Does your class require students to be extroverts?

Susan Cain’s TED talk on the Power of Introverts has really made me think – “a third to a half of the population are introverts”. Like her, I have had to force myself to be an extrovert in professional situations and I avoid large social situations, and the staffroom, like the plague as I do not enjoy the multiple conversations bouncing around the room.

I am a firm believer that, as a teacher be you introvert or extrovert you have to be out there, teach with passion and flare, or Teach Like a Pirate as Dave Burgess says, and hook your students into learning and develop that passion for knowledge and curiosity. But, then do we always allow that space or opportunity for the introvert to operate within the class?

I have quiet working spaces and caves. Provide opportunities to work outside or use earmuffs to remove the background chatter.  I allow wait time with students, so they have time to process their response and make sure that I have a quiet chat with each student every day.  As a class we have modelled and pulled apart co-operative, paired and individual learning and I allow opportunities for student to choose how and where they work. I would like to think that the needs of the introvert is catered for in my classroom, but am not 100% sure.

Now to the next tricky question. How often is the introvert teacher shut down in the  staff room or in meetings by the extrovert teacher? Or, how often

Click to Enlarge - Borrowed from Twitter, but can'f find where.
Click to Enlarge – Borrowed from Twitter from @Psychology.

is the introverts idea squashed because it is not out there enough? Or, more commonly, how often does the introvert teacher not contribute in staff meetings because they just do not feel comfortable? I do not know the answer to those three questions or even if they are real issues, but they are things that we need to think of as educators.

We need to nurture and empower the introverts in society or schools or staff rooms and allow them the opportunities to be who they are and allow them to become the person they will be, not force them to become extroverts because we think it is the way we all should be.

Apps that Create – GIF Makers

GifI have used many a .gif file (Graphic Interchange Format), but until the other day never created one. There have animation_by_GifMEbeen two iOS apps that I have trailed over the past week and both have simple interfaces, are easy to work and the end result is a GIF image that can be uploaded to blogs, webpages or other presentations.

The two Apps that I have used are GIF Shop and Gif Me, I am sure that there are online webpages or downloadable programs that will do the same or better, but both these Apps are cheap (Were actually free on Apps Gone Free).  Both gather images through either your camera roll or take images through front or back cameras.  You sequence the images, choose the speed of the Gif and then create. You are able to email to a friend or save to camera roll.  The whole process takes no longer than a few minutes.

Applications in the classroom

  1. Sharing a sequence.
  2. Advertising an event.
  3. Showing change over time time.
  4. Get kids to create a GIF from photos taken every Monday over a term.
  5. Just cool!

Why not a video?

  • Gif is just an image file, so does not need to be embedded through Youtube or Vimeo.
  • File size is quite small, where video is much larger.
  • Just shows images in a set sequence and can create from photos taken over a long time period.

The Teacher Blog: a Powerful Reflective Tool

If you have a professional Blog then I hope that you have had the same experience as me.  If you do not then I think you should give it a go even if you are going to keep it to yourself like a diary or journal. Just by writing down your thoughts you will look at you actions in a different way and reflect on them and I believe that the act of reflection is one of the keys to being a learner.

Only 4 months ago I published my first post on this blog with the only person I was intending to read it being me or my principal when it came time for my appraisal.  I did not really have a goal or vision, but just wanted a place to record the successes and fails and moments of clarity.  After a few posts I realised that it was missing the connection of others so shared with a few members of staff and then Tweeted it to my PLN.

Made with GIF Shop on the iPhone. First attempt and might be a bit annoying?

Once that first share through twitter was out in cyber space the blog became a true reflective tool.  I had those people who I think of as friends and respect as educators commenting and reacting to my posts in a positive way or in a feed forward way that gave me links to further learning or ideas from others – success as there was an audience.  Then came the next point that I had not thought through – if make a post public it can bounce around the world many times and the people that you get feedback from you have never met before and often are not educators, who was my initial target audience. Posts have been pinned and re-pinned or pinged back or tweeted or posted on FaceBook and scooped then re-scooped; a whole new language of online literacy.

I reflected on a Fighting Fantasy book that I read to my class.  A few teachers commented, but scores of gamers sent me messages commenting on the photo (26)concept.  Their comments ranged from how their teacher read a similar book to them and it was a highlight of their education or a teacher hassled them about gaming (Dungeons & Dragons etc…) and it was the beginning of the end to their respect of teachers and education.  Then I received a comment from the man who authored the book and WOW, what a Fan Boy moment that was.  I wrote a post on my classroom design. I was sent links to others who were on the same wavelength and had Swedish designers ask me questions about why and how I had done certain things and what the effect on the students was from the choices that I had made.

But, taking aside the fact that people actually read my reflections I asked myself why I actually do this and discovered that it is therapeutic.  By recording down 2-3 posts a week I am looking at my teaching practice in greater detail and am a better teacher for it.  Each post takes me 10-30 minutes to write, but that 30 minutes is time I am thinking only about my teaching and classroom practice.

My blog is..

  • …therapeutic.
  • …makes me ask the hard questions.
  • …it lets me celebrate the successes.
  • …models the writing process and although my students do not read my blog they know that I write it. Like them I am a writer.
  • …a record of my learning journey.
  • …a portal for feedback

With technology it is so easy to record and share, so why don’t we more often?

