Tuesday, 8 November 2011

My First Webinar (and some backstory)

Today I got to do something that, when I was a kid, nobody ever would have believed possible - I did my first live webinar (thanks to SimpleK12.com :-).

See, when I was a kid, up until my early teens, I was painfully, brutally shy. I was all elbows and knees, spiky hair and freckles like a raccoon mask around my eyes and there would have been NO WAY that you could have made me even THINK about doing something like this!

Now I teach a public speaking class and have given many pro-D sessions an tech training workshops face-to-face with hundreds of teachers.

So what changed? I remember the day that I changed how I saw myself. I realized that I was being my own worst enemy. I realized that walking around looking at my shoes was like wearing a sign that said "please pick on me!". And I realized that humor makes a pretty good shield sometimes :-). I raised my eyes up and started making eye contact with people. I walked taller. I started using my sense of humor more and over time, my self-confidence grew.

Now I'm absolutely not afraid to try new things. I need to challenge myself to keep honing my skills to become a better teacher, but I had never given a live webinar presentation before and I felt a healthy case of nerves leading up today. I realized how much I use my audiences' body language and posture to gauge my presentation by. With those cues removed, I felt a bit like I was flying blind, but it felt SO good to do it that now I'd gladly do it again!

So try something new. Really, what other life are you waiting for? You've got a chance? Suck it up and give it a go!

- Posted from my iPad

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pre-CYOA Webinar Nerves :-)

So tomorrow's going to be an interesting day indeed. I have volunteered to do a webinar for SimpleK12 and tomorrow is the tech check before we go and do it LIVE on Tuesday! Hope the lab cooperates with me tomorrow :-)

The webinar is about the CYOA project mentioned on this blog. As I've said before, every 4 weeks I do a different video-based project with my students (on a 3 block cycle). Now for the past 2 blocks, my friend and colleague Maggie has been handling the project portion of my class while I teach a CAE test prep class, and she's done a FANTASTIC job with each project, including the CYOA one...but it means I'm feeling a bit rusty :-) I think Maggie and I have a good system going and she's definitely got the skills and personality to make everything go, so in that respect I'm very lucky - some of my staff members are card-carrying Luddites who still feel uncomfortable with the photocopier :-)

Speaking live without being able to see people's faces is a whole different animal from what I'm used to, so I feel a tad more nervous than usual. My PowerPoint is prepped and ready to rock, so I'm just going to go for it and hope I explain everything clearly. Glad it's going to moderated :-)

SimpleK12 rocks! It's THE place where I can actually get some pro-d that fits my tech needs that go with my Ed-Tech coordinator position. Highly recommend a look if you've never seen their stuff before.

More tomorrow!

- Posted from my iPad


Monday, 29 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 6 + 7

We invaded the computer lab and students began narrating their parts of the story. The groups were finished by the end of day 7.

Materials and Equipment
1. Book computer lab time - my students worked in groups, so space them out around your lab space as much as possible. Computers should have Movie Maker installed.
2. Headset microphones (1 per group)
3. Copies of story booklets (students have these already)

The Process
1. Before we went into the lab I instructed students to make sure ALL members of their group recorded their own narration and that ALL members got to use Movie Maker to perform basic editing tasks and recording (to avoid 1 student doing all the work while the rest of the group dozed)
2. Students were asked to sit together and use 1 computer per group. I also wrote the directory path on the board that the groups were to use when saving their work (something they did frequently, but even so we had computers freeze and some groups lost some work).
3. Each group worked on recording their part of the story in small chunks so that if re-recording was necessary, it would only be for a small part (as opposed to recording a whole page at once, making a mistake right at the end and then having to record it all again :-). The workflow was basically "practice, record, name the recording, save the project, repeat with the next person".
4. I had each group put a title at the start of their project so that we could follow the story more easily when viewing them on my YouTube channel.
5. After each group had finished their recordings, they then had to listen again and adjust the volume of each sound clip so that their voices had similar volume levels throughout their project.

- Posted from my iPad

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 5

After all the prop creation, dividing the story into scenes and then recording those scenes and moving it all onto the computer, we were ready to begin the final stage of this project: the narration!

Materials and Equipment

1. Student copies of their story booklets with the scenes marked on them
2. Lab time and headset microphones for recording

The Process

1. We talked about the difference between telling a story and just reading a story, especially stories like Up, Up, Down (tone of voice, changes in volume and speed) and then creatively read some of the lines from the story together in small groups. I gave suggestions and feedback and picked out words that we could work on for pronunciation. We then practiced those words as a class before continuing.
2. I told students that I wanted them to read each line creatively and that they all needed to take turns - I want to hear all of them in the story :-)
3. I split my 2 main groups into smaller groups for the next part (so now I had groups for part 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b. These groups of 3 students were going to be responsible for telling just part of their booklet to ensure that everyone was involved and had a chance to learn how to use Movie Maker.
4. Students in their small groups went off to practice reading each line creatively and correctly and I circulated to correct pronunciation errors, offer suggestions if asked and answer any questions.

Tomorrow we'll start recording in the lab!

- Posted from my iPad

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Days 3+4

These past two weeks have been CRAZY busy, so I'm behind on my posting! Gasp! After the props were all made, we went into the recording phase of the project. We talked about how the audio in the videos would be muted so that they could narrate their videos later, so noise didn't matter. Creativity and using their group members as much as possible throughout each recorded scene DID matter, so my students were quite busy figuring out ways to make sure everyone was busy either being in a scene, getting a scene ready, working the camera or critiquing a scene for their group. Busy, busy, busy.

