This course on Movies and Films

It’s been about a month since I started teaching the course on Movies and Films to 2 groups of Juniors and Seniors. I have one all-male group and the other group has only 2 females. This has put a bit of pressure on me as an instructor. The films I select will have to cater to the male point of view while keeping in mind that the female plays a strong role in many films. I admit it will be interesting as well as challenging. But as always, I’m up to a good challenge. Isn’t that part of a teacher’s job description?

We’ve watched a Coen brothers’ film: Hail Caesar! and Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me.  Both films have crude language and refer to poor life styles…drinking, sex, and the usual elements found in most films. Even though I teach in a Catholic school, I cannot in all honesty present films that avoid issues that will affect my students sooner or later in life.  They will be exposed to all sorts of situations, if they haven’t been already. So I’d like to think I’m “teaching” them to handle these life-altering events when they do confront them. At least, it just might help them put things in perspective. It could lead to some thought-provoking debates.  What better way of doing this than through a film which presents an issue that fires up the human soul?  ~~LMMolina

 

Traveling as a teaching resource

Whenever I get a chance to travel, the educator in me looks for any chance to incorporate the experience into her courses. This summer I took the opportunity to travel to England and during my two-week stay, I visited castles, manor homes, museums, antique shops, cathedrals, a film studio, a university city and of course, shopping malls. I tried to absorb as much as possible and documented everything through a number of photos (up to 700 something and still counting!).

What will I do with all the shots I took? So far I’ve organized them by place or attraction. How will I use them in my courses? Well, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter will definitely be used for my Movies and Films and technology courses! I got to see up close all the tricks of the film-making trade, from all the props used to the special effects in the popular Harry Potter series.

I could use my visit to Norwich Castle as an introduction to how Hollywood filmed movies based on medieval times. My visit to Stonehenge gives me the same idea.  How many movies have centered on the Bronze or Stone Age? Maybe for my technology course, I could get the students to show how the gaming movement has used these themes.

Both courses will benefit from my visit to the Imperial War Museums. War films have always been popular in Hollywood and the tech used to operate aircraft has advanced through all wars.

The visit to the royal family’s vacation residence would give the students an idea of how royalty lives and how it’s depicted in films.

My tour of London took me through many sites that have appeared in a number of films. The Jason Bourne, James Bond movies and London Has Fallen are just a few that come to mind.

Manor homes such as Audley End House can be seen in films based on Jane Austen novels such as Pride and Prejudice. To see this home up close and walk through all the rooms, imagining how Jane Austen or one of her characters might have felt, was amazing!

So all in all, I think my visit to England will be very useful for my courses! Don’t you think?~~LMMolina

 

What do we learn from films?

The movies

This year I was offered the opportunity to teach an elective course on films to a group of ninth graders. The main goal was reinforcing English-language skills through movies and at the same time integrating a bit of technology in the process. So far it’s been a wonderful experience. Each student created a blog where he documented his ideas about the films viewed in and outside of the classroom. I’ve learned a lot about each and everyone of my students. I’ve gotten an idea of how they feel on certain topics and why they feel that way. It’s been an eye opener, for sure!

I’m looking forward to teaching the course next year to another group of students, this time to 11th and 12th graders. Something I have to keep in mind is the content of the course. While I will not shy away from topics such as misuse of drugs or sex, I will take into consideration which films are more suited to students at that age level and the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Viewing a film is similar to reading a novel, only with visuals.  It has it pros and cons. When watching a movie, not much is left to the imagination unless the director is really clever. Reading a novel or short story lets the mind explore different scenarios.

Just like a good book, films can set the tone for a discussion of conflicts. They can also be used to discover how a certain scene can produce a variety of emotions or how a director plays on the emotions of a particular audience.

With movies, music and lighting set the mood and these elements subject the audience to feelings they might not even know they had. Sure, a good novel can do that, too. But a movie has a certain time limit and within that a director must do what a novelist might find difficult.

How do you feel about reading a novel as compared to viewing a film with the same plot? Which would you prefer? I guess it all depends on the topic and the interests of the person. With films and novels anything and everything is up for debate. That’s what makes it fun!~~LMMolina

So many apps! Which ones to choose?

Education Apps

As an English teacher and technology coordinator, I’m often overwhelmed by the amount of apps out there that can be used in the classroom. The teaching staff come to me from time to time to ask me which apps are suitable for their needs. Students come to tell me which apps they use and work for them. I’m continually on the lookout for those apps that meet these requirements: (1) simple to use; (2) enjoyable; (3) useful and (4) lasting. Number 4 is important because once you become familiar with an app and use it frequently you want it to be around for a while. This is not often the case and usually leads to frustration.

