Elephants #diglitclass

The big article I read this week for my Digital Literacy class was 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us by Will Richardson. Basically Richardson talks about nine of the biggest issues in our classrooms that we are simply not addressing right now.  Of these nine issues, there are three that are particularly disturbing to me.

  1. We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school.
    • I know that this is not new information to anyone.  I can remember being in elementary school and going back after the summer, struggling to remember concepts that we learned the previous school year.  The part that bothers me though, is of all the time our students are spending in school.  We are talking about years here, folks.  If students aren’t actually learning much while they’re in school, why are we forcing this?  I’m not saying that children shouldn’t go to school.  But if they are spending so much time there, I think that we have to become more innovative thinkers in regards to our children’s education.  You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect to get different results.  It’s time to change things up in regards to education.  I think one way to do this is to incorporate more passion-based learning with our students.  It’s been proven that students learn far better and are more engaged when they are interested in the subject matter.  Obviously we can’t cut out all traditional schooling (currently), but there is definitely opportunity to inject it with some innovative thinking.
  2. We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in.
    • This is probably the one that bothers me the most, and I’m a parent and a student that is guilty of it.  Right now, grades and test scores are how many students are being labeled as “successful” or “smart”, and also the way many are being accepted into college.  Until we change the way students are learning and the attitude about it, I don’t know what we can do to change the perception on this issue.
  3. We know that we’re not assessing many of the things that really matter for future success.
    • Obviously.  Does it really matter how long it took a train to get from Barcelona to Paris if it was going 55 km/hr and then passed a bus traveling from Rome to Lisbon with 42 members of the Italian opera on board?  Or is it more important to be able to cook for yourself, do your own laundry, and balance a checkbook? We make sure that students were taught (not necessarily learned) things that will have no bearing on how successful they are in the future, like what year did Ramses II of Egypt die (1213 BC, in case you wanted to know) and not things like how to check the oil level of your vehicle.  The point is that students are temporarily memorizing facts just to earn a grade.  Why not have them actually learn something that will actually be useful to them in the future?

I think that I have clearly demonstrated that it is far more important to me that students need to actually learn, and not just appear to learn by a grade or a test score.  We have so many great resources and tools to offer our students these days.  Why not change things up and see if it makes a difference?  I really don’t think it would be a bad thing.


Innovation in Learning #diglitclass

So the question “How have you been innovative as a learner or thinker this semester?” was posed to me.  Honestly, I think this entire semester has been an innovative experience for me.

When I think of innovation, I think of doing something new, that has never been done before, or putting a new spin on something.  I’ll be truthful, I’m one of those people who has some difficulty adapting and accepting new ideas.  I get stuck in my ways and have a hard time getting out of them.  A lot of the reading and research I’ve done has really given me a different perspective on new ways of learning.  George Couros stated in his article, The Mindset of an Innovator, “I question thinking, challenge ideas, and do not accept ‘this is the way we have always done it’ as an acceptable answer for our students or myself.”  I really want to continue being an innovator in regards to education, because I think there are a lot of things that we can improve for our students.

That was until I took my Literacy in the Digital Age class (and I’m not just saying that because this blog post is for that class).  So far we’ve covered a lot of different digital tools that were definitely not around when I was in school.  The topics we covered this week were Innovation and Unlearning.  I covered what I thought about the innovation part already. One of the articles we read was The Steep Unlearning Curve by Will Richardson.  As far as unlearning goes, I know it sounds like some kind of brain cleansing that you get from a mad scientist.  It’s definitely not that extreme, although it may be more difficult.  It’s actually really similar to innovation.  As Richardson stated in the article, “…in many ways it’s (unlearning) simply learning to see things differently or to at least be open to it.”

I completely agree with Richardson’s take on unlearning. People – educators, parents, and students – need to see that maybe the way we’ve been looking at education isn’t necessarily the way we should be looking at it.  Even if there are some aspects that are good, there are a lot that could be addressed.

I think one of the biggest things that I need to unlearn as both a learner and a teacher is that just because a student scores well on a quiz or exam, doesn’t really mean that they learned anything.  For so many years, exam scores and grades have been so ingrained in our brains as being THE measurement tool for whether or not a student is learning.   That’s simply not the case.  Students learn when the subject matter is something that they are actually interested in – not something that they are being forced to study.

I understand that we cannot change the way we teach students overnight.  It will be a gradual process.  I fully agree with Couros, as he stated in his article, “I recognize that there are obstacles in education, but as an innovator, I will focus on what is possible today and where I can push to lead towards tomorrow.”  Throughout the semester, I have come to the conclusion that I definitely want to be an innovator educator.  All we can do is push forward to improve ourselves as educators in the hopes that we can help better our students for the future.

Finishing Up ds106 #diglitclass

So I’ve completed most of my daily create challenges.  There were a few I skipped over and am now just coming back to finish.  Two of them, the GIF challenges, I skipped because I really didn’t know how to make a GIF. I’ll be honest – I may still not fully understand the purpose of a GIF, but I did them.

