Friday, December 9, 2016

#IMMOOC 4: Open Up and Say . . . Culture!

I’ve fallen way behind in #IMMOOC, but I still intend to finish. Although this MOOC ended over a month ago, I plan to finish the last two parts of it and to share my reflections as I conclude this wonderful learning experience.

As I read Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset, I was once again struck by how many things resonated with me. I feel like every time I read a new portion of this book I’m flooded with thoughts about the possibilities of school and ideas for how we can improve the learning experiences of children and adults. Many of these ideas are not new, yet hearing them in this context, paired with new thoughts, creates an inspiring action plan for innovating our learning experiences. Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset focuses on leading in a way that unleashes people’s talents. As leaders we need to recognize the strengths of those we serve and determine how we can create experiences that allow people to utilize their talents. By doing so we can lay a foundation for innovation that will permeate the culture of a building and have lasting effects on the lives of all involved. I like that, although written primarily for those leading adults in an educational setting, these ideas could also be applied to our work with students. Many of these same thoughts can help us establish an innovator’s mindset in the children we work with in schools and can help shape the culture of our classrooms.

Lay the Foundation for Innovation Sketchnote
Duckworth, Sylvia. 5 Ways to Lay the Foundation for Innovation. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.

The sketchnote above by Sylvia Duckworth introduces the themes covered in Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset. Each of these topics left me with many aha’s of agreement and helped me see new ways of unleashing talent to promote innovation within our educational systems. Every chapter spoke to me in its own way, but I was especially struck by the possibilities of embracing an open culture. Much has been said about the isolating nature of teaching. We spend the majority of our time in a room with few, if any, other adults. This can feel very isolating, but, as George says in The Innovator’s Mindset, isolation is now a choice. In the past we could try to interact with the teacher next door or someone down the hall and occasionally we might even interact with a like-minded colleague in another building or meet someone at a conference that shared our views on educating children. Today we all have the capability (and even the responsibility) of connecting with other educators.

This is something I was not always good at when I was in the classroom (after 15 years as a high school history teacher, I left the classroom a little over two years ago to become an Instructional Technology Consultant). I initially resisted joining Twitter because I viewed it as one more thing I would have to check and I didn’t think I had time for that. I was also hesitant to blog or share things I was doing in my classroom because I didn’t feel my work was worthy of being compared to all the “experts” posting great ideas online. I often searched websites and blogs for lesson ideas, resources, and technology tips, but I was not actively connected.

In January of 2012 I joined Twitter to see what it was all about. I looked around for a while, but I did not tweet anything or follow anyone. After this brief flirtation, I abandoned Twitter for the next year and a half. Then in January 2013, I took what I perceived as a big leap, I began blogging (my first post was To Blog or Not to Blog . . .). I was not always the most comfortable sharing, but I decided it was important that I share some of the things I was doing in my classroom. I don’t know that many people ever saw anything I was writing, but I began to realize that writing about things I was doing in my classroom helped me to reflect and refine my practices. Then in August of 2013 I took one of the bigger steps I have taken to improve myself as an educator, I came back to Twitter and this time I stuck with it. I realized it was very inspiring to see things other teachers were doing in their classrooms and to interact with like-minded educators. I still did not always share a lot, but I certainly gained a lot. Over time I have increased what I share and I have become more connected.

Twitter has been one of the best sources of professional development I have encountered. In the beginning I did a lot of lurking before slowly interacting more with my growing PLN. Throughout my time on Twitter I have been very happy to find many like-minded educators who share my views on educating children. This has inspired me to become better at my job and encouraged me to take risks and try new things. I think this is one way we can nudge other educators to take risks, try new things, and become more innovative. The open culture established by Twitter and other social media tools allows us access to people and ideas from around the world. We have a responsibility to demonstrate to students how we can use these connections for the advantage of everyone involved. Our students live in a world with ever increasing online interactions and we must teach and model how to use this for the advantage of all.

Sharing GIF
Dee, Linda. Here Floof, Sharing Is Caring! Digital image. Imgur. N.p., 7 June 2016. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.

I love the idea of school hashtags and teachers sharing one thing to this hashtag every day. This encourages sharing and competitive collaboration that will benefit everyone. It also provides an opening for more educators to become active on Twitter and to expand their PLNs while creating meaningful learning experiences for themselves and their students. The community created through this type of collaboration establishes a culture of learning that will reduce teachers' perceived vulnerability in sharing the great things happening in their classrooms.

