Bite-sized doodles, big ideas: Visualizing TED2016 — TED Blog

Doodles are more than just idle scribbles; they can distill complex ideas into useful packets of knowledge. During TED2016, artist Mia W. McNary translated 18-minute talks — on topics like what it means to be a global citizen, the psychology of introverts vs. extroverts and a prosecutor’s case for justice reform — into playful and…

via Bite-sized doodles, big ideas: Visualizing TED2016 — TED Blog

My thoughts on 20 Time Projects

Finally a few minutes to view the Innovation Hour presentations and I was more impressed watching them after the fact than while I was there. So much great work by students came out of these projects, but viewing the montage video has helped me think more about what I want to do differently next year. The video below was produced by one of my fabulous students, Madeline Cobbler.

First, I want more time to prepare for the presentations and more time for reflection about the journey of the project. I will introduce this project again in the Fall, but with some changes. Student project work will finish at the end of the first semester. This will allow a more focused amount of time for the students to plan their timelines. There was definitely some dead time this year. Progress updates will be bi-weekly and I will give the option of keeping a notebook or blog so students that enjoy the act of writing rather than using technology have more freedom in how they express their learning to me. The Innovation Hour will happen in February next year to coincide with our school-wide Titan 21 night where all students showcase interesting work being done in various classes. This will give a wider audience for Innovation Hour presentations. I found throughout the year students were fueled by outside interest in their work. Whenever I brought people in to talk to them about their projects, they found renewed passion in what they were doing. I want to replicate that effect more next year. The goal of this project was always to allow students the freedom to pursue something they were passionate about and give them the tools and time to bring that passion to fruition. In many ways I consider this first year a success. Students found things they were interested in and some even found paths for their future.

For me, I started out trying to complete my own 20 Time project, a collection of blog posts chronicling my adventures with my daughter in the kitchen, but often I found myself overwhelmed trying to chart my classroom journey while maintaining my personal project. I realized I missed many moments on both fronts. Next year, my goal will be to give voice regularly to what I have going on in the classroom, and work on my food blog as worthy occasions arise.

Teaching Research with PSAs

Research is always that dreaded word with high school students. I get them as seniors and they seem to have been inoculated against enjoying all the doors you can unlock as you explore sources and search for answers to questions. We do little bits of research throughout the year as a primer for a larger quest. We embarked on one of our mini-research projects a couple of weeks ago and presented the culminating projects this week, PSAs. Students chose a heroic cause, organization or person to look into and create a public service announcement to share with the class. Their subjects ranged from a local shelter for battered women and children- The Turning Point Shelter, to the SPCA, to warnings against drunk driving and on and on. They all took unique approaches to their final products as well. Some visited locations and conducted interviews, others created role play scenes and still others used photography intermixed with statistics to get their messages across.

Once students identified a subject for the project, we went into the nuts and bolts of effective research, what constitutes research and how to properly create an annotated MLA bibliography. I have found over the years that direct instruction is necessary when teaching students citation style. I have tried everything under the sun to make it fun, but nothing embeds the knowledge more than lecture, teacher modeling and student practice so that is what we did. I heavily use the Owl at Purdue website. They have thorough, up-to-date materials on MLA style and often examples for students to follow. The quick guide I give students based on the Owl at Purdue materials is below. Once we have gone through the notes and I have done some modeling, I asked students to pick a topic, any topic, find 5 sources and then we practice creating MLA citations for those sources. I like to do this in class so I can circle around and help them find the sometimes elusive information such as author, publication date, and publisher on websites. After they have successfully cited their sources and proven to me they know where to look for information, I allow them to use This may be scandalous in the English teacher world, but I know they will fall back on sites like this when they get to college or even other classes. We do go through easybib so they can see that it does not always pull all the information for a complete citation and now because of our practice work, they know where to find it.

Next up is evaluation of sources. This is such an important step in today’s world of instant information. Students often will just Google something and go to the first site as their source. We need to teach them how to be smart consumers of information. I start with an oldie, but goodie- the Tree Octopus site. A former librarian turned me onto this and I have used it every year to introduce evaluation of sources. I give them the handout my librarian made for me. It is attached below. We use that handout as we look through the Tree Octopus website. Once we have evaluated and determined this website to be not credible, the students went out on their own to find a website, evaluate it and then present it to the class. I play the devil’s advocate and ask them lots of questions about their websites to get them thinking about the questions they need to be asking as they are looking for sources. I have found this to be very effective in teaching reliability and credibility of sources over the years.

The last thing we go over before I let them go is copyright. Especially with the creation of student videos, they need to understand the laws regarding web content and music. Most students today are savvy with pirating videos, music and images and they don’t think about the ramifications of their actions. They have grown up in an age where everything is at their fingertips. Communal property has become and aspect to their thinking. Everything is owned and shared by everybody. Music is what most interests my students so that is how I approach copyright and it is especially relevant with the Sam Smith case being waged currently in the music world. We start with one of the most famous copyright in music cases in my lifetime, Vanilla Ice vs. Queen. This video shows a mashup of the two artists. The students immediately see the similarities and that opens the conversation for other famous copyright infringement cases. This video is a compilation of possible copyright issues. I let the students check it out and vote. Most of these are not considered infringement but there are a couple thrown in there like the Huey Lewis and Ray Parker case. We also look cases of famous authors reprimanded for plagiarism. Christian Science Monitor has a great article detailing five of the most famous ones. After we looked at all of this, I let the loose on their research.

