Parent Connect Parent Connect

1Nov/120

A Vital Skill? Look For, Find and Learn from Online Guides & Tutorials

I am borrowing the notion of the Leitmotif, a recurring theme, and applying it to learning in the 21st century. For me it always seems to come back to a red thread of self-motivated and self-directed learning that connects all.

 

Anyone with an internet connection has the capability of accessing courses and lectures from Ivy League universities. Times Magazine published an article titled, Logging on to the Ivy League already in 2009.

Diamond is an esteemed neuroanatomist and one of the most admired professors at the University of California, Berkeley. It would be a privilege for anyone to sit in on her lectures. And, in fact, anyone can. Videos of her popular course are available free online, part of a growing movement by academic institutions worldwide to open their once exclusive halls to all who want to peek inside. Whether you'd like to learn algebra from a mathematician at MIT, watch how to make crawfish étouffée from an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America or study blues guitar with a professor at Berklee College of Music, you can do it all in front of your computer, courtesy of other people's money. Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1891740,00.html#ixzz2Avj9XAHx

Simply google Yale iTunes University or Harvard iTunes University and you are in business to potentially LEARN from the same professors that teach the students who are attending these "very expensive"higher education institutions.

  • Will you earn a degree from these universities?...No...
  • Will you receive one on one attention from the professors if you have questions about their lecture?... No...
  • Will you meet the right people or be roommates with the children of the right people?.... No....
  • Do you have access to listening and learning from some brilliant minds?.. on your choice of topics?... without having to spend a dime?... Yes!
  • Can you become part of an online learning community, with members watching the same lectures, discussing and learning with and from each other?...Yes

The "education" is there... there for the taking... only the self-directed and self-motivated... will and can take advantage of the offerings and LEARN from it.

I recently published a blog post inspired by Will Richardson's article "Three starting points to think differently about “Learning. I believe we have hit on another point, illustrating how we NEED to think about learning in a different light:

Being able to look for, find, watch, "re-wind" and learn from online lectures, guides and tutorials?

How do we transfer this skill and break it down into different benchmarks for the younger students not ready for Yale or Harvard yet? Thinking of :

  • the highest level of thinking skills (Bloom's Taxonomy) of creating
  • the disputed Learning Pyramid, which claims that learners retain about 90% of what we teach others (Take a look at Darren Kurpatwa's Academe's Dirty Little Secret)
  • Alan November's Digital Learning Farm with Tutorial Designers as one of the roles to empower learners. Give students authentic job responsibility to empower them and become part of a learning community (see Langwitches Posts about The Digital Learning Farm). Alan November recently published a book called "Who owns the Learning", where he goes further into the concept of students leaving a legacy, including creating tutorials for a global audience.

I am taking the route of having our students learn to create quality tutorials for each other or for their younger schoolmates. There is something about kids and wanting to teach what they know to others. Our kids are not only flocking as their first choice for learning to online tutorials, they are also becoming the creators of many (without adult intervention!)

  • Just ask a teenage daughter what she does in order to get make-up instructions if she has a "challenged mother" in that department? What about detailed directions for a complicated French braid?
  • How do you learn to pick a lock, after your niece locks the basement door from the wrong side?
  • What about help in order to upgrade your laptop's memory or install a new hard drive?

Online tutorials to the rescue! Take a look at the thousands of tutorials on youTube, websites, or snapguide, with "instructors" half or more the age of "traditional teachers".

I have written many tutorial posts on Langwitches. They come in forms of info-flyers to help guide teachers step by step in implementing a process or a tool, screenshots (image of my screen), screencasts (video recordings of my screen), infographics, podcasts (audio file), plain texts in blog posts, Word documents or shared with Google Docs.

The above mentioned book Who owns the Learning by Alan November was one of the Summer Reading choices for our faculty. Our 4th and 5th grade teachers have been taken on the task to expose students to the importance of digital tutorials and encourage the to produce their own tutorials.

In Language Arts, students worked on “how to” posts for their blogfolios. They were encouraged to add hyperlinks, video, and/or images to their post to enhance their writing.

Making a Hyperlink! (by Evie M.)

Hyperlinking With Thinking (by Itamar)

Adding an Image to a Blog Post (by Benjamin)

How To Draw A Dragon Head (video) by Julia

5th grade students had a first go at storyboarding and filming a tutorial of "How to create a QR code?". As a class, each video clip /tutorial was critiqued. Students came up with a list of suggestions to make tutorials better. Everyone went back to the drawing board to edit and make the tutorials better according to their list.

