Friday, July 18, 2014

#ANEW14 Day 2

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening exploring the museum and DC, so an early morning reflection on yesterday's learning.

We began by examining the work of Jacob Riis to determine if a more compelling message was made with images or with text.  See the activity on Pinterest.  Next, we went into the museum to examine the News for All exhibit, which demonstrates the diversity of American news media.  Our task was to find two examples of persuasive arguments and to share them.  I shared a runaway slave ad and this cartoon.

Our archivist joined us again, this time to show us the story of women's suffrage, as told via the news.  It was so cool to see not only the words of suffragettes, but also what was said about NOT giving suffrage.  Our task was to create an image using text and pictures either for or against the movement.  I created:

I love the image and interpret it as questioning the ways women will use their votes.

We enjoyed lunch out on the museum's terrace.  This was such a beautiful way to eat and enjoy, but from my seat facing the museum, I was captivated by the news ticker.  The news was grim; a plane was shot down and the Ukraine was blamed, the Gaza strip was a mess, and the White House was on lockdown.  My husband texted, asking if I'd heard about the plane to which I (not sarcastically!!) replied "Yes. I'm in a news museum."

After lunch, we explored more ways to use media.  We were given a (presumably fictional) community service project and were given the task of creating a media message to garner community support using facts and quotes.  Interestingly, most groups used video to communicate the message.

Then, we were given time to collaborate again on our lesson plan development.  I'm struggling with the idea of creating something new (in researching, I discovered that not only has our idea been done many many times, but that there is also a new book exploring the topic.  Sweet.)  but also meaningful for my class next year.

After the sessions were over, I explored the Newseum!
There was an exhibit about how free the press is in various parts of the world.  What a powerful image, and the next one explains what we see:

The Ed Murrow exhibit:

And a friend and I explored the DC Mall after dinner.  My favorite shot (I didn't take many, since my phone battery was certainly on its last legs):

I'm excited for day 3!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

#ANEW14 Day 1!

Today was the first day of my experience at the Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute.  While my head is swimming, I've already been exposed to a lot of resources and how to incorporate them into my classroom.

When I applied for the Institute, my goal was to find ways to better engage my students in American History, but the Media teacher hiding in me (how much fun that one year was!) is super excited about the deconstruction of media and how the media creates messages for consumption.

The day started in the exhibits.  One group went upstairs to see the First Amendment and News History galleries, while my group visited a Civil Rights gallery (some of the resources from the Civil Rights gallery can be explored here).  Our task was to consider how the media can shape public perception of a social movement.  I was amazed and excited by considering this exhibit in this way.  The images are compelling:

All images from Newseum.

These images don't capture the message of media's shaping the public's perception, because at the beginning, I selected these images because of either the idea of power/police presence, or racial separation.  But this got an idea kicking around....

We then broke for lunch.  As a teacher used to cramming it all in in twenty minutes, I had some time to go explore the museum.  They have a really great exhibit on Pictures of the Year.  I didn't take pictures of these, but they are amazing.  The photos were broken into a number of categories; the most striking were tucked in a corner:  natural disasters and terrorism.  While there was a beautiful photo of a lion, and a super focused photo of a professional football player, the humanity that was captured in these photos is astonishing.

Next, one of Newseum's archivists came in to share some more Civil Rights era resources.  These were all print resources, from newspapers to magazines, and included an 1808 newspaper page that included both runaway slave ads and an ad for the sale of "two-hundred Congo slaves."  The idea here was to construct a museum exhibit using four of these pieces; what a great lesson this was!  As I thought more about what we were doing, it made me think of a course I took in college about the creation of memory.  What a great starting point for students to have a conversation about which stories we tell and which we omit, how we construct the story of American history.

