2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Thursday, February 4, 2016

PBS Honors Maya Angelou

“Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.”

 – “On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou On May 28, 2014,

Maya Angelou, Chwefror 2009

Renaissance woman and civil rights activist Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. She read one of her most famous poems, "On the Pulse of the Morning" at the inauguration of President Clinton in 1993.

Speaking at Bill Clinton's inauguration, 1993

Angelou’s talent was not defined by just one medium. Throughout her life, she was a poet, novelist, dancer, playwright, actor and educator. She has written autobiographies, poems, children’s books, essays, plays and screenplays. Angelou has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

Maya Angelou speaking at a rally for Barack Obama, 2008

 In this lesson from PBS NewsHour Extra, students learn more about her extraordinary life. LESSON: http://to.pbs.org/1QqieWV

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

PBS Shows Us Harriet Beecher Stowe

Author Harriet Beecher Stowe had a tremendous impact on northern attitudes toward ending slavery. Her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, became a sensation in part because it humanized slaves and focused on her readers’ emotions. I remember reading it when I was ten, and Stowe's description of abuses plantation owners inflicted on slaves has stayed with me even today.  It directed my reading and questioning of Southern literature, eventually leading me to Ralph Ellison's classic depiction of The Harlem Renaissance, Invisible Man.

 Uncle Tom's Cabin went on to sell 300,000 copies in the first year in the U.S. The novel was even more successful in Great Britain, where 1.5 million copies were sold in a year; a figure its publisher claimed was “10 times the sales of any book other than the Bible and prayer book.” 

In this video adapted from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” featuring historical reenactments, students learn about the far-reaching impact of Stowe’s writings on the abolitionist movement. They will learn how Stowe’s commitment to the abolitionist cause was strengthened after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, and how her best-seller was credited with “putting a human face on slavery” and helping launch the Civil War. WATCH: http://to.pbs.org/1IOJJYA

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Monday, November 23, 2015

PBS Teaches Us Symmetry

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
                        --William Blake

Symmetry can be found all around us. You need only look in the mirror to find evidence that the human body is symmetrical. If you draw a line down the middle of your body, you will see that one side is the mirror image of the other side; this is called bilateral symmetry (a.k.a. reflection symmetry or mirror symmetry). 
This is EXACTLY what "fearful symmetry" looks like!

Another common type of symmetry is rotational symmetry. If a figure can be rotated a certain number of degrees about its center and look exactly the same, the figure is said to have rotational symmetry. 

You call this rotational symmetry.  I call it weird.

Plants and animals that exhibit symmetrical features are thought to be healthier than asymmetrical members of their species. In this video segment from Cyberchase, students will learn how symmetry reveals itself in nature. When Bianca wants to learn why her plants keep dying, she turns to a plant expert at the New York Botanical Garden for insight. The expert shows her some patterns in plants, including bilateral and rotational symmetry, before discovering the pattern that may be killing her plants. WATCH: http://to.pbs.org/1O7BVjg

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Day at the WVIZ Ideastream Conference

Tuesday, November 17, was an exciting day.  I battled morning traffic on 77 North to get to the PBS WVIZ Ideastream Conference, and I arrived early enough for a Starbucks treat. When I checked in at the registration table, the nice lady said, "Oh!  You're Stephani.  You need to go see that gentleman at the next table."  Worried that something was wrong, I introduced myself, and he told me to follow an intern.  Next thing I knew, I was in the television studio, the same television studio where I took my students to see Tom Hanks and John Lithgow.

The studio seats about 200 people.  Soon it would be packed!
This time, I would not only be lucky enough to sit in the front row, but I also was honored to present after the keynote speaker, Dr. Susan Finelli.  My name was on the web page and in the program!

There I am!
As I waited, a nice lady fitted me with a body microphone--how surreal is that?  Then we rehearsed until we broke the computer.  I blithely posted selfies while the tech people sweated bullets trying to figure out the problem.

A photo posted by Stephani Itibrout (@itibrout) on

I took a selfie with Jay Wise, History teacher at Copley Middle School and fellow 2015 PBS Digital  Innovator.  The best part is that he is my daughter's teacher, so I texted the pic to her to freak her out.

