The End….

8 05 2011

So… the end has come. The final page has been turned, and as relieved as I am to be done, I don’t want to leave. I have a lot of things to tie up before I defend myself for my degree. The kids, despite their whining and complaining at times, hate to see me go, and I hate to go myself. I cannot wait to start my journey over again in a classroom next year.


Peer Presenting With Prezi (Part VII:Future Implications)

8 05 2011

Peer Presenting with Prezi (Parts III and IV: The Activity and the Data)

3 05 2011

Description of Activity/Lesson/Task

For this project, students were asked to teach class, based on a prompt that they have been given. Students would take that prompt, and then create a Prezi that answers the question in great detail. Prezi amazed the students themselves each time that I used it in class over the previous 7 weeks, and so I thought that Prezi would be a great tool for them to play with, and teach with like I had. Students had just finished up the Interwar Period, between World War I and II. When faced with the decision of how to teach World War II, I decided that the students themselves had enough prior knowledge about WWII, that they could build on that and teach class themselves.

The first day of this lesson, students were shown a 10-minute screencast on how Prezi works, and the capabilities and limitations of Prezi. After the screencast, students spent the rest of class, using their textbook and their brain, to complete a graphic organizer tailored to the prompt that they had selected. Students were grouped (by themselves) into small groups of 3-4, and told that the group would receive one collective grade.

To understand this assignment, you must understand what Prezi is. Prezi is a new presentation tool that has been called by myself and other people more important then me as the ‘death to PowerPoint.’ Prezi allows the creators to not only create ‘slides’ to scroll through, but to do it in a visually stimulating way that PowerPoint cannot.

Another capability of Prezi, though not necessarily accessed during my Action Research Project, is that of the ‘infinite’ whiteboard. By inserting whatever information (text, images, videos, etc.) into the Prezi, a teacher may create a labyrinth that they may have their students explore and discover the information for themselves.

The next two days were spent in the Blue computer lab at Blacksburg High School. Here, students were to use their graphic organizer, as well as the vast information found on the Internet, to create a Prezi that answered their prompt. On top of just simply answering the prompt, students had to create a way for their peers to take notes on their presentation, thus having to categorize the information themselves into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ groups. They also had to prepare themselves for teaching, thus learning extra information that might help them teach class.

After the two lab days, students were given 10-12 minutes to teach their class the answer(s) to their individual prompts. Students were encouraged to facilitate class discussion into their Prezis. The first three groups (Causes of World War II, Allied Leaders, and Axis Leaders) were to go on the first day, while the last four groups (Battles in Europe and Africa, Battles in Pacific, Major Effects, and Reconstruction of Axis) were to go on the second day. Students would give their classmates a sheet to take notes on (Slot notes, simple headings, etc. Whatever the group saw fit for their prompt). Students were graded on the organization of their Prezi, the content of their Prezi, as well as their presentation to class.

It should be noted, that this is the only lecture students were given on World War II. The idea with this assignment was that students seem to remember and/or be most interested in the World Wars, particularly World War II. This assignment gives students an opportunity to not only dive deep into one section of the war, but their classmates should have done the same thing, and thus built a deep set of Prezi’s that can be used not only in lecture, but in study as well.
Data Gathered:

In order to judge and grade the Prezis, I created a rubric for each of the prompts, which grades students on their ability to go above and beyond the SOL standard, but also the organization of the Prezi and their note-taking apparatus, as well as their presentation/lecture to class.. Here is an example of a rubric:

After I had designed the rubric, I realized that the ‘above and beyond’ part of the SOL standards were not on the rubric. So, within the SOL standards, a 5 is representative of going beyond what was asked in the graphic organizer and the SOLs. Anything below that was based on the level of detail provided for the SOL standard. The Prezi, as seen in the rubric, was worth 75 points (I have graded this past six weeks on a point scale. Usually, homework assignments were worth 10-12 points, writing assignments 25-40, quizzes 25, and tests over 100 points.)