Materials and Equipment

1. All the props that your students have created
2. Extra tape, paper, markers, scissors and white-tac...just in case :-)
3. 2 video cameras and spare batteries for both ( we used our trusty Flip cameras)
4. 2 areas where you groups can go so they aren't tripping over each other :-)

The Process

1. Each group divided their booklet (which was 1/2 the story remember) into short scenes of about 1 or two lines each. This was done so re-takes of a scene could be accomplished quickly and easily. This would also assist for narration later on. Each scene was numbered so that the saved video files could also be numbered. This would make editing less painful later on.
2. I gave each group a camera, explained that the wrist strap was not optional, and then sent them off to 2 different parts of the school where they would not interfere with each other (or any other classes :-). They took the spare batteries too.
3. I had told my veteran students to teach the new students how to use the cameras so that everyone got experience and everyone got to take turn being in the scenes.
4. I moved between the two groups offering assistance or suggestions if they asked for any and picking on their pronunciation and grammar while they planned and recorded (yes, it matters even then). I had each group show me some of their recorded scenes on the camera and offered critique if it was warranted or if they asked me.
5. At the end of the hour, I brought both groups back, wrote the location of where to save their videos on my whiteboard and told them to ALL go and learn from a veteran how to dump video off the cameras and where to put the cameras when they were finished.

Another post to follow about prepping for narration! SO much fun!

- Posted from my iPad

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 2

The two groups completed preparing their props today after more work on them yesterday. I've been by asked colleagues about the purpose of so much creating during class time. Isn't it just wasted time? Absolutely not! If you are actively engaged with your students, if you treat it as a language activity with new vocabulary opportunities and plenty of error correction and if you explain how language is connected to the activity for the students (which you would do anyways, right?), there is so much potential! These are just some of the reasons why my students have so much fun creating things- it's beneficial! They know I'm listing to everything, that I will correct them and that they get tons of new vocabulary they will have to actively use throughout the project! Win-win!

Here is a description of what this stage of the project looked like.

Materials and Equipment

1. Coloured paper
2. Scissors, tape and glue sticks (LOTS of scissors:-)
3. Large chart paper
4. Coloured markers (3-4 sets works best)
5. A camera you can use to document their creativity!
6. Space to store all the crazy props! We just used a table.

The Process

1. You can set up all the materials before class begins or, as was the case for our class, I just showed students where to get the materials, how to politely ask for materials and then let them go and get whatever their group needed.
2. Monitor each group's progress and yes, still pick on pronunciation and grammar errors - this is important so that the students understand that project work does not equal mental vacation time! They need to be applying their knowledge in real time.
3. Offering "creative suggestions" is sometimes helpful, but too much kills the flow of ideas in the group. Learn when to just leave things alone. Having said that, sometimes you get some awesome results from a quick suggestion.

An Example? In the picture below is a refrigerator. This group also created a "door" for it, and on the door it said "Samsung", a Korean manufacturer. There were a couple of Japanese students in group and so I asked them who made good fridges in Japan. Apparently, Hitachi is quite good :-) This sparked a very interesting group conversation (while they continued working) about fridges in different countries. This lead to another Japanese student recalling a famous Hitachi commercial, which she then sang and translated for her group (the translating process was very interesting to watch and became quite a collaborative affair!).
All that from one question! I think that is a very positive result for everyone involved.

- Posted from my iPad

Monday, 8 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 1

We're into the second week of a new study block now, and this means a new type of speech (Demonstration speeches with props) and a new digital project, Storytelling 2.0! Given the strong positive feedback from colleagues, from students and from their classmates, we're staying with a video-based project again this block.

We're going to take a Robert Munsch story and work on recording the different scenes from the book. After that the students will narrate each scene (focusing on using expression and emotion, changes in volume and speed and clear pronunciation throughout the narration), and we'll produce the whole thing as a video to share online.

Materials and Equipment

1. Copies of 1/2 the Robert Munsch story Up, Up Down (A and B parts, six copies of each for the two groups in the class)
2. MP3 Recording of Robert Munsch reading Up, Up Down from his website
3. Scissors, glue sticks, tape, coloured paper, chart paper, boxes of coloured markers (enough for two groups of students to share)
4. Copies of handout How to Be a Storyteller (one for each student)
5. One copy of The Paper Bag Princess (to read to the class)
6. Copies of The Paper Bag Princess (one for each student)

The Process

1. I told my students that to introduce this block's project and since I'm a dad (and I have two cute princesses in my house), I'd like to share a story with them that my daughters love that would give them a clue about the project.
2. At this point I gave each student a copy of the story (and asked them to follow along as I read) and then read The Paper Bag Princess to my them in a totally over-the-top dramatic way, complete with voices and sound effects :-)
3. Afterwards, we discussed the story, the vocabulary, the way it was read and what the students thought of it. I also asked them what they think their next project will be (they eventually got it :-)
4. Next, I gave each student a copy of the handout How to Be a Storyteller and had them read it with a partner and we discussed any questions they had.
5. I gave one group of students each a copy of the Part A of the story (six students), and the other group each a copy of Part B of the story (six students).
6. I told the students that, as a group, they were going to divide their handout into scenes, plan how to show each scene as a video and then prepare props for each scene. Only then would they be able to start recording (possibly next class). The groups were told to have ALL group members make a copy of their plan on their handouts and to NUMBER each scene to make editing easier later.
7. I advised students that when they did their recording, they should shoot the scenes with a few extra seconds before and after the action to make the editing later a LOT easier. I also told them that ALL group members must appear in each scene somehow - even as furniture would be okay :-)
8. I told students they would be evaluated as a group and that participation, attendance, creativity, use of props as well as their narration would all be evaluated in a rubric for this project and then I turned them loose!
9. The two groups got their scenes sorted out and both groups got started (but did not finish) preparing the props they would need for each scene.

- Posted from my iPad