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9May/130

The Sunflower Project

One of the requirements of being a Google Certified Teacher, is to develop a "personal action plan." The idea for mine came during a discussion with our middle school language arts teacher, Deb Kuhr. Deb told me that she had been reading and discussing Simon Wiesenthal's book, The Sunflower, with her 8th graders. The Sunflower recounts Wiesenthal's personal dilemma (whether partially fiction or entirely non-fiction is apparently the source of some debate) around "the possibilities and limits of forgiveness."

The Sunflower is a book in two parts. Part one is the story of Wiesenthal's experience in a concentration camp as well as a request for forgiveness from a dying Nazi soldier. Part two is a symposium of responses."

"Among respondents to the question are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, former Nazis and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. " (Wikipedia)

In our meeting I learned that the students, moved by the deathbed scene, wanted to create a video re-enactment of that part of the story. I thought it would be interesting to crowdsource the symposium, also through video. We shared the idea with the students, showing them the It Gets Better Project as an example.

 

Next we created the "Would You Forgive?" Google site as a home for the project. The students worked on writing the descriptions for the various pages of the site. They continued working, as part of their language arts class, on the script for the reenactment which was filmed after school and edited by one of the students over spring break. The students also wrote essays articulating their personal responses to the dilemma. Additionally, they video- reflected on the meaning of the entire project.

 

The Sunflower- Student Reflections from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

At the recent edJEWcon conference Mrs. Kuhr and the 8th graders shared the project and the re-enactment with educators from other Jewish schools, requesting that these teachers show the video to their students and solicit video responses. It was impressive to hear the students speak so articulately about their work.

 

 

From my perspective, working with a small class of "seniors" has had its highs and lows. There have been some real "blah" moments, some confusion around project management and productivity, even some questions as to "why are we bothering to do this?"

The edJEWcon session was a high point. The students watched others watch their video. They were able to see and hear outside appreciation for their quality work. This had an impact that surpassed any amount of teacher feedback.

 We still have a lot left to do and not much time left in the school year. The students are excited to promote the site and the re-enactment, to receive and review responses. It is our hope that this work will reach people, touch them and inspire them to think.

 

 

7Jan/130

First Grade Authors

A discussion of basic literary elements (character, setting) using several different picture books led to the creation of eBooks by my first grade students. By creating the eBooks, students were to demonstrate understanding of character, setting, and a sense of sequencing, while practicing their written storytelling skills. To begin the process, I used a wordless picture book (relies entirely on illustrations to tell a story) to allow the students to show off their creativity and imagination while developing their writing skills. They needed to interpret the illustrations (visual literacy) and then write sentences about each picture (reading and writing literacy) to tell a story. I chose a total of six pictures from The Red Book by Barbara Lehman (2004). Students used the Book Creator app on the iPads to create their masterpieces. Following are the various steps:

1. We began by looking at an example, the Butterfly ebook created by our school’s last First grade class (in 2011). We discussed how this book is visible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection and the importance of doing a really good job when publishing.

2. As a class, we used our visual literacy skills to briefly describe all six pictures I had preselected from The Red Book.

3. With a copy of the six pictures in hand, students then each decided on the order of the pictures for their own stories and used a storyboard template to develop their stories.

4. The next lesson was spent transferring (typing) handwritten text from the storyboards to the Book Creator app.

5. Once typing was completed, students created the artwork on paper with colored pencils. I then used each student’s iPad to take photos of the pictures and  imported them into each story.

6. An important part of the eBook creation process was the review and edit process. Students used a Book Checklist while reading through their stories and carefully marking off each box.

Check out some of the very creative eBooks by the 1st grade authors!

Talia's book from Martin J. Gottlieb Day School

The mom and dad from Martin J. Gottlieb Day School

7. Reflections

Lastly, it was time to reflect on our learning. We first reviewed the process of creating our eBooks by remembering all the different steps. We also discussed the different products used (iPad, pencil and paper, storyboard template, editing checklist). Finally, we talked about the skills we learned (identifying literary elements in fiction, using different products, matching illustrations with our sentences, editing our work). Before video recording student reflections, I offered my own reflection as a model for the students.

