Monday, December 29, 2008

Activboard Adjectives

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Kean University’s Going Global conference. One of the new things I learned was an interesting method to use an Activboard. I stopped by for a session offered by the Promethean company. I picked up a tip from one of the presenter’s named Rob. While it is specifically useful for the Activstudio software, the idea could be adapted using Word and the highlighter option.

I learned how to use the Activstudio software by taking their online tutorial. This tutorial was very good as far as learning how to operate the software. The piece I am missing is seeing how outstanding teachers use the board and software with their students.

Activstudio, Text, and the Paint Bucket

I learned that when I am using Activstudio, I could prepare a block of text on a page. Once the text is on the page, the paint bucket will color a full word when it is clicked. Rob gave me
an example of having students find all the nouns (or other parts of grammar) within the text block.

Activstudio and Monster Project Preparation

I decide
d to give this method a try with my second grade students. I wanted to introduce the Monster Project that I will be working on with Anna Baralt and other teachers. Since this is the second time I will be drawing monsters collaboratively, I have work online to show the students.

I began the project by reading the book Many Luscious Lollipops to the students to get them focused on adjectives. After reading the book, I brought my wiki up on the projector with last year’s projects. Last year, I completed the project with second and third grade students. Many of my current second grade students have brothers, sisters, or friends the grade ahead. They enjoyed looking at the original drawings and the redrawn images. Next I found a description written by one of the student’s sisters.

1. My monster has a round, blue body that's outlined in gray.
2. It has six eyes. There are two black, two pink, orange, and blue with pink glasses.
3. It has a pig-snout nose, a small yellow smile, and orange wings on its bottom.
4. It has a black crown.
5. It is plump and short.

6. There are crazy ears (and stubby hair) coming out of its blue ears.

7. It has no arms, but stubby blue, short legs.
8. It lives in a pink area.
9. There is an angry sun with yellow eyes and mouth.

We sat in a circle around the Activboard. Each student took turns looking for adjectives and using the paint bucket to choose a color and click on the word. Each student had at least three turns since the description had so many adjectives. I stayed at the computer behind the projector. As each word was clicked, I asked the students if they thought it was or was not an adjective and why. If the word was not an adjective, I clicked Edit – Undo to reset the word to black.
This is the end result.
One of the second graders told me that this is a great way to learn grammar and that their teacher should learn to use the board, too.

Extensions to the Lesson

So far, we have followed the first lesson with a second lesson using Kidspiration. We are currently using version 2. The Science category has an Explore with Senses template. The students learned to use Kidspiration for the first time. I taught them the basics of selecting a category – Food and Health. They learned to use the blue arrows to move between the Foods, Fruits and Veggies, and Treats categories.

Once they dragged their favorite food to the center of the chart, they attempted to type five descriptive words for each of the five senses.

When we return from vacation, we will look at the student's work and try to find out which words are adjectives that can be used to describe the student's favorite food.
I hadn't completed these preparatory activities first last year, we dove right into drawing monsters and writing descriptions. I know they will be prepared for better descriptive sentences this year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Collaboration Station

Most of my classes are connecting with at least one class somewhere in our country or around the world. I wanted a way to show all those connections in one place.

The Map Outside My Room

I've been doing a lot of cleaning and tossing of things at home. We are working on selling our house. At the beginning of September I found a National Geographic world map. I had the principal laminate it and I hung it outside the computer lab.

It was a pretty lonely map for most of September and October. I had joined a project with Lisa Parisi called Time Zone Experiences. We had a dot on Long Island, New York and another in West London, England. Next, I joined a Winter Wonderland project. My Kindergarten, first, and third graders created some movies with winter images created in Kid Pix
. We have been viewing projects from other classes and leaving comments on the discussion tab on the wiki.

New Opportunities
This past week, I needed a couple of quick projects for my fourth and seventh graders. Over on the Elementary Tech Teacher's ning, I saw a message from Vicky saying that her fourth grade students created some Christmas tongue twisters in Voicethread. This was a great opportunity to show the fourth grade what a Voicethread was and how they could contribute. It really didn't take too long to explain how to choose their identity from a list I had preset in my ed.voicethread account. I set up a ten dollar education account last ye
ar so that I might have an easier time showing the site at public schools. Now I understand that this may be the only way to sign multiple students on through the same account at the same time.

As a follow up activity, I'm going to have the fourth grade create an image for their avatar in Kid Pix.

Old Opportunities
I used Voicethead with the current seventh grade when they were in my sixth grade math class last year. They already had avatars and identities. This yea
r, I just had to remind them how to make a comment. They added to Silvia Tolisano's What Could It Mean Voicethread. It was a great activity for Christmas week. They left their ideas on what the images could mean if they lived in a different country or a different part of our country. When we return from vacation, I will assign each image to a group of students. They will have to decide which answer of all the responses could best describe the image. Finally, we'll review the actual answer.

Math Connections
Finally, our sixth grade students will be joining Linda Nitsche's students on a math
collaboration. I found it via Lucy Gray's Global Education Collaborative ning's project database. Having taught middle school math for four years, I know there is never enough time to do all you would like with getting students to talk about math. This project will give us four opportunities over the course of the year to work on a data analysis, geometry, number operation, and measurement challenges.

Monster Project
This leaves two grades waiting for collaborations. My eighth grade students do not have a project in the works as of this time. My second grade students will be participating in a monster exchange. It is on the site that Anna Baralt and I worked on last year. I am really looking forward to the project this year as I do
more work in advance on adjectives in the second grade. If you'd like to join us this year, please let me know. We'd be happy to include your second or third grade class.

