Thursday, August 23, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: True Colors Through The YouTube Eyes of High Schoolers

With my mother on her birthday
True Colors is a way to understand personality. It is something I have grown up with. My mother was a certified True Colors trainer and used it to help adults better understand their co-workers, families and friends. Needless to say, I notice people's True Colors wherever I go.

In a nutshell, True Colors works like this. There are four parts to everyone's personality. Each part is assigned a color. Green is your intellectual side. When you're being Green, you like to be alone to think, solve problems, question things and be creative. Blue is your emotional side. When you're being Blue, you're in touch with your feelings and act based on emotions. Blue is also the thoughtful, caring side of your personality.

Orange is your risk-taking side. You're being Orange when you are not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Orange is when you are having a good time, letting loose and not following a plan. Gold is your organized, responsible side. You're being Gold when you are following rules and plans, and not resting until the work is finished. Gold is when you're taking pride and concerned with your appearance.

Throughout my career as an educator, I have always looked for ways to get students to better create real-life to content connections. The parts of our personalities according to True Colors are universal to all people. This means students, regardless of background, can begin to see themselves in content. They can begin to see themes and patterns among their unique life experience and what they are learning.

This school year, I have resolved to use True Colors as a lens for students to examine events and people in US and World History. To start the year, I've given my 10th and 11th graders a crash course in True Colors. To help them better connect with and understand it, while giving me an idea of their understanding, I had students submit YouTube videos they believe are examples of each color. In addition, they had to write a short rationale explaining why.

The links below show a variety of videos my students believe are examples of each color. Feel free to use these videos to learn about True Colors and help your students and staff begin to learn as well. These videos and rationales are True Colors Through The YouTube Eyes of High Schoolers.

Blue  Gold  Green  Orange

Click here to see some student-generated True Colors Sketchnotes.

Monday, June 4, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: The Many Faces of Sketchnotes


Sketchnotes have become quite the rage among educators. Sylvia Duckworth's Sketchnotes for Educators and Cate Tolnai's #sketch50 movement have gone a long way in getting educators on the sketchnotes bandwagon. I, for one, have drunk the sketchnotes Kool Aid.

Working with students and sketchnoting, I discovered sketchnotes to be a bit of a EDU Swiss Army Knife. Sketchnotes encourage students to make notes, not take notes. When I say take notes, I am referring to students copying factoids from a presentation, article or textbook. By making student thinking visual, creativity is injected into the "note making" process. With that in mind, I discovered that sketchnotes can be a form of assessment.

Many times this school year, quizzes consisted a blank piece of white paper, pencil, black marker, colored pencils and a prompt. As a teacher, these were much more enjoyable to grade, not to mention easier on the eye. Sketchnotes have permeated our school's push for Focused Note Taking, the next iteration of Cornell Notes. Sketchnotes have become one of the many options student may choose when making Focused Notes. 

Academic Conversations have become a huge push in our district. While working with innovative High School Science teacher Dana Jobe, we devised a way to use sketchnotes as a launchpad for Academic Conversations. Dana has her students view sketchnotes on and, in partners, students have to explain the symbolism for 90 seconds to a partner who has to probe and prompt to make sure they speak for the whole 90 seconds. In addition, Dana and I also began using sketchnotes in concert with Flipgrid as a method of review. Students take their sketchnotes and verbally summarize the symbolism used on Flipgrid. 

Students, organically, have developed some patterns creating sketchnotes. In doing so, they  used sketchnotes to hand draw their own graphic organizers.  These organic graphic organizers are based on "main ideas" students see within the topic. One pattern I have noticed, I like to call "Pinwheel" style. In this style, students write the title or topic in the middle and circle it. From there, based on the amount of "main ideas", they draw lines radiating outward creating a space for each "main idea".  Each "main idea" is then color coded and shaded. 

Another sketchnotes-graphic organizer pattern, popular among students, I like to call "Jigsaw" style. Students begin by writing and boxing their title at the top, middle of the page. From there, they draw jigsaw puzzle style lines to create spaces to sketch the main ideas. Each piece of the jigsaw puzzle is color coded and shaded a different color. 

A number of students have developed a, what I call, "Comic Book" style. For this pattern, students write and box their title in the top left corner. From there, based on "main ideas", they draw boxes like a comic strip in which they will sketch each main idea. This is best use when sketching a process, series of events or flow chart. Each box in the comic strip is color coded and shaded a different color. 

