UbD Wiki: Summaries

Miguel Guhlin has joined the UbD Educators wiki and wants your help.  He is posting UbD chapter summaries and wants input from other wiki members.

I want to ask wiki members a question: Miguel suggested that we unlock those summary pages to allow nonmembers to participate.  What do you think?  My idea was that allowing editing by wiki members only would prevent vandalism, but it also closes participation — I have not denied membership to anyone, nor do I plan to (unless they join then vandalize the wiki, which seems unlikely), so perhaps the point is moot.

Check out the summaries and add your thoughts.  I’m really excited about Miguel’s work and plan to begin adding my own ideas this weekend.

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UbD Educators: Suggestions?

I have mentioned before that the UbD Educators wiki has grown quiet.  I think there may be two reasons for this:

  • We’re all busy educators who have difficulty finding the time to create, post, and/or comment on others’ posted UbD units.
  • We’re not getting what we need out of the wiki.

It’s not in my power to alleviate the first problem, and believe me, I hear you there.  However, the second problem is much easier to address.  The wiki is only as good as we make it.  If you need a feature that the wiki doesn’t have, add it.  If you have trouble keeping up with new pages and discussions, try subscribing to the site’s various RSS feeds (you can keep up with all changes or just changes to one page).  If you want to make a change, but you aren’t sure, ask the wiki members about it on the Suggestions page.  the majority of the wiki’s members have not yet contributed either unit plans or discussions.  I want to hear your voice!  I don’t mind lurkers, but we have the potential to make this wiki a huge repository of ideas and discussion about UbD, and we can only do that through teacher contributions.

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Happy New Year

This year, I had the opportunity to teach British literature for the first time — the course that made me want to teach English — and I had a wonderful time.  I will be handing the course over to a colleague, and I hope she will enjoy it, too.

I also had the opportunity to go on a trip with the juniors last January.

My students collaborated with the Reflective Teacher’s class on a Holocaust project and with students at Neveh Channah Torah High School for Girls on a Israel/Judaism project.

I had the opportunity to meet up with other edubloggers at EduBloggerCon.

I was delighted to be invited to blog with Grant Wiggins.  My teaching practices were transformed by his book with writing partner Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design, and I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments this year that the UbD Educators wiki was established, even if it became somewhat quiet.  I hope it will catch on, and I still occasionally receive requests to join it.

In the coming year, it is my hope that my proposal for a course centered around Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces will be accepted and that I will be teaching British literature again.  I would also love the opportunity to participate in more Flat Classroom projects with other schools and teachers — interested parties feel free to contact me.  I am looking forward to reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman as part of an online PLU course I am taking beginning next week.

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The Faculty Room

Meg Fitzpatrick, editor of of the UbD e-journal Big Ideas, invited me to contribute to both the e-journal and a new blog they are announcing today: The Faculty Room. Please come on over and join in our conversations (my first post on the blog should appear some time tomorrow). You will find other “familiar faces” over there. Also, now seems as good a time as any to remind you that the UbD Educators wiki is a good resource for you to post, share, “borrow,” and obtain or leave feedback on UbD lesson plans.

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The Best Laid Plans

Some weeks ago, I shared exciting news that my students were collaborating with a girls’ school in Israel on a joint wiki writing project. Just as we got our wikis off the ground, a teachers’ strike in Israel put our plans on hold. The strike has now lasted more than a month. If it is not resolved before the winter break in about three weeks, the project will be on hold indefinitely as my students will be writing a research paper from January to March.

I know that the teachers I am working with are saddened about this turn of events, and I think we all agree that the timing of our collaboration was unfortunate in light of the strike. However, I think our situation poses an interesting lesson for all of us who are interested in embarking upon global collaboration in our classrooms.

What do we do when the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley?

And what does it say about the project that the kids are still chatting through the discussion area of the wiki and friending each other on Facebook even though the project is on hiatus?

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GISA Conference

I went to the annual Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Annual Conference today.  I ate lunch with Megan; it’s cool to see connections I made through this blog become “real-life” connections as well.  Incidentally, Megan presented a session on using social bookmarking (such as del.icio.us).  The two sessions I went to were very interesting (which hasn’t always been the case at GISA — the session I presented last year included): Fantasy Literature (teaching The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter along with Campbell’s ideas about the journey of the hero) and Blogs and Wikis in the Classroom.  Frankly, I confess I went to the latter to see if a) it would be better than the session I presented last year (it was), b) what the presenters would say.  I did not expect to learn about anything new.  Of course, I did learn about some things that were new to me, at any rate.

