Category Archives: 21st Century Pygmalion

Teach With video is a blog to help teachers integrate digital video projects in the classes they teach. The podcast provides tips for classroom management, unit and lesson design, and various resources to help teachers guide students toward the successful creation of curriculum-based videos.

Final Words

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This is the last of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in May 2010. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.

One of my worries as I launched this project was whether students, having access to each other’s daily NING writings, would simply read the first posting and reword an answer.  Interestingly, this was never a problem.  The students came to cultivate a kind of pride about the quality and originality of their own postings. There were even efforts to find different textual evidence for the same questions.  I also saw fewer mechanical errors even though I had told the kids that my primary consideration for daily work would be content, thoughtfulness, and preparation for class discussion.

Last night I went back to the beginning, and read through all of the NING postings.  It was fascinating to see the evolution of student thinking over the course of an academic year.  I could see some kids stumble and struggle and then find their stride, while others started strong and tapered off when the college acceptances began to arrive.  I could see the coinciding of personal and academic interests as high school began to draw to a close.  I could see some of my second language challenged students beginning to develop a voice and a point of view despite the grammatical errors.  Most of all I could see myself as a teacher, sometimes faltering – not explaining things particularly well or unwittingly communicating my own prejudices – but sometimes nailing it, providing just the right amount of inspiration to allow the kids to arrive at their own conclusions.

It’s a record of a process, not of an end product, and it’s worth the whole experience.

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Paperless Bookkeeping

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This is the sixth of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in May 2010. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.

The “bookkeeping” elements of teaching have been transformed by the laptop experience in some dramatic ways:

(1)   “The dog ate my homework” is simply not possible; NING postings are designated by date and time – you either handed it in by the due date or you didn’t.  (I did have every student create a backup file of each posting, but no one ever had to use it.)

(2)   All assignments are posted online; all schedule changes are updated daily online; all student questions about homework are posted for all sections to see, and most of the time such questions are answered by fellow students before the teacher even has a chance to get to them.

(3)   Rough drafts, revisions, and final drafts in progress are readily available for the teacher to comment upon.  I will admit that I never became comfortable grading the online documents.  The students submitted the final copies and I made hard copies to mark with my red and green Pilot pens.  Sorry, but some things will never change.

(4)   No piles of paper.  In my classroom are two tables.  Table # 1 is for my non- laptop AP English Literature class in which I have spent all year forcing the students to produce handwritten documents to prepare for the low-tech AP Exams.  Table # 1 is covered with piles of paper, some listing precariously, all destined for the recycling bins.  Table # 2 is for my laptop classes.  Set in the middle is a laptop and to the left is a small pile of final examinations – one the few handwritten assignments (along with reading quizzes) of the year.  There is probably a secure way to give exams online, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

(5)   Only a few textbooks to return (or lose) at the end of the year.  While Gulliver’s Travels and A Tale of Two Cities are available online, I just wasn’t ready to abandon paper for works of that length, so we used the texts.

Dr. Lynch’s final post will be a reflection about the entire process of going paperless.

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Prezenting the Prezi

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This is the fourth of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in early December 2009. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.

I have never been a fan of oral presentations.  By high school, students have usually done a fair number of them.  The favored mode of delivery is wooden, the information bland, the conclusions predictable.  PowerPoint has not helped much as students generally just read the power pointed items to those assembled.  Upon reflection however, one cannot imagine a language arts skill, save writing, more important to master.  Regardless of particular educational, professional, or life choices, almost every student will, at some time, be required to present material to an audience.  And as we all know, nothing is more painful and dispiriting than a poorly conceived and delivered presentation.  Armed with a disinterested sense of making a purposeful contribution to the betterment of society, I therefore decided to make “The Presentation” the focal point of our academic endeavors in Quarter I.  The content to be covered included:  (1) Joseph Campbell’s essay “The Hero’s Journey” (online); (2) A collection of assorted readings on the Anglo-Saxon warrior culture (online links); (3) the complete text of Beowulf (an online adaptation and a direct translation).  As we worked our way through the first half of the epic in class, we began to compile a list (from festivals and funerals to women and warriors) of researchable topics that were deemed worthy of our attention, and, most importantly, that we felt would help illuminate our understanding of what must certainly be considered a misty time and place. By the time Beowulf had gotten old and was preparing to fight the dragon, the students had each chosen their topics, and Steve was ready to introduce the prezi.