An important aspect of this rubric were the note taking apparatus that students created. Some students created Slot Notes with their Prezi:

Prezi – Major Battles in the European and African Fronts

Others created a simple heading system:

Prezi – Causes of World War II

Another form of data that I took from this project was the unit test for the Interwar Period and WWII. This unit was the longest I taught at Blacksburg, lasting roughly 3 weeks. The test, like all tests I have given, included a map portion, a multiple-choice portion, a fill-in-the-blank portion, and two short essays. It was the largest grade for the six-weeks, at 131 points. Here is a blank copy of one of the tests:

Interwar and World War II Test

Finally, I gave students an option for extra credit in the form of a short write-up (2-3 paragraphs) on how they felt about the use of Prezi. I asked them to answer the following questions when writing: How did you like Prezi? How did you feel about teaching class? If I were to do this again, should I change anything? An example of one of the write-ups I received can be seen below:

Peer Presenting with Prezi (Part VI: Reflections)

2 05 2011

Findings and Reflections

The first finding out of this assignment, is that students seem to do the bare minimum for their projects. If you look at the grades for Prezi, you will find that most grades fall in the B and C range. A few of the reflections I received mention that they wished they had been given a guide for what they needed to be included. It was interesting, because I gave them what need in their organizer, but they had to find the important information about it themselves. To go along with this, I found that a few students asked for some guidance in their search for information. This goes along with the students in the previous paragraph, who called for a guide of information they needed to include in their Prezi. I, personally, go back and forth on whether or not I should give students information. If I gave it to them, it would potentially only further this idea of the ‘bare minimum’. However, if I don’t, it leads to a product similar to some of the Prezis that were made and presented to class that received a bad grade.

If I were to do this project again, I believe that I would provide a very bare minimum of information within the graphic organizer that I gave groups, and provide a few accredited websites that students could pull information from, in order to speed up the process, which students all had an issue with. The accredited websites may actually speed up the Prezi creation, as students would not have to use search engines to find information about their topic or prompt.

As discussed already, time was a huge issue. More than 75% of the reflections I received as extra credit mentioned a need for more time as a suggestion to better the assignment. The issue becomes within this, that time is a valuable thing, as Linkin Park would say. With the pressures of an SOL test, and at least another 60 years of history to cover, time really couldn’t be given to allow an extra day, either of lab time, or as some students suggested, a ‘review’ day, where the teacher went over the most important information covered in the Prezis.

Had the Prezis been above and beyond the information required, and had students created a note taking system that had been simple and efficient, this extra day for review would be irrelevant. However, as this assignment is about student creativity, it would be impractical to make students do everything in a specific way. As for an extra day in the lab, some of the Prezis, while being presented, had some issues with their completeness/organization. About the note taking apparatuses in her class, one student commented that: “Most of the slot-notes were simple to follow. Some, however, were a bit difficult to follow.” I believe that created very simple (both in information and in organization of the Prezi) Prezis because of the lack of time. Students had the opportunity to work outside of class, but many commented on the fact that it would have been nice. However, a few students reflected on the fact that they could work on it, with out having to email a PowerPoint to one another.

In conclusion of the need of more time for this assignment, I whole-heartedly agree with my students. Even my cooperating teacher commented that too much time was already invested into this assignment. My  supervisor made a suggestion to allow students to make such a presentation and Prezi at the end of the year, after standardized tests. I like this idea, but I still believe that with the right curriculum map, an assignment such as this could work. However, I do believe that one of two things must occur. Either there must be more scaffolding from the podium, or there must be more time for the students to research and create themselves.

Another problem that one student brought up that “It would be better if in addition to receiving a group grade, students also received an individual grade. Teenagers can often be unpredictable.” Ms. Luck, in a debriefing session after the assignment, mentioned another option, namely having students create Prezi’s individually. One of the biggest issues that some students had, when conversing with them after the assignment, was that they felt some people did most of the work, while others did very little.

I believe that group work is a great ‘break’ from the normal school routine, and believe that I would keep this structure, despite these comments. Before giving the assignment, I had toyed around with giving students a ‘group member’ evaluation sheet for each person in their group, but under the auspices of Ms. Luck, I held back from giving one. In  the future, I believe that some sort of group member evaluation would be a part of a similar assignment.

