Media Making: Stereoscopes with Google Cardboard

I recently tagged along on a field trip with local students to the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in Amherst, NY. The students were learning about New York State History, specifically the area around Western New York. This regional history gem is a sprawling campus that includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including real churches, schools, and homes where students and museum visitors can step back in time and see what life was like in the 1800s.
During the tour of one of the houses, the docent shared a device called a stereoscope.
Photo Apr 26, 10 45 23 AM-001.jpg

 

The students were very excited by this device, which was once one of America’s most popular forms of entertainment. Invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1832, with a patent in 1838, then upgraded in later years by Oliver Wendell Holmes, a stereoscope is basically a pair of glasses with uniques lenses and a platform for holding a special picture that takes advantage of human binocular vision so that two images side by side merge to form a single three dimensional image.

 

The docent let each student (and the adults who tagged along!) look through the stereoscope which depicted images of life in the 1800s. The kids were amazed, as was I, at the 3-D images we saw. It reminded of the ViewMasters we used to have when I was a kid. And then it reminded me of something even more modern: Virtual Reality.

 

When the students were done, I took pictures of the stereoscopic images with my phone. I wanted to see if they would work in Google Cardboard headset. I cropped the images to the edges of the stereoscopic picture, enlarged the picture to fit my phone’s screen, and horizontally placed it into the Google Cardboard headset. And what do you know, it totally worked!

 

I made a short movie that shows the stereoscopic images I photographed at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village (used with permission) which you can access here:

Note: This is a stereoscopic movie, so plop it right into your own headset to view in 3-D!

So, cool as it is to be able to view stereoscopic images in Google Cardboard, it’s also cool that it opens up some cans of worms of what this discovery means in terms of learning and engagement.

  1. Students could search Google and/or Youtube for stereoscopic images and movies, particularly of historical importance that they can now use as a more dynamic image to analyze for details and draw conclusions from. This level of critical analysis likely already lives in the curriculum, but using the stereoscopic images may provide a new level of engagement that would cement the learning in a student’s brain!
  2. Students could create their own Stereoscopic images as a piece of media that can be viewed in Google Cardboard, or be part of a larger presentation like a movie, that shows not only the stereoscopic images they created, and also what they learned about the content related to the images they constructed. I created the stereoscopic image below using Google’s Picasa tool. I imported the picture of the inside of the one room school house from the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village tour. I cropped it to a square shape, lightened it up a bit, and changed the color to sepia tone. I saved the picture, then saved a copy. I selected both pictures and clicked the “Create” option in the file menu up top. I chose “Picture Collage” with the two pictures. Picasa loaded the two pictures, and I chose options for a Grid Setup, with No Spacing, and a formatted Aspect Ratio of 16:9 (HDTV). Then clicked on “Create Collage” and noted that the now Stereoscopic image lived in the Picasa Folder in My Pictures. I exported the image, via Dropbox, back to my phone and opened it to view in Google Cardboard. Totally worked. You can save the following image to your phone and try it out:

 

Pictures2.jpg
The caveat was a slightly grainy image, but that added to the historical look of it.

 

  1. This is a new opportunity for media-making with both images and movies, or as part of a larger presentation that includes voice-overs, live speaking, or virtual field trips. While the idea for this was spawned by my visit to the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village, this could really be done with any content, any place, in multiple ways. This is an invitation to something new to think about and hopefully spark some creative ideas by you or your students.
I’d like to thank the people at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village for permission to use the Stereoscopic Images in their collection as well as their commitment to preserving local history in such an interesting way. If you ever find yourself in Western New York, the Heritage Village is a definite must-see! Perhaps you should bring your own Virtual Reality headsets–there might an opportunity to use them!

 

Mike Fisher
Ditch The Daily Lesson Plan, available now from ASCD
Upgrade Your Curriculum, available now from ASCD
Digital Learning Strategies, available now from ASCD
 

Pushing Boundaries: Renewing our Mission

Guest Post from Elizabeth Fisher, coordinator of Professional Development at Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Education Services in Buffalo, New York. On Twitter @elizabethfisher

Hanging on the walls of myriad schools and proudly displayed on district websites, mission statements form the basis of belief systems and goals for the communities of learners within them. These statements usually represent ambitious and exuberant objectives in academics, behaviors, and aspirational goals for being creative or accomplished or striving for excellence.

Curiously, none of them have statements such as:

  • We strive to do well on the state assessment!
  • We are creative insofar as it benefits the raising of test scores!
  • Our students go just above the state average!

In the current educational climate, you would have difficulty finding schools that still maintain their aspirations in the wake of barely understood new standards, over-analysis of data, and dehumanizing teacher evaluations. The system is working hard to stifle creative expression in its teachers, and by extension, its students. Something must be done. Something must be done quickly.

Our missions still matter–and we must rededicate ourselves to making sure that we are on the right track. To paraphrase Justin Timberlake, it’s time to “bring creativity and risk-taking back.” But how do we do it?

We need to establish a climate which includes doing what’s in the best interest of students as well as encouraging each other to become risk-takers. What I offer are three steps teachers can consider doing immediately to bring creativity and risk taking back into our schools so that our mission statements are truly a mission worth embarking on.

