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21st Century Upgrades from the Classroom

One of the creations that we had planned for students to show their research and knowledge about historic figures of the American Revolution was to create a fake facebook profile page. Since the students are under the age of 13, they created them offline in a PowerPoint slide, which we later uploaded to their classroom blog. There are quite a few few facebook templates floating around online for you to use. Thank you to the person (I am sorry that I can't give proper name credit), who created the following one that we ended with.

Kids were very excited about creating these pages, since at their age, "Facebook" represents something "cool" and "...when you are older..." for them. Once we got started, we ran into several hurdles though:

  • Platform Familiarity: Although some of them (11 year olds) seem to have already an account of their own, peek over the shoulder of an older sibling or family member, there were quiet a few who were not familiar with the entire structure and the connections between friends, posts, profile, comments, likes, etc. Many of them had to get a handle on the reverse chronological order of posts.
  • Process: After requiring a rough draft (paper version) of their facebook profile before they were able to start working on the electronic file, proved to be wise.
  • Language: The concept of going beyond a "cool", "awesome", "Yeah, kill the British" type comments was the hardest to get across. Not all of them succeeded. We explained again, that they had to put themselves into the shoes of their character. How would they have written, if a communication medium like Facebook would have been available.
  • Content: We had to repeat over and over again, that this page and its content had to SHOW their research and knowledge about the selected person. They needed to embed facts in the "conversation" between their character and their "fictitious" friends. We wanted them to show connections between events, characters and political point of view.
  • Logistics: Some students had difficulty working in the PowerPoint environment and got very frustrated with the formatting issue. Moving text boxes around, aligning them properly, resizing text and images to fit their allotted spaces, etc., was not as smooth as we anticipated. We allowed the students who became frustrated to fill out a paper-version of the


In addition to the Facebook pages, the class worked with Mrs. Hernandez to create a Snopes- Urban Legends inspired video. What myths about the American Revolution could they debunk? Students used the a range of programs (their choice) to produce a short intro video:


Here are a few examples of the Snopes movies.

Part of the planning and reflection was to use the "Upgrade to 21st Century Skills, Literacies, & Roles" template and fill in the skill and literacies addressed. The template helps teachers realize how many skills and literacies they are addressing with a single unit upgrade. Over the course of a year, it also helps to make sure that we rotate through all roles to empower learners, even if one upgrade does not address (and does not need to) all roles.

Please click on the individual images to see a larger version.

21st Century Skills Addressed

21st Century Literacies Addressed

Roles to Empower Learners




4th Graders Create Math Tutorials for Peers

They say

If you can teach know it!

We put 4th grade Math students to the "test"... well not really... No traditional test was required to show their understanding of multiplication. Based on Alan November's work of "The Digital Learning Farm", which he also outlines in his chapter of Heidi Hayes Jacobs' book "Curriculum 21", we asked our students to be Tutorial Designers.

We started our with a lesson on good tutorial design:

In groups, students set out to write scripts of their tutorials. Each group decided to use different tools to create a video visualizing the math problem and the step by step solution. We had one group creating a PowerPoint document, another one used sticky notes and the third group used various apps on the iPad to film and record.

The process of creating a simple tutorial was elaborate. From breaking the multiplication process up into individual steps, to being able to express these steps verbally and visually to creating a storyline around the math problem/solution to make it flow.

Take a look at the final product of each group.


Audiobook & Podcast by Our First Graders

Mrs. Loeser and her first graders were ready to create another episode for our MJGDS podcast. Mrs. Loeser started reading a chapter book  from the famous Magic Tree House series in class.

Mrs. Loser reading Dinosaur Before Dark

She stayed one step ahead of me in reading and scripting each chapter, as I took three students (Interviewer's, Jack's & Annie's voice) at the time out of the classroom to record them.

Recording the Script

As I was pulling the students out to record,  Mrs. Loeser continued reading, chapter by chapter, and creating the interview script to be recorded with the students. By the time the last chapter was recorded, I had ten written scripts collected. I was able to create a little booklet for the first graders, so they would be able to follow along as they were listening to the podcast.