The process of the PSA project included a five source annotated bibliography, a full script and storyboard and then the final video, cleanly edited with appropriate special effects and music. I ran most of these classes leading up to the presentations as workshops so I could walk around and help students troubleshoot or give them the opportunity to go outside the classroom to film scenes. If you are just starting this project and want to show students examples of PSAs, some good ones can be found on the MY Hero website. The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter is one of my favorites! I also like the Smokey the Bear commercials. This is the link to one I showed in class. The students really enjoyed this project and did not even complain about the research element. In fact, they requested more video projects. I plan to incorporate a video element into our in-depth career research project coming next week. I was really impressed by what they produced and the enthusiasm they came to class with each day. They continually show me that if I give them choice and get out of their way, they do great things!


2009 MLA Packet

It all started with a post-it note….


The fat flakes of snow are falling outside my classroom window and many students stayed home today. It feels like a good time to reflect on what happened in the classroom this week. It seems cliche but when the holidays come around I feel a need to get my students in touch with what we should appreciate but maybe don’t always take the time to. I did this personally with my daughter this week. I slipped a note in her lunchbox letting her know how beautiful I think she is and how lucky I am to have her as a daughter. She one-upped me by leaving the above note in my lunchbox. As I read it my heart warmed and I realized we don’t do this kind of thing enough- appreciating each other. Not just myself, but everybody. It made me think about how I could take this idea to my students. I started researching on the TED site and came across a talk that drew me in.   Candy Chang’s TED talk about discourse in public spaces caught my eye and then held my captivation. I knew after watching it I wanted my students to be inspired by it as well. Chang focuses her art on public spaces that have been neglected or abandoned. She invites the communities surrounding those structures to come together and share their thoughts and feelings in a public way.  Below is a picture from her website “Before I Die” depicting one of her public art spaces in New Orleans.

We watched Chang’s TED talk in class and then created or own public art piece to hang in the classroom for all my students to see. I was impressed by how much time each student took to decide what they wanted to write. I shared my sentiment on the board as well- to visit the 10 most unique bookstores in the world.

IMG_1164When we finished the students lamented how much they wished we could do this like the original and create a chalkboard space for the whole school to add to. I told them I would talk to administration and see what they say about creating a public art space for aspirations and dreams. So often we keep much of our internal thoughts and dreams to ourselves. I think projects like this can be unifiers. I saw that with my students as they read eachother’s private hopes. It brought us closer as a classroom community and sparked some great discussion about gap years and what we really want out of life.

Chang’s TED talk was a great segway into the other activity I wanted to introduce to my classes- Operation Beautiful. Our nation has experienced deep tragedy at schools across the nation over the last few years and much of it is attributable to bullying. Our school has experienced some of this tragedy first hand and we seem to always be asking the question “What can we do to help our students?” As I was planning this week’s activities, I came across the below news story about a girl from Calgary, Canada who was bullied and found a different answer for her bullies:

I love the message of this video and subsequent campaign and I wanted my students to think about how they treat each other and those people they encounter outside of my classroom. Sunday I went to my local Staples and bought all of the motivational post-its they had. The motivational post-it line has a quote on each note that imparts some sort of thoughtful message. After we watched the video and explored the Operation Beautiful website, I brought out the post-its and explained the task I charged my students with. Their assignment is to find some way to perform an act of decency for another human being between now and December 15th. I offered them the option of the post-its, suggested venues and talked about the different types of activities they could initiate to fulfill their task. Some planned to hand out inspirational messages outside of our local Rescue Mission, others have plans to go to the public library and leave notes in books and others went immediately out to start their acts. It was inspirational to see the conversations about the great things they could accomplish between now and December. Part of their assignment is to document their random acts of kindness in some way. On December 15th we will have a Humanity Showcase. I will make some goodies and the students will share all the beautiful things they have done over the month. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. So often as teachers we get caught up in the curriculum and the skills that we forget we are teaching humans. It is not part of the standards, but the greatest thing we can impart to our students is how to be humane.

Woats is coming!!!!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

My students are clicking right along with their 20 Time projects and we got some big news this week. About a month ago, I was searching for a new breakfast granola and picked up a package of Woats. They looked interesting; the package had a great design; I was intrigued…and then I read the story. Woats were created by a young entrepreneur named Justin Anderson. He started his epicurean adventure with a tasty granola mix and $500 of seed money from his grandmother. I was inspired. I researched his company when I got home and found that he does workshops with schools. The problem was they were only offered in Texas. Thinking it a long shot, I emailed him and asked if he would ever consider coming to Roanoke, VA and told him about the 20 time project. Unbelievably, I received an email from him about a week ago. Justin Anderson is coming to speak to my students about taking risks, facing challenges and “harnessing their inner oats” and he generously offered to cover the expenses for the trip- a big deal on a public school budget. Needless to say, I am beyond excited!

The next step was to set everything up. I spoke to my administrators about a space and the logistics of having all my students there to hear Justin firsthand. They immediately got on board. We will host Justin Anderson for a small lunch gathering where the students can talk personally to him about his journey and then we will have a school-wide assembly where everybody can hear his inspiring story. I still can’t believe a short email garnered such an amazing opportunity.