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:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1SmgLtg1Izw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
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.