 

  1. NOT YET MENTALITY: No one is ever really wrong, they just may be exploring an idea that either leads to a dead end or opens the doors to new opportunities. If students aren’t understanding it, then they are “not yet” there. We need to provide opportunities which build, in the words of Carol Dweck, a Growth Mindset. We need to be talking with that mindset in mind; maybe adding the word, “yet” to the end of our statements (“I can’t do it, yet.”). Doug Lemov wrote an article called, Culture of Error. I highly recommend reading it and discussing what implications are drawn to improve our practice. What are we already doing that is working? What changes are needed to allow for this type of thinking?
  2. ITERATE: Practice makes progress. Students need time to improve – everyone does, for that matter. It’s impossible to become better at something if you don’t do it repeatedly and receive specific feedback about how to improve. If we want students who can think for themselves then we need to prioritize our practices. Students need time to try things, to revise them, to create. Our state assessments are given under “first draft conditions” – providing no time for process reading or writing. So, why do we operate that way so often in school?
  3. QUESTIONS MATTER: Encourage students to think divergently. One thing teachers can start doing immediately is teaching students how to ask questions. “Knowing the answers will help you in school. Knowing the questions will help you in life.” (Walter Berger, A More Beautiful Question). A new process called the Question Formulation Technique (http://rightquestion.org/) is being used in some classrooms to help develop this skill. In a nutshell, the process involves showing a stimulus (a picture or video), having students work in groups generating as many questions as they can, and then discussing the two types of questions (open/divergent and closed/convergent). Students discuss advantages and disadvantages of both types of questions and practice with changing open into closed and closed into open questions. If teachers are always the ones asking the questions then we are not allowing students to think divergently. We are in essence telling them how to think – convergently. This process helps students as they continue to dive deeply into conceptual and content knowledge.

 

We want students who are confident, independent, and creative. We want thinkers who can ask questions, make decisions, and feel comfortable in their own learning process. If that is what we want, then we need to revisit our mission statements often and reflect on whether what we are doing is in alignment with those statements or not. If not, then we embrace it with “not yet” thinking.

Ultimately, what we want is to give students roots but also to give them wings – we need them to be independent flyers; able to make decisions for themselves, knowing when they can take-off on their own or recognizing when they need the support of others (like birds flying in V-formation). We are responsible for moving our energies forward for the betterment of student engagement and deeper learning; it’s a risky undertaking but worth it. I’m ready to take the risk. Are you?

Celebrity in the Mix #BookItForward

Original posting at Learning Personalized:

 

We are so excited to share our guest blogger this week:

Mrs. P from Mrs. P’s Magic Library!

Mrs. P Bookitforward-1

Her favorite book is Wanda’s Wart – written and illustrated by Robin Robinson http://www.robinillustration.com/books/

Wanda’s Wart is an all-ages indie picture book about the importance of friendship, honesty—and not being afraid to stand out for what makes you an individual.  This story may be a tool for dealing with certain kinds of bullying, and for kids who run the risk of suppressing their interests and talents just to fit in.  I love the message that we could all be a little more fearless about being ourselves, warts and all.  You can enjoy a reading of this story at my free website too.

 Thank you so much, Mrs. P, for sharing your favorite book and helping us to #BookItForward! If you’d like to see and hear much more from Mrs. P, be sure to visit her Magic Library where you can hear stories, play games, and do lots of fun activities!

 Now it’s your turn!

 What is your recommendation?

#BookItForward encourages people to share a book they love with a person they love. It can be a new book, a used book, or a recommendation for a library book!

Here’s how:

  1. CHOOSE a great book.
  2. GIVE it or recommend it to someone who would enjoy it.
  3. POST a photo of the book tagged with #BookItForward on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
  4. TAG three people in the post to nominate them to #BookItForward next!

Kiln-Ready

“…but that’s not what I teach.”

 

That phrase was the conversation stopper of a recent discussion I was having with a teacher about assessing student learning. Somewhere along the way, because of new state rules about teacher evaluation and accountability, this teacher had changed the way she assesses her students so that she could get a clean, quantitative measure of what students were expected to learn in her class. And the conversation was difficult to have.

 

Her High School Art students, her excited and engaged High School Art students, had to take a reductive assessment that amounted to little more than definition regurgitation to prove that they had grown in knowledge over the course of their time with this teacher. The students’ pretest was an unknown list of vocabulary words and art terms that they did not know. The posttest was set to determine if they learned those words and terms. If they performed well on this written assessment, then the teacher would be found to be effective or highly effective in her teaching performance.

 

“…but that’s not what I teach.”

 

There’s a scene in the 5th Harry Potter film, The Order of the Phoenix, where the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge (who works for the Ministry of Magic–insert your own State or National Education Reform Commission metaphor here) refuses to teach practical magic. The students remind her that in each of their previous four years at the school there has been an authentic reason to know how to defend themselves with magic.

 

UMBRIDGE

As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why any of you should not be able to perform the spells under a controlled examination.

HERMIONE

Without ever practicing them?

UMBRIDGE

I repeat, as long as you’ve studied the theory!

HARRY

How does that help us in the real world?

UMBRIDGE

This is school, not the real world.

 

The conversation with the HS Art teacher was heading in this same direction. She was describing a system that was trying to measure what was, perhaps, not worth learning; at least not worth learning in isolation. Surely the art terms had some worth contextually but were they the primary target of instruction? No.