Image Citation:
Ann Oro 23 December 2008.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Collaboration Builds New Understanding

Every time I work on a collaborative project I learn more. Through the magic of the Elementary Tech Teacher's ning I found out about the Winter Wonderland wiki project. Each time I work on a project, I learn new ways to challenge myself and my students.

Many of the projects I work on still leave me wishing for more contact and understanding between my students and those of other classes. The three teachers leading this collaboration have certainly tried to bring more contact between the students. This project is for Kindergarten through grade three.

For Students - High Points in My Mind
There were two Google Form questionnaires for the project. One focused on the student's favorite winter holiday. The other focused on travel plans in December. I had my third grade students answer the questions on their own. I called the first grade students to my computer one at a time to answer the questions. I want to take the student data and make some comparison charts between the participating classes and my students.

For Teachers - High Points in My Mind
There are a large number of teachers signed up for the project. This is fantastic because even if many drop from the project, there are still going to be several participating classes. Early on in the project, teachers started using the discussion tab to ask each other questions and receive answers.

For Students - Areas to Improve
In all these types of projects, the teachers have huge buy in due to the amount of work they do. The students (in my case) drew one picture and sang a song. I had to make sure all the images were gathered, the song was recorded, the movie was created to merge the images and song. Once the movie was created and exported into Quicktime, I loaded it up on Vimeo. Finally, I embedded the movie on our wiki. I repeated the steps for two kindergarten, two first, and two third grade groups. I've been watching the number of class participants grow. I have the RSS connection to page edits and discussions in my reader and see the conversations taking place.

Here's the key area I need to improve: the students do not get the same build-up and involvement. I only see them once per week for forty-two minutes. I know, as I sit here reflecting, that I have to take more time to explain the projects I become involved in with the student's classroom teacher. I need to somehow allow the excitement to build within their classes. It's going to be hard because most of the computers are still running OS 9 in the building. For PC readers, it means there is a lack of ability to view some types of data on the Internet. If I can manage to upgrade at least one machine per classroom to OS X next year, I can ask the teachers to give the students access to checking on their partners over the course of the week.

By the time the students get to my class, they should be more excited to work on their own projects.

Built-in Excitement
We live in New Jersey. Some parts of our country just sound more exciting to my students. In the first and third grades, the students couldn't wait to see what was created in Hawaii and Alaska. It was really fun because they recorded their songs in their native tongue.

I tried to show the variety of projects to the students. My first graders were amazed by a project made by students in Alabama. Mrs. Coggin used a Smilebox template with Santa holding a laptop. The laptop reveals the student project.

The class in Hawaii really kicked it up a notch. They had a song about Alfie the Elf. Their teacher assigned a sentence from to song to each students. It made for a really fun viewable project that told a story.

Since we do not live in a high interest state like Hawaii, I have to make my projects that more interesting and attractive to the student audience.

For Next Time
I have to do what I know in my heart. When I create a project for students/ with students, it is not enough to just get it technically correct. It needs to tell a story. Big surprise? Not really, but I'm refocusing myself. I read the book Made to Stick over the summer. I have to read it again and apply those principals to the projects we create for other classes.

Was It a Waste of Time
I am confident that this is not a waste of time.
They are creating images for a bigger purpose than the forty-two minutes of one class period.
They are beginning to see that other people are responding to their creations.
They are getting the idea that they can see someone else's work and leave a message as a class.
They are learning that other people will answer their questions.
They are taking first steps to bigger, more personal connections with other students.

I look back at the first wiki I created in March 2007. It is a baby step along the way to some very rich material we have on the wiki today. I look forward to my students work on our wiki in March 2011. Each lesson I learn along the way marks the path to a more personal and involved experience in the future.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Scheduling Equipment - Try Google Docs

Since writing this post, I added a follow up here.

First...Some Resources
I put out a message on Twitter stating my intention to use Google Forms to create a tablet cart reservation system. I wanted to know if anyone had any tutorials or pointers for getting started. I received two messages. Martha Thornburgh pointed me to a Web 2.0 Wednesday Challenge created in Google Sites. I really liked her Google Doc presentation called Creating Forms and Surveys Challenge Tutorial. It helped me understand
how the forms and spreadsheets connect. It helped me understand how to make the form public, too.

Christy Tvarok Green pointed me to a YouTube video called Quick and Easy Forms with Google Docs. I watched a bit of it after looking at Martha's presentation, but by that time I felt confident moving forward.

Happy Final Results

I put together a Saint Michael Tablet Cart Reservation form. It contains everything I think I might want to capture in reserving the cart: teacher name, date of reservation, help needed, and a place to type an 'x' to reserve the cart all day, and places to type an 'x' to reserve the cart by periods in the day.

In order to be able to check cart availability, I published the associated Google Spreadsheet as a public document.

Getting Around URL Problems

The biggest potential problem was publishing the URLs. I didn't want to type up a paper document or email the huge URL generated by Google. I decided to create a personalized TinyURL.

There is the ability to create a custom alias for a tiny URL. Now I have two: [and]

SMS stands for the school: Saint Michael School. I'm hopi
ng the tiny URL is intuitive and relatively easy to remember.

Making It Easier on Me

As I was looking at the URL for the spreadsheet, the tiny orange chicklet caught my eye. I wondered what would happen if I copied the RSS feed into Google Docs. Lo and behold! Whenever someone reserves the cart, I get instant - up to five minute delay - notice of the reservation and whether or not the teacher feels that they will need assistance in their room. You can see a sample at the top of this post.

The biggest downfall was in the initial creation of the form. I didn't really think it through. I created it on-the-fly and made a different tiny URL. When I went to update the form, it did all kinds of crazy things to my spreadsheet. I ended up starting all over when I realized I didn't like the look of the spreadsheet and was too much of a novice to correct it.

