Surfing Safari

As I submit my final project, I’m still working on the unit in the classroom. For various reasons, the timing just didn’t quite work out, but we are about 92.7% finished.  Throughout the unit, the ideas have swelled, broken, and reformed.  They continue to come in waves.  I have so many ideas of where this project could go and how it could grow in the future.  The fun part is, most of those who are involved do too.  Its been a great experience.

The definite changes that will be coming along in the future are creating more roles for the students in developing the structure of the project.  I think it would be great to have students involved in the scheduling of interviews, the creation of the website, cataloging interviews, promoting the project and creating some sort of celebration at the end to showcase what they’ve created.  There’s a lot of potential there for differentiation and even passion projects.  Students could be involved in design projects, logistics, all sorts of things.

Ironically, the biggest issue we faced un this project was the technology.  Thankfully, not on the instructional side.  The students’ involvement and use of technology was great.  The structure of the project, the timing, participation all of that was easy.  It was dealing with the files that were created in a way that allows for longevity that has given us the most headaches.  As of the time I’m typing this we still have an error message appearing when the files are accessed in Chrome (it seems to be ok in Safari).  Images work fine, but if you click on an audio file on the map below, you’ll probably get a warning from Chrome.  Its safe though.  I promise.

On the other hand, this has provided a learning experience as well.  I’ve been able to have discussions with students about the handling of files, naming protocols, all kinds of issues I didn’t expect. As you might notice, the map is still a work in progress as students update and format their pins.  This is a result of  files being created, needing to be renamed and relocated.  We’re working through it. At the suggestion of students, once the map is completely updated, it will be split into two maps one highlighting the student’s work around their communities and one for the interviews and where students call home.

I could ramble on and on about this project and what I’d like to see happen with it. I honestly think it could become an entire semester of work, but I won’t go there. My video and some resources are below.



Below I’ve attached:

my original unit planner

and our working document for tasks for this project.

I have to say I’m quite happy to get this project wrapped up.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my COETAIL experience and the challenges it presented.  However, I must admit to be happy closing this chapter of my own learning.  I’d forgotten how demanding it can be to take classes while teaching classes.  Throw in moving over to a new job and raising a couple of kids while still trying to find some time for playing with my friends and its exhausting.  But I’m truly thankful for the learning and connections I’ve made throughout the course.

Let’s go surfing now…

Surfing Time

Light Up The Sky

And so it would seem that we have come full circle.  My very first post for COETAIL described the Long Strange Trip to my PLN.  Now that we are coming to the end, its time to revisit this magical group of people who qualify me as a connected educator and help me continue to grow and learn.

So, what does it mean to be connected?

flickr photo by GotCredit shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo Connect by GotCredit  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

It means after struggling alone in the dark with a pile of ideas, wondering if they are going to work and finally finding the secret that lights up the night.  My PLN is full of educators and non-educators Who are happy to provide feedback.  Honest feedback.  The kind that helps.  They’re supportive when I need it but also challenge me to think about the other side of things or look at something in a different way.  They are filled with fantastic imaginations, incredible resources and a never ending dose of positivity.

It means linking up with others that do similar jobs so that you can work together and be more efficient.  I’ve recently found #ISEdCoach that has become a fantastic resource for coaching tips and articles to read.  I even helped to moderate a chat at one point this past year.

It means finding a bit of sunshine on a rainy day.  My friends from #BFC530, the original chat that got me involved in Twitter, are always full of positivity.  There’s someone popping up in my feed just saying hello or checking in wondering how things are going.  Its pretty amazing to have friends that actually know a few things about you even though you’ve never actually met.

It means running into a wall throwing out a rope and your friends pulling you over.  I’ve been on the receiving end of so many generous gestures of sharing information.  From everything I could ever need to plan an EdCamp to a folder full of over a dozen examples of job descriptions my PLN has come through when I needed it.

Case in point.

My original intention for this post was to include some animated GIFs. I really wanted to use Chevy Chase lighting up his house in Christmas Vacation.  Because, you know, that was a big connection.