 

During our conversation, I looked over at the window sill and saw this:

Photo Jan 20, 9 50 49 AM

I walked over to the variety of mugs, in their final stages of drying, before being put into the kiln. The students had been working for weeks (keeping their mugs in plastic to prevent drying) on perfecting techniques to shape the mugs, the handles, the top lip, and the design of the outside. The teacher explained and demonstrated different techniques and students tried them out, creating their own works of art. Over several weeks and with feedback from the teacher, they came to a point where their work was “Kiln-Ready.” Once it goes into the kiln, it cannot be modified.

 

The conversation shifted.

 

“Here’s what you teach,” I said. “Here’s your assessment.”

 

“Oh, I know,” the teacher said, “this is my destination; this is what I’m driving the kids toward. But I also have to make sure I attack that vocabulary for the test. The actual product is too difficult to quantify how effective I may be.”

 

We talked more about using rubrics. We talked about elements of art critique and collaborative cycles of feedback. We talked about how the students and the teacher could collaboratively navigate degrees of quality so that a rubric could help students determine when their work was “Kiln-Ready.”

 

Is all of this reform we’re dealing with that great in theory? Is what we quantify in the classroom more important than what we qualify? Is doing what is easy more important than doing what is right? Because the reality is, at least in this classroom (and classrooms like it across our country), it isn’t practical. We don’t need more REform. We need more TRANSform. We need more NEW form.

 

We need more Kiln-Ready moments and less Umbridge-style interpretations of assessment. Also, we need to celebrate those teachers, like this one, who understand how important Kiln-Readiness is, in spite of a misguided and ill-informed accountability system.

Mike Fisher

@fisher1000

Upgrade Your Curriculum and Digital Learning Strategies, both available from ASCD

A Critical Look At The “Close Reading” Standard

“Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” — English Language Arts Standards » Anchor Standards » College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading » 1
mfisher-164by Michael Fisher
Close reading is not a thing.
It is not a skill. It is not a big idea. It is not new.
It is an iteration of New Criticism in a new Common Core chrysalis. The caterpillar—traditional literary lenses, among them Formalist criticisms, Reader-Response criticisms, and, perhaps, Structuralism—went through a transformation and have emerged as a new butterfly of comprehension and evidence.

Let’s read the close reading standard more closely

If we look at just the words read closely in a contextual way, what do you think the relationship is to the remaining words in this anchor standard? When these two words are separated from the remaining 29 words, a misinterpretation of the standard emerges as a potential separate skill, though other necessary skills here are more distinctly apparent and important (if one closely reads the standard):
  • determine what the text says explicitly,
  • make logical inferences,
  • cite textual evidence,
  • support conclusions.
boy-magnifier-book-trimReading closely then is the magnifierto ensure the suite of four related skills in this standard are achieved. In other words, close reading serves as a magnifying glass strategy.
If we want to dive into a specific portion of text (or comparison of texts) with a purpose, everything that is viewed through the magnifying glass deepens students’ development of the entire anchor standard’s learning expectation.
Using the magnifying glass is not a skill to be learned, it is simply a tool to amplify this standards’ priorities.

Reading closely is never mentioned elsewhere

Consider this: the anchor standard is the ONLY place that the phrase “read closely” is mentioned; it is not used again in any grade-specific reading standards.
When we focus on only a portion of a standard or decide to agree with what vendors tell us, then we lose the intention of the standard. The intention of this standard, and all of the other reading standards, is for students to comprehend what they read. Reading closely is great, but that is not the objective. Reading comprehension is the objective.
In order to get to comprehension, the focus should not necessarily be on all the ways students could closely read a text, but on the evidence students provide for thinking what they think. Perhapsmetacognition could be the real focus. The important words in the standard are not necessarily “read closely…” but rather “…what the text says explicitly.”

The expectations change in sixth grade

ExploringCloseReadingStandard-cvrThe grade level standards are pretty clear about what students need to know and be able to do. At the lower grade levels, they must be able to ask and answer questions about specific details in the text. Then in sixth grade, the verb changes.
In sixth grade, the students have to “cite evidence” that supports their thinking, which becomes sophisticated over time depending on the best evidence to support their thinking and evidence across multiple texts.
These growing expectations can be met through close reading (as a label for textual analysis) and also through new questioning habits that focus on the details. This can be done whether we are developing “close reading” lesson plans or not.

Let’s put “close reading” in its place

Close Reading is a lens through which we view the multiple ways in which we analyze text. Close reading is about the way we use evidence in text and the way we engage with the text when we ask and answer questions about it. Close reading is primarily about developing better comprehension habits.
What do good readers do when they read? They examine. They connect. They decode. They acquire. They discover. They think. They annotate. They visualize. They comprehend. They uncover.
These are the verbs. These are the skills. These are what really matters.
For more about Mike Fisher’s stance on Close Reading, his new eBook, Exploring the Close Reading Standard: Ideas and Observations, is now available on Amazon Kindle ($4.99).
sf114045bMichael Fisher is a former middle school teacher and digital learning consultant who writes frequently for MiddleWeb. He is acontributor to the new Solution Tree series,Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy, which tackles global, media, and digital literacy. In addition to 2012’s Upgrade Your Curriculum, written with Janet Hale, Mike is the author of the 2013 ASCD/Arias book Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign And Assess 21st Century Work?  Find Mike on Twitter @fisher1000 and visit his website The Digigogy Collaborative.

Minecraft: Research Product

Earlier this week, a member of my digital network, Brent Coley ( @brentcoley ), shared the following tweet where a student created a Minecraft video that represented a virtual tour of Mission San Diego de Alcala (Wikipedia link):

 

 

Link to video outside of tweet.

