Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Analyzing Interpersonal Communication at the First Presidential Debate (2016)

I'm going to be completely honest: tonight's debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the first presidential debate of this season, was also the first presidential debate I've ever watched. (I was 7 days too young to vote in the 2012 election, making this statement slightly more understandable.) I don't know if debates between candidates are typically so clamorous, but watching Clinton and Trump pick at each other all night was not an enjoyable experience for me. In this post, I will share my notes about aspects of nonverbal and verbal communication that stood out to me while I was watching the debate.

Image used with permission by Michael Vadon and Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia Commons

Nonverbal Communication:

  • Hand Shakes: I was not surprised that the two candidates attempted to begin the debate in a civil manner. Clinton and Trump shook hands, then shook hands with the moderator as well before taking their places at their respective podiums. Things would only go downhill from there.
  • Posture: Each candidate had to stand during this debate. They both stayed at their podium (though I believe they each may have moved around the stage had their mikes not been attached to the podium). Both Clinton and Trump stood up straight and alternated between having their hands to their sides, having their hands on the podium, and using their hands for gestures while speaking. Compared to the energetic words fired during the debate, the candidates' postures remained proper and respectful.
  • Facial Expression: Both Trump and Clinton had their fair share of strange looks while the other was speaking. Trump tended to purse his lips, squint his eyes, and look down at the podium. Clinton did the same thing, but she also had a look I could only term as "wild eyes" when Trump said something she deemed outrageous. Despite these typical reactions, both of them occasionally smiled when the other attacked, as if they knew that statement was coming. Both Trump and Clinton showed their emotions and reactions on their faces tonight, even if those emotions were incredulousness or annoyance directed at what the other had just stated. I did not feel like either of them made much of an effort to mask how they were truly feeling.
  • Kinesics: 
    • Hand gestures: I thought the hand gestures used by both candidates during this debate were appropriate. I was not distracted by the hand gestures, which means that they were not used too little or too much. Additionally, none of the gestures used were outlandish (such as swinging their arms wildly or making inappropriate hand movements).
    • Head movements: There was a lot of nodding and shaking of the head happening during this debate. It mostly occurred while each candidate was speaking about the other candidate. (Sometimes the reactions went beyond head movements; every once in a while, one of the candidates would blurt something in response to what the other had said.)
  • Para-language:
    • Tone: The tones varied during the debate. The tone each candidate used matched the content of what was said (such as a firm, level tone to describe policy changes they wanted to enact, for example) and the related emotions they felt. I did not catch any inappropriate tones used during this debate; their tones matched their emotions and message.
    • Speed: Each candidate spoke relatively slowly at the beginning of each segmented portion of the debate; however, as it became clear that either candidate could interrupt the other at any time, they began to speak more quickly. I believe both candidates spoke quickly so that they could get as many ideas out as possible before they were interrupted. 
    • Volume: The change in volume of the candidates' words matched the change in speed. The candidates were more subdued and spoke at an even volume when it was their turn to talk, but as the debate wore on and they continued to repeatedly speak over each other, their voices got louder (despite the fact that each candidate had a microphone). Additionally, snide comments while the other person was talking (before the outright yelling) were usually said softly yet audibly.

Verbal Communication:

  • Fact Checking: A big issue tonight was whether or not the claims Trump and Clinton were saying were accurate. Both commented that their websites would have "fact checker" pages that would be updated in real time to determine whether their opponent's words were true. While I did not check either candidate's campaign websites, my Twitter feed was filled with quotes from both Clinton and Trump that were proven false. And articles are already posted online with "fact checks" from the first presidential debate. As a young person who doesn't know a lot about the issues, I had to watch the entire debate unsure if I could believe what either candidate was saying. 
  • Terms: I want to mention two words/phrases I heard tonight that made me reflect specifically on what was said by the two candidates. 
    • Clinton introduced a new (at least, new to me) phrase to describe Trump's economic plan: trumped-up trickle-down economics. I really doubt that this was created on-the-spot in the debate, but nevertheless, it was an artfully inserted slam at her opponent. I appreciated that Clinton briefly explained what this means, as there may have been viewers who did not know the concept of trickle-down economics (or what makes Trump's ideals bad in her opinion).
    • Trump also used a word I had never heard before: braggadocious. This was one of those moments when my Twitter feed blew up because people didn't think this was a word, but it turns out that it is. "Braggadocious" is an informal word used to mean "boastful" or "arrogant." The resulting backlash over the use of this word reiterates the importance of knowing your audience and making sure the way you are communicating with them is clear.
  • Message: A few times while I was listening to the debate (I turned off the picture for a while so that I could just listen to the words said), I realized that I wasn't entirely sure what either candidate was trying to say. I was surprised at how often ideas were abandoned before either candidate was able to actually say a complete sentence about the issue. This left me confused as a viewer, especially one that is not highly literate in politics. I was astounded because the candidates' messages should be the most important part of the debate! How are we supposed to compare and contrast the two candidates' views if the views are not properly expressed in the first place?
  • Etiquette: There were many times during this debate that proper speaking etiquette seemed to be thrown out the window. Both candidates spoke over each other and over the moderator, shutting each other down so that they could speak. This happened even as each candidate was supposed to have his or her two uninterrupted minutes to answer the question at the start of each segment! The worst parts were when both of them were speaking loudly and forcefully at the same time because this made it impossible to determine what each of them was actually saying. The lack of manners was what made the debate unbearable for me to watch. 
One additional note I'd like to add is related to the "Trump Sniff!" I don't know if this falls under nonverbal or verbal communication... the sniff is not truly a word, but it is a noise. And does it matter whether or not the sniffles were intentional? Do you think they were intentional? Was Trump feeling under the weather tonight? Regardless, Trump's nose noises were distracting and noticeable enough to inspire a new Twitter handle, @TrumpSniff

I am sure that, soon enough, a news source will publish some sort of official analysis of the interpersonal communication demonstrated at the debate tonight. However, I just wanted to blog about some of the things I noticed while I watched my first presidential debate. I was very distracted by the yelling and coarse nature of the debate, but if you are used to watching this style, perhaps you picked up on other communication notes that I missed. Please share your thoughts in the comments! <sniff>

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Catch 'Em All - Pokemon Go Sparks Classroom Innovation

I am not ashamed to admit that a week after Pokemon Go had been released, I jumped on the bandwagon and began trying to "catch 'em all." (At the time, I was on vacation with my brothers, who persuaded me that driving across the country provided a great opportunity for catching pokemon - they were right.) I could write a whole blog post about how to play Pokemon Go and use all of its features, but now is not the time! This post is about using Pokemon Go in the classroom.