We next were given the opportunity to meet with another teacher to plan a lesson using Newseum's resources.  My partner and I went up to explore the First Amendment and News History gallery, and threw out a bunch of ideas.  A lot of them didn't work out, between the reality of the resources or the execution of our ideas, but we decided to focus on a common unit we teach and to create a lesson plan that uses the resources to explore how the media was used to create the social/political/economic movement of the American Revolution.  In this context, we found a bunch of super interesting newspaper sources that work so well for this theme.  We found a Pennsylvania newspaper that stopped printing in protest of the Stamp Act.  A political cartoon (which I've used in class) drawn by Paul Revere in response to the Intolerable Acts.  A description of Lexington and Concord as "unmolested, unprovoked, wantonly and in a most inhuman manner..."  I think we have a great plan put together, so the next step is to go through all the resources and put it all together!

We also went outside to check out the view:

What a great day!

Check out the tweet archive.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Wow, wow, wow!  I didn't really plan on going to Flipcon this year, though the timing worked out perfectly.  My husband wasn't going this year due to the insane number of snow days this year, and while it took some juggling, we were able to get childcare so I could go!

I got to spend the six long hours of the drive across Pennsylvania with Kate Baker, who also kindly shared her hotel room with me.

In those six hours, we talked about pretty much everything you could think of, from school to family to the doggie in the window I'd been eyeing.

I was super excited to meet some rockstars.  I mean, come on, hanging out with and learning from people I have so much respect for, but only know virtually?  I was thrilled to meet people I knew virtually, and it was awesome to shake hands and thank Brian Bennett for helping me back when I began my journey, but making new friends, creating new connections, and getting new perspectives was even better.

There was a ton of social/networking time, and despite being a last minute registration, I was able to purchase a ticket to the Carnegie Science Center event for more fun and networking.

But the real learning was in the sessions.

The keynote was Molly Schneider, who spoke about Living in Beta, being willing to TRY and maybe FAIL, but to use "moonshot thinking."  This is the whole point of 20% Projects, and I need to be willing to TRY using 20% in the coming year in my core courses.

We then had a breakout session of sorts, in which we had time to speak with our subject area peers.  Great resources were shared in the Social Studies session, and I found it really helpful to just be in the room with folks of varying comfort levels with flipping.  Folks were there who've written the book on flipping in Social Studies, and folks were there just wanting to know how to get started.  I felt like I was in the perfect spot, being able to get AND GIVE help.  YAY!

I was really inspired by the session run by Andrew Thomasson and Cheryl Morris, Fostering Creativity in the Flipped Classroom. See, I try to make opportunities for my students to be creative, individual, and to show their learning in ways that work best for them, but I know I don't do it super.  I loved their reminder to do the flip as a gradual release, and to not assume anything about student skill levels.  These two things account for a lot of the struggles I faced in the past school year.  I also really appreciated their points about revision and remembering that learning is a process.  

This session led my brain to wandering, and I started thinking about assessment.  How do we assess student learning in a not multiple choice focused class?  How do we give grades?  And, how do we as teachers of likely more than 100 students, keep it all manageable?  I thought a lot about my first grader's report cards this year, and how his teacher was able to give narrative feedback.  Could *I* do that?  Could I do it for the 60 students I had in US History last year?  What about next year, when I'll likely have closer to 100 students?  I don't know about making it meaningful and manageable, but what better way to focus on the process and to communicate to parents and students that we are a learning TEAM?

I learned so much that I can see using right away next year, though, from Crystal Kirch's presentation on "The Whisk" (it's really WSQ, but it's said like Whisk).  Check out her blog post to not only see resources and goals of the session, but the tweets from the session.  Neat!  

Crystal and I, cause I roll with the name-drop.
I loved this session because it confirmed a lot of the things I tried this year (Google Form content checks and Daily Learning Journals for students to communicate where they're struggling and also let me know how their day went), but more importantly, gave me ideas on how to clarify, simplify, and just make my process all around better.