The audio file is about 15 minutes long. As the class listened to the podcast for the first time in it's entirety, they had their little fingers on the paper to follow along. Each chapter ending was followed with a special sound to indicate that a new chapter was about to start. This helped any student who had lost their place on the script.


Read- Along

Once we had finished listening to the podcast, I asked their teacher give them a few minutes to write down a couple of sentences about their experience.

My thoughts:

  • It amazes me every time. Students are so engaged, wanting to re-record, if their voice, didn't sound "just" right.
  • Students (6-7 year olds) are very interested in the mechanics of Garageband (ex. tracks, dead air, sound clips, moving clips, etc).
  • Students started to experiment with their voices: inflection, fluency, pitches, emotions, volume, speed...
  • The written script as an add-on to the audio file was a bonus. Students are eager to "read-along" as they were listening to their podcast.
  • I really like to expand the reflection piece as part of the podcasting process.
  • In the future I want to involve students by giving them ownership and time to "play" on their own in Garageband to record and edit their voices.
  • We need to do this earlier in the year to be able to connect our students with other podcasting children around the world. Take a look at my blog post from last year when I asked: A Worldwide Audience for Six Year Olds?

Listen to these first graders make "Dinosaurs Before Dark" come alive with their voices.

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If you are interested, you can download the mp3 file of the audio and the pdf file of the script for your child at home, upload them to your mp3 player. Now they can listen to the audio as they read along.

If you have an iTunes account, you can subscribe to the MJGDS iTunes Podcast Channel. For step-by-step instructions take a look at the Guide To Subscribe to MJGDS iTunes Podcast Channel.

If you own an iPad/ iPhone/iTouch and the iBooks app, you can also download the epub file to then import it to the iBook app (free)  to read the script as a book like any other on your shelf. If you also upload the mp3 file to iTunes, you will now have a Read-Along audio book with the iBook and iPod combination.

Import into iBooks

Even the dictionary part works, as you hold one finger down on a word, the dictionary caption pops up with a definition.

Script opened in iBook



Let’s Talk About Summer

Recommended Resources-

Virtual Bookshelf-


Blog Tutorial by our Second Graders:

Audio Recording-

Scratch (free download)

Problem Solving-
Fantastic Contraption

Keyboarding Practice-
Dance Mat Typing
Krazy Keyboarding for Kids
Type Racer

Pixie Parent Guides- free resource for parents (grade and subject specific). Pixie is wonderful, creative software that we use at school. It can be downloaded and used free for 30 days at Tech4Learning also has a parent purchase program if you are interested in purchasing their software at significant savings.
Tux Paint (free download)
National Gallery of Art - some great interactive tools for creating and learning about art

Digital Storytelling-

Book Builder

Have a wonderful summer! Learn, create, share...


Storyboarding: Pre-Writing Activity

The more we podcast and have our students create video clips or other digital storytelling projects, the more we need to teach storyboarding as part of the process. Being able to pre-visualize how your story will unfold is becoming a vital skill to have for storytellers.

Storyboards are defined as:

Graphic organizers such as a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence, including website interactivity.

In the book by Roger Essley "Visual Tools for Differentiating Reading & Writing Instruction: Strategies to Help Students Make Abstract Ideas Concrete and Accessible", he says

Storyboarding, or picture writing, is the origin of all written languages, used by ancient cultures before text evolved and as a natural bridge to text. The Chinese language was built using pictographs. Egyptians used storyboards, or hieroglyphics, first etched in stone and later written on papyrus, to organize a complex society and to rule the ancient world.

Pre-Writing is defined as

Pre-writing is the first stage of the writing process, typically followed by drafting, revision, editing and publishing. Elements of prewriting may include planning, research, outlining, diagramming, storyboarding or clustering.

I have experimented with several storyboarding tools, from the paper and pencil method to iPad apps. Students and I are both finding the creation of the storyboard extremely helpful as we are collaborating on creating podcasts and movies.

