders of the nation, will overcome the self-serving interests of present day short-sighted politicians and make a difference. The power of great teachers and engaged students is a great hope.
I just have to look out the window of my classroom and see the wetland that was saved by students acting united to force a government to preserve it for future generations. Earth Day reminds us that the power of a small group of educated youngsters, lead by dedicated teachers and other leaders, can accomplish much more than narrow-minded governments.
To quote President Obama, who inspired our school motto for the year: “Yes we can!”

Tags: Differentiated Instruction

What’s the purpose of blocking Internet content in schools?

April 22nd, 2010 · 3 Comments

The Google Map below is a collection of data points coded green, yellow and red depending on whether Internet content is wide open, filtered, or completely blocked in a school or school district. The map was created at the request of noted 21st century technology and educational writer, speaker and blogger Will Richardson. Richardson is author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for the classroom.

Have a look at the map. Are there patterns in the choices that Districts and schools have made about Internet services and how they are delivered, or in some cases, NOT delivered them to their staff and students? What’s the policy where you work? There is a growing body of research that suggests this may not be the way to go. Read on below.

View What do you block? in a larger map

A recent report for OFSTED, the UK government’s educational standards office, claims that students in schools that have their Internet locked down are far less able to manage their own safety due to lack of experience in making appropriate decisions. The report, The Safe Use of New Technologies, pointed out that that exemplary schools that had managed, open access to the Internet also had a plan for developing critical literacy and e-safety that were collaboratively developed by the school, administration and the community.

Other writers and bloggers have taken up the issue as well. In Computerworld’s online edition, the point that filtering has now become “soft censorship” is well made. Instead of teaching students what to do when objectionable or questionable material is encountered, it’s easier to just block it out. What invariably happens is that useful material is blocked too, in what amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Recently, a well respected Canadian history magazine had to change its name. It seems as though its title, created almost a hundred years ago by the Hudson’s Bay Company, who published the history review at the time, was increasingly being blocked by school and library internet filters, as well as email spam filters. Teachers were often unable to receive materials from the magazine via email. A change of name was inevitable. By the way, Canada’s History magazine is a wonderful resource for any school library.

More incidences of how Internet filtering has blocked useful material from being accessed are being published around the blogopshere. Doug Johnson, a Minnesota school district Director of Media and Technology who also writes the Blue Skunk Blog, recently conducted a Twitter poll that turned up hundreds of examples of how Internet blocking unintentionally censored good information. The list goes from the silly, to the unimaginable.

So what are teachers to do? Maybe we need to be more proactive about who sets the criteria for blocking in our District, and about requesting copies of the criteria that are used to set the filtering, as well as the process by which it is conducted. Johnson discusses a number of very proactive steps we can take when the powers that be make teaching and learning in the 21st century a difficult challenge.

I suggest we take this bull by the horns. The best way to teach a person how not to drown is to give them swimming lessons. Maybe this is the approach that needs to be taken in the huge ocean of information we call the Internet.

For more reading:
Internet filtering as a form of soft censorship

Filtering for in and of on Education- presentation

A Simple Fix for Internet Censorship in School

How Internet Censorship Harms Schools

Censorship by Omission

May 6, 2010- Update

A great Blog on the ISTE site addresses the Internet Filtering issue in great depth. There are a considerable number of links to research, commentary and opinion about the topic. Read on! Let’s tackle this issue where we are and make the powers that be more familiar with the challenges, benefits, and outcomes of more open Internet resources in schools.

Tags: Differentiated Instruction

What’s the DIF (Differentiated Instruction)in a learning journey?

April 11th, 2010 · 3 Comments

What if we didn’t differentiate instruction in our classrooms? What if we just taught to the largest group in the class? What would it be like?
I’m sure it would be a lot like the classrooms of our youth (FYI- I grew up in the sixites and seventies), where those whose needs were not met would become behaviour challenges for the teacher, or lose interest, or simply disengage from learning. The fact is, good teachers already differentiate instruction, by giving students choice about the kind of products they create, by assisting students, by modifying expectations, and by using technology in the classroom.
And where would we be without technology tools to help make our lessons more engaging? Those lessons could miss almost half of the class, and students would not have opportunities to practice, to explore or to direct their own learning linked to things that connect to the lesson, but are more personally challenging.
With the skill of Differentiated Instruction, we have the power to make our science classes (and all classes for that matter) very powerful, where students will leave our classrooms intent on finding out for themselves those questions that are brewing in their heads, to continue learning from the moment they walk out of the room, to the day they leave our classroom at year end, and onward towards the goal of lifelong learning. Differentiated Instruction delivers the message that learning is a life journey. More importantly, they will have connected, in some way unique to their learning style, to the content of the lesson, and taken away a measure of learning, that they can then demonstrate in a unique way too.
We owe it to our students to use technology tools to make each and every lesson a special opportunity for every child in our class. It’s the teacher’s challenge. Dare I say destiny?

Tags: Differentiated Instruction

The Greatest Teacher

January 20th, 2009 · No Comments

The Greatest Teacher Video

Tags: Differentiated Instruction