Monday, September 29, 2008

Space Crew Mission Patches

The fourth grade learns about the planets early in the year. As I was looking for a project at that grade level a few years ago, I found this web quest.

2008-2009 Mission
In previous years, I more or less followed the entire web quest. Some parts worked really well like designing the student's own mission patch. Some parts did not work as I expected them to, like sending the postcard.

This year, I have the fourth grade twice per week for forty-two minutes instead of once per week. I took this opportunity to use the web quest, but make the project work better for me.

Part One
The first part of the mission has taken about two classes. We still used a link from the web quest website to get to an actual collection of mission patches from NASA for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. I used to just have the students look at the patches. This year, they were armed with notepads and pencils to find the following information:

  • Mercury - list the astronauts names and how they incorporated the mission number on the patch
  • Gemini/ Apollo - tell how many astronauts were on the mission and again tell how they incorporated the mission number on the patch (two missions do not list names)

As the students went through each patch, they were to put a plus sign (+) next to any mission patch they really liked.

Finally, they were to go back to every patch that they wrote a plus sign and look at it again. They were to circle their absolute favorite mission patch.

Part Two
This week, I will have them take a short Survey Monkey survey to find out which were the most popular patches. Once we do that, I will give each student a printout with a set of questions comparing some statistics about Earth to one of the other seven planets. They will tell how many hours it takes their assigned planet to go around the sun, how much time it takes the planet to rotate on its axis, how many moons it has, how many rings it has, and the minimum and maximum temperatures on the planet. They will be using the Windows to the Universe website. They will have to compare the results to the statistics for Earth. Each year, the science teacher assigns the students a planet to research as a project. This year, they should be better prepared to locate information using Windows to the Universe.

Part Three
The students will design their own mission patch for their imaginary trip to the assigned planet in Kid Pix. It will give them practice in changing to the Small Kids Mode so they can stamp ABC letters for their last name, mission name, and ship name. They will use the Space stamp set to decorate the patch. Finally, we will print and compare the completed patches.They will be asked to incorporate the statistics generated in Part Two to choose the mission name and the decoration for their patch. They will use the knowledge of the real mission patches to create a mission patch of their own.

Image Citation:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

KidPix 4 Stickers Working

Do you use KidPix 4? Have you been having trouble getting the stickers and animations to work on OS X or Windows since Quicktime has been upgraded on your machines? Well, I have good news for you!

Every so often, I go to the Kid Pix Deluxe 4 (School Edition) support page. This week I had the news I have been waiting for. They have an upgrade to version 4.1 which fixes the problem. I downloaded the ZIP file for OS X and installed it. Everything is back and working again.

I'm so happy because now I can do one of my beginning of the year projects for third grade. We complete a ABC chart of one sticker per letter of the alphabet. It is a great exercise in placing, resizing, deleting, and flattening stickers, and using the save and replace command every few stickers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Presenting at K12 Online

I am so excited to be presenting at the K12 Online Conference this year. When the call went out for proposals, I suggested putting one together with Anna Baralt. We were selected and will be presenting Monsters Bloom in Our Wiki in the Kicking It Up a Notch strand. It is a look at a project we did in the 2007-2008 school year.

Today the teaser was put up on the K12 Online page. I created it using iMovie 08 with images drawn by our students for the project last year. I found a wonderful piece of music, Core Meltdown, by George Wood over on

I used the music in a family vacation video. I quickly realized how powerful combining photos and music can be. It becomes even more so if you carefully match the image changes to the beats of the music. Those lessons learned on the family video really helped as I created the K12 teaser.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sign Up for the K12 Online Conference

Wait. There is no sign up. There is no cost. There are plenty of opportunities for learning. Coming soon to your web browser is the K12 Online Conference.

My Experiences
Back in late 2006, I first stumbled upon the K12 Online Conference. I thought I was too late. It said that it ran in October, and here it was the end of October. Oh well, I thought, maybe next year.

I was more in the online loop with the educators involved in the conference last year, but it still took time to understand the nature of the conference. I started seeing teasers for the upcoming presentations.

I finally understood that the conference conveners simply collected video presentations into one website, released them on a predetermined schedule by strand, and those presentation stay online long after the original conference dates have passed.

