We live? We die? You decide!

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Photo credit: History Crushes

You must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer – Taken from Pericles funeral oration

It really is difficult to appreciate the impact that great historical people had on the world they lived in (and is some cases the world we live in today). The choices they made directly affected thousands (or millions) of people who lived under their rule. The consequences of their actions could be catastrophic for the people they governed; or they could bring untold wealth, power and renown to the citizens of that state.

So what does any of this have to do with teaching and learning?

Well, after a recent talk with a small group of my peers, I realised that we don’t really give the children an opportunity to take on the roles of these great leaders and figures from history. No instead we get them to watch a video on Boudicca, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Henry VIII…etc. And then we expect them to write about the motives, rational and reasons these people had for making the decisions they made.

So after much deliberation, I think the ideas below might just present students with a small understanding of what it was like to be responsible for thousands of lives!

I have decided to adapt a decision making game (from a book called ‘Creative teaching in the classroom’ by Rosie Turner-Bisset) to truly give the children an opportunity to walk in the shoes of great historical leaders. The game in this book is based on the arrival of the conquistadores in the New World. Firstly the children have to take the role of either the Aztecs or the Spanish. Then they make decisions based on the actual events from that time. Ultimately, the decisions they make will/won’t affect what happened over 500 years ago.

Adapting the game for my purposes:

At the moment I am in the middle of altering our Year 5 (Grade 4) history topic on Ancient Greece. As you may have guessed , I have decided to use Pericles (Statesman and first citizen of ancient Athens) as a test subject for this prototype lesson. My aim is to combine an adaptation of the ‘Aztec vs Spanish game’ with a digital slideshow presentation (this is included below with the lesson plan and the game script). The slideshow uses high impact images and key words to really drive home the difficult choices that Pericles and the Athenians had to make. The slideshow also provides an opportunity for the teacher to see whether the children are unduly influenced by visual images when making decisions.

It must be said that the decision making story is heavily adapted and altered from the original; however, it does use actual events from the war to reinforce the historical accuracy and realism of the lesson.

I also think that it would be a good idea for the teacher to role-play the part of Pericles. This isn’t an essential part of the lesson but I do think it will give it more impact and believability.

My aim is to teach the lesson to one of the Year 5 classes while the Year 5 teachers watch. I don’t know whether this will be successful but I hope it will give them a better idea of the skills I am trying to impart to the children. If it is successful I really do believe that there is scope to add it to other history units in the upper year groups of our primary (elementary) school.

Finally, Caesar said ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ but I wonder what the students will say after they have had a small taste of what it truly means to rule?

Lesson plan:

Slideshow for the game:

Consequences game:

 

Bike-to-chart

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Photo credit: LA county bike association

Infographics? Data visualization? Digital notetaking? What do these words mean?  Me – No idea!

Actually, this isn’t exactly true! I did know what infographics were but I didn’t know that they were called infographics. The first time I had actually come across these type of images was when I had teamed up with Palvinder Thurman for our course 2 final project. Palvinder suggested using Piktochart as a method for delivering our RUA’s message in a more visual and understandable way to children at a primary school level. She also talked about how useful and easy this program/application was to use. So, on a late Saturday evening, I briefly powered up the laptop and had a look at the application. However, I soon turned back to the football (soccer) match I had been watching on the television – and that was where I left it…until now!

I really should have listened more carefully to Palvinder because I now realise the potential this application has! I guess that we don’t really notice the merits of a particular program or application until we are actually faced with a situation where we are given an opportunity to experiment with it; this is one of the reasons why I have really enjoyed the COETAIL program so far.

I have decided to use Piktochart in an upcoming PSHE (Personal, Social, Health, Education) lesson from a unit on safety that we are currently doing in class this term. I haven’t actually altered the lesson plan that much as the original material is relevant and engaging to the students. The only alteration I have made is to the lesson’s independent task section where I have switched the original poster making activity to a Piktochart-infographic focus. Now I am aware that it isn’t a massive change but it does allow the children to add their infographics directly to our class blog which would give it more meaning and exposure to those out there in Cyber-Space. It also gives the children an application which is easy-to-use when it comes to the creation and presentation of ideas and learning.