 

I was absolutely blown away by what this 4th grader created and I thought it was a good representation of what a research project product that wasn’t a paper looked like.  I’ve previously blogged about Infographics as a research product and I advocate vociferously for digital product replacement thinking when I work with teachers. If the outcome is building knowledge and demonstrating that students can both investigate a topic and learn from it, whoever said that research had to result in a paper?

 

The research standards in the Common Core are usually just the three writing standards associated with Research to Build and Present Knowledge. However, I always lump writing standard six in there as well, as it deals with how writing can be presented in a digital format/presentation. I want to share the fourth-grade-specific Common Core writing standards here, standard seven from the Research Standards, and standard six from the Production and Distribution of Writing section:

 

W.4.7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

 

W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

 

As you read through the rest of this blog post (and hopefully after you’ve viewed the video), read with these standards as lenses. Ask yourself, “did this student meet the standard?” “Did this student provide evidence of what they know and are able to do within the confines of this standard?”

 

In my book, Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?, I describe several questions to ask when assigning digital student work:

  1. What is the learning objective?
  2. Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?
  3. Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task? What additional skills might have to be considered in order to engage this upgrade?
  4. Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?
  5. Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?
  6. Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?

 

I wanted to blog about this student’s Minecraft project through the lens of these six considerations, annotating what this fourth grader was able to accomplish.

 

 

  • What is the learning objective?

 

      • The learning objective here was to learn about the Mission San Diego de Alcala. This student had to learn the layout, information about the different areas, and be able to speculate about the people that lived there.
      • This student also had to learn specific information about the founder of the Mission, Father Junipero Serra, as he both introduces the video and then explains several of the artifacts contained within the video.

 

  • Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

 

      • In this case, I believe the learning was enhanced exponentially. Besides the research to build knowledge about the mission, this student had to do a brick by brick recreation to create the video.
      • In the comments section of the video, the student’s father includes information about the student having to develop his own system for creating the texture of the tiles on the roof.
      • This obviously had to be tightly scripted for both production and the narration, so the writing definitely occurred at some point. Everything in the video though is beyond the writing…beyond the end point of the traditional research product.
      • In terms of worth? You tell me. Was this digital upgrade a worthy replacement?

 

  • Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task?

 

      • The traditional version of this research would have resulted in a paper, most likely, perhaps a diorama or detailed schematic drawing. In this case, using Minecraft, the detail involved demanded a time-intensive process that resulted in a very professional product. The decisions this student made to develop the detailed depiction all involved discernment and critical thinking in some way. Big time rigor here.
      • Additionally, the student used multiple digital tools to get to the final product: Minecraft to create the representation, an audio tool to record the narration, and a screen-capturing tool to record the video. All of these individually would raise the thinking level of the task because they all represent learning that is above and beyond the expectation of the standard and the traditional version of the research. Together, they represent problem solving nirvana.
    • Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?
      • I get the sense from the comments on the Youtube page that the student engaged in some conversation with his dad to create the video, though I don’t see specific evidence of collaboration or communication.
      • As for creative problem solving, the student’s father references an issue with the roof tiles that the student had to discover a solution too, but the entire video also represents a finished product that is the end product of trial and error thinking. If you’ve ever been in Minecraft, you know that you have to try stuff out and see if it works. Once you discover what works, you build, literally, on it.
      • In terms of creative thinking, there’s so much here. From decisions about the design and interactive elements, to details about Father Serra’s artifacts, to the layout and navigation of the Mission for the viewer of the video, this student had a lot on his plate to think about. The finished product demonstrates extremely high levels of thinking and decision making.

 

  • Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

 

    • This I don’t know. I’m not privy to the project’s parameters or to the population of students that were assigned this project and their access to / equity within digital tools or connected access points.
    • I do know that this student seems to be fairly comfortable creating within the digital realm, which suggests an early affinity / comfort with digital tools at a young age that allows him to demonstrate learning at this level even in the fourth grade.
    • Based on the comments from dad, I’m speculating that this student has no issues with computer / internet access and that it is just a part of his world.
  • Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?
    • Again, since I don’t know anything about what was assigned, I don’t know how much the students contributed to the design of the project.
    • Even if the design of the Mission and its subsequent creation within the Minecraft system was with the help of his father, note that the standard (#6) advocates for “guidance and support from adults.”

 

In the book, I also recommend some questions to ask when assessing student work, two of which revolve around how students are reflecting on what they are creating and how they are attributing their source material, both of which are important components of research.

 

In this case, there is little evidence of either. I was hoping to learn from where the student found his information. (And I was secretly hoping to discover that he used multiple verified sources.) I was also hoping to learn why he chose to use Minecraft to create his product versus other available web tools. Perhaps eventually this could be added to the Youtube comments. If I were the teacher, I might ask for this as a separate component of the task.

 

All in all, though, I must say, that this effort is serendipitous. I’m struck by both the level of quality and the apparent level of learning of this student. I hope that those reading this are understanding that this is what a 21st Century demonstration of learning looks like. This is what is possible when we relinquish the limits of traditional practice. This is what is possible when we begin orbiting the boxes that we’ve asked students to think outside of for decades. This is 21st Century Learning.

 

Kudos to this kid and his dad. What they created was future-forward and just plain awesome. I subscribed to their Youtube channel. I can’t wait to see what they will do next!

Follow Mike On Twitter: @fisher1000

Mike’s Website: Digigogy.com

Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?

