Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Project for Awesome

by Tara Seale
Have you ever wondered how YouTube chooses the videos that are featured on their website? I just visited YouTube, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
Look at the bold titles: Trending, Most Popular, Featured Videos, and What's New.
What would it take to create a YouTube video and have it featured on the front page? Who would even endeavor to have their video featured on YouTube's front page? I can tell you who. The NerdFighters and their Project for Awesome (P4A).
On December 17, P4A will once again try to take over YouTube and the trending topic of Twitter by promoting videos that represent charities. This is truly an awesome project because it brings attention to the needs of our world. I first learned about this project from Lee Ann Spillane, a high school English teacher from Winter Park, FL. At NCTE's National Convention 2009 in Philadelphia, she told me that her class was participating in P4A by creating one video that they would promote on December 17th. I didn't really understand what she was talking about, but when December 17th rolled around, I found myself remembering our conversation as I followed her numerous tweets and shout outs that proclaimed something great was happening, so at this year's NCTE National Convention 2010 in Orlando when Lee Ann and I both showed up to an early Sunday morning session to hear Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, and Jeff Anderson present, I asked her about P4A again. I paid closer attention to the details this time. This year, each of Lee Ann's students is creating his or her own video to promote a charity on the P4A day. The students will embed the P4A logo into their video to designate it as part of the P4A project. She is also working with the technology department to gain access to YouTube for a day so that her students can participate in commenting, viewing, favoriting, and promoting their videos to propel P4A to the top of the YouTube and Twitter trending lists.
What an incredible experience for these high school students. Congratulations to Lee Ann for creating a genuine authentic audience that brings attention to worthwhile causes and involves students using 21st century technology. Imagine the connections the students will feel as together they unite to take over cyberspace for a day with something they have created.
Lee Ann first became involved in P4A when she realized that one of the founders was a former student, Hank Green. Hank and his brother John grew up in Winter Park, FL, and John is a young adult author of several books including Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. The two brothers are responsible for the popular VlogBrothers Channel on YouTube and for creating the Nerdfighters.
What are Nerdfighters? They do not fight nerds, they actually promote nerds and fight World Suck which they explain in the video below. I encourage you to watch their video because I learned so much. For example, I now know the difference between an acronym and an initialism. They also brought to my attention that I sometimes have a high puff level, which I knew, but I just didn't have a phrase for it. Thank you John and Hank for putting this all into perspective for me, and thank you Lee Ann for being a teacher who takes risks to engage students in something as amazing as Project for Awesome.
Project for Awesome Website (This website will update to the 2010 P4A in December).

Updates for P4A: Video Announcement about 2010 P4a

Monday, November 22, 2010

NCTE 2010 Convention Presentations

By Tara Seale
NCTE members and convention attendees can view all of the uploaded presentations at the NCTE Connected Community website in the near future. Currently, only convention attendees can view the uploaded presentations. If you would like to post your presentation but need directions, click on this link: Posting on the NCTE Connected Community.
You can view my presentations below. At the convention, I served as an associate chair for one session and presented in another session.
On Friday, I presented with Julie Stephenson. Our presentation was titled: New Frontiers in New Literacies: Growing Multimodal Readers and Writers.

On Saturday, I presented with Bill Bass, Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, Andrea Zellner, and Troy Hicks. Our presentation was titled Using Google in Ways that Haven't Even Been Invented Yet: Visionary Reports from Cyberspace.

For more resources, visit this website: Google Monsters: Reports from Cyberspace

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

National Common Core Standards

by Tara Seale
According to the Education Week Blog Post, forty-one states have adopted the National Common Core Standards. My own state, Arkansas, has also adopted the Common Core Standards, and my school district adopted the standards in the draft stage even before our state adopted the standards. The teachers in our district began writing out a curriculum to match the national proposed standards. I am proud of the hard work by the English teachers in my district, and our ideas are similar to the draft curriculum that is now available online. I wanted to share this draft curriculum in case some of you are not aware that it is out there.
The Curriculum Mapping Project is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it is an impressive draft document. Click on this link to view the English Language Arts Curriculum Maps for all grade levels.
If you click around and thoroughly explore the website, you will find wordles (word clouds) of the curriculum maps for each grade level. The largest word in a word cloud is the most repeated word; therefore, the largest word should be the most important element in the word cloud. See the high school word cloud below or click here: Common Core Wordle

Monday, November 1, 2010

HEY! What's the Main Idea?

This really seems to be the big deal this year. I haven't been to a single function with other English teachers that hasn't eventually brought this complaint forward. Overwhelmingly, students are struggling with separating the main idea from other topics included in the essay, story, etc.

I am not sure why this happens. I've only recently begun trying to formulate a plan of attack for the problem.

The first place I looked is Jim Burke's The English Teacher's Companion. Jim's work has been indispensible before, so I figured I couldn't go wrong. I didn't. There were the usual strategies available for use, but most of the meaning-making strategies felt like class activities. What I was looking for was a strategy I could give them to fall back on when I wasn't there to help them push through a dense text.

I looked next at Kelly Gallagher's Deeper Reading. In the book, Kelly divides reading into a process like writing, complete with multiple drafts. This spark led me back to Jim's work on Tools for Thought. In that collection of strategies, the Pyramid Notes sparked a memory of another pyramid device. So, I was off again, in search of the muse.

The muse, in this case, was actually a man: Doug Buehl, author of Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning. Doug's strategies are universal, across-the-curricula, and easily adaptable. The fourth chapter of the recent third edition is all about fact pyramids. I reread the chapter, noting that the key to this pyramid was the fact that the bottom contained general knowledge facts while the top contained the overarching idea. The middle section contains short-term, organizing concepts. For example, a fact pyramid on the Crusades would have large concepts like the causes, effects, and impact of the Crusades, while the middle section would list the Crusades: First, Second, Third, and Fourth. The bottom slice would include related terms and names like "Pope Urban II" and "Cruciata." Thinking about Jim, Kelly, and Doug, I began to work on a synthesis of the fact pyramid, the text frame, and the drafts of reading.

And that is as far as I have gotten. Another colleague and I are going to work on it tomorrow (yeah...Election Day; let's hear it for the work day). I hope to post more later in the week.

In the meantime, what do you think? Do you have any strategies for teaching the main idea? If the problem is as widespread as it seems, please share away.

(P.S.) Click the title to see the post on the NCTE Connected Community.