Songhai Concepts

Media Literacy/Digital Archiving Instructor

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Learning to be Unschooly

The current debate in the blogosphere over what’s “schooly” and what’s “un-schooly” reminds me of that classic Ray Charles recording, What’d I Say where Charles (the leader) shouts a line and the Raylettes (his background singers) repeat the line back, in unison. It’s like a preacher asking, “Can I get an Amen” and the congregation shouting back, “Aaaaameeeeennnn.”

At a certain point in the song, Charles shouts “heeeeyyyyyy,” and the Raylettes repeat the line “heeeeyyyyyy.” When he says “hooooo” the Raylettes respond back with “hooooo,” using the same approximate pitch and tone as Charles, the leader.

When Charles speeds up his lines, “heeyyyy, hooooo, heeyyy, hoooo, heeyy, hooo, hey, hoo, hey, hoo, hey, hoo, the Raylettes respond by speeding up their lines. This interplay is repeated numerous times throughout the song. Even the bass and piano lines are built on this same classic call and response exchange.

I contend that a similar call and response takes place in the classroom, between teachers and students. In many ways, the teacher’s lesson plan is like a musical score that is first sung by the leader – the teacher, then, the students, the chorus, upon hearing the leader’s phrasing, (lesson plans) respond back in generally the same key and tone as the teacher. The students do this through their schoolwork, homework and imaginative class participation. Once this simpatico is established, you have what is commonly referred to as a jam session.

In my mind, this musical comparison is far from radical. One might even call it conservative, even schooly. But as many a seasoned player has said to me in the past, “you’ve got to know how to play in, before you can play out.” As a teacher/leader, I need to hear you play the Julie Andrews version of My Favorite Things first, and then we can talk about playing it John Coltrane style (or your way). As a teacher/leader, I need to hear you play All The Things You Are in the tradition of Hammerstein and Kern, first, and then we can talk about playing it Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Paul Bley style. If that is being schooly, then I don’t want to be unschooly. (Luther Ingram)

This week my students were asked to sub-title their weekly This Week In Blogs slideshow “The Unschooly Edition.” This week, and possibly for the next several weeks, I want my students to arrange and design the curriculum and assessments for this final marking period as they see fit. Students in my Media Literacy class will use Survey Monkey, the online survey creation tool to create a series of tests, surveys and to take polls on a wide variety of schooly and unschooly topics that we mutually agree upon. My students will also be given the freedom to propose topics and assignments that are of particular interest to them. I'll be sure to keep you current.

H. Songhai

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Monday, April 21, 2008

A Not Too Tricky Wiki

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Digital Archiving & 21st Century Learning

Ten years ago, when I first took a shine to digital archiving, I never thought that one day I'd be using my digital camera as a scanner. I never thought I'd be using my camera for anything other than taking pictures of people, places and special events. But lately I've been using my digital camera like it were a scanner to create high quality image files of student papers, handouts, advertisements, newspaper articles, magazine covers, and illustrations. The idea here is to encourage my students to use these image files to lively up their blog posts, slide shows and other electronic documents.

The process is simple. First, I spread the newspaper, the math problems, the class notes, or whatever it is I need to shoot, out flat on the desk. I then carefully position the camera over the document and snap the picture. The image files are saved directly to an SD card. Right now I am using a 1 gigabyte SD card, but SD cards come in even larger sizes - up to 4 and 8 gigs. When I'm ready to transfer the images, I remove the card from the camera, pop the SD card in a card reader and share the media with the students. Most of the digital cameras on the market today shoot high quality video. A 1 gig SD card can hold up to 30 minutes of video! Students can very easily incorporate this video into their everyday assignments.

Over the last several weeks, I've been using my digital camera to scan/shoot excerpts of my student's math, English and science homework, as well as various headlines, articles, advertisements and illustrations featured in the Philadelphia Metro newspaper and the Philadelphia Sunday Inquirer. You could say I'm creating a 21st century microfiche archive of Philadelphia's print media and my student's academic careers. Most recently I've been photographing select articles and headlines from the Philadelphia Tribune and from Scoop USA newspaper. And even though these images are not flatbed scans, they still reproduce beautifully in color and in black and white. These images show exceptionally well on a computer monitor. These files are a perfect complement to my paperless classroom philosophy. I have not used my school's copy machine once this entire school year! In fact, I have not made photo copies of any work or assignments in over three years.

I hope one day all students (not just Media Literacy students) will see the power of digital archiving. I look forward to the day when JPEG files, MP3 files and MOV files are a rudimentary part of every student's scholastic experience and are as second nature as pens, pencil cases and book bags.

Eventually, I would like to turn this hands-on approach to Media Literacy over to those students whose vision of Computer Class lies outside of the keyboarding, writing and publishing realm that I primarily offer. At its most fundamental level digital archiving includes: photo scanning (as described above) converting LP records, audio cassettes and VHS tapes over to digital format and cataloging digital media. Digital archiving engages students. Students learn a useful skill through digital archiving and in the long run, they provide an invaluable service to their immediate and extended learning communities.

If we as educators are preparing students for jobs, careers and vocations that do not even exist yet, it is incumbent upon us to model new approaches to note taking, information gathering, hypertext writing and the many marvelous ways digital media can best be used in the 21st century classroom.

H. Songhai

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Friday, April 04, 2008

The Home Stretch

Starting 3/24/08, and on every Monday until the end of the school year, Media Literacy students in my 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th period classes will need to embed a slideshow onto your blog once a week. I will leave comments on your blog and check your page several times a week to see that the slideshow is there and to check on the accuracy of the stories you add to the slideshow.

As you add your weekly stories to your embedded ZOHO or your Google slideshow, your slideshow will automatically update on your blog! Every time you save your document, I see the changes immediately. The ZOHO or Google Presentation slideshow is the tool we will use to create, edit and publish our weekly episodes of This Week In Blogs.

You will need to repeat these steps every Monday for the remainder of the school year. Your final grade for this course will be based on the effort, the heartiness and the accuracy of your weekly embedded slideshows.

If you are comfortable using Jumpcut, Eyespot, iMovie, or Moviemaker you may use any of those programs to create your weekly episode of This Week In Blogs. You are encouraged to record all of your reports with a video camera, or a cell phone and to embed that video inside of ZOHO, Google Presentation or your blog.

If you write your stories clearly and accurately, there really is no wrong way of compiling your weekly episodes of This Week In Blogs, especially if you include photographs, hyperlinks and video.

See me if you have questions.

H. Songhai