I created a Word Doc, that is easily edited with the title of the storytelling project and printed out to be distributed to students. (Download the Word Doc Template)

Storyboarding Template Created in Word

We have also asked students to directly use their writing journals to storyboard their ideas for a script. Students use their storyboard to write their script in sequence and to supervise and help as we edit the movie together.

Individual Storyboarding in Journal

Storyboarding in Journal

One of my favorite places to create a storyboard together with the students in on the SmartBoard. We use the Notebook software to draw the different scenes that will need to be filmed and which actors will be participating in each scene.

Collaborative Storyboarding on SmartBoard

The following storyboard was also created with the SmartBoard Notebook. This time we used screenshots to illustrate the images we were imagining for the green screen background replacement.

Collaborative Storyboarding with Screenshots

We printed the storyboard out for all students to have and to use as they were going to write their parts of the script. It helped them understand their individual role in the collaborative whole of the story. Once we finished recording the script (which often happened to be film completely out of sequence) , I made it a point to involve students in the editing process.

As the storyboard area of iMovie was displayed on the projector, students were using their paper storyboard printout to help me drag and drop individual video clips in the correct order , add sounds, transitions and text. The storyboard made it possible to pull all the individually written scripts and out-of-order filmed video clips into a coherent sequence.

I am just starting to experiment with storyboard apps on my iPad. I am sure similar apps exist for the Android market or other tablet computers.

Storyboards Premium allows you to create a background scene, insert actors and text.

StoryPages HD allows you to draw your own board and add text in a different pane. You can move different pages in order on the page grid and email the final board as a pdf file.

Our Art teacher, Shana Gutterman, collaborated with us by teaching a lesson on storyboarding techniques to the students.

For more examples of storyboarding, take a look at the following article and posts:

  • R.Alfonso's blog EETT & Making Movies
  • What Are Storyboards?
    Storyboarding, or picture writing, is the origin of all written languages. Storyboards are widely used because we know pictures combined with text offer a rich synthesis of information that can entertain and inform. The pictures in picture writing can be simple cartoons, photographs, or sophisticated technical diagrams. This technique can be an invaluable tool when differentiating reading and writing instruction....
  • Differentiated Instruction: Developing a Storyboarding Classroom
    Tips on how to use visual tools, such as storyboarding, to differentiate instruction in a reading program....

More on Digital Storytelling: Green Screen

I can't stop thinking about Digital Storytelling and its role in schools of the future. Digital Storytelling naturally weaves through so many 21st century upgrades to the curriculum. The importance of being able to tell a story, the skills to be able to tell a story digitally, is increasing with the need to

  • disseminate the story further and reach a wider audience
  • amplify our voice to an authentic audience
  • make our story available in different media channels

As the tools for digital storytelling are becoming more sophisticated and at the same time easier to use, in terms of mobility and price, the opportunity to produce a quality, professional looking story are within the reach of "even" elementary school students.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a Green Screen for under $20 (Chromakey muslin background) and pinned it to the wall in my room.

Students were naturally curious about the green screen and immediately got excited as I showed them what was possible with test recordings of them... sending them to the moon... making them stand in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris... all without even leaving our school campus.

Mrs. Rogo immediately jumped on board as she was preparing her Social Studies unit on "Our Community". We decided that students would create another episode of the Seminole Swamp Morning News Show.

In addition to creating a storyboard and writing the script for the show "Jacksonville for Kids by Kids", students had to think of an appropriate setting by choosing an image that would replace the green screen they would be filmed in front of. Their imagination was not limited by any field trip budgets or time constraints.

Collaborative Storyboarding with Screenshots

We practiced a few times in front of the green screen to show kids how to interact with the "not visible to them" background as I was filming them. They got the hang of it pretty quick.

Take a look at the final video and pay special attention to the Florida map and the alligator a the zoo.

Take a look at the finished story of our third graders (news show format) to teach others about the community they live in. Remember again, that the green screen and iMovie was just the tool to get the kids excited and motivated while at the same time supporting their creativity in script writing.


