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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


  • storyboarding
  • creation
  • dissemniation


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

Quality Considerations:

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


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.


  • 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


Twitter Policy and Rationale

We want to keep our parents in the loop about Social Media use in the classroom and are posting the following Twitter Policy and Rational.

Twitter Policy and Rationale

Several classrooms at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School are tweeting!
We wanted to be transparent in our rationale for using Twitter as a platform with our students for academic learning.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social media platform, a micro-blogging service. Every tweet is limited to 140 characters or less. Twitter is surfacing everywhere in our daily lives, from your favorite restaurant chain to your rabbi, politicians, celebrities, sports team and TV shows. What is less known about Twitter is the academic value of learning with and from other educators and students, experts, authors, organizations, companies from around the world that support 21st century learning. By tweeting with our students, we expose them to social networking strategies, support their growth as global digital citizens and model focused, clear writing.

Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety

Our students DO NOT tweet on personal accounts. The tweeting classrooms are using a classroom Twitter account, set up and managed by the classroom teachers and the 21st century learning team. We monitor and choose carefully, who is allowed to follow the classroom Twitter stream and who we follow on Twitter. Netiquette, Internet safety, digital citizenship including copyright lessons are interwoven throughout the year and continuously discussed and reinforced. Netiquette is defined as the "acceptable" way how to communicate on the Internet. Learning acceptable behavior is part of digital Citizenship, one of the core literacies of the 21st century. We remind students of  our classroom rules and emphasize that "real world" etiquette,  rules and consequences transfer to online behavior as well.

The use of Twitter in the classroom follows the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School's guidelines for Media and Publishing release. Tweets will occasionally mention students’ first name, but never their last name. We will also be sharing classroom images, video or audio, directly related to student learning.

Twitter as a Tool for Learning

We want students to produce and contribute developmentally and age appropriate quality content. This is a process that can only be internalized by “doing”. The focus of Twitter in our classrooms is always learning. We connect, share and reflect on our learning experiences at school as well as tap into and link to individual student background knowledge.  Younger students will tweet  and document experiences they have through observation. Older students will be “thinking” about their learning on a deeper level and learn to articulate their metacognitive process of reflection.

The classroom teacher and 21st century learning team will actively search for and connect classrooms with same grade level twitter buddies and pre-approved mentors, to give students an authentic audience for their writing, with whom students can share their learning, ask questions and gain perspective.

...First graders might read a story with another first grade class from Canada and collaboratively tweet a summary of the story or describe the main characters. They might even share, via Twitter, a link to artwork they created illustrating the story’s setting.

...Fifth graders might tweet with a High School history teacher from Boston about their studies of the American Revolution and might receive images of historic sites.

We will be continuously modeling quality during the process. Before we click the "tweet" button, the class will ask if their tweet:

* is Informative?
* documents their learning?
* asks questions?
* responds to someone else's question?
* curates information for specific audience?
* links to quality resources?
*adds Value to any links re-tweeted?
* states its intent clearly?
* is globally conscious?
* is grammatically correct?
* is spelled correctly?

As students tweet, they learn about word choices, clarity, the writing process (write/revise/edit/publish), networking skills, research skills, summarizing skills, global awareness and connections.

21at Century Skills & Literacies

Twitter is not the only tool that our classroom and students use to connect globally. We use a variety of platforms, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and Skype to allow our students to practice skills such as communicating, collaborating, connecting, creating and critical thinking skills. These tools also expose them to and support  emerging 21st century literacies (global literacy, network literacy, media literacy, information literacy) in addition to basic literacy skills (reading and writing)

We encourage our parents to follow our classroom Twitter feed to join their students' learning journey.

We will be adding links to more Twitter classroom accounts from school as they become active on Twitter.

You can follow also our head of school, Jon Mitzmacher, Admission's Director, Talie Zaifert, 21st Century Learning Specialists, Andrea Hernandez & Silvia Tolisano, librarian, Karin Hallett and the following classroom teachers on Twitter: Shelly Zavon, Stephanie Teitelbaum, Deb Kuhr, Amy Stein, Seth Carpenter, Pamela Lewis, Sara Luetchau.


Lunch and Learn

On September 15th, our middle school students had the opportunity to "lunch and learn" with Mr. Ben Smilowitz from Disaster Accountability Project. One of the "21st century skills"  is "connecting".  In an information age, students must be able, not only to filter information, but to connect information in new ways. It is vital to make connections between subjects, between new ideas and background knowledge, between ourselves and others.

Mr. Smilowitz shared the connections in his own life that led him from a Schechter education of Tikkun Olam to a life devoted to making a difference in the world. His talk helped our middle school students make connections from the Mitzvot they do as part of their schooling to the bigger picture of their lives beyond and after they leave MJGDS.


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!


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....

Lesson on Author’s Point of View…Podcasting…Glogging

This blog post has been in the making for over 12 months.The first part was written (and then left in the draft folder) in November of 2009, while the second part is being written as the unit was unfolding over the last few weeks.

