Songhai Concepts

Media Literacy/Digital Archiving Instructor

Friday, December 26, 2008

On teaching in the lush gardens of YouTube, iTunes and MySpace

Once in a while in my Media Literacy class, I'll pump up the volume on a video, a podcast, or a selection of poetry - mostly for effect, but mainly to better illustrate a point or to demonstrate how a particular technical move should be done. On several occasions my colleagues have stuck their heads in my room and asked me to tone it down. Some days, I get so absorbed with presenting and sharing media that I forget that I have teaching neighbors on both sides of me. I oblige them of course, no problem. But then, there are some days when you can literally hear a pin drop - it's that quiet. Eighteen computers whirring, nineteen brains a churning, ah, sweet engagement.

As much as I enjoy turning up the volume and sharing the Ugly Beauty of a Thelonious Monk, or the swelling chants of an Amiri Baraka, I believe I'm most effective in the classroom when the room is quiet - when all you can hear is the whirring of the computer fans. When the room is quiet the students can think better and help each other (which they do expertly) and I can work one on one with the struggling students to help extinguish the little technical fires that regularly flare up in a Media Literacy class. I believe that a quiet classroom also gives students a chance to take a mind breath and to reflect on the multiple tasks at hand.

In my Media Literacy class all students are required to bring headphones to class. See my post, Tools You Can Use. The students use their headphones to listen to podcasts, watch topic specific videos and to make audio and video recordings. Well, at least according to my course outline and syllabus, that's why they bring these items to class. But here is the reality: only a handful of students have spent the $29.00 to buy the headphone/mic sets and only a smaller few use their headphones to listen to podcasts and to watch topic specific videos. Instead, an inordinate amount of time is spent listening to the musical styling's of T.I., Sasha Fierce and T -Pain. There is also a lot of fascination with street fighting and beat down videos. These distractions are a given in the 21st century classroom.

It is a major challenge to keep teens on task in the lush gardens of YouTube, iTunes and MySpace, but I must admit, that since we've been working with Audacity and MPEG Streamclip, there has been a significant increase in responsible and constructive headphone usage in my Media Literacy class. My biggest complaint these days is reminding students that headphones are for private listening and that neither I nor the students sitting near them should hear your audio if you are wearing headphones.

Fighting, plagiarism, insubordination and cutting class notwithstanding, I believe that keeping students engaged and productive in the lush gardens of YouTube, iTunes, MySpace, Facebook et al, will be one of the biggest challenges for 21st century educators. I started teaching rather late in my career - at the age of 40 and after my first week in the classroom, I quickly learned two invaluable lessons: 1. that I needed to bring my own teaching props to class - television, camera, microphones, books, magazines and 2. that the "sit and get" approach to teaching would not work for me nor would it work for my students, at least not everyday. "Sit and get" worked for my generation in the '60's and the '70's when the teacher was the grand poobah of all things scholarly and there were no laptop computers, no cell phones, no MP3 players and of course no Internet. But that was 40 years ago. Since then, the educational landscape has changed drastically.

Information is super abundant today. It is on my MP3 player, it is on my cell phone, it's on my digital camera and on my flash drive. Information is all over the Internet, in podcasts, on YouTube, on bliptv, and on iTunesU and don't forget that seemingly endless repository of information available through iGoogle, Netvibes and Pageflakes? Let's face it, even the grandest of poobahs would seem shallow and uninformed alongside all of the information available over the Internet today.

For those of us toiling daily in the digital vineyards, a huge part of our job in 2009 will be to remain open and receptive to the best practices and approaches for keeping our students engaged and productive in the lush gardens of YouTube, iTunes and high tech gadgets.
We can accomplish this through meaningful (just-in-time) professional development and through focused, face-to-face exchanges with our colleagues down the hall and around the corner. Another important part of this challenge is to broaden our own virtual learning networks by subscribing to educational podcasts, educational blogs, and participating in webinars and conferences like K12 Online, EduCon and Classroom 2.0. These forums are hosted by some of the best thinkers and developers working in education today. Most of these sessions are free, downloadable and easy to archive. It's a great time to be a student and an even greater time to be a teacher!

