“They can shoot pictures, can’t they?”

The progress in technology provides access to technological devices to a wide degree of people. Thus, students and teachers have the opportunity to use devices such as digital cameras, iPads or laptops in class. The possibility for teachers to offer students shooting a movie in class is nothing revolutionary. Students reenacted scenes of read literature or historical events before. However, to shoot a whole short film on their own challenges student’s skill and knowledge on many different levels (The blog “The Teachers Lounge” is elaborating on this issue and provides several examples). In the following I will provide my ideas how such a movie project in school should be planned.

I strongly disagree with the newest hype to use iPhones or iPads for such a project, despite its “simplicity and accessibility” as Jess Nepom, a Knewton blogger, suggests. The money spent to acquire such expensive and limited devices can be spent much better on laptops, digital cameras and in addition even for the license for a proper editing program. I have experienced a lot of movie projects  during my school career, which were poorly supported, planned or explained. First, it underestimates the skills and capabilities of students to use “easy” programs as iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, who are usually more versed in technology than the teacher.  I am convinced that even younger students are capable of using professional editing software, if they have a proper introduction and support by their teacher. See Emma Kenney, for instance, who entered the New Jersey Film Festival with 8 years. Second, schools have the obligation to prepare students for college or the job market, which they utterly fail by using shortcut solutions such as MovieMaker or iMovie for editing or iPads instead of a real cameras.

Such a movie project should be realized in groups, in which every student is assigned a fixed role as director, screenwriter or editor rather than making every student work in every field. This approach certainly has its disadvantages, however, it provides the students with a real life working situation and allows them to focus on their assigned roles. Furthermore,  it helps to overcome communication problems and encourages positive interaction in the group (Student Roles).

Before the groups start shooting their movies, they need an appropriate introduction to their field of work. Therefore, I suggest to split the students in groups according to their roles in their movie team and give role-specific introductions. Teachers should use the Inverted Classroom Model to present each “role group” with their specific content.  Certainly, this takes a lot of preparation time, but so does every well elaborated lesson. Thus, the main burden of the teacher’s work lies in the preparation phase.

There are several occasions offering the opportunity to include a movie project in the lesson unit. The most common is to film a novel which was read in class. Although  I do not think there should be any restrictions for a teacher as long as the method supports the content of the lesson.

On schooltube.com are many examples what (high school) students can achieve.


Add schools on Facebook

One of the most demanding challenges for teachers in the 21st century is to implement new technology in their established teaching strategy. Social media  has become the center of attention for younger generations and an essential part of their life. Thus, the technological innovations became a hot topic in education whether to include or exclude them. Matt Brittland, guardian professional, points out many different uses for social media, however,I will focus how to use Facebook  as a learning platform.

There are many arguments for and against to use Facebook in school. For most teachers Facebook is the social ill of  the technology age distracting students from studying and absorb their attention for hours. If you google “How to use facebook in school” the first result will be explaining how to circumvent security measures of schools to prevent students to check Facebook with school computers. However, in this attention absorbing feature lies the enormous potential for teachers to have the most effective communication with their students. There is no better attention catcher in the 21st century than a little red square on the upper left corner of your Facebook. This is also the difference between other social network sites with the solely purpose of education as Edmodo and Facebook. For students Edmodo will bear the negative connotation of work and due dates, while Facebook will remain its popular status. Therefore, the potential of Facebook is much higher.

“You can join a group for your major to discuss classes, for your sorority to plan upcoming events, or for your dorm to share photos.”  – Facebook engineer Michael Novati

The decision-makers of Facebook realized its educational potential and introduced in April of this year the “Groups for school” feature allowing colleges and high schools to have their own Facebook site with all security standards demanded by institutions of education allowing only students with an respective .edu address to join the groups. Ironically, there is also a Facebook site for education “to serve as an ongoing resource for information about how educators can best use Facebook.”

In the following you can see an example (link to original article) how to use Facebook successfully in class. This example is taken from a comment of the emerginedtech.com article “ 5 Reasons Why Educators Need to Embrace Internet Technology”:

“In my British Literary History course last winter semester, my professor created a class facebook group which we all joined.  We’d finish our reading for class and then get online and write a paragraph about what we’d read, focusing our comments on the specific course aims that my professor had created for the class.  We would then go to class where my professor would note the ways in which we’d covered the material well and he’d teach anything we missed as well as anything else he wanted us to know.

This way of conducting class was effective because:

1. We were socially motivated to complete the reading and  contribute to the online discussion.

2. We didn’t spend class time going over that which we already understood.

3. We were able to benefit from insights from peers who generally don’t participate in class discussion.

4. We all learned to focus the vast amount of reading required for such a course to the specific course aims of our professor.

5. Through contributions from our classmates, we understood how each distinct text related to the others and to the class focus, and so on.

We shouldn’t discount facebook when it has proven to be a worthwhile classroom tool.  I should also note that a class facebook group doesn’t require the professor or students to “friend” each other to participate.”

PS: During the course of writing this blog entry I have checked my facebook nine times prolonging the process of creating this entry by a serious amount of time.

Flipped Lessons or the Inverted Classroom Model

My first assignment for my Educational Technology class is to create a Flipped Lesson on the basis of Bergman and Sams.Though, it is not for the first time that I encounter the idea of flipped lessons. In my home university most of the linguistic classes use the “inverted classroom model.” They are provided on a platform called “Virtual Linguistic Campus” (VLC).It does not only offer the virtual sessions for class, but a variety of tools like a dictionary, a linguistic wiki for technical terms and many more.

If you want to see how a session on the VLC works, Prof. Dr. Handke, a linguistic professor of the Philipss-University Marburg, offers a free lesson about the “Inverted Classroom Model” on the Virtual Linguistic Campus. In the video below you can see him explain the system of the “Inverted Classroom Model.” (Go to this point, 3:30, in the video to skip the part about the Phonology, Phonetics & Transcription class)

For further information about his project, but only in German: The link to the blog of Prof. Dr. Handke.

The main idea is that students are learning the content before they come into class by videos or learning websites. In class they can apply their knowledge on different tasks with the assistance of their teacher. The possible advantages of this model are that students can learn in their own pace. Scaffolding helps slower learning students, while students who are more comfortable with the content can skim over the parts they already understand. In contrast to the traditional model students apply their knowledge in class with the assistance of their teacher instead of learning content in class and applying knowledge in homeworks. Thus, frustration with homework should be avoided.

But the ideas behind flipping are not brand new. For over a decade, led by the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT), dozens of colleges have successfully experimented with similar ideas across math, science, English, and many other disciplines.

(- Bill Tucker, Education Next, The Flipped Classroom)

Even though the NCAT is developing the “Inverted Classroom Model” for over a decade, this model is not the ultimate solution for a teacher’s problems to reengage students in their teaching or to provide individual learning pace for every student – a well shot video for a flipped classroom is simply not enough. The teacher still has to worry whether his/her students watch the videos since the chances that students skip to watch the videos who did not do their homework in a traditional model are rather high. Also learning new content all on your own can be a really tough challenge for students and the “Inverted Classroom” has to be really well elaborate to achieve its high set standards. In conclusion, the “Inverted Classroom Model” literally flips the framework of teaching, but it still needs well trained teachers who spend time and effort to establish  lessons, in which you can embed this model for a successful learning experience.