I began working with our Middle School Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Kuhr, to upgrade one of her units (Author's Point of View).

I wanted to:

  • describe the teacher's train of thought from the moment, I approached her with the idea of taking reading of short stories to challenging students to create a podcast narrated from a different point of view.
  • compare the initial lesson objective the teacher envisioned to the unexpected lessons the project taught teacher and students.
  • her journey of podcasting for the first time, playing and staying one step ahead of her students when working with Garageband.
  • document 21st Century skills, students were being exposed to and were practicing.

I wanted to document in way:

  • that could it could be shared on our school's (private) professional development Ning, so her colleagues could be inspired by her "courage" to just try it out and by the possibilities upgrading a "once traditionally taught unit" could bring to their own class
  • that it could be shared on our school's 21st Century Learning blog to keep the school's parents informed of what their children were experiencing in the classroom. What skills are we teaching our students? What are digital natives capable of creating?
  • that it could be shared on the Langwitches Blog in order to reach a wider audience than the one of our small school community. Reach out, so educators from around the world could get an idea that would, in turn inspire them, to try something different in their classroom and as a result reach more students from outside of our school.
Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect

Sharing what one is doing, sharing what one is learning along the way, will not only allow for reflection, but it also will create a ripple effect. A ripple effect that in turn will touch the lives and the future of others.

As the unit upgrade and the podcast project progressed, I kept documenting via a draft on my blog. Mrs. Kuhr was faster than I was and wrote a fabulous documentation and reflection of her lesson on our school Ning. With her permission, I am cross- posting:

To Teach the Literary Element - Author's Point of View

Students will learn the various points of view and be able to identify them in literary works. Students will explore how point of view affects a story's plot. Students will learn to discern the subtle differences between author's point of view and perspective, and how to employ each in their own creative writing.

I love to tell stories, so I began with a 1st person narrative about an awkward situation that involved me and several others. After I told the story, I asked students to imagine the thoughts and emotions of the other "characters"; how the story would differ, say, if told from a 3rd person omniscient point of view. Or, better yet, what kind of stories would the others tell?

Then, APPLICATION: Each class read a short story from their literature texts -

  • 8th: The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
  • 7th: The Foghorn and All Summer in a Day, both by Ray Bradbury
  • 6th: Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

and was asked to identify the author's point of view. Students were then instructed to imagine how their stories would change with a different character's or object's perspective. Discussion ensued, and though the repartee was thoughtful and stimulating, I felt I needed something more concrete by which to evaluate. I had recently spoken with Silvia about the successful podcasts she was doing with the lower grades and wondered if the same technology could be used as an assessment tool...

Alas, the PODCAST: Using Garage Band, each student recorded a retelling of the story he/she read from a perspective other than that of the original narrator. Students could select a minor character, the protagonist or an inanimate object to tell their tales. In some instances, students were allowed to create characters (a.k.a. the "fly on the wall"), as long as they stayed true to the storylines. After recording the narration, enhancements (e.g., sound effects, music) could be added to the podcasts.

Finally, ASSESSMENT: Actually, the podcasts themselves are the means by which I will evaluate whether or not my objectives are met. As students finish, they will present their podcasts to their classmates, first explaining why they chose their particular perspectives. In each case, the class is responsible for identifying the author's point of view.
Note: Though higher level critical thinking and creative imagery were my goals, what transpired produced a whole new skills set in digital storytelling. As a result, I asked my 8th graders to create a generic Podcast Rubric for all grades. Hence, in addition to the lesson's objectives, students will be assessed on podcast content, technical production, and presentation.

The majority of the students "got it". They were able to use perspective and point of view in a creative writing/storytelling scenario. They were enthusiastic, focused (for the most part), and exhibited pride in their work. Peer review was more "critique" than "criticism" - always a plus. And I learned more about podcasting and Garage Band than I ever thought I would - or could!

Concurrent recording. Oy! There were not enough places to hide and record in quiet. Background noise was a problem, and editing often led to volatile frustration. Time was also an issue. I had originally scheduled 5 class periods per grade for this assignment. (I should have known better.) We are now on week 3.

Yes, with tweaking. Now that I know what's involved, I'll begin with a definitive rubric that reflects objectives and goals, add a production schedule, and stagger recordings.

Recording studio e

Recording for different perspectives of one story

Lisa Nielsen from the Innovative Educator wrote around the same time as I had started this blog post (in November 2009) "21st Century Educators don't say "Hand it in", they say "Publish it!" . Mrs. Kuhr took yet another step towards becoming that 21st century educator. She moved from having her students "hand in" a written response to a prompt to allowing students to add elements such as voice and sound effects to support their character's perspective as they were recording a podcast. She also realized that her usual assessment rubric was insufficient. She invited her students to join her in creating a new assessment tool that would reflect, not only the basic literacy skills, but also the their podcasting skills.

Fast Forward

Fast forward 14 months. We are in 2011 and Mrs. Kuhr has the previous year's experience under her belt. Podcasting (and Garageband as a tool) do not scare her anymore :) and she was ready to repeat the "upgraded version" of her author's point of view unit with her students.