[If you need an explanation on what Pokemon Go is all about before continuing to read this post, I recommend you check out the official Pokemon Go websiteSam Haysom's beginner's guide on Mashable; or Serenity Caldwell, Lory Gil, and Jen Karner's beginner's guide on iMore. While I encourage you to learn about the app or even download it on your device to try it out yourself, don't forget to come back to this blog and read more about incorporating the app in your classroom!]

I think there are a lot of great ways Pokemon Go could be used in math. One way would be to utilize the circle target that appears when trying to catch a pokemon.

The size and color of the circle target indicates the difficulty associated with catching the Pokemon. (This is my screenshot.)
Students could catch a pokemon, look at its stats to determine its height, then (assuming that height of the pokemon equals the diameter of the target circle) calculate the area of the target circle to determine which pokemon are more or less difficult to catch (based on the viable areas for a pokeball to be thrown). This could be used to satisfy Iowa Core 7.G.B.4.

Another idea that could incorporate Pokemon Go in math would be to graph the frequencies of certain phenomena in the game (satisfying Iowa Core 3.MD.B.3). For example, the class could go on a 30 minute walk, passing pokestops on the way. Students could keep track of how many of each item are retrieved from the pokestops, then collect their information in a whole-class bar graph. Similarly, students could keep track of how many of what types of pokemon they catch at a lured pokestop, then create a pie chart of the pokemon that were caught there by the whole class.

There are many ideas about how to use Pokemon Go in the classroom using the augmented reality (AR) feature. Augmented reality is a type of technology that allows the users to change how the real world looks or sounds through their device. (Read more about augmented reality through blog posts by Todd Nesloney on edutopia or Patricia Brown on EdSurge. A popular AR app is Aurasma, if you've ever used or heard of it!) In Pokemon Go, users can turn on augmented reality to make it appear as though the pokemon they are catching on the app are right in front of them in real life.

With AR turned on, it looks like Venonat is jumping on the chair right next to me.

With AR off, the background standardizes to a typical night scene.

To add a fun twist to storytelling, students could be tasked with taking photos of pokemon in creative places through augmented reality, then writing a fictional story about the pokemon's antics (perhaps satisfying Iowa Core W.3.3). Stories could be traditionally written, or students could develop their digital storytelling skills and use another app (such as Skitch) to annotate their photos.

While this post has provided some worthwhile ideas about using Pokemon Go in the classroom, there are many more to explore. Check out these resources for more ideas about using Pokemon Go with your students!
  • Ways to Use Pokemon Go in the Classroom - This post has ideas categorized by subject area, so it's an easy resource to use if you know what subject you'd like to integrate Pokemon Go into!
  • Pokemon Go in the Classroom (Kathy's Katch for August 2016) - Along with ideas for the classroom, Kathy's post includes a succinct list of Pokemon vocabulary in case you need a refresher on the "Pokelingo" your students might use.
  • 14 Ways to Bring Pokemon Go to School - Even the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) supports the use of this app in and outside of the classroom. Check out the suggestion on making your school into a pokestop!
  • Technology in the Classroom: What Pokemon Go Means - This post has useful information about teaching with augmented reality, particularly pertaining to safety. Though the author is a high school English teacher, the knowledge can be applied to students of any age level.
  • @PokemonGoEdu - If you're a Twitter user, I highly recommend following PokemonGoEdu to learn about how to use Pokemon Go for learning. As their page says, "Gotta teach 'em all!"
How do you anticipate using Pokemon Go in your classroom? Please add your great ideas to the comments!

Changing Learning Processes and Environments through Twitter

As an Educational Technology minor, I am constantly thinking about ways I am going to use technology in my teaching career. In particular, this semester I am pondering ways in which social media will change learning processes and environments. In my opinion, social media can be implemented not only with the students in the classroom, but also "behind the scenes" for the teachers' professional development. In this post, I'd like to examine some initial thoughts I've had about changing learning processes and environments for students and teachers through Twitter specifically.

Image used with permission from Brad Flickinger on flickr

Students' Classroom Experiences
Twitter can be used as a medium for students to share their thoughts and communicate about lesson materials. This creates a community of learners that are able to assist each other in the classroom; especially during a lesson, small questions can be quickly answered by a peer on Twitter. By allowing students to exchange ideas and questions during class, Twitter can be utilized as a backchannel that the teacher can even look at later to gauge students' understanding and respond to lingering problems.

Besides backchannelling, Twitter can be used as the medium of the lesson itself. For example, Such Tweet Sorrow is a lesson plan that helps students translate Romeo and Juliet into the modern day using tweets. Moderated discussions or debates could be held via Twitter if each student is able to tweet from their own devices (or share with a partner). This method of discussion not only encourages students who may not be as willing to speak up in class, but also allows the students to share other relevant web content (such as articles or YouTube videos) to further the discussion. Students may even return to the discussion after class to continue the conversation.

Twitter can be used to bring professionals into the classroom who would not be able to otherwise speak to the class. For example, in 2012 this teacher was able to connect via Twitter with a woman in Cairo to speak with the class about the strife in Egypt (and particularly President Hosni Mubarak's latest speech to the public). Though teachers are great resources, nothing compares to speaking with professionals (or even lay people) who have first-hand knowledge about a topic.

Classroom Twitters can also be used to inform parents and community members about what the students are learning about in class. Students may be asked to post updates, photos, or resources related to the events taking place in the classroom that day. In addition, teachers can post information, reminders, or even showcase exceptional work on the class Twitter. These efforts can help parents and families feel connected and informed about what the students are doing in the classroom.

Though these are the ways I believe Twitter can be best used in the classroom, this topic has been explored by many professionals. For more ideas about using Twitter with students, I recommend checking out 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom15 Ways to Use Twitter in Education (for Students and Teachers Alike), and 60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom. If you'd like to see some examples of classroom Twitters, check out Mrs. Cassidy's Class, Ms. L's Class, and Mrs. Martel's Class.

Teachers' Professional Development
Just as students can connect with other students in various countries, educators can reach out to colleagues not only in the community, but around the world through Twitter. According to the text we are reading in my class (Tanya Joosten's Social Media for Educators: Strategies and Best Practices, page 23), "By making connections to colleagues via social media, you are building an expert network that can afford opportunities in gathering information, ideas, and perspectives." There is no better way to broaden your perspective than to communicate with professionals from backgrounds completely different than your own, and adding these educators to your network will help you stay current on the issues and trends affecting teachers around the world. Don't know who to follow? Start by searching for colleagues from your own school and district, then check out the lists of teachers on Twitter compiled here, here, and here.

In addition to selecting colleagues to follow, teachers should use Twitter to stay current on their academic reading. Most professional academic organizations are now on Twitter, so searching for your favorites should result in plenty of groups to follow. If it were me, I'd start by following US Dept of Educationedutopia, Education Week, Education Nation, Education NextTed-Ed, and Google for Education. Checking out the accounts that these resources are following is also a great way to build your network!

Besides tweeting, retweeting, and replying on Twitter, TweetChats are another great way to interact with professionals outside of your network. To learn about TweetChat, please see my blog post about the experience. Some great conversations to get involved in can be found on this Education Chats calendar or the A-Z Dictionary of Educational Twitter Hashtags.

I'm Ready to Tweet!
Have I convinced you to start using Twitter in your classroom? Before taking off and creating your account, I'd recommend checking out Making the Case for Social Media in SchoolsThe Teacher's Guide to Twitter, and the Guide to Using Twitter in Your Teaching Practice. These comprehensive resources will help you understand how to best create and regulate your Twitter account for appropriate use in the classroom.

I chose to reflect on changing learning processes and environments through Twitter specifically, but there are many modes of digital and social media out there. Besides Twitter, what are some other forms of media teachers may use to enhance their teaching? Share in the comments!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Reflecting on Twitter: What I've Learned So Far

As a twenty-one year old college student who grew up in a world with technology (I was fortunate enough to have a computer, TVs, gaming systems, iPods, etc. in my home), I like to think of myself as fairly tech-savvy. I've always felt like I had a higher-than-average understanding of technology simply because I've used it so much; I'm what some would call a "digital native." When I was told to tweet for class this week, I thought I had an advantage over some of my peers because I have used Twitter for years. But I wasn't prepared for some of the things I would encounter as I tweeted as an educational professional.

The first challenge that I encountered was how to create new and relevant content. On my personal Twitter, I tweet about things that happen during the day, quotes I read or hear others say, or even reminders to my followers about upcoming events on campus. My followers consist of my friends and family, so tweeting about my everyday life is relevant to them. However, my professional "teacher Twitter" is a completely different landscape: I follow leading names in education such as US Dept of Education and edutopia as well as professionals in education, and I am followed by some educators whom I do not know personally. This audience doesn't want to know how great it felt to turn off my alarm clock and sleep in until noon on a lazy Saturday. This community is interested in topics and trends in education, a much more difficult realm for me to add new and original contributions to because I'm not actually an educator yet.

To make up for this problem, I retweeted a lot of posts that others had added but I found interesting.

I added my own commentary to others' Twitter contributions.

I posted the links to articles I'd read and summed up a few of my thoughts (in less than 140 characters).

I participated in more than one TweetChat (see my post about my first TweetChat experience!), which allowed me to express my thoughts on questions others posed.

I posted comments from conversations I'd held in my teacher preparation courses.

I tried to increase the number of hits on my blog by advertising my latest posts on Twitter.

I tried to spark conversations by asking questions.

I added my thoughts to others' conversations. (I actually did this a lot because I think my view as a preservice teacher is a needed perspective!)

And, occasionally, I tweeted about current events and personal accomplishments that I attempted to link back into the realm of education.

Even though coming up with new content was a challenge, I believe I got better at this as I continued to tweet. Through this experience, I learned that my status as a preservice teacher was valued and sparked interest in the community (rather than distaste as I thought I'd receive because I relatively lack in experience and knowledge). I also realized that everything I tweet does not have to be original. It is beneficial to my community for me to bring in resources my followers may not have previously encountered. But it is also beneficial for me to add my own comments and ponderings from my individual frame of reference, because this is how we learn from each other.

Besides trying to add new and relevant content, I also struggled when I tried to lead conversations on Twitter. Part of the problem was that I don't have a huge network of followers yet, so there is a very limited amount of people who see my tweets. I tried to bolster the number of people who would see my tweets by using other hashtags (such as #handsonlearning, #community, #personalizedlearning, #iaedchat, #integration, #TPT, #pretchat, #newteachers, #ntchat, #curriculum, and even #selfie), but I don't think this was effective. The people who participated in my conversations (outside of TweetChats) were all people that I know. That doesn't mean we did not have a great conversations! But I wish I had been able to converse with others whom I would not normally have a chance to talk to.

Another thing I learned about Twitter is that it can move very quickly! Some of the conversations I started took off in different directions before I had a chance to respond to them. While some users may find this annoying and hard to follow, I loved to see how the conversations unfolded before my eyes (or later when I saw all of my notifications). I imagine this is what it's like to see students take off talking in small groups about the discussion questions you post!

One of the most successful conversations I started on Twitter was when I asked experienced teachers to share resources for new teachers to get free or inexpensive materials.

I was told to try my local AEA, Kuta, and look into grants from parent groups or community businesses. But when someone suggested Teachers Pay Teachers, a lengthy conversation started.

I did not expect to learn so much (and, actually, leave with some questions) about Teachers Pay Teachers, but I am glad Victoria and Melinda were willing to answer my questions about that resource! I plan to look into TPT sometime soon and return to this conversation when I have investigated it further.

Another fruitful conversation I led was when I tweeted on my classmates' comments about technology in my math class.

In this conversation, I was glad to receive reassurance from the professionals who follow me that technology can be incorporated in the classroom effectively. They even helped me try to see my classmates' perspectives; as John pointed out, perhaps they are less comfortable using technology and are therefore less willing to utilize it. I wasn't even expecting this tweet to lead to a discussion, but I am thankful that it did! This reiterated why it is important for me to add my thoughts on Twitter: as others add their views, my post can lead to valuable insights that I may not have otherwise considered.

