Online Communities & Community Building Strategies – 521

I joined two online communities this week. After reading about creating an online community, I did not want to wait until I graduated to affect a change. As Key Spouse, I am trying to reach other spouses, particularly younger ones, to engage in our organization. As a result, I created my first page on Facebook outside my own personal Facebook page. Due to the nature of a military base and the possibilities of security breaches, the page has a small viewing audience. People can see it but they must ask to join or be asked. If the constraint from the Squadron Commander was not there, I think we could network more globally as I do on other military spouse networks. We are up to five members and still growing, albeit slowly. With over seventy service members, I hope it continues to grow. It should serve as another means of communicating and hopefully build a feeling of community online.

I also joined EducatorsConnect. I selected it because it had a social feel and yet offered the opportunity to read and react to other educators in varied fields. I have identified myself as a 9-12 teacher and have established contacts with educators in the 6-8 realm as well as college professors teaching English and Composition. It is interesting to communicate with current teachers both above and below the grades I teach. I have read many blogs from others on this site and find many issues familiar and some new. I like the communication (questions and answers) and even like reading the conversations of others that are visible through posts. It has a feel of Facebook; but the subject matter is relevant to me as opposed to rants about Starbucks or the loud neighbor next door.

The building of community is about listening as much as talking. Offering forums supports students so they feel comfortable learning with others. Challenges are easier to take when you feel like you are not alone. I remember a student I had in Advanced Composition in 1988. Faculty warned me about him. He walked in the room with a bandana, a leather jacket with spikes on it, black jump boots, and jeans with chains all over. I did not react. I called on him expecting him to be prepared. We had a great relationship. I found him to be brilliant in all facets of the class. He did not speak on each and every topic. Yet, when it did, it was always worth the wait. At the end of the year, a stellar one for him, he stopped me and said, “You are the only one to see past what I wore. I always thought from day 1 that you saw me.” Dr. Rice, you practice what you preach in your book. I am connected to this class. I feel that if I apply what I am learning, I can still be THAT teacher online to a new kid in a different outfit, helping establish a place where he can be comfortable in his own skin.


Debrief, Reflect, Review and Revise

Once the event is over, all paperwork is done, and the guests are gone, I have found that most students experience a let down in the same way someone misses the show once the school play is over. The big fun project/labor of love is done and usually it is missed. I would want to create a highlight video of the presentations and reception/project defenses and share that video with the students. That way, they could all see what the audience saw. It is always hard to gauge your own performances. I would want to praise them, as the video should capture the students engaging with the community professionals and executives.

I would also want to share the results of their survey using the data sans names. Once the data is finished I would encourage them to talk about the data and process what could be done differently to make the experience better. Engaging the cohort class and gaining their feedback using the End of Project Survey on our PBL website would be valuable, as well as feedback from the cohort educators.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German philosopher and playwright used to ask three questions before reviewing a play:

1) What was the artist trying to do?

2) How well did he/she do it?

3) Was it worth doing? Does it have value?

I think with minor refinement, these questions would serve this project well, although there are many quality feedback forms on the BIE website. I would want to get feedback from some of our guests from the culminating activity. This would help assess the end products and if they could be market-ready and if they weren’t what the projects lacked to make a professional connection. I also think that feedback might be valuable for the students to see and process as well.

A discussion with my collaborators and quite possibly either the Dean of Faculty, Assistant Head of School or Head of School would prove time well spent. We should examine the student, cohort and guest surveys and assess the final products. At our meeting, posting the results would frame further conversations. Exploring the data, we could share our praises and our changes we would like to implement should we do the project again.

I think assessment should happen each and every time this PBL is used. Change is inevitable and that will happen with students, teachers, school, and community populations. As things change, the dynamics change. Self-assessment and analysis of any PBL should occur with each use. In addition, teachers should continually appraise the needs of each group of students to insure they are meeting the needs of the students while addressing the mandates of the school system.

Week 2 Reflection – 542

Tasked to read an article on the effectiveness of PBL on diverse learners, I found such an article, byProfessional Development in Inquiry-Based Science for Elementary Teachers of Diverse Student Groups, (Lee, Hart, Cuevas & Enders 2004). I felt strongly that PBL works with diverse learners; but the authors stressed that in order to be truly effective, teacher training must be restructured.

 Effective teacher in-service should relate to specific subject matter and how students learn (Lee, Hart, Cuevas & Enders 2004). Teacher must be trained in their content area, have a variety of effective learning strategies and have specific tools in their toolbox to teach diverse learners, in order for PBL to be successful at reaching all learners.

I truly think that PBL fits my teaching style. I have taught Theatre for many years. It may not be Project Based Learning in one sense and yet, how I have taught it, I feel there are many parallels. I have never embraced those who teach & direct Theatre at the high school level surrounding themselves with adults (moms or dads) to be in charge of each of the areas. I never felt students were doing the learning. I want students to do and be. I want students to have a safe place to fall (or fail) and feel secure enough to dust themselves off and fix what is broken or not right.

David Ashby, Michael Andreasen and I will collaborate on a PBL together. David Ashby and I chatted on Google + for quite a bit tonight. We decided our unit would begin with a study of the Holocaust. Our students will collaborate, or at a minimum, perform with a high school class in Spain. Our students will be high school, and most likely be 11th or 12th graders.  Our students will study the past, analyze and appraise the present and chart a course for the future. Much like the TV show What Would You Do?, we would like them to respond to What Should You Do?.

Our project is not complete and our direction still not quite focused. I have faith we will work well and start completing the puzzle together.



Lee, O., Hart, J. E., Cuevas, P., & Enders, C. (2004). Professional development in inquirybased science for elementary teachers of diverse student groups. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(10), 1021–1043. doi:10.1002/tea.20037

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.