I truly believe that it is not my job as an educator to tell students what they should think or how they should feel. Much of my job is to teach them how to think: how to analyze, how to problem-solve, how to be self-aware so they can choose the type of thinking that would be useful for them in different situations. My job is also to teach my students how to listen to and to understand other points of view, that our own perspectives can change, and that it’s important to be mindful and respectful of those who don’t agree with us.
With these things in mind, I have been collecting a few resources over the last couple of days that may help teachers in the light of recent events. For the students who are concerned or fearful, for the ones who are angry or defensive, we as teachers can give two things: empathy and information. Here are some resources you may be able to use as arguments about the recent immigration ban and the border wall dominate the news (You will, of course, need to determine which resources are suitable for your students.):
The Kuriositas blog recently featured, “Atomic,” a short video created by students at Columbus College of Art and Design. The students were tasked with creating animations of some of the elements on the periodic table, and this video is a compilation of some of the best. Learning about the elements and their symbols would have been vastly more entertaining when I was in high school if I had been given a similar assignment! In fact, there are a few elements in the video that I would swear I never heard of (dysprosium?), but now I will never forget them.
The New York Times has many lesson plans and other resources for educators that can help with the integration of current events. One portion of the site that you may not know about is the page that offers, “Over 50 Reusable Activity Sheets to Teach any Day’s Times.” With downloadable PDF’s of graphic organizers, games, discussion starters, and other lesson ideas, this page should be bookmarked on the computer of any upper elementary – secondary educator. One of my recent discoveries was the, “Literature Quote Bingo” PDF, (which just happens to include one of my most favorite Harry Potter quotes of all time). The students must match famous quotes to news stories, which is a great way to demonstrate understanding of the quotes and make connections to real world events. This is an open-ended activity that could be used with any selection of quotes. If your students enjoy quotes as much as mine do, then they will find it engaging and you will get some valuable insight into their perspectives.
I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately. Some people seem to feel that it is synonymous with confidence, but I disagree. Confidence that you are doing the right thing does not necessarily make you courageous. In fact, I would argue that many courageous decisions are made with hesitation, and that tragic outcomes do not make the actions any less brave. I also know that courage does not have to be “big.” There are many small, courageous actions taken every day by unassuming heroes – as Mark Bezos reminds us in his tale of saving the shoes, and The King of the Island portrays with beautiful subtlety.
What is courage, then? With this great Google Slides Hyperdoc created by Sarah Landis, you and your students can explore the complex meaning of this word. Rich with thought-provoking discussion questions, “Courage” will invite your students to consider the many layers of the word with scenarios, videos, and writing prompts all collected into one digital document. It is an excellent resource for any secondary ELA classroom.
To learn more about Hyperdocs, visit this site created by Landis and her two colleagues, where they provide many other examples for use in all subjects. Also, Laura Moore has an excellent reflection on Hyperdocs here, which also gives links to awesome Hyperdoc projects.
A nice feature of the updated PNC site is the interactive graph near the bottom that allows you to see how costs have changed over the years for the group of gifts as well as for each individual gift. This can yield some good discussions on what might be driving the costs up or down.
According to its website, ” ‘Common Ground‘ is a collaborative kinetic art installation about connecting America through creativity and problem solving.”
The result is a video that shows 5 Rube Goldberg reactions created in 5 different locations across the country. Each one “triggers” the one that follows. (I particularly liked the “Women in Stem” portion from New Hampshire.) The projects reflect major issues representative of the artists’ regions, so the video is probably best for older students who can discuss the message delivered by each one. The final segment of the video returns to its starting place, Oakland, and addresses the issue of excessive force used by police officers.
If you find the idea of doing a collaborative Rube Goldberg video intriguing, you may want to sign up your class to participate in this global one that is being produced by Brad Gustafson. As Brad says, “This will require higher-level thinking, teamwork, and a bunch of other stuff that might not immediately lead to perfect ACT scores. However, it will model risk-taking, digital-age collaboration, transformative technology use…and maybe even some asynchronous communication.”
About a month ago, I downloaded a beta version of Apple’s newest iOS on to my iPad so I could try out the widely advertised Swift Playgrounds app that would be installed along with the new operating system. I’ve been a supporter of teaching kids how to code for a few years, and I was curious to see how this app might be different from the many my students have been using.
Swift is a type of programming language that was developed by Apple. A quick Wikipedia browse will bury you in daunting technical language if you are, like me, more educator than coder. So, I will tell you that the biggest difference between this app and many of the ones that are already out there for kids is that Swift programming uses words and symbols, not blocks.
My sense is that most “real-life” programming languages don’t use drag and drop blocks like Scratch or Hopscotch. So, in that respect, Playgrounds (which is what the app shows up as on your device) stands out from the crowd. However, I wouldn’t disregard block programming apps completely. They are excellent for teaching students the logic of programming – particularly non-readers.
Playgrounds is definitely not for non-readers. Reading is essential for anyone using the app, and I would guess it is at least a 4th grade reading level. I would not, therefore, recommend Playgrounds for younger students unless they are paired up with a capable partner.
The graphics in the app are okay, but nothing ground-breaking. As with many coding apps, the user is trying to direct a cute creature around paths and obstacles.
The main advantages of the app are that it is free, offers many levels and challenges, and gives users an opportunity to see how a professional programming language works. I would recommend the app for elementary/middle school students who have demonstrated understanding of key coding concepts and seem to be ready for something a bit more advanced.
Playgrounds should be available today with the download of the newest iOS. I’ll be curious to hear what you think!