I did learn, too, that I had to make the spreadsheet public so that the teachers could delete a row if they needed to reschedule the cart. Just to clarify things, most teachers do not use spreadsheets in the building. The first reservation needed to be reschedule and I walked the teacher through deleting the row with very little fuss.

All in all, if you're timid about getting started with Google Forms you should give it a try. There is an awful lot to be gained. The biggest upside, two teachers have used a Google Form and viewed a Google Spreadsheet this week. No training required.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Keeping Track of Wikis

The best part about collaboration on a wiki is that no one person has to be centrally responsible to update pages or comments. The difficulty arises when there are numerous collaborators. I've been trying to establish some best practices for myself when it comes to project management for all my students.

Winter Wonderland Project

I currently have three grade levels starting a three month project. It was put together by Amber Coggin, Nedra Isenberg, and Vicky Sedwick. I am really struck by the level of organization in this project. I am very hopeful that with so many participants, my students will give and receive feedback between several different classrooms.

Each of my grade levels will be doing a slightly different project based on their current skill set. My Kindergarten, first, and third grade students are participating. From what I can see, there are about 50 teachers who have signed up to participate with various grade levels.

Keeping Track of a Moving Target
The projects are not moving targets, but the ebb and flow of each web page is. I want to be able to point my students to the existing content so that they do not become frustrated clicking on empty pages.

A while back, I remember hearing Vicki Davis talking about subscribing to the edits and
discussions on all of her wikis. In 2007, my students and I started dipping our toes in the waters of wikis. I was quite able to keep up with every change since I only worked with one grade level at a time. The students didn't seem interested in using their password outside of class.

In 2008, I expanded the reach of wiki users in my building to the second through eighth grades. It was still fairly manageable. It was the first time I worked on other teacher's wikis, too. In these instances, there were few participants. The Winter Wonderland project is a horse of a different color.

How To...
The method is so easy in Wikispaces. By selecting the Manage Wiki link at the top left side of the screen, you are presented with a variety of options. One of those is the Notifications icon under the Tools set.

There are three RSS feed options: monitor edits and discussions, just edits, or just discussions. Alternatively, you could sign up for email notifications, but I did t
hat last year. The mailbox filled up and I felt overwhelmed.

I selected the RSS feed for monitoring edits and discussions. I copied and pasted the link into Google Reader. Now I have one stop shopping for everything that is going on in that wiki.

My Thoughts for My Students
This method will not help my youngest students. My current plan is to find schools as they begin participating and bookmark them to the school delicious account. Today I was able to bookmark a Kindergarten and third grade page. I will walk them through the entire wiki and they can explore on their own. I will want the students to look directly at these pages, so it will give me flexibility to quickly route the students to one point in the wiki.

What Else Can I Be Doing?
My question comes from my knowledge that there are far more experienced teachers using wikis out in the wider world. What are you doing with your youngest students to make working within a wiki as easy and streamlined as possible? What ways of working do you have as a teacher to balance directing your students at content efficiently?

Sierra, Piero. "Winter wonderland." Piero Sierra's photostream. 2 Dec 2008. 2 Dec 2006.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Maximize Your Blogspot Wordle

In my previous post's comment area, Andrea Hernandez asked how I was able to include all my blog posts in my Wordle. Changing some of my Blogger settings enabled me to have a wider view of all the words in my posts.

First Change the Settings
I signed in to Blogger and went to the Settings tab, then c
hose the Formatting link. I have my Show option set to display the last 30 days of posts. The setting can be switched between number of days and number of posts. I could see from my postings that I had 75 posts in 2007 and 80 in 2008. I set my Show option to 155 posts. You can have a maximum of 500 posts displayed.

Next Get Wordle Busy

Next, I went to and entered my blog's URL into the second box on Wordle's create screen.

Capture the Image and HTML
When the Wordle image is created, they give you a piece of code to include in your blog or other website. It was smaller than I wanted, so I captured the screen using command+shift+4 on my Mac.

The code they provide looks like this:

I needed to change the reference for the image's source from
Wordle's file server to the image I would upload to Blogger. I resized it using Gimp to 480 x 360. In Blogger, I used the Add Image icon on the Compose toolbar. Looking behind the scenes in the Edit Html tab, I could see the code generated by Blogger for that image. It made it more complex than I do when I hand code HTML, but I knew what I was looking for. Here is a sample of the code Blogger generates:

I was looking for the letters SRC to tell me the new source of the image I just uploaded. I have SRC highlighted in turquoise. I had to highlight everything from the HTTP to the PNG part, not including the quote marks. I copied that and pasted it over the same information in Wordle's HTML.

Now I had it displayed in a bigger size and it still links to the Wordle saved image.

More Than You Asked For
As I was doing this earlier tonight, I thought the second half of this explanation would be worth doing sometime, so I did this part for myself.

Just remember to go back and set the Show option on the Settings tab back to your usual setting so you don't slow down the page load for the people who come to visit your blog.

Tag - You're It

A few days ago, Lee Kolbert at A GeekyMomma's blog started a meme. She made a Wordle out of her blog's RSS feed. I liked the idea, but adjusted it so that it picked up all my blog posts instead of just the RSS feed's seven items.

Finding Out You're Tagged

Today I was looking at Technorati reactions through my Google Reader feed. I found out that I was tagged for the meme by Kevin Jarrett at his Welcome to NCS-Tech blog.

When I first started blogging, the only way I would find out I was tagged for a meme was if I happened upon the post or the person who tagged m
e told me. Over time, I learned about Google Reader and setting up various searches to keep up with posts pointing to my work on the web.

