Monday, May 29, 2017

Family Movie Going – Sharing More Than Popcorn:

How laptops and SMART Phones can connect and concretize family movie experiences into rich digital literacy research, investigation, and responses

By Dr. Rose Reissman

As the official school year draws to a close, many families will mark the onset of summer and its break from the yearlong school routine with a family outing to the local movieplex.  Nothing compares to that scented with buttered popcorn, crowded movie theater family experience.  But that experience can easily deliver more than just solid family fun.  Traditional 20th century movie bonding experiences for families can also serve as a joyous launch for a shared, digital 21st century ongoing learning investigation.


I)                   BEFORE VIEWING: 

Charge up your laptop or other connected device (tablet, SMART Phone, etc.) and pre-view a movie of interest, perhaps reviewing its online trailer or cast interviews. Keep a record of your reactions and reflections as text or audio files. This could be done at home, or over breakfast out, or on the way to the theater. (See Tech Tips section at the bottom)

Consider addressing the following issues: Why, as a family, are you selecting a particular movie to view and what you most anticipate seeing in that movie, whether it is a specific actor’s performance, special effects, or the film version of a book familiar to you?  If the movie is part of an ongoing series, have all of you seen the previous installments and what was your reaction to them?
What, if anything, influenced your decision to see the particular film you’ve selected? Was it word of mouth from friends or relatives or reviews or a controversy over the film in the news?

II)                AT THE MOVIES: 

As you watch the film, share (in whispers, of course)  and use the available film lighting to jot down notes on surprises, disappointments, and elements of the movie that make each of  you really like the movie - or really feel your money was wasted - or feel it was just a good chance to bond together.

Jot down notes as you leave, characterizing the audience’s reaction or an effect or character from the film.  Chat up other audience members to get their reaction as you wait for popcorn or on the bathroom line or exit the theater. If given permission, record what they say for an audio file to upload later.

III)             After the movies:

Upload your comments as an audio file or a video and share them with family, friends and others through your laptop network or through school network.  React to their comments.

Use Google to search out reviews for the film you just saw as a family.  After reading each one, work together as a family - or individually - or in pairs to react to the reviews.

Family members can author their own review and email it to the reviewer or post it on the site as a comment (many have “Comments” functions at the foot of the review.  Or, if responding to a print review, send it to the editor of the magazine (such as Or they can upload a conversation about the film in the style of television show movie reviews as an audio or a video file on their own family blog. 

Many families who submit a response get a personal reply, which validates their viewer response. A little online searching will turn up opportunities for this. USA Today, however, is one good example (go to - scroll to the bottom for post a comment and email response options.)

Moving beyond the movie to online research, investigation, and response:
Take the example of the new "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" – The film was based on a Marvel Comics Superhero, which can be researched

Comparisons made between the actors and sets and the pen and ink drawings of the comic book. Families can create slides with the original public domain artwork and the set scenes and then narrate a comparison between the screen rendering and the print version of the comic heroes.

This film is a sequel. So you might want to compare, answering the questions “In what ways does it answer or develop the themes and music and characters presented in the first film?  Are the plotlines from the print comics or developed by 21st century screen writers?”

The film is heavy with references to 1980’s and 1990’s television shows such as Cheers and actor David Hasselhoff, familiar to today’s parents, but not familiar to their kids.  However, together parents and kids they can research these shows via YouTube and other easily accessible online repositories of such artifacts and review footage of these television shows to understand references to them by Peter (a character in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie) which otherwise would  be lost to the kids.   

Further, the film shows Peter and the other Guardians engaged in using walkmans and deejaying hits from the 20th century pop music catalogue.  Thus, there are more rich veins of cultural artifact to mine on the web, giving today’s kids the opportunity to make important discoveries alongside parents, as they listen online to the songs and research their cultural context. 

In fact, they can create their own playlists of period music (synched with the period setting of the movie) by simply copying and pasting YouTube video links. Even better, they can give their own commentary about the music alongside the titles and links of the song videos they save on a simple word processing document.
In the case of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it is obvious that a third chapter will be coming up in the series.  Families can predict the plot and direction of that next film in the ongoing series and suggesting actors and new characters for it.

Some family members might read the initial Marvel Comics Guardians series and use that as a text for predicting and suggesting the next movie iteration for this series.  Originals of these are limited in availability and expensive now, but some public libraries will have them (check out this site for correct publisher’s titles and publication information: ).