One thing that interested me in particular about the Fantasy Literature session was that so many other schools already have this class as an elective.  A teacher from Pace Academy shared his successes teaching the course to 8th graders, and a teacher from Griffin Christian High School shared that he teaches The Lord of the Rings for the first semester of 9th grade, teaching all the literary terms, etc., through the context of that work.  I taught The Hobbit one year — when I was a student teacher, in fact — and I found that students in general didn’t like it much, but I think as part of an elective, it would be a different crowd.  Frankly, I could see myself really enjoying such a class.

The blogs and wikis session introduced me to Voice Thread, which Megan mentioned also at lunch.  I imagine if you hear about something twice in such a short span of time, someone’s trying to send a message.  For the uninitiated, Voice Thread is online software that allows users to create documentaries using images and creating narration to accompany the images.  Check out this sample of its use: Slavery in America (by Jeff Morrison’s middle school students at the Lovett School).  Jeff (one of the presenters) also introduced us to TrackStar, which somehow went under my radar, even though I’ve used 4Teachers‘ other service RubiStar to create rubrics.

I am thinking about ways I might integrate some of these resources with my current projects — The Canterbury Tales and The Odyssey.  You can view Jeff’s wiki, which has links to a bunch of sources he shared with us.

One of my favorite parts of Jeff’s presentation was a video he shared:

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

As Jeff said, that is what it is like to teach.  Especially middle school.

By the way, I am now receiving e-mails when comments are posted.  I kept my eyes on the WordPress Support forums’ thread related to my problem, and eventually, someone posted a solution that worked for me.  I uploaded a plugin created to work around the problem.

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Flat Judaism?

Many of my students feel a strong connection to Israel and have visited Israel at least once.  Some of my students are Israeli.  When an opportunity for my students to work with students in Israel on a “flat classroom” type of project, I jumped at the chance.  I am pleased to introduce you to our project, which I am calling “Faces of Judaism.”  Together with the Neveh Channah Torah High School for Girls, my students at the Weber School are exploring their Jewish identity through writing.  Some questions guiding our exploration:

  • What does it mean to be Jewish in Israel?  In America?
  • What is my home really like from my point of view as compared with how others see it or portray it in the media?
  • Who am I, and how does my religion form that identity?

We are still very much in the nascent stages of our joint writing venture, and unfortunately, a teacher strike in Israel didn’t come at the most opportune time, but we are soldiering forward despite this setback.

You can check us out at the Weber Writers Wiki and Israel Faces Wiki.

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UbD Educators Wiki

Some months down the road after its creation, the UbD Educators wiki has fallen silent. I logged in today to find that neither changes nor discussions had taken place in the last 30 days. Yikes!

I take part of the blame upon myself. Having five preps leaves me, ironically, with not much time to plan, particularly now as National Honor Society business has take up much of my time.

Update, 4:45: I have a draft of the lesson for my Canterbury Tales unit up now.

Well, at any rate, I invite new folks to join in, quiet members to speak up, and previously active members (such as myself) to become active again. I think this kind of professional development, sadly, is much more valuable and important than much of what teachers normally get. I’m only sad I can’t get you PLU credits for it.

I’m going to start with a unit on The Canterbury Tales. Wish me luck, but give me time to finish it before you comment.

See you over there.

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Project: Utopia

Orwell StreetMy students began presenting their utopian (or dystopian?) projects (based on this UbD unit for Brave New World).

First of all, I think it was a fun project.  The students worked hard on it, for the most part, but I think I gave them too much time.  I noticed they got most of the work done the last two days.  I think I was afraid that learning how to use wikis would take them longer than it actually did.  Next time, I think I’ll make it a week-long project and leave it at that.  Also, I think in the future that I’ll require the students to create wikis.  I gave them more options this time, but I really liked the wiki format for constructing this project.

The students gave me permission to share their wikis with you.

Two more groups will present on Monday when our class meets again.

Image credit: LGagnon.

[tags]utopia, brave new world, dystopia, project, writing, english, education, literature[/tags]

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Web 2.0

I’m kind of confused.

I thought I knew what Web 2.0 was, and frankly I was and am excited about some of the possibilities it holds for my students, particularly wikis.

But I’m going to admit after reading Clay’s post here, and Will’s post here, I’m not sure anymore.

What do we really want to accomplish with Web 2.0 technologies?  What do you think Clay and Will are saying?  (And I’d encourage you to continue the conversation on their blogs as well as mine, as I’m not sure they’ll see it here if you have something to address to them personally.)

[tags]web 2.0, wikis, education[/tags]

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