Thursday, April 19, 2012

NJ Higher Education Showcase of Exemplary Practices: Excellence in Teacher Preparation

I am proud to announce that I was nominated to be recognized in the New Jersey Higher Education’s Showcase of Exemplary Practices: Excellence in Teacher Preparation for my "distinguished work as a New Jersey Educator."  An awards ceremony and reception will be held at the Chauncey Hotel and Conference Center in Princeton on Friday, April 20, 2012.  The purpose of the event is "to recognize exemplary programs and practices in teacher preparation in New Jersey, share them within the teacher education community, and disseminate them across the state."  The event is sponsored by Acting Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks and the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.  The audience includes teacher educators, New Jersey Departments of Higher Education and Education staff members, policymakers, funders, media, and other stakeholders.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Using "Assassin's Creed" to Teach the Renaissance

New Media Literacy
This project was inspired by Dr. Henry Jenkins' book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.  Jenkins writes about "participatory" fan communities, such and the unofficial Harry Potter fan site, MuggleNet, in his white paper, "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.  A new collection of fan-made wiki sites, devoted to movies, books, video games, etc. can be found on the site Wikia

According to Jenkins, the New Media Literacies (NML) project "argues that media literacy skills, broadly defined, need to be integrated into school-based and after-school programs, into adult education for parents and teachers and into popular culture itself if we are going to fully address the challenges of this moment of media in transition."  For more, check out NML on Twitter, @nml_usc, their website,, or Jenkins' blog:

"Inspired by Historical Events and Characters."  This is how each game in the popular open-world, third-party, role-playing game (RPG) Assassin's Creed series, available on Xbox 360 and PS3, begins.  The Assassin’s Creed series of video games is an example of historical fiction.  In historical fiction the "setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the main characters tend to be fictional" (  Examples of historical fiction range from the film "Titanic," to "Saving Private Ryan," to video games, such as "Assassin's Creed."

The storyline of the Assassin’s Creed is essentially "The Matrix" meets "The DaVinci Code."  Here is the link for the game series, published by Ubisoft:  Check out this clip in which Assassin's Creed Revelations' lead script writer Darby McDevitt talks about the historical setting and people that lead character Ezio meets in the game Assassin’s Creed: Revelations:

Below is a picture of Leonardo DaVinci with Ezio, the lead character of the games.  Also appearing in the game series are Machiavelli, Copernicus, popes, members of the Borgia's, and the Medici's.
Included in the game are "databases," in which players are given historical information about people and places from the time period.  Below is a screenshot from one of the game's many "databases" in Assassin's Creed II:

Using "Assassin's Creed" to Teach the Renaissance
This spring, I constructed a project-based lesson (PBL) titled The Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Character Web Project.  This PBL is framed around creating additional Renaissance-era characters to further integrate into the video game series via downloadable content.  The students were asked, "what if Ubisoft decided to integrate other real Renaissance figures as characters in the game?"  The unit is tied to historical fiction, which makes history more "real" and relatable to middle school students.  My 6th grade social studies student teams created character pages on a wiki.  (Not sure what a wiki is?  Watch this:

Links to my student's finished wiki pages:
Examples of My Sixth-Grader's Downloadable Character Wikis:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mall Pride

If you live near the Rockaway Mall, in Rockaway, NJ, check out the Morris County Council of Education Associations, Inc. (MCCEA) "Mall Pride" display of county-wide student work!  Some of my 6th Grade's Asia: Then and Now scrapbooks are on display. Our table placement is: upper floor right in front of Precision Time and Godiva Chocolate.  The display runs until April 22.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

For anyone who's kid loves Elmo... Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, airing April 5 and 9, 2012 at 9pm (check local listings), on PBS' Independent Lens. Set your DVR!

Watch Meet the Man Behind Elmo on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.