The Heart of the Close Reading Standard

Collaborative blog post by Mike Fisher and Janet Hale.

 

Despite the amount of publishing and vendor products that employ a contrary interpretation, close reading is really about HOW we engage reading skills. It is not WHAT we engage. Developing “close reading” as a skill is not an essential part of this standard. Instead, it is a methodology, a strategy that is a way in which to reach the heart of the reading standards and the heart of improving comprehension.

 

The Hows and The Whats

 

Let’s look at the Common Core anchor standard number one for Reading-Literacy:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

 

The WHATs are clear:

  • Determine what the text(s) says explicitly
  • Make logical inferences from the text(s)
  • Cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking
  • What you write or say must incorporate evidence drawn from text(s) to support conclusions

 

The HOWs are muddier:

  • While “read closely” is explicitly stated, what literally should be read is left to interpretation as well as HOW one records his or her notations based on defined task, purpose, and audience. For example, one interpretation could be creating an opportunity for students to deeply analyze a speech transcript for its rhetoric and annotate (or annotext) to capture evidence. Another interpretation could be re-reading a section or sections of a narrative focused on characterization and have students using a semantic mind-map to make evidence-based notations.
  • HOW students will be assessed–both the actual assessments and evaluation tools (Who will be the assessor? Teacher…Peers…Authentic audience? What will be the judgement criteria? Rubric…Oral Feedback…Jury Panel?) are not included explicitly in the anchor standard; therefore, open to interpretation.
  • “When writing or speaking” is explicitly stated, which means that students must be able to not only meet the criteria of this anchor standard (R.CCR.1), they must also demonstrate their abilities in conjunction with relational anchor standards, such as SL.CCR.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

 

By no means are the above the only considerations regarding interpretation of the HOWs involved in the close reading of texts. As a matter of fact, it is important to note that while this anchor standard used the term “text”, when reading grade-level specific standards associated with a related anchor standard for both Reading Literature and Reading Informational, R.CCR.7:

 

Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

 

students must provide evidence by closely viewing media. This opens up Pandora’s box (RL.4.4) in that many teachers have not personally experienced this form of rigor regarding finding evidence in a media format, which involves its own set of terminology and understanding (e.g., how a specific type of shot–extreme long shot, long shot, full shot, mid-shot, close-up, extreme close-up–affects mood and tone).

 

Therefore, it is up to a teacher, or a teacher team, to interpret this (and other related) anchor standards. Students could determine what a text says explicitly through a digital-product assessment. Perhaps they could visually represent, through an infographic, logical inferences from two related texts. Another option could be to have students collaboratively (SL.CCR.1)  prepare a multi-media presentation that engages multiple HOWs to support the close-reading task.

The Hierarchy

 

As Mike blogged before, the words READ CLOSELY do not appear in ANY of the grade specific standards for R.CCR.1, further evidence that it is not the intended focal point. This anchor standard has more to do with building an increasing sophistication of how students deal with details in text (as well as media).

 

Let’s take a peek at the hierarchy through the use of Janet’s CCSS ELA Progressive Continuum App, which helps visualize new learning from one grade level to another.

 

(Note that bold print indicates new learning for a particular grade level.)

 

RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

 

RL.3.1Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

 

RL.5.1 Quote accurately froma text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

 

RL.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysisof what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 

RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text,including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

 

In the lower grade levels students are expected, with prompting and support, to ask and answer questions about details in text. In subsequent grade levels (grade three), students have to begin referring explicitly to specific details within text to answer posed questions. By the time students have reached grade five, they must be able to quote details accurately from the text in their speaking, writing, or multimedia products or presentations. In grade six the verb shifts from “quote” to “cite”, which alone creates interesting conversation with teachers on the interpretation of what this term truly means, and therefore, demands of students regarding evidence. Through grade 12 students are expected to continue to cite evidence using specific details from the text, but sophistication increases including the need to examine multiple pieces of “strong and thorough” evidence. In grades 11 and 12 , students must start discerning textual details, collecting and curating evidence to aid in determining which pieces of evidence (both explicitly and inferred) that most strongly support the analysis of the text, including “determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.”

The HEART of the Close Reading Standard

 

When close reading the previous paragraph, what would the key idea be? If you had to boil that paragraph down to a single-word emphasis, what would the word be? How about details? The heart of R.CCR.1 is that–it’s all about the details–questions about the details, referring to the details, quoting the details, citing the details, determining if the details leave matters uncertain.

 

The heart’s “pulse” is the rhythm students create that starts with answering and asking questions to ultimately discover how to best analyze texts. Students need a strong foundation (including quality modeling) in asking and answering questions in order to ready themselves to independently refer to texts to support their reasoning, including the abilities to quote accurately and cite evidence properly.

The HEART of the Close Reading Standard

Final Thoughts

 

It is extremely important that teachers collaboratively (both across grade levels as well as within a grade level) understand the heart of each Anchor Standard in Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking, and Language rather than accept interpretations by someone else. Teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists should be discussing their personal interpretations with one another and coming to agreement on what the anchor standards require and designing curriculum and instruction based on the mutual interpretations.

 

The implications are that locally-designed units of study or lesson plans, vendor products or state-adopted curricula may not be a perfect fit, which means there will be a need to closely read the resource’s details to determine where the text leaves matters uncertain. Based on your agreed-upon WHATs and HOWs regarding each anchor standard, what do these resources provide that meet your established criteria? Where are the products lacking or appear to be incorrect? Can those involved in the product or resource close-reading experience support their reading using evidence-based conclusions?

