Friday, March 23, 2012

Brazilian History & Culture .... Video project with online peer feedback

I was very happy to be in Adriana Monti's  Brazilian History & Culture class for a video project she was doing on a press conference about the Kaiowa and Kaapor Indians. We had been talking for a while about some tech project possibilities, so this video project became her debut in many technological skills for which she is very proud now.
The press conference was a very interesting format as she had different groups preparing to be the Indians and other groups preparing to be the press with specific questions. The pairing of Indians and press was decided on the spot and students had to go off and video record the Q&A press conference using the internalized knowledge from the research. Most groups worked independently on the video editing requiring very few tips from me.

As I saw the project developing, my suggestion was to have the videos online so students could check anytime anywhere and could also make comments. We created a Google Site for the BHC class with a page just for this press conference project where the students embedded their videos from individual Youtube Channels (set as unlisted - after a quick talk on digital footprints). The project page looked beautiful and Adriana also added the project guidelines and Rubric that we brainstormed together.

So during the video presentations, the students had their laptops opened on the site's project page and were asked to add comments about the quality of the presentation in terms of content and video format. The idea was to allow everyone to contribute. Students were very engaged in the comments, and some provided many feedback details. Just one or two made jokes in the comment section which were not bad but prompted some laughing from others. Students also engaged in oral comments at the end of each video.

After the presentations, I asked the students to comment on the experience of making live comments. Many said it was good to do it at the same time as the video was playing as they would not forget some details. I asked them if they felt live comment were distracting as there were a few students laughing at each others' comments. Just a couple of students said it was distracting for them.

After debriefing the project with Adriana, I suggested the use of a Google Form embedded on the site to allow live comments without seeing each other's. Another option will be asking for comments only after the video is done. So we will see how it turns out on  another opportunity. This was an experiment to push the boundaries a little bit, taking the video to an online venue that allows different types of interaction, as well as the face-to-face ones. Adriana and I also discussed a rubric for this project that addresses the content knowledge and some of  skills present in the video format that would be appropriate for this specific experience. In the next video project for PFL we will be thinking about requirements and rubric ahead of time. based on this experience. Good job!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grade 9 Biology .... Stop Motion Video for Cell Division

Academic Technology Coordinator and teacher partnerships can take different forms and operate at different levels. The Cell Division project in Grade 9 Biology using stop motion video is one example. The teachers and I were able to have quick chats about a project and with an idea of what the project was about I could provide a sample suggestion for teachers to consider and explore in class. The teachers and students worked independently, and actually, when I stepped into a class I was very pleased to see how students figured it our and had many creative ways of carrying on the project.
So all started last semester, when Karem Doersam approached me with the idea of doing her animated cell division using stop motion technology. In past years, she had asked the students to make drawings on a paper notebook and animate by flipping the pages. Now she wanted to do the same process with the support of technology. She had also asked Karin Gunn who shared a site that she created about stop motion:
So doing a bit of research and looking at Karin's site (which is great!), I could see that to make a proper or professional looking stop motion video you needed a video camera setup with lights and also specialized software. Thinking about the focus on student learning, which was cell division in this case, my proposal for class was to make it easier and flexible for the students. Why not let students use personal digital devices like cellphones, iPads, laptop webcams, or the school  flip cameras to take pictures of drawings made on paper or any other media, then add the pictures to a video editor? To illustrate my idea to the teacher I created a very simple and quick "cell animation" using the paper notepad on my desk, my iPhone and Windows Movie Maker. It took me just a few minutes to do all that and the result is the sample movie below. As I did not make many drawings to show small changes in motion, it does not look so smooth but still works as an animation.

Mariana Ro also approached me later and we talked a bit about the project and my suggestion for simple stop motion video. Both teachers then decided for the simple approach to stop motion. The next trick was to get students to add their voice recording to describe cell division as it was happening. I helped to distribute headsets in a class so students could record their voices over the Movie Maker or iMovie stop motion video so it was easily synchronized with the motion. With a good headset students can do that even in a class with other students. The two videos below showcase the resulting student work for this project. In the first video, the student does an amazing job as a narrator (speaking as if she was the cell herself!)  In the second video, animation is more clear at some points specially at the beginning. 

Thinking about this project now, I am considering how we can keep the sense of motion when the students/narrator has to stay on an explanation about a specific stage. One way to do that would be to add many more drawings showing the next motion in a much slower pace. Karem had suggested using the small whiteboads for that as it would be easier to erase parts of the drawing and make very small changes. The same effect could be done on an iPad where it is easy to make free hand drawings, with the advantage of being able to save each drawing in the process. Another option could be just  make the "cell walls" move a bit and/or have little things float around as if showing the real cells environment. That might represent less work for the students and still give the sense of motion. But that will be a next step on my partnership with the teachers as I need their feedback on this idea, discussing options for a next project like this...

Coming back to this post after  researching a bit more on stop motion in order to provide feedback to the teachers....    I just came across this conference article on Creating Active Minds in our Science and Mathematics Students, from the University of Sydney. It discusses how university students rote learn facts and how important it is for them to actually manipulate concepts, so the use of what they call "slowmation" (slow animation) provides that manipulation factor.  The site created by Garry Hoban, the professor who wrote the article, provides "how to guides" for easily creating stop motion videos using only 2 images per second (that's why it is called slowmation). ... So  here is the benefit to student learning from a technology that is nowadays accessible and easy to use, as opposed to how it was in the past. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Diigo Social Bookmarking and Note Taking is simmering ...

Last week we had a workshop on what I called "Online Collaborative Resources Database".  That is a pretty big name for "social bookmarking".  But the purpose of that big name was to highlight the features of the tool instead of the tool. As it collects bookmarks, notes, images, it becomes a database of resources for a group of people connected to this database. As it is online, it can be accessed anytime anywhere (better than computer-based bookmarks or favorites).  As it allows collaboration, it fosters a great 21st century skill. On top of all that, Diigo allows for collaborative highlighting of bookmarked webpages.

Last year, History Internal Assessment experimented with Diigo as a resource database for students. The idea was for each student to add to Diigo bookmarks as they found a good resource, attaching a short note on what the resource was about and tagging it to facilitate later reference. Tagging as a group required students to be mindful of what their peers were doing. So if anyone used the tag "WWII", the next one using this topic had to utilize exact same tag. This process of group tagging is called folksonomy.
After last week's workshop, Amaral will explore using Diigo for collective note taking, and it will be interesting to see how students get organized and collaborate in such an environment, and how they use collective notes. Shormila is considering using Diigo to eliminate paper in pre-class reading assignments. With Diigo, she can easily go around the class and check readings with highlights, that can be shared with her by the students.
Diigo is also perfect for our own bookmarks organization. Now I have all my bookmarks on Diigo.  As you are searching on the web and find an interesting article, you can highlight what you find important and keep that on Diigo. You can also use Diigo for your Department, so the contributions of each teacher can generate a richer resources database.