The Power Of “Hoop Dreams” Film In High School Curriculum

In the past 5 years in my Sports Marketing course we pretty much have developed a great ritual of watching the 1994 documentary film Hoop Dreams in the class. The classic tale of two Chicago high school basketball players seeking stardom facing  injuries,economic hardship,academic and the challenges of just growing up.

The film follows the two players through the 4 year odyssey of high school and their entrance into college in pursuit of the NBA. The story is a roller coaster of emotions and changing dynamics in the families of these players and also on the basketball court. As with any great film there are surprises and drama and engagement with the two main characters Arthur and William. Students attach themselves to the characters and can identify with their goals and perspectives.

It has become a timeless classic with my students as they have continued to stay engaged even in an age when there is so many potential distractions such as the web,games or apps. Of course I always have the students who jump on their phones or the web and google the players to find out their current situations and realities but these kids still stay engaged through the entire film. The film introduces students to the benefits of serious and critical inquiry with the medium of film.

No other film captures the imagination of students and keeps them following the story without distraction. The film also presents an opportunity to ask students hard questions about economic hardship,education inequality and racial issues. Check out the film below. I have embedded the film form youtube.

What does “setting high expectations and standards” mean to you?

Setting high expectations and standards means properly
evaluating the current conditions in which I want to improve and developing an
action plan which addresses the scenario. I am always developing an action plan
to improve current conditions.  I set
goals and communicate those openly in my environment. It has been beneficial
for me to communicate my expectations and anticipated results to all stakeholders.
When I communicate my expectations clearly I can have open and honest
conversations on a range of levels which provide a better understanding of the
meaning and purpose of larger goals.
When I have set high expectations from the very
beginning I have raised the bar of anticipated performance from the very
beginning. I have found in education that communicating goals allows students,
faculty and staff to feel as though they have been made aware of the agenda of
the organization and not only are they a part of the process but are also key
contributors in the process. This allows for all to be focused on several key
goals and helps develop buy in from others.
Holding others accountable to the standards that I
have set has helped provide consistency. When asking others to have accountability
it has been important to have clear expectations so the highest standards can
be met. It is also important to have accountability for the important benchmarks
in the process of setting high expectations and standards. To reach short and
long term goals groundwork needs to be established which expresses desired
outcomes.  I have always made my
benchmarks realistic and scaffolded to match my long range goals.  This has allowed me avoid critical setbacks
and better define problematic scenarios before they become larger issues.
Creating realistic benchmarks helped me hold others
accountable for the desired standards and outcomes. My creation of realistic
benchmarks helped me communicate clear reminders of the consistency necessary
to create a quality product. In our modern education system benchmarks and
standards provide a way to assess student progress in key content areas. The
ability to monitor how learning goals are met is critical to evaluating student
learning and teaching effectiveness.
In my experience, when expectations are
set high individuals achieve more and work to their potential. This is
especially true with technology education as there is usually a lot of work
before visible results.  It is critical to set high expectations but also to
make others feel as though they can reach them by being supportive and clear
about the steps to meet them.  When
setting the expectations I try not letting others feel as though they may fail
but to create the best result they can produce.
In my experience integrating technology into
classrooms the settings of high expectations means already having a solid
groundwork of skills I expect that students and the teacher to possess.
Technology in the core of the lesson or unit can be represented as software, tools
or an interactive experience. When these components are integrated into the
core lesson it becomes the mission of the teacher to engage students with the
development of fluency using the tools and a product which is a result of the
experience or these components. The level in which the learning environment is
transformed by the engagement of students and acquisition of skills in
purposeful expressive ways represents the range of outcomes and surpassing
existing benchmarks and meeting high expectations.
I have always placed a high priority on
high level interaction with technology and media. Each student must extract
from the experience of using technology a beneficial experience, acquisition of
a new tool or increased fluency of technology skills. Each experience must be
designed to scaffold learning of known tools and have a meaningful impact on
the negotiation of knowledge by the student.

Technology Curriculum & Instruction Portfolio

Below is a link to my curriculum and instruction portfolio as it relates to technology curriculum development and consultation experiences.

