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First Graders- First iPad Encounters


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.


What’s New?

Welcome to 21st century learning in the school year 2011-2012! (Since we're so far into the 21st century, maybe we should call it something else....any ideas?)
We have lots of exciting news to share with you.

New Tools

First of all, we have new equipment! We are thrilled to have brand new MacBooks for student use at school.  We are working hard to get the new laptops set up and into the carts. We are also going to be piloting iPads this year. Stay tuned to learn with us as we explore the educational applications of this technological innovation.



New Spaces

As we have all experienced, with the renovation of our office and hallways, spaces really affect how we feel about a place. Learning spaces should reflect our pedagogy. Sam Gliksman, in "Learning Space Designs & Their Impact on Education" writes:

We go to great lengths and expense to provide technology to our schools - hopefully in part because we see it as a means of empowering students to research, explore, experience, collaborate and more. Does your physical learning environment support that vision? How does it impact the process and flow of learning taking place? 

Here, in the room formerly known as the "computer lab," we are giving serious consideration to how the physical environment reflects our beliefs about learning. The ultimate vision for the use of technology in our school is, in the words of Chris Lehmann, for the tools to be "like oxygen: ubiquitous, invisible and necessary."

So, we have dismantled the computer lab and distributed the old desktop computers to the classrooms. No longer will K-5 students have "technology" once a week as a "resource class." We are re-purposing the space as a hub for our new, mobile technologies. Some possible names for the new space are: "cyber cafe," and "learning lab."  We are still playing with ideas- please share yours in the comments!  We have grouped the tables to enable working together and covered them with map tablecloths to inspire thoughts of global connectedness. We will have a green screen for video making. We hope to see teachers and students of all ages working side by side on projects, using the technology tools in pursuit of great learning.

Parent Education

"Parent Coffee Talk" also has a new name for the new year: "Parent Connect."

 If you haven't joined us in the past, please consider checking it out. The discussions are dynamic, and we all learn from each other. We look forward to welcoming you to our newly-designed learning space where we can discuss in detail our visions and dreams for the year ahead. Feel free to bring interested guests and BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee!).


This last bit of news is certainly not least. MJGDS will be hosting edJEWcon 5772.0 , a participatory learning conference for Jewish schools, in the late spring!  We have dreamed and discussed, planned and envisioned, and now we will have the real opportunity to open our school and invite others to learn with us and from us. Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum 21 will be our keynote speaker. Much more will be shared as the details take shape, but this is an incredibly exciting event!


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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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....

Blogs- More Than a Shiny New Tool

All teachers at our school are using a new online platform this school year to communicate with students and parents. We are using a blog platform that enables non-Web Designers to publish and edit content more easily.

The word "Blog" comes from "Web Log" which is an Online Journal. Wikipedia defines a blog as:

A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.

A blog format distinguishes itself from a static website (like Edline was). It allows a two way communication between the teacher and her students, the students between each other and even for parents to leave comments that contribute to learning.

David Warlick, author of "Classroom Blogging- A Teacher's Guide to the Blogosphere" (p.15-16), says that blogs are important for educators to take notice, because of

the direct and conspicuous relationship between blogging and literacy. It is about writing and reading- communication. If we can tap into the sudden notoriety of blogging as a cool thing to do, given our students authentic assignments of finding, reading, and evaluating blog-based information within the context of curriculum and then make them bloggers, communicators with a broadening audience, then we may o a more effective job of teaching literacy, both in the traditional sense, and within the context of an emerging new definition of literacy in a a networked, digital information environment.

Creating a blog is a process for our classrooms, teachers and students. As they are learning the nuts and bolts of blog lingo and logistics, such as posts, pages, categories, tags and widgets, they are also learning to use this new media as a way to extend learning beyond the classroom walls. Teachers are scouting the web to find age appropriate and curriculum related links that will allow individual students to deepen their knowledge of a topic, practice or extend specific skills taught in the classroom. In addition to links that connect to outside resources, the blog becomes a journal of individual entries/conversations by teachers and students that are displayed in reverse chronological order.

The format of a blog naturally invites to reflective thinking. This may happen in the classroom as a whole group activity, when teachers use the site to go over past assignments, classroom happenings or questions that were posted. It may happen when students use the blog as a source to review content discussed in class that day, or when they had time to digest and share their ideas, questions or doubts when they are more comfortable (for some) and not in front of the entire class. The reflection can also happen as a conversation starter at home between parents and students to look back on what was discussed in school. As teachers and students are learning to embed images, audio, video and other media into their blogs, the dreaded parent/child interchange of "What did you do in school today?- Nothing!" will be something of the past. Parents will be able to share learning conversations and events from their child's classroom and visit/re-visit with their child virtually from home.

A blog is more than a shiny new tool!

By blogging, students not only are "going on a website" to look up their assignments, but they are learning to read and write with hypertext, they are writing to an authentic worldwide audience, lessons about online safety and etiquette are organically woven into lessons. Reading and writing becomes a tool to authentically communicate with classmates, teachers as well as readers from around the world. Learning how to tag, categorize, link and find information is an increasingly important skill in the Information Age. Our students, from Kindergarten on, are being exposed to these skills by being part of building a learning community on their classroom blog.

