Monday, April 30, 2012

Classroom Musical

Musicals aren't exactly my thing. But that doesn't matter. This isn't my thing. It's theirs. The broadcast teacher (whom I assist) found the contest and provided the assignment. The students planned the shoot, recruited the talent, brought in extras, recorded the music, shot, and edited the video you are about to see. We sat back and watched. Let's see if we can't get that viewed count up a little bit, shall we?


This is for the kids who smile every day and have every reason not to. This is for the kids who try every day and for the kids who try to try. This is for the kids who hold the door open for girls. This is for the kids who don't wear makeup on Tuesdays or give a damn what some people think. This is for the kids who are happy, and for the ones who want to be. This is for the kids who live by their faith, and for the ones who question it. This is for the kids who ask "why?" This is for the kids who ask "why not?" This is for the kids who practice, who run, who throw, and who hit. This is for the kids who dance. This is for the kids who act. This is for the kids who sing out loud in front of their peers. This is for the kids who can hold it together and for the ones who cant. This is for the kids who create things, paint things, write things, photograph things, film things, and who build things. This is for the kids who let it out and the ones that keep it in. This is for the kids who raise their hands and yes, even for the ones who don't. This is for the kids who fight for justice.

This is for the kids who have bad days, when I can't do anything about it but this. 

Those are my kids. This is everything. This is for them.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Trust Me I'm A...

I think these two photos were taken sometime during 2009. I was digging through my archives when I came accorss them. I found several images that I would have posted at the time had this site existed. I will be posting more things from the archives in the days to come.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Please Continue Playing With Cameras

"We need a camera." That's what they said. We gave them a camera and a memory card and waited to see what would be on it when they came back. The two students responsible for the images below are juniors. They will end up in broadcast next year regardless. I may not, and I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I won't be able to observe their creative process like I can this year. I won't be "in on it," and that makes me sad. On the other hand, every broadcast, every creative, every image to come of out that group of kids will be a surprise to me. I'll just have to wait like everybody else.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I May Need To Get Out More...

I spotted this on my way to school this morning. There are duplicates on every light post outside the school and going up the hill. They aren't on school property as I understand it (both near bus stops) so I do not think the school will object. It's not the first one I have seen in DFW, but it is the first one I have seen printed on plastic (vinyl? rubber?) I will have to ask my good lady wife what it would cost to produce them. Are they cheap enough to spread all over Ft. Worth? Or are they expensive enough that you would want to place them where they would count? It isn't hard to see the benefits of this material over paper. Is it common to print leaflets on this stuff? Maybe I'm spending too much time indoors.

The Proper Tools

Like most professions, teachers will tell you they need the proper tools to do their jobs.  We never stop arguing about what we mean when we say "proper tools," but that subject is for another day. Another thing some educators will tell you is to "go where the students are." 

How's this?
I have my wonderful wife to thank for these.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Film Project Progress

As I have already written, my history students are working on a film project. They were allowed to choose any subject or setting in American history for their film. I have already shared some of the work one of the groups has produced. They raised the bar, as I understand it, among the other students (Facebook can be a wonderful motivational tool). Here are some bits and pieces from other promising groups. Some of these groups were spurred on buy watching their classmates. Some of these groups have been working hard all along. I am looking forward to all of these films, but these are the other groups making full use of their websites.

The group in this photo is working with the Salem Witch Trials. (Photos from all groups  used with permission.)
[image removed]

While I have no visuals from this next group, the writing samples that have put up have given me something to look forward to.
This film is also set during prohibition. Everything I have seen so far has given me reason to look forward to it. Some of the posts on this site are written in character, which makes enjoyable to read.

This group also includes several music samples on their site, as much to set the mood on the site itself as to provide examples of what will be used in their movie.

I'm not sure why the subject of alcohol is so popular with teenagers....This next group is also dealing with prohibition, but from the other side. This film has to do with efforts by women to ban the devil's drink.
I am 90% sure this is a working title. I will know for sure when the trailers come out next week.This is one of a few photos they posted for their film.
They have already put up a few seconds of film. They are using an iPhone app called 8mm.

