It all started when a teacher friend of mine at Bel Aire Park Elementary (Tere Charney), shared some of her student portraits on Facebook. The portraits were beautiful and, in my mind, begging to be animated. I asked if she would like the 9th graders at New Tech to take a shot at animating the images and then it became clear that we'd need to actually DO something with the animations when we were done. More meetings, more brainstorming and voila, we came up with the idea to have the 3rd and 4th graders talk about what is important to them in the world, so we could help give them a platform for their voices.
We collaborated by having the elementary students record themselves on an online recording app called Vocaroo and send us the links to their recordings. They also sent us the original artwork and we scanned them in and got to work in Photoshop, creating GIFs of each student with different mouth positions and stringing them together.
We were also lucky enough to have the chance to have the 4th graders visit our classroom so that the 9th graders could teach them some basic photoshop skills. You could really see that having the 4th graders in the classroom really engaged the high school kids in an authentic manner. We got to talk about how you work with all different kinds of learners and used that to reflect on their own learning styles. Many of the 4th graders are now eager to attend New Tech High School when they get older. The videos will be previewed at Bel Aire Park's open house happening next week.
The Digital Design students learned many techniques in this process, how to use the puppet tool, how to animate frame by frame, how to use the clone stamp tool, how to edit in Premiere Pro and how to craft a message that maintains the viewer's attention through use of music, zooming in and out, and editing an engaging script. We are hoping to make this collaborative project a tradition for years to come!
I'm teaching a workshop right now on blog portfolios and how to promote blogs online so they get seen. Teachers are learning great stuff. Hey blogosphere, let's show the teachers that they can get their writing seen. Comment below or share this on twitter and Facebook and prove why blogs rock!
1) Not enough time!
2) Too personal and I worry that my students will read it!
3) I don't know how or where to start
4) I don't want to be too honest or offend someone in the public space
5) I don't think my ideas are good enough
6) My interests are so varied, I don't know how to narrow my focus down
7) I only have one interest and it's school, and who wants to hear about that?
8) I'm not sure if it will be fun, or more like another work thing to do.
9) I don't have the discipline to do it regularly.
10) I'm hiding out from the law. Shhhshhh.
Tony is a rockin' 10th grader in my Game Design class, who, amongst his classmates in American Studies, created amazing thoughts about Frankenstein and the modern day problems of our times.
Here's an example of a fun After Effects project that my Intro. class is working on. Some are doing simple animation like this one and some are learning how to create a camera layer to do a fly-through, which is a more 3D experience.
I'm left at the end of a 9th graded group project wondering how the heck I'm going to grade group collaboration and individual agency. I was in the classroom every day, but didn't see how each group actually worked together to accomplish the end goal. I may have gotten snippets as I walked around and visited, but how do I really understand who did what, where they need more support and where the areas of growth lie for each individual?
The truth is, I don't need to be with every group every moment of the class period in order for students to benefit from feedback about how they are doing. Enter: rubrics and group assessments as one of the most powerful grading processes that I've found in my teaching career. It takes time to meet with every group and give the space to review each team members roles and results, but it is well worth doing this process at least once a semester, allowing for depth and incredibly productive conversations about areas of improvement, as well as places to celebrate.
How it works
After a 3-6 week project, the teams meet with me. I give them laminated rubrics that cover Agency and Collaboration from the newtechnetwork.org. As a group, we look at only 2-3 points on each rubric. Students are asked to assess themselves on those 2 points for Agency and then 2 points on Collaboration. We go around and each student shares out which column they think they fall in for the specific topics on the rubric and why. Then I ask the team if they agree with that assessment and if not, why they disagree. Then I give my feedback about whether I agree or disagree with the assessment. There are no letter or number grades on the rubric, but rather designations of Emerging, Developing, Proficient and Advanced (shown below.)
Critical piece of the puzzle: Underlying Love and Support
The most important part of these conversations going well is a general assumption that everyone has something to work on and that being honest, yet supportive is key. It can be hard to have a conversation about a team member's emerging skills. However, how do we expect to ever learn or improve if we are unwilling to discuss these issues with the very peers that we are expected to work with on future school projects? I like to say that these are important conversations because these students will be with each other for the next 4 years. "Wouldn't it be good to know where people's edges lie and what strategies we can employ to help our classmates in the future? And we also can talk about a person's strengths. Everyone has them, no matter where we fall on the rubric."
When a teacher asks the group how they can amplify the strengths and shore up the weaknesses for each individual, it does several things:
What Students Have to Say About It
"Wow, this takes a really long time!"
"Can we get all our grades this way? It seems so fair."
"That was a hard conversation to have. Are we still friends?"