The final finding in all of this, is that students teaching class seems to have led to a drop in test scores, and some disgruntled students. At least 20% of the reflections I received voice some discontent with the student-led lectures. One student commented, “I feel that I learned a very little amount of information about WWII.” Looking at the table of test scores, some classes had a 5% shift in their grade, which potentially could have been worse without the extra 5 points from the reflections. A few things may also have influenced the drop in test scores: this test was over two separate chapters while the Imperialism test was on one chapter, this unit was roughly a week and a half longer, and there were no quizzes or reviews to help students remember information.

This ties in with the bare minimum covered in the Prezis by the students, the lack of a strong lecture, and the need for more time. This is the main measure of how students learned, and even students who usually test well, did not do well on this test. I believe that while the assignment did not go as well as planned and imagined, it was not the key contributor to the drop in test scores. That is not, however, to say that it did not play a role. I will go over how I want to change this when I am looking at how this experience if going to influence my future work with technology in the classroom.

Peer Presenting with Prezi (Part V: Analysis)

2 05 2011

Data Analysis

Overall, it would be safe to say that most of the groups did not go beyond the standards. Below is a chart of the final scores for each group in each class: (Keep in mind, anything below a 60 is a C. These are Honors level classes in a quality high school)

Group # 1st Period 4th Period 7th Period

Group 1

60 68 68

Group 2

65 63 60

Group 3

72 63 58

Group 4

67 65 71

Group 5

61 69 68

Group 6

70 60 58

Group 7

70 62 58

These grades, particularly in 7th, surprised me. Probably the biggest reason why most of the grades are above a B, is because a B was the minimum grade I would give for given basic information on each of the SOL standards, according to the rubric/explanation sheet students were given at the beginning of the project.

With the ability to take notes and presenting to class, one thing became apparent. Students did not really know what they were talking about. A lot of the scores in the SOL standards were lowered because, when asked a question about the basic history of the event or individual, students stood up front dumfounded.

As for the test scores, in general, most classes had a lower percentage grade for this test than any other test I have given. Here is another table of the average score for each class, both in points, and percentage for my last test (Imperialism) and the this unit test:

Imp. Points (out of 115) Imp. Percentage IW/WWII Points (out of 131) IW/WWII Percentage
1st period





4th period





7th period





Peer Presenting With Prezi (Parts I and II:Context and Students)

2 05 2011

Community Context:

My digital humanities project takes place at Bayside High School. The town of Bayside can be classified as suburban, though there is no major city in the area. The town had a population of just under 40,000 people, according to the 2000 census. The school itself, however, serves parts of Bayside County that are not within the limits of , including some very rural areas.

Bayside hold a major state university within town limits. The university is large, attracting undergraduates, professors and their families, as well as graduate students of many ages to Bayside from all over the world. The children of these people mostly attend Bayside High School, with no real private school, besides a small Christian academy and a K-8 school, exist in the area. Diversity, therefore, is abundant in the school.

The technology available at the school is advanced, but perhaps not at the level that it could be. Bayside High School recently had a roof collapse in part of their school, and as such, is displaced for the next few years at the middle school. Within every classroom is a faculty computer and a projector. After looking around, I have found about half of the classrooms in the school are equipped with SmartBoard, but not every classroom does. There is a set of Flip Cameras available for use by classes, as well, though I did not use this resource. There are also three computer labs equipped with 25 computers for student use in each, as well as the Library, also known as the ‘Media Resource Center’.

Bayside County Public School has an entire department devoted to technology in the schools. Bayside High School shares a support staff person by the name of Bert with the elementary schools in and around Bayside. He, along with the library staff, are available for the faculty to advise them about the technology available in the school. BCPS also has two resources by the names of ‘Portal’ and ‘Moodle’. Portal is the grade book for all BCPS teachers, and allows students (and parents) to view grades. Moodle is a ‘cloud’ website, where teachers can set up their courses and allow students to take quizzes and tests and access resources from class both in school and at home.


