Using Google Docs in Drama

I recently started a project based learning project with @malynmawby. If you don’t follow her you must! She is a fabulous educator with lots of great ideas. Visit her Love2Learn blog.

One idea or tool rather that Malyn introduced me to was Google Docs. This is seriously THE BEST web tool I have come across in ages.

Essentially Google Docs is one core document (this could be anything from a Word document to an Excel spreadsheet) that can be accessed and edited by more than one personat the same time via the web obviously.

Why, you ask, is it the best web tool in ages? Because I think it is absolutely perfect for any kind of collaborative script building in Drama and it’s such a simple way to incorporate ICT into Drama lessons. It’s like every Drama Teacher’s scriptwriting nightmares have all been cured at once!

When I was working on my PBL project with Malyn I was totally tripped out by the fact that I could see her typing onto the document whilst I watched on my screen. Likewise for her I’m sure. Malyn had set up the document and allocated sharing and ownership rights. This feature allows you to control who views and edits the document.

What I also liked was the comments function. Malyn had left me little “virtual post-it notes” on the side of the document that I could reply to when I had made the adjustments in the document which made it easy for Malyn to reference exactly where I had made changes and how I had addressed her initial notes. We didn’t have to be online at the same time to work on it but it’s pretty cool when you are!

Anyway, throughout the whole experience I just had visions of lots of little playwrights in my Drama class collaborating on their DER laptops, all their little ideas planting roots into the ground to make a big strong tree 🙂 They were all working on one version of the document that could either then be emailed as a final copy to me, posted on Edmodo and even, if they so desired included me in the sharing and viewing rights so I could see what they were all doing, add suggestions and offer advice.

I’ve included the YouTube instructional clip and simply encourage you to visit Google Docs yourself and have a play or introduce it into your Faculty because I think it has enormous potential not just for student’s but teachers also (programming anyone?)

Note: I’ve since heard that Google Docs is blocked to student’s on the DER laptops. If you are keen to experiment with this tool in your classroom I strongly urge you to contact Tech Support to get it unblocked.

Image Credit: Knots of Time / Sabrina Mae / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Simple Ways to Integrate ICT and the Drama Logbook

The use of technology in Drama is a tricky one in my opinion. When you think of technology in Drama most people think, “oh, using a video camera.”

Drama is all about the making and performing of a work and especially in class, you become so caught up in the “doing” that you miss the “reflecting” part. Or the “documenting of the process” part. My kids are reluctant to write anything at the best of times and it has still been challenging getting them to write using their laptops but it is because of them that they are a little less reluctant to write 🙂

The NSW syllabus like many others, has three key areas: making, performing, appreciating. The logbook has been an essential part of the “appreciating” section of the syllabus for years. It is vital during the HSC in which student’s must show their process in creating their group performance work and their individual project.

Now, I’m really going to put my opinions out there and say that I am certain that in a few years, the logbook will become digital. Just like the written exam. Not just in Drama. I’m sure in many other subjects as well.

I think this opens up enormous possibilities for the Drama logbook and how dynamic and interesting it could be in showing the theatre making process.

As such, as teachers it is not only our responsibility to be integrating technology in our lessons but making it meaningful and a tool for preparing them for the HSC and the effective documentation of process in a logbook.

So, here are a couple of suggestions to get you started in turning the logbook digital:

1.Type in Microsoft Word: It’s basic and it’s boring but it’s also familiar. I’ll probably be crucified for suggesting this but if you’re apprehensive about getting your student’s to create a digital logbook start with something that most of us these days actually knows how to use. It’s tried and tested and it’s a good way to get student’s into the habit of writing their thoughts on screen rather than paper. Trust me, they’ll be just as apprehensive. They’ve been taught for years to write everything with a pen and paper. This will be weird for them.

2. Use OneNote: This is another really simple start to creating a digital logbook with a few cool features. Most of the DER laptops have OneNote. It is like a paper ring binder sans the paper. It has tabs to organise your work, an endless page and an automatic saving function. You can copy and paste images into notebook and it copies the source link with it. You can also freely move things around your page. Here’s a really brief intro to it:

3. Start a Blog: This is my latest favourite.The great thing about a blog is that it is like a personalised web page. Student’s can customise them, connect with student’s from around the world, embed video, links, sound clips, photographs (all of which are technology in themselves). They’re dynamic and they broaden the scope of their work. They are public pages so it is a great way to teach student’s about digital citizenship, the appropriate use of language, editing and spelling. Here is an example of one from one of my student’s. I provide student’s with a very structured template with which to base each of their entries on. Starting off with a class blog first might also be a great way to take a dip into technology.

4. Create a Digital Portfolio: This is a great idea for mini-assignments as well but you could get student’s to create an interactive Powerpoint that includes links, video, sound clips and photos for each week of their project. Have them create a slide that looks at the problems they faced in their group and how they solved each problem. Make sure student’s submit everything (video etc.) to you in one folder. Missing parts means the portfolio’s interactive bits won’t work.