Older family members will compare Guardians, a laugh filled, music video style film with the original Star Wars and Spiderman and Batman films.  They can argue for the extent to which this series ranks among the best of the Superhero films or the worst, or in between.  Kids can argue about how it compares and contrasts and ranks with the first Guardians film. 

Nothing beats digging into a large tub of buttery movie popcorn in a crowded movie auditorium as the lights go down and the movie starts  using the multi-featured chromebook platform can extend this traditional experience, to make it a rich the literacy learning one, as well as family quality time.

So after the popcorn is gone and the family returns home, the movie digital bonding and conversational movie talk can and will go on and on,  depend in on your Chromebook for ongoing admission to movie inspired family talk, sites, word docs, audio file and more!! 
EASY TECH TIPS: How To share your reflections and reviews online
(Recommendations by Mark Gura)

*How to upload your text copy to the web
Probably the easiest and most effective way to do this would be to start a blog. A great place to begin would be with Google’s BLOGGER blogging resource, which is free.  One can create a professional looking blog very easily with BLOGGER in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. A simple registration process and a series of choices to be made are required (e.g. what web address for the blog do you want to create? - which look and feel do you want? etc.). After setting up the blog, one can write a post in a word processing program and then copy and paste e that into the blog post space, hit “Publish” and instantly, one’s text is online. One can copy the URL (web address) of the blog and post and email it to others easily. Another wonderful thing about a simple blog like this is that not only will one’s post have text (and the size, style, color, font, etc. of the text can be tweaked to suit the blogger), but photos, and links (or ‘players’) to videos or audio recordings can be embedded in the text very easily. There is a bit of a learning curve in using BLOGGER and similar blogging resources, but one can create a blog and upload a simple post within just a few minutes!
-          Start a Blog on Blogger:
-          How to Create a Blogger Blog Step by Step Tutorial - Blogger Beginners! Tutorial 2014:
-          How to use Blogger - You can post info and stories with Blogger:

*How to Record Your Voice and Have It Online for Others to Hear
If you Google a search prompt like “Record Voice Online” you’ll find numerous, generally FREE, resources that will allow you to speak directly into your SMART Phone or laptop (most modern laptops have a microphone and video camera built in and ready to go). One such resource is   Speak Pipe

“ SpeakPipe voice recorder allows you to create an audio recording directly from a browser by using your microphone. The recording is produced locally on your computer, and you can record as many times as you need. There is the option to save your recording on the SpeakPipe server and get a link to it, so you can send it via email or use on the web.” Works on iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices.

Another popular option is Vocaroo, which is also FREE and doesn’t even require a registration…

Audio resources like the ones mentioned above will give you a link to the recording (which resides online) that can be inserted into a blog post, so that both text and audio can be shared online easily!

- How to Record Audio With Your Mobile Device:

- 5 Great Tips For Recording Audio With Any Smartphone Or Tablet:

- Record Great Audio with your Smartphone:  

More family movies to enjoy way after the popcorn is consumed and the movie theater lights are turned up:
Movies such as Beauty and the Beast (2017) lend themselves beautifully to comparison with previous animation and theater as well as print versions.

Boss Baby (2016) a highly successful cartoon feature is based on a little know board book of the same name by Maria Frazee  published in 2010  and can be compared to the print work.

Everything, Everything (2017) was a bestselling work by Nicola Yoon before it became a film.

Hidden Figures focuses on a short portion of the Margot Lee Shetterly nonfiction best seller.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

STEAM Education – Accenting the “T” for Television

STEAM Education – Accenting the “T” for Television
By Dr. Rose Reissman

As a  twentieth century child, I frustrated my print book loving mother by refusing to sit at the lovely desk she gave me and instead, lay down in front of the television to do my homework. There, I watched a wide variety of pop culture entertainment shows.  When she tried to force me to return to my desk, I showed her I had not only completed the homework, but had gotten writing ideas from my television viewing.
Fast forward to today, when STEAM, ELA, Social Studies and other teachers can tap into ongoing television shows to inspire students with real world learning brought to the classroom courtesy of television.