Technorati can seem like a vanity item at first, but it has so many other uses. One of those uses is the Search field. I typed my blog URL in the search box. It generates an RSS feed that can be included in Google Reader as a subscription.

This morning, I saw this in my reader:

My Wordle and the Meme's Rules
1. Create a Wordle from your blog's RSS feed.
2. Blog it and describe your reaction. Any surprises?
3. Tag others to do the same.
4. Be sure to link back here and to where you were first tagged.

I modified my RSS feed to temporarily include my last 200 posts instead of the usual seven. Since I only have about 175 posts, it includes every post I've written since starting NJ Tech Teacher Musings.

My Reactions
I'm not too surprised. My posts are more about what I do with students, projects that work and need rework, and a lot of reflection for future attempts at projects in the classroom. The students are at the heart of it all. I work with all types of software both purchased and open source from Microsoft Office to Open Office, Kid Pix to the Gimp, iMovie, GarageBand, Scratch, and many others. I want the students to learn how to give presentations that are interesting and effective. I want the students to be able to tell a story. I take a fair number of surveys to learn what the students think about our work.

Tag - You're It
I would like to tag the following people. As Kevin said in his post, there is no need to do this if you are not interested. I enjoy completing memes if I have the time. Full disclosure: I did this instead of creating the lesson plans for the week.

Vicky Sedwick
Jan Smith
Patti Harju
Michelle Russell
Bonnie Kaplan

Let the game continue...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Word Projects on My Wiki

When I first started teaching computer class in grades Kindergarten (five year old students) to eight (14 year old students), I really didn't use much word processing.

My First Year
I clearly remember one of my fifth grade boys literally crying and asking why I couldn't type a small paragraph for him. His mom did all his typing. He came back recently for a visit. He's now in his second year in high school. He remembers too.

As we were talking, my fourth grade students were busily typing a paragraph in Word. They had just learn to use the Tab key to set up a "proper heading" on their paper.

My Seventh Year
I was speaking with the current fifth grade teacher. We were talking about the grades for computer class. I do many different projects, but I always take a look at their word processing skills when pulling together their grades. As a whole, the class had great grades the first marking period. I was reflecting on the difference. I think it is because I have been starting word processing lessons earlier and earlier with the students. As of five years ago, I began to include more word processing lessons as early as Kindergarten. These are the first students who have really benefited.

My Goal for 2008-2009
Last year, my goal was to gather most of my Kid Pix lessons on my wiki. I still have a few more to include as I add new things to the program each year and tweak and improve old lessons. This year, my goal is to gather most of my Word lessons on the same wiki. It's nothing particularly Earth shattering, but I'm becoming quite happy with the results.

I added a lesson for the second grade this year about fonts. I even wrote a poem for them to highlight and adjust. Seven years ago, I saw this type of lesson as something a middle school student should start to learn. As I continue to rethink my work, second grade seems more appropriate. I haven't presented the lesson yet, I still want to make something interactive for my Activboard. When I have the slides complete, I'll post more thoughts.

Image Citation:
Forks, Brittany. "Crawfy is word processing." Kilobyte Couture's photostream. 28 Nov 2008. 22 Jan 2007.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Net Day Speak Up

Last year I heard about Net Day Speak Up, but it was too late to do much about it. When I heard it was survey time again, I chose to get started.

My Reluctance
I am slightly uncomfortable with having students take surveys without previewing them first. Happily, I have two children in the school. They work as my guinea pigs. I have had students take surveys using the iSafe website and I really haven't been back there since. Too many questions dealing with predators and predator behaviors.

The Survey is Thorough
It took about 20-40 minutes for the students to complete the survey. The sixth through eighth grade survey has just shy of thirty questions. The survey from grade three to five has about 25 questions. I am not sure if the fourth graders will be able to complete the survey in one class period. Kindergarten through second can take an individual or group survey. I think I will do it as a group. It will be interesting to lead the discussion with the Net Day Speak Up lesson plan.

Notes to the Teachers and Parents
I've created a small document to solicit the help of the teachers and parents. It will serve as both directions to the survey and a promotion of what we've been doing. I don't do as good a job as I could informing the parents of all the work we do. In this letter, I'll be pointing them to our classwork on my wiki and our delicious links.

What Will I Gain?
I will have access to free, aggregated school results. After reviewing the data, I will better able to decide if this will be an activity I will repeat in future years. At the very least, I hope to be better prepared to lead the school body forward in years to come.

Image Citation:
"The surveying ladies..." liz_com1981's photostream. 18 Nov 2008. 8 Apr 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In My eMail Box Today

I liked the sentiment, but hate forwarding these types of emails. So, read along:

The Charlie Schulz Philosophy

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the straight through, and you'll get the point.

1 Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2 Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3 Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.

4 Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5 Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6 Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. The applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1 List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2 Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3 Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4 Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special!!

5 Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money...or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Film School in Session

Last Friday, I spent the best sixteen minutes of my K12 Online Conference with Film School for Video Podcasters by Matthew Needleman. Not only did I benefit, but so did my eighth grade students.

Attention Grabbing
Matthew modeled great video podcasting. He opened with an intriguing story in images. Shot like a 1940's movie, I was drawn into his subject. As the presentation progressed, I was struck by the high quality of the video. Watching Matthew discuss his tips, I felt like I was watching a TCM interview with a director. He talks about storyboards, choosing shots, and the rule of thirds. There are many other hints along the way.

Why Show Students
My eighth grade students are working on a project tied into the annual DAR writing competition. This year's essay is based on the Gettysburg Address. After reviewing the first draft, the social studies teacher was concerned with the writing of some of the students. I suggested that the eighth grade could produce a series of short films for the sixth and seventh grade students.