The students that I am working with are, for the large part, incredibly highly motivated in an intelligent. 90% of all students go to some form of higher education, with 70% of all students at Bayside High School end up in a four year university after graduation, which is an incredibly high percentage for the surrounding area. Of the four classes that I teach, three of them are considered ‘Honors’, which takes both intellectual ability, as well as motivation, to succeed in.

As alluded to in my first section, a large majority of the community in Bayside is college educated. Whether it be business people attracted to the area by the corporate research facilities created by the major state university in town, or by tenure at the university itself; a large amount of students in my classroom have grown up with highly educated and supportive parents. The average grades in each of my three honors classes are 86,88, and 91. They are, with the exception of a few students, motivated and intelligent.

Each of my classes contains a range of interests and abilities. My first period could be considered a ‘jock’ class, as half of the class is very involved with the athletic department in the school. In particular, a good number of the students play soccer and softball. One strength of this class, in general, is their ability to complete independent work efficiently. Though I have them at 7:30 AM, most students are awake and aware to complete work diligently when it has been assigned to them.

My second honors class contains a group with a wide variety of interests. Some are interested in the arts, some athletics. This group takes the longest out of the honors classes to complete an assignment. This has led to many of my assignments with them being cut short, leaving many students only partially done with an assignment. Perhaps partially due to this ‘slothful’ nature, this group is great at asking questions, and trying to get details out of the method of learning, whether it be lecture, text, video, etc.

My final honors class is the most inherently intelligent and motivated class that I have all day. Like my second honors class, this group is very diverse in their interests, but work quite well together as a whole. These students work well in groups, although they do tend to take longer on assignments while in groups. The answers and thoughts that I have received out of these students when asking tough, high-level Bloom’s Taxonomy type questions, is astounding.

Teaching the Holocaust and Genocide

26 04 2011


Genocide is a hard topic to talk about. It requires teachers to fully devote themselves to create an atmosphere that impacts their students not only academically, but also emotionally to genocide. The Genocide Convention in 1948 first defines the term as act ‘committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ (Article II). The convention came about as a result of the cleansing of Europe of ‘undesirables’, most prominently those of Judaism, by the Nazi Party during World War II, known as the Holocaust. But, even before and after the convention, many genocides are left in the corner in the classroom. The much-debated Armenian genocide is an example, as is the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan.

So, this is a call for blogs and other resources devoted to the teaching of genocide in a secondary classroom, not only in a factual way, but in a deep, relevant, emotional way that will last. As with the Genocide Convention, my hope would be that education of genocide would ensure that such an atrocious act would be eradicated from the earth in the future, with reverence to those lost in the past.

The Blogs and Resources:

The Holocaust

This first set of blogs/resource sites is devoted to my original idea for my call: Teaching the Holocaust. What you will find in these blogs/resources is that a good majority of them come from a jewish influence or a governmental influence. Most state standards (Virginia, as an example (WHII.12b)) require the teaching of the Holocaust, and as such, it is the most widely found genocide on the internet.

Teaching Holocaust lessons to YouTube Generation:

This is a newsarticle/blog entry dealing with the use of Visual Media (i.e. YouTube and Graphic Novels) in teaching today’s students about the Holocaust. One site that is mentioned is, a site devoted to survivor stories of the Holocaust in a new form (comics) by Disney and ABC News.

Teaching about the Holocaust – Using Comics:

Similar to the last blog, this deals with the numerous graphic novels and comics devoted to the Holocaust that exist, such as Maus, Impact, and Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp. A nice idea of how the Holocaust affected culture.

Making Holocaust Studies Relevant:

From a Jewish blog of a teacher in London, a teacher explains how a recent seminar has helped her understand how to make the Holocaust relevant in an age appropriate manner. She mentions Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Rememberance Authority (, a group who has many lesson plans and suggestions for teaching the Holocaust.

Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center Blog:

This blog is doing what I am doing here on my blog. Any person within the Washington State education system can submit something to be posted on the blog, dealing with the Holocaust or Genocide in General. A great site that I have added to my RSS feed to keep up with. Lots of different materials, from videos to lesson plans.