One of my favorite student-generated sketchnote-graphic organizers is what I like to call "Rainbow" style. Students draw a line in the top left corner creating a triangle in which to write their title. From there, they draw lines diagonally across the paper, parallel to the first line creating a rainbow stripe pattern across the paper. Like the other patterns, each stripe is shaded and color coded. This is useful for topics that have a lot of information to convey and symbolize. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Hashtagging the Cold War Flashpoints

"Hashtagged Learning" has been a strategy I have slowly been developing this school year. The idea was born out of my love for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The way he uses hashtags to get the worldwide audience to participate has always intrigued me. Enjoying that segment, I have looked for ways to adapt it to teaching.

In a nutshell, my students take notes on my pre-recorded lesson videos. Videos are usually 20-30 minutes long covering 5-6 slides. Each slide contains images and my hashtags. My hashtags give students a frame of reference for the patterns, themes and connections with pop culture I notice. At the end of each slide, students are required to pause, reflect and write their own hashtags with rationales. 

Just the other day, my students watched and took notes on my lesson video on the Flashpoints of the Cold War. Check out some of the best student generated hashtags, rationales and connections.

Korean War
This slide focused on how this conflict was more than just North vs South Korea, but a battle between communism and capitalism. It also talks about the back and forth nature of the war.

#DivorcedParents - The Korean War reminds me of divorced parents arguing. In this case, it was a fight between capitalism and communism. In a divorce, the kids get caught in the middle, but in this case, it was the Korean people stuck in the middle - Melanie

#LineOfScrimmage - The Korean War reminds of a football game. In football, controlling the line of scrimmage and pushing your opponent back is important for winning. At first, the North pushed the South back to the ocean. Then the US helped the South push the North back to China, but then the Chinese helped North push them back to the 38th Parallel. - DMarcus

#PushItPushItRealGood - As I was learning about the Korean War, I kept hearing the Salt-N-Pepa song "Push It" in my head. The line between North and South Korea kept getting pushed around until it finally settled on the 38th Parallel. - Asly

#Hairline - In the Korean War, the line between North and South kept getting pushed back by each side. This reminds of people who go bald and their hairline gets pushed back further as they get older. - Mark

#ChaChaSlide - The Korean War reminds me of the song "Cha Cha Slide" because the song tells people what to do and makes them keep moving the entire time. The line between the North and the South during the war kept moving just like people do during the song. - Gustavo

#AlienVsPredator - The Korean War reminds me of the Alien Vs Predator movies because humans get stuck in the middle of battles between Aliens and the Predators. The Korean people are the ones stuck in the middle of a battle between capitalism and communism. - Isaiah

Cuban Missile Crisis
On this slide, what students learned from watching the 13 Days movie was reinforced and extended. Students learned that the Crisis happened largely in part due to Castro wanting to prevent another Bay of Pigs invasion.
#JessicaJones - Jessica Jones has a superpower that makes her extremely strong and people learn not to mess with her. The Cuban Missile Crisis is similar because when the Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, it was like Cuba got a superpower that would make sure the US wouldn't mess with or invade them. - Camilla

#Boomerang - The Soviets putting nuclear missiles in US backyard in Cuba is like a boomerang because it is a "right back at you" event. The US had missiles in Turkey which is the Soviet backyard. - Rosalba

#DontBeAMenace - The Cuban Missile crisis reminds me of the movie Don't Be A Menace because in the movie, Toothpick rolls up on Ash Tray and threatens him with a gun. His cousin Loc Dog backs him up with more guns. Toothpick pulls out a bazooka, but Loc Dog opens his truck showing a Soviet nuclear missile and Toothpick drives away. Like the Crisis, neither side fired their weapons. - Mark

#Viruses - Viruses invade your body, spread and cause you to get sick. The Cuban Missile Crisis was like a virus because the Soviet Union invaded America's backyard in Cuba, tried to spread it's influence to Cuba and made Americans sick with fear of nuclear war. - Isaac

#Dogs - My uncle has to deal with stray dogs digging in his front yard all the time. This reminds me of the Cuban Missile Crisis because the Soviet Union putting missiles in Cuba was like a dog digging in our yard. The movie 13 Days said the big red dog is digging in our yard and we are allowed to shoot it. - Alejandro

Vietnam War
This slide talked about how the US wanted to prevent a domino effect of Asian nations falling to communism. This was the reason the US got involved in Vietnam even though it was not an official war. 

