Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HS ESL Discussion Rubric

Making thinking visible to ESL students will spur them on to success! ESL students can improve their discussion skills with guidance, practice and reflection. Ironically a metacognitive discussion about discussion skills can be linguistically complex for the target ESL students. A long list of "rules" can be also difficult to keep in mind while juggling so many bits of information, struggling to follow a discussion and groping for the words to communicate ideas. Images with emotional impact can serve as effective reminders about good discussion practices.

To create an effective presentation, one has to
1) seek a recovery program for illegal users of copyrighted images;
2) overcome the temptation to include lengthy text - either oral or written - which detracts from the visual;
3) get rid of unwanted baggage keeping only the most valuable pearls;
4) delude oneself into feeling enough confidence to persist in figuring out how to use a new tech tool;
5) beg or borrow a microphone from a trustworthy neighbor;
6) resist any temptation to bolt after the 10th retake by duck taping oneself to the chair;
7) reserve judgment until after the presentation premier in the classroom;
8) despite a short fuse, revise based on reflection and feedback;and
9) abandon all restraint to celebrate when the presentation really works!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


"The possible uses for screencasting are endless; these include providing course orientations, delivering instructional lectures, providing feedback, and encouraging student collaboration." Jacquiline Mangieri, PhD in Online Education

Screencasting provides the exciting possibility of individualized learning both within the context of the classroom and the greater on-line community. Teachers can create resources that students can access in their own time and at their own pace. Students can demonstrate their understanding through audio and visual modes in school or at a distance.

Screencasting also allows students to become actively involved in their own teaching and learning. It gives them the air time they cannot always get in a class of 20 students. Research suggests that students need to explain their learning to cement understanding, but an 80 minute period only gives each student 4 minutes to talk if the entire class is dedicated to student explanation.

High School courses rely heavily on written expression as a way to show understanding. For some students, this makes the educational process, which should be exciting, burdensome. The ability to interact verbally can reduce this burden and allow these students to focus on deepening their understanding of the concepts.

Furthermore, screencasts allow shy students, students who process information slowly, perfectionists ESL students etc. time to collect their ideas. They can rehearse their comments before addressing the class or teacher. In fact, students can record over their original podcast if they wish to make improvements. One caution is that these same students are prone to spend entirely too much time this type of assignment. Participation in class is confined to the classroom whereas a screencast can eat up many hours after school. However, students often feel the satisfactory performance is worth the time spent.

Screencasts add to the variety of learning resources available which makes teaching and learning a more dynamic process. Screencasts add personalization, visualization, and voice which are powerful components of any instructional program.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Learning Landscape: Sedate or Stimulate

The age of visual literacy, once called telecommunications, has been well underway for over 50 years. By the 1970's, many children in America were spending far more time each day watching television than any other single activity. This passive existence does not seem to have resulted in an enlightened era. The TV has bombarded children with images that often have appealed more to the lower brain than the higher one.

To provide a curriculum in school that lead to critical viewing is already long overdue. Courses in film have been reserved for university coeds with a special interest in media while adults use television as a sedative for active, curious children. The curriculum suggested by the New Mexico Media Literacy Project mirrors that of the ESL department. The listening and speaking components are well served by the inclusion of media in the classroom. Critical thinking and the language to express these ideas easily translate in written expression.

To interact with this media form provides children with a welcome opportunity to move the movie viewer from a passive spectator to a creative producer. Although creating film is becoming easier, the technology still can be time-consuming and frustrating to use. This, above all, gives the teacher pause for consideration. One must ask if the learning that takes place warrants the time spent. My ventures into digital stories and movie making with the students turned out to be long roads. The goal is to make the process smooth and efficient. Perhaps to begin with a snapshot and build up to the movie just as we have done in this class makes the most sense.

Photograph: "TelevisiĆ³n escolar" by Lord Jerome, and

Monday, October 19, 2009

Upgrading a PowerPoint: Images Create a Universal Language

A sea of parents intensely interested in providing the best education for their children wait expectantly for the school program presentation. However, the fact that the speaker and audience lack a common language obstructs effective communication. Despite the availability of oral and written translation, the voice of the presenter is lost in translation. This is especially worrisome when the emotional impact of the presentation is more important than the informational content.

