Horizon Report – Tech Trends

Tasked with viewing the NMC (New Media Consortium) Horizon Report > 2012 Higher Education Edition on emerging tech trends, we were charged with creating an innovative use of technology in our respective fields. Serving as a Theatre teacher for most of my seventeen years in education, I chose a Theatre lesson for the basis of the assignment.

I have taught a variation of this Theatre Arts lesson in the past. However, it required students to go to a public place and observe people. You know, stalk them. You can see where that might become more problematic with so many valid concerns about youth safety. The research side of this project took students a week to accomplish.

I also used the rubric for this lesson in the past. Giving it to students to use as a basis for critique of one another at each stage gives them black and white detail of expectations, while offering clear areas to discuss and share with one another. In the past, the first critique would be via each partner. Then it moves to peer critique. Next, would be self/partner critique as the scenes are rehearsed and finalized. Then the rubric is used yet again to defend in the final performance. Employing and integrating technology insures critique is visible, nearly in real time and in the palm of the student’s hand. Learning, adapting and refining the subtext occurs faster and the connection of character and performance, stronger.

IMovie allows the smartphone, Ipad or computer user to create everything from the simplest of movies (like the camcorder of old) to detailed productions with jpeg picture drops, background music and amazing editing capabilities. For this project, being able to simply listen to the different characters the users creates would prove beneficial in selecting the final three scenes and feedback would be quick and easy. Having the student first focus on audio only, allows them to hear the subtext without having to worry about how the character looks on camera. Then, being able to shoot and edit their movie with their device allows for nearly instantaneous edits and peer review. I found IMovie to be a very user-friendly tool when I made my movie for Introduce Yourself project found in About Me on this blog. Uploading to YouTube is easy as well.

YouTube allows the students to share what they did nearly instantly with their friends or parents. I am not sure I would want them to make the videos public and like the controls YouTube allows. Schools vary and some may or may not want videos shared. On the other hand, considering the reach of YouTube allows for some considerations I never dreamed of when composing this lesson. One could actually share with students in another classroom across the state or across the globe. Having shared acting class videos with one of my good friends before, I think of the time factor it took to send a tape simply across the state of Tennessee. The lesson was almost forgotten by the time we were swapping feedback on videos. YouTube would allow feedback to occur the same day and with a SKYPE connection the feedback could be immediate.

The biggest reason I chose YouTube beyond the sharing with parents (or administrators, since they are rarely familiar with organized chaos of a theatrical production or class) would be to allow students to detach themselves just a bit from what they created so they can objectively analyze their performances incorporating subtext.

The most amazing tool for the phone or Ipad used in this lesson is Explain Everything. Explain Everything allows the user to research, collect data (pdfs, photos, movies, documents) mark them up with notes and combine it all in a movie you can share directly to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. (There is a way to bypass the IMovie process; but that requires the Explain Everything App for Mac OSX. This allows you to play .XPL Explain Everything files on a Mac computer without converting them to MP4. I saw that as problematic since my goal was to use Ipad or smartphone technology.) You can save your work in folders, and if you combine it with an Evernote account you can unlock even more capability to notate, collaborate and store your work.

Coming from a very old-school background, I was “that guy” at the mall, a young actor scribbling character notes of people as they walked by. Old lessons taught to me and by me come to mind as I was charged with creating a complete history (background) of some person I had only watched and listened to for a few moments. One would craft elaborate collages and fabric swatches to create said history. Granted, there is still a need for that level of real texture at some point in the Theatre; but my notebook in my back pocket contained none of that. I only had character notes and no pictures. So, I took my information home or to school to complete my research. The ability to do all that research and combining of data as you in real time from your desk in class amazes me. Not only that, to be able to store all these notes, collages, and character studies on your phone or Ipad means you have a wealth of character knowledge and supporting data at your fingertips. Far more detailed than any notepad I ever carried, you can record voice, highlight traits or even create your background story from anything you find on the web and all from your smartphone or Ipad.

The administrator in me sees so many uses for Explain Everything coupled with an IPad. So many classes could benefit from the variety of tools. There is even a laser pointer tool you can use to highlight elements on the screen when using an Ipad. Sharing data, and lessons, marked with feedback, points of interest or questions from the palm of my hand is simply fascinating. There is not one blackboard anymore. With this technology and an IPad at each desk, all students get to “hold the chalk.” A large public school classroom becomes something altogether different as a handheld device transforms into a Harkness table.

I have some significant issues with Digital Inequality in this assignment. Two schools come to mind as I write – the boarding school in Litchfield, CT and the inner city public school in Winston-Salem, NC. In each case, the divide between haves and have-nots seemed like the Grand Canyon. In North Carolina Effective Teacher Training we were required to list potential roadblocks to the success of our lessons. As an administrator, I have continued to require that notation of all teachers I mentored, as it is wise to forecast issues potentially affecting success. And so I have noted it here. I look forward to exploring that topic in greater detail when appropriate.

Rather than build my assignment on the premise that my school is not mandated to follow a set of state standards (The Forman School is an independent school and does not follow State of Connecticut policies), I chose to work under standards from states where I taught or was publicly licensed. I ended up using North Carolina for nostalgia’s sake as that was my state of original license. I was Theatre Arts Director at RJ Reynolds High School and was the Curriculum Revision Chair for Theatre Arts for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District. I was also a member of the State of North Carolina Secondary Schools Theatre Arts Curriculum Revision Committee. But for the nomenclature, the text is as we wrote it in 1990. Current and emerging technologies are not addressed, so another revision appears to be in order.

I have not taught the lesson in its current form. I can only speak from implementing the lesson in earlier form and know that the major drawback was the sheer amount of time that was needed from introduction to scene prep with most of that time resembling an art class making collages. Logic dictates the lesson could be more fun, the learning enhanced and the feedback more immediate in the tech-infused version.

I can certainly see the connection of our AECT Standards and implementation. I designed a lesson that utilized RadioJames Objectives Builder for my objectives and saw direct correlation to their position on Bloom’s Taxonomy Pyramid connecting to Standard 1.1 Instructional Systems Design. The lesson uses media and devices not traditionally employed for theatre training exercises. Through utilization of these devices and implementing them in a classroom, what normally takes a week to cover, coupled with outside research, takes two class periods. This related with Standard 3.1 Media Utilization. By connecting to state standards, I insured my lesson aligned with current published expectations associating directly with Standard 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization.