As part our current unity of study, my professor, Len Scrogan (http://edtechfuture-talk.blogspot.com/), posed the following question: How does the story from this charming Irish video illustrate both the realities and challenges we face when facilitating online discussions?
The obvious point that this video makes is that the words we choose to express our ideas are just as important as the ideas that we choose to express. I think that this assertion has a number of important implications for how we facilitate online discussions.
(1) When posting a topic for discussion, the facilitator should not initially include his or her opinion. They should objectively present the topic and let their fellow posters offer their opinions before weighing in with their own.
(2) A facilitator's job is to facilitate the conversation, not to hijack it. While it is ok for the facilitator to post their own thoughts regarding the topic, they should do so in a concise manner.
(3) Facilitators should encourage their fellow posters. Comments like "That's a great point," or "I really like the way you_____" illustrate that you, the facilitator, value the discussion and your posters' comments, which should keep the discussion rolling.
(4) Facilitators should be aware of who is posting and how often. While it would be rude to tell an overzealous poster to stop posting, it is perfectly ok to encourage a reluctant poster to post more. Practicing #3 above is a great way to do this.
(5) Use inclusive language when framing your topic and when posting comments. While your topic should be specific, it should be framed in a broad enough manner that it allows for a plethora of answers. The more diverse the answers, the more interesting and informative the discussion will be.
While the language we choose has even more implications for how we facilitate online discussion, the five listed above struck me as being especially important.
What do you think? Please feel free to post your comments and thoughts below.
How to Unlock Your (and Your Student's) Innovative Mindset
“We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.”
In Chapter 3 of his book, The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros outlines the eight characteristics that an innovative teacher must possess. Before delving into these characteristics, it is necessary to know what an “innovator’s mindset” is. According to Couros, an innovator’s mindset is “a way of thinking that creates something new and better...it is a way of considering concepts, processes, and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task, or even technology” (p. 19 - 20). In other words, a true innovator approaches any problem or issue with a completely open mind, ready and willing to consider all options that will create a fresh, vital solution or, perhaps, lead down a different path than the one originally intended.
At first blush, such thinking seems aimed at entrepreneurs, maybe the future titans of the tech industry. However, Couros has written his book for teachers, principals, district administrators, and superintendents. He passionately encourages schools to remember that they exist to “encourage today’s learners to become creators and leaders (and)....create a better world” (p. 19). To help educators guide learners towards becoming creators and leaders, Couros has delineated eight characteristics that a teacher must cultivate in order to truly innovate in their classrooms.
According to Couros, innovative teachers are:
I wholeheartedly agree with all of these characteristics and, while I am just taking my first tentative steps towards developing my “innovator’s mindset,” I am thrilled to have begun the journey.
By adopting this mindset and attempting to teach it to my students, I have already seen some of them become more willing to take risks and to learn via trial and error. Not every activity I have designed has successfully enabled my students to find their innovator’s mindset, but I can see that they are becoming less afraid of doing so.
As a Special Education teacher, I have to help my students overcome their fear of failure and, really, their fear of learning, on a daily basis. If the only thing I ever accomplish in my teaching career is helping them overcome these fears, I will retire a happy man. If I can help them find their innovator’s mindset, I will retire a rich man.
Couros, George. The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and
Lead a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, 2015. Print.
Downes, Stephen. “A World to Change,” The Huffington Post, October 18, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost/stephen-downes/a-world-to-change_b_762738.html
Growing Up Transgender
Assigned the designation of female at birth, Gabe knew from an early age that he was a boy. In this touching story, Gabe and Chris Lopez recollect the moment that Gabe discovered he was transgender and his struggle to tell his mother, Chris, that he was not the daughter that she thought he was. Ultimately, Gabe and Chris's story is one of love, self-identity, tolerance, and bravery.
In the wake of the election of Donald Trump and the resulting fear running rampant through the LGBTQ community, this story is especially vital. During the next four years, the LGBTQ community and their supporters will need to dig deep and access all of their collective strength, their will, their love and their bravery to demand that our nation live up to its promise to protect "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free." This story should serve as inspiration to anyone seeking to take up this struggle.
Using Jason Ohler's Digital Storytelling Assessment Traits, I chose to critique this story using the following criteria: Story, Originality / Voice / Creativity, and Economy.
I find this story relevant and necessary. Instead of casting a wide net, Gabe and Chris choose to focus on a couple of specific experiences, particularly a summer that Gabe spent at an outdoors camp, to illustrate the story's main theme of tolerance and love. I think they succeed admirably.
Originality / Voice / Creativity
Though both originality and creativity are present in this digital story, I find its voice to be its strongest characteristic. The love that Gabe and Chris feel for each other is quite evident. You can hear it in the tone of their speech. The story's director, Richard O'Connor, wisely chooses not to embellish much on the dialogue. He simply lets Gabe and Chris tell their story which is powerful enough to keep this viewer captivated.
This story is short (two minutes and thirty four seconds) and to the point, which I find noteworthy. As I have stated in previous posts, I respect storytellers that can communicate complex themes with brevity. Again, O'Connor realizes that this particular story requires nothing more than Gabe and Chris's conversation to communicate its themes. The visual medium chosen, animation, lends the story a light touch that contrasts nicely with the story's serious subject matter. The animation itself is quite minimalistic, which pairs well with the seemingly simple story being told.