To ensure that both the translator and audience have access to the information, complete text on the PowerPoint slides and on the hand-outs has been provided in the past - sometimes in both English and the audience's native language. In fact, a narrative description of the program is also provided in the audience's native language. Then, one wonders about the role of the speaker and the translator. It takes a long time to repeat all the written information in two languages. The redundancy is boring as one can see from the the original PowerPoint describing the SIM program.

In order to retain the emotional impact of the presentation, ESL students - who do share the audience's language - address prospective parents and students with honest personal testimonials. Instead of acting as a translator, the school liaison is transformed into a talk show host interviewing each student. The unrehearsed answers and testimonials ring true and touch the hearts of the audience.

Still, the parents clearly want to hear directly from an administrator, admissions officer or teacher. That is the reason they have made the journey. I wonder how I can add anything to the narrative description of the program and the children's testimonials. The evocative images on the presentation from IS Brussels provided an answer. Although higher quality images from student lives at ISB are still needed, the new style presentation, a work in progress, is posted here.

A notes page will be created which is both separate and different from the presentation images. This can be written in both English and the audience's native language. It is important to give the information in English for many read but do not speak English. A translation is always approximate, so the English speaking audience members should have the original copy.

The success of a presentation only relies in part on the product of technology. The effectiveness of a presentation depends on how the audience interacts with a combination of images, texts and speakers. Therefore, it is important to determine the role and objectives of the technology piece in the larger context before its creation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photo for Novel Study: Face of the Great Depression

The photograph Migrant Mother, taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936, will be used to introduce the historical context for Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck. This is critical for ESL students to understand the life style of the main characters George and Lenny. The photographer Dorothea Lange was paid by the government to document the plight of the displaced farmers.

The photograph was chosen to be a stamp to commemorate the Great Depression. This women, Florence Leona Christie, and her family were driven from her home in Oklahoma by the dustbowl across the country to do migrant work offered in California. I chose this photograph because Florence conveys a complicated array of emotions such as strength, despair, confusion and determination. Her children rely on her much like the childlike character of Lenny relies on George in Of Mice and Men.

The class has been studying mood, so I will ask student pairs to decide what mood is conveyed by the picture during the introductory lesson for the novel Of Mice and Men. Then partners will create and share short vignettes about what they think was happening when this picture was taken. Finally, students will write a journal entry reacting to the following quote by Isaac Asimov.

No one can possibly have lived through the Great Depression without being scarred by it. No amount of experience since the depression can convince someone who has lived through it that the world is safe economically.” Isaac Asimov

en:Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

From Storyboard to Movie: Effective Discussion Behaviors

Successfully creating a movie with voicethread about discussion behaviors was a satisfying experience since the group was able to overcame many obstacles. The design concept originated with the intent to help ESL students visualize the effective discussion skills. Visual images of teachers modeling the behaviors on the discussion rubric were thought to have a positive impact on the student learning.

The storyboard, filming and downloading progressed quickly and smoothly. However, making a movie proved to be challenging. The card cameras filmed in a format not recognized by the movie making programs available on the school computers. Apparently, the film had to be converted into another format or a program needed to be purchased to edit and splice the film.

Experimenting with the smartboard recorder, photostory 3, movie maker and voicethread resulted in two products. The smartboard recording was the easiest, but the images were grainy and discolored, the movement was shakey and the film was inaudible. The free voicethread option only allowed smaller clips to be uploaded and would not allow any editing. However, the video quality was acceptable on the four usable video clips. Additionally, labeling each clip with the associated discussion skill was simple. The purchase of the higher level software would make this a good choice for this activity.

Further action for me is to try movie maker on the PC as this is the software most available to my students. I thank my partners Rob and Wanyi for helping me learn about digital video options.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Changing W's of Technology

I used to ask WHO can give me the right program, but now I ask WHO can help me choose the right program for my purpose.

I used to ask WHAT technology am I supposed to use, but now I ask WHAT technology will enable students understand my course objectives better.

I used to ask WHEN should I use technology, but now I ask WHEN will technology further learning.
Podius /

I used to ask WHERE should technology be taught, but now I ask WHERE technology can be integrated into my curriculum to further learning.

I used to ask WHY I should learn to use technology, but now I ask WHY specific tech tools help my students understand more deeply.

I used to ask HOW to use the recommended technology, but now I ask HOW technology will enhance learning.

Changing questions changes perspective.