Florida Explorers: Storybook- Collaborative Writing

In Florida, the fourth grade curriculum calls for students to learn about the explorers of the 15th and 16th century who came to its coast and influenced the history of the state. As Mrs. Raitt and I were sitting together to plan the upgrade of the unit, we looked at the instructional goals, standards and objectives. We reminded ourselves of the 21st century skills and literacies we wanted to incorporate into the lessons for students to be exposed to and practice.

We decided to create a storybook, using an online tool, Mixbook, where students contributed different parts of a common storyline.

During one class, students collaboratively worked on ideas for a possible storyline and how each explorer would be represented and how groups would be able to research and contribute their portion of a story.

Brainstorming a storyline

Students started getting their creative juices flowing and kept coming up with more and more ideas to add to the list. Excitement in the class grew larger by the minute. Mrs. Raitt saved the notebook page with the ideas jotted down as an image and uploaded it to her classroom blog. She extended the brainstorming session by asking her students to add their storyline ideas as comments to the blog post. The class would vote on a final storyline once back in class.

Here are a few comments:

This is going to be a cool project! Here is a idea for the story part :

One day of school, the entire 4th grade find notes in there binders to go to Old St. Augstine to go back in time. To solve mysteries…….. explore new lands. but the question is : WHO sent them ?

Our class is in our classroom, and we are learning about explorers in Florida. We all fall asleep and have the same dream. Our dream is about us meeting explorers. They tell us important facts and cool stuff about them.

Thats cool Brianna! I really like it. Now here is my idea……..

We are searching up explorers and all of a sudden the explorers come out of the computer screen. When they do, they tell us all about their lives/adventures. Then we all wanted to know more since we all liked it. They all told us some facts about themselfes. It was so much fun that we felt like we were actually travaling with them when they were telling us about their adventures/stories/travels. We all said goodbye and then all of a sudden, they went back onto the comuter screen. We all wish that they would come back soon!

Thats the story I think we should do. :)

Once the class decided on a final storyline, we created a Google Doc and invited all students to edit. We started out with a beginning sentence and asked students to log in from home to add at least one more sentence. They were not to delete a previous sentence, but continue writing the introduction of their Explorer Story. They were also asked to insert a comment if they had an idea how to expand a previously written sentence by a classmate. In class, we read the collaboratively written paragraph and edited and expanded where necessary. We also asked the students to start thinking of visuals, images that would complement their story and could be inserted into their storybook.

Collaboratively writing the introduction and conclusion

Students then started their research about their assigned explorers. They also looked for creative commons or public domain images that they could upload and use for their storybook. Once found, they uploaded these images to Mixbook.

Uploading images to Mixbook

Students took turns to create and design the layout of their individual pages and then inserted and formatted the appropriate images and text.

Layout & Text Entry

Enjoy the completed storybook below. You may go directly to Mixbook where you can order a printed version of the book.


Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks! | View Sample Photo Books | Create your own Photo Book

Listening- Comprehension-Podcasting

As a former World Language teacher, I know of the importance of hearing the target language as much as possible. In order to internalize a new vocabulary word, you have to hear it at least 70+ times. By hearing I mean not only the sounds of the letters that make up the word, but also the context the word is embedded in... the melody of the sentence that embraces that word... the words that lead up to it and the words that follow it to make meaning and conclude the sentence.

When learning a language, it is especially important to attach a feeling to a word in order to make meaning of how it will be used in the future with maybe other words surrounding it than the ones originally learned. It is equally important to give language learners the opportunity to practice using the words, sentences and melodies and help them be comfortable in pronouncing them and feeling and hearing them come out of their mouth.

Recording a podcast and the EDITING of the podcast is a great tool, especially for language learners to play with the mechanics of the language. It gives the learners the opportunity to see their voices, read the sounds, manipulate the sequence of sentences, sounds can be deleted, edited, emphasized and re-arranged similar than a word processing program can do this with the written word.

