About two and a half years ago I was on a plane flying back from a trip to Germany composing a blog post about the next transition in my professional life. I had just accepted a position in my district in Rocklin as a Tech TOSA (teacher on special assignment), which meant I was about to say goodbye to my life as a history teacher (which I started in 1998). Before I began this new chapter in my life, I shared my thoughts in a blog. Here is the original blog post.
Fast forward two years and I'm starting another post as I sit in the passenger seat of our car somewhere in the Arizona desert with the thermometer pushing 122° and I am once again facing a new path.
Now, this is not because I find my work as a Tech TOSA lacking in any regards, I really love my job being a TOSA. Sure, I shared those same feeling that all educators do once they step out of the classroom of missing the connections with students. As a TOSA I anticipated that I would have many of these opportunities to connect with kids as I moved from school to school and class to class working in classrooms. At times this did happen (just this last spring I had the incredible opportunity to work with the 6th grade classes at Sierra Elementary and their fantastic teachers assisting with their Environmental PSA videos). This experience was one of the highlights of my TOSA life! Thanks again to all of you for letting me come out! Here is a link to the YouTube playlist of videos these kids made.
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed these opportunities, the reality of my job was that these opportunities did not come around as often as I thought they would have. The primary reason for this was simply the scope of the job and the size of my district. Being the only Tech TOSA in a district serving 11 elementaries, 2 middle, 2 high, 1 alternative and 1 charter made it a bit of a challenge getting into classrooms. Even with these challenges and how much I found myself missing the classroom, I still loved going to work each day and assisting teachers, building capacity and helping the district move forward with the betterment of the teaching profession. The biggest PLUS in terms of this job was being part of what we called “Team TOSA”. This is the incredible group of TOSAs with whom over the past two years I have worked in planning, collaborating and laughing over so many projects.
So where does that leave me now?
Well, a lot went down in a short time and I’ll give you the Cliffsnotes version.
A teaching job at Rocklin High (my previous school) in Broadcasting opened up and after talking with the principal and my family, it looked like we all wanted to see me back at the school. My oldest daughter will be a senior and my youngest is going into 8th grade. They both have grown up in our town of Rocklin observing me as a teacher and football coach their entire lives. They wanted to be at the high school with me, in my classes, and have us all be part of our rich school culture together. And yes… I wanted that too. It was the timing of this TOSA job two years ago which made this a challenge. But now, here we were with a new opportunity with a new class, one which ties in with my digital storytelling passions and allows me to back in the classroom at the school with my kids.
One of my biggest concerns in all of this was leaving the body of work and connections I had made as a TOSA though. So, some conversations with lots of higher ups brought about a compromise that will allow me to juggle both roles. I will still get to remain as a part time TOSA and will work in the afternoons in that position while teaching Broadcasting in the morning. In the end (hopefully) I get the best of both worlds.
In closing I would like to thank a few people who really made this happen.
First my Superintendent Roger Stock and Deputy Superintendent Kathy Pon. As I approached the two of them with this idea, the message that they gave me back about “whenever you put family first, the chips in life will fall into place” (sorry if I butchered your quote Roger!) made me feel confident that I was making the right choice.
Secondly, RHS Principal Davis Stewart who guided me through this process and shared with me his vision of the potential that this class has to be something special. Thanks Stew!
Lastly my wife and two daughters, you three were very supportive of me during this last stage as a TOSA and you desire to have me at RHS made this all happen.
Alright, time to start lesson planning.
Uh...any ideas where I should start?
Let me start off by saying that I have grown up a lot! (At least I hope I have)
I was digging through some old memorabilia and found some high school work of mine. I am going to share some of it below but there is a reason for this madness and it's not to show what a butt head I was (although after reading it you may agree with the butt head label).
I attended Fountain Valley High School in So Cal back in 1989 (to put me in the writing mood tonight, I am playing my 80’s New Wave playlist which you can check out here; am I missing any hits?)