The Toy Box, a new TV show, invites students to watch a reality game show in which young people are the judges of prototypes of new toys submitted by adults and children.  Talk about making the idea of prototypes to solve or address a real world challenge coming real.  The show is modeled after the adult Shark Tank where adults pitch business ideas to adult business luminaries.  But here, adult mentors such as Dylan Lauren and Jim Silver prequalify the toy prototype by judging its market applications, safety for kids, diverse appeal and design.  All of these criteria are part of the standard rubric for prototypes in engineering design, or perhaps the inventions themes in STEM, SS or even cross content ELA units, grade 3 up.  Even better, the kids who judge in the final round of Toy Box actually “field test” – that is, play with the toy and question the adult and child inventors and judge the entries for the final round.  The grand prize is actual production of a toy that selected by the kid judges to be sold at ToysRus; totally an authentic real world goal for a toy inventor.

While Angus MacGyver was not a child in either the original 1990s series nor is he in the 2016 reboot on CBS, his skill of improvising from available materials to solve up the minute and quickly shifting crises is childlike and inventive to the hilt.  In the current series MacGyver, who was raised by his grandfather and is loyal to his childhood best friend, is critiqued by his boss for “improvising.”  But these skills, which include a broad knowledge of science principles, technology applications, and constructing mechanical devices from available, ordinary objects, make him a fabulous model of how use of the engineering - design process,  in tandem with team play, can literally save his colleagues and sometimes the free world.  Even better, in this reboot, he explains procedurally each design he engineers and its basis in science principles in spilt screen steps through a voiceover.  These split screen steps are digital diagrams and informational/functional documents.  Kids won’t be that conscious of that, but teachers will!!

Although MacGyver’s fans, those from the 1990’s as well as his new ones,  may want to believe he is an actual personality, Scorpion,  another show about a team of geniuses who work together to help homeland security with innovative science, mechanical, technological and crisis based interventions is actually based on real Irish born genius, Walter O’Brien.  O’Brien is a producer on the show who regularly offers technical ideas and storylines that involve science-centered think tank teamwork that saves individuals, exposes fraud, and uses science knowledge for rescue from the like of sinkholes, infectious diseases, and more.  The characters, including a behavioral specialist, a tech genius, and a mechanical wizard, work as a team combining their skills.  They are also outsiders in the regular world because their social skills are far less advanced than their intellectual ones. They have a female team member who helps with necessary social skills and has a gifted child.  Of course that child has contributed as well. In this series, as in MacGyver, the science procedures and facts are explicitly explained as the characters use this to neatly tie up situations by the end of the episode.  Is running through a complete design process cycle in order to produce a tenable solution to an important problem in just 48 minutes  (what’s left of the show’s hour after accounting for time to run commercials) possible?  Perhaps not, but there’s much science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics in action, here, as well as and fun, car chases, and relationships evolving; all PG rated.  What’s not to love by students and teachers, as well?

Students can connect the toy prototypes and issues to their own ideas and inventions.  They can explicate and diagram MacGyver-type procedures and relate them to their science content or create new challenges and episodes for MacGyver to solve using the science knowledge, and engineering/ design principles, or LEGO robotics approaches they’ve learned and experienced.  They can write back stories for the child in Scorpion or the other characters and research the “truth” behind the very real Walter O’Brien.  They can also consider how the values of resiliency, leaning from failure, grit, integrity and team work foster engineering design success and why.

Teachers need not assign these currently broadcast STEAM offerings to students for home viewing, but can download the episodes; select those that align to topics, challenges or themes used in their classes and invite the Toy Box kid judges, Angus MacGyver, and Walter O’Brien to drop by anytime that fits in the curriculum map.  Not to worry, just as I proved to my mother long ago, the kids will have fun with these digital learning tools and take away fundamental STEAM and engineering/design process skills and knowledge.  Perhaps they will create the next generation reality kid invention show, MacGyver 21st century character or Scorpion spinoff.  The accent on the “T” (TV) will inform all the other aspects of STEAM!!
Walter O’Brien:

Dr. Rose Reissman is the co-author of Project Based Literacy:
Fun Literacy Projects for Powerful Common Core Learning
(Information Age Publishers, 2015). She is the founder of the Writing Institute, which has served 134 schools. Dr. Reissman developed the projects cited in this article in collaboration with Ditmas Middle School teachers Angelo Carideo, Michael Downes, David Liotta, and Amanda Xavier.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Writing Classroom IS a Makerspace!

Good piece from EDUTOPIA... 