Our second graders were learning the story of Purim a few weeks ago. Their teacher and I planned to have the students record the story as a podcast to be shared with their parents on their classroom blog. Students had had experience with podcasting the previous year as they produced Flat Stanley and a Magic Tree House podcast as first graders.

Their Jewish Studies teacher worked with each of them to write individual parts in Hebrew to create a script of the Purim Story. Collaboratively the class had to make sure that the entire story was told between them.

Then we started recording them in Garageband. We recorded each student's sentence, but were careful to record the sentences completely out of order.

The children loved listening to their recordings over and over again. Once all the parts were recorded it was time for the students to edit the podcast file and move each clip into the correct order to tell the story of Purim.

Putting audio clips into order

We connected the computer to the SmartBoard which allowed students to come up to the board to use their fingers in order to find a certain place in the recording, play, pause, start, listen and decide to which position the clip should be moved to.

Listening Comprehension

Again, I would like to emphasize that this project was NOT about using Garageband (the tool). It was NOT about producing a podcast (the genre) . This lesson was about writing a script, listening, comprehension, collaboration, speaking skills, and fluency in the target language. The tool allowed us to manipulate sounds, re-listen, think critically and logically about the best way to present the story- all in the target language. The genre allowed us to share our work, amplify our reach, gain an authentic audience and motivate students to create and be creative.

Even if you don't speak Hebrew, take a moment and listen to these 7 and 8 year olds. Listen to their fluency, melody and motivation in their voices. Maybe you want to leave them a comment to let them know you "heard" them.

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Behind the Scenes of a “Quality Commenting” Video

Take a few minutes to watch the following "Quality Commenting on Blogs" video by third graders. Then follow along the description of the creation process and "behind the scenes" work that went into the production of the video. Let's dissect the video creation and look at the learning process itself.

We were inspired by Mrs. Yollis's 3rd grade "How to Compose a Quality Comment" Video...

...and watching our own 2nd grade class' tutorial "How to Navigate the Classroom Blog",...

..our third graders were ready to create their own video about "Quality Comments". For the ones that believe a 5 minute video takes about 5 minutes to produce... you are in for a surprise...

We started out by brainstorming what we already knew about commenting. What does quality even mean? What would a "quality comment" on the third grade classroom blog mean? We then compared what we came up with with Mrs. Yollis's advice.

Quality Commenting Brainstorming

We really liked how Mrs. Yollis' svideo had their Panda bear woven into the script. So our third graders came up with the idea of writing their scripts around being a newscast. It was a perfect timing, since one of our school's family had just been featured in our local news.

Watching a sample Newscast video clip

It was time to introduce the concept of storyboarding. How could we make sure that we were going to include all of the brainstormed ideas of what a quality comment was in our news show? What characters would we need in the show? Who would take what part?

Storyboarding as a Class

The class created a collaborative storyboard that everyone was happy with. The next part was for each student to write their script. What were they going to say in the movie? How could they teach others how to leave a quality comment?

Students wrote their scripts, had them peer edited and classroom teacher approved before they went into the computer lab to type the group scripts (anchors/reporters/interviewees) into a Google Doc, which they shared with me.

A tip I learned from Dean Shareski's K12Online Conference Keynote was to use my iPad as a teleprompter. I had downloaded the iPrompt Pro app, then copied and pasted each group's script from the shared Google Docs into the app and we were ready to start filming.

Students were reflecting, writing and drawing about their experiences during the process of creating the video in their (paper) journals.

Filming started and the kids were very enthusiastic and patient as we had to re- film several scenes over and over again. They started to be their own critics, wanting to do their best work.

As we filmed different scenes (out of order due to time challenges, illnesses and absences), the storyboard became even more important. Although students did not edit the video directly, I tried to involve them as much as possible in the process. By projecting the iMovie project onto the big screen, I asked them to use their previously created storyboard and "read" alongside as the movie played. I paused several times in between to have them help me "predict" the next scene and help me drag and drop the correct clip into place. They also helped suggest appropriate text titles placed onto the movie clips and had the final say in approving the movie before it was exported.