My Reflection

  • I’ve learned that 1st grade students are very creative.
  • I’ve learned that even though they cannot yet spell many words perfectly, 1st graders like to write. And they like to draw too!
  • I’ve noticed that 1st grade students know all about setting and character and used both in their books.
  • I’ve discovered that 1st grade students quickly learn new words, like font, end mark, and checklist.
  • Also, I’ve discovered that 1st grade students love working with the iPads. They are little wizards with this tool! Swiping and tapping comes naturally to them, and even though I only asked them to change the font size to make it more easily readable, they immediately discovered how to change the font style altogether.
  • I’ve learned that creating eBooks is a great skill builder.
  • I’ve truly enjoyed working with 1st grade on our very first eBook creation!

Student Reflections

Listen to the student reflections in the following brief video. I am looking forward to your feedback!

5Dec/120

Visualizing Stories

I recently found a video of 1st graders using the iPad to visualize a poem that their teacher read to them. After students drew what they imagined, they got into pairs and explained their drawings to a partner. The teacher also circulated to listen and to ask deeper questions of understanding.

The concept inspired our Kindergarten teacher and me to try something similar with our five and 6 year old students. Learning how to listen or read a story and being able to visualize the setting, characters and storyline is an important skill. Being able to "translate" one media (oral text) to another (an illustration) is a critical literacy skill.

Our librarian helped pick a book "How do Dinosaurs say Happy Chanukah", appropriate for this time of year. The Kindergarten teacher explained to the children, that she would be reading the book to them without showing them the pictures. A gasp was heard around the room: "What? No pictures?". Instead they were asked to use their imagination and draw the pictures in their heads first.

We then handed out the iPads and ask them to draw the picture they had formed in their heads on the iPad with the help of Doodle Buddy. Once finished, we saved the images and emailed them to the teacher.

Dinosaurs And Chanukah from langwitches on Vimeo.

22Nov/120

The Making of a Story in Kindergarten and Amplification Thoughts

Kindergarten time is storytelling time: Listening to stories, telling stories, acting stories out, learning how to read your own stories and creating your own stories!

Learning about a holiday, like Thanksgiving in the USA, is the perfect time to cloak the historical origin into a fascinating story for five and six year olds. Who is not excited about a story with Indians, interesting people named "Pilgrims", a ship named Mayflower and a huge feast with "yummy" food?

Our Kindergarten teacher upgraded a traditionally created paper bound class booklet of the students illustrations and text of a Thanksgiving story to creating a TechnoTale. What is a techno-tale? A techno-tale is a digitally told story

By creating a movie, the teacher AMPLIFIED

  • the original reach her students' work had
    ...by embedding the video on the classroom blog, allowing family and friends to watch the movie, regardless of their geographic location and the amount of physical booklets that were available.
  • the learning style
    ...by allowing students to learn through and express themselves in a variety of forms.
  • using different communication media
    ...by giving students the opportunity, not only draw illustrations and add text, but by recording their voices over the illustrations.
  • home-school connection
    ...by allowing students to share something created in the classroom with their families at home, opening doors to further conversation about school and classroom happenings.
  • repetition
    ...The video is personalized (student's voice, student's illustrations) and motivates students to watch over and over again.
  • dissemination
    ...by using different strategies, we actively and strategically share and disseminate our students' work. We blog, tweet, promote and talk about their work with others.

In addition to the TechnoTale video you see above, the Kindergarten class also created a bilingual iPad eBook (Hebrew/English) of their book.

By creating an eBook version, we further AMPLIFIED the original paper booklet and technotale movie by:

  • adding language tracks
    ...by adding a second voice recording in the target language.
  • classroom learning time
    ...by giving students the opportunity to read and practice the target language (Hebrew) beyond the contact time in the classroom.
  • parent-school connection
    ...parents or grandparents, who are native target language speakers are included and encouraged to read the eBook with their children.
  • accessibility
    ....by making the eBook available to download on the classroom blog, we allowed more family and friends to read and listen to the story.
  • distribution
    ...duplication of the book does not cost anything extra, distribution is easy and instant.
  • reach a global audience
    ...by making the file available for download and sharing the created eBook freely, we are encouraging a greater world wide audience for our students.
  • students' legacy (definition of legacy: Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past)
    ...by creating an eBook, which is saved in the school's iTunes account and available on all school iPad iBook shelves for years to come, students in subsequent years, can read, listen and learn from this year's Kindergarten class.

