Project 1: Reflection

Reflection Blog

For my PowerPoint project, I created a student activity that will be used to introduce the topic:  Early European Explorers of the New World.  This project was designed for students in the 5th grade. 

In this project, I used digital video clips from Discovery Education to introduce the topic, and to give the students some factual background about various explorers.  This approach lends itself to encouraging the disciplined mind as the introductory videos actually lead the students to focus on the important topic:  Early European Explorers.  The subsequent videos then lead the students even closer to identifying the most important content:  Who were the early European Explorers specifically.  After watching these videos, students have actual names and faces to put towards this.  In the first project activity, students are asked to create a Venn diagram.  This tool helps students to organize the details of the subject.  It also provides them an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the facts.  However, rather than just regurgitating facts, requiring students to compare and contrast 2 of the explorers forces them to do a slightly more complex analysis, and requires them to spend more time in their study of the men.

Asking students to create a mock interview of an explorer is another method of teaching some of the same material, but with a different approach.  They will need to know specific facts and details about their explorer which they will discover through their research.  Creating their own video of the interview allows the students to demonstrate their deeper understanding of the explorer as a person.  He has been humanized a little.  The student can dress like him, and answer personal questions about him—as if they are the explorer himself.  Synthesis is perhaps starting to happen here.

In the Journaling activity, we are using an interdisciplinary approach—combining writing with social studies—to create a new understanding of the experiences of the Early Explorers.  Again, this is hopefully allowing students to feel a connectivity with the Explorer and the people around him.  The student is beginning to imagine himself in the situation, imagining his feelings and thoughts.  Synthesis is taking place as the student realizes the humanity of these people.  They aren’t just  a character in their Social Studies book, but were a real human being.

Finally, the glog allows for the students to bring their creativity to the front, and enables them to demonstrate a new understanding and appreciation for the Early European Explorer.

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The Synthesizing Mind

As others have noted in the discussion pages, I found the reading this week on synthesizing to be rather complex and difficult for me to easily comprehend.  I find that I have numerous ideas of ways to create interdisciplinary lessons as well as ways to incorporate digital media into the lessons–but I am still a little fuzzy as to whether my attempts actually involve the synthesizing that Gardner is advocating.

Our 4th graders spend several months learning their states and capitals.  As part of this curriculum, each student was assigned one state.  I am not the Social Studies teacher, so we did this activity as part of the students’ tech time. To kick off our States activity, as a class we watched several video clips of local and national newscasts.  Then, each student was asked to research a current event and to identify a famous person from their state.  Next, they pretended that they were a newscaster, and they wrote up a short broadcasting story using their research information. They also had to find a photo online of their state capital, and one other photo that related to their broadcast story. 

Using a green screen, we videotaped each student presenting their broadcast. We then dropped in their state capital photo behind them (so it appeared they were broadcasting from that location), and also added in their second photo as a “picture-in-a-picture” at the appropriate time in the newscast.  We combined all the videos into several “regional” broadcasts and added some anchors and nice graphics.

This project involved social studies requirements, obviously, but also included research skills and English writing standards.  Students received an English grade for their written story, and a Social Studies grade for the information they had researched.  We used several different forms of digital media: the introductory newscast videos, digital photos from the internet, and creating original student broadcast videos.  The kids had a good time, especially in creating their broadcasts, and they not only learned a little about their state, but also about the writing process for a news story as well as something about television broadcasting.

I really enjoyed this project and while it clearly is interdisciplinary and utilizes digital media, I am not as clear as to whether it involved the desired level of snythesis.

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Using Digital Media in Training the Disciplined Mind

Link to “Early Explorers: The Age of Discovery”

In this lesson, the goal is to expose intermediate-age students to the Great Explorers of the early world, and their discoveries.

The first use of this video would be as an opening activity to generate enthusiasm for the topic of the explorers of the early world.  As a class, we would watch the 20:00 minute video which provides an overview of many of the significant explorers and their discoveries.

The next activity would be to have students use the information in the video as a starting point for comparing and contrasting 2 of the explorers, and then creating a Venn diagram using this information.  After watching the video, students would select the 2 explorers that they want to work with.  They could compare countries of origin, dates, purpose of exploration, successes, failures, etc.

After watching the video, students will select one explorer that they would liked to have traveled with.  They will create a journal, pretending to be a member of that explorer’s team.  Using other resources to supplement the information from the relevant video segment, students will create 5 different journal entries each detailing a day from the explorer’s primary exploration journey.

Using the information from the video, students will create a glog using photos and factual info about 4 different explorers from the same century of discovery.  (ie, Spanish explorers of the 1500’s) The actual video segment about their group will be embedded into the center of the glog, with information about the different explorers created in a web around it.  Students will link a photo of each explorer to the central video, with additional factual information about the explorer spun off the photo.

Finally, students would choose one explorer to work for.  Students will write a letter to their parents to explain why they have chosen to go with this particular explorer.  Reasons could include personal traits of the explorer that make him a good leader, or the promise of great riches and adventures based on the expected exploration route.

100% Educational Videos. (2004).
Early Explorers: The Age of Discovery [Full Video]. Available from

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My name is Vickie Bastnagel.  I live in Indianapolis, IN.  I am currently the technology coordinator for a Parochial Elementary/Middle School, with an enrollment of approximately 420 students.  I am responsible for all the hardware/software acquisition and maintenance, as well as teaching all grade levels in computer applications/keyboarding, etc. 

I am excited to take this course and learn more about current digital media applications.  I enjoyed my last class through this program (Project Based Learning), and was astounded to learn about so many new websites and free resources to use in the classroom.  I hope to learn even more in this class, and to be able to use what I learn directly in my teaching.