Innovative Experiences-Daniel Downs
     My most innovative experience in education
has come from the process of developing a curriculum focused in the development
of mobile applications. I consider this experience innovative because it
addressed a gap in the curriculum between web development and the modern use of
mobile application technology on devices. Addressing this gap was a process of
understanding what the existing curriculum addressed and projecting what the
future needs of web development curriculum would need. In developing the
curriculum and presenting the benefits to a variety of audiences, I was able to
make several amazing professional contacts. 
These contacts put me into a position to be able to write the curriculum
into the community college curriculum as a part of a Department of Labor Grant.
This experience enriched my knowledge of curriculum development and also
provided me with a range of teaching and presenting experiences.
the critical tools and resources which would make the curriculum successful was
a dominant part of its success. It was my goal with the curriculum that it is
written to address a range of learners. To address a range of learners in the
field of Computer Science is not always an easy task. Often students interested
in Computer Science fields have a hard time finding courses which address a
range of learning levels. I chose to address this concern by creating a curriculum
strategy which focused on the design process, integration of technology components
and testing and debugging of  mobile applications.
By integrating these different stages I was able to integrate an authentic
approach to student’s projects. Students were able to choose the topic of their
design based on an authentic question and design the technology components to
meet their design. This process assisted in making the applications address
real world questions and teach relevant employability and workforce soft
skills.  Students of all skill levels
have now successfully created mobile applications using the tools and
curriculum I outlined.
curriculum and my introduction of it to my classroom gained national attention
from and opportunities to consult with other school districts and
technology departments. These interactions have added to the continual revision
of the curriculum and its adaptations to a variety of age levels. Receiving
positive attention for my initiative provided me with the confidence to
continue developing a variety of new courses related to technology and
multimedia. These developments would never have been possible without the
creation of a vision for how something could be improved and developing a plan
for the integration. I was able to apply out of the box thinking and find
resources which brought together the technology driven components of creating
apps for devices (software, tablets) and the curriculum components such as
rubrics, outcomes, and teacher developed training videos.
successes have continued to influence how I develop lessons and assessments. I
have successfully develop blended lessons using video formats and
several hundred tutorial
videos online to assist with learning technology skills and software. I have
also developed new forms of video assessments for students that allow them to
describe their learning experiences and development of skills. Gaining
recognition for my work has been a great reward but the greater reward has been
the push it has given me to design better learning tools and assessments for
students. I am challenged everyday to create ways to introduce technology to
students and inspire a high level of productivity with the tools.

Teaching A Business Centered Project With Adobe Media Tools In A Flipped Classroom

Recently I began a unit in which students needed to conceptualize themselves as the creators of their own
web design/graphic design business with multiple project outcomes such as a logo in illustrator, business card with Photoshop but using the logo,a brochure with the same designs and finally a webpage.. The first goal was to have component of the projects drawn out on a piece of paper before the students decided to design it with software. I wanted students to conceptualize without graphic software. I felt this would force them to adjust their approaches with the available tools and also force me as an instructor to help with a more wide selection of tools.

Once this was done I asked students to use their cell phones to photograph their drawing and email it to themselves and then enter it as a template into the design software.

Screen Cast Mobile App Design Critiques:Video Based Assessment Models and Iterative Practice

Today was my first experimentation with using screen-casts as means to have groups critique other groups designs in the early stages of development of their mobile apps. I began with having students design a graphic layout of their application ideas with a paragraph describing the purpose and goals of the app to users and the market. I then had each group provide a critique of 2 other groups for some variety. I am anxious to see how this influences their development process with their mobile designs.

The idea for this assignment cam from one of the readers of my dissertation research on PBL curriculum with mobile development mentioning that at Google they do these kinds of continual evaluations all the time. I am interested to see how these critiques influence motivation to complete projects and also the ownership of the project.

Below are some preliminary goals.

Goals For This Project:

1.Engaged speaking and dialogue about the design process.

2. A preliminary assessment based on known group goals.

3.A record of critique in which groups can watch and use to improve their project.