[image removed]

I'm looking forward to the work these kids are producing. Next Monday, they must turn in either a 30 second trailer or a movie poster. Expect those to be posted here. The movies themselves are due May 7th.

I can't wait.


Playing With Cameras

Sometimes we just hand over a camera to some of the broadcast kids and see what they come up with. Two in particular have a great track record creating (sometimes award winning) videos.

This is what they came back with today.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Germany May Not Like My Video...

Apparently, one of my videos is Germany. Good thing I teach in Texas. The video in question was one of the homework assignments I gave myself while working with the broadcast class.
This is why.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Public Is Public

Kids these days...
This account came to my attention a few days ago. It's about what you would expect, snarky comments aimed at teachers, coaches, sports, and the school in general. The account's list of followers is a who's-who of the senior class.
A quick search for "Nolan" yielded another account with even more followers. The second account takes aim at the senior class, for the most part.

(That last tweet was sent out just before Prom) This second account read like a satire on the senior class. Which, in my opinion, would be a good thing. Then there are a few tweets that take shots at specific groups of people.
The general satirical tweets are defensible. The attacks on specific people or easily identifiable groups within the school are not. Whether it's Twitter, Foursquare, Wikipedia, Facebook or even pocket WiFi networks,  we cannot continue to advocate the use of technology in the classroom and ignore how the students use it in public.

So what do we do? Block access? Won't work. Do we monitor their social media accounts? Do we demand that they allow a school official to follow their twitter account and friend them on Facebook? No! If we do that we teach them that when they hide what they do they won't have to face consequences. "Security by obscurity" does not work in industry and it does not work for reputation.  Do we want to train generations of intellectual cowards? Or should we teach them to mean what they say, to have convictions and opinions and to stand by them openly under their real name?

Besides, if we go after the medium they will just switch to something else. Kids use twitter now because (they claim, anyway) that adults are unaware of it. Just wait till they find Path, if they haven't already. Even if they started using Hushmail, all it would take is one screen shot to get them in trouble. That second twitter account I already mentioned would need to trust every one of his 95 followers not to turn him in if he said something bad. Should your reputation depend on the ability of 95 teenagers to keep their mouths shut?

It should not matter if we run into students at a mall or stumble across something they said on the Internet, public is public. What would we, as teachers, want them to see if they ran into us in public or stumbled across something we said on the internet? 

What can we do? Be present, as they say, and pay attention.
I was permitted to follow one of these accounts with my school twitter account. I was curious what would happen. The reaction was about what you would expect. Panic. Some tweets were deleted, and both blocked my school account. The thing is, the accounts are still public. Twitter has a nice RSS feature that allows non-users to follow accounts. Not to mention the fact that all I had to do was sign-out and go to their page manually.... 

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Students get bored. Students have smartphones. Students use their smartphones when they are bored. Students populate the Foursquareverse with spots for most of the classrooms (and teachers). Some students remember that the internet is public and stick to funny but not disrespectful names. Some students do not. (Glad foursquare lets you change the names of spots.)

Can you guess which one I'm the mayor of?

The tips left in some of the spots can be funny sometimes as well. Our foursquare spots get a fair amount of traffic. People check in when they are here for alumni events, conferences, or sports. Most of the photos added to Nolan spots were not added by visiting adults.

It might be a fun way to track attendance if GPS systems in phones were a little more precise....


Posted after discussing censorship in a US history class.