Which apps do I recommend for an educator? Based on a variety of opinions and what I’ve tested so far, I’ve come to some interesting conclusions.

Here’s a list of my favorites so far:

EduBlogs (been using this WordPress platform for the past 7 years).

Wikispaces is excellent for collaborative learning.

Pinterest has lots of cool stuff for teachers. I use it for organizing and decorating my classroom, as well as for lesson planning

Socrative can be used for creating quizzes and surveys.

Slideshare is excellent for uploading and sharing slideshows.

Google Docs for creating and sharing all types of documents.

YouTube has a channel which focuses on education.

I’ll keep searching for new apps that can be used as a source of learning and test them to see if they’re worthwhile.

Which ones have you tried out and find useful for a teacher and her students? Care to share? Comment below or send an e-mail to lmolina@colegiobeato.org. ~~LMMolina

 

Google Forms: Effective Research Tool

As a requirement for their Spanish course, the 12th graders at our school present a research paper towards the end of the school year.  They must use a questionnaire to gather some of the information for their paper and present the results when they defend their conclusions. What better way to do this than through the use of a Google Form? It’s less time-consuming and the results may be displayed graphically. The students can either embed the form on their blogs or send them via e-mail. Either way works well and students should get responses quickly. Since everything is done electronically, trees are saved in the process! That’s a plus!

Their teacher is promoting this method since she herself has used it in the past. I will provide one of my technology students to present this Google application to her groups. Hopefully, the students will benefit from the experience and use it to present the results of their research. I hope they can use it again later as they go through classes at the university level and then as professionals in their chosen career.

For further details on this and other related apps,  check my post on forms-and-surveys-on-blogs-or-webpages/~~LMM

questionnaire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Programming and Rubrics: One and the same?

An interesting thing about programming: it gets your brain to think differently. I’ve learned that programming is a bit mind-boggling! Every action has to be thought out thoroughly or the end result may be a disaster.

At one of the meetings with my Cyberix Club members I decided to try a bit of programming or coding. A few of the members had a vague idea of what was involved but when I exposed them to an activity in which one of them ‘became a robot’ and another had to ‘program’ him to follow a set of instructions, it was an eye-opener! They soon came to realize that the directions had to be very specific in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

As a teacher, I’m aware that when giving students instructions I must be very clear and precise. It’s that or I can expect a variety of results that I’ll have to accept. I can transfer the idea of programming to the classroom by making sure my set of instructions are specific enough and thus allow each student to produce what I had in mind.  Rubrics come to mind and are used for this purpose. By thinking like a programmer, I just might be able to come up with a rubric that will be so precise in the directions a student must follow that I, as the teacher, should be able to accurately evaluate the student’s performance. Sounds simple, right?

Of course, students are not robots. Each student perceives the world differently, but if I am able to direct his steps by programming each action in such a way as to get the student to create a worthwhile project, then I will have achieved my goal. Whether it be a poster to create awareness for the environment or a robot that can control it, I must be clear in what I want my students to achieve and how they will go about it.

So I will take into account the principles of programming when working out a rubric to evaluate my students.  I will also explore the possibility of getting my students and tech club members to delve into the world of coding. Even if it’s only for the purpose of having them think ‘outside the box.’ That’s all part of the learning process.~~LMM

Cyberix Club robotic exercise

Robotic exercise

Teacher as club adviser

Being a club adviser for a group of techies has its challenges. The challenge is even greater if the majority are in the seventh grade. A teacher should be willing and able to face these new experiences as opportunities for professional growth.  I think I’ve embraced it!

I’ve noticed that tweens (and teens) are very enthusiastic about their electronic gadgets and always seem to be a step ahead of me with the latest APP. Which, I confess, is a good thing when I think about it. It helps keep me on my toes! I have to constantly search for news items of interest to show them at each meeting. That’s what I love about this field — all the learning that goes on in every direction!

I took advantage of the current club president, a 12th-grade student who is taking my Tech II course, and asked him to talk to the members at one of the meetings. One of the Tech II course requirements is to illustrate the uses of Google Drive to groups of students from the school.  At Meeting #7, Emilio talked to the club members about the usefulness of Google Drive for working on school assignments. Other than Google mail, most were unaware of the features Google Drive had to offer. All in all, it was a productive meeting and the club members, as well as the Club adviser, went away with some new knowledge about Cloud computing. I only hope the members will put it to practical use. Am I asking too much? Maybe, maybe not! ~~LMM

Check out the related post on the club’s site: Meeting-7-talking-about-google-drive/

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Reflections on a Busy Semester: Movies and Technology

Movie promo posters under construction

Movie promo posters

I’m taking some time off for reflecting on a semester that’s almost over. Time goes by so fast you wonder where it went and if you accomplished anything with the students. This semester has been an interesting one to say the least. What’s new for me? The opportunity to offer an elective course on movies and combine it with a bit of technology. A very unique experience, I must say!  I once assisted a university professor in a similar course but I admit that teaching it to ninth graders is not the same. For one, their tastes are vastly different so I’ve had to make adjustments. While I can’t show Ms. Butterfly to this age group, I can show Hugo.  It’s just as entertaining and enlightening and gives these teens an idea about the beginnings of film-making. As always, I learn something new even if I’ve seen the films before I show them in class.