"It's really hard to give myself grades. I graded myself lower than my team mates graded me. I do that a lot."
Oh! I thought you weren't joining in with team work because you have a bad work ethic. I had no idea it was because you are so shy!"
"That was extremely helpful!"
Establishing Culture and Expectations
The biggest win for me as a teacher is that I feel each student is really seen and heard and cherished for what they bring to the table. If we can do that within a school environment, especially early in a high school career, then we are building strong foundations for learning into the future. People say that New Tech High students are a special breed of kids, but I disagree. They are normal teenagers who are asked to be self-reflective in a nurturing environment. That alone changes the dynamic of learning in every classroom and builds confidence, awareness and trust. That's some powerful education magic right there. Try it and see if you can create your own special breed of student!
Check out this article on why your teens ought to participate in Outreach 360. New Tech has been sending kids on this trip for many years now and I was lucky to chaperone last summer. It was life-changing for me. Read the Article Here.
New Tech High: Blog Portfolios had been selected to be a part of HundrED 2017, as one of the most inspiring innovations in K12 education. This means New Tech had been through a rigorous research process carried out by HundrED’s own in-house research team, been analyzed by educational expert advisory boards, and had also been reviewed by student advisory boards too!
The core goal of HundrED is to help good practices in education spread, as education is the key to a happy and healthy future. HundrED hopes to inspire people in education all over the world to improve education where they are. HundrED’s findings are always shared with the world for free.
For me the Summit was an incredibly affirming event that let me know that the work New Tech does fits in well with the rest of the innovators out there around the globe. The educators at the Finnish schools we visited agreed that we could easily be sister schools in that we are wrestling with the same issues in education these days. How powerful it is to know that what we are doing with the New Tech Network is right up there with one of the leading education nations of the world!
Besides the nice pat on the back, the most powerful part of attending was making new relationships with other like-minded people around the globe. I already have plans to take a new astro-physicist friend in Whales up on his offer to have students play with his 20 networked telescopes across the globe and plans are in the works next year to do a joint video project with another authentic PBL school based in Cambodia.
When the education narrative in the U.S. is one of despair and divisive politics, the Summit painted for me, a much broader and hopeful picture. If you are interested in exploring, you can find the selected innovations at hundred.org. There are opportunities to become a hundred school, to try innovations, to become a hundred ambassador, and to nominate new innovations.
For the fourth year in a row, I have spent part of my summer teaching high school students up at Camp Newman in Northern California. In the past, I have concentrated on teaching video storytelling in the Arts-based camp session and also in the Social Action-based camp session, alternating between the two. This summer I decided that I wanted to bring something different to the campers, something that would marry head, heart and hands together to engage the whole camper. So I decided to enlist my friend Hillary Homzie to help me create a new class called "Poetry and Claymation" You can read all about what we did in the article "Fearless Campers Use Clay and Poetry to Express Emotions."
Both of us decided that it would be best to split the 90 minute sessions by using the first half of each class to write poetry and the second half, working with clay and cameras. Having this nice balance between head and hand-based work really worked for the campers.
Mental Note to Self: When working with students, use two seemingly different activities happening at the same time to balance out left and right brain engagement.
Campers were surprised at how two very different activities could complement each other so well. They felt that when they could move freely between the two activities, depending upon their mood, or their process, it really helped to keep them engaged. Once we got them going with a few days of splitting the class in half, time-wise, we let them decide how they wanted to spend their time thereafter. Some campers chose to spend 90 minutes one day focusing totally on claymation and then the next day, totally on poetry. Other campers chose several days of just claymation and then poured out their poetry on the last day of class. They seemed unsure at first about writing poetry, but seemed to grasp the concepts on their own time, and then, really surprised us at the end!
Natural Differentiation: Having two simultaneous and intertwined activities gave each learner the chance to engage in each activity when they were ready and at their own speed.
Even when we, as teachers, worried about a camper missing out on one activity, they all came through in the end because it was creative, it allowed them to find their own voice, and ultimately, they saw value in balanced end product. It took trust on our part, as teachers to allow that unfold. I will be taking this dual-activity concept into the school year next year, for sure. I may even have to do this project with my Video Storytelling class. It would be a great way to start the year off!
I'd had my eye on taking the Innovative Learning Master program for several years now and got my chance to attend, thanks to a generous grant from NapaLearns and a scholarship from the Napa Valley Retired Teachers Association. I finished by degree in 18th months because Touro gives some credit toward the degree through the work already done by teachers when they go through their credentialing process. Finishing my degree in December of 2016, I've had the remainder of the 2016-17 year to apply some of the great knowledge I had attained through the program.