A photo posted by Stephani Itibrout (@itibrout) on

 Then Jay and I received certificates for being 2015 PBS Digital Innovators, and I got a cool mini-guitar!

Let me say that it was difficult to follow such an interesting speaker (Dr. Finelli), but I breathed deeply and dove in.  Here is the link to my presentation on Community Service in Blended Learning.

I think it went well.

Later, Shannon Conley-Kurjian and I presented a session on using YouTube tools to explain complex concepts.

I attended some great sessions from Stephanie DeMichele, PBS' NewsDepth, and Ann Radefeld, who challenged us to beat some elementary school kids in a game of Mystery Hangout.  They kicked our butts.

After lunch I listened to IdeaTalks from Morgan Kolis ("How to Start a Maker's Club in Ten Steps"), Stephanie DeMichele ("If You're Going to Fail, Make It Epic"), and Eric Curts ("The Big Blank Wall").  The speakers from all of my sessions were so dynamic and so full of information that I felt like I could go back to my school with takeaways I could use immediately.  That doesn't always happen at a conference.

Thank you so much for an amazing day, WVIZ and PBS.  Your conference has inspired me to strive to hone my craft.  I will be back.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

True Grit Revisited

What’s the best predictor of success in a person’s life, including success in education? When it comes to predicting the latter, psychologist and former educator Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth says we need to better understand students and learning from a motivational and psychological perspective. “In education, the one thing we know how to measure best is IQ,” Duckworth says. “But what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?” Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, studies non-IQ competencies, including self-control and grit that predict success both academically and professionally. Over the course of her research, she says one characteristic emerged as the key predictor of success – GRIT. So what exactly is grit? Find out in her TED Talk. http://to.pbs.org/1l9YkmD

It takes a lot of grit to finish a half marathon in hot weather and 80% humidity.

Want to read more about grit in the classroom?  I learned an important lesson in my Blended Learning Rhetoric and Composition class; click here to read the full post on True Grit.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PBS Honors Veterans

Military veterans are extraordinary — their bravery inspires us and their sacrifices secure our freedoms. 

The man on the far right is my Uncle Frankie.  He was sixteen or seventeen (I've hear conflicting stories) when he lied about his age and joined up during WWII.  His biggest problem (he told me) was that he was tiny, and he had to "make weight" to enlist, so he gorged himself before weighing in.  Is this true?  I dunno.  Uncle Frankie had a lot of great stories, and my grandmother ( his big sister) tended to discount most of them, but I didn't care. I loved to listen to him.  Seeing this picture, knowing that Uncle Frankie was involved in an air battle and survived, reminds me that we are so lucky to enjoy the freedoms we have.  I am grateful to all veterans.

This PBS LearningMedia collection of videos, images, and lesson plans allow you to bring their compelling stories from the battlefront into American history and world history classrooms. Students will explore the similarities and differences in veterans’ memories of World War II and Vietnam to uncover how these wars shaped American culture. Your class will also learn about everything from the experiences of men on the battlefield during D-Day, to the decision to drop the atomic bomb, to the events in Somalia in the early 1990’s that inspired the book (and movie) “Black Hawk Down.” EXPLORE: http://to.pbs.org/1MubiHH

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cherokee Language and Nature

The Cherokee believe everything in the environment, from crops and animals to creeks, mountains and even the wind – all have an intelligent spirit and play a central role in daily life. The Cherokee do not view themselves as separate from the environment. Rather, they see themselves as part of it. Their language reflects that. 

“Language is the core to any culture because it is what that culture expresses itself with and it is the dynamic mechanism through which that culture continues,” says Tom Belt, Coordinator of the Cherokee Language Revitalization Program at Western Carolina University. 
Cherokee Syllabary

In this lesson from UNC-TV, students learn about the link between Cherokee language and culture, how it was almost lost to history, and how Western Carolina researchers are working with the Eastern Band of Cherokee to study, preserve and grow the language once again. WATCH: http://to.pbs.org/1LYh823