Through this course, I’ve had the students do a number of presentations using the Cloud, in their case Google Slides. They’ve presented information on their favorite movies, actors and film directors. It’s been a wonderful way of getting to know them through their interests in the kinds of movies they enjoy watching.  Some have surprised me with their choices. Pleasantly in some cases, in others, not so much. It’s a generation thing.

I’ve also had the students use the blogging platform to document their work. Each has created their own blog using either WordPress or Blogger.  I, of course, use my site to post assignments and guide them through theirs.  Posted material has included citing lines from films and the actors who said them, why they chose that particular line, director of film, release date, and so forth. Movie clips have also been included in the students’ blogs.  Some surprises here, too.

One particular project that I wanted the students to do was a movie promo poster. In this case, an imaginary movie. So far it’s been a unique experience. I provided the poster board to control proportions. Students had to bring in the materials (cut outs, glue, scissors and such) and limit construction to class time. Since I teach in the computer lab I did not allow glitter. Everything else was left to the imagination.

What’s ahead? Comparing teen books with the film version, movie critics and their singular views, maybe a short film production or the trailer of one. Who knows? All I know is that it’s going to be another busy semester!~~LMM

 

Move it! Move it!

Ever stop to think how a high school student might feel sitting at his desk for hours on end? Not to mention that it’s usually on a hard seat! The typical school day might last between 6 and 7 hours. Most students get breaks between class periods and these might only last about 3 to 5 minutes. Lunch period is a brief respite. If there’s a physical education course sometime during the week, that’s another one. There was a time when this course was offered on a daily basis. No more! For the most part, students will be sitting and listening to the mind-numbing drone of a few teachers! It’s no wonder most students become fidgety and continually ask to be excused to take a restroom break.

I’ve recently read some articles related to the topic and have come up with some thoughts on the subject. Why should students sit for long periods at a time? Why can’t they get up and stand for a bit?  If they so choose, they could take a class standing up most of the time.  What about using high table tops and stools instead of the standard student desks? Students could easily sit or stand at the table while they listen to the teacher or fellow classmates and take notes.

The teacher needs a break, too. If you’re like me, sitting at the desk is not an option. I stand most of the time and my feet usually feel the effects after a long day! With this new classroom arrangement I could sit on a stool and still be at eye level with my students. School administrators should be willing to give teachers new physical ways to impart instruction. The outdated classroom design should be updated in such a way that will permit the student to stretch his legs and have the freedom to move around. Most students need this flexibility and should have the option to do so! As teacher and principal, I’m willing to try out new ways to get students to stretch their imagination and acquire new knowledge. If getting up and about helps, well, let’s move it!

Today's lesson better classroom design

Field Trips: Integrating subjects

What better way to use a field trip experience to integrate almost every subject? Not too long ago our entire  school community went on a “pilgrimage” to one of the western towns of our tropical island. It was about a two-hour drive and took eight school buses to transport  about four hundred people (students and teaching staff).

How can each teacher use this experience in the classroom? A number of ways occurs to me:

1. Religious studies: Documenting the events centering on the spiritual aspect of the trip. This one is the main work to be submitted by the students because the religious studies department organized the trip.

2. Math: Calculating the  distance traveled and the ETA, taking into consideration the variables of traffic conditions, weather, rest stops and other.

3. English: Describing the scenery on the way to and from the destination.  The use of figurative language could be the main focus.

4. Science: Classifying the different types of vegetation or animals observed in the area. How do they differ from the area where most of the students reside?

5. Health: Reporting on the dietary needs of people with certain health conditions. Persons with erratic sugar levels come to mind when taking such a trip.

6. History and culture: Summarizing the architecture, people, and works of art found. The students visited a church built in 1606 which was later converted to a museum of religious artifacts. This would be an excellent topic for research!

The possibilities are endless when integrating disciplines.  I’ve just named a few.

I think my next assignment for my current English course will be a blog post comment related to the trip. The topic under discussion in class is on heroes and their responsibilities. My blog post would be: Who were the heroes of that period and how did they respond to the events of the times?

It’s interesting to note the variety of ways a field trip can enrich the learning experience for everyone! ~~~LMM

Historic Residence

Historic residence in San Germán, PR