The Hotdogs and CoolBananas3000 show!

On Friday my two sons stayed home from school. Neither was sick, it was just one of those mornings where it was easier to have them at home with me than it was to get them to school. Maybe you’ve had one of those mornings or maybe you’re judging me to be a slack parent, either way my boys stayed at home on Friday.

Their preferred activity for the day was gaming – of course – and their preferred game was Minecraft. After about an hour of them gaming independently (OK, they may have briefly jumped on a server together, but mostly they were gaming separately), I decided that if they were to spend more time on Minecraft they’d have to produce something that I could show their dad, lol. So they got to work creating the first five episodes of their YouTube series: Hotdog & Bananas Multiplayer Survival Series.

They are keen to have an audience for their videos and so I promised that I would blog about them. It was great fun watching how seriously they took their videos and how quickly they became more comfortable in their digital identities – initially my eldest son (Hotdog) was nervous and concerned about small mistakes made. I loved hearing my youngest son (Bananas) being very forceful in his wish that the series contain his full gamer name ‘Cool Bananas 3000′ because that is what he is ‘known’ as on YouTube – he has his own YouTube channel, lol.

Here are their vids … the second one is a little grainy as I think Hotdogs potentially exported it the wrong size … oh well, it’s a learning curve! I’m sure they’d both love a comment or thumbs up if you enjoy their episodes … of course I can appreciate that you may not want to endure more than a few minutes! Oh, no – that’s not nice, is it? Haha. Enjoy!

PBL: an appeal to the ego

I’ve only had a few hours sleep, so this post might seem rambling, jumbled and incoherent … oh, wait – that’s my usual writing style. And why have I only had a few hours sleep? After all, it’s the school holidays – I should really be enjoyed too much sleep, right? Well tomorrow I have to run a workshop on PBL and you know me, a little bit lax on the time-management skills and thus frequently leaving things to the last minute. But I don’t want this post to be about my poor organisational skills – that would be really egotistical and self-indulgent. Hang on again – what’s the title of this post? Ah, yes – ego! OK. Let’s get started then.

The other day one of my colleagues shared a video on my facebook wall. It cracked me up for two reasons. One, because it told me how well my colleague knows me and two, because the video is so accurate (and really funny!). I’ll let you watch the video before I continue with trying to make some kind of point about ‘ego’.

Watching that video a few days before you have to run a 75 minute workshop is both good and bad. Good for the attendees, bad for the speaker. Everyone has been to a session like this – most likely multiple times. You might have even given a session like this. Actually, many teachers probably give presentations like this multiple times in one day. You know what I mean – this is your class, or has been your class, right? It’s probably ironic (and not even intended hipster ironic) that I am going to show this video at the very beginning of my PBL workshop. There are two reasons for it. One, it is a humorous representation of why teacher-centred learning is an unhealthy addiction. And two, I want to use it to say that this is NOT how I will be running my workshop.

But here is the really irony … I stayed up until 4am this morning so I could finish a video that I was making for my presentation. You see, I have all of this great information on PBL that I wrote-up as part of my literature review for my draft research proposal and I really want to share it with the teachers attending my workshop. I know as a teacher that I feel more secure about giving a new teaching method a go if there is some kind of research to back it up. It’s old skool to think that way, but so be it – lots of people think that way too. My problem was how to share this information (mostly quotes from researchers) without reading it from a PowerPoint slide. I asked my husband, Lee, what he likes in a presentation and he said ‘less talking, more visuals’. That’s probably a typical response to that question. So I thought making a video in iMovie would work and I stayed up until 4am making that video.

I know I’m tired cos I haven’t got to my point yet, have I? Basically what I want to say is this: preparing for this 75 minute workshop gave me a deeper understanding of what’s so good about PBL. It’s immersion. It’s ego. There is a reason why that guy in the video is so proud of the video he made – because he made it. Project-learning is ego-driven. The beginning stage of the project is the investigation – this requires the individual to become immersed in the questions and content related to the project. For me, I was thinking ‘How am I going to get all of my knowledge and experience of PBL across to these teachers in an engaging and effective manner?’ and ‘How can I generate the same level of passion for project-learning that I have?’ I looked through all of my previous presentation materials, I read my blog posts about my class projects, I read my draft research proposal. I wrote lots of lists and notes about what to include and when.

Then I moved on to the product stage – making a video. This video isn’t meant to last the whole workshop, it’s just another mode of communicating important ideas with the teachers. During the making of the video I had to ask technical questions on twitter and search them on google. Communicating. I had to think about copyright, so I used FlickrCC to get images and Jamendo for the music. Problem-solving. I had to think carefully about the types of images and music to include, as well as the coloured backgrounds and style of font. Creative thinking. During this process I was so driven to complete the project. It was 10.30pm when I decided to make the film and 4am when I finished. What forced me to keep working long into the night? I want to say passion. I know that’s part of the answer. But the real driver was ego. Even though my eyelids were scratching my eyeballs and my back was bent like a crowbar, I kept working. I would not sleep until the video was uploaded to YouTube. Why? Because I was desperate to share it with my twitter colleagues. Sheer ego. This, for Orwell, was the key driver for most writers: Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. (Why I Write, 1946)

Ego is at the guts of PBL. And that’s a great thing. Just like sheer egoism is a key motive for teachers to share their ideas and experiences with teaching via a blog or twitter or a conference presentation, so too is the product/presentation element of PBL a key motive for students to keep working tirelessly on their projects. Ego, I believe, isn’t a dirty word. I do hope my fellow PBL educators aren’t offended by this brazen reflection on PBL. I think we should embrace this appeal to ego as an important element of PBL’s success with students.