In a moment I will reveal the results, but let me say outright that I strongly discourage flying by the seat of your pants on this one.  The students needed Steve above and behind them for the key phases of construction and for multiple instances of troubleshooting prior to delivery day.  Fortunately his office is about 25 feet away from my classroom door and he responded without apparent irritation to our bleats of distress.  It’s not that the system is terribly hard to master (especially for the kids), but the psychological barrier to operating without step-by-step instructions is daunting for those of us who lack computer confidence.  I would also advise monitoring prezi construction in scheduled classroom workshops, partially because this gives the kids a chance to see the innovations of others and mostly because the teacher needs to watch the “building” process.

OK, now for the outcomes: (1) While, as with any academic enterprise, quality varied, the visual/sensory element of the prezis was a revelation.   Color, movement, film, music, and collage were incorporated smoothly into the written text in a way that energized presenters and audience.  There were original works of art, cartoons, and comparative illustrations that brought the Anglo-Saxon characters to life.  There were wonderful historical insets, and clips from films.  There were artifacts from archaeological digs and excerpts from critical tomes.  It provided something of the aesthetic pleasure of leafing through a well designed coffee-table book – a feast for the senses.  With some exceptions, the presenters abandoned the drone-like power point reading, and adopted a livelier mode of delivery, pausing to discuss a variety of research “discoveries,” and responding to questions with enthusiasm.  And there were more questions.  This is a profoundly sensory generation of learners; they come to life when they are in the presence of light and sound and are pretty sophisticated about evaluating what they see and hear.  Ultimately, our biggest problem was keeping the kids down to the 25 minute limit we had imposed, and in the end a majority of the groups had gone overtime. (2) Steve and I had agreed that it made sense for us to collaborate upon (but not divide) the grading; he was more cognizant of the technological level of difficulty and I was more knowledgeable about Beowulf. Both of us, as veteran teachers, were experienced evaluators of oral presentations.  While we agreed on most of the grades, I think we were both surprised about the huge gap (sometimes spanning two or three grade levels) in our assessment of the group of presentations about which we disagreed.  What was happening here?  In my experience, collaborative assessments vary quite narrowly, if at all.  Was I resisting the technology in a way that would cause me to downgrade those with more elaborate displays on the assumption that they must have skimped on the content? (I will admit that on a number of occasions, I was so deer-in-the-headlights dazzled by the stuff on screen that I sort of stopped making notes on the coverage of ideas.)  Or was Steve, in his understanding of the level of technological difficulty, assigning more credit to elements of presentation than substance?  Whatever accounted for this phenomenon, it left me uneasy, hesitant in my explanation of the students’ grades, and feeling like I had lost control of my goals for the project.  Steve and I agreed that we probably needed to make a better assessment plan ahead of time; in mitigation, however, how can you do that when you don’t know what to expect?  The only sure way to address this conundrum is to try again.

[See the Beowulf prezis]

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Look, Ma, no paper

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This is the third of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in late November or early December 2009. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.

The first startling result of this enterprise was the virtual disappearance of paper from my pedagogical environment.  The initial sensation was vaguely disquieting.  Something was missing.  Bulky spiral notebooks had been transformed into a collection of daily NING postings– reflective and analytical writings due each day that were visible not only to the teacher, but to all of the students in the three sections of the course.  Class Notes and impromptu writing were being entered in personal folders kept by each student.  Formal writing assignments – including multiple drafts – were stored for ready access during in-class writing workshops.  While I have, of course, posted schedules and assignments online for some time, the all laptop scheme allows for all materials and links to be posted and modified on a continuing basis and via the collective will of the classroom community.  The most challenging paradigm shift in this area, for me, has concerned the replacement of textbooks with online resources.  The complete texts of all three of our major works for the first semester, including Beowulf (The J.R.R. Tolkien translation), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Hamlet, were read and studied online. [Project Gutenberg] I have mixed emotions about this.  On the one hand, I am an inveterate lover of books; I like the way they smell, and look, and feel in my hands.  I even find pleasure in distributing old books, the ones with marginalia of days and students past scrawled on the edges of the text.  There is, undoubtedly, a fundamental psychological disconnect that even the most tech oriented among us must feel when looking at an electronic text.  Indeed, staring at the familiar lines of cherished works of literature on a screen, even as I try to communicate a love of reading for its own sake to my students, takes an extra measure of negative capability.  The other problem is the quality of many electronic texts.  The version of Hamlet we are using, for example, while complete, contains a number of inexplicable mistakes (the text suddenly being presented in italics, for instance; using continuous line numbers, rather than beginning, as is the standard convention, with each act or scene).  Better editions can be, of course, ordered and paid for. (Beware, though; books I have ordered on my personal Kindle are often filled with mistakes.) On the plus side, if an institution is strapped for cash, free, minimally flawed editions of books in public domain can save a great deal of money.

