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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TED Talk

Recently Jared Covili from UEN participated in Canyons district TEDx Event. In his talk he spent a few minutes highlighting a few of things I have done. Here is the TED talk

Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the news

I was contacted by a reporter, Louise Shaw about a month ago. She said she was doing a story on what students were learning in their classes and had contacted the district and my name was given to her. She came into the class for a period, interviewed students, took a few photos, and wrote an article about my interview with Mahmoud. Without a doubt it is nice to get recognition for the positive things we do in our classes. This project is of great personal value for me since it took so long to come to fruition. I love the fact that I was able to connect with Mahmoud and then have a meaningful interview that I could show our class, it means a lot to me and to them.

As far as being in the paper I am glad that she interviewed members of the class and that they were prominent in the article. Sure it's nice to see your own name in the paper for good things, but this was about sharing with my class and I am pleased that they are able to share in the moment as well. We read the article in class Friday, it was a neat moment to share in with them. They were pleased to see the article, especially those that saw their names in print.

Here is the article:
WEST POINT — It’s a problem that has deep roots in history and seemingly no viable solution.

It’s a problem that has stymied U.S. presidents and world leaders.

And it’s a problem students at West Point Junior High are taking on as well.

The conflicts that have divided Israelis and Palestinians revolve around land and authority.

Students in Jared Fawson’s World Geography classes were introduced to those problems by viewing the documentary, “Promises,” that follows the lives of children very close to their own ages.

Children in the documentary are both Palestinian and Israeli. One Jewish child is the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor and is a secular Jew, one is the child of a rabbi. The Palestianian youths lived in refugee camps. One had a father in prison at the time.

Though the children lived within 20 miles of each other, “they exist in completely separate worlds,” according to a review on

“They possess an acute awareness of the political reality that surrounds them,” it said, “and have a freshness of expression that is inspiring, in contrast to the entrenched and often embittered opinions of adults.”

The students in Fawson’s class could be said to have the same attributes.

“They just need to be more willing to cooperate,” said Chenille Morris, a ninth grader at West Point, of the two parties staking claims in Israel. “They don’t see each other as human. They hate each other. Both sides have in mind what they want, but they’re not willing to give.”

A fellow student, Harlee Sorrells, said it’s wrong when, because of the past, people won’t work together for their future.

The documentary was filmed between 1997 and 2000, with a follow-up segment added in 2004.

During those seven years, the youths in the documentary share what they’ve learned from their parents and from their own personal experiences and fears.

To add to their stories, Fawson was able to connect with one of the youths in the documentary last month, 10 years after it was filmed.

Now 26, the youth answered Fawson’s questions about what he sees as the problems and solutions to the Middle-East conflict.

His responses have been shared with students in subsequent classes, further shaping their views.

“We need to wake up and to think in a very positive way,” said the Palestinian, who the Clipper was asked not to name.

The young man spoke in favor of a one-state solution and of the region becoming a “100 percent democratic place.”

With one state, elections would determine representation and whoever won would have responsibility for the people, who would all have rights.

“We don’t need walls and stupid check points,” he said.

That was also a conclusion ninth graders were reaching.

“Both sides want Jerusalem, the Red Sea and the resources,” said Chenille. “ There’s no way to split them up. They already live together ... they should elect representatives from both sides.”

Fawson led a discussion on what happens when a group like Hamas “continues to sow discord and chaos.” He pointed out that public opinion and support shifts away from a group when it changes from what might be considered freedom fighters, to being more like terrorists.

Several students referred to the positive effects of the nonviolent protests in America relating to race relations as proof change that can be positive.

“Peaceful protests ended with integration of schools,” said one, adding that Israel could do the same.

“They could be all one nationality but have religious diversity,” said another.

“It’s complicated,” said Fawson.

Listening to the young man who had grown up with the conflict and was now an adult gave students “a personal connection to the conflict ... one that helped break down barriers and open the world up in a way that it couldn’t get in any other way.”

Student Mike Nash said the study of the conflict in the Middle East has helped him realize what’s going on, how bad it is and what really needs to be fixed.

“If kids could get along and make friendships,” he said, “the kids could teach their kids and it would eventually come to them not being enemies anymore.”