#TryToBeGoodButEndUpDoingBad - The US thought they were doing the right thing by going to Vietnam to stop the domino effect of countries falling to communism. American people didn't agree with the war and protested. In the end, the war was a failure as they weren't able to stop Vietnam from becoming communist. - Carla

#CrystalBall - When you think of a crystal ball, you think of someone trying to predict the future. The US predicted a domino effect of countries falling to communism if Vietnam became communist so they felt like they had to go in there and try to stop it. - Melanie

#BackStabbed - There was a lot of protests by Americans against the Vietnam War. The government wanted to stop the domino effect of communism, but they never got enough support from the people to win the war. In addition, many soldiers came home and were mistreated. - Luis

#TerminatorJudgementDay - In Vietnam, the US was trying to prevent a domino effect of countries in Asia falling to communism. This is similar to Terminator because they are trying to prevent Judgement Day from happening. - Salvador

#UnofficialRelationship - It's common for teenagers to want to date, but they stay in the "just talking" stage even though they act like a couple. This is similar to the Vietnam War because the war was never an official war even though American soldiers fought like they were in a real war. - Araceli

#AvatarMovie - After the natives were attacked by the humans, they went across Pandora to warn the other tribes to try and prevent a domino effect of tribes falling victim to human attack and to fight back. Vietnam War is similar because the US wanted to prevent a domino effect of Asian nations falling victim to communism. - Yuliana

Space Race
In this slide, students learned about the "one-upsmanship" between the USA and Soviet Union as they competed for technological supremacy in space.

#NoSeQuierenQuedarAtras - In English, this means that you don't want to get left out. In the Space Race, the US always felt left out as they came in 2nd place to the Soviets. The US began going the extra mile to finish first and won the race being putting a man on the moon. - Carla

#8Mile - The Space Race reminds me of the movie 8 Mile. In the movie, Eminem tries to battle, but chokes and gets booed off the stage. Even though he failed, he kept on trying and eventually got on stage and won a battle. The US, like Eminem, was losing early in the race to the Soviets. With more effort, they eventually overtook the Soviets and won by putting a man on the moon. - Jovahna

#TheTortoiseAndTheHare - The story of the Tortoise and the Hare reminds me of the Space Race because the US, like the tortoise, was losing early in the race, but eventually came back and won the race against the Soviets. - Lizbeth

#WWE - The Space Race is similar to WWE matches. The bad guy beats up the good guy most of the match. Toward the end, the good guy hits the bad guy with one or two really big moves and wins. The US was getting beat badly in the Space Race until they were able to win by getting a man on the moon. - Lupita

#MeekMillVsDrake - The Space Race reminds me of the rivalry and battles between rappers Meek Mill and Drake. These two went back and forth trying to one up each other. Most people say Drake won. In the Space Race, the US and Soviet Union tried to one up each other as they competed to see who could accomplish the most in space. - Valerie

Thursday, May 10, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: Hashtagging the Beginning of the Cold War

When you're #AlwaysInBeta, you're constantly looking for ways to improve your craft and new ways for students to engage and connect with content. "Hashtagged Learning" has been a strategy I have slowly been developing this school year. The idea was born out of my love for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The way he uses hashtags to get the worldwide audience to participate has always intrigued me. Enjoying that segment, I have looked for ways to adapt it to teaching.

In a nutshell, my students take notes on my pre-recorded lesson videos. Each video is 15-25 minutes long covering 5-6 slides. Each slide contains images and my hashtags. My hashtags give students a frame of reference for the patterns, themes and connections with pop culture I notice. At the end of each slide, students are required to pause, reflect and write their own hashtags with rationales. 

Just today, my students watched my lesson video on the beginning of the Cold War. Check out some of the best student generated hashtags, rationales and connections.