From my attempts to ask questions and lead conversations, I learned a couple of things. Twitter is a great place to seek advice and learn from educators who are more experienced than me. I gained a lot of valuable information and resources from the discussions I led and participated in! As I continue to participate in official chats and other conversations on Twitter, my network of followers will grow and it will be easier to hold insightful discussions. While trying to use other relevant hashtags is a good idea, it did not pan out for me in my discussions. (I also was a little inconsistent when I used hashtags because it's hard to remember to include them!) I look forward to seeing if other classmates were more successful with their hashtag usage.

This is by no means all that I have gleaned from Twitter, but it is an attempt at reflecting on what has been the most insightful from my experiences so far. Now, I turn it over to you. Do you know of any hashtags I should try to use on Twitter? Are there any organizations or leaders in the education field that I should immediately follow? Related to Twitter, what should I be thinking about as I transition from preservice teacher to student teacher next fall?

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Personal Analysis through Visual Literacy Lens

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) is a documentary created by Banksy, the renowned graffiti artist whose true identity is unknown. The film is about Thierry Guetta, a French shopkeeper in Los Angeles who takes up filming street artists after documenting his cousin's work as the artist Space Invader. Gradually, Thierry is able to film more and more street artists by claiming he is making a documentary about their work. Thierry is eventually able to film and work with Banksy, one of the most elusive street artists in the world. Banksy encourages Thierry to turn his footage into a film, but the product Thierry shows Banksy is awful. Banksy convinces Thierry to give him his footage so that he can try editing the movie; meanwhile, Banksy suggests that Thierry attempt his own street art and perhaps put together a small gallery. Thierry reinvents himself as Mr. Brainwash (or MBW) and becomes a successful street artist immediately. In the end, Banksy ends up turning Thierry's footage, as well as new film Banksy shot during Thierry's rise to fame, into a documentary about Thierry and street art in general. See the trailer for the documentary below.

Banksy's professional background played an enormous role in the final product of this documentary. Banksy, as a street artist himself, said in the film that "what I do was in a bit of a legal gray area," even though street art is considered vandalism in most cases and is punishable by law. The police officers trying to apprehend the artists, as well as the animal rights activists angry about Banksy's use of a live elephant, were briefly mentioned in the film but presented as laughable, ineffective attempts at trying to stop the artists. Banksy always presented himself as the most illustrious of the street artists: the film showed many high-risk displays that he was able to pull off, he was adamant about keeping his identity a secret, his work was always given positive reviews, collectors were shown to be demanding his work and willing to pay lots of money for it, "Barely Legal" was what "brought street art into the light," etc. Banksy credits himself as MBW's mentor and claim to fame, then remarks that he is not sure he should be proud of himself for kickstarting MBW's career. (Thierry is often pictured as a bumbling buffoon in the film; for example, it is presented that he abandons his career and family for a long while to film street artists for no monetary reason, he is not able to put his art show together without a huge team of help, and he would not be where he is today if Banksy hadn't encouraged him to do his own art.) Additionally, Banksy is so elusive that people even question if this documentary is actually a mockumentary. It's impossible to watch this film and miss Banksy's influence on the direction of the content.

Banksy work near Bethlehem; photo used with permission by Markus Ortner on Wikimedia

Thinking about Banksy as the director of this film adds a whole layer of meaning to its message. This documentary was not simply about MBW's rise into the street art world. Banksy colored it with his opinions on what street art truly is. To him, street art is a necessary and coveted field of highly proficient and powerful artists; I kept thinking about them as "art ninjas" who hide under the cover of night to publicize their messages through art. Through this documentary, Banksy painted street art in an appealing way: dangerous, high-risk, mysterious, fast, high-skill, secretive, desirable, impactful, etc. Banksy goes as far as to suggest that street art is needed in society to challenge perspectives and bring light to issues that aren't being talked about enough. All of these ideas are portrayed in the film by the clips shown of the artists at work, talking about their art and messages, evading the police, and even Thierry's ultimate desire to be an artist himself. The commentary included in between clips even propagated the rise of street art, such as in the quote, "Thierry’s documentary was shaping up to be the authentic inside story of the birth of a movement, starring the biggest figures in the street art world…." Street art is seen as a "movement," and Banksy painted himself as one of its "biggest figures." While a lot of the documentary could be seen as Banksy's attempt to show off himself and his work, I do think that the ultimate purpose of this film was to show the other side to street art that we don't necessarily see; though street art is a generally frowned upon medium for spreading a message, it's a unique way for an artist to promote his or her views or opinions and should be revered in society.

Photo of Banksy's art used with permission from carnagenyc on flickr

By telling the stories of the street artists, I think this film may offend those who do not support street art. As I stated, the attempts at curbing the street artists' works (from groups such as the police and animal rights activists) were portrayed only briefly and in a mocking way. There may be people who do not appreciate street art and who see it only as an act of vandalism, so this movie may outrage them by not showing their views on the matter. Additionally, some of the subjects of the art (or the arts' messages) may be angered by bits of the content. For example, Guantanamo Bay prisoners may be aggravated by the fact that their situation was used as the subject of a public display piece in Disneyland. Banksy is a controversial street artist, and he doesn't hold back when sharing his views in his art; because this documentary is his work, he isn't afraid to rustle feathers and doesn't care about offending people.

Addressed by viewers as "The Elephant in the Room;" photo used with permission by Bit Boy on flickr

I thought this documentary presented Banksy's message in an interesting artistic style. (However, I will admit that I have not seen very many documentaries, so perhaps the format of this film was predictable to others.) The documentary used different types of clips and sounds to focus our attention. I liked the use of narration interspersed within the film; sometimes the sound was coming from the clips Thierry shot (or Banksy later added of Thierry), sometimes there were just scenes taking place or photos being shown with background music, and sometimes there were interviews with street artists. Frequently the film transitioned quickly between voiceovers or otherwise quiet times to loud clips; I was constantly toggling the volume on my computer to listen at a comfortable but audible level. I thought that the main messages of the film were explicitly stated by the artists in interview-style sessions; if there was something the audience needed to hear, it was directly spoken to the camera by an artist onscreen. The photos and videos of the art were interesting additions that allowed the audience to better appreciate the work that the street artists were putting together. I also think it is important to realize that because Banksy is an artist, this film was a work of his art as well. These clips were not slapped together in an endless commercial as Thierry's were; these scenes and transitions were much more purposeful so that the audience would glean the intended message from the documentary.