The Video's Premise
I outlined the following for the students: In groups of three students, write a short newscast from 1863. You can either pretend: a) that you use time travel to go back to 1863 or b) that video interviews could be given in 1863. You will have one group member be the reporter. The other two will be people who were eyewitnesses to the event. We will be able to show the videos to the younger students. Hopefully, they will gain some additional insight into the speech from the perspective of farmers, soldiers, nurses, doctors, and wives of the men of the time. In order to prepare for the presentation, we looked at a sample of a newscast from Discovery streaming. It was a 1958 clip about President Eisenhower's wedding anniversary. Additionally, I wanted the students to see what could be done with images and sound. I followed the Eisenhower clip with a reading of the Gettysburg Address.

Eye on the Story
The students had worked on their story in Word for one class. When I saw the Film School for Video Podcasters session, I knew that my students would benefit. I chose the section on storyboards and the section on the rule of thirds. I could tell that they were drawn into the video. They were very attentive to what Matthew was saying. There was one boy who was literally sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning into the presentation. At the end of the rule of thirds section, he said "Wow, that's so interesting, I never heard that before".

Reality of the Storyboard
The students are still struggling with the idea of needing to storyboard their work. One of the students asked if they still needed to create the storyboard if they knew what they were going to do. I asked him if he knew what he wanted to do and he said yes. I asked him if the other two students in his group knew what he wanted to do, and he still thought the answer was yes. I told them that I still expected a storyboard, even if they didn't use it entirely in the recording of the video.

My Video Podcasting Past
Each time I create a video podcast, I learn something new. My videos have really been more like screencasts so far. The only full video I have created with students is a Population Density video from the sixth grade math class I taught last year. You can see how the rule of thirds was not even a thought in our mind. The students are centered in most shots and it is visually very boring.

Gettysburg In-House
The movies are going to remain in-house productions. I am not going to have the time to have the students find all copyright friendly images. If any videos can be put online, I'll explain it in a future post.

In the Meanwhile
If you have any interest in creating video podcasts, currently make movies with students, or create video podcasts with them - this presentation is for you. Spend a fantastic 16:31 minutes with Matthew and your videos will be on the road to being more interesting and take your student's work to the next level. Get ready to kick it up a notch.

Image Citation:
Needleman, Matthew. Film School for Video Podcasters K12 Online Presentation. 2008 October 31.

Technorati Tags:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Something You Probably Don't Know About Me

My seventh grade students are in the middle of creating a presentation. It is a project that I schedule every year. I call it "Something You Probably Don't Know About Me".

The Skills for This Project
This is the fourth year the seventh graders have created PowerPoint presentations. Each year, from fourth grade on, I try to keep the students focused on using an image to provide a focal point for the audience's attention. It is their job to use the Notes section of the screen to provide information or tell a story. Mechanically, they do not have a difficult time pulling together the titles and images, so we begin by focusing on a story.

In this project the students select a hobby, collection, sport, or favorite activity. I require the students to have a total of seven slides.

Slide one: Title slide including the presentation title with a sub-title that includes their full name, grade, and the month/year the presentation is completed.

Slide two through six: They must tell how they got started, what they are doing now, and their plans for the future.

Once the Story is Written
The students will take about two 42-minute classes to write their story. I have learned about the sports activities, annual trips with family, collections, and abilities of my students. They enjoy the presentation because it is fairly easy to write and I love learning new things about my students.

Their next job is to find images that support the words in their story. They can bring pictures from home to scan, the can use digital images from home, and use images they find on the Internet. This usually takes one 42-minute class.

They must focus on clean, clear images that are proportionally correct.

Custom Transitions
I teach the students how to create custom transitions. They learn that it is inappropriate to fill the presentation with sound effects just because they are able to do so. They are to be consistent with their transitions. If a title wipes on to the screen on the first slide, it should do so consistently throughout the presentation. I show them how to set a timer so they do not have to click through every step of the transition.

They do not include bullet lists in the presentation.

A Great Experience
The reason I continue to do this project is that it provides the students with a reason to tell a story that they already know. It is good practice for future presentations – whether they are with me or somewhere else. The story is the thing. We are visual creatures and would prefer a great image that supports a story rather than reading the story from a slide.

The Content
I provide the students with a sample by telling the students a story about me. Something they probably don’t know about me is I left North America for the first time just three years ago.

My first two slides focus on how I became interested in the idea. My dad was the middle child in a family of 15 children. He grew up on a farm in Ireland. When he was 21 years old, he decided that he would seek opportunities in America. Back then, families were quite big on farms. His mother was one of 16 and his father was one of seven. I knew a number of my aunts and uncles. Half of them moved to the New York area and I saw them several times a year. There was always this mysterious other half of the family.

Every year, at Christmas time, we would send and receive cards with very interesting addresses. In my mind, they were unusual. They did not include a house number, or a street address. It was simply the family’s name, the word Muliarkane, the town of Caherciveen, County Kerry, and Ireland. I couldn’t understand how the letters got to my grandmother. My dad tried to explain that Muliarkane was a section of the town of Caherciveen and that everyone knew the O’Sullivan farm.

Growing up, everyone in class would at one time or another ask about each other’s heritage. I was always happy to tell my classmates that my father arrived in America when he was 21. It was always fun to feel like Saint Patrick’s Day was special.

Three years ago, my mother said she received an invitation to a family reunion in Ireland. She more or less said, I guess we (she and my dad) should throw the letter away. I told her to pass it on to me. It seemed a little like wishful thinking, but I thought maybe I might be able to go with my family. The boys were going into third and fifth grade, so it was not really going to be hard to travel with the children.

