Tag Archives: New York Times

New York Times Op Docs Incredible Teaching Tool

The New York Times website has great resources for teachers. There are gems throughout the website that can be used as teaching tools, texts, and learning opportunities all teachers need to know about. One of these gems is Op-Docs.

Op-Docs is a short documentary series begun by The New York Times Opinion section in 2011. Today it comprises more than 270 short, interactive and virtual reality documentaries. Each film is produced by both renowned and emerging independent filmmakers.

As the Times states these documentaries are, “films driven by the creative and journalistic interests of the filmmaker and that will also challenge the New York Times audience to see the world in new ways. Op-Docs spark conversations, tell memorable and astonishing stories, introduce powerful and unexpected individuals, make thought-provoking arguments and give viewers unforgettable cinematic experiences.”

Documentary film, done well, can engage and instruct through storytelling. But a film can’t stand alone as an instructional method. Watching the documentary should only be part of the process. Discussion questions and related readings need to be included in the mix to prompt reflection and to illustrate the topic more completely.

The Op Docs have so much potential in our classroom for teaching critical and close reading to writing different text types for different purposes.  So many of these short films showcase aspects of life that are hidden or unspoken.

I was moved by San Quentin’s Giants about the San Quentin prison baseball team. This Op Doc showcases how baseball is a vehicle for reform, reflection, and purpose for the incarcerated players. When the film begins the images show men playing baseball, one might think it is a local or community baseball team until the camera zooms out in the background the viewer sees the barbwires around the buildings and the people on the periphery wearing prison jumpsuits.

Again, these documentaries are used to inform viewers about the people, places, and things presented in the film. Some might describe these types of films as a “slice of life” that presents an angled representation of a subject.

If we asked students to create documentary films what might they present on film with research and narrative?   Whereas San Quentin uses storytelling and interviews, the Op Docs A Conversation with . . . about race are interviews and testimony with people about race, racism, and perspective. The testimony of the people interviewed are a catalyst for classroom  discussions. Think about what these same conversation might look like and sound like in school. From our students’ perspectives what will they say about race, class, or gender in their school and community.

 

After watching a number of these Op Docs with my students and discussing the research and filming elements involved, I asked students to research and investigate the issues that are hiding in our school. Who are people worth shining a light on their life? Wright’s Law really puts into perspective how much we might not know about someone.

When I posed this question to my students some students wanted to address bullying, a common theme in schooling today. Whereas, another group researched video game playing and addiction among young people because of the influence of Fortnite. In completing this project students had to gather relevant data from multiple sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information in documentary film writing.

First, research is conducted, then students have to decide how they wanted to string together the facts and testimony. The Op Docs blends a bit of narrative with information and argument writing.  We studied closely how to start the documentary by visually hooking the audience right from the moment the film starts. This might be a statistic about the topic presented in the film or a sound bite from an interview conducted with a member of the school community. Then, students introduced the topic and elaborated by including both visual and audio footage to offer perspective on the topic. This, in turn, is like support material in an essay or research paper. Students are still working on their projects and I should share some finished films soon. 

Any person can actually submit a op-doc to The New York Times and this can be an authentic assignment for students to create as a project based learning opportunity. The New York Times is looking for “films that are driven by the creative and journalistic interests of the filmmaker and that will also challenge the New York Times audience to see the world in new ways. Op-Docs spark conversations, tell memorable and astonishing stories, introduce powerful and unexpected individuals, make thought-provoking arguments and give viewers unforgettable cinematic experiences.”

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Teaching Digital Responsibility in the Age of Online Hate

Last week the New York Times published the article, On Instagram, 11,696 Examples of How Hate Thrives on Social Media (NYT 10.29.18) three days after the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. This article highlights social media companies attention to or lack there of “treatment of toxic language and hate speech” on their platforms. Interestingly, “Social media companies have said that identifying and removing hate speech and disinformation — or even defining what constitutes such content — is difficult.”

The past three weeks I have been dealing with my own ordeal of hate speech and false representation on Twitter. After five years and 40 twitter book chats with my students, three weeks ago I moderated a Twitter book chat and an ambiguous avatar joined the chat sending funny pictures and memes. When they did not identify themselves I blocked the account. That did not stop my students participating in the chat from seeing the stream of continuous  tweets from this person. If fact, the images and tweets escalated to spread hate speech, anti Semitic photographs and sexist and anti gay memes. The person’s tweets were directed at myself and a student of mine. I reported the tweets to Twitter and within a day the racist, antisemitic, homophobic, and sexist tweets were removed and the account was suspended. But that did not stop this person.

