After School Coding Club

Despite all the failures that I was experiencing, I decided to call another meeting to see whether anyone would show up after school. Since my school is located pretty far away from a residential area, many of my students take buses. Therefore, calling an after school meeting can be rather risky. I expected to see maybe 5 kids at the most. To my utter surprise, fifteen kids came!

Of course, since I haven’t figured out how to lead these kids, I put them on Code Academy. What I realized was that how little these students knew about the computers. I had to explain the difference among hard drive, network drive, and cloud computing to more than one students. We still had fun for at least 1 1/2 hours after school. But how can I help them?

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Shock to Learn About Electricity

Since I had no idea what I needed but simply knew that I needed “stuff,” I decided to go visit the “Shack” per my professor’s suggestion.

At Radio Shack, I found three boxes of things that were on sale. They were resistors, LEDs, and switches. I knew that I really didn’t need the switches, but they were on sale for only $5.99 – $7.99 per box. Because I plan to continue with the coding club, I thought it was a good investment. The salesman also suggested that I should get a multimeter that was on sale for $11.99. Since I didn’t know what I could do with it, so I didn’t buy it. Instead, I bought an Arduino Uno for the club.

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When I got home, I called Skylar to see whether I could simply plug the LED light strip to the Ardunio Uno. But of course, I struggled to find the regular USB cord to connect the Ardunio Uno to my computer. Another failure….

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While struggling through this process, I learned that as complex as the coding might be, controlling the circuit was much more important in becoming successful in many of these projects. I realized this while reading  Arduino Projects for Dummies. So I went back to Radio Shack and purchased the multimeter still on sale.

The sad part about this was that I was no where near completing my project!

arduino for dummies

Coding Club Continues

Even though I experienced no success on Saturday, I still held a club meeting, hoping to inspire kids to come up with a project. During this meeting, I saw more girls, which made me feel excited.

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I show them my Flora board that I fried on Saturday. Although I brought the supplies for them to “play” with, we still didn’t decide on any specific project. They were more interested in deciding the shirt design for the club than learning about the Arduino board. I realized it was because I didn’t have a clear understanding of what I was doing. Even though it is meant to be an after school activity, the students are still looking to me to provide information for them. I came to a conclusion that I needed a different game plan.

But having to complete my own project AND getting this club off the ground has become a personal challenge for me.

Won a thousand dollars to start a coding club.

20130827_104112Today I had a surprise that I didn’t expect. I was visited by Fox 29 news because I won a thousand dollars to start a coding club at Independence High School. Because I wrote that grant so long ago, I forgot that I even wrote the grant. I have never been speechless in my life, but when the news anchor showed up, I was completely speechless. I was still delighted that I won. Now I can’t wait to start a coding club with my students!

Technology in English Classes

A friend of mine told me that a student tour guide at a college he recently visited said, “This is an English Class so it really doesn’t require technology.”

I replied, “#offended. I use more technology than any other teachers on my campus.”

As irritated I was by the tour guide’s statement, however, I think there is some truth to that statement. I feel that many English teachers are either afraid of technology or dismissive of it. I believe this comes from the limited and incorrect view of who we are.

I believe that we – English teachers – shouldn’t teach English. As a matter of fact, I rarely teach “English.” Instead, I construct a learning environment where students can acquire effective communication skills, be it writing, reading or speaking. I have never taught Romeo and Juliet. Rather, I utilize various Shakespearean tragedies to help my students learn the function of literature in the Elizabethan period. I use Lord of the Flies to help my students understand the need for societal structures for humans to maintain humanity.

Just as math teachers teach computational thinking, English teachers teach communication skills.  And since technology is one of the best tools of communication, it should be used in every English class.

RPG and Literature – What is gamification in a high school English classroom?

Since I came back from the GLS 2013 Conference, I have been thinking about ways to incorporate role playing games into my instructional practices. I met Dr. Hergenrader at the conference who did his dissertation on teaching creative writing using RPG creation. His talk sparked an interest and understanding that I didn’t had before.

The conference enlightened me and expanded my horizon as to what gaming in my classroom could be. I used to think that using digital gaming was what I was supposed to do. But I realized that using game mechanics to enhance learning was what effective gaminification was truly about. My students didn’t need to play games for me to gamify my classroom successfully.

Since I already loved the idea of situated learning, I began thinking about using the game creation rather than game playing – although there definitely was a huge benefit to game playing, which I would like to talk about later – to teach the skills as well as the content that my students needed to learn.

Grammar Lesson Music Videos

Since my students begun working with the Chicago students, I have attempted to create lessons that would allow my students to become teachers to the 6th graders. I also wanted to help my students acquire more media skills as a result of completing my assignments.

The latest assignment was the grammar lesson music video assignment.

First, my students and I brainstormed on the grammar concepts that the 6th graders were struggling with. Next, we settled on three concepts that we thought were important and were also teachable in a song.

  • Capitalizing “I” in the middling of the sentence
  • Differentiating homonyms such as their, they’re, and there
  • Using better transitional phrases

Then my students rewrote different popular songs to create the music videos.

I always knew that my students were talented, but it has been so amazing to see them shine with their talent and creativity. Oh, let’s not forget their technical abilities!

Here are some examples.

I am trying to stay objective, but I must say I really LOVE the next video. The ladies in this video are so amazingly talented.

