Method to Morning Announcements

einstein-1173990_1280This is how we make our morning announcements at our school.

First, I downloaded free, no-attribution-necessary videos from Pixabay to make into our Intro and Outtro stings, as well as our regular announcements like birthdays and weather. I added free, no-attribution-necessary music from Youtube to them, to make it more fun.

Next, students record clips of themselves doing the daily changing announcements using Quicktime. Usually they use my laptop, since it’s faster than the lab computers. Sometimes they eat lunch in the computer lab and work on them days in advance, since things like the lunch menu can be figured out in advance. They name the clips something like 1027lunch, 1027news, 1027history, so that I can import them into iMovie all at the same time. I also only change the Outtro every couple of weeks, since that script is more permanent. I will have students re-record as we start rotating new kids in this month.

We do have one student records audio and not video, so I download pictures to go with that report, either from Pixabay or Wikimedia Commons. I try to get ones that I don’t need to attribute, but if I do have to attribute, I make sure I copy and paste the necessary attribution into the video description when I upload it. (Thanks Creative Commons!)

Then, I put the clips in the order that I want them. And I make sure visual images sync up with audio where necessary. This is something I’ve turned into a template. I hope that by the end of the year, the students will be doing much of this behind-the-scenes work. But, we’ll see.

Next, I make sure the “titles” are updated. I use titles to identify the students reporters, to credit news sources for current events, and to overlay changing information over videos that stay the same. For example, I just click on the weather title and re-enter the forecast info for each day.

Finally, I share the project to Youtube, altering the date and making sure it’s set to public. I linked my Youtube account to iMovie to do this. I also set up a Youtube playlist that automatically grabs any video I upload with “WPKY News” in the title. I also usually shoot out a reminder email to teachers with a link to the announcements.

I really liked how we did announcements last year on Google Hangouts, because teachers could tune in live if they wanted, and our efforts were automatically uploaded after. But I like this way too. We can do more in advance (like recording Monday’s announcements on a Friday during lunch if I have a meeting in another building). We can re-do individual bits if we have to and change them out (I expect this will happen to the lunch menu sometimes when we have snow days). We can try and try again when kids stumble over pronunciation.

But it is a work in progress. There are days when I thought I updated a clip but I didn’t, and send out a video with yesterday’s birthdays or lunch. Sometimes when I add a new clip, I forget to delete an older one. I tried to get it going on a lab computer so that kids could do more of the editing independently, but the machine was so slow that both the kids and I got really frustrated with it. I want to incorporate regular segments like “Tech Tip Tuesday” but scheduling is a pain.  But some mistakes stay in on purpose. For example, when kids struggle with words but self-correct, I like to leave it in because I think that’s good modeling for younger students still learning to read.

I’m uploaded the pre-produced clips to Google Drive, so you can use them if you want, or get a sense of how to make your own. I really do encourage making your own, or having students make them, to go along with your school culture!

Yesterday Was a Good Day

Yesterday was a good day. And I wanted to write about it, because last week I was feeling pretty down about teaching. (I find it a little demoralizing to give standardized tests.)

But yesterday was fun. It was many of the things that make this career feel like a good and worthwhile choice.

First, it was May the 4th – “Star Wars Day.” I came in wearing leggings emblazoned with the Star Wars logo down the leg — they were XL child size, because I am an XL child. They were surprisingly comfortable. I also wore a Darth Vader mask and cape and played the Imperial March from my phone. Even the kids who didn’t understand why I was acting this way really got a kick out of it.

My morning announcements crew also ran with the theme.

And it’s entirely possible that I repeated this joke a few dozen times.

Then, I submitted a flyer for approval to distribute through the schools. I’m trying to start a 4-H club in my city. There are 4-H clubs in the rural areas that surround our city, but not one within the city itself. I am hoping to do this because I was in 4-H as a kid. I didn’t do any livestock or stereotypically “country” projects. I did mostly sewing and creative arts. These days 4-H also has a lot of STEM projects students could try. My point is, 4-H is not just for country kids. It’s a way for students to extend learning throughout the summer through projects that involve choice and self-determination. There are also scholarships and other opportunities open to students who do 4-H, and I want the kids in my school district to have access to that.

Anyway, my point is, my flyer got approved so I’ll hopefully get that out to the schools late this week or by next Monday. It feels like a really concrete step forward. (It is too late to sign up for competitive judging with 4-H projects, but I actually find this a relief – some of the pressure is off and we can focus on building the club itself.) It feels good to feel like I’ve accomplished something, even though it means there is much more work to be done still.

Yesterday I also had students working on an endangered animals research project, but that took some interesting turns that I think merits its own post. Stay tuned!

Reflecting on Riftworld Chronicles and Culture Shock

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So, I’m a giant nerd, so it’s not surprising that my taste in Youtube channels reflects that. Lately I’ve been enjoying Riftworld Chronicles by Geek & Sundry. It’s the story of a wizard from a fantastic world who accidentally winds up in ours. In the most recent episode, the wizard has to navigate the more paperwork-y points of our healthcare system.

Starting at about 1:33, the nurse and wizard have an interaction during which the nurse asks to see a health card, driver’s license, or other form of ID. The wizard complies by displaying a tattoo that surely has deep, significant meaning to him, but not to the nurse.

At this point, my spouse remarked, “He still thinks he’s in his own world!”

I disagreed. “He knows he’s in a different world,” I said, “It’s just that he takes the things that have universal meaning in his world for granted. He’s not thinking deeply about them because he’s never really had to before. Why would you question something that has always worked the way it’s supposed to in the past?”

This is an example of culture shock. When you are part of one culture and interact with or become immersed in another, you’re going to run up against elements completely unfamiliar to you (like “health card” and “driver’s license”). But you’ll also be faced with the fact that the things you take for granted seeming completely alien to others.

Culture shock can occur when traveling or moving to another country, but it can happen without you ever leaving home. You can experience culture shock in a lot of ways, through language barriers and age gaps, and other obstacles. I think sometimes professionals experience it as technology in our industries move forward. I think it’s common to feel towards social media, and how people use it. (I love Twitter lately, but I just can’t with you, Snapchat.) And I think it happens between students in our classrooms, especially when we get kids from different socioeconomic classes, different family structures, different religions, different races, different cultures, and so on.

So how do we handle culture shock in the classroom? I’m not about to recommend a one-size-fits-all sort of solution, because I doubt one exists. What works in my elementary computer lab would probably not be the best thing for a high school foreign language class. I think different approaches will work for different people, and that different classroom settings call for different ideas and actions anyway. It’s an important aspect of differentiation. You don’t make the effort to address culture just because we should celebrate diversity; you make the effort to address culture because it’s a very fundamental thing to basic communication. People may be completely unaware that they’re looking from a different perspective. But being aware that there may be a difference is probably a decent enough place to start.