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Tech Happens

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This is the second of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in late November or early December 2009. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.

If there is a scene more unnerving to a teacher who still owns and fondly peruses the contents of all of her original file folders from 1974 to the present, it is entering a room full of glowing rectangles, each manned by a cheeky, tech-savvy young person.  I was in for it now.  Weeping uncontrollably was not an option.  Fortunately for me, Steve and Harry had opted out of a “tech tough love” strategy,  instituting instead a plan in which Steve would be in the majority of my classes with me for the first three or four weeks, and would be available during my planning periods to help me technologically rethink paper and pen assignments.  His presence in the classroom in the opening days of Quarter I was essential in several important ways.  (1) He was there to troubleshoot any initial difficulties as we:  set up the NING site, got the students registered, and began to experiment with ways for them to post, and me to assess, their work.  (2) He was there to model laptop instructional techniques:  how to keep the kids on task, when to 45 the screens, how to keep the discussions flowing.  (3) He was there to keep me from freaking out.  I would argue that while it is possible to “break in” to tech by yourself, if your personal profile in any way resembles mine, the presence of a tech mentor in and out of the classroom is essential.  By the end of three weeks, I felt confident enough to manage all of the daily assignments with a certain amount of aplomb.

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On Nings, Blogs, Prezis and Other Technological Organisms in The English Classroom

This is the first of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. She is the English teacher who I have been helping to transform her courses to paperless courses through technology integration. This post was written in late November or early December 2009. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.

I am coming up on the end of my first techno-semester, and responding at last to the faint whimpering heard occasionally from the file I opened back in August that was to be dedicated to a frequent and eloquent flow of reflections on the experience, I am ready to make a few tentative pronouncements that might serve to encourage those who are contemplating a move in the same direction.  While I have, I believe, already been introduced by my mentor, Steven Katz, and my husband and principal, Harry Grzelewski (an approach that may have seemed coy, but was actually motivated by terror), you need to know that previous to this August, my technological repertoire included: (1) being able to show a video to the class even when “12:00-12:00-12:00” was flashing on the VHS player the whole time; (2) being able to use the word processor like a typewriter ; (3) being able to input grades if, and only if, I followed a handwritten list of instructions taped to my hard drive, the function of which I have never been entirely certain about.  (I was the only person at a dinner party a few years ago who didn’t laugh when someone told the story about the guy who wrote his computer company asking if he could order a new “cup holder” because the one on his hard drive had broken off.) So when I made a sort of off-handed remark to Steve and Harry last spring that I might try turning my British Lit class in the fall into a laptop course, I didn’t really expect them to start making plans.  After all, neither man had ever actually shown signs of being mentally unbalanced.  Strategies for evasive action began to formulate in my head:  I wasn’t ready…  someone else, a person with more of a can-do spirit, would be better…  I wasn’t really feeling all that well … etc.  I probably should have been suspicious when Harry suddenly bought me a laptop as a “gift” right before we left Texas this summer, but it all just seemed so remote.

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21st Century Pygmalion – Beowulf Prezis

This post is the 4th in the 21CP series.

Dr. Lynch wanted the students to do a presentation on different aspects of Beowulf, comparing the story to the history and culture at that time. Each group had a different topic that required historical research and references from the epic. We discussed possibilities for a project and decided on Prezi. We came up with this rubric. Below is the list of presentations and links to them:

Monsters

Warrior Culture

Funerals & Burials

Religion

Tribal & Social Customs

Battles

History

Weapons & Military Strategy

Materialism

Political Culture

Battles

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21st Century Pygmalion – Introducing Tibbie Lynch

*This is the third post in this series. All of the 21st Century Pygmalion posts are here.

This is a short bio of Dr. Tibbie Lynch, written by her husband, Harry Grzelewski, who also happens to be the high school principal. I should note that Tibbie, Hary and I are very good friends. We enjoy talking about educational issues and pedagogical improvements. We have collaborated many times over the past three years, all with the goal of improving our effectiveness as educators. This is the first time any of us have blogged about any of these experiences.