Next, we have the Puppeteers. They didn’t make a music video, but I absolutely love their work.

Finally, I adore this next video. I think that this shows how seriously my students are taking their roles and responsibilities. They are fearless in doing what needs to be done to be the best mentors they can be.

I hope people enjoy these videos as much as I did.

Poetry Project Continues

As a teacher, you know that when you trust your students to be creative, you run the risk of being shocked. However, I have learned to accept the surprises as they come. Truthfully, I look forward to my students surprising me with their amazing talent and ingenuity. I must say it is the best part of being a teacher. Luckily, I have had many wonderful surprises, and I know I will continue to be delightfully surprised. And I was thrilled to see that my students didn’t disappoint me during this particular poetry recitation.

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While reciting Billy Collin’s “Introduction to Poetry,” a student of mine decided to demonstrate what it was like to “drop a mouse into a poem / and watch him probe his way out” (Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry,” 1996). Needless to say, this “show and tell” was a big hit! Having met Mr. Collins at conference, I know he would have approved this recitation with enthusiasm.

Collins, B. (1996). “Introduction to Poetry.” The Apple that Astonished Paris. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/001.html

Poetry Project

For "A Bird came down the Walk" by Emily Dickinson

For “A Bird came down the Walk” by Emily Dickinson

Last year, I did this huge poetry unit with my students. We had a lot of fun, and my video of that lesson ended up getting posted on the ASCD Edge blog (http://tinyurl.com/d45jlfq). This year I even shared all the steps with several rubrics for the world to use (http://tinyurl.com/ceqofcx).

Now we are doing this again, and my students began presenting yesterday. As usual, we are having a lot of fun. Since I required them to have a poster or an additional 3-D visual, my students are showing their creativity in different ways. For example, a pair presenting “A Bird came down the Walk” by Emily Dickinson brought customized cups for each student in class filled with chocolate pudding and gummy worms (see the picture above). Another group reciting “The Starry Night” by Anne Sexton wrote the entire poem with glow-in-the-dark ink on the back of their shirts. We had to turn all the lights off in the classroom while they were reciting the poem. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take their picture in the dark. But you can see their work below.

"The Starry Night" by Anne  Sexton

“The Starry Night” by Anne Sexton

Another pair reciting William Blake’s “A Poison Tree” built a tree and brought it to class (see below). I also had a pair playing the bongo drum while reciting their poem, a pair using a telephone made with good-old-fashion strings and toilet paper tubes, and another pair holding a bonsai tree and a bird house to represent a tree outside the window. These kids are using their creativity beyond my limited imagination. I am so proud of my students, and I can’t wait to create another video to showcase their talent. I truly have the best job ever!

“A Poison Tree” by William Blake

Project with the Digital Youth Network

The following is an article I submitted to the publicity department at Pepperdine University. It might be altered prior to the publication, but I thought I’d share.

Student Transformation through Social Media – How iRemix Changed My Seniors

Kip Glazer, EDLT Cadre 18

In October of 2012, Tracy Edwards from Cadre 15 asked, “Any writers or writing teachers looking for PT work?” on the All Cadre EDLT Facebook page. This simple question eventually lead to  our project of connecting her 6th grade students in Chicago and my 12th grade students in Bakersfield, California, demonstrating the power of social media.

This idea to connect students across the country came from a keynote speech delivered by Dr. Sheridan Blau at the 2010 California Association of Teachers of English conference. Blau argued for an instructional practice that allowed the students to become their own teachers.  Since then, I have been looking for a way to make this a reality when Tracy introduced me to the iRemix website.

By the time I connected with Tracy, I had already used Google Docs in my paperless classroom and established the peer-editing practices among my students.  However, iRemix offered me the perfect solution to take my instructional strategies to the next level.

Before they were incorporated into the iRemix website, my students wrote resumes and cover letters to be reviewed by the research team at DePaul University.  They also created introduction videos to be shared with the 6th graders.  When they finally gained access to the iRemix website in January of 2013, each of my students was assigned a minimum of 5 Chicago students.

To facilitate the writing-mentoring practice, my classes go to the computer lab once a week.  Here my students read, comment on, and edit the writing as well as multi-media produced by their assigned mentees.  They are also asked to reflect on their interactions and make suggestions to improve the iRemix website.

The most obvious benefit from this project is that my students are becoming much more cognizant of their own writing errors.  They have expressed the desire to gain more grammar knowledge, which in turn has forced me to expand my instructional repertoire.  They are also becoming extremely savvy in leveraging technology to express themselves.  The 12th graders have even created podcasts and videos as forms of communication in addition to providing writing feedback.

More importantly, I am witnessing my students becoming leaders with social consciousness.  Reading so many tragic stories of gun violence and murder written by the 6th graders, my students are actively seeking out ways to make a real difference in their mentees lives.  They are becoming empowered because they were given some responsibility.  And that’s the best part about this project.  We are teaching our young people that they are capable of making a difference and giving them the tools to do so in a safe and guided environment.

Since the launch of this project, we have been fortunate to be featured on the KQED Mind/Shift blog along with a couple of local media outlets.  I know that this wouldn’t have been possible without the Pepperdine community that has brought Tracy and me together.  I look forward to working with everyone on the iRemix team to gain more knowledge.

For more information, please contact Kip Glazer at kip.glazer@pepperdine.edu.