 

The heart of the close reading standard matters. It has a place and purpose, not only in Grades K-12, but for college and careers. Scaffolded skills that live in the “close reading” standard are necessary to ensure students are able to identify details and ultimately lead to greater comprehension of text in a sophisticated manner. But an array of close-reading skills are not meant to be THE only skill sets that matter. Close reading should take place occasionally, when appropriate for task, purpose, and audience. Any methodology used with too much regularity is doomed. Skill sets and their supportive strategies are meant to be strategic…targeted…focused. If teachers read closely with students every single day, it’s not a strategy, it’s a roadblock.

 

Post-Script

 

This blog post focused on the analysis (or close read) of only ONE anchor standard. There are 10 reading anchor standards, and collectively there are 32 English/Language Arts anchor standards. What opportunities for empowering educators regarding curriculum design and instructional practice can be manifested by asking them to participate in collegial discussions and deep understandings concerning all of the anchor standards?

 

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Mike and Janet are the co-authors of Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students

 

Digital Microstories

Collaborative Blog Post written with friend and colleague Danielle Hardt of Starpoint Middle School in Lockport, NY. Danielle is a literacy rock star, a highly effective teacher, and a secret practical joke enthusiast (a skill I highly prize!).

It has become the rage as of late to “Close Read” everything in American Common Core classrooms. Almost all of the states that are providing curriculum resources (including NY) and many of the vendors that are selling Common Core aligned products are focusing on Close Reading as an essential strategy in their materials, overusing an instructional methodology to the point of killing the love of reading. Our students are noticing this too, and ever since the beginning of education, the students are our largest sounding board as well as our biggest obligation. We need to listen to them.

 

In an effort to bring a little love back to literacy (note the alliteration), we’d like to suggest a little brevity and levity and “webevity” to instructional processes with the use of digital microstories. This avenue provides a medium students are very comfortable with.  Using digital formats fosters engagement and efficiency and proficiency in the classroom, as many students either use these tools already or require limited explanation of their usage. In many modern classrooms, students are educating us as teachers in the easiest ways to utilize the technology. When this happens, the learning skyrockets! We are all partners in learning.

 

Digital microstories are based on short fiction pieces that range from six words to 140 characters to a couple of sentences to a couple of paragraphs. The emphasis is on brevity, certainly, but also on a student’s ability to make connections and inferences based on the few words they read–then extending those connections and inferences to a visualization using a teacher- or student-selected web tool.

 

Besides just sheer engagement, another attribute of this format is the instant gratification for students to complete and “turn in” an assignment in one class period or block. What middle schooler doesn’t love to weave a tale about the hero/heroine that escapes a torturous conflict, barely rising to the top? Perhaps a midnight terror that shivers the spine? Maybe they’d delve into a short poem or riddle or other clever play on words. Any which way, digital microstory formats allow for these and many other options for the writers of the world to concisely demonstrate critical thinking, focusing on evaluation and synthesis without the rigmarole of days of analysis or the constant revisiting of text for the sake of answering what amounts to a bunch of comprehension questions.

 

Allowing students the opportunity to choose dramatically-engaging topics in relationship to the visualization within these digital formats creates a natural connection to inferencing. A relationship with close reading happens organically, rather than through a need for direct instruction. This organic and authentic version of close reading hits the heart of the way we analyze details and extend the learning beyond anything we could have imagined in traditional ways of teaching. It also extends opportunities for further discussion and reflection.

 

Getting back to the topic at hand though, access to resources around microfiction are numerous. You can “Google” search terms such as “Microstories,” “Microfiction,” “Microtext,” etc. and find a plethora of resources related to short fiction. Note that some of these resources might be inappropriate for sharing with kids, but would be great for sharing/generating ideas with teachers about how they might engage micro-literacy with their students.

 

Here are some of our favorites:

 

Six Word Stories:

http://www.sixwordstories.net/

http://www.narrativemagazine.com/sixwords

 

Visualizing Famous Quotes: Make a Web2.0 visualization of your favorite quote!

 

Two sentence horror stories: http://www.mandatory.com/2014/02/21/20-terrifying-two-sentence-horror-stories/

 

Very short stories:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/sixwords.html

 

Extremely Short Stories:

http://extremelyshortstories.wordpress.com/

 

“Tweet the gist:”

  • Tweet the plot of a favorite movie.

  • Tweet the central idea of a favorite song.

  • Tweet the main idea of a favorite poem.

  • (Note that these tweets might be physical, in-class experiences, rather than an online tweet. Just keep them to 140 characters!)

  • Then, “Instagram” the tweet: What visual would enhance the tweeted message?

There are several important task-specific functions that go along with Digital Microstories, primary among them are analysis of text and students eventually writing their own versions rather than always analyzing someone else’s writing. Both of these are aligned to Common Core standards for Key Ideas and Details (Anchor standards 1-3) in all grade levels in the reading standards and the first six writing standards around text types and production of writing. Additionally, because students are adding a visual component, they are also engaging reading standard 7 around the integration and evaluation of diverse media formats.

 

Now that we’ve defined the “What,” let’s take a look at the “How.”

