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7Nov/130

Empowering Students With Meaningful Classroom Jobs

Alan November's "Digital Learning Farm" was the inspiration for my classroom jobs. The idea couldn't be more simple: people are empowered through meaningful work. Children used to be, in the times of farming, useful and necessary contributors to their families' farms and other livelihoods. Once children's work became going to school full-time, that feeling of usefulness and importance faded. Most teachers understand the importance of giving kids jobs to do, and many traditional classrooms do designate roles such as "line leader" and "pencil sharpener"to fulfill these needs. Digital tools offer the possibility of exciting upgrades to these jobs, allowing students to learn through doing while making authentic contributions to their communities.

I am experimenting with how to best structure this so that it becomes a deep learning experience for students. I introduced the jobs to 5th grade a few weeks ago, then introduced and started with 4th grade. I decided that students would need to apply for the job and, once "hired" would have a tenure of about one month.

Available Positions:
Global Connectors:
Tweet, look for and organize possible learning connections, manage maps
Researchers: Research information in response to questions that arise
Official Scribes: Take notes, write weekly summary post on classroom blog
Documentarians: Photo and video documentation of the week’s activities
Kindness Ambassadors: Make sure that all community members are included at lunch and recess, remind community members of habit of the month, model and recognize kindness, give appreciations and remind others to do so
Librarians: Keep classroom and virtual library shelves in order. Add books to class GoodReads shelves, keep GoodRead-Alouds wall updated, set appointments with Mrs. Hallett
Graphic Artist/Designers: Design things for the classroom and class blog- graphics, bulletin boards, displays, etc.

Job Requirements:
Previous experience is helpful but not required. You will be able to learn on the job. Most important qualities: proactive, self-motivated, desire to learn.
All classroom work must be up to date in order to be considered for a job.

1Mar/130

Making the Connection: Pioneers of the “New World” and “Digital World”

Surviving-jamestown-1

Fifth grade students are getting ready to read the book "Jamestown" by Gail Garwoski.

A stirring story of survival set against the backdrop of the founding of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a group of London businessmen known as the Virginia Company to establish an English settlement in North America. In 1607, 104 men set sail aboard three tiny ships on a voyage to a new land. What they found became the first permanent English settlement in the New World-Jamestown.
Among the brave adventurers who made the journey was a young boy named Samuel Collier, the page of famed Captain John Smith.

How could we move away from assigning the traditional reading of the book (chapter by chapter), then writing a book report and possibly give an oral presentation in front of the class? How could we tie the lessons, delivery, supported skills and objectives NOT only to curriculum, but also to our Learning Target (based on and adapted from www.galileo.org )

MJGDS-LearningTarget-2

We are looking to move towards competency in five categories:

  • Learning Environment
    • Learning is engaging
    • Students are self-directed
    • physical environment conducive to learning
    • resources meet learning needs
    • learning is social and interconnected
  • Assessment
    • comprehensive
    • using a variety of techniques and resources
    • authentic learning experience designed, developed and evaluated
    • criteria are established for assessment
  • Role of Teacher
    • teacher as a learner
    • teachers as a cognitive coach and guide
    • teacher has strong instructional repertoire
  • Amplification
    • classroom is open & public
    • Teacher actively connects to larger global audience
  • Task
    • authentic
    • produces deep meaning

With that in mind, we had a brainstorming session with our 10 year olds. What did they know about the early settlers? What did they want to know?

jamestown4

What do we know?

We started with the traditional KWL concept and upgraded to KWHLAQ.

Could we compare pioneers and explorers who came to the Americas, the "New World" (with respect to the population who called these lands home and "their world" for thousands of years before the European came to "discover" it) and the "Digital World". What were dangers for the early settlers? What are dangers for cyber citizens? Were there double standards for the old and new world? Are there double standards for the analog vs digital world?

By now, students are pretty independent in creating collaborative Google Docs to share with teachers and their classmates to take notes. The concept of the Official Scribe from Alan November's Digital Learning Farm is embedded and works naturally for our students.

Below is the screenshot of the initial brainstorming session.

Jamestown3

 

jamestown2

In our shared Google Doc, we gave students a prompt to expressed their initial thoughts about being an explorer in the Digital World and how it compared to being one in 1600s in Jamestown.
jamestown

We were not sure, if all student understood. 5th grade teacher, Shelly Zavon, wrote a reflection after our first meeting with the students. I especially like her blunt honesty, that NOT EVERYTHING, not every class or lesson goes as planned nor well. We had to go back to the drawing board, we need to keep meeting every week to debrief after a lesson and tweak for future ones

I am hoping that the Jamestown project will come together soon. The idea is good; I just need to find a way to help the students dig deeper and start thinking on a higher level. For some reason, the students don’t like to be challenged to go to the next level. They want to do everything quickly and get to the fun part, which hopefully in this case will result in a music video.
With both of these projects, the students have had to move to a more advanced level of critical thinking (and accountability). I know this has been good for them, but is has been a grueling process for us teachers. I keep thinking, “learning is messy” and as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming.”