The Original Makerspace

Hands-on learning and 3D printers are great, but let’s not forget that students have always created original products—in the writing classroom.
I can still see the construction paper–bound booklet of poems that I wrote in my eighth-grade English class. I had typed them on a typewriter and decorated the pages with hand-drawn, colored-pencil images. And now they were published, elevated to a status rarely given to schoolwork. The audience for my poems may not have been very big, and I doubt the quality was much to write home about, but my poems were published nonetheless, and that told me that I had created something worthwhile, that my writing was meant to be polished and published and shared.

Making Something Out of Nothing

Long before arts and crafts met DIY and merged with hacking to become today’s maker movement, and before computer labs and libraries were converted into design spaces, English teachers were quietly inspiring students to be designers and creators in the original makerspace: the writing classroom. Done right, writing is making. After all, within the academic subjects, writing is the only discipline that asks students to create something new out of nothing. They are given a blank piece of paper (or a blank screen), and asked to use just words to make something new.

Although the writing classroom may not look like a makerspace, the principles that drive a maker project can also be seen in a student-driven writing workshop. Makers and writers both work through processes that include brainstorming ideas, creating rough drafts, seeking feedback (or testing) in order to make improvements, and eventually producing a final product. These processes are messy, both figuratively and literally: Writing students learn that crossing out errors, making changes in word choice, and completely revising sections of their work are natural and necessary parts of the writing process. And maker students learn that their project probably won’t be completed in one ideation, that there will be failures, that the floor may be littered with pieces of their efforts before they see a final product. The nonlinear process in both making and writing helps students learn that not getting it right the first time is part of the process, and that trying again is how they eventually succeed.

I’m a big fan of the maker movement—I love seeing students engaged in creative, hands-on projects, and I’m inspired by teachers who are incorporating making into academic classes. But I feel a little defensive when the noisy, messy, 3D building of the maker lab is hailed as the cure-all for education. Yes, students need time to engage in these collaborative, hands-on learning and making activities, but let’s not forget the tremendous value of (and need for) quiet, reflective, solitary writing time.

Not that the writing classroom is always quiet; during brainstorming sessions, my students talk and move around the room as they work. They might brainstorm for a while with a partner, then take their notebook to a quiet corner to think and plan some more, then work with a group to get more ideas. But as much as they enjoy this social way of working, they also appreciate the times when I provide quiet writing sessions. Writing is hard work, and if they are to focus on what they are crafting, they need quiet. They are not simply recalling or applying knowledge; they’re working at the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy: They are creating. And while they may be able to create in a noisy makerspace, the tools of a writer are in the mind. Choosing words, creating imagery, crafting sentences, and developing ideas all call for some heavy lifting of the mind, and that calls for uninterrupted quiet time.

The Power of Making With Words

The year before I published my eighth-grade poems, my English teacher didn’t ask me to make something new. Instead, every single class period was devoted to grammar: the rules, the examples, and—you guessed it—the underlining and circling of words to identify parts of speech. I know I’ve benefited from that solid background in writing tools, but I also know it was one of the most painfully boring classes of my schooling. Why were we spending so much time on all the tools and rules if we weren’t going to use them? It would be like sitting in a woodshop classroom and studying the design, purpose, and potential of each tool, but never taking those tools off the pegboard to build something new..."

Read the full article at its source:

The KidWind Challenge, Fantastic Opportunity to Further Student Creativity and STEM Learning!

From my In Box this morning....

"Later this month, teams of students in grades 4-12 from around the country will be traveling to Anaheim for the National KidWind Challenge. Teams will showcase their knowledge of wind power by presenting their hand-crafted wind turbine design to a panel of wind energy industry experts and testing their energy output in the KidWind Wind Tunnel. The teams from both the middle school and high school divisions with the highest energy output, the most innovative design, and the greatest demonstrated knowledge of wind power will be named the 2017 National KidWind Challenge Champions and will win the $1,000 grand prize..."

Students Travel to Anaheim for National KidWind Challenge

Teams will test the performance of their hand-crafted wind turbines and vie for the national title at AWEA WINDPOWER 2017 Conference & Exhibition

(Anaheim, CA) May 9, 2017 – KidWind, the international leader of wind energy education, is hosting the National KidWind Challenge on Wednesday, May 24 and Thursday, May 25, 2017 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. Approximately 5,000 students in grades 4-12 participated in local and regional KidWind Challenge events around the country to qualify for the national challenge, which is held in partnership with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2017 Conference & Exhibition. The team to win the national challenge in both the middle and high school divisions will win a grand prize of $1,000 cash. The teams placing 2nd and 3rd will win $500 cash and $250 cash respectively.