Extending the Classroom

We could have ended learning about quality commenting with the completion of the video... but... how do we make more connections for our students? How do we take learning off the pages off the book, open up the walls of our classroom and tear down the barriers of subject separation in the context of the school day? How can we extend the learning that took place during the production of the video?

It was a logical choice to try to connect with Mrs. Yollis's class from California. It was them who inspired us to start thinking about quality comments. After reaching out to Mrs. Yollis on Twitter, they immediately left us a comment on our blog.

Students could put their newly found "quality commenting" skills to use by responding to their California peers.

Mrs. Yollis's comment on our 3rd grade classroom blog

We arranged a skype call with Mrs. Yollis's class. The students loved recognizing their students (and Panda!) from the video. We learned a lot about their state and school community as well as shared facts about ours.

Take a look at Mrs. Yollis's blog post about our Skype connection or view this short video below.

The conversation between the two classes is continuing via the classroom blogs!


Florida is two hours away from Orlando. How far is Los Angeles to Disneyland?

Evie, Jonah, Yoni

We had a wonderful time skyping with you! One thing we learned is that the highest point in Los Angeles is 14,000 feet. Thank you for letting us skype with you.

Your Friends
Ben, Drew, and Zoe

The differences between Florida and California are California has mountains and Florida is flat. California gets earth quakes and Florida gets hurricanes. California doesn't get much rain, Florida gets a lot!

your friends from Martin Jay Gottlieb Day School,

Jamie and Elior

Hi this is Liam,Itamar and Zachary from the 3rd grade we loved skyping with you we learned a lot.How long did it take to make your movie? What inspired you to make your movie? Did you get the idea of making your movie about quality comment from watching another video?We would like to skype with you again! The ocean here is very warm most of the year it's in the eighty's.

Dear Mrs. Yollis,

We enjoyed skyping because we learned new things about California.
We like skyping because you get to meet people around the world.
We think it is cool that you live 20 miles away from L.A. !

Rebecca,Savonnie,Ethan :)

Lindsay and Adia said...

Lindsay♥ and Adia♥

Dear Rebecca, Savonnie, and Ethan,

This is Lindsay and Adia from Mrs. Yollis' class. We loved your comment! It doesn't seem as if you are beginners! You are amazing commenters!

We had a fun time skyping with you too! Have you ever been to Disneyland in L.A.? If you have been in Disneyland before, how did you like it? Did you meet any Disney characters? What was your favorite ride?

Both of us have been to Disneyworld in Florida. Adia loved meeting Minnie Mouse because she was so cute! Lindsay liked meeting Mickey. It was extremely fun!

P.S. Adia earned her own blog and she included the URL for you. It is above their greeting

Dear Ben, Drew, and Zoe,

We loved skyping with you. It was wonderful learning about your community, and sharing about our community. A similarity is we both live near the ocean. A difference is that we live across the country! We are very excited to be your blogging friends.

Jaden and T:-)cker

So, do you still think that creating a 5 minute video takes about 5 minutes? Do you still think that the only thing that students "got out of" filming the video was FUN? It was NOT about using the technologies and creating a movie.

It was about

  • the writing process: brainstorming, pre-writing, drafting, revising, proofreading and publishing
  • all the skills and literacies that students touched upon and practiced
  • extending the classroom and finding an authentic audience
  • making connections with experts and peers from outside of our local community
  • collaboratively working together

Take a look at the following template, I have been using with the teachers to plan and reflect when upgrading a lesson or unit to include 21st century skills, literacies and the roles to empower learners (based on Alan November)

The "X" indicates a role that we did not assign to anyone in this particular upgrade. It is not necessary to use all the roles all the time, but by documenting the roles that were used we, as planners and facilitators, become aware of what we might want to focus on the following upgrade.

Digital Storytelling is a wonderful and natural medium of the 21st century.

Digital Storytelling Skills

And here without further ado is the final product. The Seminole Swamp Morning Show:

Students are so proud of their work, they invited their parents into the classroom to present the story "Behind the Scenes" of the creation of their video.