I have included the lesson plan and my own Bicycle infographic (which I am particularly proud of) for you to use/adapt as you see fit. I am looking forward to seeing how the children cope with the task. Personally I think they will love it because it involves visual images – and that is always a winning ingredient with children!

Bike Safety
Bike Safety through traffic lights

Once upon a time…

We All Have A Story To Tell

Photo Credit: Magenta Rose

Once upon a time, there was a small girl named Adi. Adi was an energetic and enthusiastic girl who loved playing at home, visiting the local parks and going to school. It’s true! She really did love her School! Well, it’s mostly true. She loved almost everything about school except for one thing-that most awful and dreadful task known as…writing. Adi detested writing with all her heart! Story writing, letter writing, diary entries, poems…you name it, if she had to write it, she hated it!

At home her parents simply didn’t know what to do. At school her teachers found it harder and harder to motivate Adi to write. They just couldn’t understand why this little girl hated writing so much! And so each year at her school,  Adi found newer and more varied reasons to hate writing with an even greater passion.

Adi’s parents eventually gave up and her teachers started to think that she was a lost cause.

Just when everyone had given up a new teacher suddenly arrived at her school. The teacher was called Miss Lennon and she was different. For a start, she didn’t dress or talk the same way as the other teachers did. To Adi, she seemed more alive than the other teachers.

Miss Lennon encouraged the students to take more of an interest in the world around them. She also told them fantastic stories that made them think about things in a different way. She listened to the children’s stories, laughed at their jokes and made them feel a part of something new and exciting.

However, this wasn’t the best thing about Miss Lennon. No, the best thing about Miss Lennon for Adi, was the way she made English lessons feel! She used maps, pictures, drama and debates to make stories and poems come alive. She transformed the English lesson into a fun and interesting place to be. One day, she introduced Adi and the rest of the class to the digital story. The story being shown belonged to a friend of hers. The brilliant thing about the story was the way it combined the student’s original story with Miss Lennon’s voice over, sound effects and images.

Adi had always loved visual storytelling. She enjoyed watching children’s programs, on YouTube, that told interesting and exciting stories- programs like Jackanory Junior!

Miss Lennon then demonstrated how it was possible to use an Application called iMovie to create a story that could be uploaded to the web for everybody to see and hear. The combination of images, sound effects and an interesting story line hooked Adi like the proverbial fish seeing a work wriggling on the end of a fishing line.

Adi had always loved making her own movies at home and she desperately wanted to know how to do it!

So she went to see Miss Lennon during her break and asked her if it was possible for her to make a digital story. Miss Lennon said “Of course it is Adi,” and explained how the application worked. She showed Adi how to add effects, record her voice, cut video or images and choose a sound track. Miss Lennon also explained that Adi would need to write a story script for her digital story before she began recording her movie.

Adi writing a story script? That didn’t sound good! But do you know what – she didn’t care! She was going to make a movie – no matter what it took to make the movie, she would make it!

The moral

This story helps to remind me of the impact that a different medium (in this case digital storytelling) can have on those children who are reluctant to write. Personally, I think that the correct use and application of digital media has a pedagogical impact on children that is beyond measurement.

To better demonstrate the impact of digital storytelling I have included a few examples of children’s digital story work. Some examples have been written by children but edited and turned into a digital story by me. However, I have also included some examples where the story/poem has been entirely written, edited and produced by the children.

The Snake Poem

A poem complete by a child at home, then recorded, edited and produced by me on iMovie and uploaded to YouTube.

The Rock Cycle

An explanation of the rock cycle written and recorded by a student then edited and produced by me on iMovie. Afterwards it was uploaded to YouTube.

Five Sentence Story Summary

A five sentence story summary written and recorded by two students. The story was then edited and produced by the students on iMovie. Afterwards it was uploaded by students to my YouTube account.

Creating and watching digital stories has the potential to increase the information literacy of a wide range of students. Moreover, digital stories are a natural fit for e-portfolios, allowing students not only to select representative artifacts from their academic careers but also to create compelling resources that demonstrate the student’s learning and growth – Digital storytelling by Educause learning initiative