Will Richardson, author of the book "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Tools for the Classroom", identifies six traits that support blogging as a tool to improve students learning (p.27-28)

  1. Weblogs truly are a constructivist approach for learning
  2. Weblogs extend the walls of the classroom.
  3. Blogs archive the work that teachers and students do, facilitating all sorts of reflection and metacognitive analysis.
  4. A weblog is a democratic tool that supports different learning styles.
  5. Weblogs can enhance the development of expertise in a particular in a particular subject.
  6. Blogs can teach students the new literacies they will need to function in an ever expanding information society

A blog is more than "just" a tool. It is more than a buzzword that you are hearing more and more in the mainstream media. A blog allows teachers to address critical skills and literacies while differentiating instruction in a digital medium that most of our students today are very comfortable with in using.

    The blog platform does not replace parent-teacher conferences, face to face conversations or private emails concerning individual students. The blog platform is a venue that allows school-home communication to extend and support existing communication venues. A blog, that in the beginning might be only a "replacement" for the "Friday Folder" and "Edline" with homework assignments or upcoming events shared, will evolve into a virtual place for collaborative work, shared ideas and conversation. Please have patience with us, as teachers are learning alongside their students to communicate in new forms. As we are moving ahead in the process of creating, maintaining and evolving with our classroom blogs, we will gradually invite more voices to become part of the classroom learning community.

    Blogs will connect us to a global classroom. All our classroom blogs are public. Anyone in the world with the URL (Web Address) can visit and read our blogs. This is done intentionally to encourage global communication and collaboration. Currently, all blogs "only" allow comments from registered users (our students). Part of the process will be to open commenting up to the world, always with a degree of"protection" in the form of comment moderation by the teacher before a comment is made public on the blog. This open policy is vital in making connections with other classrooms and curriculum content-related voices from around the world. It provides our students with an authentic audience for their writing, ideas and points of view.


    How to Subscribe to the MJGDS Podcast Channel

    What is a Podcast?

    A podcast is an audio file, similar to a radio show, that you are able to listen to anytime and anywhere with a computer or MP3 player (ex. iPod.)

    Martin J. Gottlieb Day School Podcast

    Our podcast is a continuous collection of episodes that showcases events in the classrooms and highlights curriculum content and student learning. Students learn to express themselves in different media that reinforces their studies.

    How can I subscribe to MJGDS’ Podcast?

    Click on the MJGDS Podcast Channel Link here. You will be asked to open the link up in iTunes, You can then subscribe to the podcast within iTunes

    You can also go directly to iTunes and search for "MJGDS" under Podcast. Click the "SUBSCRIBE" button to automatically subscribe to our Podcast Channel.

    You can also subscribe manually to the Podcast Channel:

    Copy this RSS feed by highlighting the following, right click and choosing “copy”:

    Paste them into your favorite podcatcher, such as iTunes.

    Click on the Advanced Tab, subscribe to podcast  and then paste (right click, then choose paste)  the RSS feed.

    iTunes will automatically subscribe you to the MJGDS’ Podcast.

    Now you are ready to download/sync them to your MP3 player.


    Jewish Ambassadors to the World

    Jewish Ambassadors to the World from MJGDS on Vimeo.

    Jewish Ambassadors to the World from MJGDS on Vimeo.

    Music used with permission by Martin Solomon-


    Learning: It is not about the Technology Tools, It is about the Skills

    How do you feel as a parent, when you hear that your children are podcasting, wiki-ing, blogging and skyping? Are you excited? Are you intimidated by all the tech talk? Are you worried that valuable academic time is taken up with gadgets?

    The objective of using blogs, wikis, skype and podcasts or other web 2.0 tools is never to teach that specific technology tool. We are merely using these tools to expose, introduce, reinforce, practice and use important skills in authentic situations. We are using these tools to engage and motivate students and prepare them for 21st century literacies that extend beyond the basic literacites of reading and writing. These literacies include:

    • information literacy
    • network literacy
    • media literacy
    • basic literacy
    • digital citizenship
    • ethical literacy
    • intercultural literacy

    It is important to understand that a classroom teacher is NOT teaching technology, but is teaching curriculum content.

    All projects we do are also aligned with the National Education Technology Standards for Students.

    National Educational Technology Standards for Students

    As foundational ICT skills penetrate throughout our society, students will be expected to apply the basics in authentic, integrated ways to solve problems, complete projects, and creatively extend their abilities. ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Students (2007) help students prepare to work, live, and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities. The new standards identify several higher-order thinking skills and digital citizenship as critical for students to learn effectively for a lifetime and live productively in our emerging global society.

    For further reading, please take a look at the Framework for 21st Century Learning.

    The following images illustrate additional skills being addressed as we are using blogs, podcasts, wikis and skype in the classroom.

    Blogging Skills

    Skyping Skills

    Podcasting Skills


    Learning at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School

    Students and teachers at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School are learning 21st Century skills, such as collaborating, communicating, creating and connecting. The technology is merely the tool to prepare for the present and the future. Blogs, wikis, podcasts, video conferencing and Google apps are just tools that engage and motivate the learners. They allow us to participate in projects around the world. We are life long learners who explore, evaluate and are empowered by thinking critically. We extend our learning through technology tools and do not make learning of the technology the focus. As a Jewish Day School, MJGDS learns from, with and through a worldwide Jewish Community. MJGDS' students are Jewish ambassadors in the digital and real world.

    Learning at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School from MJGDS on Vimeo.