The time and money was extremely well spent. I had time to explore new technologies, study educational models and theory, connect with motivated and wonderful teachers from around the district (K-12) and explore what innovative and successful education looks like across our nation and around the world. We were asked to create an action research paper to study how to use qualitative and quantitative practice to deepen our teaching and solve problems for our students in our classrooms. We had the chance to really understand what a rigorous inquiry cycle of learning looks like, both for us as teachers and also how to apply that to student lessons.
Pedagogy Shmedagogy, What's that all about?
After having gone through this process, I can truly say that I feel so much more rooted in pedagogy and theory. It's one thing to instinctively know when you are succeeding in the classroom, and another to take the time to explore all the data points, triangulating as needed to verify what you know intuitively, and to be able to apply new approaches to the problem when that data gives you the clarity you need as a teacher. It means that I'm not just shooting from the hip as a teacher, but have backed up my teaching practices with known strategies of success AND I can measure the success of my students over time with student work, observation, survey data and more.
Expectations that Touro grads will take on leadership positions
I feel much stronger as a leader, both in my school and in my district. After graduating, I became a PLC (Personal Learning Community) leader for a group of five teachers who met on a regular basis to help examine student work and deepen teaching practices. When faced with a lot on our plates to do as teachers, there is often push back from teachers when they are asked to conduct an inquiry cycle. And, as expected, there was pushback from my PLC, even from myself. But I knew, having done several inquiry cycles in graduate school, that the work is worthwhile and really does get results. If I had not had those experiences and understood the value of doing that kind of work, I would not have been able to effectively lead my PLC team toward the findings and learnings we came to. I felt that, in some wonderful way, that I helped other teachers to also find the value in data-backed inquiry learning. At the end of the year, we all agreed that the work we had done was exciting, useful, fulfilling and got us some great results with student outcomes.
I've also had the opportunity to serve on the Deeper Learning Team at New Tech High, exploring ways that we can continue to innovate as a school. We are the flagship New Technology school, the first of over 200 across the country and abroad and we continue to innovate and looks toward the future of education. I didn't feel like an imposter on that committee, but instead felt a sense of pride that I could contribute my knowledge and experience to the team after going through the Innovative Learning program. It felt as though my master education prepared me well to serve on that committee as I will continue to serve next year, both as PLC leader and committee member.
Lastly, I took a lot of my newfound technical skills and turned around and taught what I had just learned to other teachers through the Digital Innovators program sponsored by Napa Learns. I hope that many of the teachers who attended my workshops on the Start-up Classroom decide to also get their masters in the Touro program and that we continue to build a strong community of engaged and excited teachers who understand best practices as we move forward in innovative learning.
Surprises along the way
As a Digital Design teacher, I was unsure as to how I would be challenged in the program, since I work with some high level software and am very comfortable on the computer. Although it was true, that often times, I already had the technical knowledge being taught, I do not always get the time to explore the apps and processes that I would like to. The class gave me the time and structure to explore some new apps, try on skills that I often teach, but do not have time to practice myself, and to see what other teachers and other grade levels need and want in the classroom. Often working in teams, I got better insight into what would work and not work for other teachers who don't have the same level of technical knowledge I have. This in turn helped me to create workshops for the district that better met the needs of ALL teachers at all different levels of technical comfort levels.
The other learning that touched me deeply and really surprised me had to do with the educational models such as TPACK, The Pebble in a Pond Model, Design Thinking, and The Gap Model. I am a practical person who does not always like to think in abstract ways. I struggled, at first, to find the relevance of such models in my classroom. But once I realized that these are just tried and true structures upon which one can hang lessons and curriculum, it became clear to me how valuable they were. They provided the much needed teaching templates for me to structure some really big programs I had been working on. These models guided me as a developed a whole school eportfolio/blogging program for New Tech and helped me to organize and clarify my thinking about a huge project.
I'm in the process of working with the Digital Innovators program to leverage the work that we as Touro Fellows have learned in our program. We envision graduates getting together in more informal, relaxed settings to share ideas and concepts that are working in the classroom, while providing some basic structure for continued engagement. I am also working on leveraging the success we've had at New Tech with our school-wide blogging program to bring this concept to other schools throughout the district as well as on a national and international level. I like to think big and have a big impact when the innovations are really showing results. If it's working, others should know and be able to harness the newly tested strategies and my focus next year will be on refining those innovative practices and then sharing with the world. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten my post-graduate degree at Touro and would recommend the program to any teacher considering it. It will only continue to strengthen our district and ultimately, our students.
New Tech High is featured in a great Edsurge article about online student blogs.
Read the Edsurge Article Here!
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!