Right now, members of the LGBTQ community are concerned that their rights could be severely impinged upon under a Donald Trump presidency. I would hope that any persons intolerant of transgender individuals could at least empathize with Gabe. I also hope that this story serves as a reminder that love and acceptance are not just what we all desire, but are, in fact, inalienable rights that should not be denied anyone.
Please feel free to leave any comments below.
Sure, we all know that Digital Storytelling is great! It helps all students, especially struggling writers, find their authorial voices. But, if we don't know which Digital Storytelling tools to use, we can't help our students unlock their inner Steinbecks. Luckily, Jacqui Murray has come to our rescue. After no doubt sifting through myriad Digital Storytelling resources, she has detailed some of the most useful in her blog entry, "9 Best-in-Class Storytelling Apps."
Among the websites and apps detailed is VoiceThread. I have personally used VoiceThread and believe it to be an excellent Digital Storytelling tool for students of all ages. It is quite intuitive; indeed, the VoiceThread learning curve is about as steep as a Kansas plain. While I am not going to launch into a step-by-step how to regarding VoiceThread, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any teacher just dipping their toes into the Digital Storytelling waters. Best of all, it's free!
I am not as familiar with the eight other Digital Storytelling tools that Murray recommends, but based on her wise endorsement of VoiceThread, I have no doubt that they are valuable. Zimmertwins looks especially promising. I love that it is "comic book like" in nature, as that storytelling structure appeals to a wide range of ages.
While the other tools that Murray suggests hold great potential, as a high school teacher, I find VoiceThread and Zimmertwins most appropriate for my students. Regardless, teachers of most grade levels can probably find on this list a Digital Storytelling resource that will help their students unlock their....well, I wrote Steinbecks above, but after more careful consideration and though it breaks my heart to do so, I will change it to...Forressts.
No offense meant, Bella Forresst. Vampires just ain't my thang.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below, unless they are related to vampires. In that case, don't bother. My vampire coffin is closed until further notice.
In light of the recent events at Standing Rock, it is no surprise that Storycenter selected Bill Tall Bull's Digital Story, "This is My Home," as their Featured Story. In his piece, Bill Tall Bull details the history of his Native American tribe, the Cheyenne-Arapahoe, who lived in what is now present day Denver. His story is a powerful reminder that before "America," a bold people occupied this land. He implores us not to forget this history, but to celebrate it as part of our national fabric.
Using Jason Ohler's Digital Storytelling Assessment Traits, I chose to critique this story using the following criteria: Story, Originality / Voice / Creativity, and Media Application.
I thought this story was quite compelling and timely. As most people are aware, the Sioux tribe has been protesting the construction of an oil pipeline through their land, Standing Rock, the sixth largest Indian Reservation in the United States. Though Bill Tall Bull tells the story of his tribe without directly mentioning Standing Rock, I could not help but notice the parallels between the building of Denver International Airport above sacred Cheyenne-Arapahoe land and what is currently occurring at Standing Rock. When viewed through this lens, Bill Tall Bull's story obtains a potent resonance as yet another instance of America imposing its will upon Native Americans. To his credit, Bill Tall Bull does not seem bitter or vindictive (though he would have every right to be). Instead, he uses his story to illustrate that even though weaved in tragedy, his people and, particularly, his family have become an integral part of the Denver community.
Originality / Voice / Creativity and Media Application
I find the Originality / Voice / Creativity and Media Application traits of "This is My Home" to be strongly intertwined. Thus, I am going to address them together.
Bill Tall Bull does a great job imbuing his story with a strong Native American voice. He accomplishes this via the images that he chooses and the accompanying soundtrack. Peppering his story with Colorado landscape and Native American images, he achieves an impressive cohesion of topic and voice. This is especially noticeable at the forty-second mark, when Tall Bull utilizes a montage that traces backwards from present day Colorado to Native American times and then flashes forward through the construction of Denver atop Native American lands. Each transition between images is punctuated by a sharp drum rasp, which lends the montage a gunshot rapidity. It's quite a professional piece of filmmaking.
Tall Bull's choice of soundtrack is equally effective. The use of Native American chants and drumbeats places the viewer firmly within the story. We can see the Cheyenne-Arapahoe teepees that once populated the Denver area. We can see the tribe chanting and drumming. It's a great choice of music that emphasizes the images and creates a strong continuous flow throughout.
The only criticism I could level against the story is its tendency to linger a bit too long on certain images. The montage mentioned above is so effective that I was hoping Bill Tall Bull would continue to utilize the technique. However, there are instances of image repetition throughout the story. An example of this occurs at the video's two minute, eight second mark when he uses a particular landscape as a backdrop upon which various images are superimposed. While a good idea, the same back drop is used for forty three seconds which, in my opinion, is too long. It would have been more effective to simply create a montage using the superimposed images. Bill Tall Bull uses the same technique again at the three minute, twenty-eight second mark, this time using a railroad as the backdrop. This scene also lasts for forty three seconds.
Other than the above issue, this video is very well made. It tells an important story that should be viewed by everyone. As the current events at Standing Rock illustrate, "those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." Hopefully, "This is My Home" can help us rewrite a new story.
Please feel free to leave any comments below.
I am a Special Education teacher currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Information & Learning Technologies (Option: K-12) at CU Denver. I work at Boulder High School in Boulder, CO. Here you will find my thoughts on education.