This was a pretty interesting assignment as it included the cooperation of three very busy graduate students. Luckily, my partners happened to be Courtney Brown and Tori Corning. They were awesome in regards to finding a way to meet in person in order to create and record our radio podcast featuring a historical spin, with a tabloid like journal style reporting on the American Civil War. We met with one another at a variety of times and places over the past few weeks; our favorite spot by far being the lab in the teaching resources section of the library. It featured a less than soundproof but private cubical with a couple of computers with the most important application, the GuitarBand only available on McIntosh. and some comfy rolling chairs.
At the first meeting, we brainstormed a few different ideas for whattype of podcast we would create. In the end, we agreed on a Civil War format in which we performed interviews of some famous and then less than famous figures from the time. Our interviewees featured Walt Whitman played by Tori Corning. Courtney Brown was hilarious in her role as Mary Todd Lincoln, and I did my best to impersonate Orville Grant, brother to the famous American General, Ulysses S. Grant. We asked some our guests some rather informing and educational, yet somewhat provocative questions. You’ll have to tune in if you want know just what we discovered. Gossip, drama, style, we had it all.
First, we created three interviews featuring each of the three historical figures with an accompanying commercial. This required a great deal of creativity, and a decent bit of research as a surprising amount of historical facts and speculation are embedded within our podcast. After due diligence we thought of emulating a show with strong hints of tabloid style radio hosting. Hoping to maintain a humorous tone, we also provided some factual evidence to prove that we could utilize this style of Web 2.0 technology to integrate an interdisciplinary approach within a classroom. Tori was our main editor regarding sound effects and Courtney provided the vocals for some of our commercials. I wrote a commercial myself; we all created bumpers.
My group members were outstanding and luckily, we created the project on time, if a bit longer than the requested length. It was not perfect however, as there were some glitches and an annoying echo, however the project was a success in my eyes as this could be such an asset in the classroom.
My childhood dream has finally come true. Now, I too can be a Power Ranger, James Bond or, if we’re getting really nostalgic, a Jetson. A watch that’s a phone. A phone that’s a watch. Yup. Samsung has finally done it. They’ve developed a package in which a watch has the capabilities of a smart phone. I’m not saying that this would be the easiest device in which to play Angry Birds or whatever other app suits your fancy, but the potential for this product in the classroom is very intriguing.
Now, I know that I may not be Twitter’s biggest advocate at times. Within the past two weeks, I finally started to embrace this social media application and am slowly opening my eyes to the potential benefits in the classroom. One of my central theories regarding Twitter is that it would be a highly effective means of tweeting assignments or additional resources via links to my students. Not the most original idea. However, as a student, if I don’t want to deal with school for a moment, I can ignore emails or my agenda.
This is where Samsung and their new creation come in. It’s hard to ignore a watch. Sure, maybe students ditch the watch during gym class or practice. Yet, accessories are in right now. Our nation, in all its capitalistic glory, is clearly very concerned with accessories and materialism. Perfect. Essentially, this new creation, along with the use of Twitter, can be seen as the most effective assignment planner available. Give it time for the price to go down, and other cellular companies to produce similar products, and teachers have an open line if you will into students lives. We can be like Zordon, and our students Power Rangers. Picture this scenario for instance. A student is at home, being less than productive watching television or playing video games, and all of a sudden…….Beep beep beep. They glance at their wrist and see that I, Zordon if you will, have just sent out a Tweet reminding students of an assignment due the next day. Hard to ignore something wrapped snugly around your wrist. Pretty awesome right?
In today’s educational system, students are very focused on grades. It’s the system we designed as a culture, so this should not come as a surprise. In work, school and even social circles, students (all citizens really) are being evaluated and given grades or status based on performance. But do students really understand how they earned their grade? Often times, a paper or project will be handed back to the student with instructor comments and a grade. That’s great. Students were given a task and consequently received a mark that is supposed to stand for the entirety of their work. Is it really surprising then that students appear disinterested in what is being assigned? Imagine spending hours of time on a task or assignment and then having the entirety of your effort relegated to a single letter or number. Frustrating, no?
To combat this problem, a push towards rubrics has been taking place in the classroom. A key part of students seeking certification for teaching is the EdTPA. In this evaluation, students must construct a grading rubric for the assignment they are required to design. While members of the educational community may fall anywhere on the spectrum regarding their approval or disapproval of the Common Core, the benefits of rubrics as a tool of assessment is undeniable. Rubrics not only allow students to focus on the key elements of the task at hand, they provide students with a wealth of knowledge in regards to the aspects of the assignment in which they struggled or succeeded. Rather than being given a summative grade, rubrics provide students with a more specific breakdown of their efforts. That way, students can zero in on their strengths and weaknesses as writers, or better yet, authors. Summative grades are ambiguous at best and do little to reinforce strengths, but rather highlight deficits.
Designing and assembling a rubric can be daunting. The process requires that a teacher give careful consideration to the elements of the structure that they value most. That way, students have a much more effective map or guide for the assignment as rubrics should be handed out before students begin the task of completing the assignment. In order to create a coherent, effective rubric, many teachers may choose to use Microsoft Word or some other word processor. However, in today’s digital era, there are a plethora of resources available to aspiring and current teachers alike. Rcampus.com, (the logo above will take you there) which I briefly mentioned in a previous post, is an incredible resource (FREE!!!!) available online. Sign-up literally takes under 10 minutes. As a member of this group, teachers have a variety of rubric designs available to pick and choose from. The format of a rubric can be frustrating to design as a Word document, yet with this site, all a teacher has to do is type. That’s right, the format and weighting scales are provided. To create a rubric, an instructor is required to address and provide the criteria for specific levels of the rubric. Rubric templates allow for users to expand or shrink the number of criteria, and users can also assign particular weights to each category. If a certain criteria on the rubric is deemed more important by teacher, they can weight it accordingly. With the rubric formed, a teacher merely has to assign the particular scores a student receives for each criterion and Rcampus.com will calculate the total score for them! This is a small sample of how an individual can utilize this site. There are also portfolio builders, and once the portfolios are built, instructors can submit and create a digital storage space for student work.
I could go on and on about the features of this website as you can realistically construct a virtual classroom by utilizing all features of the website. I will not however as that would diminish the importance of rubrics. They are essential in a classroom today. If we want to create a generation of critical readers, then they must be able to critically evaluate their own work. That is a difficult task when provided with so little feedback. Thus, the importance of rubrics is greater than ever before.
For my digital literacy unit overview, I focused on the tabloid as a multimodal construction. I compared its own genre with that of a broadsheet or more traditional newspaper. I feel that in analyzing the different stylistic choices made by the editor, students will be able to better conceive the particular ways an author may try to impose a message on viewers. The class would spend a good deal of time in the computer lab (hopefully, without fighting other teachers for lab time usage). Students would be able to research material independently, as well as is classroom discussion.
The genre of the tabloid tends to have very discernible, messages and themes. Therefore, I thought it would be an nice entry point into conceptualizing digital literacy. As tabloid images are often edited to suit their purpose, students being asked to create their own tabloid cover would need a Web 2,0 Application to assist their photo editing. To this end, I researched several online photo apps until I discovered FotoFlexer. This app seemed to have the best variety and ease of access to editing tools. Therefore, I incorporated it into the unit plan.
While constructing my rubric, I signed up for a free rubric building website. Rcampus.com is a rubric, template building site available to teachers and students alike. It was very accessible and an exciting find. Check out my unit plan overview here!