So below is #tdc1752.gifit_1480827450399And here is #tdc1760.gifit_1480828287397I have a few more I will finish up tomorrow.

The. End. #diglitclass

To say that this semester went fast would be an understatement.  I literally cannot believe that I almost have another semester under my belt.  The further into my education I get, the faster each semester seems to go.

With the semester going quickly also brings closure to my independent learning project (ILP).  My ILP for this semester was to become more of a presence in the kitchen by learning more about baking and cooking.  Although I didn’t get to complete everything that I would have liked to, I think I definitely have gotten off to a good start.

If I were to compare learning how to cook and bake to something, I think I would compare it to hunting.  Where you have so many different recipes and techniques in the kitchen, there are also so many different ways to hunt.  I probably drew this conclusion because I like both food and hunting, but I still think it’s a fair comparison.

Not only did I learn a lot about the technical part of cooking and baking, but I also got a better understanding of why people like spending so much time in the kitchen.  Being in the kitchen is almost therapeutic to me.  I can just start working, going from one part of the recipe to the next, and not have any worries.  I really understand why my wife enjoys being in the kitchen so much now.

I really didn’t have any issue motivating myself to work on my ILP this semester. Initially I worked off the calendar that I had made, mapping out my recipe for each week.  Eventually, I had to make some adjustments to accommodate my wife’s menu that she had.  In the end, we just ended up talking through it so that she could make sure that we were all fed throughout the week and that I got to work on my ILP each week.

Probably the most challenging part of this project was trying to decide what to make each week.  I know I said that I laid out a preliminary menu at the beginning of the class, but when you are married and have three kids, you have to be open to adjustments.  Like other families, we are super busy, and sometimes you have to call an audible based on what is happening in your lives.

The best part of the project was being successful.  I truly learned something from this ILP.  I learned that baking isn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was, and that I’m actually pretty decent at it.  Also, I (successfully) cooked some dinners that I hadn’t attempted previously.  But the best part of being successful?  Being able to eat your success when you were finished.

I can definitely see how using an independent learning project in my classroom would be beneficial.  My major is secondary physical education, so I think an ILP would be a perfect project for high school aged kids.  Just like with cooking and baking, there are so many different activities associated with physical education.  There simply wouldn’t be enough time in the school year to cover everything related to physical fitness.  I think you could give them an ILP to complete each semester.

Not only did I enjoy my ILP this semester, but I think my wife did as well.  I enjoyed being able to take some of the pressure of the cooking duties off of her.  This is something I plan on continuing in the future.


Bitmoji #diglitclass

This week, I did something I never thought I would do: I made an avatar.  That’s right – this husband and father of three made an avatar.  And honestly, I had a lot of fun doing it.

I’ve seen Bitmoji (formerly Bitstrips) used in social media and thought they were pretty neat, but never had any intention of actually doing it myself.  But…education will do that to you (and by that, I mean do things that you never thought you would do).

Bitmoji is a pretty great creative tool.  It was actually pretty simple to use.  You just get in to the app and create an account (mine is linked to my Snapchat).  Then you have to design your avatar.  This was probably the most difficult part of using Bitmoji.  There are so many different facial features, I found myself going back to the choices several times to make adjustments.  I kept showing my phone to my wife, asking, “Does this look like me?”   She helped me make some tweaks to make it look more life-like.  I still don’t think it really looks like me, but I did give it a good effort.

After I was done designing the facial features of my avatar, I selected the build, and then finally the clothing.  There were only five different builds to pick from.  This really surprised me.  There are so many different body shapes, I think they could have easily done a dozen.  But there were a ton of different outfits to choose from.  Looking through all the different choices, it was clear that this app was probably made more from teens and young adults than for someone in their 30’s.  But I found one that would do the job. Honestly, I think I spent a good hour designing my avatar.

I think this tool would be a fun way for getting students of all ages to remember something important.  It would also be fun to have students create their own avatar and find a Bitmoji appropriate to that week’s lesson to share with the class.  Granted, it probably shouldn’t be used every week for every assignment, but it would be fun to use on special projects or as a reward.

I think there is value in using these types of tools in the classroom.  For example, every time the lesson that you used Bitmoji on gets brought up, it creates conversation among the students.  Things like, “Oh yeah, I remember doing that assignment!” and “Remember so-and-so’s Bitmoji was?” I really think using tools like this for projects helps the students create an association, which makes the lesson memorable.

I looked at doing a couple other create tools, like Piktochart, Canva, and ComicBook!  I didn’t think that Piktochart would be the best tool for my ILP.  I could have used Canva, but I thought I could get better results with another tool.  Honestly, my first choice for this project was ComicBook! but I didn’t want to have to pay for the app (only $2.99, but still…).  So I ended up with Bitmoji, and I’m really glad I did.  I had a great time doing it, and I think it could definitely be a useful tool in the classroom.