Found a great iPad and iPhone App, had a play, then recorded a super quick review and after all that was done I uploaded it to YouTube. Entire process was less that 10 minutes.

Maybe my editing could have been better?

Maybe I should have scripted?

Maybe I should have had a third take instead of being happy with the second?

…but the task was not to be perfect, as it was to share and to share quickly, then procede with my day.  It is open for the world, but I could have saved it just for those with the link, then embedded it in a Wiki or class blog thus sharing the learning with a specific group of people.   I guess my message with this post is that we have the technology to quickly record then share in a way that is accessible and rewindable, so why don’t we, as it would help a lot of our kids. I don’t at the moment with my year 3s and 4s as I have always thought them too young, but  now I feel that I might have been wrong?

Collaboration on the fly – #NZSchoolTimelapse

Yesterday morning, with only 30 minutes before the bell went I had some students playing, and we all know that kids learn through play, on the iLapse app. A few days previous Stephen’s (@PalmyTeacher) class had time lapsed with some letters the proverbial phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and over the holidays a collection of teachers collaborated on the #NZTimeLapse project; we never talked and it was all co-ordinated through twitter and a Google Doc.Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 10.45.42 AM

So I sent out a tweet, sent my class off around the school to time lapse busses arriving, classes beginning and waited. Then the messages came in, a Google document to coordinate was requested and the project began.

As I post there are classes around the country, and even some distance learners through the correspondence school, trying to capture moments of their school day. Stephen’s class have already created the opening title sequence and there are already a couple of clips completed and ready to be edited together.

If this works, and I am sure that it will, there is already talk of future collaborations – pass the story, pick a path stories, retelling of stories or plays where each school takes a scene and performs it in a style of their choosing  (Much like the Star Wars Uncut project).  The big learning here is the process and connections of schools and teachers – who knows what will happen when we allow the students to take over.

Choosing a different type of book to read to the class – Fighting Fantasy

tumblr_m6wkl0ENgu1rqszvno1_400Every day we spend at least 10 minutes where I read to the class and they listen and respond with questions.  We build up a understanding of the characters, discuss what makes a book good to read aloud and how the authors describe through showing what is happening in detail rather than telling. Normally it is a novel, occasionally a book of poetry and if we find a great picture book author we might spend a day or 2 reading through a stack of their books investigating how the art moves the story along and tells what words do not need to.

I have a list of books that I know I would captivate any class – The Tale of Despereaux, A Series of Unfortunate Events, anything by Roald Dahl, The Iron Giant, Kensuke’s Kingdom and the list goes on.  Additionally I have a list of some of my most beloved books that just do not sound good being read aloud to a class and have not gotten past chapter three before I say “…and if you are loving this book it is at the library.”

Ok, I’m usually blogging about IT integration in the classroom and I still do.  When we read are reading a book we will have the Interactive Whiteboard open and use…Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 8.30.06 AM

  • – Discovering the meaning of the word suppurating was fantastic.
  • Google Earth – Tracking the trip around the world in Kensuke’s Kingdom.
  • YouTube to compare books to their movie trailers

To the real point of this posting. I found in the back of a cupboard the other day my copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – A Fighting Fantasy Gamebook. Now at age 9 this book captivated me as it is a cross between a board game, puzzle and just a great story.  So I brought my dusty, crusty old copy that was given to my brother fresh from publication in 1982 then secretly stolen from his shelf . The game record page had been worn thin from pencil scratchings and eraser marks.

I simplified the fighting rules and presented it to the class on Monday morning – eyes were rolled, groans echoed around the room and one even said 4677291212_24c0acc623‘Really Mr Dyer, rolling a dice when you read a book sounds a bit dumb’. So I read, the noises stopped and the ears pricked as the language unfolded. The first argument began as we were asked to turn East or West at a junction in the passage  and decided by voting visually by standing either in the East or West side of the class.

Next they chose to enter into a room were faced with 2 goblins and the first battle began. We dispatched one instantly, then we took a hit and then the second goblin was slain – the class actually cheered and the teacher from the room next door had to pop in her head to check we were ok. We pillaged the room and found a key marked 99 that was recorded on the Adventure sheet that was up on the IWB.

After a week we have taken hits, freed a crazed madmen gave us a clue that saved us from certain death. Choosing to try and steal a gem resulted in the statue to come alive attack us and we only just left the room with one health point left after the battle with the Iron Cyclops. We have an inventory list of items that we are yet to use and every time we come to a door the class hope it asks for key 99.

It may sound silly to some, but to me, the geek who was raised on D&D, Warhammer and similar games, it is normal and just too much fun. I was not expecting it to work, but hoping that it would provide a type of book that might appeal to some of my reluctant boy readers. The reality is that I have found a text that the whole class is engrossed in. Looking on TradeMe (NZ version of EBay) you can pick Fighting Fantasy or Pick a Path books up for $1 each and even if they just sit on the shelf of your classroom library for the kids to read individually you are providing a new genre for your students.  I know they will be a hit with the class, so give it a go.