Work by Mr. Brainwash; image used with permission by Chris Beckett on flickr

One of the quotes I thought a lot about from this documentary was when Thierry said, "I felt like I should capture everything on film, because I felt like everything that I would capture at this moment, anytime in my life, would be the last time that I would see it the same way… I would make them live forever in those moments." There are a few moments in my life where I have thought about this exact thought. As I have gotten older and more big life events have taken place (graduations, birthday parties, sports events, etc.), I have thought about how I will never be able to experience those things in the exact same way again. Thierry tries to rectify this by filming things and saving them as videos; however, this doesn't change the fact that moments are lived and never lived again. He can watch a video and reminisce all he wants, but until time travel is invented, he will never be able to experience that moment in the same way. (And, even if one time travels, he or she will bring a new frame of reference to the situation due to a change in experience; so still, every moment is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.) This understanding helps me appreciate every single moment that I have and remind me not to take things for granted. I think it also helps explain people's fascination with taking photos and videos. We do what we can to make the moments last forever, but at the end of the day, they are still memories that can never be exactly relived.

Tomato spray art by Mr. Brainwash; image used with permission by Jyri Engestrom on flickr

I also think this film gave me a better appreciation for street art. I personally see street art as vandalism, and I believe it is wrong for people to use the world as their canvas when that area does not belong to them. (I am a very rules-oriented person, and because most graffiti is illegal, it makes me uncomfortable that people disobey the law in this way.) However, I now have a better understanding of why people feel the need to create graffiti/street art. To them, it is a public way to challenge worldviews and release emotions and passion (along with showing off their artistic skills). While I generally look at graffiti and look away, I want to truly examine it next time I see it. I want to try to elicit the artist's ideas and motivation for their work. Though I may not agree with the message or the means by which it is spread, I do want to at least give this type of artwork a chance and glean the artist's intentions from it. After watching this documentary, I know that my understanding of street art has changed.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stepping into TweetChat: Look Out World, I'm a Tweeter!

First of all, if you're already following my blog, you should connect with me via Twitter as well. My handle is @MissAnnaKron. I look forward to seeing you pop up in my notifications!

Take a look at a screenshot of my Twitter profile!

Now, onto my introduction into TweetChat. In case you're unaware, TweetChat refers to an experience in which Twitter users login and participate in a conversation using a specified hashtag. By simply typing an area of interest and "TweetChat" into your search bar, you can find calendars of dates and times when people will be using a particular hashtag to talk about that interest. Click here to view an example calendar of Education Chats. (Here's a tip: make sure to check the timezone for the time of the chat so you're prepared to tweet at the correct time!)

To make the conversation easier to follow, I participated by using tchat.io. After logging onto Twitter and entering the hashtag of the chat you'd like to view on tchat.io, a feed will appear on the screen that shows all of the tweets that have used that hashtag (with the most recent at the top). This feed updates in real time, so the most recent tweets will appear at the top of the feed as Twitter users tweet with the hashtag. Also, if you tweet in the box at the top of the screen, your chosen hashtag will automatically appear at the end of your tweet. Notice that the page has other features too; from here, you can reply/retweet/quote/favorite other tweets, pause the conversation, hide retweets, and even enter a new hashtag to change chats. I definitely recommend using tchat.io or something like it if you ever want to participate in a TweetChat because it makes the conversation much easier to follow.

Here's a screenshot of my window while using tchat.io for the #6thchat

There is an old quote that everyone knows: if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. That sums up my experience attempting to TweetChat. This past weekend, I wanted to participate in the #elemchat, so I set up tchat.io, gathered snacks and a textbook to read while I waited, and plopped in front of my laptop 10 minutes before the chat was scheduled to begin. But as the minutes ticked by, no one tweeted in the conversation. 14 minutes after the chat should have started, I tweeted, "Trying to participate in the #elemchat but no one's tweeting... hello? Anyone there? #UNIDSM." I received two replies, but no conversations of substance took place. I waited until the start of the next hour to see if I'd just miscalculated by an hour, but no one appeared. Unfortunately, #elemchat was a failed attempt.

This was the extent of my attempt to join the #elemchat

However, I did not lose hope. On another day, I tried to join a different TweetChat, #kidscancode. But alas, this was also an abandoned conversation. Thankfully, @VisionsByVicky replied to inform me about this inactive chat so that I didn't waste time hoping for tweets.

The #kidscancode conversation was also less than fruitful

After #kidscancode, I searched through the education chat calendar and found a chat for 5th grade teachers using the hashtag #5thchat. I felt that this chat was applicable to me; even though I am not a classroom teacher, I will be licensed to teach K-6 when I graduate, so I figured that learning a little more about 5th grade specifically might be beneficial. As the saying goes, "The third time is the charm!" Though I was a couple of minutes early, this chat was already buzzing with recent tweets when my tchat.io loaded. I was also buzzing with excitement to participate in my first chat!

The 9/20/16 #5thchat was led by @MathDenisNJ (a math supervisor and author) and was structured by the word "instant." The chat had 7 themed questions (one for each letter in the word "instant"). Each question was posted to the chat in a photo like the example below.

A screenshot example of how the questions in #5thchat were structured by @MathDenisNJ

The structured questions that were posted in the #5thchat were:

  • I = Infusing your life in your lessons
    • What are you most passionate about outside of school? 
    • How can this be a great opportunity to connect your students with your content?
  • N = Natural flow, follow the question
    • "We live in the worlds our questions create." - David Cooperrider 
    • How can unexpected questions lead to learning opportunities in your classroom?
  • S = Sudden changes to your surroundings
    • Over the summer, many of us experience a lot of change: new house, wedding, baby, prep for a new class.
    • What changes have you experienced recently that can become relevant learning experiences?
  • T = Television & pop culture
    • TV is a great way to connect with people.
    • What are you watching now that can make what you have to share relevant to those who are listening?
  • A = Awareness of your surroundings
    • Look around you right now.
    • What do you see that can inspire learning, discussion, writing, math...? Share a picture, description, or new idea.
  • N = National events and crazes
    • The Superbowl! Pokemon Go! The Ice Bucket Challenge!
    • Share examples of times you harnessed the energy of an event or widespread craze in your classroom.
  • T = Two or more content areas
    • Interdisciplinary education creates learning that sticks, for students and teachers.
    • What interdisciplinary lesson ideas do you have for this year? What do you need to get them up and running?