If you own an iPad or iPhone, you can download the ePub file and directly drop it into your iTunes library. Once you sync your device with iTunes, you are able to read our ebook.

If you are reading this post on your iPad or iPhone, simply click on the ePub file and choose to open in iBook.

The above can give you a pretty good idea of the amplification possibilities, a "traditional" analog project, "upgraded" to a digital version can bring. I do want to close, not with more transformative skills or goals for further amplification, but with the LEARNING behind the scenes that went into the production of the TechnoTale and eBook. Take a look...

14Nov/120

Quality Tutorial Designers Checklist

Helping students become quality Tutorial Designers has been on my mind and agenda. The reasons are plentiful, from the train of thought "if you can teach it, you know it", being a vital skill in the 21st century, Alan November's work "Who owns the Learning?"/ "Digital Learning Farm" to tutorials being an important piece in the self-motivated and self-directed learning of our times.

Teaching, nor creating (digital) tutorials, may come natural to everyone. There are are several skills involved. which are valuable for our students to learn.

  • communication
    not only understanding content and process, but being able to express and communicate them to someone else. The communication can be accomplished in a variety of media.
  • collaboration
    curating all student created tutorials in one place (ex. wiki) will create a hub, where students can search for tutorials of content, that they need a refresher on and it creates a depository for students in future years to come.
  • writing
    writing a script is an essential part of tutorial design. Tutorial writing could be considered part of the expository writing and technical writing genre
  • vocabulary
    using specific vocabulary related to the content explained
  • storyboarding
    "Storyboards are graphic organizers in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing"~ Wikipedia
  • digital storytelling
    a tutorial is a special type of story. It requires the "teller" of the story to engage the "listener" via different digital media
  • networking
    tutorials are meant for others to learn from us
  • digital media
    creating, editing, and mixing of a variety of media forms (text, images, audio, video, etc.) and the fluency to work with a variety of media and switch effortless between them
  • empathy
    the ability to understand and share the feelings (ex. not know how to do something or understand) of another

In addition to supporting students in gaining competency and fluency in the above mentioned skills, we  emphasize QUALITY work. It is about depth of content knowledge and  emphasis on showing evidence of learning, not just using a specific technology tool.

In an effort to support teachers and have a handy list for students when creating tutorials, I created the following checklist. The checklist is divided into three parts:

  1. Steps
  2. Technique
  3. Quality Considerations

Each part is divided further into different sections

Steps:

  • storyboarding
  • creation
  • dissemniation

Technique:

  • screencasting
  • audio
  • movie
  • images
  • text
  • comics
  • miscellaneous

Quality Considerations:

  • audio
  • video
  • images
  • text
  • content
  • strategy & procedures

31Aug/120

3rd Graders Explain Avatars

3rd grade students explain what avatars are, why we use them, where we use them and how you can create an avatar.

3rd Grade- What are Avatars? from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

28Jun/120

Kindergarten Math on the iPad…Many Questions…

It all started with a weekly reflection our teachers leave on our school’s closed Professional Development Ning. Mrs. Y, our Kindergarten teacher pondered how her five and six year olds were learning and practicing subtraction:

We blew up balloons last week to demonstrate subtraction! Then popped them one by one – our way of subtracting! The kids enjoyed it but now it’s a little more difficult transferring that idea to the paper. Though we have used cubes, counters, bears etc. and taken some away…

My first suggestion was:

How about using the “ShowMe” app on the iPad to have your students record themselves writing AND narrating a subtraction problem. They could then switch iPads and listen to a classmate explain.

You could also share these screencast videos on your classroom blog and parents and students can review together at home.

Mrs. Y. was game to use the ShowMe app with her Kindergarteners and learn right along with them to use it. She immediately knew that it would be too much to ask for her little ones to draw AND speak at the same time as the app was recording them. We came up with the alternative of students drawing their math story on a piece of paper, taking a photo with the iPad and inserting it into Showme app to record their voices over the image.

Note: We could have done the same in iMovie app, but then would have lost the ability of directly uploading the movie clip with one tap to get an embed code for the classroom blog.

They drew the illustration and then were called up, one by one, to the front of the class to take the picture, insert into ShowMe and record their voices.

Note!: We used the Reflection app to wirelessly project the iPad screen to the SmartBoard for the other kids to see and follow along. The bigger screen for all to see also helped with taking “just the right” picture of their illustration.

