About Beth Gryczewski

My Bio via Animoto, A Presentation for my Students

This year, I would like my students to utilize more interesting presentation tools. For now, they are content with Powerpoint, which is fine, but some presentation tools create a more powerful presentation. Prezi is a powerful presentation tool that offers unexpected visuals, and some of my students have embraced that. However, I would like to introduce them to Animoto this year. One of my first week assignments is to have the kids prepare some sort of introduction about themselves so that I can learn their names, interests, and something historical they did in the summer (I am a History teacher, after all). I will often introduce myself to them using the method of introduction that I expect them to use for me (you, know, as a model). I have created my introduction to my new classes; I hope it makes them want to use Animoto as a presentation tool all year long. Animoto speaks for itself:

 

 


My Educational Philosophy, con't.

...and effective problem solvers, acquiring the ability to work out problems on their own through logical and critical thinking.  To that end, I stress critical thinking and writing in my courses, formulating an understanding of historical themes, events and causes rather than encouraging the memorization of facts and figures.  My courses are designed around essential questions, and the investigation of these questions through primary source research, debate, discussion, and group projects, among other things.

Creative use of technology is essential to successful teaching.  It is what the kids know, so using it thoughtfully enhances, not only enthusiastic participation, but also understanding of the subject matter.  I use technology in the class in many creative ways:  My classes utilize wikispaces for classroom collaboration; we have an online current events journal that I created and maintain; we use a faux Facebook (called Whigbook) during our study of the American Revolution, in addition to using blogs, podcasts, SmartBoard technology and other useful technology for learning.  Integrating the iPad in my classroom in thoughtful ways is my latest endeavor to technology usage in the classroom.

Teachers should remain lifelong learners themselves.  The fall of 2009 was an exciting time for historians interested in the events of 1989; it was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in the Eastern European bloc countries.  I am one of those historians interested in these events, so I greatly enjoyed the many celebrations and commemorations that were held.  In November 2009, I was fortunate to have been able to participate in the reenactment at George Mason University of building a replica of the Berlin Wall, and then bringing it down.  Had we been studying this in the classes that I teach, I would have arranged for my students to participate in this reenactment of history; I believe that students learn by doing.

Although lecture and note taking are important skills that students need to learn, I believe it is important for students to be actively engaged in doing history.  For this reason, most of my classes are geared towards doing history, so they are project-based, and tend to focus on primary sources as much as possible.  Students learn so much more about the issues and events while they are working on projects, or reenactments, as I described above, rather than sitting and listening to a lecture.  Projects include many things like debates, mock trials, press conferences, speeches (informal and formal), and other collaborative work.  Each year, I require the students to write a major research paper, which I help to guide them through. That having been said, I am well aware that my students enjoy a great story once in a while, so I will, from time to time, tell them interesting stories about important events, giving them background information that they may need to complete a task.

Enthusiasm, dedication, and flexibility are essential in teaching.  I am passionate about history, but at the same time find myself often inspired by my students.  They become infected with my enthusiasm about a topic or project, which in turn can reinvigorate my interest in the issues.  Each year I can become excited about studying the same topics but for very different reasons, depending on how my students approach the subject. Their perspectives on historical events or issues allow me to think about issues in very different ways.  Their fresh views allow me to see these old issues through fresh eyes, and that is exciting!