It took a lot of planning in a relatively short period of time. We found out about the trip in March and the reunion was in July. There was a flurry of activity to get everyone passports, arrange air transportation, and try to figure out where to stay. It is a part of the country where it is easier to stay at a bed and breakfast than find a hotel.

Sadly, my dad died about six weeks before the trip. He had never returned to Ireland and I was looking forward to telling him about the trip, and showing him photographs when I returned.

The trip more than surpassed my expectations. We spent two glorious weeks traveling in and around the Ring of Kerry. I met my father’s younger brother and wife for the first time. They still own the family farm. My youngest aunt was not able to attend the family reunion, but since she was attending a wedding in another part of the country, she caught up with me at the family farm the second week of my stay.

My aunt took me on a walk to the place where my father attended school. It was literally uphill both ways. I learned that they would walk barefoot through the fields, and carry bricks of peat to heat the little one room schoolhouse in the winter. The original house is still on the property. I was able to really see where my dad came from.

I had the opportunity to meet many first cousins. They had not traveled to the United States, so it was our first time meeting. They were so welcoming. They took us on day trips and really share their life with us. The dinner with the members of our extended family was an event I will never forget. It got to the point at the end of the trip that my husband would tease me that we could walk up to any house, and it would be the house of a cousin. It was true in many ways.

In the future, I would like to return to Ireland. I really only saw the Ring of Kerry and Cork (the location that my dad took the ship to America). I know there are many more parts of the country to explore. We passed right by the Blarney Stone, but didn’t really have time to stop.

I would also like to learn to speak the Irish language. My dad had to take many classes in Gaelic. The family only spoke English at home, so he always said that classes were very confusing. He could still count from one to ten, and knew the words for cat and dog. Some of my cousins teach the Irish language in school and said that it was not really a difficult language to learn.

I have included the images from my presentation from SlideRocket if you care to take a look.

Image Citations:
Ann Oro, 2005 Trip to Ireland on Flickr

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Everything in One Place

I was intrigued by the title of the K12 Online Conference presentation: Teaching Web 2.0 - Everything You Need in One Place. I realize that the world of potential tools changes daily. I wondered how everything could possibly be in one place. Now I have my answer.

The Conference Video
I enjoyed listening to Wendy Drexler's presentation. She explained how she put together a wiki called Teach Web 2.0. She moderates it with Anna Baralt. Wendy sees this website as an ongoing community effort to evaluate various web 2.0 tools with SWOT analysis. I had not come across her wiki before this presentation. It will certainly help me to lead the change at my school as I continue to try to spread the word about the tools available on the Internet that can be used with an educational focus.

What I Like
When introducing tools to teachers, I now have a fabulous wiki to point them to for ideas. It will also extend the concept of collaboration between educators across the globe. As I teach other educators about the tools, I will show them this wiki and ask them to take a risk and include an entry once they have used a tool with students or for themselves as an educator.

As an example, I stopped by the Kerpoof page. I was able to read through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats perceived in this website by the contributor to the page. There are ideas included for the classroom. I added my own perceived weakness and classroom idea.

Kerpoof on Teach Web 2.0
I like Kerpoof because it is free, attractive, and has a variety of options for young students. It does a good job in protecting children's identities. I realize the website needs to earn money to survive, but use this as an opportunity to talk about the value of using a website and asking a parent to spend money for additional access.

When I used the program with students some of the younger ones who are used to using Kid Pix got frustrated when they couldn't find the image another student was using. They had to click on the images and wait until the one they wanted "kerpoofed" onto the screen. I included this as a perceived weakness.

I know that teachers need to practice writing dialog with students for certain applications in class. I included this as an idea because the Make a Story option in Kerpoof would easily work in that situation in a very engaging way.

Cup of Joe
The essential questions are very interesting on the Voicethread for this presentation.
  1. How do teachers navigate and analyze the countless Web 2.0 tools that might have potential for student learning?
  2. How can one teacher make a difference in the quest to better understand and apply 21st Century learning principles?
  3. How are other teachers using Web 2.0 tools to promote student learning and achievement?
These are great questions that I intend to answer on the Voicethread.

Is This For You?
If you are involved in introducing various Web 2.0 tools to other teachers, if you are using Web 2.0 tools, or if you don't know what I mean by Web 2.0 tools listen to this presentation. Afterwards, take time to look through the Teach Web 2.0 wiki. While you are there, make sure you take time to begin helping Wendy and Anna build this into a resource that has even more value for everyone.

Image Source:

Technorati Tags:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Youngest Students Are Never Too Young

My focus when viewing the 2008 K12 Online schedule continues to be topics that will have application within my building.

A Lack of Tools
I like the sites focused on in Sharon Betts' Never Too Young presentation. A comment that she makes early in the session resonated with me. It is that one of the problems faced by the teachers of our youngest students is a lack of newer equipment.

This is true in my building. The classrooms for our three and four year old students still need to be wired for the Internet. Those computers are older and are used to run software purchased to develop preschool skills.

I do think it is very important for the youngest students to gain social skills. Computers can seem like a toy more than a tool.

On a positive note, we now have twenty tablet PCs that can be brought into the classroom. Those computers have wireless Internet access, microphones, and a webcam. My teachers may find Sharon's presentation gives them a spark of an idea for this year.

I continue to think that Voicethread (and can be one of the easiest tools for a teacher to integrate into a classroom. Thinking on behalf of a teacher totally new to a computer, there is still a lot to learn to get Voicethread to work well. If a teacher has students draw on paper, the files have to be scanned and uploaded to the program. If a teacher uses drawing software, it has to be exported to a JPEG image for uploading. Truly, once the site is populated with images, all that is needed is a quiet space to record the student's thoughts. I would really like to see more teachers use this tool in the classroom. I enjoyed looking at the examples on her wiki which complements her presentation.