H Songhai

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wrapping up the What's On My MP3 Player project

As you wrap up the What's On My MP3 Player project, please add the Google Reader MP3 player to your blog. Insert this code into your blogger edit window to embed an MP3 player onto your blog. See me for details about embedding this code onto your blog. From Audacity, you will need to export your project as a .wav file and then upload that audio to your wiki. This is a little tricky, so see me for specific details and instruction.

And finally, type all of the artists and podcast titles you used in this project into worldle and create a word glyph. Use the PrintScreen key to take a snapshot of the wordle word glyph and insert that image on your blog together with the Google Reader MP3 player.

H Songhai

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

iPaper and Scribd: Toward a Paperless Classroom

When I first started blogging in 2005 I made a pledge to myself and to my students that our class would operate as a 100 percent paperless classroom. 2008 marks my fourth consecutive year of operating a totally paperless classroom. There are a number of reasons why I don't use paper: paper is too expensive, most students do not value paper, papers are messy, papers are hard to keep up with, students lose papers, teachers lose papers, papers get dirty, papers rip, papers drop and fall out of order and so on and so on and so on... Those are just a few of the reasons why I don't use paper.

Most of my colleagues use paper - paper memos, paper projects, paper handouts, paper tests, paper worksheets, paper quizzes, paper essays. I know this because I man the primary computer lab at my school and daily, a dozen or more students come to the lab needing to print essays, reports, 20 page web sites, college applications and the obligatory poster board pictures. I don't have a printer in my classroom, but there is a printer down the hall where I can send print jobs for students who must have paper.

I always ask those students who are paper dependent if their instructors will accept an Email submission in lieu of a printed paper. A handful of my colleagues are open to receiving assignments via Email, but the majority of the students at my school, despite their expertise using MySpace and Face Book, do not have Email accounts and/or do not know how to send an Email with an attachment.

In all fairness, it's easy for me to talk about the benefits of going paperless - I have twenty computers in my classroom. My colleagues have only one. I've heard talk that more computers are coming, but until then, what's a teacher to do?

One solution might be to start using Scribd. Scribd is another one of those free and amazing Web 2.0 tools that make document sharing as easy as pointing and clicking.
Users can explore thousands of documents on the Scribd web site and submit and share their original work in a matter of minutes.

Below is an example of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. The iPaper was authored by Andrew Churches and added to Scribd by Darren Kuropatwa.

Blooms Digital Taxonomy v2.12

Smart and practical web tools like Scribd make the idea of a paperless classroom a very plausible endeavor. Users can upload a variety of document files that they create as well as read the thousands of beautifully created documents that others have submitted to Scribd.

If students, teachers and administrators are looking for an alternative to paper, then Scribd is, without a doubt one of the best ways to create professional looking documents and deliver those documents to a global audience with ease.

H Songhai

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Listening Forward

I'm listening forward to next week when my Media Literacy students post their finished versions of What's On My MP3 player onto their education blogs. Many of them have been working very hard sampling music and dissecting podcasts in order to meet the December 17th deadline. The project is essentially an audio mashup. The students are using Audacity to cut and arrange a series of music sequences and podcasts into smart musical and spoken word statements. After the students gather and organize their media (a series of 12 second sequences or less) they will begin the tedious job of stacking and arranging their audio sequences on the Audacity timeline. The project length is between two minutes and 30 seconds and three minutes.

Last week I introduced the students to MPEG Streamclip, a powerful media player and editor that I discovered while reading Wesley Fryer's blog. MPEG Streamclip is the perfect complement for a project like this. Here are some of the features I like best about MPEG Streamclip.
  • Allows users to set in-points and out-points on audio or video media
  • Allows users to export video to a variety of different formats
  • Users can export video to audio
  • Users can copy the URL from YouTube and other video sites
  • Cutting and trimming media is intuitive and user-friendly
Give MPEG Streamclip a whirl. It's fun, easy to use, and best of all, it's free. I think you'll like it.

H Songhai

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