Category Archives: 1to1 laptop

Eine Kleine Rap Music

Confession: I’m no fan of student rap projects. So how nice to be compelled to send this email “grading” Ashley’s and Rachel’s Russian Revolution rap:

email grade


Here’s what I’m talking about.

On other fronts:

Since starting this job in Singapore three years ago, I’ve been overwhelmed with graduate school–Master’s in Ed Leadership will finally be done in July–and with the typical demands of teaching and annually refining new courses and, less typically, of forming PLCs and learning how that works by doing it.

That has left an average of maybe five minutes a week, over these years, of free time.

Now that the degree is done, I hope to get back to writing–possibly in a new space, though, and on new topics based on new loves. Just FYI, in a sort of “I’m not dead yet” way.

Confessions of an Edtech Apostate

I’m more and more telling students to close their laptops unless needed — and finding them less needed more and more.

Asia Times Online goes there — put on your pearls and prepare to clutch them, edtech evangelists! — in How America made its children crazy:

At a showcase classroom in Arizona’s most wired school district, Matt Richtel reported,

“A seventh-grade English teacher roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They’re studying Shakespeare’s As You Like It – but not in any traditional way. In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare’s characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare’s lovelorn Silvius.”

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Shakespeare meant by “as you like it.” Web access in this case is simply a pretext to help seventh-graders to reduce Shakespeare to their own level, rather than allow Shakespeare to lift children up to his.

I’m not close to claiming that computers have no educational value, and should be used when the tools are justified. But I’m “closer than right here” to saying that slow, calm, and  focused reading, writing, and talking together has a value that I’m appreciating more and more. The web seems more and more a ghetto for young minds*, but one you can dispel with the closing of a lid.

*Even when used for producing work in well-monitored activities, laptops are still an ADHD wonderland instead of a reflective space, as the article above argues.

I’d Give My RIght Arm for a Tool That…

Veins in my Right Arm.
…is cross-platform and collaborative, and would allow me to assign my current “fantasy unit test” in history classes. That unit test would have students create a conversation from home featuring images and texts that is recorded and embeddable on their blogs — call it something like a recorded Skype conference + screencast.

I’d simply want small groups of students (individuals would be easy) to discuss the big events of the unit like the newly-educated budding subject area experts I’m trying to create — and to do so in a relaxed, informal, and audience-conscious way.

I picture that audience being their parents, and the “synopsis” of their “talk show” to be along these lines:

In today’s episode, the hosts talk about the often mind-bending beginnings of Chinese history, how radically different that history is from all other major civilizations’, and what those other civilizations might learn from China’s ancient beginnings that could still be useful in today’s world — with several detours for laughs along the way.

I picture the audience being maybe their parents, who might be curious to learn from their kids where their tuition dollars are going.

The problem? I don’t know a tool. My school allows Macs and PCs, and I don’t know how three or four students could do an online session with a shared desktop and screencast-recorder that also records conference calls.

Shareski? Ira? Beuhler?



Chinese Scholar-Gardens: Research as Performance

Chinese scholar-gardens are incredibly interesting. Just ask Will, a very sharp sophomore in my History of China class. His screencast on the origins and aesthetics of these gardens lays it out for you quite well.

No high-tech razzle-dazzle is intended here at all. On the contrary, the allure is in the relative simplicity of screencasting for student research projects (here are the simple assignment sheet and simple storyboard template, for the simplicity-lovers out there who don’t like it when “tech” means “complicated”). It hits so many of the common skills in one fell swoop — researching, writing, speaking, visually presenting — and, as an added bonus, makes “grading” far more pleasurable than merely reading the work.

As in Joy’s piece last week, Will’s below, too, takes a minute or two to warm up. After that, it kicks into a teach-in on this exquisite 1,000-year tradition in China that, I think you’ll agree, easily meets the rhetorical obligation to “entertain as it informs.” (I’ve already told Will, in my best Moe Howard voice, to “remind me to kill him later” for using a watermarked image in such an otherwise high-quality production.)

Seriously: Give it a watch. Most Westerners are incredibly ignorant of how refined Chinese civilization was for all but the last two centuries. Somehow Japan gets all the credit, when both its Zen and its gardens are derived from Chinese Chan Buddhism and scholar-gardens. Will teaches it well.

Next up: Megan on the history and culture of Chinese tea.