The Summit – Course 5 Final Project

Photo Credit: My most memorable activation

After weeks of hard work and steady progress we have finally reached the peak of StoryTeller Mountain. I think it is fair to say that the journey has provided the students and myself with an exciting classroom adventure; an adventure which shows no sign of stopping.

As I sit at the top of StoryTeller Mountain, looking out across the foothills, woodlands and peaks that make up the world of Educationia, I can just make out the COETAIL path I have cut through the Earth to get here. At some points it looks so worn that you would think there had been nothing there before. At other points, the path is almost completely overgrown so that you can barely see the original path.

Sitting here, watching the children in my class getting ready to set out on another adventure, I think back to the journey I have been undertaken to reach this point and I am reminded of the reasons why the COETAIL path looks the way it does.

The well-worn path

I have trodden some parts bare due to the continual visits I have made over the previous year and a bit. Two such areas include the Visual Literacy Lowlands and the awe-inspiring Gamification Canyon! Likewise, there are other areas where I have walked only the once and have never really thought about returning to; one such place is the Valley of Connectivism Learning Theory.

Regardless of where I have been and how long I have spent there though, one thing is absolutely certain, I have learned more about education, digital Literacy, pedagogy and technological integration in the previous year and a bit than I have in the previous eight years of my teaching career.

The Final Project

And so to my final project for the COETAIL course. I have included two separate videos based on the digital/video storytelling unit I wanted to trial with the children in my class. I hope that they make sense to you! Also please feel free to send me any feedback you have regarding the videos and/or the unit quality/content.

Telling a Story – Imovie Style

My thoughts on the project

We live? We die? You decide!

tumblr_mx12g7ci1M1qeu6ilo1_500[1]

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:

 

Story telling with slides…

 

Photo credit: Viaja!o.es

Two years ago I was very fortunate to be part of an in-house training session where our excellent and highly creative Literacy coordinator talked about the importance of story telling. During the training, he talked passionately about the need for teachers to take a small amount of time each week/day to read stories to their own classes.

Up until this session I had never really bothered to read any stories or books to any of the classes I had taught. Afterwards I think it is fair to say that I felt rather ashamed and embarrassed that I had been unwilling to take the time to read to the children I had been teaching at that time.

And so, since that training session, I have made it a goal to read to my class as often as I can. I have discovered that reading enables me to enthuse and motivate the children in a way that I had never thought possible. Since STD (Story Telling Day-great acronym I know) I have read dozens of books and stories to my current and previous classes.

I really cannot believe that I never realised the huge potential that story telling has on children (and adults). In the Youtube video by Matt Helmke, Matt describes Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen’s SUCCES criteria. He explains that the final ‘S’ stands for ‘Story Telling’. I adamantly and wholeheartedly agree that to be a successful presenter, you have to be able to relate and explain stories effectively.

When it comes to delivering my own stories, I have had mixed success with adult audiences. I often find that my nerves tend to take over and so my stories tend to be rambling and bitty with an ineffective punchline at the end. However, with children I tend to have better success. This is probably due to the fact that I can use character voices and other storytelling gimmicks to deliver the message I actually want to convey.

So I have decided to combine three aspects of my current educational life to create a Google presentation for a story based on an ancient Egyptian fable called ‘The peasant and the workman’.

Three aspects of current educational life:

  1. To embed stimulating history lessons into the curriculum in new role as Primary History coordinator
  2. To provide children with stories which are historically relevant to a particular time.
  3. To use the ‘Zen Presentation’ style story slide shows to act as a visual stimulus for the stories.

The Egyptian test lesson

The idea is to introduce aspects of ancient Egyptian culture that the students will be able to identify i.e. government, produce, social structure…etc. Hopefully, the combination of me retelling the story and a limited yet powerful visual stimulus should open up a class debate on the beliefs, farming and social practices of the ancient Egyptians.

I am actually hoping to introduce this type of story-based lesson format into all units across the school. The format will probably change as I am wondering whether a ‘Zen’ style presentation combined with ‘Hot-seating’ a character from history might serve to introduce more famous personalities from different historical times i.e. Mary Seacole, Winston Churchill, Pericles…etc.

I have included both the edited story and the presentation below (although I am unhappy with some of the images and the background theme and would like suggestions on any pictures or theme choices people might be able to recommend).

If all goes well, I am going to trial the lesson at some point in the near future. Hopefully the children’s reaction will give me a better idea of how effective the slide show/story combination are when it comes to providing children with a better understanding of a particular time in history.

The Peasant and the Lord’s son story

The Preface

Tale of the Ninth Dynasty, which from the number of copies made would seem to have been very popular at that time. It relates to how a peasant succeeded in obtaining justice after he had been robbed. Justice was not very easily obtained in Egypt in those times, for it seems to have been requisite that a peasant should attract the judge’s attention by some special means, if his case were to be heard at all.

Egyptian Peasant on donkey slide

Long ago in the Salt Country of Ancient Egypt there lived a sekhti (peasant) with his family. He worked hard and traded in salt, natron, rushes, and the other products of Ancient Egypt. One day on his way to sell his salt, natron and rushes he had to pass through the lands of the house of Fefa. Now there lived a man named Tehuti, who was the son of the local lord. When Tehuti saw this peasant he decided that he wanted the donkeys, salt, natron and rushes they carried.

 Shawl on grass slide

“I will take,” said he, “a shawl, and will spread it upon the path. If the sekhti walks his donkeys over it- and there is no other way- then I shall have his donkeys because he will be setting foot on my land.” And so Tehuti had one of his servants place a shawl over the path so that one end was in the water, the other was in his corn field.

When the sekhti came closer he made his donkeys pass over the shawl because had no choice!

Donkey eating corn slide

“Stop!” cried Tehuti pretending to be angry, “Surely you do not intend to drive your beasts over my clothes!”

“I will try to avoid them,” replied the good-natured peasant, and he caused the rest of his donkeys to pass through the corn field.

“Do you, then, walk your donkeys through my cornfield?” said Tehuti, more angrily than ever.

“There is no other way!” said the poor peasant. “You have blocked the path with your shawl, and I must leave the path!”

While the two argued one of the donkeys helped itself to a mouthful of corn.

“Look at that!” Tehuti cried. “Your donkey is eating my corn. I will take your donkey, and he shall pay for the theft.”

“This is robbery”, cried the sekhti, “in the lands of the High lord who has always treated robbers so badly? I will go to him. He will not accept what you have done to me.”

“I am the son of the local lord,” and saying this he beat the sekhti and stole all his donkeys.

 Egyptian Lord and Ladies slide

The sekhti wept and pleaded with him to restore his property but the Sekhti ignored him. Eventually, finding that he was wasting his time, the peasant took himself to the home of the High Lord of this part of Egypt to ask for his help. On his arrival the sekhti bowed low to the ground, and told the high lord what had happened. The sekhti revealed all that had happened to him on his journey, the way in which Tehuti had closed the path so as to force his donkeys to step on the corn, and the cruelty with which he had beaten him and stolen his property. The High lord said he would speak about this with the other lords in the hall of judgement.

 Peasant and lord/king slide

“Let this sekhti bring a witness,” the other lords said, ” and if he is right then Tehuti should be beaten, or he should be made to pay a small amount of money for the salt, natron and donkeys he has stolen.”

The High Lord said nothing, and the sekhti came to him after pleading with the high lord’s servants. The sekhti hailed him as the greatest of the great, the orphan’s father, the widow’s husband, the guide of the needy, and so on.

The sekhti spoke so cleverly that the Lord Steward was interested and flattered by what the sekhti had said.

Food and drink slide

Now at that time there sat upon the throne of Egypt the King Neb-ka-n-ra, and the high lord decided to ask his advice.

He went to the High lord and said “My lord, a sekhti whose goods were stolen has asked me to help him. He spoke very well and I think he may be correct in what he says. What would you do my king?”

“Do not answer his talk,” said the king, “but make sure that you put his words in writing and bring them to me. See that he and his wife and children are supplied with food and drink, but do not let him know who provides it.”

