Wednesday, November 28, 2007

may the voice be with you

C&C Music Factory knew darn right-well that there are things in life that make you go 'hmmm'. Perhaps they once worked in a school, and they were charged with the task of developing lessons that integrated technology in meaningful ways.

Perhaps they knew darn right-well about their school's firewall.

See, a Spanish teacher wanted her upper-level students to work on their oral and written communication skills. She wanted them to refine and practice their use of the preterite and imperfect tenses. And she really, really wished that their stories could survive beyond the two minute space in time that they would tell them in class. Oh, and she wanted to afford them with opportunities beyond class to communicate / share in the target language.

Enter wonderful idea: Voice Thread.

Students would:
  1. Pick a memorable event from their lives
  2. Acquire a picture from selected memorable event
  3. Compose a two-minute script in the target language telling a personal story about selected event, replete with preterite and imperfect verb tenses
  4. Conference with teacher to receive feedback, revision ideas, and suggestions
  5. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
  6. Sit in a cozy office with script, laptop , and microphone and, deep breath, record their story into Voice Thread
Spanish Teacher, Tech Coach, and Librarian would:
  1. Meet well in advance and plan.
  2. Develop the assignment sheet and rubric
  3. Upload student pictures to Voice Thread
  4. Create a test 'thread' to insure smooth instructional transfer to students
  5. Secure a location for students to record their Voice Threads
  6. Celebrate the amazingly smooth integration of technology into a pre-existing lesson! Ew, yeah!
But here's the wrinkle in the wool that screwed everything up:

For three glorious days, YouTube had been accessible to one and all. On one of those days, well, that's when the Spanish Teacher tested Voice Thread and, tah-dah!, it worked. She uploaded her own picture, recorded her story, and shared it with some of the staff.

But the day students went to record, YouTube had been demoted backed to blocked / evil status and when this happened, our Firewall settings changed, making communication with Voice Thread's site a 30-second opening.

That's it.

No more than 30-seconds.

So every kid that recorded a diligently crafted, well-rehearsed story, found themselves listening to the first 30-seconds.
Damn you, Firewall! Curse the heavens!
I filled out the mandated / friendly "District Tech Request" and held my cherubic breath for a quick and timely (1)response AND (2)solution.

Okay, how 'bout one outta two?

I received a response, immediate and timely. However, a solution took over TWO WEEKS to appear.

That TWO WEEK delay is dangerous for someone like me. But for teachers, well, that time is open season for reaffirming techno-skeptic words and phrases like 'nope', 'told you', and 'that's why I wouldn't do it'.

Ya see, that's plenty of time for word to get out that attempting to integrate technology can be an exercise in futility and stupidity. I mean, why would any teacher willingly make the effort to modify an existing lesson to include technology when doing so runs the all-too-real risk of derailment?

Anyhow, tomorrow, over TWO WEEKS since the students first recorded their Voice Threads, they are going to give it another go. I tested it today.

It worked like a charm!


Damian said...

Must be something in the water with them there firewalls!

In talking with my supervisor recently, he told me that listening and speaking seem to be the core content standards most frequently overlooked, at least in English (don't know if that's his opinion, or he read it somewhere). This seems like a cool way of addressing that issue in any discipline.

Good on the teacher for her openmindedness (and resilience), and good on you for helping her to realize the project in the face of adversity. You are dead on w/r/t the naysayers and the danger of the 2-week wait. In some cases, a 2 hour wait is even too much.

ken said...

here, here! 2 minutes can lead to lesson abandonment.

what always strikes me as slightly odd is the teacher that will mumble and grumble when the copier is down, but somehow find a way to move forward...

but when computers are involved, the ability to adapt and move forward evaporates.

me so tired sometimes.