So my head has been swimming, trying to wrap around all that I learned and experienced.  You can see the collaborative session notes from other attendees here.  And if you'd like to see all the tweets tagged with #flipcon14, check out, thanks to Brian Bennett for creating the link.  Finally, see all the shared photos in the FlipCon shared picture folder, created by Crystal Kirch.

Last, but decidedly not least, was the announcement for Flipcon in 2015.  In July!  My husband and I will be fighting it out to see which of us gets to go next time....

In short, this was an incredible experience.  I'm so thankful to my husband for encouraging me to go and being the person on the ground making it happen on the family management side.  I'm not feeling alone in this, that others have gone through all the same pitfalls, and that there are tools for me to be successful.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


This weekend, I attended Edcampphilly once again.  I'd hoped I'd escaped the wandering photog's eye, but no dice!
Photo Credit:  Kevin Jarrett (
I somehow found myself wearing my shy hat once again.  On the car ride in, Marc Seigel, Kate Baker, and I discussed a plan for leading a session together, but it didn't work out.  My confidence is way down, and I am very much in a don't have anything good to share place.

So, I went to a bunch of sessions.  I found out some really cool things Google has developed, thanks to Google Meister Rich Kiker.  I'll pretty much go to anything Rich is presenting, so I completely got what I came for in the first session.  Here's my notes from the session.  I really like the theme he centered his demo on; the idea that we should no longer prepare our students to use a particular platform (Office, for example) but rather teach them the skills so they can use whatever platform is thrust on them (Google Apps, for example).

From there, I bounced around a lot.  It was hard for me to find sessions to attend.  I chose not to go to the session on 20% time, since I'm already doing that.  I probably should have, since I would have gotten some ideas on how others are doing it so I could improve, but I went to something else.

Lunch was a delicious visit to the Shake Shack.  Yum.  So glad we found a large group going there since it didn't come up in my searching.

On our ride home, we talked a lot about how being Edcamp old-hats (oldies?), we've discovered that there are usually more folks new to Edcamp than those who've been to at least one before.  It really changes the dynamic of the day, and we need to participate in the sessions differently.  It's easy to sit in a session and take the learning, but it's tough (especially when I'm wearing my "shove Baby in the corner" hat) to lead one.   So, to somehow find that confidence to lead and share, or to find some ideas to start a conversation, or to find some takeaways to share with others!

Friday, March 28, 2014

20% Project for me...

In our Humanities elective class, students work on semester (or so) long 20% Projects.  (You can see what they're working on at; please leave comments!)

I have not formally completed a 20% Project, however, have been inspired to pursue different interests such as triathlon training again, this time for an ocean swim.  Eek!

Something that has always made me nervous as a Social Studies teacher has been the novel.  I'm nervous that I wouldn't teach it well, that the students are too overwhelmed to bother reading it anyway, that I'd overlap the English curriculum too much, etc, etc, etc.  But today I introduced that we will be reading dystopian novels.  I told the students that I'm trying something new.  We discussed what IS a dystopia, and which books they've read or heard of that would be considered dystopic (Wikipedia has a great list by decade).

Of course, there's the hugely popular novels being made into movies right now.  Surely lots of them will be reading this.  My hope is that they will read these novels, because they're fun to read, but also to be more engaged in our discussion of dystopia and utopia too.

My vision is that the activity will borrow heavily from Katrina Kennett's Edcafes.  I'm nervous because they'll potentially be reading five or six different novels, and I worry that it just won't work.  I fear that it will require way more of my leadership than I envision.  And, of course, I fear that my original reasons for never teaching a novel will all come true.

We'll see how it goes; fingers crossed!

Of course, it wouldn't be a 20% Project if I wasn't reading too.  I consulted this list on Goodreads and will be reading The Handmaid's Tale.

It is the book highest on the list that I have not read (aside from Fahrenheit 451) and has been on my to be read list for practically forever.  Fortunately, a teacher is my school teaches it, so I have easy access to a copy too!