 

There are many web tools available for creating visualizations of text, merging multiple types of media, and developing digital representations of thinking. For this particular instructional activity scenario, we’re looking for tools that engage the brevity factor. Those tools that let us create short, quick media productions will be the most useful for digital microstories and thus our opportunities for instant classroom gratification and analysis…and assessment…and engagement.

 

Here is a sampling of tools, both Web 2.0 and Device Applications, that we think would be extremely useful for digital microstorytelling:

 

 

With a vast variety of tools online and apps on devices/tablets, this short list is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below! Additionally, these photo and image resources may help:  Stock ExchangePixabayFlickr’s Creative Commons

 

Using some of these web tools, we created some examples here, with Ernest Hemingway’s original Six Word Story, “For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”:

 

Animoto:

Six Word Stories: Hemingway

 

Prezi:

 

Storybird:

 

Note how our choices of associated media in the different web tools creates opportunities for divergent discussions, perhaps even comparative analysis of several visualizations of the same short text. How awesome would that be to explore in class?

 

Since these digital microstories are dependent on both text and other media, if you need help with images to create your own visualization, check out the photo and image resources in Mike’s Diigo account: https://www.diigo.com/user/mikefisher821/photos While many of these resources include free content, we would urge you to remember and model that attribution is still important and students should give credit where credit is due.

 

Here are a couple of useful sites to assist in providing that credit:

 

 

Some of the web tools include content that students can use without attribution because they are an embedded component of the web tool or application.

 

So what’s the point of all this?

 

Learning and engagement are extremely powerful together. High levels of both help students remember more and evaluate better. Giving students opportunities to investigate short fiction forms and create them on their own opens up a plethora of avenues to creative development and ownership of learning.

 

Digital microstories offer students many opportunities for creativity, textual analysis, discernment, evaluation, engagement, and choices. How powerful is that? If we’re really going to work toward college and career readiness, shouldn’t we give our students authentic tasks and tools? We think so. And we think Digital Microstories are a great way to get there!

 

The Film Canon Project

I am so excited to finally be able to share the Film Canon Project from my colleagues Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Frank Baker. (Click the Hyperlink to visit)

 

This website and the accompanying resources are the culmination of several years of work collecting and curating films that are valued for their timelessness and impact on culture, education, and thinking.

 

The website release is coinciding with the release of the new book series Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy which includes a book devoted solely to Media Literacy. In the book, Jacobs and Baker explore the role that media, specifically film, plays in the preparation of our children to be ready for college or their chosen career. Their chapter is specifically on designing a film curriculum and analyzing the impact that film has on multi-mediating content, engaging students, and a new platform for deep analysis, discussion, and research.

 

On the website, you can explore films by grade level, type, and release date. The films include basic information and links to resources through the Internet Movie Database. In some cases, the trailers are linked as well. Visitors to the website can also submit films to the database.

 

The solid gold piece of this website is in the resources section, where visitors can explore scripts from Oscar-nominated films, gain access to Frank Baker’s considerable resources in his media clearinghouse, and access multiple resources related to film in different eras and in different countries.

 

One of the reasons I’m so excited about this is because it supports work I’m already doing with teachers, particularly around the Common Core Standards. In the reading standards for literary and informational text, specifically standards for the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, students are asked to consider multiple types of media to comprehend what they are reading and researching. As students get older, the standards shift from considering multiple types of media to evaluating specific mediums for impact and which are the best to emphasize the story or text. Eventually, students will speculate, with evidence from multiple sources, why a specific representation in a particular media is more effective than other representations.

 

Additionally, our colleague Allison Zmuda uploaded a blog post about the values that the Netflix company seeks in its employees. The timing of her blog post is awesome, considering that access to film has never been easier thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The philosophy that the Netflix company strives for are pretty good philosophies for our students to strive for as well in the classroom.

 

I encourage you to visit the Film Canon Project and see the types of films that they have curated there and perhaps submit your own suggestions for films to include. As multiple types of media are increasingly available thanks to technology, websites like this one will become more and more important as we seek structure and priorities in the mountain of resources available.

 

Upgrading our Recipes for Learning

 Originally blogged on MiddleWeb.com on December 8, 2013

By Mike Fisher

Back in the early 90’s, my grandmother taught me how to bake biscotti in a traditional way. She was a baker by trade and taught me about the precision of measuring ingredients to get a perfect dough consistency, how to lay out the initial loaf, cut on the diagonal and re-bake until the cookies reached their optimum crunch.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with the basic recipe, adding additional ingredients, replacing others, trying different thicknesses of the cookie, dipping the cookies in chocolate, etc. My ultimate goal is to get to the cookie, even though my path to get there changes every year.

Around this time of year, I start thinking about the biscotti (and Grandma!), and what I will modify, replace, upgrade, or delete for this year’s batch. Sometimes that decision is based on new ingredients, sometimes on the audience for whom I’m baking the cookies, or the event(s) where the cookies will be shared. There is always a modification to the previous year’s process though the goal is always to get to the cookie.

Biscotti and cookies

I’m using Grandma’s cookie procedure as a metaphor for instructional actions. The end result is always extremely important. The task, the assessment, the demonstration of learning, the product–all of these are the goals of instruction. In this day and age, though, with our new digital landscapes, we have opportunities for replacing pieces of the instructional sequence, invigorating the learning, and producing a better product—a better cookie.

The things we need to do with students, the tasks that we challenge them with, are the important factors here. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know Wordle or Socrative or Wikis or Storybird. It doesn’t matter that Padlet or Today’s Meet or Notepad is part of your everyday practice. It matters that you understand and design instruction around the outcome. The path to that outcome is what we will replace, not necessarily the outcome itself.

