Fight Fake News with Critical Thinking

Lessons in Critical Thinking is now available free at iTunes. It includes critical thinking lessons in science, math, literature and media literacy. This new iBook is a collaborative project by my ED 424 ~ Computers and Educational Technology. During our discussion of digital literacy and “Fake News,” we realized that our middle and high school level students need more practice in the critical evaluation of information. So our edTechMethods class of senior pre-service teachers decided to develop engaging lessons which promoted critical thinking skills in their content areas using the edtech tools of their choice. Then, using iBooks Author, they compiled the lessons into this iBook .

For more on this class, visit our course blog edtechmethods.com

Student-designed lessons include:

  1. Dihydro-What? Science Lesson by Kristen Turner
  2. Using TV Ads to Teach Persuasive Writing by Jennifer Upchurch
  3. The Choice is Yours: integrating a “choose your own adventure” into math class by Eli McElroy and Tamalin Salisbury
  4. How to Read Between the Lines of Research by Hannah O’Brien
  5. Do You Believe It To Be True Or False? by Jeremy Jon Reyes Pingul
  6. Civically Sublime by Kurt Anderson, Bekah Kolb, Ryan Greenberg

Kept it Simple: My 2017 ADE Application Video

I just found out I’ve been accepted in the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2017. I’m very excited to network with other ADEs and promote my favorite teaching tool – iBooks Author. Once you get past the pre-required Apple Teacher Certification (ugh … I don’t use Garage Band), the ADE application has two main components – lots of forms to fill out (easy) and your application video (hard).

I thought I might share my video production workflow to demonstrate how you can turn a seemingly daunting task into something that’s very simple.

  • I brainstormed a list of 3- 5 accomplishments that demonstrate why I should be consider for admission to ADE.
  • I put each item on a Keynote slide.
  • I used the Keynote “Play/record” slideshow feature to give a brief narration over the slides. (Your video can only be a maximum of 2 minutes, so this gives you a good idea of what leave out). In ended up with 9 slides in my final version.
  • Once I had a sense of timing. I worked on images to illustrate each point. I used QuickTime player to create two short video clips which I embedded in one of the slides.
  • I used very minimal style – solid black background and no transitions between slides.
  • I practiced a few times to get the slide timing down and to be sure I could deliver the slides in under 2 minutes.
  • I found a quiet spot and connected a decent external microphone to my laptop. Then I made a finished recording of the slide show. (All you can do is erase a recorded slide show and do it over. So when I got one I liked, I kept it.) It wasn’t perfect. I had a few minor hesitations, but after 4 or 5 tries I wasn’t getting much better.
  • Keynote has an export feature  – “File / Export to / Quicktime.”  I chose the “Custom” format and used 1024 x 768 H.264
  • It produced a very nice m4v video file that I used for my ADE application.

Create Cool 3D Cartoons with Toontastic 3D

Google just launched a complete overhaul of the popular Toontastic app – meet Toontastic 3D – a 3D cartoon storytelling tool. It really hits a sweet spot between ease of use and just enough customization to unleash your inner Pixar.

While it’s being promoted for elementary and middle school students, I think people of all ages could have fun with it. It’s a free download and runs on iOS or Android phones, tablets and “some” Chromebooks.

You begin the process by picking a story organizer. Choices include “Short Story” with 3 scenes, “Classic Story” with 5 scenes and Science Report. (Much cooler than Powerpoint and shown below). Or you can create your own story structure.

The app provides a step-by-step guide for organizing your cartoon. For example the “Classic Story” includes – set up, conflict, challenges, climax and resolution (with helpful thinking prompts). Then select and customize your characters. You can even use an in-app tool to add your face to a character. (Yes, that’s me below.) Next you’re guided through the design of each scene. You move your characters in the scene by tapping on the screen and adding your voice tracks for each. You can also activate their special actions (in this video, my character can break dance). Many of the background objects are interactive and can be activated with a tap. Finally you can add mood music from the app library with some simple controls to customize the soundtrack. Scenes can be reorganized before saving your final project.