My senior year I did not make it into the “college prep” English class due to a consistent, less than stellar GPA my previous three years and the class I was in referred to ourselves as the Sweathogs (the term is from “Welcome Back Kotter” and if you haven’t seen it, give it a watch on YouTube).
My English teacher ended up being Jim Beirne.
Was he bad teacher? No.
Did he wear a Members Only jacket in his class photo? Yes.
Did I like him back in 1989? No.
Now here is where it gets a little fuzzy... I am not sure why I couldn’t stand him. The one thing which does stick out was his making us do Daily Writing Journals.
Oh how I loathed these journals. Reflecting on it now I remember the overriding reason I hated them was the fact that I didn’t think my teacher ever read any of them. It was this lack of feedback which really pissed me off and the reason why is that I think I actually TRIED in many of these journals to put real thought and effort.
Each day he would assign a different prompt and each day he would return the previous days with this initials showing us we got credit for it. Well, after a few months I got more and more angry with the apparent laziness and lack of care he had to even read these prompts so I challenged Mr. Beirne and well, you can read some of the highlights below:
Now I bet you can imagine what his initials on the top of the page meant to me?
He didn’t read it again.
Oh, how vindicated and smug I felt for weeks.
But to any educators reading this now… What are your thoughts about this assigning and feedback paradox? I ask because after teaching 15 years of AP World History my last two years I felt so relieved to tell the kids the brutal truth: “I am not capable to read all the writing you will do in this class”. It was a huge weight off my chest because this lesson I had deep in me from 1989 was that students NEED feedback but now that I WAS THE TEACHER, how could I honestly give feedback for 6 classes of 30+ kids on a regular basis without going mad?
So… what are you thoughts about giving written assignments and giving teacher feedback?
Oh.. and wherever you are Mr. Beirne, I am sorry again. These journals are a gold mine for me to look back and see a little about who I was and what I was thinking about. I will treasure these.
And I did actually like the Members Only Jacket.
Recently I got back from our family cross country adventure from CA to TX and I wanted to create a short, shareable story our our trip. I love telling stories of my life “By The Numbers” and while on our trip I was using Google Keep to record different memories. Normally when I do one of these stories I create an infographic using Google Drawing. It's been a lot of fun making these and seeing others do the same for everything from Summer Vacation to Ancient Rome. Here is a previous blog post about making your own Numbers infographics.
For this recent trip I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of the infographic, I thought I would make a video. The main reason was so I could use more of our photos from the trip instead of icons from The Noun Project.
After collecting all of of my number experiences, I next had to decide HOW to make the video. I have used many different programs for videos with my “go to’s” being iMovie for quick and easy videos and Adobe Premiere Elements for more advanced ones. I thought about these two, but also looked at some easier apps like Google Photos and Quik (this is an app from Go Pro and it makes really engaging videos and it is free). These are SUPER easy and fun to use but I decided against them since they we too rigid in terms of how long images could be shown and the motion (Ken Burns) effect added to the photos. And then I thought “hey… how about PowerPoint?” Now most of us have all made a PowerPoints at one point or time. It's easy to add images, shapes and allows you to create visually appealing text. As I was making my video, I thought that this could be something that other teachers and student can easily do on their own, so I am sharing the steps in how to create making a PowerPoint video.
Before we start, here is the finished video project
Now to the steps in how to create a video:
1) Add images, text and shapes on your slide. For most of my video I had one image on each slide. I made the photo fit on the entire screen, then added a rectangle and changed the color to gray with a 50% transparency. This was done so that the text can stand out better. Lastly, I added text in which include a shadowing effect to also make it “pop”.
2) If you want your text to be even more dramatic you can use the WordArt feature as well which allows outlines, gradients as well as shadow effects.
3) Continue adding all your images and text on different slides. Once done you will need to look to add some music. Before you start just adding any song you wish, you definitely need to think about copyright. I won’t go into all that here, but check out this post about finding music.