Finally, it’s important to remember that these are just some simple ways to move away from the traditional book and pen scenario. Some people can be really turned off by technology because they think it is all bells and whistles and the truth is it is. Another thing I’ll probably be crucified for.

I think some teacher’s feel they are becoming redundant because the teaching is being done by technology. This is when I would say that is, absolutely, 100% not true. Student’s will not know how to write well and skillfully without your guidance. They way student’s create their blogs, portfolios or whatever is dependent on what you show them is the best way to do it. You are still the most important tool in creating critically reflective, appreciative writing in Drama. Don’t forget that 😉

Have you tried anything that is working well in your class? Please share them in the comments.

Image Credits:Moleskine Retro PDA Part1 / Stephen Ticehurst / CC BY-NC 2.0

My Journey with Student Blogging: An Update

Back in March I introduced student blogging to my Year 9 Drama class. I dived right in having each student create their own individual student blog which was connected to a class blog.

The other day a very kind reader of my blog asked me how my class blogging was going and what my thoughts were on using it in the Drama classroom. I had been meaning to update on this for some time so having interested readers push me along in this pursuit was great!

Here is the class blog page.

As you can see, I’ve added absolutely zilch to it since starting it. That was my responsibility and my fault and I have some thoughts on that further on.

However, some student drama blogs that I think are well worth taking a look at from my class include:

On the downside though, only these four of the eleven students in my class have really taken to blogging and have been updating it regularly. Three of my student’s haven’t added their link to the class blog page at all. Student’s were just not contributing to their own blog nor commenting on their peers.

This really surprised me. I really thought the kids would want to engage with their laptops and create a blog.

So why, were they just not getting into blogging?

Most of them did not know what a blog was nor did they have the patience to set one up thus making them very frustrated and hence giving up on the idea all together (thus why many of them are not regularly updated or are non-existent).

This classroom moment did re-affirm for me this idea I have that technology is really not that scary and children don’t necessarily know more than us about technology. Their fear of trying something new online was just as obvious as that of any adult using a computer for the first time. Student’s may be surrounded by technology but they really don’t know the breadth and depth of it nor do they really use any more than a couple of web tools on a daily basis. I guess this is obvious to many of you who have been engaging with web tools and web based learning for a long time but I’m still new to this revelation.

In reflecting further on this I really shouldn’t have delved straight into individual student blogging. Spending time reading other blogs and simply commenting is the best way to go. I should have also done my part in keeping the central drama blog up to date along with the kids.

Time is something I do feel pressured by and I do find critical reflection and appreciation in drama can get lost by the wayside when you are dealing with student’s who have behaviour problems, learning difficulties or simply do not like having to write.

What I have learnt though and I what I need to get better at, is really sticking to keeping the last 15-20 minutes of a lesson (mine are 75mins so adjust accordingly) for writing activities. Unfortunately, getting student’s to do this kind of reflective work at home is not an option at my school. If you can do it though, go for it. It is ideal because then you really can concentrate on practical activities. Getting into habits, such as writing for the last part of the lesson,  is a basic teaching rule and one that I think can be forgotten in Drama classrooms because of the practical nature of our subject.

The way the student’s have completed their “blog logs” for drama is based on a template I gave them which I will share in another post.

For web tools and ICT to work in the Drama classroom, I believe teachers need to allocate appropriate amounts of time to appreciation, critical study and simply writing to ensure student’s are getting into effective habits that will assist them to process the thoughts and experiences of the practical classroom and then to eventually share that with the world of the Internet.

My Journey with Student Blogging

I started blogging with one of my drama classes this week. It’s going really well.

This week I set up the class blog along with each student setting up their own individual blog.

I know a lot of the information out there suggests that you start with the class blog as a base and get the kids to comment but I couldn’t wait! I’ve been wanting to blog for so long I just wanted to dive right in!

This could backfire on me terribly but I don’t think so. The class are very good and very keen to listen and learn.

I was torn between using a web based platform or the platform provided by the NSWDET called BlogED. Whilst numerous people out there offered me excellent support and advice it was more of a hindrance and hassle to get it working as opposed to the ease of going onto the Internet and working with the platforms available on there. That is my only gripe with BlogED. I’ve gone with Edublogs only because WordPress is blocked by my school’s filters.

Now here, I’ll be quick, is my tiny, tiny, tiny, rant: I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks with technology use in our schools is that it is such a rigmarole to get it working. All the blocks and filters, permission for access etc. I understand certain areas need to be filtered but some valuable things are being lost and some inappropriate content still getting through. You’ve not even started working with the program and you’re already frustrated. Valuable ideas are thrown out the window because the practicalities of working within the program fail to allow you to do anything. The DER laptops are another example of this. I can’t download the latest Flash Player because the laptop has not been authorised to do so. If there was a little more ease of access in getting started and using programs then perhaps those in our schools who are already reluctant to use technology, may be less so when they see that it isn’t so difficult to get it working. I always find we shoot ourselves in the foot when we try to demonstrate something and then the computer freezes or the projector doesn’t work. Those reluctant types go right back into their little safety, smug bubbles.