By taking images of every step of the process, we created another storyboard. This time we used PowerPoint to show the scenes. Each student was responsible to tell about one step of the process with the appropriate slide being projected in the background.


Christopher Columbus Creates 21st Century Explorers

Christopher Columbus Creates 21st Century Explorers

It all started out with a planning meeting with our 5th grade teacher. We used iThoughtsHD on the iPad to brainstorm and sketch out some of our ideas for the unit. The visual helped us see the big picture and made it easy to add components in areas that we felt needed upgrades in terms of 21st century skills and literacy. We wanted to give students research opportunities that went beyond their textbook and library. We wanted them to be exposed to multiple perspectives and come up with their own conclusion about the historical figure "celebrated" here in the USA on October 12th of every year.

Christopher Columbus Unit Plan

We had a meeting with students to talk about the Christopher Columbus unit. Collaboratively we created a KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart on the iPad and got them thinking about THEIR contribution to the research about the historic figure. We decided that the culminating project and assessment would be a class movie. Each student would contribute a segment with their research findings. The segment could be a presentation, dance, song, etc. Mrs. Z, their teacher created a Google Doc, which she shared with all her students. After thinking and negotiating project partners, they added their contribution ideas to the document. Some students needed more help than others form their teacher. Using Google Docs as a class community greatly contributed to the collaborative nature of the learning taking place.

  • Jilliyn- Skype with people Mrs. Tolisano has made contact with in other countries.
  • Shira-”Skype Team”-when we interview students from other countries about what they learn about Columbus. You must research first about the other country and then formulate your questions for the interview.
  • Josh-research statistics about Columbus’s voyages-how many sailors were on board, etc. and formulate questions to ask when we interview people about Columbus and interview Ms.Stein.
  • Edyn-perform a play about Columbus. Either write your own play based on research you do on Columbus or check with Mrs. Tolisano -she has a play you can use.
  • I think it would be good if you had commentators to speak after you do your play. They would decide whether your performance was mostly fact or fiction based on research yes
  • Hannah-Dance-BUT-you must also create a song about Columbus based on research about his life. Interview Mrs. Tolisano.
  • Ryan-research and see if any movies and/or video games have been made about Columbus--Maybe check educational channels too such as Discovery and PBS and try to view the programs (with your parents or my approval first)
  • Allie- I will interview Mrs. Rogo. about Christopher Columbus, be in a play and make a Power Point about important dates in Christopher Columbus’ life.
  • Sabrina- Find books about Christopher C. and see how the authors portray him and interview Mrs. Rogo--must submit interview questions to me for approval first and you will need someone to film the interview with the flip camera. Also-did you want to perform in the play?
  • Max-videographer...commentator/fact checker
  • Daniel-I know you are interested in you will research and make a timeline of Columbus’s life. Include at least ten important dates.
  • Rachel-Why did Christopher Columbus take his journey? What happened to the prisoners after the journey? How hard did he work during his journey? You must research several sources to find you answers and TELL me what sources you used.
  • Montgomery-research why Columbus decided it would be a good idea to sail West and not East.
  • Lance-I would like for you to interview Mrs. Reppert and ask her questions about Columbus. You will need to do some research so you will know what you want to ask before your interview. I will need to approve your questions first. You will also need someone to film with the flip camera.
  • Samuel-I would like for you to meet with Mrs. Leonard and email the contact she found. (I will give you her name) I want you to tell her what our class is doing (our Christopher Columbus project) and ask her at least five questions. You will discuss this on the video. Sam and Josh z will do special effects on video.
  • Claire--skype interviewer and help Rachel
  • Shelby-see Edyn’s name
  • Reesa- I will make a song and dance with hannah
  • Josh-you will do research about Columbus’ s voyages. You will tell us where he went on each of his four voyages.

Class Meeting

KWL Chart created with and by the students. Again, using iThoughts we passed the iPad around the table and asked students to add a bubble to the chart. We will later re-visited the chart to add WHAT they have learned about Christopher Columbus.

