Week 8: Mini Project I

October 18, 2013



Wordle: Out of My Mind

For this week’s mini project, I originally planned on creating a digital story but I realized within a couple minutes of planning that coming up with a story, even for a short 3-5 minute video, would take me hours of imagination time. Frankly, sometimes I feel like I lack imagination for projects like story telling. Maybe with years of experience improvising stories in the classroom I’ll be able to come up with a 3-5 minute digital story that is creative and fun for students.


I decided to create a word cloud using Wordle. I think that word clouds are interesting and not only because they look like neat graffiti but also because they present an idea using a collection of words and emphasizing the importance with larger fonts. Instead of presenting a summary of a story, I believe word clouds show a visually appealing synapsis of the information presented in a text, discussion, or presentation.


I did my mini project on a book that I am particular fond of, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It is a book about a girl, Melody, who has special needs. She has cerebral palsy and she is unable to communicate with her friends, family, and classmates until she receives an assistive technology that allows her to communicate her ideas through a computing device. This book is written on a 4th grade reading level but I believe it is a great book to present to middle school students, especially those with low reading levels so my lesson would be geared to middle school students. This book could also be used as a form of bibliotherapy, which is using literature to help build confidence, compassionate, and understanding for others.


I struggled for a while with my word cloud. I wanted to make it perfect and specific to my interests and goals. My original plan was to try to paste the text into the Wordle software so that I would be able to pull out the words that are represented most in the text. However, the book was not available in the Gutenberg Project and only parts of the book were available on Google Books. Then, I thought I might be put the portions of the book that were available on Google Books into Wordle, but the format is PDF and thus I couldn’t copy and paste. I also tried to post summaries, reviews, and blurbs about the book into Wordle but the words that were coming up just didn’t fit with my view of the book.


After brainstorming a bit with Dr. Coffman, I found an Advanced portion of Wordle which actually allows the creator to decide the words and the size of the words. So I went about writing down words that I associate with the book by searching reviews and summaries myself. From there, I emphasized the words in the book that I found to be most essential to the meaning of the story and background. I put them into the advanced Wordle with the font size beside them and BAM! I had a Wordle. Of course, I did several revisions and changes in font, size, color, and arrangement before deciding on the final product but I was able to customize the information as I saw fit using the advanced option.


So if I were to use word clouds in the classrrom, I think they could be implemented by having students come up with main ideas from a story and presenting them as word clouds. For example, students could read a literature text and pick on the theme and supporting details, then present the theme with a list of words. Once the students have their list of words, they could give each a level of importance and make those words larger on their map.  Teachers can also create these to present topics or help students find the key terms in a story but I think students would really have a good time creating their own word cloud.

Categories: INDT 501, Uncategorized.

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Week Two: 21st Century Skills vs Core Knowledge

September 5, 2013

When I read the very first article, What to Learn: ‘Core Knowledge’ or ‘21st Century Skills’, I got the feeling that core knowledge and 21st century skills were actually opposing ideas. Toppo (2009) suggests that 21st century skills could be taking away from core knowledge, “But a small group of outspoken education scholars is challenging that assumption, saying the push for 21st-century skills is taking a dangerous bite out of precious classroom time that could be better spent learning deep, essential content.” However when I read the other websites, both The Core Knowledge Foundation and Partnerships for 21st Century Skills, comment on the others’ ideals. Perhaps, since the Toppo article was written in 2009 both sides have realized that they actually do need both core knowledge and 21st century skills to work efficiently in the world.

In the What to Learn: ‘Core Knowledge’ or ‘21st Century Skills’ article the information presented says the Core Knowledge founder E.D. Hirsch Jr. believes that 21st century skills are a waste of time, “It’s an ineffectual use of school time,” says E.D. Hirsch Jr., founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and author of a series of books on what students should learn year-by-year in school. He calls the P21 movement “a fragmented approach with uncertain cognitive goals” that could most profoundly hurt disadvantaged children: At home, he says, they don’t get as much background as middle-class students in history, science, literature and the like. (Toppo, 2009). The article goes onto include co-founder of Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), Ken Kay mentioning that both skills are needed, “Kay calls criticisms by Hirsch and others “a sideshow that distracts people from the issue at hand: that our kids need world-class skills and world-class content.” (Toppo, 2009).

I feel as though you can’t exclude one idea from the other. While it is important to learn 21st century skills it is also important to learn core knowledge. According to the Core Knowledge Foundation, “The idea that we have to choose between knowledge and thinking skills is a false choice. Kids need both. “The richer the knowledge base, the more smoothly and effectively cognitive processes — the very ones that teachers target — operate,” notes University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham. “So, the more knowledge students accumulate the smarter they become” (The Core Knowledge Foundation, 2013). While Toppo presents the points of view as opposing Partnership for 21st Century folks also agree that core knowledge and 21st century skills should go hand and hand, “within the context of core knowledge instruction, students must also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2013).

Perhaps since 2009, The Core Knowledge Foundation has changed their point of view about skills needed to proceed in the 21st century because they clearly state that both ideas are important on their website. Either way, I believe that both need to be presented in the classroom. I believe that to be successful in the future, we must consider both sides that actually don’t seem to be so different after all since both express the need for the other.  As a future special education teacher, I see that language arts are explicitly mentioned throughout the articles. One must have the basic knowledge to communicate their ideas but also learn to think creatively, “In addition to these subjects, we believe schools must move to include not only a focus on mastery of core subjects, but also promote understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects.” (Partnership for 21st Century, 2013). I believe that what we’ve learned in class so far about thinking creatively is backed up by the websites so I don’t believe that either organization’s website changes my point of view about including both into my classroom. The Toppo article did make me question if there is room in the classroom for both and I basically concluded that you couldn’t have one without the other. Sure, students can learn core knowledge but if they can’t preform in the 21st arena then their knowledge would be locked up in a tower. Likewise, if you have the skills to think creatively and innovatively, you would theoretically be able to find any information but what would you do with that information if you didn’t have the basic knowledge to use it? I believe that these are coexisting ideas.

Educational Origami. (2013). 21st Century pedagogy. Retrieved from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Pedagogy

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2013). Framework for 21st Century Learning.  Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/1.__p21_framework_2pager.pdf

The Core Knowledge Foundation (2013). About the curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.coreknowledge.org/about-the-curriculum

Toppo, G. (2009). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ‘21st-century skills’?. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-coreknowledge_N.htm

Categories: INDT 501.

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