World War II Ends
This slide talks about the relief when WWII was over. US and allies were battered and bruised after defeating greatest threat ever encountered. They looked for ways to prevent another World War and the rise of someone like Hitler

#SchoolShootings - School shootings are a great threat just like the Nazis. After each one, like the Allies after the war, we are looking for ways to prevent it from happening again. - Angelica

#LastdayOfSchool - When WWII was over, the world was relieved. When school is out for summer, kids are relieved. After WWII, the Allies tried to learn from mistakes and become better. When school is out, we are relieved and we try to come back the next year and do better too. - Melvin

Cleaning Up The Mess
This slide is about cleaning up the mess after World War II in Europe and the Pacific. War criminals were put on trial. US tried to spread democracy as measure of creating a lasting peace.

#Karma - War criminals from Japan and Germany were finally getting what they deserved and were punished after the horrible things they did to villagers in China and to Jews in concentration camps. - Jackie

#TheFlash - In the show The Flash, a particle accelerator explodes. This is like World War II. This creates a huge mess just like the war. The explosion creates “metahumans” who terrorize Central City. The Flash has to clean up the mess by stopping them in the same way the Allies cleaned up after the war by punishing war criminals from Germany and Japan. - Michelle

This slide covers how the US and Soviet Union rose as superpowers post war. Soviets want greater punishment of and more reparations from Germany. Both begin to compete for influence and strength around the world.

#RedVsBlue - Red and blue gangs are always competing to see who is strongest and most powerful. After World War II, the United States and Soviet Union were doing something very similar. Like the gangs, they were always very close to having a big conflict. - Lupe

#MeanGirls - In the movie Mean Girls, Regina and Cady split as friends in similar fashion as Soviet Union and US did after WWII. Friends of Regina switch over to Cady in the same way people in East Berlin switched over to West Berlin before the Berlin Wall was put up. - Camilla

#BatmanVsSuperman - In the comic, not the movie, Batman and Superman have the same goals. The problem is, they have different ideas about how to achieve them. This similar to the struggle between the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War. - Salvador

Soviet Union
In this slide, I explain the basics of the Soviet Union's Communist economy and totalitarian government. In addition, I talk about how Stalin and Soviet Union sought to create a buffer zone in eastern Europe to prevent future attacks from Germany and or the West.

#MexicoBorder - Trump wants to make a big wall to keep illegal immigrants from coming to the US because he thinks many of them are dangerous. The Soviet Union wanted to control countries in eastern Europe to create a buffer zone, like Trump's wall, against the danger of future German or Western attacks. - Camilla

#Phone - Soviet Union was very concerned about future attacks from Germany and the West and looked to gain power and create a buffer zone to prevent it. This is similar to the way we are concerned for and protect our cell phones. We put password protection, strong cases and are always making sure we know where it is. - Araceli

#ALittlePieceOfHeaven - In an Avenged Sevenfold song, there is a guy, like the Soviet Union, who is afraid something will go wrong in his relationship. To try and prevent himself from getting hurt, he kills the girl. Like the guy in the song, The Soviet Union, creates a buffer zone to try to prevent getting hurt. - Alexa

United States
This slide talks about how the US was in a position of power and leadership post war. The war stimulated the economy and development of nuclear weapons gave the US clout. In addition, the slide talks about the USA's capitalist economy and democratic government. The US came out of war the least scathed of the Allies like a last man standing.

#OHSBand - The Orosi High School band, before Mr. Gaspar took over, in my opinion, wasn’t as good as it is today. Like the US after WWII, which became very powerful, the band became much better and beat out our biggest rivals. - Miah

#Thomas - In The Maze Runner, Thomas saves people who were trapped for three years. Afterwards, he is looked to for leadership. The US, after winning WWII, was also looked to for leadership in rebuilding all the damage. - Angelica

Thursday, April 26, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: A Serendipitous Appsmash of Sketchnotes, Academic Conversations and Screencasting

Two things that always seem to bring me joy are serendipity and appsmashing. It's quite a rush when, by chance, I encounter an opportunity or idea when I'm not looking for it.  I get a similar rush when I develop a new appsmash. Imagine my delight when I create or discover new appsmash without even trying. I was fortunate to have a serendipitous appsmashing moment just the other day.

Over the past month, I have been swimming in sketchnotes. Teachers have been jumping on the bandwagon of sketchnotes and submitting student work to the Cardinal Innovation Center Sketchnotes Gallery website. Recently, I was making the rounds returning scanned sketchnotes to teachers and students. It was on these rounds that an unexpected conversation arose. One of the teachers to which I was returning sketchnotes, Science teacher Dana Jobe, was absolutely over the moon with the engagement and visual thinking done by her students while sketchnoting. She couldn't stop singing their praises.

