Friday, June 6, 2008

A Lasting Friendship: Maine and Argentina

Forwarded by Dave Perloff

In 2001 high school students from Auburn, Maine and Avellaneda, Argentina began a correspondence and a friendship that continues today.

Spanish teacher Pam Davis and English teacher Claudia GarcĂ­a found each other through, an online service that matches teachers and classes around the world, and with a grant from the Perloff Family Foundation, the Edward Little High School students began studying Argentine culture and exchanging emails, pictures and mementos with their pen pals in Argentina.

At the end of that first school year, the American teacher traveled to Argentina to meet her new friend and visit the Argentine students and their school. With her she took a new laptop computer, a gift from the students at Edward Little High School. The Argentine students had so many questions, both about American life and about their pen-pals back in Maine. The next September, a new group of students continued to write and share experiences, and with another grant from the Perloff Family Foundation, the Argentine teacher was able to visit Maine and teach at Edward Little High School for two weeks. Claudia was the first Argentine the students had ever met, and a very real connection to their new friends there.

Both teachers have traveled to each other's countries again since, and several of the American "alumni" of this experience have gone on to major in Spanish in college and to travel to Argentina.

This past year, with a new group of students, the correspondence has taken a new step: video tours and letters. (With two cameras supplied by the Perloff Family Foundation and lots of support from the school systems involved, the American and Argentine students can see one another's schools, hear jokes, give the latest news and finally see and hear each other as they communicate.)

Both teachers and all students involved in this correspondence would like to thank the Perloff Family Foundation and especially Dave and Sandy Perloff for their interest and their support of new ideas in public schools!

Annenberg Media: By Becky Ranks

If you have not checked out the Annenberg Media materials, I would add it to my personal professional development goals for the summer. I am including a description below found on their website:

Annenberg Media uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. This mandate is carried out chiefly by the funding and broad distribution of educational video programs with coordinated Web and print materials for the professional development of K-12 teachers. It is part of The Annenberg Foundation and advances the Foundation’s goal of encouraging the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.
Annenberg Media’s multimedia resources help teachers increase their expertise in their fields and assist them in improving their teaching methods. Many programs are also intended for students in the classroom and viewers at home. All Annenberg Media videos exemplify excellent teaching.

As a former classroom teacher and a lover of literature, I found a video in minutes that took me right into classrooms with students and teachers interacting with literature. The video modeled best practices in using literature with young students and it was as if I were given the time to visit someone’s classroom and see these best practices in action. I had to do a quick sign up, but once I did I was given an array of choices and could do a search within the site by grade level and content area. What an amazing resource…I am not sure how I missed this one.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The trouble with kids today . . .

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners,
contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders
and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now
tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no
longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict
their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their

~ Socrates, 5th Century B.C. Google Answers

There seems to be a perpetual lament throughout history
about how the young do not measure up to their elders.

Here's the latest complaint:

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupifies
Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future?

Podcast Interview with Author, Mark Bauerlain, at Intended Consequences. - Are We the Dumbest Generation?


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Video in the Classroom, The easy way

by J Charette

Using digital video in the classroom has always been viewed as a very time consuming undertaking. The typical scenario included using expensive video cameras, microphones, downloading video typically in real-time, then editing the video, followed by exporting the video back to the camera or burning DVDs. Getting it online was a whole other issue that most teachers don’t want to tackle. It appeared daunting to say the least.

Thanks to Dave and Sandy Perloff, the idea of making videos in a classroom is no longer daunting. The equipment involved includes a Canon Powershot digital camera, a couple of SD memory cards, a card reader, iMovie (found on the MLTI laptops), and a program that converts the files to flash. All that’s needed can be had for a minimum investment, no big expenses, no fears of students breaking that expensive equipment, and most importantly no huge time requirements!

My project was a Step Up Day video. The basic idea was to take a 7th grade Language Arts class and ask them to provide information to the 5th graders who will be coming to the school next year. We brainstormed topics, formed into teams of 3, chose a topic from our class list and then began the real work of putting together a scene of approximately one minute. Each student chose a role, writer, director, or editor. The writer was responsible for taking the script through the writing process. Each student had ideas that needed to be meshed together so they develop a rough draft, conferenced with the teacher, made revisions, and put together a working script. The director was responsible for all filming, setting up shots, and coaching the “actors” which were team members, teachers, and friends. The editor was then responsible for downloading video into iMovie, working on editing, arranging effects and exporting video. Even though they chose roles it turned into a collaborative effort that required give and take to produce the final product.

Before the start of the project I laid the groundwork for the project. In class we looked at scripts, learned how to set up scenes, practice speaking to an audience, and viewed other student produced videos. In this way, I was able to generate excitement among the students about the upcoming project.

At the start of the project, I practiced the technical aspects of converting video to flash, set up the video player, and posted the video to a server. This part of the project required a little technical knowledge but with the assistance of Dave Perloff, I was able to learn the process (through e-mail conversations!) quickly and easily.

The only other piece was training the students to use the camera. This was done through an in-class “workshop” with the directors from each team. We practiced with the camera and discussed basic filming techniques. I laid out a time line from start to end of about 10 class periods from start to finish. This was shortened to eight because Step Up Day was moved forward due to a scheduling conflict. This didn’t prove to be a major problem as we had it completed on time and premiered it during the morning to the enthusiastic 5th graders! The video was posted online the same day and has been viewed many times by students, parents, and community members! The students were thrilled to say the least! Although we may not challenge Iron Man at the box office, the students have the satisfaction of creating, producing, editing, and premiering their “first” video. It used many different skill sets they had been learning about in the classroom. The final product was for someone other than the teacher which proved to be the most motivating factor.

I can’t say enough about how easy this process was. It actually was simple, effective, and fun!!! Please check out the video.

Video in the classroom doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be simple, effective, and fun. It has the advantage of being real world, as well as opening up your school, your classroom, and your own teaching. I plan on this being a yearly project, with several possibilities of expanding video use in next years Language Arts classes. I encourage others to try using video in the classroom!

Meta Cognition

Essential Question: How do I learn best?

Universal Design in Maine