4.The discussions can initiate a redesign process and create continual improvement of the project.

Placing Value On Fluency

In a recent classroom experience I found myself discussing what I felt I really looked for in student success with learning and technology,after a brief moment I commented that I felt that student being able to develop a level of new fluency with tools and learning was paramount. I chose this because even though students can develop a variety of products and skills using technology software,tools and interactive experiences I felt a real mark of their learning is the development of fluency with tools to meet the individualized needs of the student.

When teaching an entire class a single tool or component of software all participants enter the experience at a variety of levels and experiences. It is in this phenomenon that the assessment of the individuals level of fluency of the tools they are using and the products they are creating becomes paramount. In my recent experiences the ways I have been assessing this outcome is the creation of screen casts by the students which asks them to provide the language,presentation,knowledge of tools and descriptions of the context of use. Students can describe entire portfolios or individualized approaches to projects.

What is revealed is the individualized approach to learning. Each students can describe the benefits of the experience and elaborate on their creations. It is in descriptions and planning that students begin to place the context of their understanding in proper light. The videos are also opportunities to critique in a positive way the work of others or to better define their goals in a real time presentation.

Fluency has a whole can be a difficult outcome to nurture in one class using specific tools of technology learning, but it is the role of the educator to teach students an approach to become lifelong learners who can find purpose in their learning and develop deeper learning experiences. To develop fluency you need to provide opportunity to refine practice and better understand specific approaches. Self analysis is critical to this process and enabling students to engage with their own record of engagement helps them learn from their learning experiences.

Flipping My Technology Classroom

It happened almost by accident. I had made tutorial videos before but had only used them in Photoshop or lessons which use Powerpoint or videos.  I had some videos on Youtube but was not employing it as a tool in my classroom all the time. Just as my students were finishing a web design assignment focused on the basic core components of our lessons I decided that I wanted a way to have students describe verbally and also show the
process of their learning in a live way. I then organized my classrooms into pairs and created an order for two studnets at a time to sit down with a written plan and decribe the components of their websites with a recorded screencast.
     The results are very interesting little videos which help identify the strengths of each students understadings of the assignments and also the collaboration skills of the studnets in their paired groups at explaining their content. It was key for students to take some time to plan their videos before they made their video. In some cases they made elaborate notes and planning sheets. The exercise became an opportunity to have students describe verbally and show graphicall their learning process.
     Based on this experience I became involved in making my own videos for the class. So far I have made playlists of videos for three classes. In my Web Design 1 course I have currently made 13 videos for the first module in the class. The videos which are mainly 5-10 minutes long have walked students through the construction of a 5 page website using HTML and CSS. Students work swiftly through the lessons and helping students dissect problems with their process or understanding has become  easier to do. Students have remarked that it saves time and also allows them to move them at their own pace. As a teacher it allows me to move through the room and assist immediately with issues and problems. It also gives me time to create videos and also to move my curriculum ahead with research on the subject matter being taught.
     In the past couple weeks I have better developed the annotations,timing and organization of my videos on to the YouTube page. I have found the page easy to organize and to tag. I hope in the next couple weeks to expand my videos into my other courses and look forward to doing more assessment with video screencasts.

High School 1:1 Technology Initiative

The school I work in is currently in the beginning of a 1:1 initiative. The theme that keeps coming back to me as we meet and discuss the possible changes to our high school learning is the necessity to really take the time to implement a team approach to curriculum development for this initiative.

I recently attended a Leadership Conference for Technology Leaders in Massachusetts and a dominant theme in conversation was the necessity for getting staff on the same page with curriculum. The thing that struck me the most about the attitudes of leaders was the pre-planning and professional development which was necessary to get teachers prepared for 1:1 technology initiatives.

What Is Project Based Learning?

This blog is my attempt to capture the experience of my research into Project Based Learning. Over the past two years I have been participating in coursework and professional developement with a focus on project based learning and collaborative learning environments. My research has led me to investigate 21st Century Learning Initiatives as well as the proper integration of technology and Project Based Learning curriculum into the classroom.