Focus on the Students

September 28, 2009 at 12:15 am (Classroom Observations) (, )

What gets kids engaged?


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Flickr and Jing

September 19, 2009 at 11:47 pm (Digital Humanities) (, , )

I was surprised to learn that Flickr isn’t that great. Either that or I really don’t have a handle on it. I mean, it’s kind of cool to be able to annotate photos and stuff, but I was hoping for a little more for all the fuss. I guess I say that because the way I envision incorporating images into my classroom can be done without flickr, and therefore I found it a little redundant. I will say, however, that as a library for pictures it could be very helpful. Again, I see more personal, rather than history, use for it in that capacity. But hey, its something.

Jing on the otherhand is pretty cool. I immediately think of useing it to give instructions that students can watch again and again on their computers. It could also be really helpful if the students themselves used it and incorporated it into presentations or projects. I’m a little concerned about the file format, however. If I were to put it on a blog or website, would the .swft file work for that? Even if it did, what about downloading the video and transporting it via a thumb drive and watching it in a media player? I’d like to learn more about conversion of the file to make it widely accessible. I think one of the biggest impediments to incorporating technology is the (very real) fear that it won’t work for everyone. This file issue could be a big deal for less tech savy students.

Either way, an interesting couple of studios. A little dissapointed by flickr though. Who knows, maybe I’m just not getting it.

Until next time,


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My (sort of) Field Experience

September 12, 2009 at 10:59 pm (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

What can you learn from class when you’re not there?

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Who is We?

September 7, 2009 at 1:01 am (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, , , , )

Day one at Chelsea Middle School,  in Lancashire County.

So far, so good, thought I, half way through second period. Not much to do so far, just lurking in the back, enjoying my second time through the lecture. The students, 7th graders, don’t seem too alarmed by my presence in the back of the classroom. They’re learning about westward expansion, and the teacher is going through a prepared narrative about Sooners claiming land in Oklahoma. Soon, if she does the same she did for the first period, she’ll transition into a game of bingo where the student’s vocab flashcards, organized 4 by 4, will be used as bingo placeholders. Candy is at stake. Serious business.

As far as professionalism goes, I’m doing well. I got a little sass from a female student who apparently likes UVA so much that she thinks I should leave the classroom. Otherwise, they’re respectful. The only serious problem I ran into was when a few of the kids started talking “Family Guy” before class started. I know the episode they’re talking about. Everything in me wants to chime in with a timely quotation. I refrain. Danger averted. Not that it would be necessarily wrong for a teacher to joke with his students like this, but as an intern on his first day, caution is the rule.

Bingo is underway by now. The teacher, Mrs. Chisholm, gives a description and asks for the historical figure who matches it. “Chief Joseph!” one cries. “No,” Mrs. Chisholm replies, “someone else?” “I know!” says Cassy. “Sitting Bull.” And she’s right. This launches Mrs. Chisholm into a little background on Sitting Bull.

Suddenly, it hits me. Every time she refers to some misdeed perpetrated by the federal government against the Indians, she refers to the culprits as “we.” I remember thinking twice about that in first period when she used the same expression, something like “and then we gave the Sioux a raw deal…” or “we gave some of the Native Americans whiskey and guns and in exchange they handed over Sitting Bull to us.” I dismissed it fairly easily in the first period. I’d say its a fairly accepted way to frame the discussion, though I’m sure there is some controversy surrounding her use of “we” since issues of historical guilt are by no means settled. But the interesting thing in this class is the relatively high number of minority students.


Even if one accepts the designation of “we” when describing some of the unpleasant acts perpetrated against the Indians, what do you do when there are several black and hispanic kids in the class? Sure, they’re Americans. But at the time of the Indians wars, blacks wouldn’t have had much agency in the federal government or as the primary settlers of Indian territory. Is it really appropraite to use “we” when teaching these kids? And if not, what about the fact that a lot of the white kids in the class may have descended from poor, rural Appalachians with little more interest in Western Plains Indians than a black sharecropper? And if you say that “we” is appropriate for the white kids but not the black kids, aren’t you really saying that whites are the only “actual” Americans, or at the very least that they run the show? If so, that poses a lot of questions about minority participation in our democracy. And where does that leave Mr. Obama?

I’m not positing a solution to this messy little bit of history. I suppose if it were my class I’d have to think long and hard about my use of “we” in any historical context. I’d like to hear a reasonable, thoughtful, and seasoned teacher weigh in on this for me. But that little word raises more than just questions about politically charged words used by the teacher. One also wonders, Should the kids be discussing issues like that in the classroom, rather than reviewing vocab on flashcards? That would certainly seem like a more hands-on way to think about history, a way to connect the past with their lives today. But would that be a good way to spend the time? Is the 7th grade level the time to start encouraging students to take on history in this way, or should we really be trying to give them the tools (strong vocab/basic knowledge) to pursue “real” history later? I’m not sure. I have more questions than answers.

Hey, I’ve only been in class one day.

See you

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My response to John Seely Brown: Tinkering as a Mode of Knowledge Production

September 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm (Digital Humanities) (, )

Here is my response to some of John Seely Brown’s thoughts. I tried to both deal honestly with what he suggested as well as affirm the really good parts as great ideas for my future classroom.

Still new at this vlog thing, so excuse the excessive use of “umm…” in this video as well as the straight-up-the-nose angel I took.

See you.

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