I finally finished my video, and I really am proud of it. Of course I am well aware of the intense irony of the situation – I will most likely end up looking just like the guy in the video about failing to communicate. I will stand there with a goofy, proud look on my face as my audience watches the video I created. They will be bored … after all, it’s just words on a screen coupled with some pictures and music. It’s not effective learning. Oh well, it made me feel good completing it and it now feels awesome sharing it with you on my blog.

Breaking holiday boredom: the 24 hour animation challenge!

So I’m a busy teacher on holidays but I’m also a busy teacher-mum on holidays.

My kids have pretty much dealt with my ‘busyness’ by attaching themselves to their iPods or my Macbook – either gaming or watching YouTube. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this – I know that gaming challenges them massively. I know they’re communicating with heaps of great people and they’re creating some amazing things in Minecraft.

But I do want to give them another challenge – one that forces them to make something they can share with a wider audience and that involves me and my hubby who is mostly confined to our lounge due to a badly fractured knee cap. This is going to be a family thing but it’d be sweet if others wanted to join in too!

Here it is:

I’m going to create a 24 hour animation challenge. Each participant needs to make a 2 minute animation using ONLY free apps on their iPod, iPhone, iPad or other smart mobile device within a 24 hour period. Here are the requirements:

  • These animations must not breech copyright in any way – all images need to be original taken using the mobile device.
  • All music and sound-effects must be original created using the mobile device.
  • The animations need to feature the signature item at some point – the signature item is ‘apple’.
  • Animations must be two minutes MAX
  • Participants then must upload the animation to youtube ensuring they have selected the appropriate Creative Commons licence for the video.
  • The 24 hour time period for creating begins at 9.30am Sunday, 2nd October.
  • The link then needs to be sent to me, the organiser, via email, tweet, text message, fb message by 9.30am on Monday, 3rd October.
  • The video with the most hits after a 7 day period is deemed the winner.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • If you wanna enter yourself or your kids then add a comment with your name and who will be participating below.
  • Please, please add a comment telling us what your fav apps are for creating animations etc on a mobile device. We really need your help!

This is going to be fun.

** disclaimer: This totally isn’t an official competition with all legal protection and that jazz so don’t get all mental and stupid about it. It’s for fun, yeah?

Project Based Learning … struggling …

Well I’m feeling as though I am officially ‘back’ at school for Term 2. Last week just wasn’t making me feel down about myself or my ability to teach well.

Today on the other hand …

The day started at a brisk 7.30am with a meet and greet with my new prac student (who is very lovely by the way and I hope to rope her into a guest blog post at some point) and then my double Year 11 class. The class was great – kids were funny, engaged and completed the tasks set for them. Showing Lauren (the prac student) around the school was a breeze as well – in fact, quite fun seeing a new teacher’s reaction to a playground full of students and a maze constructed from concrete and bricks.

Anyway, it wasn’t until the last period of the day that I really started to hit panic mode. My class are in the middle of doing (what I think) is an interesting, engaging and fun project – the students have to work in small groups to create a book trailer. These guys needed to persuade me to want to rush out and buy the book. They needed to draw on all they know about persuasive devices (you can guess what year group they are now, right?). I have included all of the elements that I ‘know’ are elements of a great task: the students could select the book they based the trailer on (they had just finished reading it for literature circles) as well as the other students they worked with, they could select the programs they used to make the trailer also. Tonnes of student-choice and flexibility. That’s what great tasks have, right? Each lesson I have given them a goal setting sheet to complete at the beginning of the lesson as well as a reflection sheet to complete at the end. (I hate that these are ‘sheets’ and not just jotting down goals etc on edmodo – but I accidentally copied too many from a non-netbook class and didn’t want to waste the paper. I hardly think that paper vs. electronic recording of goals/reflection is the root of my problems with the class, but I’m happy to be proven wrong! I would LOVE an online tool to help with the goal-setting/reflection I use in this PBL-style of teaching … but that’s for another post!)

So why have I now spent three lessons with students poorly planning, chatting off task and getting minimal work completed? I am frustrated by this group as being an extension class I would imagine the task would be engaging and something they could do well. I know it’s the group work element and I’m struggling to work out how to improve it. I was so excited about this task, thinking how it will help them improve their understanding of persuasion, audience and purpose as well as shaping meaning within a text. All I seem to have done for three lessons is cajole them along through humour and tactile, external rewards (of the sugary, sweet variety) to get them to make a small dent in the task.

I’m doing something wrong. Maybe I need to start smaller. Perhaps I have not given a strong enough scaffold for the task … I did show exemplars … I gave a rough marking criteria (perhaps this is my flaw, needs to be tighter/clearer/more explicit?) … the audience is even ‘real’ – as the book trailers will be uploaded to youtube with the one getting the most views the winner. The prize is respect. If I was 14 I’d find that cool. But, I’m not. I’m 31 and a complete geek. Hmmm …

Having my mini ‘I am doing it all wrong’ melt down in front of my new prac student isn’t very professional. But it was real. Do I get brownie points for that?

Can you point out what I’m doing wrong? I kinda feel like I better go back to chalk and talk with these guys … maybe they need to be thrown into the cave for a little while. But really, it’s not about me – it’s about them. Maybe they just don’t learn this way? Maybe constructing knowledge with their close peers isn’t their ‘style’? Help!