What do I know?

13 10 2009

I know that we are all Dream Seekers!

In order to introduce the story of immigration in the United States of America to a group of heterogeneous 21st Century Learners, there first needs to be the acquisition of a common realization that the universal struggles of freedom, happiness, and longevity are prevalent across ethnic backgrounds and time.  The background development begins with an understanding that no matter who you are or where you are from in the United States, you are the son or daughter or distant ancestor of an immigrant, or you yourself may be a immigrant.  Success stories run wide and far in this country.  From the school principal who was traveled across the tough US-Mexican border to the grandson of a Russian-Slav who traveled through Ellis Island to get into America, everyone share a migration story.

To illustrate this point with students, here is an activity that will hook them in while building background information.  This game is famous in the student leadership and student council circle.

Never Have I Ever…

Students will ALL start standing up at their tables.

Students who HAVE done the following things will sit down.

After every 3 questions have everyone stand back up again.

1)    Never have I ever… been out of the United States

2)    Never have I ever… been on a roller coaster

3)    Never have I ever… broken a bone

4)    Never have I ever… been on a cruise

5)    Never have I ever… locked my keys in my car

6)    Never have I ever… been skinny dipping

7)    Never have I ever… shaved my legs

8)    Never have I ever… been to a Star Trek / Harry Potter / Lord of the rings/ or Star Wars convention

9)    Never have I ever… died my hair a funny color

10) Never have I ever… been to a professional sporting event

11) Never have I ever… owned a Barbie doll

12) Never have I ever… broken the dress code

13) Cheated on a test, quiz, or class project

14) Lied to my parents

15) Stolen something

From this game, take the self-realization and group building to the next level.  A deeper round of questions should be asked.  This scene from the 2007 film “Freedom Writers,” illustrates “The Line Game.”

This scene illustrates an intense moment to be a student or a teacher in any classroom.  Teachers who are willing to bring this style of learning to their pedagogy create a comfort zone and will have more success connecting with students on their level.  The discussion and self-awareness that students form through this activity, creates more thoughtful citizens while bringing relevancy and a sense of community to the classroom environment.  The questions should start out easy and comfortable while working towards more personal and emotionally driven intrapersonal and interpersonal development.

A useful resource for this lesson can be found in the book, Make a World of Difference by Dawn Oprah (2006).

Here is an example of other questions that can be asked of students:

Step to the line if…

I like guacamole.

I’d rather go to the beach than the mountains.

I enjoy hunting/fishing.

I have called someone a derogatory name.

I have been the butt of a racist joke.

I have told racist jokes.

Etc. etc.

To bring closure to this lesson plan, finish the day similar to how Erin Gruwell finishes her class in the “Freedom Writers” clip.  Give a writing assignment.

Background Builder Prompt: Reflect on a time in your life when you felt different from the rest of the crowd.  How did you over come this situation?

Universal Connector Prompt:

Describe the American Dream.

Cross Cultural Historical Perspective Prompt:

Then to have students look ahead to the immigration unit, have them come up with a list of reasons why people come to the United States?  What attracts them to this country?  What forces them to leave their homelands?

Then, wrap up the lesson with the Dream Seekers video.  This will allow students to reinforce their ideas about push and pull factors of immigration.

The end goal for the unit is a data based question that asks students to foster their own values with an in-depth study of immigration history.

DBQ: What should the United States’ policy be regarding illegal immigrants today and in the future?

To answer this question consider the following:

Describe the history of immigration in the United States.  What attracted immigrants to this land?  What forced immigrants to leave their homelands?  Push vs. pull factors.  Where did immigrants come from prior to 1850? After 1850? And today 2009?  What laws or restrictions have impacted immigration?  How has US society been affected by the interactions and contributions of various cultures?

Other important activities to build on this research include:

-Recent interviews with immigrants

Glenwood Post Independent runs a great series of interviews with local immigrants from all sort of family backgrounds.

Immigration Stories

-Film study of “Destination America” (2008).


LaGravenses, Richard & Gruwell, Erin.  2007.  Freedom Writers.  USA.  Paramount Films.