The Lord Steward did as the king had commanded him. He gave to the peasant bread and beer and to his wife enough corn to feed herself and her children. Although the sekti was very grateful he didn’t know where the food was coming from. And he still wanted his donkeys, salt, rushes and natron back.

Papyrus slide

So for a second time the peasant came to the high lord and asked him to help; and he came a third time. On the third time, the High Lord commanded that he be beaten with sticks, to see whether he would stop coming. But no, the sekhti came a fourth, a fifth, a sixth time, always speaking cleverly and kindly. The High lord kept ignoring him but the sekhti did not despair and he came again a ninth time. And on the ninth time he called, the high lord sent two of his servants to the sekhti, and the peasant was terrified, for he feared that he was about to be beaten once more. The message, however, was a different one. At last the peasant had convinced the high lord that he may have been treated badly by Tehuti. He then wrote sekhti’s claims on clean papyrus and sent it to the king, as the king had commanded. Neb-ka-n-ra also liked the way the sekhti had spoken. However, he left the judgement to the high lord.

Egyptian palace slide

The High lord decided to take away all Tehuti’s money, lands and titles and gave them to the sekhti, who moved to the king’s palace with all his family. Afterwards the sekhti became the chief adviser of King Neb-ka-n-ra, and was greatly loved by the king and all the people.

 

Give me the tools and I will build!

Photo credit: Mail Online, science and tech

What do I think of visual media? Personally, I can’t get enough of it. Ever since I was a tiny tot I have been a slave to anything that is large, eye catching, colourful, bright or tells me something interesting. In fact I have dedicated large parts of my childhood, teen years and adult life to absorbing as much visual media as possible. It is certainly true that most of my visual stimulation has come from the TV. Yes, you guessed it, I was the family member who was given the endearing title of ‘square eyes’.

Did my addiction for TV have any adverse effects on me? Not that I am aware of! Did I spend too much time in the house in front of a screen when I could have been playing outside in the garden? Not really. I still spent a huge amount of time in parks, gardens and playgrounds playing, building, creating and learning.

Nowadays I am a father who has the same concerns about visual media that my parents also had. So what do I do with my own children when it comes to visual media. Well, given that I live in a world where mobile devices are as numerous and important as a cash card or house key, I think I must help my children to see it for what it is.

And what is it?

The greatest learning medium that has ever been created! Some of you may argue “Hold on! What about books?” And I would certainly agree that books are a massively important part of learning and have been for thousands of years, but…Mass visual media is an instantly stimulating hit that never stops giving. The sheer number and variety of different learning opportunities you get with visual media is truly breath taking.

All teachers and educators know just how important visual learning is to their students. If you put a YouTube video on the students will quite happily sit there and absorb what is being directed at them. If you show them a picture that has a certain ‘WOW’ factor then they will undoubtedly become more engaged with the lesson(well at least they will in the short term).

There is no doubt that effective visual communication is an essential part of teaching. However for the purposes of this post, I am less interested in the visual communication provided by teachers and more interested in the visual communication of students.

Personally, I think that the more methods and mediums for visual communication that a student has, the better.

When presented with a blank page in a book it is often difficult for a student to become enthused. Lets be honest, a sheet of blank paper means one thing to most students – Oh no! I need to fill all that! Whereas a template for a Prezi, Powtoon or iMovie offers so much more appeal.

If students are given the resources, tools and research opportunities they can design and communicate their learning in ways that were unheard of until recently. This is a great quote from Brandon Jones which exemplifies the reasons why we must give our students and children the resources and time to build their visual communication skills.

Design = Communication

At it’s core, design is all about visual communication: To be an effective designer, you have to be able to clearly communicate your ideas to viewers or else lose their attention.

If we give our students the tools they will build. If they build, they will create. If they create, they will inspire. If they inspire, they will teach. If they teach, they will communicate.

To prove my point I have included some examples of what children can create to visually communicate if they are given the time, the trust and the tools.

iMovie video

Prezi

Powtoon