I continued on my rounds, and as I met to meet with another teacher to follow up and return sketchnotes, I bumped into Dana. She wondered aloud if there was a way we could incorporate sketchnotes with academic conversations. I stopped in my tracks. The gears in my head starting turning rapidly, and almost simultaneously, we both exclaimed a resounding "Yes!".

On the spot, we immediately began planning an academic conversation activity using the sketchnotes from the Cardinal Innovation Center Sketchnotes Gallery. They were tasked with choosing one sketchnote, but if it was one they created, they had to choose a different one. Their next steps were to write down 2-3 talking points and meet with an elbow partner.

From there, students began speaking for about two minutes explaining the topic using the symbolism and images on the screen. They were allowed to point out and refer to anything on the sketchnote.  To make sure they talked for two minutes, their elbow partner was tasked with asking for clarification and other questions. Once the speaker is done, the roles reverse.

Students took to this activity instantly largely due to the fact Mrs. Jobe wanted this to be a quick review for a test they were about to take. Mrs. Jobe knew her kids would take this more seriously with the specter of a test looming. 

Being #AlwaysInBeta, you can bet this appsmash is only going to evolve. Moving forward, Mrs. Jobe and I are planning to add screencasting into the mix.  Not only do we want students to learn from and explain each other's sketchnotes with academic conversations, we want them to record it. We want them to be able to go back and listen to their explanations and understandings in an effort to catch mistakes as well as improving fluency and articulation. A large number of the students we serve are English Learners, and this is a great to way to help them grasp some difficult science content. 

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Can you sketchnote in math? Damn right you can!

One of the most common phrases of resistance to sketchnotes is "you can't sketchnote in math." Granted, sketchnotes fit ever so naturally into English Language Arts, Social Studies and Science, but this is exactly why they should be used more in math. Sketchnotes are a visual form of note taking. They are designed to make thinking visual. Math is traditionally taught in a straight forward, one-size fits all method. Reading Jo Boaler's book Mathematical Mindsets opened my eyes to beauty of math and the importance of making thinking visual. We do it the other subjects so why not math?

After months and months of trying to get into a math class to teach sketchnotes, I finally got a bite. The best part was that this teacher sought me out, not the other way around. After seeing how successful kids were sketchnoting in science, this teacher thought sketchnoting would be a great way to spiral review order of operations. 

The teacher wanted students to sketchnote the order of operations acronym G.E.M.S. (Grouping, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Subtraction/Addition). In the demo session, the students and I brainstormed ways to symbolize each of the letters of the acronym. Some of their ideas were brilliant. A couple of students blurted out that this will help them remember and understand this so much better in the future. 

One my favorite student-generated symbols was the pirate/parrot symbol for exponents. The student above compared the base number to a pirate and the parrot to the exponent. This student, to symbolize multiplication, drew a Chromebook copying and pasting text.  For the "G" in G.E.M.S., grouping, other students compared it to dividing into teams before playing basketball at recess. Many used food examples such as pizza, pies and cake to symbolize division. 

In the end, it was a momentous day. I finally broke into a math class to teach sketchnotes. It can be done. Sketchnotes helped them personalize and take ownership of math rather than drill and kill. Students who normally dread math were engaged and empowered. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: Playing to Learn and the Challenger Disaster

A few weeks after my fifth birthday, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I remember seeing it on the news and hearing my parents and relatives talking about it. Since then, many other horrible events and disasters have occurred, but none of them are indelibly etched into my memory like this one. I've always wondered why this event in particular has stuck with me so well. About a week ago, after playing dolls with my five and six year old daughters, it hit me.

Imaginative child's play is why the Challenger disaster is tattooed in my memory. As a five year old, I vividly remember taking my toy space shuttle along with my Super Friends and He-Man figurines and developing scenarios for ways Superman and He-Man might have saved Christa McAuliffe and the crew.

While my parents and grandparents were watching the news reports, I was on the floor playing. I imagined Superman using his breath to cool the flames and while the crew was safely brought down by Wonder Woman in the Invisible Plane.  In another scenario, He-Man flew on a Wind Raider with Teela and Man-at-Arms to save the day.   