The next day a new account was created by this same person and they used my image as their Avatar. The name of the Twitter handle referenced a Nazi program, Nacht und Nebel (German for “Night and Fog”). This directive issued by Hitler targeted political activists and resistance “helpers” in World War II to be imprisoned or killed. The person sent tweets to me telling me to die and making derogatory statements. When I reported the tweets to Twitter my reports were denied telling me that this was not a threat. The tweets escalated over ten days and the person tweeted in binary code, hex64, and other code threats to me and students of mine. All the tweets were reported to Twitter but Twitter did not consider it a threat or hate speech written in code!

I contacted the FBI, I filed police reports, the DA was involved.

It took legal action to get the IP address which was connected to a residence in the town where I teach. This residence has a young person who is a student in my school, he is not a student in my class. The family is cooperating with the police and the school;  additionally, the family has agreed to get counseling for their son. Since the police approached the family my image has been removed and all the tweets have been taken down.

My principal sent the following message out to our community:

Dear Parents,

We at XXXXX Middle School pride ourselves as educators who not only attend to the academic needs of our students but who also focus on their social and emotional needs.  We share your challenge in teaching these young adolescents how to judiciously and ethically use contemporary technology as moral citizens of the school community and ultimately the world.

Dr. Haiken, Team 8R ELA teacher, has been using Twitter for the past six years. With the consent of parents, she and her students tweet about the books they read, creating a sort of twenty-first century book club.  Unfortunately, someone has used this account to insert horrible, racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks, some directed at one of our students.  We are investigating this and are making every possible effort to discover who the troll is.  The police and Twitter administrators have been notified.  A full investigation is being conducted and appropriate consequences will be implemented.

We are having discussions with our students about the deeper issues involved, and we need your help. As we partner to help our young people grow into empathetic, responsible adults, we need you to have follow-up conversations at home not only about social media but also about how we treat those who might be a little different from the mainstream. 

Bullies hide behind the anonymity of social media.  All children regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to thrive and learn. Please help us deliver this message at home.

These events impacted by teaching and the educational environment. It saddens me that this person who has digital smarts chose to use them for evil and spread hate.  In the meanwhile, I think about what are the best ways to promote positive digital citizenship and responsibility so that my students make smart choices online and not become a victim or perpetrator of hate online.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a video:

Two educators talk about teaching students to think critically and keeping personal politics out of the classroom.

I concur with the two teachers in the video when they talk about teaching empathy and modeling positive (digital) behavior.

Digital Citizenship is an ongoing lesson that needs to be addressed every year with every student. Social media is not going away, and blocking websites in schools or telling students they cannot use phones is not a realistic solution. These events have helped me to look more closely at the role that social media plays in our lives and how I can promote positive digital behavior in my classroom so all of my students use their digital powers for good.

Below are five resources to teach digital responsibility and citizenship:

Wicked EdTech – Here you can find a video playlist on Digital Literacy

Google Applied Digital Skills  – Ready-to-use video lessons teach digital
skills that have immediate, real-life application.

Be Internet Awesome – Google’s Digital Safety Resources for the
classroom and home.

Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship – Empower your students to
make safe, smart, and ethical decisions online.

ISTE Digital Citizenship – Here you can find articles and resources connected to digital
citizenship in schools.

 

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Field Trip: Neue Galerie New York

My students are currently studying the Holocaust and WWII. Collaborating with social studies, students are reading in small groups a wide selection of historical fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs connected to this time period. In addition to the independent books, primary sources, propaganda posters, diaries, poems, and art work are presented to help students learn about this time period and from multiple perspectives.

A current exhibit at The Ronald S. Lauder Neue Galerie in New York City, Museum for German and Austrian Art foreshadows the atrocities of Germany in the 1930s. — Yes, this is the same Ronald S. Lauder who purchased Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) better know as the Woman in Gold also on permanent display at the museum.

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Currently on exhibit is “Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s” an exhibition devoted to the development of the arts in Germany and Austria during a decade marked by economic crisis, political disintegration, and social chaos. The website states, “This exhibition, comprised of nearly 150 paintings and works on paper, will trace the many routes traveled by German and Austrian artists and will demonstrate the artistic developments that foreshadowed, reflected, and accompanied the beginning of World War II. Central topics of the exhibition will be the reaction of the artists towards their historical circumstances, the development of style with regard to the appropriation of various artistic idioms, the personal fate of artists, and major political events that shaped the era.” Works by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Oskar Kokoschka, and Alfred Kubin are presented alongside pieces by lesser-known artists such as Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, Albert Paris Gütersloh, Karl Hubbuch, Richard Oelze, Josef Scharl, Franz Sedlacek, and Rudolf Wacker.

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This exhibit and the paintings are windows and doorways into artists premonitions and warnings that something terrible was brewing in Europe in the 1930s. Many of these artists were deemed “degenerate” by Nazis because of political and religious affiliations. As the The New York Times states, the art work on display is “more than mere evidence of barbarity.”