KWL- Student Chart

I blogged and tweeted a call for "experts" who would be willing to be contacted by our students and interviewed about their knowledge and perspectives of Christopher Columbus.

Our school's librarian was also able to pass on an e-mail contact of a Native American from her network.

Call for "Experts" willing to share knowledge and perspective

Greta Sandler from Argentina and Melissa Techman from Virginia responded via Twitter, Maryna Tsehelska from the Ukraine and Steve Wilmarth from China answered our calls through the Around the World with 80 Schools site.

In an effort to support our students as collaboration and communication coordinators, we passed the task to e-mail and communicate with the "Experts" on to them. I met with the students to create a draft for their initial contact e-mail. They took it from there to coordinate Skype calls.

Student e-mail to Skype Contact

Skype with Argentina

Mrs. Techman read a book via Skype to the class

Skype Call with the Ukraine

Other students eagerly got started in preparing their contribution to our collaborative project.

Enthusiastic E-mail from Students

Then came the moment when the class formulated questions to be used in a survey asking others to share their thoughts, ideas and knowledge about Christopher Columbus. The survey was then embedded on the classroom blog. I tweeted and blogged about their survey and asked my network to please take the time to answer their questions.

These were the questions:

  • Where do you live?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you think Christopher Columbus was a Hero, Victim or Villain?
  • Explain your answer
  • Do you think Christopher Columbus discovered America?

Survey embedded on Classroom Blog

The survey generated just short of 400 entries from over 12 countries! Students were enthralled when we projected the survey spreadsheet and the entries were "falling" in as they were watching! We shared the Google Document with all the students, so they would have access to it anytime.

How exciting as the survey responses were being updated live on the spreadsheet

As a class we analyzed the responses of the survey in the spreadsheet, although I received nightly updates via email from excited students as the numbers of participants climbed steadily.

Analyzing the Survey

The following Wordles were created with the answers for some of the questions.

Location of Survey Contributors

Survey: Do you believe Columbus discovered America?

Survey: Do you believe Columbus was a Hero, Villain or a Victim?

You can download the survey entries as a pdf file here.

Once students completed their research, we started working on the Newscast video, which would be the collaborative product of our learning.

Newscast Brainstorming Session

How will each section be recorded?

As students were watching the final version of the CC Newscast, I sent my iPad with the original KWL chart around. Each student added a "bubble" about what they had learned:

  • that C.C did not discover America
  • That CC took prisoners as his sailors.
  • that c.c. was not such a nice person.
  • There were different perspectives in Argentina about CC.
  • I learned that Columbus almost gave up when he was trying to go to America and that the sailors almost had a mutiny.
  • I learned that Christopher Columbus was not always a hero.
  • I learned that Christopher Columbus was not nice to the Indians.
  • Columbus was born in Valladolid Spain
  • The Tainos killed some of Columbus's men when Columbus went back to Spain to get a new ship.
  • People have a lot of different opinions about Christopher Columbus.
  • Columbus didn't go were he planed to go. ''''
  • Columbus wanted to rule the land he discovered. Also Columbus died in 1506
  • C.C. Had a dark side to him.
  • In 1504 he returned to Spain.
  • He sailed lots of ships not just 3
  • There was so many things about Christopher Columbus.

We were also contacted by Steve Wilmarth, who is currently teaching in Wuhan, China at a Middle School Attached to HuaZhong Normal University.
He writes:

I would love to have my students in China join in the discussion about Christopher Columbus. They would like to share with your students the story of the great Chinese admiral, Zheng He (, and his exploration of the world 50 years before Columbus set sail.

My students are studying US history this semester, and we are exploring the topic of the "Columbian exchange;" how the the early explorations brought plants, animals, and diseases around the world for the first time.

What an incredible opportunity to connect with these Chinese High School students with our 5th graders. Learn about the exploration in Asia. Although Christopher Columbus day as come and gone and the 5th graders unit on the historical figure has (officially) ended, we will continue to make connections to expand our horizons and learn from different perspectives.

Learning can be sooo exciting!!!