The discussions stayed on topic with the questions throughout the hour. The general theme (in my opinion, as it was never stated) seemed to be how to personalize your teaching so that students get a sense of who you are outside of your teaching role. However, the questions focused on different topics, so the discussion didn't flow well between questions; each question sent us down a completely different discussion path. While this was somewhat disjointed, I enjoyed having the freedom to discuss many different topics and ideas. Because the conversation was not directly related to experiences the teachers have had in the classroom, nor were they fifth-grade specific, I was able to still contribute to the chat despite my lack of experience. For example, for the "What do you see that can inspire learning..." prompt, I tweeted a picture of the photo wall in my room and said that students could be asked to write the story behind their most epic selfie. I received a couple of positive responses about that idea, which I thought was great because I had made it up on the spot!

The picture of my photo wall that provided the inspiration for my tweet

Another well-received contribution of mine was from the "How can unexpected questions lead to learning opportunities in your classroom?" question. I briefly mentioned that in my Level II field experience, a student asked me if I had "always been a ginger." I was able to answer the question respectfully ("Yes, I have always had red hair,") yet turn that moment into a discussion on inclusive language. I told the students that they need to be aware that the term "ginger" may not be taken as nicely by others outside of the classroom, but I also managed to curb the student's embarrassment by saying that the word "ginger" does not offend me personally. Considering that this conversation was held in my first full-class lesson, I'd say I handled that question fairly well!

A screenshot of my tweet to answer question 2, including the response I received from the chat moderator!

There were between 10 and 12 participants posting with the hashtag and participating in the discussion at any one time, though some folks were in-and-out of the chat and there may have been others viewing but not tweeting. Besides the moderator, I do not remember seeing any participants who were not teachers (though some participants were not 5th grade teachers specifically). After the conversations that took place, I connected with @teresagross625, a middle school literacy teacher who has participated in a lot of TweetChats and bonded with me over our love of the TV show Pretty Little Liars. I also connected with the chat moderator @MathDenisNJ because not only did he reach out and follow me first (I'm honored!), but he also replied to almost all of my tweets with encouraging or insightful comments. Lastly, after our conversation I followed @Hessler34, a K-5 talented and gifted teacher who was really interested in the WebQuest I created for Educational Technology and Design (one of my first EdTech projects... I was surprised she liked it because my work has gotten much better over the years!).

I was surprised at how well-received my WebQuest was, as I have made much better projects as I've continued in the Educational Technology minor!

I'm ashamed to say that I have been a member of Twitter for many years, yet I did not know TweetChats existed on such a large scale until my Using Digital and Social Media in the Classroom course! I loved participating in this TweetChat and even joined another immediately after this discussion was over.* I genuinely think that participating in TweetChats is something I will do not only for professional development, but also because I enjoy the experience! Time flies when you're tweeting!

*#6thchat, a chat for 6th grade teachers, was the one that I joined because it also had a lot of participants! Instead of giving a detailed summary of that chat, I will leave that task for Nick Smallwood, a classmate of mine who was also in the chat. If you're curious about our experience, ask him at @njsmallwood12.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Teaching Students Perseverance

Today's blogging topic is perseverance. I'd like to start by sharing a video clip that always comes to mind when I'm thinking about perseverance. It's from Facing the Giants, a film released in 2006, and it never fails to give me chills.

Did it give you chills too?

Let's move from the football field into the actual classroom. One of the best things about teaching a lesson as a preservice teacher is that (at least in my experience) students are engaged simply because someone new is providing the instruction. The teachers of the classrooms I've visited have always told their students that they should strive to impress me because I will talk about them when I go back to UNI, and they don't want me to say negative things about them, their class, or their school. This motivates the students to be on their best behavior and strive to perform exceptionally. While I have always appreciated the students' good behavior and willingness to participate when I teach, it also leaves me questioning my ability to assist an unenthusiastic or resistant student. Rather than allowing my future students to reach this point of desperation, I believe it will be beneficial to explicitly utilize perseverance strategies with my students early in the year and repeatedly refer back to these strategies as needed. But there are no standards for the acquisition of perseverance, so how should educators go about teaching students how to "keep on keeping on"? By exploring various blogs and internet resources, I was able to acquire some great resources regarding promoting perseverance in the classroom.

Norene Weisen compiled 8 Ways to Build Student Stamina, a guide for how teachers can create a supportive and encouraging learning environment. One of my favorite strategies from this blog was to "help learners develop a growth mindset." This strategy involves verbally recognizing the student for his or her efforts toward a specific goal. For example, a teacher might say to a student, "I've noticed that you have been taking time outside of class to write in your journal. This practice in formulating detailed sentences shines through in your descriptive word choices on assignments." By making these comments, the teacher reinforces the concept that effort leads to improved performance and eventual accomplishment of the goal. These comments also tell the student that the teacher has noticed their efforts, which may motivate the student to continue putting in the extra work. Teachers need to help students understand that there is always room to grow in our abilities and knowledge of concepts, but this growth can only be achieved through the students' efforts. (Note: This was just my favorite of the eight ways, but they all were great!)

Vicki Zakrzewski is the author of the post Teaching Grit: How to Help Students Overcome Inner Obstacles. This blog post was all about promoting cognitive and emotional skills in learners. I liked how the author discussed the importance of self-perception as it relates to our ability to succeed. I used to repeat about a dozen different quotes to myself when I ran cross country, and one of my favorites was "whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." If students do not believe that they can achieve their goals, what's stopping them from giving up and quitting? Students with a high self-efficacy are better able to strive for success; therefore, we as teachers must promote optimism and regulating negative emotions so that our students are better equipped to reach their goals.