As an educator, the power of play is definitely a strategy that is "slept on". For those of you not familiar with hip hop lingo, an album that is "slept on" is one that is amazing, but not well known or widely played. Leveraging student creativity and innovation can be done through the power of play. The reason it's "slept on" is because play, creativity and innovation are loud, messy and can appear chaotic. Teacher-centered teaching shies away from this strategy. Student-centered teaching helps students have content and skills indelibly marked in the brains and consciousness. The power of play is definitely one way to accomplish this.

I am currently in the midst of a unit on World War II. I could've gone the traditional route of lecture, notes, reading, map marking and an essay, but how will that get students to look back on this content as "fondly" as the way I remember the Challenger disaster? It won't. I decided to harness the power of play.

At first, students were skeptical and unsure of how to proceed, but as I encouraged them to play like a five year old, they ran with it. Students were to reenact Pearl Harbor, Battle of Midway, Island Hopping and Atomic Bombs. Their task is to use toy soldiers, boats, airplanes, Legos, phones, arts and crafts materials, etc. to reenact and narrate these events on video.

The students' creativity, for me, was intoxicating. I marveled at the innovative ways they chose to use the toys and materials. Some students used string to make puppets out of the planes. Others cut construction paper to form islands. Another group used Dollar Tree Halloween spider web material to create a mushroom cloud. One student found a football penalty flag and dropped it onto a Lego city to recreate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some students downloaded video editing apps on their phones to add sound effects and AR. 

During this process, my learning space was filled with engagement, laughter, collaboration and most importantly, organic academic discussions. Students asked questions of each other and myself. They iterated by using my feedback on their videos to improve. Students that normally are silent and try to fall between the cracks were engaged and empowered. The whole time, I circulated the room with a grin. It felt so good to see students having fun learning. It was an edu-win hearing students groan because class was over. They couldn't wait for the next two days in class to continue "playing to learn".

Teaching the same thing, the same way is boring for both teachers and students. Dave Burgess' book Teach Like a Pirate is a treasure trove of learning hooks for students. The book discusses ways of getting students to constantly wonder what's going to happen next in class. #AlwaysInBeta is an edu-mindset where educators are constantly iterating to best meet the learning needs of students. This wasn't the first time these students have used video in this class. It was just a new way to use it. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: Cardinal Innovation Center Vision Starting to Manifest

Part of my vision for the Cardinal Innovation Center was for it to be a living resource for students to display their work and learning for future students to learn. The Sketchnotes, Memes and Booksnaps Galleries were designed to do just that.

The opportunity to be in the classroom part time, teaching two periods of history, have allowed this part of the vision to manifest. Last year, one of the first sketchnoting lessons I presented was to 11th grade US History students who were learning about the atomic bomb. The sketchnote to the right is one of five sketchnotes I collected, scanned and posted to the Sketchnotes Gallery.

This year, teaching 10th grade World History, in our World War II unit, we also cover the use the atomic bomb. My students, this year, were tasked with reading articles about survivors and facts/figures of the atomic bombs.

When it came time for them to sketchnote the atomic bomb, they were given access to the Atomic Bomb Sketchnotes page on to see the symbols, organization and ideas on this topic created by previous students.

I didn't give them access immediately. I let them get started and when I noticed many coming to a "sketchnoting block", I had them look at last year's sketchnotes. This seemed to energize them. At the time this blog post was published, students were still working on the sketchnotes, but early returns are looking good. Stay tuned.

Another part of my vision was to give students an authentic audience to receive feedback on their work and inspire learning. If you follow me on Twitter, I am constantly tweeting images of students working or links to showcasing their work.

I always "warn" students when I share their work to a worldwide audience. I get their permission first. The second I get a like, retweet or response to their work, I make it a point to announce it to them. I tell them their work is inspiring learning across the nation and world.  The looks in their eyes upon hearing this is priceless. The more I do this, the more visible their effort is. They ask more questions about how to improve the quality of their work. They feel empowered and emboldened knowing could be inspiring others. Little did they realize that what they are doing in the small, rural town in the "middle of nowhere" in Central California can have a larger impact.