Your finished cartoons can be save locally in-app or on the device. You can export them to your device’s photos app or library. The finished high-resolution video is saved as an mp4 and easy to share – you can import it into projects or upload to YouTube or other sharing services. Once it’s on YouTube it’s easy to embed into a blog or other Google tool.

Best of all, it’s designed to be school friendly – no ads or in-app purchases, no email or login required and you can even use it off line. Google states that they do not store your finished content nor any user info.

I plan to use this app with my EdTech Methods class. I’ll share some of their work when I do. Till then, here’s a finished video by DeeDee I found for you to enjoy.

Exploring History Vol IV: Eight Document Based Lessons

I’m very pleased to share a new iBook just published by my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland.

Interactive iBook version free at iTunes.
Static pdf version (5 MB)

It features eight engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

All of my student’s wrote for a public audience on our class blog and persued three class goals:

  • Learn to think like a historian.
  • Become a skillful instructional designer
  • Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.

The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended lesson design process.

Exploring History: Vol IV was our PBL capstone and is available on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Here’s a post (from fall ’13 class) that describes our project workflow (including how we utilized iBooks Author). Here’s Exploring History: Vol I created by my fall 2013 class. And Exploring History: Vol II designed by my fall 2014 class. Exploring History: Vol III created by my fall 2016 class

I’ll be doing a future blog post that features each student’s DBQ, but for now here’s the US and World History lessons in chronological order:

  1. Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse by Sam Hicks
  2. From Revolution to Government by Valerie Schiller
  3. Imagination, Innovation & Space Exploration by Molly Pettit
  4. The Real Romanovs by Kelly Marx
  5. World War I: The Human Cost of Total War by Anna Harrington
  6. Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin’s Soviet Union by Clarice Terry
  7. Holy Propaganda Batman! by Karina Ramirez Velazquez
  8. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade by Scott Hearron

How To Teach EdTech to Future Teachers

I’ve been asked to pilot a new edtech class this spring for undergraduate ed majors in University of Portland’s School of Education. I’m still in the brainstorm phase and I thought I’d like to share some of my initial thinking.

First off  – a few things that I don’t want to do:

  • Oversell edtech. Too often educators try to force the latest edtech tool into the classroom because they think it’s cooler. Faster. Shinier.
  • Focus on teaching apps. Oh how I hated being forced to sit in a computer lab and suffer though PowerPoint professional development as a teacher. When I need students to use a specific app, I typically create a YouTube channel of short screencast how-tos. Or students can use the University’s Lynda account for more.
  • Take sides in the platform / device religious wars. These students will end up teaching in different settings, each with it’s own unique edtech landscape. They’ll need to be able to use what ever they find in their placements.

Instead I’d like to first “teach” adaptability – the mindset that’s helped me navigate the ever-changing edtech environment since I began my career in the early ’70s – an era of filmstrip projectors, 16mm movies and ditto machines. I’ve always thought first about my instructional goals, then tried to leverage whatever resources I could find to reach them. That calls for flexibility and a willingness to figure things out on your own. I couldn’t wait around for some school-sponsored PD.

A second, equally important goal would be to teach critical evaluation of the intersection of good instruction and technologies. A good teacher is skeptical, always re-assessing what’s working and what’s not. That’s especially important in the dynamic edtech world.

I envision a problem-based approach where I layout a series instructional challenges (opportunities?) and invite student teams to come back with a plan for achieving the goal using as much or as little technology as they saw fit. They would be expected to find a way to share their work in or out of class (why not flip that as well?) We would then go though a group evaluation, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Was the juice worth the squeeze? Move on to the next instuctional challenge. Reflect, rinse, repeat.

Here’s how I thought I might open my first class:  “Good instructional often begins with a pre-assessment. This is an edtech class, so as a starting point we need to get sense of where everyone resides on edtech landscape.”

  • What would be useful to know?
  • How should we gather that info?
  • How do we store and share (represent) what we find out?
  • Would any digital technologies be useful in this task? If so, which ones?
  • How do we set that up so that your peers can be successful participants?

Brainstorm over: Any thoughts on this approach? Anyone else out there teaching an edtech course and care to share?

Image Credit: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Corps Area, typing class with W.P.A. instructor ca. 1933
National Archives and Records Administration Identifier: 197144

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