Monday, April 25, 2011

TED Video Reaction

After watching Ethan Zuckerman's TED talk entitled "Listening to Global Voices," I realized that like in so many supposedly 'groundbreaking' arenas, social norms still define the way we behave.  Considering other social groups that form out of new modes of expression (art, literature, news, television), it's not difficult to spot the motifs of racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, etc. that pervade them.  Mr. Zuckerman makes an important point: the internet is no different.

From a personal perspective, he's absolutely right.  One thing that came to my mind was my behavior on Facebook.  Until I met some Korean and Chinese students in my classes at UB, I'd never added anyone from the continent of Asia to my friends list, despite the fact that I easily could have in the past.  I didn't have the slightest idea what their cities looked like, political issues in their country;  all that information was  something I could have easily found on the internet.  But I never did.

Maybe this speaks to the fact that until something touches us personally--until it actually affects our immediate reality--we often lack not just the motivation, but the interest to seek out information on our own.  Our attitudes toward our ability to influence change might also contribute to our lack of global communication over the internet.  Many people (on my bad days, myself included) feel resigned to the fact that in a world dominated by a few wealthy corporations, our voices (and, by association, our knowledge) have little power to motivate any substantial social change.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


After doing some exploring on the ePals website, I noticed a few extremely useful features that I'd love to incorporate into my classroom.

Feature #1:  Collaborate > Search by Country.

Imagine your class is learning about Africa and it's history of colonization along the coast.  Imagine that students in your class could contact other students from coastal African countries to discuss how this colonization has impacted their lives or their environment.  You'd have to admit:  This is so cool.  You can do exactly that with ePals' "Collaborate" feature, which allows you to select a country anywhere in the world and contact classrooms from that country so that your students can become 'ePals' (electronic pen pals).  Why spend so much time trying to tell students about what life is like in other parts of the world when they could be sharing real, relevant stories while practicing writing with other students from other countries?  It takes authenticity of learning to an entirely new level.

Feature #2:  Teachers > Community Media > See Teacher Work > Teacher Spotlight Projects

When you search for lesson plans online, there's always an abundance of results, and some are more useful than others.  At ePals, their Teacher Spotlight Projects take inspiration in a new direction.  What I love about this feature is that the projects are meant to be collaborative across the global community- it's not just something you print from the internet and try to mix some diversity into.  Instead, the teacher projects actually have students collaborating in different classrooms around the world.  For example, and Alien Adventure project has students from different countries each creating a 'part' of the alien, and writing part of his story (the alien travelling around the world to different countries is a premise of the story).  What a rich experience for students, and what a way to see how different cultures interact with the same assignment!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Tonight I created this great little book about plants in just a few minutes using Bookr, a website that allows you to create books using beautiful flickr photos and your own added text.

In another class I'm in right now, we're designing a unit plan for teaching content ESL through science units, and I thought that Bookr would be a great opportunity to create a resource that drew upon that unit.  We've been discussing how valuable second language learning through content areas can be: students learn academic vocabulary and registers in a context-embedded setting while reinforcing content learned in other classes.

Photography is one of the most compelling mediums for displaying the beauty of the natural world, and Flickr provides us with essentially limitless quantities of just that.  With Bookr, I could have students looking at incredibly colorful, beautiful photos that can help them appreciate the significance of what they're learning.  That's why I chose to add some text about humans' responsibility to take care of and protect plant life; students can connect these photos with the idea and draw some meaning from it.

A more ambitious application of this program would be its use in a science project.  We could have, say, a 'class plant' that we shoot photos of in its different stages of life, and create a Bookr to catalogue the life cycle of a plant.  I could have students shoot photos of the various steps of a science experiment, and make a Bookr that has each step of the experiment listed under each photo.  Students could then share their experiments with the class.

Creative Commons Licenses

A creative commons license allows creators to copyright their work while allowing others to use, edit, and distribute it at the same time, given that they are properly credited.

There are 6 types of creative commons licenses:

1.  CC-BY
Allows commercial and non-commerical distrubution and editing/tweaking so long as it is credited.
2.  CC-BY-SA
Allows commercial editing/addition to your work so long as editors license their new creations under identical terms.
3.  CC-BY-ND
Allows commercial and non-commercial distribution so long as the work remains complete, unchanged and is credited.
4.  CC-BY-NC
Allows non-commercial editing/addition to the work so long as it is credited.
Allows non-commercial editing/addition to the work so long as it is credited and licensed under identical terms.
Allows others to only download work (no editing whatsoever) and share with others so long as it is credited.