As George Couros states in The Innovator’s Mindset, we must disrupt our routines and think differently to be innovative. Twitter and sharing through an open culture are a great step toward new, ever-changing routines that help us innovate in a way that pushes our learning toward the ultimate goal of better meeting the educational needs of our students. I took the leap toward sharing through a blog and connecting with educators on Twitter and I am definitely better for it. I strongly feel that being connected can help educators improve their craft more than almost any other thing they can do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finding Jewels in an Oyster - Pearl Harbor Lesson Ideas

With tomorrow being the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor I’ve been thinking about strategies for teaching the “day of infamy.” My goals in teaching about Pearl Harbor have always been for students to discover the reasons for the attack, to recognize the shock and fear many Americans felt as a result of the attack, and to realize that despite its devastation, this attack did not cripple American efforts, but instead united the country behind the war effort.

Alston, Charles Henry. "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR - WORK - FIGHT- SACRIFICE!!" / "WE'LL REMEMBER - AND BY GOD, YOU WONT FORGET!!" Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 7 Oct. 2011. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
It is essential for history teachers to include primary sources in lessons to give students a chance to experience the role of a historian. Primary source analysis provides an important opportunity for students to practice critical thinking skills and to learn how to piece together information for themselves. I’ve utilized several different approaches for teaching Pearl Harbor with primary sources, but one of my favorites is simply asking students to analyze sources to determine why Japan chose to attack the United States. This creates a sense of a mystery for students as they attempt to discover the reasons for the attack.

I have searched and compiled primary source sets in the past, but there are many pre-assembled primary source sets available on this topic. I enjoyed using the set put together by the DBQ Project as part of their Why did Japan bomb Pearl Harbor Mini-Q (although this does require purchase of the mini-q). I find that DBQs are an excellent way to gather primary sources for class activities. The sources in DBQs are already excerpted to a short, manageable size and can easily be adapted to a number of classroom lessons. A quick search for “Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor DBQ” yields many results with a number of valuable primary sources that can be used with the DBQs they were compiled for or for other classroom activities.

I also like to have students analyze firsthand accounts of the attack. I want my students to realize that history involves real people who aren’t all that different from them. Eyewitness accounts help to reinforce this reality. One such source is Ginger’s Diary. I like this account because it is written by a 17-year-old girl, making it something students can relate to.  Essential Pearl Harbor includes several other similar accounts, this website also has a number of other valuable resources for teaching about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Remembering Pearl Harbor includes accounts of sailors who witnessed the attack. Thanks to Richard Byrne, I just discovered The 1941 Project, which is an interactive map featuring stories of survivors of the attack.

Student analysis of these firsthand accounts may be done in a variety of ways. Depending on the dynamics of a class, I might have students simply read and discuss these sources. Other times we’ve compared and contrasted different views of the attack, and still other times, I’ve asked students to read firsthand accounts and write an entry as if they’ve just witnessed the attack. This allows them an opportunity to be creative and express feelings similar to those they’ve read about. 

Unknown Navy Photographer. A navy photographer snapped this photograph of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, just as the USS Shaw exploded. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 2 Nov. 2007. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
I also like to use activities similar to the deliberative strategies that are common in the Choices Units by Brown University. I like these activities because they generally require students to take on a role and/or a specific perspective as they view a key decision or event in history. Students must analyze and synthesize information to support a point of view. In this case, I ask students to imagine they are part of a congressional committee tasked with investigating the attack on Pearl Harbor. I divide the class into groups and assign each group a topic to investigate as they prepare to testify before the committee. Groups include a report on the attack itself (what happened), why Japan attacked, did FDR know about the attack, did Churchill know about the attack, and was the attack a success. Additionally, one group takes the role of committee members and they must develop questions to ask each group as they testify.

Today I discovered another good lesson for teaching about Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor & Hawaii during World War II, students predict why Japan might have attacked, conduct research on the attack, and take part in a Google Expedition to gain background knowledge on Hawaii. Students then use My Maps to create an interactive map illustrating the attack. This is obviously a more involved and more time consuming lesson plan than some of the ones I mentioned above, but it seems to do a nice job of incorporating different skills and utilizing technology to create a student-centered lesson. I like the inclusion of Google Expeditions (Expeditions is a virtual reality app that allows users to view 360-degree panoramas, creating an immersive experience that makes users feel as if they have travelled to different locations. This app can be used with or without virtual reality headsets, such as Google Cardboard.). I also like the integration of My Maps, which I discussed in Finding Your Way - Using Google Maps in the Classroom.