See a few video samples from students of "How to Create a QR Code":

What are your thoughts on the skill of learning with and from online tutorials? Important for the present and future of learning?

29Oct/120

Writing a Commenting Policy for Your Blog

Assessments come in many forms and should be ongoing. As students develop knowledge and skills and build their schemas about the world, they are better able to articulate their understanding of complex ideas. One goal of student blogfolios is to help students recognize quality work- both their own and others. Our 4th and 5th graders have been working with the idea of quality blog commenting for three years. As teachers, one way we help our students understand quality is to provide rubrics or other guidelines and expectations. One way to assess understanding of quality comments is to have them provide guidelines for others. We did this by having each 4th and 5th grade student create a commenting policy for his or her blog.

First we discussed the concept- what is a commenting policy? Why have one on your blog? 5th grade had a lively debate on whether a commenting policy would hold people back from leaving a comment at all. This sparked a discussion about quality vs. quantity (is it better to have a lot of "junky" comments on your blog or less comments in number but more thoughtful in content?) as well as a great discussion about word choice or media and tone of message matters (inviting vs. bossy).
Here are some notes from the discussion with 4th graders:

What is a policy?
A policy is guidelines or rules you have to follow in order to do something. -Ayden
Why write a commenting policy?
-to limit the junky comments-you're helping people who might want to leave a comment

-to tell people what you want to expect from a comment

-you can help people be better at writing comments

-to show that you want quality comments on your blog

How will you prepare to write your commenting policy?
First look at a few examples. Here are some student blogs with written guidelines for commenting. Take a few minutes to read (or watch) them carefully. As you are reading (or watching) pay attention to what works or doesn't work for you. Start to form ideas of what you will include in your commenting policy and how you create it.
Dawso's Blog
Guess What?'s Blog This one uses an animated video to share commenting guidelines
Alexandra's Blog
•Make a new page for your commenting policy.
The students embraced the process and were given their choice of tools. The products show each student's understanding of and ability to communicate the idea of quality comments.
Ariella's Commenting Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia's Commenting Policy

Julia's Quality Commenting Policy from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

Jonah's Commenting Policy

Itamar's Commenting Policy

10Oct/120

State of the Blogging School Address

State of our School Address (regarding Blogging)

3 years ago, we created blogs (WordPress platform) for ALL classroom teachers and resources. There was an expectation for teachers to be at least on the first step of the blogging ladder, illustrated in the image below. Their classroom blog needed to be, as a minimum,  a replacement of a weekly folder filled with parent-school communication and homework assignments. Teachers were expected to learn how to update their blogs (at least on a weekly basis), insert images and videos and categorize their blog posts. (Getting to Know your Blog- A Beginner’s How To Guide)

This was a steep learning curve for some teachers. In addition,  it was extra time consuming, as it was taking teachers longer time to learn and be comfortable with uploading and inserting images, creating photo galleries, creating links, posting, etc.

Then the question shifted from How to We Did it… We Built It…Will They Come? Some teachers continued to email parents weekly, pointing them to the blog to look at images and news, others resorted to “bribing” students with extra credit if their parents went on the blog, yet another class created a  Blog Tutorial for Parents & Grandparents video.

In preparation for our students to become actively involved in contributing on the classroom blogs, as a school, we needed to Update & Upgrade Our School’s Media & Publishing Release in order to reflect the shift from students as consumers to students as producers.

Some teachers felt ready sooner than others, to climb the next step on the ladder. They opened their classroom blog up for comments to their students. They started to shift from merely pushing out information to parents and students to see the opportunity for a conversation. Teachers were learning to, not only post information, but posing questions for students, encouraging them to think and to participate in a virtual conversation. – Preparing Students for Commenting with Wall Blogging.

Once students were well on their way to begin. They were comfortable in logging into their accounts, reading posts and submitting a commenting, the next step was to focus on the QUALITY of their writing. What constitutes a quality comment? One class answered this question by creating a newscast- Quality Commenting Video by Third Graders

The next step on the classroom blogging ladder was for not only the teacher to produce content/posts, but for students to take ownership. For one teacher, it meant the realization that her classroom job list was in need of a 21st century update What is… What Will Be Obsolete…in Second Grade?