Current 8th graders had had the experience with podcasting as 7th graders (with a different story). When presented with a new story, they were also given a choice of media they could use to express "their" chosen point of view.

A few students chose to create individual podcast files, while others decided on a collaborative episode. The latter group worked hard to come up with job descriptions and divide the responsibilities among themselves.

Students assigning their own job responsibilities

Here are the jobs they came up with:

  • Project Manager
  • Assistant Manager
  • Sound Manager
  • Scribe
  • Script Supervisor
  • Technical Assistant
  • Liaison
  • Character Coach

They also collaboratively designed a rubric for their point-of-view project.

Students Helping Create their own Assessment Rubric

Here are a few examples:

  • The Tell Tale Heart retold by 8th grade (collaborative group work)

    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.

  • The Tell Tale Heart retold by the old man's heart (William)

    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.

  • The Tell Tale Heart retold by the old man (Manya)

    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.

One students chose to create a PowerPoint to express yet another point of view (the bed)

7th graders were also given a choice of media (audio, video, powerpoint, essay, multimedia poster, etc.). They all chose to create a multimedia poster with Glogster. Mrs. Kuhr quickly created a teacher and student accounts and had them in business in no time.

Glogs are interactive posters that can include different media (images, audio, video, text). All student-created-projects (glogs, powerpoint, videos or podcasts) involved dealing with, finding and using digital media for their creations. A mini-lesson evolved around the issue of Copyright and Fair Use grew out of this need.

Rikki Tikki Tavi Glogster

Rikki- Tikki- Tavi Glogster Example

Students created their glogs about a specific character from the story and their unique point of view. They linked to each other's glogs to tie the story together. Some students used more text and links, others were heavier on images and some even inserted audio.

Where do we go from here? How do we extend the learning further? How do we "upgrade" more parts to include more 21st century skills and literacies ? How can we give students more job responsibilities to empower them and take ownership in their learning? That will be part of Mrs. Kuhr's and my reflection before next school year's Author's Point of View unit rolls around again.


Backchanneling…Movie Watching… Note Taking…Information Scribes

The issue of copyright came up with our 7th & 8th graders as they were creating Gloggs and a podcast about different characters of a story. The Mrs. K, the language arts teacher, asked me to join them to reinforce and discuss copyright, creative commons, public domain and fair use. Not an easy task...

I decided to show the class the ~10 minute The Fair(y) Use Tale video clip.

At the same time, I wanted them to take notes collaboratively. I chose to create a Today's Meet chat room and then directed them to log in by sharing the URL with them. To make sure that all of them were in the "room" and signed in with their first names only, we performed a simple roll call by asking to quickly write a "Hello". That let me know too that all of them knew how to post to the channel.

Sign in and Roll Call

We had a talk about:

  • appropriateness (or not) about social comments to the channel like "This is sooooooo cooool!!!!!! or "You said this already..."
  • How do we focus on the content?
  • spelling and format- text talk ok? full sentences? Length? 140 characters or less?
  • collaborative writing: don't repeat what the person before you shared, add something new
  • note taking: What is important from the video? What will help us later remember key points of the content?
  • organization of the notes: How can we show when a new segment starts in the video? How will this reflect in the notes?
  • multitasking: listening, summarizing, writing, reading

7th graders backchanneling while watching movie clip

As we switched the Todaysmeet chat screen on the projector to the video, we reminded students that their teacher was the chat room moderator and would be following along what they were writing. We made sure we stopped the video at appropriate intervals to switch back to the chat screen to go over the notes they had taken so far. We also started asking them what they thought would be discussed next or if questions they had would be answered in the next segment? That helped them focus on content and listen in on specific facts.

Organizing and pulling out information

The TodaysMeet log was copied and pasted into a Google Doc that was shared with all the students. Then the "Backchannel Clean-up" started. Google Docs allows all collaborators to edit the document at the same time. You will see each other's cursor in different colors and with their username attached.Remember that the backchannel log will appear in reverse chronological order.

Someone is responsible for:

  • deleting the time stamp and author's name from each Today's Meet entry
  • deleting duplicate entries
  • double checking for fact accuracy
  • adding (if they were not added via Today's Meet) and bolding relevant segment titles
  • add bullets, if appropriate, for visual clarity

After the clean-up is completed, students can add further notes that were missed during the live backchannel or connections to other information or facts (via links) that they thought of later.

I can also see a student use different highlighter colors in Google Docs to color-code and group certain information and segments.

Using a backchannel tool like Today's Meet, is a great way to give your students the role of "Official Scribe". The official scribe is one of the six roles Alan November advocates to empower learners. Alan furthermore says that

Do all of your students take excellent notes everyday? What if there were online collaboration tools that would give your class the opportunity to collaboratively build one set of perfect notes? Using a shared blog, wiki or another collaborative writing tool like Google Docs ( students can share this responsibility and create a detailed set of notes that can be used by the entire class.

Students leaving a lesson with the PERFECT NOTES....We are getting there...

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.



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.