Project Based Learning

One of the biggest goals I have next year as a 7th grade math teacher is to engage my students through socially and culturally relevant units. My Multiliteracies summer course has opened my eyes to how diverse my students are and their literacies. Students are literate in ways that I’m not and I’m literate in ways that they aren’t. For example, some of my students may be able to communicate things to me about particular video games that I have no idea about. I may be able to communicate things to my students about math that they don’t know about. This is something as educators that we can use to our advantage. If we know our students well enough to know what they are literate in then we can use that expertise to help them grow in their literacy in other areas. One of the avenues in which I plan to do this next year is through Project Based Learning. I plan to use the website listed below to aid me in this endeavor.

In creating a weebly website for the Multiliteracies class I came across this great weebly for Project Based Learning. It contains several different parts. It explains Project Based Learning. It provides links to other websites for Project Based Learning. It provides links to ideas and links to rubrics and how to create rubrics. It provides links to tools, links for how to manage project based learning, and links for the driving question behind project based learning. It contains links to videos about project based learning, links to professional learning communities, and research about project based learning. It also has links to other things like blogs, workshops, and technology ideas.


Using Garageband in the Classroom

In the process of doctoral coursework, I recently came across a spoken word video by a student from England related to standardized testing. I think it has some great social commentary, and I found myself thinking things like: “Hey, that is how I felt in high school.” I confess I also thought: “Wow, I know I made my students feel that way sometimes as a teacher.” The fact that it comes from the voice of a student, rather than a scholar or policy advocate, gives the embedded critique a sense of authenticity. And the spoken word performance element is pretty good too.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the performance for me was that it represents an act of resistance against perceived injustice. Ironically, voice of young people is not often a part of the conversation about education policy. In my work with high school students, I have found that music is a huge part of the social fabric of adolescents.

Music was a huge part of my life as a teenager too. I tried to learn to play the guitar, played in some “bands,” and channeled a lot of my social activities through the punk-rock and hardcore music scene. I still love music, and I still write and play music as much as I can. As an amateur musician (and I do stress AMATUER), I have spent some time fiddling with the software program Garageband. As many of you may know, Garageband is a software program that allows you to compose and record music on a personal computer. You can play instruments, loop samples, record drum tracks, add effects to “real” musical instruments, record vocal tracks, and then mix all your “tracks” into a final piece. Essentially, it is like having a recording studio in your computer. You don’t really need any musical equipment, although I do recommend a decent microphone. To give you an idea of what is possible, click on the link below to hear a song I recorded using Garageband (Don’t laugh…this is all about sharing, right?). Beside an acoustic guitar, the only equipment I used was a microphone, mic stand and pop filter (though this is not necessary). You don’t even need the microphone; students can just use the built in mic on a computer.

As a high school social studies teacher I would often assign group projects that required a product of the group’s choosing. I would encourage students to think of their individual talents, and to incorporate those into their product. Pretty much anything was fair game, as long as it was under 8 minutes and would not disturb other classes. While many groups created products like posters and PowerPoint presentations, we also got lots of video documentaries, live musical performances and dramatic interpretations. You can imagine which types of presentations were the most memorable for fellow students (and me). Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) offer tremendous possibilities for student self-expression, which can be readily be incorporated into a variety of curricula. Software like Garageband and sharing tools like YouTube are ways to facilitate student voice in the classroom and beyond. The freedom of self-expression represents an avenue for empowerment and resistance within an institutional context that often fails to appreciate the voice of students.



Using technology to keep students interested in grammar

Grammar seems to be the thorn in every language arts teacher’s side. Each year a language arts teacher adds to their students’ knowledge about how sentences are developed and identifying specific parts of speech. Then the next year the students tell their language arts teacher they have never learned parts of a sentence or even parts of speech. So, here are a couple of technology ideas that just might help them remember some grammar from year to year. Organizing the different parts of speech by using the website called which is a digital graphic organizer where you can label the eight parts of speech with its definition. Then after you have used to introduce the parts of speech, assign groups of students to a specific part of speech where they will create an iMovie (a free iPad app) trailer to explain what their particular part of speech is. They can use anything that relates to their life. Then the groups will present their creations.  Students can review these mini-grammar trailers to help them remember their grammar.