How can we make the learning about Jamestown authentic? How do we connect the learning of the past and make it relevant to their present and future?

It just happened that Google Glass shared a new video with the request for applications to becoming a GOOGLE EXPLORER!

GoogleGlass-explorer

Two ideas came to mind:

  1. What if we were to ask our students to create a video with the same requirements as above (minus the last three points) to apply to become an Explorer , not for Google Glass, but for Jamestown. What would you do to become an explorer and leave for Jamestown?
  2. What if we were to ask our students to time travel with a device like Google Glass and take a video or pictures and they narrate/document what they are witnessing.

Watch us develop, as a 5th grade learning community, the topic further. I wonder what we will create.

5Feb/130

Learning in the Modern Classroom

I have seen learning in the 21st Century modern classroom!

The learning just oozes through the cracks of the physical classroom walls.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

It all started out with a conversation between Mike Fisher and me. He had written over 40 children poems and was in the process of wondering what to do with them? I was looking for an authentic task for 9-11 year old students. We felt we had a perfect match! How about getting the students Language Arts and Art teacher involved? The initial idea was to make a unit of poetry come alive, study Mike's poems and visualize the poems by creating illustrations.

Great plan... it snowballed from there...

A quick Skype call between Mike and the teachers, helped flesh out each of our expectations and a timeline for the "project". A critical component was the participants' willingness to be flexible and see where the students would take "the project".

What if...

  • ...Mike allowed students to alter his original poems if they felt inspired to remix them, making the creation process fluid and embedding new ways of looking at forms of copyright?
  • ... Mike offered to write a new poem to additionally created illustrations by students, flipping the collaboration roles?
  • ...we published a poetry book on various platforms? (hard cover/eBook)
  • ...we had student run a marketing and advertisement campaign?
  • ...we involved the Math teacher to support students in calculating how much the book should cost, what would the profit be, how would a profit be split?
  • ...allowed the class to handle the entire business venture?
  • ...we incorporated Alan November's concept of the Digital Learning Farm and leaving a legacy?

Each student was "given" a poem from Mike to be responsible for. We set up a first Skype call with Mike, the author, for students to meet him, ask questions about "their" poem.

skype

Part of our job as teachers was to observe students as they were taking on the roles outlined in the Digital Learning Farm. We were/are looking to identify NEW FORMS of assessment, since our "project" was not to be an add-on to traditional assessment tools.

The Digital Learning Farm

 

As I was watching students talk to Mike Fisher via Skype, Will Richardson's call for Thinking Differently About Learning, which includes Learning to Talk to Strangers came to mind. As students interacted, I was watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction. Stay tuned for the publication of a Taxonomy of Skype Conversation to facilitate assessment of video conferencing.

skype-taxonomy

As the Skype conversation was happening in the foreground, other students were busy documenting and collaborating in backchannels. A Google Doc was opened and shared among all students, teachers and Mike Fisher. The multi-tasker Mike is, allowed students to Google Chat at the same time as he was talking to students via Skype.

googledoc

Other students had taken on the task to tweet the Skype call

twitter

Take a look at the 4th and 5th grade Twitter feed, documenting the skype call. Students are exhibiting understanding of Twitter grammar, syntax and etiquette. They are showing progression by starting to add value, links, citations and they own thoughts. They are summarizing and articulating thoughts in 140 characters or less. They are directly communicating, disseminating, collaborating and connecting via social networking. We are using Twitter and HOTS as a way to assess these skills.

4th-twitter-2

4th-twitter-1

4th-twitter

5thmjgds-twitter

5thmjgds-twitter-1

5thmjgds-twitter-2

5thmjgds-twitter-3

5thmjgds-twitter-4

We had other students use different tools to take notes too. The notes app on their iPad or traditional paper and pen

notes

notes2

One student chose to summarize what he heard during the Skype call by mindmap doodling. He was able to re-tell the different poems that were discussed between his classmates and the author.

mindmapping

mindmap

Take a few minutes to peek into the classroom as students were debriefing from the Skype experience.

Poetry Book Skype from langwitches on Vimeo.

So, where do we go from here? The students are very excited and are taking ownership. There is no talk about what kind of grade they will be receiving for their work. An authentic audience will decide if they were successful. Students will volunteer to take on different roles in the publishing, marketing, finance, communication department. We will allow them to take the lead, consulting, coaching and modeling if needed.

Stay tuned as this "school project" unfolds.

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14Nov/120

Quality Tutorial Designers Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Steps
  2. Technique
  3. Quality Considerations

Each part is divided further into different sections

Steps:

  • storyboarding
  • creation
  • dissemniation

Technique:

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

Quality Considerations:

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

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

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.


3Jun/110

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