4) Next you will need to add your music. This is one of the HUGE reasons why PowerPoint is still the Cadillac of presentation software and Google Slides is a Toyota Camry. Now, let me make this clear. I love Google Slides… I mean seriously… the Toyota Camry is a great vehicle but it does lack quite a few features and one of the biggest features missing in GSlides is the ability to add sounds. So, Google if you are reading… let's get some updates going to GSlides… call me if you need some advice.
Now back to adding music.
To add music go to you first slide. For my video I wanted to have a “lead” or a slide with a title. It lets the user know what is coming and helps set the scene. Inserting music is simple, go to INSERT and choose AUDIO, then navigate to where your song is located on your computer and click Insert.
5) Once it has been added you will need to do some edits in order to make the music PLAY automatically, LAST the duration of all your slides, and to HIDE the icon on the slide. You can find where to edit this properties in the Animation Pane as you can see in this screenshot.
6) In order for you images to move automatically from one to another you will go to TRANSITIONS and choose to ADVANCE SLIDE AUTOMATICALLY. You can choose the length of time each slide will stay on screen or have them all do the same time. Generally speaking 3 seconds is a good time if you only have an image and about 6 seconds is good if you have an image and text. A good rule of thumb is to play around with you timing by reading aloud all the text and see how long it takes you to read it, and then add one more second to be safe.
7) The final step is to EXPORT your video. This is different than saving. This is the turning of your slideshow into a video. Go to FILE and choose EXPORT and then pick “Create A Video”. I recommend doing the highest setting. You will see that it will ask you here about the duration of your slides; for mine I used my existing transition times. And when you’re ready “BAM” click on the Create button. It will take a few minutes to render (export) the video.
When you are done upload to YouTube or share it any other way you feel. The video will be a .mp4 which is a standard video file type.
I hope you found this somewhat useful and if you end up making your own video in PowerPoint please share with me your video!
When you hear the word “meme” you think of funny images that are passed around on the internet. Many of the pictures are the same, but the captions change and we share them with each other to help embody how we all feel. The concept of a meme is much larger than just funny web based pictures though.
Many of us who live on the web love making and sharing these to tell how we feel and promote things in our lives. For myself, I just recently took part in a history themed weekend workshop for teachers on the USS Hornet and I found myself flooding my Twitter with memes about this event. Here is one of these:
But the story of memes is an interested one.
“The story of memes is crucial to the understanding of digital culture, and not only as a characteristic of an Internet subculture, but as a cultural artifact that is gaining new meaning and function as it is breaking more and more into the mainstream”
This is from an interesting research paper about memes and culture which you can find here
The term meme itself was proposed by Richard Dawkins in 1976, basing the word on the Ancient Greek word “mīmēma” meaning 'something imitated’. It is this imitation which defines memes. Dawkins writes that memes “denote all non-genetic behaviour and cultural ideas that are passed on from person to person”. In the internet-connected world today we often view memes as simply funny images that are passed around but they really are the modern equivalent of the water cooler.
A newer definition from Peter Davison in 2009 says a meme is “a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission”. They truly are reflections of our culture and are very interesting to study. Since these memes reflect our culture it is us, every day people, who create and share these.
The infographic at the end of this post is a little dated and I edited out some of the more adult related memes, but it helps tell the story of how memes have exploded on the internet and in our culture. And I know I am "old" when I remember the Dancing Baby on Ally McBeal and having me kids all go to the hampster dance web site in our school's computer lab
For another reading on memes, here is a more recent blog post titled "What Are Internet Memes and Where Did They Come From?" from @lifewire
Lastly, if you would like to have your students make their own memes, you can find many sites on the web. I have created a Google Slides deck where they can create their own in a more safer and secure environment. If you would like this file, just open this link. These can be a creative and fun way for your students to express themselves and, in the end, learn how to take part in this meme culture.
Special thanks to Mrs. Michelle Hutton here in Rocklin Unified who had her kids do this very same idea with her sixth graders to tell how they felt at the end of the school year.