In order to help my students understand the events that occurred during this time period and understand the hatred and the horror in conjunction with the books they are  reading, I created a virtual “degenerate” art exhibit. Upon entering the classroom, students were given a pamphlet with excerpts of Hitler’s Speech at the Opening of the House of German Art in Munich (July 18, 1937). Select paintings were posted around the room for students to view in a gallery format. I also included a QR Code to link to a slide show of the pictures on the art show pamphlet. Utilizing Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), students viewed the paintings. Together we viewed closely and discussed as a large class Felix Nussbaum’s Self Portrait [see above]. The next activity  required students to complete the statements from the point of view of Hitler and the perspective of a modern artist deemed “degenerate.”

The closing quote at the bottom of the pamphlet poses a quote from the artist, Paul Klee, “Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.” Isn’t that what we want for our students, to make us see, provoke questions, make connections, and build empathy.

 

 

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Mash Up March: The Anatomy of a Scene, Booksnaps, Screencasts, and Flipgrid

Each blog post this March I will mash up a few apps and technology tools to with teaching ideas that promote reading and writing. This week I am am blending #Booksnaps, Google Slides, screencasting and Flipgrid for a close reading activity.

The New York Times has a series online, Anatomy of a Scene, where the director of a current film describes and dissects for viewers a scene from his or her movie. A clip from the movie is shown while the a voice over of the director describes the setting, actions, and craft moves. All these elements together convey the story and the director’s purpose. Check out this one Anatomy of a Scene for the Black Panther.

To have the director or writer describe the choices he or she made allows the viewer and reader to learn about craft, structure, and author’s purpose.  Essentially these are videos showcasing a close readings with the director articulating his or her intentions as a storyteller. Similarly, when we ask students to closely read the text, we are asking them to dissect the author’s moves and intentions. Imagine if students were to create their own “anatomy of a scene” from a text like The Great Gatsby or George Orwell’s 1984.

To do this, students first create #BookSnaps – snapshots of reading responses, connections, questions, and reflections using Snapchat or Bitmojis, and Google Drawings. Created by Tara M. Martin, these are great ways for students to synthesize their reading and showcase their thinking while reading. To learn more how to create a #Booksnap, check out Tara’s blog post Snapping for Learning. When my students are creating their #Booksnaps they create a Google Slide Deck to showcase all their snaps documenting their reading.

Then, Tara gave me an awesome idea, what if students Screencast their #BookSnaps and describe highlight’s of their reading using a screen casting tool like Screencast-o-Matic?Check out how Tara uses the Screencast #Booksnaps for Learning in her Flipgrid video. When students are describing their #Booksnaps and close reading they might describe what the scene is about, the setting and the mood, the key characters and symbols. Students can identify the literacy devices, structure and author’s purpose. They might use this Anatomy of a Scene for Harry Potter as a model for their own close reading scenes.

Once the projects are complete students can upload their screencast videos of anatomy of a scene and close reading to Flipgrid for the rest of the class to view and share responses.

I cannot wait to share the Close Reading Scenes my students are currently creating.

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Wise Words & Lessons From YA Authors

Check out YA author, Jason Reynold’s interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah from January 23, 2018. Jason Reynolds is one of the best young adult authors currently writing powerful and award winning novels. His comments about expanding (and reimagining) the literature canon and the importance of literacy to change the world are key.

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f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fListening to The Yarn Podcast, by Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp on Apple Podcasts, listeners dive into young adult author’s adventures writing the books they do. Angie Thomas, author of one of the most powerful books of 2017, The Hate U Give, describes in episode #56 the extensive research she conducted and how current events, specifically The Black Lives Matter movement helped her to write, understand her frustrations and anger, but also convey hope, community and love. Thomas states, “empathy is more important than sympathy.”

I recently read, The 57 Bus, a nonfiction young adult book by Dashka Slater. This is based on the true events that happened on bus 57 in Oakland, California when an agender teenager, Sasha was set on fire by a sixteen year old African American young man, Richard in 2013. The YA book details the teens, their families, friends, and schools involved before and in the aftermath. The book takes a close up look of gender identity and the juvenile justice system in America. Author, Slater first wrote about this event for The New York Times Magazine in 2015 and now digs deeper into the events. From the adolescent brain to restorative justice, Slater tries to address all angles in this story to do exactly what Thomas stated in her podcast, to build empathy and expand our understanding of who we label as “others.” 9780374303235

After reading The 57 Bus, I was listening to Tim Ferriss interview Catherine Hoke. Catherine Hoke (@catherine_hoke) is the founder of the non-profit Defy Ventures. Defy’s vision is to end mass incarceration by using entrepreneurship as a tool to transform legacies and human potential. In the interview Hoke talks about looking at people, not their past actions and mistakes. She believes people can be rehabilitated. Cat is the author of the new book, A Second Chance: For You, For Me, and For the Rest of Us,

In the case of all of these texts that I share, it is not about people per say, but community. Building community and supporting everyone and making a difference.

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