Dipity is a time line website. I have heard about this website in passing, but have not used it. Sharon gives some interesting ideas for creating simple times lines with students. I think I will have to consider including this as a project for my Kindergarten and elementary students in computer class.

Sharon gives several ideas for blogging with our youngest students. She suggests 21classes as her blogging tool of choice. I don't think I would recommend blogging as a first step in our building. I think it is useful to first blog as a teacher before blogging with students, but it is so good to show those who are getting started the possibilities.

A Problem on My Part
The biggest problem I am having with the presentations is that I keep wondering if they are too advanced. When I get stuck in this mode of thinking, I keep reminding myself that what K12 Online offers is an opportunity to spark interest. I am looking forward to offering the teachers some time to view a presentation or two in the computer lab.

Image Source:

Technorati Tags:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Test Post

I'm having trouble getting Technorati to update my profile via my ping. I thought maybe posting a new post might help trigger Technorati to update for me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

K12 Online Conference - Delicious Things

I started the K12 Online Conference off with the presentation, I Like Delicious Things: An Introduction to Tagging and Folksonomies by Chris Betcher. I will be inviting teachers in my building to my room soon to get them started with the K12 Online Conference. Since many of them are just Getting Started, I thought I'd view all the sessions in that strand as they are released so that I can recommend different presentations.

When Blogging Remember
If you are blogging about a K12 Online experience, remember to find the tag for the presentation on the far right of the K12 Online 2008 Schedule and use it as a label for your post. Chris' session is k12online08gs04. The tag will be picked up by Technorati. Others will be able to find reflections on the same session easily.

The Presentation - Tagging and Flickr
I really enjoyed the format of this video. Chris opens up the concept of tagging with a visual image of the Sydney Opera House. He uses his Flickr account to explain how tagging is useful. It seems like a great way to begin talking about the concept of tagging and why it would be helpful to someone. Even though I use tags in Flickr, my first instinct would have been to talk about tagging with bookmarking websites.

The Presentation - Tagging and Delicious
After giving an overview, Chris does expand on the uses of tagging with the website known as Delicious. He demonstrates the use of tags in bookmarking websites. I think he used very clear examples that someone who was just getting started could easily understand. He also kept the theme of the Sydney Opera House. We begin to learn about the use of tag clouds, too.

The Presentation - Wordle
As a final example, Chris demonstrates the use of Wordle's website to generate tag clouds out of any type of text. I learned that the United States Presidential speeches are available to turn into tag clouds. What a unique way for students to analyze what was important in different times. I have to follow the links in his presentation area to learn more.

New for 2008
One new feature of the K12 Online Conference is the use of Voicethread to create "Cup of Joe" reflection areas. I wasn't sure if I should listen to the conference presentation first, or preview the Voicethread's three essential questions posed by Chris Betcher before listening. I ended up listening first. I took a quick look at the three essential question on the Voicethread and will have to come back to this new feature later.

Technorati Tags:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fun with Tablet PCs

Last week, we had our day with a team from CDW/G, Discovery Education, and Hewlett-Packard. Winning the Wireless Lab Sweepstakes has really been great in every way.

The Big Rollout
We had five sessions with students from the fourth through eighth grade and our guests. Each session lasted about 45 minutes. First our host Mary from Discovery Education told the students a little about the contest. She introduced a library specialist, Pam, who traveled up from her school in Maryland to talk about Discovery streaming. She gave a brief overview of what type of content the students could see when their teacher found useful videos for their subjects. Our guest from Hewlett-Packard, Wayne, gave a short overview of how the stylus and Windows Journal worked on the tablet to write. He showed them the Snipping Tool application and created a quick document that converted written print to typed text. The students ended up with about 20 minutes to play around in groups of two.

First Follow-up Technology Class
One of the things I like to do with students is give them free time on equipment and software before we get into its scholastic use. During class one this week, I told the students that I had three goals: to have them start the machine and set it up as a tablet, open - use - and close a variety of programs, and shutdown and stow the tablet. These goals were aimed at the fourth to eighth grade students.

They were limited to using a folder with items called PowerToys for Tablet PC. I learned about this set of free tools from Kathy Schrock. They are great for getting exposure and comfort with the stylus.

Their hands down favorite is Microsoft Physics Illustrator for Tablet PC. It gives students the ability to set up closed shapes, connect them with rods, and set a force on an object or objects. They can play back their creation and see how it operates.

Second Follow-up Technology Class
Our Spanish teacher is very excited about have a traveling lab of 20 wireless tablet PCs. I know she will be using our Discovery streaming and will be asking them to accomplish some writing tasks. Our goals for the second class was to learn to start and use the Open Office Writer program.

I explained the reason for using Open Office versus Microsoft Office. We did not have money for software for the tablets, so I chose to use open source software. It is a great example to the students. We do not simply use software that we haven't paid for. If they have computers at home and wish to use Microsoft Office, but cannot pay for the student edition, they will have a new option.

I played a short clip on Discovery streaming, the song La Bamba. The words to the song were on the screen. I gave the students the option of just listening or singing along. Next, I presented them with the text of the song on paper. I needed to make sure they could insert characters with accent marks. They learned how to select Insert - Special Character... from the Writer program.

Lessons Learned This Week
First - the machines are set to Auto Update. This would not have been big problem, but the machine grayed out the option to "do this later". So, whenever it popped up on the screen, we had five minutes to quickly save before the machine restarted. It would have been fine if it happened to one student, but it was slightly harder with five fourth graders having this problem at the same time.

TO DO: Turn off Auto Update.

