Monday, February 27, 2017

Technology Presentation: Swivl

Image taken by Patick Donovan.
Have you ever wanted to observe yourself teaching or hear a small group's discussion after class?

Swivl is a tool to record and observe students using an iPad or iPhone, and it also records sound using the microphone on the tool itself

The teachers I sat with said they use this tool to record themselves in order to self-evaluate and record student presentations like poetry slams.

Here's how to upload and edit the Swivl video in YouTube:
1. Log into YouTube channel
2. Export to YouTube
3. Set as private
4. Go to picture in top right corner > Creator Studio > Create > Video Editor
5. Edit however you'd like. Zoom in to clips with bottom right magnifying glass, cut clips with blue scissors on line, or add text for title
6. When done, click "Create Video"
7. To rename your edited video, go to My Channel > Video Manager. You can set your video as private, public or unlisted.

Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Minute Valentine's Activity: Conversation Hearts

If you're anything like me, you probably have mixed feelings about Valentine's Day. I love an excuse to eat chocolate and heart-shaped pizza, but I am not a fan of pretty much everything else associated with it.

Whether you love Valentine's Day or dread it, tomorrow is February 14th. If you're looking for a meaningful way to give your students a bit of candy, laugh, practice creative writing, and spend just a small amount... Look no further!

Activity: Conversation Hearts & Short Stories

Materials Needed:

1 bag of conversation hearts candy
1 short story or poem that you've covered in class
Paper/pencil or online writing tool for students


Using a short story/poem/sonnet that you've already read and discussed as a class, give each student 3-5 conversation hearts with messages that they will insert into the story. Students will rewrite a scene from the story through incorporating the messages from their hearts.

The point of this activity is to experiment with how words and phrases can change the tone of the story. Remind students there is not a right or wrong way to do this. They can either insert their messages into existing dialogue or rewrite the dialogue completely between characters.

Since conversation hearts usually have messages like "kiss me" or "so fine," this tends to lead to rather humorous dialogue. Students will likely want to share their stories. I suggest splitting students in small groups once they are done writing so everyone has a chance to share what they wrote.


We did this activity in my Teaching of English course this morning. We had the option of using our conversation hearts in "The Cask of Amontillado" or "The Yellow Wallpaper."

I chose "The Yellow Wallpaper," and below is an example of how I used my hearts (the underlined text):

"John is practical in the extreme, but he is so fine. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures. I'm crushin'. #DreamDate."

The hearts clearly change the tone of the story.


Remember, this is meant to be a quick, fun activity to do on Valentine's Day. It is not meant to be stressful for students or assessed for a grade. Enjoy the laughs and candy!

Credit for idea: Dr. Sheila Benson, University of Northern Iowa

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Literacy is Like Cacti

Image by Ian Lucero, used with permission from Flickr.
Literacy is like a cactus. This is a sentence I never thought I would write, but literacy and cacti have more in common than one might presume. A student’s exposure to reading and writing affects their literacy development, just as a cactus’ exposure to sunlight affects its growth. A cactus cannot grow without sufficient sunlight; a student cannot become literate without sufficient outlets to practice creative thought. As a cactus retains the water it is given, a student who embraces the reading and writing opportunities they are given will further develop their literacy skills and (hopefully) retain them.
            The idea of what it means to be literate is constantly changing. For example, consider reading and writing texts, emails, blog posts, Tweets, and captions for photos on Instagram. All of these demand a different kind of literacy than what people have needed to be considered literate in the past. This example also shows how literacy appears in our culture in a variety of forms. In comparison, cacti change in their physical appearance throughout their lives depending on their surroundings. Some have flowers, some are tall, and some are fat. Just as one cactus is not inherently better than another, one form of literacy is not inherently better than another.

            Although literacy is a noun, it is intangible, and it is difficult to define without offending someone. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to touch the surface of a cactus without getting poked. Perhaps it is these obstacles that both literacy and cacti present which contribute to their persistence and adaptability through time.
Does this metaphor seem to hold true to you? What is something you might compare literacy to?