My searching lead to another blog post related to perseverance: Beth Werrell's 4 Tips for Empowering Students to Persevere. I particularly appreciated the second tip included in this post. It stated that we should praise students for their effort and commitment to their progress rather than complimenting intelligence. Werrell wrote, "We used to believe that telling kids they were smart would boost self-confidence and academic performance. But studies now show this kind of praise can discourage perseverance by suggesting that effort is less important to success than intelligence is." This similar to a quote I have seen frequently on Twitter, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." We need to help our students understand that while intelligence or talent might expedite the process, they can achieve their goals with the right attitude and actions. Additionally, no matter how smart or talented our students are, at some point in their lives they are going to encounter problems that they cannot overcome with intelligence or talent alone. All of our students need to learn to appreciate the process of working toward a goal, and we can help kindle that mindset with our comments.

While most of the blogs I explored offered only positive perspectives on perseverance or "grit," Jordan Catapano's Teaching Strategies: Examining Perseverance provided an insightful counterargument as to why perseverance may not always be a great thing. In this blog post, Catapano mentioned that not every task is necessarily worth sticking to until the end. For example, if a task becomes insignificant or irrelevant, or if the effort a student is putting into the goal could be better put to a more beneficial task, a student's unwavering determination may be a detriment. At the end of his post, Catapano wrote, "Perhaps we ought to teach students to stick with what matters, and to weigh the pros and cons to figure out what exactly it is that matters. This leads to more critical thinking and substantiates more elaborate considerations related to how to maximize their pursuits." Catapano did not state that perseverance is unnecessary or destructive, just that steadfast perseverance without education regarding the costs of the effort may not be the best approach either.

I turn it over to you. If you're a teacher or have children of your own, how do you encourage perseverance with the kids? If you're preservice like me, how do you anticipate supporting perseverance in your future classroom? And regardless of who you are, what are some strategies you use to help you persevere?

(And with that, you've read to the end. "Look up Brock, you're in the endzone.")

Image used with permission from Jackie Blake Jensen at IC Pixx Photography

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Helvetica: Personal Analysis through Visual Literacy Lens

Helvetica (2007) is a documentary by Gary Hustwit that explores how visuals are used around the world in the form of typography (including words in graphic design). The documentary uses the typeface Helvetica (see it as typed in Helvetica font) to discuss how fonts are created, used, and distributed in order to address the broader ideas of stylistic movements, communication, aesthetics, and the creative process. See a glimpse into the movie in the clip provided below. 

Director Gary Hustwit is an acclaimed filmmaker and photographer. (Read about him at his website here.) As an artist himself, he has creativity, an eye for design, and a general knowledge about art. I believe that Hustwit's artistic background shone through in his documentary. Hustwit artfully pieced together clips of professionals (such as historians, typographers, and graphic designers) with shots of their work, the locations that events occurred at, and even various fonts used in the real world (like advertisements, brand names, and informational signs). The director was able to focus our attention by alternating between these clips, as well as zooming in and out on details that visually represented the ideas each professional was referencing. 

Helvetica movie poster, used with permission from Jen Hoskins on flickr

Hustwit's professional artistic background played a role in not only the aesthetics of the film, but also the content that was addressed. Because of his experience in art, Hustwit was informed about the multifaceted issues that surround typography, and Helvetica specifically. Hustwit was able to find and interview renowned professionals with varying viewpoints due to his expertise, then draw out the important points that each person said and collect them into a refined motion picture. Hustwit had the professional knowledge regarding things like stylistic movements (such as modernism), branding, and communication through art that helped him create his vision for the film and the ideas he wanted to portray.

I believe that Hustwit's goal was to inform the viewer that there is more to fonts than just different styles of the same word on a page. Hustwit's film began by exploring the development of Helvetica that ultimately lead to its widespread use. He showed the incredible amount of work and revision that goes into creating a typeface, from the thickness and styles of the lines and curves used to the amount of space between characters and the way they look when put together. As one of the professionals lamented, being a typographer is more than just putting lines and curves together on a screen; it is truly an art. The typeface is created and revised dozens of times before it is finished, and it truly is a masterpiece by the end of this process. A couple of professionals in the film discussed what advertisements looked like before the dawn of Helvetica compared to the "modern" advertisements using Helvetica.

1950s advertisement; used with permission from Classic Film on flickr

Recent ad using Helvetica; used with permission from Random Retail on flickr

Hustwit's film continued to explore what fonts actually convey. Fonts can elicit feelings from the viewer. Choosing a typeface that matches the words, the meaning the words intent to convey, the photos used, the colors on the page, etc. is a much more complex job than one might think. I created a very simple example using the word "Snowflake" in five different fonts; these are all the same size, color, etc., just typed in different typefaces. Do you see how one word portrayed in different ways can produce completely different reactions from the viewer?

That second typeface makes me picture "Snowflake" as a show on Broadway! 

Hustwit also explored the widespread use of the font Helvetica, specifically, in our daily lives. He showed many different professionals' opinions on the use of Helvetica. Some said that Helvetica is a no-nonsense font: neutral, efficient, smooth, uniform, clean, final, legible, simple. To these professionals, Helvetica states exactly what it means. However, others in the film stated that they would never use Helvetica; it's boring, default, restrictive, ubiquitous, tight, particular, and dull. To them, Helvetica is overused and not worth the hype. I think it was well summarized by a professional who said, "There is a very fine line between simple and clean and powerful, and simple and clean and boring."

A popular example of a brand that uses Helvetica is Target; image used with permission from Svgalbertian on Wikimedia Commons

The only parts that threw me off guard while watching this documentary were the few references to different groups of people in the film. I remember that one of the typographers called Helvetica the "typeface of socialism." As this person did not like Helvetica, I think those who support socialist ideals (or those who do not, but like Helvetica) may have been offended by that comment. I think that the typographer's distaste could have been stated in a different way. Later, a graphic designer said that she was "morally opposed to Helvetica" and that it was the font people used if they sponsored the Vietnam War. Again, I am not sure if Vietnam War supporters would like to be associated with a specific font, or if Helvetica users would want to be known as Vietnam War fans, so I believe this opinion could have been phrased differently. While I don't think anyone would take these comments too seriously, I also think that people need to be careful of using words that actually convey the messages they are trying to state.