Digital Learning Perspectives

In workshops with teachers, I often try to paint a mental picture of the modern student. I talk about the differences between the world this kid lives in outside of school and the one he or she inhabits in school. There should not be such a wide chasm in decades between the two. I realize that there is at least one, maybe two generations separating students from their teachers, but everyone in the classroom is in the present time. Right?

I discuss how students are used to working and interacting digitally. Sometimes school is a potential impediment to learning when traditional instructional methods are primarily favored. These modern students don’t separate technology from other activities — they don’t think about it because it’s always been there for them, always been available. Except, many times, in school.

These students can find all kinds of information but don’t necessarily know what information is important, why or how they should prioritize it, or how to make connections or creations from it. They are not discerners; they are gatherers. These modern students are not interested, necessarily, in current school constructs for separating Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. They are looking for integrated and authentic opportunities.

I do realize that in the wake of new standards, new devices, and new ways to interact, teachers are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. So much newness is bogging them down and actually decreasing the professional actions they might ultimately take to improve their practice and work within a modern educational mindset.

That modern mindset is really about willingness, not digital knowledge. It’s about trying new things and exploring new tools and avenues for instruction. It’s about exploring WITH the students rather than FOR the students. The end result is still a cookie, but over time, that cookie gets better and better.

Let’s Take a Bite

1 plaid cookies

When teachers decide to start replacing instructional actions with digital tools, they should do so with the task in mind, not the tool. Let’s take the analysis of text, for example. What does this look like in your class right now? (Aligned to CCSS Reading Standards 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3)

In a 7th grade ELA classroom, a teacher I work with in Lockport, New York wanted her students to consider how Stanley Yelnats and the other characters in Louis Sachar’sHoles deal with justice as a thematic element in the book.

She talked with them about fairness and her ultimate goal: to get them to be able to use textual evidence to write about justice as it relates to the arc of the multiple storylines in the novel. She was really excited about using a collaborative note-taking tool, Padlet, in her classroom, and we had a discussion about HOW she might go about using it.

Initially, she wanted to spend a couple of days teaching the students how to use Padlet and hold the students accountable for the depth of information they shared. She was very concerned that students might share non-instructive comments like, “That was cool,” or “OMG. LOL.” She wanted to use a rubric I had shared with her called Notice, Think, and Wonder (which I recently blogged about HERE) to enable students to think critically about the comments they were making.

I asked her what this activity had looked like in the past. She said that students, individually, would locate moments in the book where they saw incidents of justice in any form: Stanley’s day in court, Kissin’ Kate’s reputation and actions, the Warden’s losses at the end of the novel, and (spoiler alert!) the fact that Stanley is cleared of his crimes in the end.

1 a padlet

I reminded her of her ultimate objective, the writing about justice and the connections between the types of justice described in the book. I reminded her that she can’t favor the tool over the task. The kids still had to write about justice and its interconnections and/or its relationship to advancing the plot of the novel.

She decided that short mini-lessons on using Padlet and the rubric for Notice, Think, and Wonder, were better than spending days on either of those things. Students could still collaborate using the online tools, and she would shift her expectations for their writing to include the collective thinking of all of the students and what they assembled on the Padlet Wall as a component of their end product.

In sum, she re-focused on the end-result but replaced some of the instructional sequence with a digital tool that moved what was once an individual exploration or small group discussion to a “group think” model where everyone participates in the collection of textual evidence. This, in turn, gives the students opportunities to understand what their peers believe to be important and offers them the chance to collaborate and communicate around deeper text analysis and negotiate deeper interactions than what she’s done before. She amped up the level of engagement while still holding students accountable for evidence of why they were thinking what they were thinking.

The tool, Padlet, was a new vehicle for better connections and interactions and thinking, but her lesson wasn’t a “Padlet Lesson.” It was still focused on justice as a theme in the novel. The students, in general, provided a more in-depth analysis because they were allowed to see their peers’ thinking in a way they had never seen it before. This led to deeper discussions, deeper connections, and better writing. This teacher changed the recipe and got a better cookie.

The Big Takeaway

biscotti-cup-200

The big takeaway here is that the task, the objective, the demonstration of learning remain the priority and focal point of instruction. The strategy, however, can be variable while the end point remains fixed. Vary the recipe but still work toward the cookie!

Teachers need a treasure trove of strategies, a virtual toolbox of opportunities, to meet today’s student where they need to be met. These digital learning strategies don’t require the teacher to be an expert in their function; they only require a willingness to let the students try some new ways of doing things. This is an opportunity to utilize digital tools for the sake of differentiated instruction and divergent thinking, where students construct their own versions of learning and critique the work of their peers.

By the way, you can read my grandmother’s basic biscotti recipe HERE (and downloadhere). I encourage you to try out your own recipe replacements, deviations, and subversions, in the classroom and in the kitchen. This year, as a sneak peek to the reader, I can share that I’m considering some new ingredients including lime juice, cream cheese, and a blueberry/pecan trail mix that I enjoy.

If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Learning Strategies and instructional replacement ideas, my new book will be available from ASCD on December 13th. It will be available in both print and digital editions and is part of ASCD’s new short form texts called ARIAS, meaning that the book is meant to be read in one sitting, perhaps while you’re waiting on that first batch of biscotti to come out of the oven.