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Meeting the NETS Standards

The Web 2.0 tools highlighted in the readings this week provide great ways to meet the current NETS standards.

In researching each of the different sites, one can just feel the adrenaline rush that comes with a flood of new ideas.  The applications in each of the platforms (communication, collaboration, publishing) do a good job of providing some minimal structure (i.e., creating an online poster in Glogster), adds some tools (text, audio, images), and then lets the student mind take off to create something uniquely their own. (NETS 1-Creativity and Innovation)

Almost all of the tools support communication and collaboration in some way.  Students in the modern era have such an array of communication tools:  chat rooms, discussion boards, online translation tools, VOIP as in Skype.  These communication tools also allow for collaboration between students and teachers.  Over the past 20 years, education has evolved from pencil/paper/chalkboards (one student-one paper or one person’s work), to individuals being able to create documents using  computers, to resources like GoogleDocs that allow students to create documents that can be accessed and edited by multiple people (many students-one body of work).  (NETS 2- Communication and Collaboration)

The Internet and Web 2.0 tools have instigated an explosion in research and information fluency.  Don’t know what the capitol of India is?  Google it.  Need to know how others feel about the new school lunches?  Send out a survey.  Want to know more about the current political situation in Nigeria?  Go to a Public Discussion Forum where people from Nigeria are sharing reflections about their personal experiences.  The amount of information readily available to students today is mind boggling—as is the increased responsibility of educators to train students how to access, use, analyze, synthesize, and understand the information.  Additionally, we are accountable for teaching students how to discern the validity of information, as well as helping them to evaluate the ethical and moral responsibilities that come with such knowledge.  Web 2.0 tools provide us a framework in which to do these things. (NETS 3-Research and Information Fluency)

It is one thing to have so many resources available to you 24/7, but another thing altogether to be able to use them effectively.  A question posed to your  Lit class using Edmodo, inquiring as to what major themes student found in reading “The Crucible”, becomes an exercise in critical thinking as students must discern what they have learned about themes in literature, analyze the story they’ve read, and then determine the story’s specific themes based on their understanding and analysis.  Researching (using Google) the effects of poverty on inner-city school children can lead to identifying the causes of poverty in the U.S., and can encourage the asking of critical questions  with an eye toward finding solutions.  Students can use publishing platforms to put together presentations on their findings (Animoto, Yodio, Glogster) to help educate and motivate others to get involved. (NETS 4-Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making)

Incorporating sites like ePals, Global Schoolhouse and iEarn encourages digital citizenship.  Direct communication between students in a U.S. classroom and students in a classroom in Ireland allows for friendly comparisons of local holidays, sport teams and food.  What better way for kids to learn that “they” are a lot like “me”.  (NETS 5-Digital Citizenship)

All of the great opportunities available through Web 2.0 tools only work if students have a solid grasp of technology operations and the concepts behind them.  Through these tools students learn about the Internet, email and online etiquette.  They learn why it makes sense to create a Google Doc spreadsheet to compile data for graphing.  They learn how to post and how to edit.  They become pros at adding text and images, downloading files and uploading videos—but the best part is that they haven’t learned all this by sticking their nose in a book.  They have learned through exciting projects that allow them to make friends in other countries, learn about polar bears by checking out videos of their natural habitats, and tracking the path of monarch butterflies as they make their annual migration.  Sounds like a lot more interesting way to learn to me!  (NETS 6-Technology Operations and Concepts)

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Week One Blog

In developing new approaches to teaching/learning, it would seem to be important to remind oneself what the purpose of learning is.  I loved the quote from Eeva Reeder (Geometry Students…) when she says, “…the whole object of schoolwork is attainment and refinement of problem-solving and life skills.”  It was interesting to see in all the articles and examples that PBL is a great fit with achieving those objectives.

 The examples of projects from the articles had several factors in common.  They all allowed the students to “study” topics that were pertinent and interesting to them.  For instance, the children studying cystic fibrosis because of a classmate’s condition, and allowing high school students to design a high school, including elements that they would find desirable.  In all cases, the teacher was not the all-knowing expert—rather the guide allowing the students to discover and process the information themselves.  The projects all encouraged collaboration as students worked with partners, teams, and the entire class on pieces of the project.  The projects required creativity (on the part of both teachers and students), and critical thinking skills.  The projects progressed as questions were made and answered.  They also all required time management and organizational skills to keep students on task as they progressed through all steps of the project.  Lastly, all projects interwove numerous academic skills/subject learning and research.  Students were reading, writing, making math calculations, using map skills and technology. The three phases of Project Based Learning were part of the structure of each project: (1) Engaging the students and discussion of topic, (2) Data gathering, field work, and compilation, and (3) presentation.

 In PBL, teacher is organizer, guide, and fellow collaborator.  They must do their homework in advance to ensure that the project has value and conforms to state standards.  We have to know what we are trying to achieve with the project learning.  Students are investigators (data gathering), collaborators (with partners/team), organizers (compilation), and creative and critical thinkers.  Students are highly engaged in these projects because 1) the topic is of interest and relevant to them, 2) the learning is hands-on which accommodates learners of different styles and needs, 3) the learning is flexible, so students can pursue different avenues as they discover new information, 4) they can experience a positive experience that boosts their self confidence and keeps them engaged, 5) learning is real-world based which makes it have a purpose.  I found the comment from one of Cathy Huemer’s first grade students (Newsome Park…) to be particularly insightful:  “If you find it yourself, it stays in your brain.”

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