Some teachers:

  • had daily  student “bloggers”,  who were in charge of updating the classroom blog, being the Official Scribe of the day.
  • had students take (handwritten notes) summarizing the daily learning during each subject area, to be then typed and uploaded on Friday to the blog (younger grades).
  • highlighted best work from students as it was produced.
  • put students in charge of photographing classroom/resource activities and learning taking place during the day, the class discussed and voted on the final images to be uploaded at the end of the day and write a short blurb to each image. – Let’s Ask the Kids: 2nd Grade Bloggers

Some classroom blogs were growing beyond homework assignment, as teachers found opportunities to amplify the use of their virtual spaces to get kids involved and engaged in conversation

As commenting and posting to the classroom blog became the routine, especially in the upper elementary grades, students were eager to “earn” their own blogs. It was up to the teacher to set the criteria for students to earn them (ex.5 quality posts moderated and published on the classroom blog).

Once having earned that promotion, students became administrators of their own blogfolio , a combination of an online portfolio and a learning blog. Students were able to choose their own theme from a variety of pre-approved themes available. They chose their own title and tagline, and wrote their About Page.

It takes time for the faculty to see that the students’ blogfolios are NOT a project from/for the Language Arts class. We are not there yet.Teachers, still need to take advantage of pulling in resource teachers and student experiences. Non-Language Arts teachers still need to realize that the blog is a platform for learning for THEIR students too. All this is a process for teachers and students to work through.

We had Professional Development workshops helping teachers subscribe to RSS feeds (Subscribing via RSS & Google Reader to Classroom Blogs) in order to streamline the process of reading AND giving feedback to all their students. This is a daunting task for many teachers, as they are feeling overwhelmed. I have met too many teachers (at other schools) who, precisely for that reason, gave up blogging with their students. It was simply too much work to read and sift through all the writing and commenting (!!). We are committed to working through this at our school though. We are concentrating on finding new ways to embed the reading, the writing, the commenting, the conversation into the “way we do things”, not something we do in addition.

I created the following infographic to demonstrate the flow of blogging in the classroom. The hope is to deflect from the emphasis on technology and the “translation” from analog work to digital work during the blogging process.

You can download the infographic as a pdf file.

There is so much to consider when blogging with your students. You will be able to read about some, some you will hear from teaches who are already blogging and some things you will just have to experience and go through for yourself in order to make it work for you and your students. What we do know, is that no teacher can attend a 3 hour workshop on blogging and is ready to blog with their students the following Monday. I wrote extensively about the process for Stepping it Up- Learning About Blogs FOR your Student as a guide for teachers who want to see blogging as a platform for their own professional development and as a medium for student learning.

Ann Davis, on her blog wrote a post titled “Rationale for Educational Blogging“, an article (and the following comments) worth reading! David Jakes responds in the comment section speaking directly to the teachers “who have kids write for the refrigerator”.

Ann Davis’ quote of “It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces”, resonates deeply with me. It is a challenge, that we are continuously reflecting on in school, as learning and literacy coaches, but need to do a better job in helping faculty work through this as well. Tough questions need to bubble up  to the surface:

  •  Where it the Authentic Audience?  by Andrea Hernandez
  • What does it mean when students, teachers, parents feel “blogged out”?
  • How do we prevent student blogfolios from becoming an accumulation of “Homework for Thursday”, “Homework for Friday” posts?

Where do we go from here?

We will continue to seek the following through our blogs:

  • quality writing and commenting
  • documentation of the learning process
  • hub for learning artifacts
  • reflections
  • meaningful discussion
  • metacognition
  • authentic feedback
  • global awareness and connectedness

We will encourage, support and participate in activities that will foster the above goals.

Examples:

  • quad-blogging
  • commenting mentor program
  • blogging buddies
  • professional blogs for our educators to build reflective teaching practices, connections to a global network of educators and building a personal brand

10Oct/120

What is the Daily 5?- Parent Connect 9/24/12

This year, we are piloting a new literacy program in grades 2, 4 and 5.  This grew out of our summer professional development book groups, which you can read more about here. The program, called the Daily 5, is grounded in the knowledge base of what activities and behaviors are most effective for developing basic literacy. The Daily 5 was written by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, who also maintain the DailyCafe.com website.

Our first Parent Connect this year was dedicated to sharing information about The Daily 5 and our implementation of it this year. Here is a review for those parents who were not able to join us, as well as anyone else interested in learning more.

Everything we do is grounded in an understanding of what our students need in order to be successful in this connected, high tech world. We believe the Daily 5 helps us help our students to become independent learners.

Our librarian, Karin Hallett, shared some of the research behind this program in the following slides:

If you would like to learn more, here is an excellent article that synthesizes current research and underscores the importance of self-selected independent reading.

We watched a video of Amy Stein teaching her second graders the "I PICK" strategy for learning how to choose "good fit books."