The Galleries in the Cardinal Innovation Center are #AlwaysInBeta as new student artifacts get added each year. The way I present it one year can and will likely change the next. The one constant is sharing to an authentic audience. Share your work, that of students too, so we can learn from each others and remain #AlwaysInBeta. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

#AlwaysInBeta: Hashtagging the Pacific Theater

Twitterizing your classroom has been a pet project of mine. An action research project I did in my Master's program got me thinking about increasing student engagement using technology. One the ideas I came up with was using the concept of Twitter and hashtags to help students make real-life to content connections. Being back in the classroom part time this school year, I have been able to put this idea to work and, as #AlwaysInBeta suggests, the idea continues to iterate.

Hashtagging Your Teaching, as I call it, follows the same basic structure each time. One could call it my own #EduProtocol. It begins with an appsmash of Google Classroom, Google Slides, YouTube and Snagit screencasting software. I create bullet-free Google Slides full of images, symbols and teacher generated hashtags. From there, I use Snagit to screencast my lesson. Lessons range from 15-25 minutes depending on the standard. In the screencast, I'm explaining and teaching the standard as I would delivering the lesson live to students. The style I employ is patterned after Keith Hughes of Hip Hughes YouTube channel fame. Once the video is complete, I upload to YouTube and distribute to students via Google Classroom. 

The lesson takes place when students watch the lesson video, with headphones, and take notes (digital or paper) at their own pace. The advantage this gives students, EL's especially, is that they can pause and rewind when they don't understand. Instead of facing the embarrassment of having to ask a question in front of class, I can circulate and come to them as needed one on one. In addition, the image and symbol heavy slides force students to "make notes" not take notes. When I say take notes, I mean copy bullets. This is huge for ELs who may struggle with the written language, but they can better engage with symbols and images as well as my verbal explanations, metaphors and hashtags in the video.


As students navigate the video, they are instructed to pause at the end of each slide, reflect and write a hashtag (with rationale) showing a real-life to content connection. This is huge for all learners because it validates their prior knowledge, life experience and interests as well as helping them see themes and patterns between content and life. Students write the hashtags and rationales in their notes as well as on my whiteboard walls. This allows me to see their thinking and give feedback if I notice the connection between hashtag and content is weak. In addition, students are instructed to "steal" a classmate's hashtag from the walls and write it in their notes. At the end of each slide, students now have three perspectives, the teacher, their own and that of a peer.

Take a look at the some of my favorite hashtags and connections made by my students during our recent lesson on World War II: The Pacific Theater. (10th Grade World History)

(Disclaimer: I took the liberty of clarifying some of their rationales after speaking with students.)

Pearl Harbor - #CharlotteFlair - Ric Flair and his daughter Charlotte Flair acted sneaky, like Japan attacking Pearl Harbor, when they sneak attacked Charlotte's opponent Paige on Monday Night Raw on May 9, 2016. (This student is a huge fan of WWE and frequently connects it to content.)

Japan vs. USA - #DanceMoms - The girls in Dance Moms are similar to Japan. They start taking other opportunities even though, Dance Moms character Abby tells them not to. Japan was brutally building an empire in Asia even though their actions were denounced by the USA. (This student is a fan of reality TV shows and frequently makes connections to content.)


America Strikes Back - #PredatorVision - When the US cracked Japanese code, it was like they could see the enemy with the same advantage the Predator has when it hunts humans. (This student is fan of sci-fi movies and usually makes similar connections to content.)

America's Strategy - #MaxPayne - In the Max Payne video game, Max has some choices that are very difficult and he has to choose which one is the lesser of two evils. This is similar to the options the US had when deciding to invade Japan or drop the bomb. (This student frequently connects content to his favorite video games.)

Japanese Brutality - #TerminusAndNegan - Seeing the brutality shown to Japanese prisoners of war, after learning about the Bataan Death March, in the Walking Dead, both the Terminus cannibals and Negan's Saviors showed similar brutality towards prisoners or conquered people. (This student is a huge fan of The Walking Dead and usually makes connections from the show to content.)

The question remains. What do you do with all the hashtags. Other than getting students to begin to think critically to look for themes, similarities and patterns among their interests and content, the hashtags can be used to jumpstart engaging activities such as Booksnaps, Sketchnotes, Student-Generated Lesson Videos, simulations, blogging and more! 

I have been hashtagging my teaching all school year and the current iteration was built upon previous iterations. It will continue to evolve like any strategy I employ because my teaching is #AlwaysInBeta.