Note2: With a little more time available to us to practice, kindergartners are perfectly capable of going through this process (take picture>insert>record>save) by themselves.

Below you can see a few examples of their work.

As you are watching, ask yourself:

  • What changed by using, in this case, the iPad and ShowMe app?
  • Could the same [learning] have been accomplished by keeping students’ illustrations analog?
  • Was there differentiation potential?
  • Can this type of “activity” be used as an assessment to replace/upgrade traditional assessment?
  • Are the movie clips potential artifacts for digital portfolios?
  • Could these movie clips be part of a variety of student work at a parent-teacher conference?
  • Was any learning amplified by placing it on the classroom blog to share with families?
  • What skills were practiced?
  • What literacies were supported?
  • Was it worth the extra time investment, the learning curve?

I believe that teachers need to be AWARE OF, SEE and UNDERSTAND the difference an upgrade could make (or not!)  to their traditional methods.


3Feb/120

Another Student-Created eBook- A Week in 2nd Grade

In the course of our iPad explorations in 2nd grade, some students made the choice to read ebooks that were in the iPad library. One of those books was the butterfly book, written by the first graders. Second graders loved reading the text and looking at the illustrations and photos in this beautiful book. They were also inspired to create an ebook of their own.

Julia reading the 1st Grader's Butterfly Book

Julia, who loves looking at the daily agenda, suggested that it would be fun to write a book about a day in 2nd grade. After discussions with the class, we settled on the plan to collaboratively create a book detailing, "A Week in 2nd Grade."

The first step was a collaborative brainstorming session to decide the most important and interesting things to include in the book. It was decided that each student would be responsible for writing and illustrating (via a photo taken with the iPad) one page. After deciding what to include and assigning pages, students used a graphic organizer as a pre-write to brainstorm ideas for their topic. 

The next step in the process was to write a paragraph using paper and pencil. Finally, students were ready to use the Book Creator app on the iPad to create their page. As students worked on various stages of the writing process, teachers met one-on-one with the students to help them edit their writing. Because this process was quite long, not every piece of writing was perfectly edited. We felt that it was important to actually finish the project and publish the book and teachers did not edit student work without the student's participation. The writing you see, therefore, is authentic 2nd grade work and may contain some errors in spelling or grammar.

If you own an iPad or iPhone, you can download the ePub file  and directly drop it into your iTunes library. Once you sync your device with iTunes, you are able to read our ebook .

If you are reading this post on your iPad, simply click on the ePub file and choose to open in iBook.

22Nov/110

Transliteracy- QR Codes & Art

Transliteracy is defined on Wikipedia as

The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. The modern meaning of the term combines literacy with the prefix trans-, which means “across; through”, so a transliterate person is one who is literate across multiple media.

Ryan Nadel, in an interview on Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, defines transliteracy even further:

“The most fundamental notion of transliteracy is the ability to adapt. It’s creating a literacy and fluidity between mediums that’s not tied to space or modality.”

I agree with Ryan: Transliteracy is closely related to “fluency“:

  • the ability to know when to use one media over another
  • the ability to move effortlessly between media
  • the ability to comprehend, build upon, and remix different kind of media
  • the ability to relate, communicate and connect via multiple forms of media
  • moving between media feels: intuitive, unconscious and smooth

Let me share a transliterate learning opportunity with you that I created (Art, iPads, QR codes, Language Arts and Digital Storytelling)  in collaboration with our Art teacher, Mrs. Gutterman and the 4th grade classroom teacher, Mrs. Teitelbaum?

During Art class, fourth graders adapted Vincent van Gogh’s chairs and placed things on and  around them that were important to them.

In Language Arts, students wrote a script, explaining their choices of what they drew and why it was important to them.

We all gathered in the library to record their script as an audio file on the iPad. We used the AudioMemos app (free) to record. Students then emailed the wav file to me.

We created QR Codes (Quick Response) to be attached to the original art work.

Now anyone with a QR scanner on their Smartphone, iTouch or iPad walking by the art work, can scan and listen to the student artist’s audio reflection. The next step was to create a poster to catch the attention of the visitors and parents walking by and give a short explanation of what to do with the QR code

 

Watch out for all the 4th grade Art work to be exhibited with their corresponding QR codes in the lobby!