Read more: The Davis Clipper - International issues tackled by local students

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Student Projects: Zeitgeist 2013-14 using YouTube Video Editor

Earlier in the year I came up with my genius idea to have students create their own zeitgeist video. You can read more about that here. (Note: If you haven't seen the Google zeitgeist videos that they create every year featuring their most searched stories they are both linked in that post.) I had all sorts of ideas as to how we were going to pull this off, but nothing was really coming together the way I had envisioned it. I wanted them to create something similar to what Google does in both spirit and in quality. Yea I know we are at a severe disadvantage when competing with Google for the 'cool' factor. We finally got to the point where we had to start actually making something. I tried a lot of ideas, none really fit what we needed. Then someone mentioned the YouTube Video Editor. It makes sense that if you are going to try to make a project like Google that you would use their help.

One of my issues with student projects is that they work hard and the only people who see it are their parents, and the teacher. A few rare, great ones are seen by more. Using this allows for a true worldwide audience. The goal is to create their own video that is good enough to put on display for the world.

Here is why we are using the video editor. Students can create and edit their own videos the way they want to; the project becomes an extension of how they see the world. You can upload your own videos, but most students don't have footage of the Winter Olympics or the Ukraine conflict. This is the real genius of the video editor. You can search the creative commons videos, copyright free, and get footage of what you are looking for. You can also add images (my students have become quite versed in creative commons image search), text, music (the editor allows for copyright free music and has an extensive database), and transitions. One of the nice things about using this is students can work on it at home or where ever they may be. They just log into their Google account and then into YouTube. Changes are saved automatically like on docs or blogger. A true worldwide audience. A project they can be proud of and show off and keep. No worries about using images, video, or music that is copyrighted and they could get in trouble for using.

I spent a day in the computer lab working with each student making sure they knew what they were doing. Some figure it out quickly, some needed more help, all realized how using the video editor would allow their voice to come through and make something worthwhile. They are not due for another month but I feel like we now have the right tool for the job.

FYI each week from now to then they have to write up the events they are adding to their video. Explain what the event is and why they are adding it. Events should reflect what has happened globally since the start of school, with a topics from each region we have covered as well as any local events they feel were significant to the community, school, or themselves. One of the nice things about this project is students will include events like the Olympics, but show it from their perspective. Obviously many events will be in every video, but each student will put their own spin on the event. No two videos will be exactly alike. Each one will have its own voice and individuality.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

UCET 2014 Thoughts

Here are my thoughts from UCET 2014

Loved the keynotes. Couldn't have had better speakers than the Canadian duo of Dean Shareski and George Couros.

Dean had five main points: Be aware of wonder, be interesting, share your joy, be grateful, and just do it.
Here are my notes from his presentation.

1. Wonder: opposite of boring Find the I'm bored video. Be aware of wonder, remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup.
Find video on awe. We have a responsibility to awe. Take a photo everyday. Be mindful.
How often do you get your students to wonder? Find a photo
2 be interesting. Best thing you can do for your students is to be an interesting adult. Gary Stager
We need to deliver something more as the educator. What makes it interesting to come to your class? Share what its like to be a learner.
And this is all we know so far...meddler in the middle. Be in the middle learning with them.
What are you learning right now? Do your students know it?
3. Share it
We are connected and so is our joy. Video of baby ripping paper. Contagious joy
Video newsletter
When we find interesting cool stuff we share it.
4 be grateful.
5. Just do it. Direct correlation between happiness and silliness in ones life.
When was the last time you did something where the primary purpose was to bring joy? Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up.

I have been a big fan of George since I got on Twitter a couple of years ago. Was glad I got to hear him in person as well as have a few minutes to chat during the conference. Here are some images from his presentation.

to inspire meaningful change, you must first make a connection to the heart before you make a connection to the mind.

George told a story about his dad learning how to read and write well on in his life because he wanted to connect with his sons using email and facebook. Very powerful story. Also told a story about an assembly in which a girl tweeted out beforehand that she didn't want to hear more of what they aren't supposed to do on the internet. George could have been upset at this tweet, but he let it go and presented and told the story of his dad. It happened to be the one year mark of his father's death. He was emotional in the presentation, she tweeted out that she was glad he came out on such a hard day for him. He stopped the presentation and her stand up. She came and gave him a hug. I was impressed with how he handled this situation and that this young lady walked out with a great feeling about herself and the assembly. Could have gone much differently, I know many people that would not have handled this the same way and allowed for such an outcome.

In his presentation he discussed blogging as portfolio which I thought was the idea of the conference for me. I changed the design of my blog to fit this and tagged posts with ties to the standards that I get evaluated on by administrators. Students would use blogs to show their learning and create a powerful, positive digital footprint. Thought this was great and am incorporating this into my class.