Second - The battery life is great. We shut down the computer between classes and I almost made it to the end of the day without the need for electrical cords. The last class of the day four fourth graders screens started going dark. I had to quickly grab plugs from the cart and get them plugged into outlets. It was hard for the students waiting for assistance.

TO DO: Teach the students how to check the battery life when they start the computer.

Third - There is a little light sensor. It darkens the screen when the student's arm goes over it. It is on the lower right of the screen, so most righties had to get used to keeping their arms out of the sensor's way.

TO DO: See if I can change the sensitivity.

Fourth - The screen should be able to orient in portrait or landscape mode, but it wants to force itself into portrait mode when it is set up as a tablet.

TO DO: Learn how to change the orientation so it sticks.

The Primary Students
The first through third grade students did not attend the big rollout. This week, I showed them the tablet and gave them time to play with Tux Paint. They really liked the program. I will have to bring down the tablets from the second floor every few months to get them used to the tablet. I will have to find some lessons that will provide them with more than just play time.

Next Week
I was going to put the tablets premanently on the second floor next week. I still don't feel like the students will be entirely comfortable without my backup. They need to become the ambassadors to the teachers. I will have to provide two more lessons next week. This will give me the opportunity to make sure the TO DOs on my list are address and learn what else will be required to make them self sufficient.

Image Citation:
IT News SK:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Middle School, The Gimp, and Copyright Choices

Things have been humming along in the sixth through eighth grade. I am working on the students knowledge of copyright and the existence of Creative Commons. They took the survey during the first week of September (see the results at the end of the post).

Putting Knowledge to Work
I wanted the students to have ownership of a digital project to practice copyright and Creative Commons first hand. The sixth grade created a personal avatar, seventh created a personal logo (think Coca Cola), and the eighth grade is making an animated aquarium. Once their design is complete, we will be uploading the images to our wiki. This is our first time using PBwiki. The students will be choosing how they would like to license their image. We viewed several videos at the Creative Commons website: Wanna Work Together, Building on the Past, and Mix Tape. This has introduced the concept of selecting a license based on how you want others to use your work.

Learning to Use Gimp
Each of the classes had several lessons in using the Gimp software. One day, we explored the paintbrush, the clone tool, paint, and patterns. On another day, we explored the paintbucket, gradients, the smudge tool, and the various selectors (rectangle, circle, and lasso).

Understanding the Need to Export
Once all those tools were explored, each student created three images and save them as Gimp files. Next they saved them again as JPEG images and imported those files into Word. All these experiences readied the students for creating their own image in the sixth and seventh grade.

Animation is Awesome
The eighth grade learned how to create layers. Gimp makes it so easy to animate a set of layers. At the end of the layer name, you put a bit of text in parenthesis which sets the timing for each layer. For example: (1000 ms) will instruct Gimp to show that particular layer for 1000 milliseconds.

The Filters menu option has an Animation sub-option with a Playback feature. Each layer is shown in the window in a manner similar to a flip book. Next week we will save the images as GIFs so they can be placed online.

In Case You Were Wondering
Survey Results

1. You are making a video for your classmates at the end of the year with photos of everyone from the last nine years of school. You own Martina McBride's song "Blessed". You include the whole track with a large selection of photos. Is this fair use? Yes/ No

42% of all 7th and 8th graders correctly thought it WAS NOT fair use.

2. You work to put together parts of news clips from ABC, CBS, and NBC on a computer video. You like it so much, you want to put it on a CD the school sells to promote the projects students create. Is this fair use? Yes/ No

72% correctly thought this WAS NOT fair use.

3. You interview people in Cranford about their roles in 9/11. It is loaded on the Saint Michael School web site to demonstrate your work. Another school in the US downloads the video clips for a 9/11 night. Is this fair use? Yes/ No

40% correctly thought this WAS fair use.

4. You write the DAR essay and find a web site that really provides great information on spies in the American Revolution. You cut and paste sections into the report. You don't include it in your bibliography. What is this called? Copyright/ Fair Use/ Plagiarism

74% correctly called this PLAGIARISM.

5. You created a project about topics you are learning in science class. It is so good, your teacher wants to post it on the school wiki. You found photos on the NASA and Discovery Channel's web sites. Which photos have to be removed from the project? NASA/ Discovery Channel/ All/ None

32% correctly thought DISCOVERY CHANNEL information needed to be removed because it is a commercial enterprise.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mission Patches and Time Zone Experiences

The fourth and fifth graders are busily working on their projects following the surveys.

Fourth Grade Mission Patches
I am so much happier with the mission patches the fourth graders are creating this year. In previous years, I didn't give them a planning sheet and it showed in their work. We did not vote on and analyze the NASA images in previous years.

This week we prepared to finish the project and I'm adding one new final twist to it. We exported the images as JPEGs from KidPix. It gave us a chance to talk about the word "export" (as in exporting apples to another country) and how it relates to computers. We will bring them into Word next week. In Word, they will have to describe why they included the different elements on their patch. I will be hanging up all the patches in the hallway and they will vote on their favorite classmate created image. This will be the first time they export an image from KidPix to use in Word.

Fifth Grade Time Zone Experiences
The fifth grade spent some time reading what the students in New York, Australia, and England have typed into the wiki. During the week, they found their three assigned time periods to document. Last week, they brought their class schedule to the computer lab. We have the results from the sleeping and waking survey, too. This should give them some data to include in their time of day chart.

Once that is complete, we can update the Time Zone Experiences wiki and begin learning how all the digital cameras work. I have five digital cameras and twenty-two students. If I pair them up, I can have two different teams working on two different projects. While some students are working with the cameras, I will have the other students learning to import the photos and label them. I will need one more small project to keep everyone occupied. They will be using the camera to document different time periods in the school day for the Time Zone Experiences wiki.