 

3Oct/110

First Graders- First iPad Encounters

ipad-bookcreator-slide

The iPads are finally set up and ready to go into the classrooms! It happened to be our first graders who were the first ones to get their hands on them!

Our first graders just finished a unit on butterflies. It was the perfect timing to work with them and create an ebook about the different stages of a butterfly and show their learning reflection as a culminating activity of that unit.

Students wrote a story, as a class, about the different stages of the butterfly. We shared their words with our Art teacher, Mrs. Gutterman, who is now working with our students to create the illustrations for the book.

The first time, I brought the iPads into the class, we spent time talking about the care and handle of the devices.

When picking the iPad up from the teacher we reminding them to

  • carry the iPad with two hands to their desk
  • set them down as quietly as possible
  • don’t hold the iPad from the SmartCover
  • don’t walk around the classroom with an iPad in your hand
  • no pulling, showing or tugging on someone else’s iPad

It was important to also introduce “iPad” vocabulary to our first graders, so we would all be able to use a common language when instructing or asking questions. We introduced this first time the following lingo:

  • Home button
  • screen
  • swiping
  • sliding
  • tap
  • apps
  • icons
  • pinch in/ pinch out
  • front camera
  • back camera

The introduction was done with the whole class. We then split into groups. These groups rotated in and out of the classroom to go to Art to start working on their watercolor illustrations. The rest stayed with us in the classroom to become familiar with the iPad.

We projected the iPad to the screen at the front of the room to show them the two apps we would be “playing” with that day: iBooks,  Doodle Buddy.

As we showed them a student created eBook , as an example,  it was the perfect opportunity to examine some of the similarities (author, illustrator, text, images) and differences (spine, turning pages vs. swiping pages) between a traditional printed book and an eBook.

Each student then was free to read the eBooks we had pre-loaded on the iPad, and then move on to Doodle Buddy. They discovered quickly the Tic-Tac-Toe and Maze backgrounds as well as the stickers with attached sounds. All in all it was a great way for students to get comfortable with touching, swiping, sliding, drawing and overall handling of the iPad.

 

By the second encounter, students were ready to learn to use the built-in camera app of the iPad2. We had the entire class together for this session. We showed them the location of each little camera on he front and back of the device and helped them locate the camera app. There were lots of giggles when they learned how to switch between the front and back facing camera. They then could practice taking their own picture. Not an easy task, when keeping in mind to LOOK at the camera lens, instead of the button to shoot the picture.

We showed them WHERE to find the pictures that they took (Photo Album) and how to swipe through the images.

The following time I came to the first grade classroom, it was time to introduce them to the Book Creator app. This time the iPads were part of a center that students rotated through.

We reviewed how to find and open an app. I then showed them how to insert the image that they took of themselves the previous day. They then practiced resizing and moving the image.

During journal time, first graders had written a short reflection about what they had learned about butterflies during their unit of study. They also included a sentence how they felt about it.  They brought their (paper) journal to the table and learned how to bring up the iPad keyboard and to type their text.

A hush fell over the center as all the students were busy :

  • sounding words out
  • finding the letters on the keyboard
  • inserting spaces
  • learning that the cursor will automatically advance to the next line, if they ran out of space
  • being amazed that the iPad will capitalize the first word after a period automatically, etc.

I kept a student as a “helper” from a previous center rotation when a new student rotated into the center in order to help me with pointing out the insert image or text icons or location of the space bar or delete button.

Looking back at these three “First Encounters with the iPad” sessions with our first graders, I am excited and thrilled. I can “feel” the potential, the engagement and motivation of the students. I can see how the devices will become a tool to bring instant information, growing collaboration, and creativity to the classroom.

Alan November’s powerful words on the motivating and empowering factor of “Leaving a Legacy“, in regards  to student learning, are ringing in my ears. We will be sharing the iPads among ALL of our students (K-8). I can  see how we can develop a cross grade level and cross subject area support center, media center, and library FOR and BY our students. My hope is that students will take ownership of these iPads to contribute their best work, knowing that they will be sharing it with the rest of the school.

The work students are doing with their “Butterfly Book”, will not only be seen by their current teacher and their parents, but will be part of research and background information for upcoming students in years to come.

Stay tuned as we will be sharing the final ePub version of the butterfly book for you to download to your own iPad, iPhone or Kindle.