Doctopus- Great way to use google docs to get one out to all your students and not have to worry about sharing and getting it back to you.

Pechaflickr for spontaneous student presentations

Daily Create: small daily activities that get students to be creative

Creative commons search for images: don't have to worry about copyright and appropriateness.

Use blogs in class

Have students use 5 mins of creativity a day

Be interesting to students

I decided to present this year and hopefully add to the conference. I did a presentation on using Twitter for personalized professional development. You can access the presentation here I thought it went well. Had a packed room, met a lot of great educators, even the mom of one of my former students.

I also presented on We use this in my class to learn place name geography. It has become a fun tool for learning and competing.

Was nice to feel like I gave back some to the conference that more than any other had helped me out. One day maybe I can be as smooth as Dean or George.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Breaking down barriers by connecting world wide

I teach geography, but more than that I love geography. Like any teacher I have my areas of expertise, what I really love to teach and most importantly learn about. My area is Israel/Palestine. There is something about this area that captivates me. I was first introduced while getting my degree at the University of Utah when my teacher asked the class whether or not Israel should be a country. I was taken aback. I didn't know what he meant. The class was full of people from the Middle East and within minutes there was a lot of arguing back and forth. I realized right then and there I needed to know a lot more about the subject. The teacher posed the question to me and I replied that I didn't know enough but hoped the class would help me out. He said "You need to get an opinion, people without opinions are boring." I took that as a challenge and have spent the last 15 years studying the subject out.

Over time I found a documentary "Promises" about the conflict. In the film they highlight the lives of 7 kids living in Israel who live within 20 minutes of each other, but live very different lives. 3 of the kids are Palestinians, 4 are Israeli. I love this film. I think it is so powerful for students to watch other kids their own age dealing with the conflict. The power of the film is in seeing their struggles and the complexities of the issues. You get to see the pain of the conflict and its effect on each of the kids and how they handle it. The students get sucked into the documentary and are captivated throughout the film.

One of the people in film is named Mahmoud, he is a Jerusalem Palestinian Arab. He was nine years old when they started filming, he was sixteen when they finished. He is highly opinionated, passionate, articulate, and makes some changes throughout the film. This past year after watching the film I thought about how neat it would be if I could connect with him or one of the others from the film. So I went to the one spot I thought he might be on; facebook, and found him. He friended me right off and over the course of a year we corresponded back and forth.

After some time we decided to do an interview. I wanted to be able to record it so I could show it when I wanted and have it for future use. We decided to use Google Hangouts as this would allow for that to happen. You can use your phone with hangouts, but certainly a desktop is much easier to do a hangout with, he didn't have a desktop. It took three tries over the space of 30 minutes and I was seriously worried that it wasn't going to happen. Luckily as the saying goes, 3rd times a charm, and it worked. Mahmoud was on his mobile device in Jerusalem at 8 pm while I was using my lunch time in West Point, Utah to do the interview.

I've got to say that this in one of the high points I have had in education. Here I was interviewing a Palestinian from Jerusalem who had been in a documentary that my class was going to watch about the Arab/Israeli conflict. This moment had taken a lot of persistence on my part. In all honesty it had taken the better part of a year of me somewhat bugging him to do this. We attempted once before only to have his schedule conflict at the last minute. After months of inquiring here we finally were, having in my opinion a seminal moment.

The interview lasted 40 minutes during which time Mahmoud expressed his feelings about being part of the 'Promises' documentary, the current conflict in Israel, his ideas for a solution, and what it is like being a Palestinian living in Jerusalem. He also gave a personalized message to my class imploring them to search for truth and to become critical thinkers, to not believe what the media or others say about others, but to look at it from different perspectives. It was a great thought for all, but was extremely powerful coming from someone who's life they got a sneak peek at, someone they had come to have a connection with, someone with different beliefs and from a much different part of the world. It was a highlight for all the students, Mahmoud, and especially for me.

I believe that it is my responsibility to be the lead learner in the class. I need to show my passion, my drive and determination to learn and understand more about the world to my students. If I don't show that how can I expect them too? This was a project that took a long time to complete. It took more persistence than I ever thought it would, but in the end it became as worth it as anything that I have ever done. I am glad I was able to share this with my students and show them what is truly possible. Here are a few stills of Mahmoud from the film and our interview.

at 9

at 16

at 26 today