Dr. Tibbie Lynch, 60, has been an educator for over 30 years, first at the college level and then in independent high schools in the United States and Latin America. She has published articles on Ralph Waldo Emerson, H.G. Wells, Evelyn Waugh, and Walt Whitman when she was a professor and scholar at Texas A M and the University of Hawaii. As a high school teacher she has taught all grade levels and, relying on her knowledge and love of history, helped develop curriculum for several integrated studies courses, most notably American Studies. She joined a group of teachers interested in critical thinking and participated in the development of a curriculum for teaching students how to think about literature. Her experience led to her being invited to help teach other instructors how to re-tool favorite lesson plans into critical thinking activities. An avid reader and writing instructor, she managed the writing workshop as a professor in college, she helped train teachers in the use of a variety of writing rubrics, and has worked with teachers across disciplines to use writing as a tool in classes as diverse as math and physical education. Dr. Lynch has been a fan of pen and paper, and received a $2000 IBM Selectric, self-correcting typewriter from her parents when she received her PhD. She uses the computer as a word processor, to send emails, to shop, and as a news source. She professes to be intimidated by technology, but is convinced that if she can learn how to integrate tech into her classroom, anyone can learn.

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21st Century Pygmalion – Day One

Today was the day we introduced the project to students. I went to the class armed with my laptop, LCD projector, and video camera. The class is set up with all desks in a circle facing each other, with a desk for the teacher, Dr. Lynch, as well. I started with an explanation on what social media is, and told the students that Dr. Lynch was “going to bring Brit Lit into the 21st century.” I explained that they would not use notebooks to write their assignments in class, but would be doing everything online, in a social network that would be like “Facebook for Brit Lit.” The students seemed intrigued, probably in part because of the Facebook comment, and in part because they all know that Dr. Lynch “isn’t very good on the computer.” Dr. Lynch is known on campus for not allowing students to take their laptops out of their backpacks during class.

I explained to the students a little about social media, and about how we would be using a social network to create a community of learners in the school. This was also the perfect opportunity to give them a lesson on internet safety while I explained to them what they should and shouldn’t include on their profile or posts. Then the students joined the ning, me approving them one by one while Dr. Lynch began approving their membership to the “Brit Lit” group. I should note that I created the ning with the vision of the entire school eventually using it for various groups and classes, including a learning community for the teachers. I should also mention that we haven’t worked out all of the details about how the assignments will be completed. Tibbie and I had not found a solution to how students could post privately with the teacher still being able to access the post to grade it. We mentioned this to the first class and one student responded in a matter of fact way, “Why don’t we just send the assignment to Dr. Lynch’s inbox?” Problem solved.

Dr. Lynch was having a lot of trouble navigating the network. This issue was compounded because she was working on her new laptop that she wasn’t very familiar with. The trackpad was a big challenge for her. The computer was “acting crazy,” going to links she hadn’t clicked on, or returning to the previous page for apparently no reason. She is going to get a mouse. I was helping her throughout the day, and a couple of students came to the rescue also. Tibbie and I explained to the class from the beginning that this would be a learning experience for us too, and that we are challenging ourselves. Tibbie, with the technology integration, and me managing the ning and trying to bring the course and the technology together.

Tibby posted the first discussion topic by the end of the second class. By the end of the day there were several posts. We were both impressed with the caliber of the students’ comments, already above the level we know them to work at.

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21st Century Pygmalion – The Idea

In January I was given the job of Director of Educational Technology at my private school in Costa Rica after teaching there (and helping teachers integrate technology on a part-time basis) for five and a half years. The Country Day School is a private American school with a population of about 900 students K-12. I was appointed to this newly created position to help the teachers integrate technology, to improve student learning. I have worked in various capacities in educational technology throughout my career, and was very excited to help the teachers to integrate technology in a full-time position.

In May, the high school principal approached me with an idea. He wanted to help his wife, a high school English teacher, to integrate technology into her classes during the next school year. Actually, his idea was much more ambitious than just integrating technology. His idea was that all work could be done digitally, and would include blogs, threaded discussions, and in-class chat rooms to replace traditional hand-written or typed assignments. I told him that I thought it sounded like a very interesting idea, especially since his wife is “technologically challenged.” I thought it would be a very challenging year-long project for the three of us to collaborate on.

We had several meetings between May and the start of school, and decided that the best solution would be to create a social network (using Ning). This network would become the home for the classes involved, and hopefully develop into a learning community where the students continue to learn from each other long after they had left the classroom for the day.

Harry, the high school principal, also suggested that we document this process using video, as this would be a significant change in teaching style for his wife Tibbie. I will be filming the classes and some interviews with Tibbie, and also plan to blog about the progress throughout the year. I am encouraging Tibbie to blog about it also. She’s not up for it just yet, but will hopefully be able to add the blog to an already full plate of change sometime in the future.

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