Overall, Helvetica truly opened my eyes about typefaces in general. My previous knowledge about typeface consisted of typing something in a document, highlighting it, and playing around with the available fonts, sizes, and colors until I found a combination that I liked. After watching this film, I now understand the hard work that goes into creating each of the fonts listed in my menu. I understand that each character in a font has to be individually created and compared to the other characters in order to see if they fit well together and with the figure ground. I never realized how influential typeface is on the feelings one experiences when reading something, nor how the elements on a page all have to work together to portray a message to the viewer. I should be more intentional about the fonts I choose to use! I also gained insight into the love professionals in these fields have for their work; I can't say I have ever appreciated the work/hobby (because to many of them, it is enjoyable work) of typographers like I do now. It's not just about having the technology to be able to create fonts; professionals have an "eye," a vision, and a level of expertise that makes them great at what they do. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

There's an App for That: Canva and Padlet

In Using Digital and Social Media in Education, we have been tasked with finding two apps that are new to us and sharing a little information about them. Please see the information I have provided below about Canva and Padlet, two apps that I really enjoyed working with this week!

Image used with permission by portal gda on flikr
App #1: Canva

Grade level: I believe this app could be used by students in second grade and above. Students need to be able to type words in order to use this app.

Subject area: Any subject area could be incorporated into a Canva, including 21st Century Skills! Two examples of second grade Iowa Core outcomes that could be addressed by creating a project in this app include "With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers" (W.2.6) and "Use a variety of technology tools and media–rich resources to work collaboratively with others" (21.K-2.TL.2).

    Description of app: Canva is an easy-to-use app for graphic design projects. There are many templates included for different layouts, from greeting cards to event posters and flyers. The user can add, delete, change, relocate, resize, recolor, etc. the text, photos, and graphics on each Canva project. It's even possible to create presentations and multi-page designs on this app! Additionally, Canva is a collaborative app; users can share their projects with each other.

    Description of possible student use: Addressing the two standards listed above, here are some ways the app could be utilized by students.
    Second grade students could use Canva to publish different styles of writing. They could use the templates to create beautiful poetry displays, for example. Another example would be creating advertisements in the app after talking about information versus persuasion, as well as how to use strong vocabulary. Canva is a digital app that would allow the second graders to produce and publish their writing.
    Second grade students could also work on Canva collaboratively. Projects created in Canva can be shared with other collaborators by clicking the "share" button in the top right corner of the screen. Canva is a little-known tool that students may not have seen or heard of before, so bringing this app into the classroom will help them increase their media literacy as well.
    In addition to the ideas that match the standards above, Canva is just a great way to display one's findings. If students gather data, they can create informational posters on the app to show and explain what they discovered. Students could make a similar display summarizing their research about a certain topic. 

    Please view the YouTube video embedded below to see some of the basic features of Canva.

    Something I made:
    I created this Canva to advertise for a solar eclipse social.
    The above Canva was created to advertise for a solar eclipse social at a science center. I began with a poster template and changed the background design to a photo of a solar eclipse; I was easily able to upload this in the app. I typed all of the information I needed onto the poster in different text boxes. I then rearranged these text boxes so that they were centered down the page as well as altered the color, size, and font of the text in order to make my poster interesting and eye-catching. I believe my final product is a fascinating poster that conveys all of the necessary information.

    Additional images:
    Begin by choosing a layout and template.

    Text stickers may be added, or you can add text of your own.

    Text font, alignment, properties, size, color, and spacing may be altered.

    The app also includes stickers you can add to your project.

    If you decide you don't like the template you're working with, Canva will transfer your information onto another template.

    You can even create multiple pages in Canva.

    Image used with permission from tengrrl on flikr
    App #2: Padlet

    Grade level: Similarly, I believe this app could be used by students in second grade and above. As with Canva, students need to be able to type words in order to use Padlet. This app also uses a bit more complex embedding procedures, but with support, second graders should be able to do this!

    Subject area: Any subject area could be incorporated into Padlet, including 21st Century Skills. Two examples of second grade Iowa Core outcomes that could be addressed by creating a project in this app include "Construct an argument with evidence that some changes caused by heating or cooling can be reversed and some cannot" (2-PS1-4) and again, "Use a variety of technology tools and media–rich resources to work collaboratively with others" (21.K-2.TL.2).

      Description of app: You can think of Padlet like a collaborative Twitter feed that allows the users to type more than 140 characters and insert many different types of media. In Padlet, I can record myself interviewing my dog and post it right next to a video I took of us on our walk this afternoon. Padlet allows many different functions of the phone to join within one neat, organized space.

      Description of possible student use: Addressing the two standards listed above, here are some ways the app could be utilized by students.
      Second grade students could use Padlet to collect resources for an argument. If the students created an experiment to identify changes caused by heating and cooling, they could post photos or a video of their experiment in the Padlet. They could also link to a document with their findings or insert a data table onto the Padlet. While the Padlet would be a great way for these students to keep track of their own findings, they could also collect supportive resources from other websites on the Padlet. For example, students could link websites or insert YouTube videos that argue their points to the Padlet. Some other features of Padlet may also be helpful depending on the way the students have to present their arguments; if the students have to debate verbally, they could use the microphone in Padlet to post practice sessions of their debate.
      Like Canva, Padlet is a collaborative tool. Padlets created in the app can be shared and edited by other collaborators, as long as those intended collaborators have a Padlet account. Padlets can also be exported in various ways to allow others to view, but not edit, the Padlet. Padlet turns what could have been a complex app into a simple tool that I think students could use for a variety of projects in a wide range of classrooms. 

      Please view the YouTube video embedded below to see some of the basic features of Padlet.

      Something I made:

      I believe I was able to insert the Padlet for your viewing above. If it is not appearing, please view my sample Padlet here.

      I created this Padlet by inserting my Canva, a link to the NASA website, a video from Vox on YouTube, and even a photo I drew on Snapchat. Padlet allows the user to upload all kinds of media onto your own "wall." But I think the best part is that you can share your project with others so that multiple people can post new things!

      Additional images:

      Here is a new Padlet with a new post, ready for editing. The user creates the post by tapping the + at the bottom.

      Clicking on the "add attachment" icons allows the user to upload various types of media to the post.

      The user can change the title, description, wallpaper, and even layout of the Padlet.

      Changing the sharing settings allows the user to add collaborators to edit the Padlet.

      When the Padlet is complete, it can be shared in many different ways - including through a Padlet-generated QR code!