Oprah, Dawn.  2006.  Make a World of Difference. Minneapolis, MN.  Search Institute Publication.

Stept, Stephen and Grubens, David..  2005.  Destination America.   USA,  PBS.


Janette: One Mother’s Laments in a Universal Struggle

11 10 2009

The following is a discussion worthy of sharing with you.  The article below is written by a fella peer of mine at Full Sail University.

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Google is King of Classroom

7 10 2009

For the first time ever, this school year I have a professional, well designed, fully functioning, multimedia, easy to manage, updated, student centered, classroom website.  I’m not a programmer, tech guru, or even all that savvy with website design or development.  In fact this is the first time I’ve moved to an on-line format to work with students.  High schoolers at Basalt High School are learning to organize, build, share, design, and communicate through their studies of history.  Adding a sense of community, expertise, and life skills allows students to become empowered.  The free and easy to use tool, I have to give credit for, is no other than the magnificent world of Google.

Never again will students have to carry an organized three-ring binder with all their notes and hand outs from my class.  Now students only have to carry their login and password to class.  With Gmail as my central command center, students are communicating with each other through cooperative learning communities both inside and outside the classroom.  I can send easy quick group messages to the entire cohort.  Students are able to IM with each other or myself for extra help from any online location in the world.  When a sick day becomes a reality, even absent students can stay up to date.  From the many benefits of email, Gmail, also provides students with the fastest growing and most versatile word processing program.

Google Docs is re-framing how students create and share their work.  Every assignment is being handed in via Google Docs.  This allows both the student and myself to stay organized.  I can see exact times and dates that work was turned in.  Never again can a kid make excuses about leaving their work at home on their home machine.  The amount of free storage space allows students to create and save everything online including documents, power points, and even spread sheets.  Never agin will a kid say, “I lost my flash drive.”  In the collaborative nature of school today a big focus is turning to peer editing.  Students are using peer editing to assist each other in cooperative learning communities.  As a teacher I can see who is editing and the types of comments that are being made.  These comments can provide me with an informal assessment.  In addition Google provides the platform for me to keep all my content in one easy to use website.

Google Sites provides a user friendly, template type, website for Google users.  With a little sense of exploration and willingness to take risks, novice web designers, like myself, can build and design a beautiful web site with endless possibilities.  I have links, embedded video footage, maps, quizzes, announcements, notes, study guides, and a slew of tools for my students to access.  I even have linked the textbook we use to an available source through my site.  Kids are able to access my site and see exactly what we did in class today.

For kids learning through a platform as strong and capable as Google Sites, Docs, or Gmail, student worries become hassle free.  Organization skills become as easy as accessing documents by subject or date.  Updated information and constant support is provided.  Increased connectivity is influencing student engagement and active learning.  As a teacher, I recommend that any teacher looking to create 21st Century learning environments being to take advantage of this free and simple Web 2.0 application.  If only I could get an app to put all this on my cell phone…. wait, I think they are advertising for that app on T.V. right now… What’s next?  Cell phones in the classroom?

Visit the home page of Seann Goodman and his students!

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Converging Culutures; Are we there yet?

4 10 2009

Converging cultures… Is this a new age way of describing the Melting Pot mentality of American immigration?  Or is this some way of describing a news broadcast being built by a teenager on a camera phone and sharing it with the world through an online medium?  Or is this talking about a culture that is due to arise but isn’t quite here yet?  Or has it arrived?  Or is this something bigger?

The reality is that converging cultures are everywhere.  Converging cultures include an integrated view of all of the afore-mentioned questions.  And the reality is that most of us have no idea where this convergence may take us or what the rules for this may be but we are on our way.

Most of us are wrapped up n this convergence concurrently and possibly unconsciously.  If you have ever used YouTube to catch up on the latest water cooler discussion you are participating.  If you have a cd player, an iPod, or cable music programming, you are participating.  If you have ever sent a text message or photo message to a friend you are using convergence culture.  What convergence culture really means is that our idea of independent media realms today is a blend of past independent fields mixing together to create a new sense of reality.  No longer do we talk about information coming to us from the news, be it T.V., radio, or newspaper.  Now we talk about our news coming to us via podcasts, blogs, and the most popular T.V. channel, YouTube, which isn’t actually a channel at all or a T.V. device.  When our worlds collide and the boundaries lift…convergence culture is here.