We also watched Stephanie Teitelbaum introducing "Read to Self" to her 4th and 5th graders.

Here are some thoughts from Andrea Hernandez and Jon Mitzmacher:

This final video includes a discussion about The CAFE Book, which is the counterpart to the Daily 5, as well as information about the data collection process.

Stephanie has started a professional blog, Teach, Blog and Tweet, where she will be documenting and reflecting upon the process as it unfolds. Please feel free to follow her there, and add your voice to the discussion.

 

23Sep/120

Tweeting with 4th & 5th Graders

Guest post by Stephanie Teitelbaum, our 4th & 5th grade Language Arts teacher.

You can follow @4thmjgds & @5thmjgds on Twitter.

Students have been enjoying tweeting weekly in class.  Mrs.Tolisano has been coming in each week to teach the process of tweeting.  She developed this info-graphic for us to follow.

We are developing a routine in class so that students are able to tweet on a regular basis.  We start with a “paper tweet”.  Students write down their tweetable moments on an index card.  We check our followers (3 times a week), then we check who has mentioned us.  If we have a question, we answer it, and then, finally, we write the tweetable moments.  We have twitter directors in class, and it is their job to type in the tweets.  We have to be sure our tweet  is 140 characters.  It is a new way of writing, and the students are improving each week.  We are working on developing tweets that target a global audience.  We have discussions in class to determine if the tweet is geared to our audience.  Recently, we tweeted a teacher in Singapore who will hopefully make it possible for us to tweet students regularly in Asia.  The students have been intrigued and motivated to connect with other classes globally.

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.


8Mar/120

4th Grade Part of International Action Research

An International team of four classrooms partnered to do action research. They asked the questions: Does Blogging support and improve QUALITY student writing?
Our 4th graders, together with their teacher, Mrs. Teitelbaum, are part of this fabulous blogging adventure during the month of March 2012 .

 

Support their efforts and visit their classroom blogs (with student blog links) and model quality comments for them. '

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!

 

5Oct/110

Blog-folios

Last year we began working with students in grades K, 5 and 8 to create digital portfolios. We used WordPress blogs (like the one you are reading now) as the platform for the portfolios. Portfolios are a digital collection of a student's best work  with a reflective component. This type of reflective practice is new for most of our students and is a process which will take time. As we began the process, we realized that it was almost a tease giving students a versatile, customizable, blogging platform and then not allowing them to freely blog. So the "blog-folio" was created-- part blog, part reflective portfolio.

Portfolios give students a chance to develop metacognition, set goals and internalize what "good work" looks like. Blogs offer a platform for creativity, communication, connection and the practice of digital citizenship. "Blog-folios" are the best of both worlds- using a blogging platform to develop writing skills, provide opportunities to connect with an authentic audience and increase reflective practices. Instead of using the entire site as a portfolio, students will use the category "portfolio" to designate those selections that represent high-quality work and reflection.

Blogs are Transformative:

As educators, we are in the business of helping each child bloom into the flower that he or she is meant to be. The goal is to help students reach high academic standards while developing their unique selves, growing at their own rates and discovering their personal passions. Blogs are a space for sharing ideas in almost any format, a place for self-expression, connection, and reflection- literally a platform to explore, document and record the growth of the learner. The tool (blog) is transformative in that it allows instant publishing and the possibility of an authentic audience, as well as bringing in multimedia communication and creation. It is also transformative in that, unlike many school assignments or projects, blogging is a long-term "project" that incorporates many different "subjects" and skills.

   
Student Blogging Challenge:
We have started  this year by introducing the blog-folios to our 5th graders through participation in the Student Blogging Challenge. This activity has approximately 300 participants from around the world.  Students are enjoying the opportunity to customize the look of their blogs, write about areas of interest and interact with other student bloggers. As teachers, the blogs enable us to get to know our students better, to model good writing through our comments and to target instruction. Blogging is, by definition, differentiated instruction.

Blogging challenge checklist

Comments!

Part of the joy of blogging is knowing that someone is reading what you've written. All of our student blogs are open to receive comments, and all comments will be moderated (by the students) before being published on the blog. We invite you to read and comment on any of the 5th grade blogs listed here.  The big idea is to engage students in the act of writing as communication. Please encourage students by responding to their content, not correcting their mistakes. By leaving a comment, you can model good writing skills. Know that the blog-folios are a work in progress and a long-term record of a student's growth. Each child's writing and thinking will show growth over the year(s).

A student's notes to himself about blog topics.