But then I started wondering about citations and fair use for animated GIFs made with copyrighted material.  Enter my PLN.



and finally…

PLN Helping


That was only a portion of the conversation.  Ideas and thoughts continued to trickle in over the course of a couple of days.  It turns out there’s a lot of grey around the idea.  No one had a clear answer.  In the end I decided to steer clear.

My Connection

Over the past two years I’ve also continued my work developing the #AfricaEd chat.  Its been an up and down experience for sure.  There have been weeks where I felt like the whole world was chiming in on our conversations and others when it was just me and the crickets.  But that’s part of the growth right?  If it was easy all the time, it wouldn’t be a challenge, we wouldn’t learn from it and everyone would host their own chat.

Figuring out what the hot topics are and what topics are really meaningful is a big challenge.  There are lots of feel good chats out there that allow teachers to pat each other on the back and talk about how great they are.  I’m hoping to create a bit deeper conversation about best practice and the changes that need to occur.  Then discuss how we make that happen.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Some weeks I’m sure I’ve got a winner and it just doesn’t go anywhere.

Today was a good one though and #coetail even got several mentions. It may have only been three or four of us in the conversation but it was quality and how else do you have a semi-asynchronus conversation between Ghana, Kuwait, Qatar and Ethipoia?

So where does this leave us? For one it leaves us quite connected.

My Profile
My Profile

I’ve got over a thousand colleagues at my finger tips (ok, some of those might be sports stars and musicians and such) to confer and with which to  learn.

But most importantly, I think it leaves us happy, well rounded and with friends from around the world.


Oh, and then there’s this. I had to have one GIF after all that conversation…

Taking a brain break
Taking a brain break


Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Its always a challenge to work on a project that relies on creating a project with others that will be completed by someone else who has to ask another group for their participation in order to complete the project.  Huh?

It creates a bit of a tangled web of planners, participants and producers that looks something like this chart.

Photo By Me
Photo By Me

The ship was feeling a little crowded and seemed to be drifting at sea from time to time in search of land.   But, I think it has finally righted itself and we are headed for open water.  We’ve passed through the Straits of Longterm Digital Storage Solutions, made it through the Doldrums of Spring Break and Conferences and are entering the Seas of Productivity.

The students have been working on developing their recording and storytelling skills along the way through a series of assignments adapted from the Out Of Eden Learning project that my colleague Andy has been using in his 6th grade classes, the #HearMyHome project, that I stumbled upon on Twitter and had hoped to have our classes participate in but didn’t find the time, and of course our own amazing imaginations.

As you can see below, students have started sharing some of their work as a way to introduce themselves to our audience.

The process has been a bit of a struggle as we’ve been waiting on our IT department to set up some server space to ensure long term storage for our content.  You see, I realised as this project got underway for the second year, that all of the audio from last year’s interviews was linked to individual student’s Google accounts.  Rookie mistake.  I’m in the process of downloading all of the audio and making copies of their documents so that parts don’t begin to disappear as students leave and their accounts are disabled.

It has been a bigger challenge than it seems it should be to develop not only a storage solution, but a work flow that makes sense as well.  We went through several different scenarios that would have required uploads, changing of ownerships and multiple account managements.  I’m all for helping students develop their tech skills, but with each step that is added to the process the chances of something going wrong increases.  We needed a way to create URLs to link images and audio to our site and to the maps that we are creating.

As you will find if you start clicking around on the map, some students found ways to embed their info and images and others just added a link. We want to develop a little more consistency, and now that we have a storage solution, I think we can. Eventually this map will include layers of audio and photo content created by the students about their own communities.

We start recording interviews next week and that’s when the real work begins. I’m excited.