Last semester I was tasked with creating a video to showcase the social studies department for our open house. I spent a few days getting images of each of our teachers for the project. I was in the process of archiving that footage when I came across these stills. (Posted with the student's permission)
At first I thought the student was not paying attention, but her hand went up every time the instructor asked a question. This student is a freshmen, so she won't end up in my class for another year or so, and even then she might get another history teacher. I might have to offer a graphic novel option on my film project.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Time With The Broadcast

A little background...
I assist with the Broadcast Journalism class at my school. As I have noted in a previous post,  I feel like one of the students most of the time. (Except I get to chill with the teacher outside of school) When I had the time or the opportunity, I would even try to duplicate some of the assignments given to the students. And because we have such a small staff this year, I end up filming some events that students can't, then I hand over the footage to a student editor. Most of this was done on the only camera that I own and carry, my phone.

I started filming bits and pieces of the class with the intention of making a "best of" short at the end of the year. I figured we could use it to encourage more kids to take the class. A few weeks ago I had the idea to interview the instructor on camera. She agreed, and after several rounds of editing (again, with her feedback), the video below is the result.

I approached this project as a student of the class working on a thesis or final project. (Well, as much as I could with a full teaching load.) I may submit it to the faculty talent show at my school. The intended audience is Nolan, so keep that in mind.

I will say one more thing. The time I have spent with this class has made me a better teacher, and quite possibly a better person. I am grateful to both the instructor for inviting me and to the students for tolerating me. This is not an experience that I will be fortunate enough to repeat, but it is something that will stay with me.
For those that do not know, "To educate in the family spirit" is one of the Marianist Characteristics of Education
On the video itself
The interview portions were shot on my wife's Nikon Cool Pix, and I'm not happy with the audio that came out of it. I had setup my iPhone to try and capture better audio (you can see it in some of the interview shots) but it was ruined by the vibrations from the PC I had set it on. After filling up two storage cards and killing the battery, I borrowed a Canon SLR from the class to finish the interview. That accounts for the difference in sound and visual quality at times. This project was cut down from a little over 2 hours of classroom footage and a little over 4 hours of interview. The class portions were shot on my iPhone 4 and later on an iPhone 4s. The editing was done on iMovie 09.

Some Kids Scrawl on Desks...

...Some kids scrawl on Wikipedia.

I use Wikipedia frequently in both my history and sociology classes. For history, it's a great source for quick facts, and it's a great dictionary for terms in sociology I am not familiar with. Every so often, I spot a message at the top of the page directed at my school's IP address. It tells me that my user account has several messages pending. Here is a direct quote from one such message;

"I saw what you did on the Motel 6 page."

Interesting. I know that Wikipedia relies on its users but I never paid attention to how that plays out in practice. You can edit a page without creating an account, in which case they log your IP address and keep track of your activity that way. And I'm in a High School. No wonder.

These are the edits that have been revoked or reverted to their original state, each made by (presumably) students at my school. Many of these are just plain silly. Like the one below, let's play spot the edit...

I saw a few instances of celebrities getting married to students without their knowledge. I saw one student insert himself into history a few times.  Another student (who swears to me the did not edit it) is according to Wikipedia "known for his wit." Most of these, however, are not for polite company.

I can remember using classroom sets of textbooks when I was in grade school. Invariably, there would be crude representations of body parts stuck to the heads of past presidents. Still more artistic gems could only be guessed at, scratched out by offended students or hidden under coats of liquid-paper applied by teachers over the summer. Now imagine a textbook shared by nearly every school in the country in some form or another.

Now try and keep it clean.

To be sure, some of the corrections made by students at my school were fixed by bots. It is clear, however, that others were fixed by active Wikipedia users. To those users out there who blot out these little spurts of insurrection, my heart goes out to you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Now, I'm Bragging.

I gave my US history students a film project this year. Part of the assignment involves creating and maintaining a blog that documents their progress. They are required to post at least once a week. This week, the post for one group consisted of just one image. (Posted here with permission.)

[Updated to comply with social media policy] They did a damn good job and I'm proud of them. This group of kids did a better job inspiring the rest of the class to raise the bar than I ever could. And I'm looking forward to every single one of those films. Too bad you don't get to see them.

Confused? See this post.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Things You See While Grading...

I update this post as I find new things. The newest ones are at the top.

(Oh wait, that one was mine.)