“Seeing how creative these students get with their designs and problem-solving is just one of the reasons why we started the KidWind Challenge,” said Michael Arquin, Founder of KidWind. “It also allows us to teach students about, and generate interest in, this extremely important alternative energy source – all while having fun.” 

The National KidWind Challenge was made possible through the leadership and generous contributions from AWEA, GE, Vernier Software & Technology, and the title sponsor, Pattern Energy. The KidWind Challenge Events and other local supporting events were sponsored by Alliant Energy, Appalachian Energy Center, Avangrid Renewables, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Dominion, EDP Renewables, ENEL Green Power North America, Google, National Society for Black Engineers, and Southern Power.

"During the National KidWind Challenge, teams will showcase their knowledge of wind power by presenting their hand-crafted wind turbine design to a panel of wind energy industry experts and testing their energy output in the KidWind Wind Tunnel. The teams from both the middle school and high school divisions with the highest energy output, the most innovative design, and the greatest demonstrated knowledge of wind power will be named the 2017 National KidWind Challenge Champions.

The KidWind Challenge is a nationwide initiative to help students learn about renewable energy and hone their engineering skills through the spirit of competition. During the 2016-17 season, the KidWind Challenge traveled to 26 locations and actively engaged with approximately 5,000 students in grades 4-12. Since the first event in 2009, the KidWind Challenge has hosted more than 11,000 students at 123 events across 19 states.

For more information about the KidWind Challenge, visit:  "

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tinkercad A Cool Tool for Student Creativity Projects!

I found this one on EdTech Digest... Looks like a great tool for student creativity projects!...

Cool Tool | Tinkercad

Tinkercad is an easy, browser-based 3D design and modeling tool for all. It is also a perfect 3D printing companion – it allows students to imagine anything, and then design it in minutes. Tinkercad is used by designers, hobbyists, teachers, and kids, to make toys, prototypes, home decor, Minecraft models, jewelry – the list goes on and on. No design experience is required, one doesn’t need to know CAD to make and 3D print very cool 3D models. Check out some of the user-generated designs on their website. It’s a tool that includes a mobile app for middle and high school students and keeps them engaged and interested in learning more. Learn more.

Putting Creativity Into Math Learning

"Let's Put Creativity Back Into Math"

"Math has gotten a bad rap. I would go so far as to say that many students love to hate math. No other school subject has the power to elicit as much chagrin from students, parents, and teachers alike. Even math's old buddy English class now has a friendly name: English/language arts, which suggests creativity, spontaneity, and flexibility. Why has math become the outcast, even though it is a fundamental part of, well, everything?

Perhaps this is because in the history of the subject, there has often been little room for exploration. Many students think of math, with its rigid rules and formulaic equations, as a static process to find one correct answer in one specific way. They think of failing grades for wrong answers rather than the value of perseverance and learning through mistakes.

And if educators teach math in such rigid terms, it can indeed alienate creative thinkers. When I was in school, my math teacher worked out problems on the board while the class copied them. As a 10th grade algebra student, I figured out how to find an answer using steps other than the ones the teacher had taught us and proudly turned in the problem. I got a failing score for my correct answer. Because I deviated from the fixed process, I was wrong.

But this was creativity at its best in the classroom—the process of taking math out of its old dusty box and finding new ways to understand old formulas. When we are personally invested in what we are doing, motivation and engagement come naturally..."

Read the full article at its source:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

John Cleese Give Shares Great Thinking About Creativity for Teachers

In writing the book 'Make, Learn, Succeed: Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School' I came across this video and a number of items from John Cleese (originally of Monte Python fame) - Beyond being a hyper-creative individual, he clearly has studied and fully understands Creativity and the Creative Process. So much so that I think his take on it rivals, in not exceeds, that of any of the other theorists and researchers I site in the book. Here's the video of his talk on this subject (and others) at Google...

Make, Learn, Succeed Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School

Make, Learn, Succeed Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School
Develop Student Creativity - Topics: Curriculum, Robotics, STEM, Project-based learning, Personalized learning, Maker movement (click on book cover for more info or to purchase).