Business’ have started to recognize this shift.  Look at the focus of movie producers to add bonus features to their dvd’s, their release of video games to take the story further than the on screen performance, and simply the cell phone as a music player, film, sound and recording device, in addition to accessing the internet, and text messaging.  If you are wondering how the former news industries are responding to this shift, take a look at the new New York Times.  In this The Atlantic monthly article, “End Times” we get a glimpse of the new reality that business’ marketers are facing.

Will the New York Times face a slow death like many of the nation’s other newspapers or will they emerge to re-define this convergence.  See what Marc Anderssen says about the print version of the times.

Possibly the most exciting aspect of this new approach to media, resides in the way we can now actively engage the media as producers of media.  Our home films are now the latest upload ready for the world to relive our family vacations with us.  We can even write our own material that will be read by millions.  It is this grassroots aspect of the new media convergence that is captivating more and more participants.  Just think about what MTV did to music in the 80’s and what YouTube is doing to T.V. today.

This response is in reference to:

Jenkins, Henry.  2006.  Convergence Culture.  New York.  New York University Press.

URL References:




“Who wants to be a Millionaire?” Quiz Rules

4 10 2009

This week’s World History through film class, an elective course, brought the first time implementation of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” quiz rules to Basalt High School.  I presented to idea to kids the week prior to the quiz when I also gave them the quiz review.  The rules are as follows:

20 Questions, Multiple Choice

1 Phone a friend, either one person from class or a family or friend outside of school.

1 Ask the audience where the class together votes on one question to talk about as a class.  Hence the class is the audience.

1 50/50, where the class chooses one question that I break down to a 50/50 chance.

The idea was not one that I can take credit for.  Learning to bring this type of innovation and motivation to the kids can be credited to a school in Australia, Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Croydon, where students are allowed to phone a friend and use ipods and the internet on exams.  The idea is in the pilot stages for the grade 9 English classes.   And in fact the idea came through a challenge by Marc Prensky, educational consultant and web 2.0 educational specialist.

Prensky said, “What if we allowed the use of mobile phones and instant messaging to collect information during exams, redefining such activity from ‘cheating’ to ‘using our tools and including the world in our knowledge base’?

“Our kids already see this on television. ‘You can use a lifeline to win $1 million,’ said one. ‘Why not to pass a stupid test?’ I have begun advocating the use of open phone tests … Being able to find and apply the right information becomes more important than having it all in your head.”

As a teacher in Colorado, this idea made since for me.  I want to increase student engagement and encourage problem solving skills as much as knowledge content.  The example of the phone a friend was made dully applicable this week in my own professional life as I went to my principal for a question regarding a particular professional pedagogic phrase.  When my boss couldn’t recall the phrase, what do you think he did?  That’s right, he phoned a friend, his wife.  This was exactly what I was trying to show my kids that they could accomplish through collaborative cultures and here was a real life example of this needed skill happening right at the same time I was implementing this new look at test taking.   The students ended up really liking the idea.  The conversation went deeper.  Students, felt more confident with the help of others, and they learned a true life problem solving skill.  This isn’t a way to cheat, this is a way to utilize our social and professional networks to increase productivity.  This is a 21st Century applicable real world skill.

Though many teachers will likely not approve this concept right away, the rules left way for students to still have to make decisions.  Who would they call?  Does this person know more than me on this subject?  Should I trust their advice?  These are questions students have to deal with in finding help to solving  their questions.

Read all about the Australian school here:


What do you think???  Please take a quick minute to add to my thesis research.  All information is anonymous unless you wish to be know.  You may also comment on this blog to help me understand your perspectives.

This is an original survey: Should students be able to use cell phones, the internet, or each other on a test?  Is this cheating???  Please take this survey to respond.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Quiz Rules Survey