Tag Archives: poetry

On the Dalai Lama, Shane Koyczan, and Back Channels

The Dalai Lama waved at us!

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

And then he bowed to welcome us!

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

Well, you may have figured out that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not in our classroom–though somehow his gentle smile and warm laugh made him feel very near. He was in Vancouver to meet with students and educators at the Youth Heart-Mind Summit. The theme was Be the Village. Through the wonders of technology, we joined classes from many locations to watch and listen to a conversation he had with high school students. The topic was about cultivating kindness, empathy, and compassion in all people.  I have to say, I was very impressed with the poise of the grade 12 MCs and panelists. How very thrilling that day must have been. 

Can you imagine being on that stage?

As well, Shane Koyczan, a fabulous spoken word artist (I think “poet” works for me) performed. More about that in another post.  And more about Heart-Mind learning later.

Back Channel

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

We tried something new while watching. We had our first Backchannel Chat, an online private virtual conversation room which each student accessed via our Netbook laptops. The chat gave us an opportunity to discuss our thoughts, observations, and questions among ourselves. I purchased a year-long access to the features of Backchannel Chat for about $16.00 to give me access to all the features of the program. 

I learned a lot from this experience. So did the students, as you’ll see. Not everything was positive, but it was not a complete failure either. If other teachers have tried or are considering using a back channel, I’d appreciate your feedback.

Here are a few screenshots of the archived chat (click thumbnails to enlarge). I sprayed out the names as I promised the students this analysis was not about embarrassing anyone, it was about finding solutions.

We broke into groups of four and wrote Plus – Minus – Solutions posters. Students talked about and recorded their thoughts, then shared with classmates.

Plus-Minus-Solutions

Plus-Minus-Solutions

I’ve summarized their feedback:

Pluses:

  • It’s a great way to show what you’re thinking and see what others are thinking.
  • You can see what others think of your ideas–they can respond to you.
  • You can respond to the entire class more easily.
  • It stays quiet while a presentation is on.
  • Someone is able to moderate the chat.
  • As the chat went on, people were more serious and on topic.
  • We become more tech savvy.

Minuses:

  • Because the sound quality of the webcast was poor and because we are not used to the Dalai Lama’s accent, we couldn’t hear very well and comment meaningfully.
  • Some people didn’t know what they could write about.
  • Some students got off topic fast and began talking about battery life, naming favourite actors, injecting hashtags, and making other random, pointless comments.
  • A conversation about the Dalai Lama’s nationality, appearance, and ethnicity lead to misunderstanding and maybe some hurt feelings. (We processed this after the fact.)
  • Some students used texting language.
  • Too many one word comments reduced the usefulness of the chat and made information flow too quickly.
  • Some students logged in and out to change their name and their avatar, wasting time.

Solutions:

  • Create criteria for comments that everyone follows.  (Yes, that came from the students!)
  • Think before you type!
  • Run two different chats so people can read and respond to the comments. This would slow the chat down.
  • We need to work on writing complete, thoughtful, on-topic sentences.
  • Have more than one person monitoring the chat.
  • People who are disrespectful or off topic would be warned and then would be kicked out of the chat.

Final Thoughts
I learned so much from the experience of this back channel about my student’s strengths and needs. I had no illusions that it would be a flawless event, but I sense that taking a risk with this technology will be rewarding for us.

The next time we use Backchannel Chat as a learning tool, we will share our results here.

Do you have suggestions? Are there other tools that can help encourage dialogue about big ideas? Does communicating in virtual space improve or inhibit dialogue when we are  face to face? Please share your thoughts in a comment.

 

 

Poem Found in the Woods

(We are really fortunate to have the beautiful Lazo Woods right behind our school. We went out on “solos” to find poetry–record our observations and inspirations–and later, to read in the woods. Each student  submitted just one favourite line in the poem below–in order of their last name. Even though the lines are random, the poem has unity.)

Dark green
The board shimmered not black, but evergreen

The humming wings of the fluttering bee
Soaring raven

Dandelion seed lightly flutters down through the breeze
A shadow moves through the forest

The sun is so bright you can close your eyes, face the sun and still be blinded
For a tree cannot stand alone

Boulders poking up from under the moss and dirt
The bright sunlight gleaming through the trees
Green moss crawls up the trees

Baby raven oh so fun waiting for it’s mom to come!

The forest is a quiet place to work
Pushed aside the cedar grows lonely

Trees tower like city buildings
The forest gets older

The sun peeks through the swaying trees.
Big bugs buzzing
Leaves glowing like emerald
Sun peeking through the trees

Twigs crack, birds sing, the story of the forest silent, until you listen
Salal covers the forest floor like a carpet

Each tree tells a story, each stone starts anew

Little gems dug up in the forest

Although we would never dig in the woods, we mined a rich vein of poetry during our afternoon of quiet reflection in the Northeast Woods and Lazo Marsh. Here is a handful of diamonds from student poems:

Lazo Woods, a magical forest,
So quiet that the animals think we’re tourists. –Danny

Buds that have just turned into leaves feel like they have been dipped in silk –Rebekah

IMG_4999I see trees in groups as if old friends were talking to each other
I notice the moss on them and it reminds me of clothing –Riannah

I look up at the blue sky, not cloud in sight.
The sun is in the corner of my eye.  –Jaiden

When I look up, I see the sun peaking through the trees
and then its rays light up everything around me
from a nurse tree to moss covered rocks.  –Riley

The woods are bright from nature’s light bulb that we call the sun.  –Payton

All I can see when I look up is the trees stretching to the sky and
Patches of the blue sky where the leaves part –Lizzie

As I lay on the big rock I look up and see the sun peaking through the canopy
As I stand on a log I feel it move beneath me
As I walk, sticks break
I could nap in you forever –Katie

Then I see a snake… it slithers it’s tongue at me and I smile at him–Easton

Lush greens spread all around giving the forest a majestic feeling.  Greyson

The cracking sound goes on,
and strikes fear into me,
for I am not a bird who can fly away,
nor am I an animal who can scatter away,
and yet I still stay. –Jessica

The wind whistles
And a cluster of pine needles
Fall like feathers from your neighbours   –Eric

Now I sit on a log
Waiting for the sun to hit me
Waiting for that touch of warmth
To end my journey.  – Priya

I love our earth and wouldn’t want to harm it –Ben

We all want to save the earth from extinction
Earth Day Earth Day Earth Day Earth Day Earth Day   –Matteo