Anyway, my rant is over with. Here is our class blog with links to each student blog. It is very basic and hasn’t had a lot added to it just yet but it will be great once we get it going. I am literally working at the same pace as the kids so we have only created our accounts and chosen a theme. The only thing I have added is a blogroll and blog guidelines which I will discuss in a future post.

Resources and Suggestions for Creating Radio Plays

I recently trialled a new unit of work with my Year 9 Drama class. I wanted to share with you the basic unit structure that I followed and some of the resources from the Internet that I used and that you also might find useful.

Aim: To learn about the elements of a radio play and utilise them to create an original radio play and podcast.

Equipment: Audacity or other sound editing software, examples of radio plays, examples of scripts, sound effects CDs or websites.

1. What is a Radio Drama?

Start with a simple brainstorm that gets student’s thinking about radio drama. Have some springboard questions like:

  • Who listens to the radio?
  • What stations do you listen to?
  • What type of station is it? Talkback, music?
  • What audience is your station aimed at? How can you tell?
  • What do you think people did before i-pods, computers, movies and television for entertainment?
  • What conventions or techniques do you think radio plays had to have in order to be succesful?

At the conclusion of the brainstorm read some information about the history of radio plays. This page from Wikipedia is useful. In addition, ensure student’s understand the techniques and conventions used. These should include:

  • Narrative Structure
  • Vocal Delivery
  • Use of Sound Effects and Music

To add a practical element, break student’s into groups and ask them to create a 1 minute summary performance of the history of a radio drama.

2. Listen and Read Examples

Find examples of radio plays and their scripts  to listen to in class. I chose science fiction and horror style plays because they can use a great range of sound effects and student’s create unusual voices for a variety of characters such as monsters, aliens, detectives etc. The play need only be short. No longer than 5-7 minutes. A great example to focus on is War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

Whilst listening, have student’s jot down (perhaps have a handout here in table format) the following:

  • What is the plot?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What are the characters like? How can I tell?
  • What effect does the sound effects have? Do they help or hinder the story?

Ideally these questions are driven to get student’s to think about the techniques and conventions mentioned above.

It might also be an idea to link in the elements of drama and have student’s use the appropriate terminology. Even adding a final question such as, “Which elements of drama have been used?” and “How have they been used?” would be great.

3. Vocal Workshop

Student’s then participate in a vocal workshop looking at things such as:

  • Breathing and Controlling the Breath.
  • Warming Up the Voice and Face.
  • Intonation, Annunciation, Phrasing and Volume.
  • Accents.
  • Voice Care.

These links might also help:

4. Brainstorming Ideas

Have student’s form groups and give them some questions to springboard the flow of ideas. These could include:

  • Time/Place: Where and when will your radio play be set?
  • Role/Character: Who are your main characters? Who is the narrator? Describe their qualities? What kind of voice will they have?
  • Situation/Dramatic Tension/Conflict: What is going to be the main problem for these characters in the time and place that you have set your play?
  • How will it be resolved?

To add a practical element to this aspect of the process, get student’s up and improvising in groups the ideas that they have. Get them to present them to the class and get them, the audience to provide feedback. This could be done several times as ideas develop and change.

Bubbl.us might be a good online tool to use here.

5. Look at Examples of Written Radio Play Scripts

Here are some examples of the layout of scripts. Read them, act them out, focusing in particular on vocal delivery as opposed to movement. Have the audience close their eyes rather than watch and provide feedback to performers on what they understood about their character just from listening to their voice.

These links may help:

6. Audacity

Model and scaffold mini recording activities (advertisements, promos, a teaser for their play) so student’s get the hang of using Audacity. They can create test reels. You could ask them to submit these for marking alongside their radio play.

7. Writing and Recording

Student’s prepare a script, rehearse it and record it ensuring they have included all the techniques and conventions of a radio drama.

These links will help with writing:

8. Convert to a Podcast

Create a Podcast channel on i-Tunes for your student’s radio plays, promote them on your school website, Facebook page or Twitter account. Have each student create an avatar for their radio play and a small blurb to entice readers to download their play.

This link from Livebinders may help.

9. Compile the Logbook and Write a Reflection

Ensure all worksheets and group rehearsals are reflected on in the logbook and submit it for marking. It should demonstrate process and include written entries on what problems the group had and how they were solved, various drafts of the script, draft avatars and blurbs, reflection on audience feedback given during improvised performance and a review of their own personal performance, their group and other groups.

Here are some other resources I found useful:

Other examples of lesson plans:

Image Credit: Radio Daze / Ian Hayhurst / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0