Turn, Turn, Turn

Life is a process of change. Without change, life is impossible.  Once you accept that with joy, there is no fear. – Thich Nhat Hanh

flickr photo by Moyan_Brenn shared under a Creative Commons (BY) licenseI came across this quote in the past couple of weeks and as I was planning today, it popped back into my head.  If we substitute “teaching” for “life” I think it sums up our jobs.  I’ll be honest here, the planning part has never been my biggest strength.  I like to work in the moment with rough outlines and ideas.  I’m not going to claim that I do this without fear, but I do feel that it has made me a better teacher.  I’ve grown to be ok with the days that the lesson doesn’t go quite as planned or when we spontaneously take a 10 minute break to watch the sandstorm that just swept over our campus.  

The winds of change are blowing all over this final project.  I thought I had a fantastic plan nailed down for our oral history project this year, but I keep coming up with ideas I want to try out.  Oh, and I’m working with another humanities teacher this year so as I bounce those ideas off of him, he inevitably has some ideas of his own.  He’s also participating in the Out of Eden Walk project with his sixth grade class, which brings new ideas to the table almost weekly.  So although the process might not be as streamlined as I’d thought it was.  I think its developing into a pretty cool project.

0075 TimeThere’s also been the issue of time in the classroom.  Our transition to this unit almost perfectly aligned with my trip to Mumbai for ASBUnplugged.  So I had a day to introduce the concepts and beginning activities and then had to leave my students to their own devices and at the mercy of a substitute.  We have this week to sort things out, and then we’re on Spring Break.  I may not be exactly where I want to be on this project, but I’m not afraid.

Here’s some of the highlights of the plan in process. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments

  • students collect photos, videos, audio recordings and journal entries of their own experiences as a teen and a student
  • these are shared via Padlet or ThingLink to encourage conversation and reflection
  • students use their peers’ photos, audio, video, to create a story of being a teen living in Ghana and attending LCS
  • students interview LCS staff and teachers about their experiences as teens and in school.
  • QR codes of teacher interviews will be placed around the school, possibly on teachers’ doors to share the interviews
  • students reflect on the similarities of their teachers’ experiences with their own
  • students reflect on the advantages and limitations of this type recorded history

I’d love to attach the day by day plan here to show you how perfectly organised it is and how nicely I see it flowing, but as they say here in Ghana, “Please. It is coming.”


flickr photo Meditation by Moyan_Brenn  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo 0075 Time by Mark Morgan Trinidad A  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


Let’s Get It Started

Its time to really start thinking about this project and getting things rolling.  Actually, I’ve been thinking about it for while, I just need to start taking some action.

Here’s an outline of my plan. I’m hoping to drastically improve last year’s oral history project that I started with my 8th grade humanities class.  It was a mild success last year, but it I walked away from the project with lots of thoughts on how to make it better.

microphone-307365_1280This year we’ll be adding a few more elements to the project that will hopefully make it more meaningful to not only the students participating, but to the community of our school as well.  The basic plan is for our students to collect stories from the staff at Lincoln Community School about their teenage years and educational experience.  We’re hoping to build a collection of stories of youth around the world and throughout different eras of history.  Our staff, like our students, is quite diverse and should provide an intriguing array of stories.

The project is part of our service learning initiative at LCS as we ultimately share this collection of recordings on a website that I created last year for this purpose.  I’m also considering giving students the option to work on redesigning the website or looking for ways to enhance it as part of the project.

I plan on beginning the project by tapping into another project that I stumbled on via Twitter.  The #hearmyhome project closely relates to some of what we are hoping to do ourselves and will provide students with an opportunity to practice recording, finding stories to share and challenging their creativity.  The hope is once we get to the point of interviewing teachers, the students will be somewhat comfortable with the process.

Throughout the project I want students thinking about several things.  One of the top ideas being: How and why is history recorded?  One of our first activities will be a reflection on a house color event we had last week.  Students competed in an obstacle course, tug of war and jump roping to earn points for their house.  We’ll use the reflection to open a discussion on perspectives and details in a story.  In a moment of what was hopefully genius, I decided, while they were sharing their stories, to ask them to go home and record their stories so that we can begin the work of creating good recordings, and telling stories.  We’ll see how this turns out.