Children of the Holocaust:

A blog/unit plan from a teach about how to teach the Holocaust over multiple disciplines, specifically over Language Arts and History classes. Numerous resources can be found in it, from interactive sites to videos and lesson plans. I find this to be very attractive for teaching in a middle school setting, though I could see it working at a high school setting as well, though it seems a little ‘childish’ for high school. Key idea: Do not romanticize the Holocaust. Agreed.

Teaching the Holocaust Through Family History

Aimed, as many you have seen, towards a Jewish populations, tracking the Holocaust in a very personal way by researching personal family history related to it. A great hook to draw students in to conversation and learning. I, though, worry that it could be too much for a middle schooler, though at the high school level it could work very well.

Teaching the Holocaust using 21st century skills:

A teacher of 16 years has blogged about how she teaches using web 2.0 among other technologies to teach the Holocaust. Includes a link to her great Diigo list of resources. A great place to start for ideas that have been proven to work.

Other resources that I found about the Holocaust:

Coming of Age Now:

A site that allows students (individually or as a class) to track the lives of survivors of the Holocaust during those years. The site is very teacher friendly, and has many resources.

Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust:

This site contains the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust. Not only are the guidelines great, but the site also includes many other resources that can be used and adjusted for your own classrooms.

Teaching Genocide in general, as well as other genocides:

 The following blogs/resource sites all deal with the overall concept of genocide, and how to teach it as a concept, as well as its prevention. It also includes blogs/resources dealing with the recognized genocides around the world (Cambodian, Armenian(?), Bosnian, Rwandan)

Genocide: Naming the Nameless Evil

This is a student-created site for a History Day project in Washington (found on the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center Blog). While no lesson plans or specific resources exist within, it could be used for a webquest for students in defining the ‘nameless evil’. Includes an interactive map and timeline.

Facing History and Ourselves

A resource based sites devoted to all genocides. Includes a section on just genocide, as well as the various genocides. Includes references for videos, educational resources, professional development information (seminars, workshops, etc.). Based for teachers more than students.

The Genocide Education Project:

This site is for a non-profit that is devoted to assisting teachers in their teaching of Genocide. They specifically focus on the Armenian genocide. It includes many primary sources, as well as lesson plans, videos, etc.

PBS Teachers: Studying Genocide

This is a resource guide from PBS (creator of many of the resources themselves) about teaching thematically, on the theme of Genocide. Mostly deals with the Holocaust, but also has some sources for the Bosnian, Rwandan, and Cambodian genocides.

Teaching children about Genocide:

An article from 2004, marking the ten-year anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. Gives some resources for teaching the Rwandan genocide, but deals a lot with the idea of teaching children about genocide, and what role such an education should play on the shaping of young minds.

Genocide: Teaching the Social World

A very simple blog. Gives a short lesson idea, including a source for classroom discussion. The questions given are upper level on Bloom’s Taxonomy and could be used as a spring board into a fishbowl or another in depth discussion.

Center for Human Rights: Rwandan Genocide

This is another teacher oriented site, this one focusing on the Rwandan Genocide. It includes lesson plans, primary source, etc. Another example of governmental/academic people taking hold of most of the information about genocide out there.


 I don’t really think a conclusion is required, but I felt that it would be useful to sum up the information that I have found in my research over the past month or so.

The biggest thing that I found is that people have opposing views on the teaching of the Holocaust. Many blogs (which I did not include, as they did not go with my call) dealt with the opposition in Palestine and elsewhere for teaching the Holocaust. The Jewish community, rightfully, is the most outspoken about teaching the Holocaust in great detail, but one common theme premiates:

Do not romanticize it. Do not downplay it. Do no make it feel inevitable.

Students need to feel the weight of those who suffered, and I believe that many of the sources that I found agree with the statements I made above. I hope to use this knowledge in my future teaching, not only of the recognized genocides in history, but also the tough issues, such as racism in the United States, as I enter my classroom.