If Your Just Hearing About It
The next conference is starting with a pre-conference keynote on October 18, 2008. It will be followed by week one strand A: Prove It and strand B: Getting Started. The week two strand A: Leading the Change and strand B: Kicking It Up a Notch close out the final presentation.

There is a flyer in PDF format that you can print out to hang at the office. You can take a look at the flyer in the image at the top of this page. Get ready to amplify your possibilites.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time Zone Experiences Ahead

Several months ago, I was chatting online when the book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney came up. I mentioned that I always thought that book could turn into a great project. Lisa Parisi agreed, but it was the end of the 2007-2008 school year and just too late to start something new.

How Projects Evolve
Fast forward to summer 2008. I asked Lisa if she wanted to collaborate on a project related to the book. She mentioned that she had been talking with Jo McLeay in Australia and they had a need to find a time to talk synchronously. This led to a discussion about how hard it can be to get a feel for what time it is in your home country when it is 2pm in a country half way around the world. It was about this point that Time Zone Experiences was born. As I talked with Lisa, I decided that it would be a great opportunity for exploration with my students as well.

Some Brainstorming First
Lisa put together a beautiful image for the Time Zone Experiences wiki. She used Glogster (now another site I have to explore). We spent some time on Skype doing a little brainstorming. The basic premise of the project is to introduce the idea of global collaboration with our fifth grade students. We would like them to do all the research into what GMT is and how it relates to our world and others who live far from us. Lisa had a nice outline to ensure solid learning gains in the students. Before they really begin much work, the children must come to a classroom concensus on what GMT stands for and how it is used.

Time Table
There is a table of times from GMT 00:00 - 24:00. In this table, the students will write short pieces on what happens throughout the day. For example, at 12:00 GMT we are just ready to start our school day since we are GMT -4. They will make a short notation of what happens throughout the day in one hour increments. In addition, the students have a link for each time slot to share creations demonstrating what is happening in that time period. The creations can be a video, audio podcast, photograph, drawing, poem, song, or anything else the students make.

Month Table
The world is very different by hemisphere. Christmas time will always mean hoping for a white Christmas. In Australia, though, it is summer. The wiki contains a month table. Again, the students will reflect on what their part of the world is experiencing in each month. In addition to the short written piece, there are links on each month to share creative works.

The Paths Can Diverge
We are trying to make this a very "low threshold of pain" project. I teach my fifth graders twice per week for 42 minutes. Lisa has her students in a self-contained classroom. We are hoping for global participation. Anyone can jump into this project and take it at their own pace. The intention is to have our students begin to react to the differences in the varied classroom settings after the new year arrives.

My Focus
I am starting out with a bit of research. My students are going to work on learning about the many ways of performing research on the Internet. I am going to start by brainstorming how students currently research topics tomorrow. I want to allow them to use their methods to try and find out what GMT stands for and what it means in global communication. After ten minutes at the computer, we will gather together and take a look at the following resources:

Once that is accomplished, I have created a separate table on my own wiki for the students to do some brainstorming. We should have established, at this point, that New Jersey is GMT -4. Each student has three time periods to personally research. This will allow us to work as a group on the Time Zone Experiences wiki with pre-work accomplished individually.

From Start to Finish
We will continue to build on the work by using our digital cameras. Those images can be included in the creative section for each time zone and month.

The Main Takeaway
There is a lot of pre-work to this project. We have had a fair number of educators request access to the wiki. With Lisa and I both in GMT -4, we hope many other classrooms outside our time zone will be able to keep up the enthusiasm and build a nice reference for student reflection. It will be a good, concrete lesson on how big our world is and what a difference our location on our planet makes to communicating with others.

Image Citation:
"Time zones." Andrei Z's photostream. 2007 Aug 18. 2008 Sep 11.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Working Toward Understanding Creative Commons

Last year, the sixth through eighth grade worked on the ideas behind copyright, fair use, and plagiarism. It's a topic that needs to come up every year, at every grade level. I'm going to be using the work the students created last year as a springboard for the idea of Creative Commons.

First Steps
We will start with a survey. I'm very interested in seeing how the students respond to five short questions

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

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

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

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

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

Other Resources
I found a link to a resource via Clarence Fisher's blog post for a Copyright Comic. The students will read through the comic when they have finished taking the survey. This will lead them back to work they completed in Voicethreads from last year. I added a few questions for reflection. Finally, we will gather at the Promethean board to brainstorm words that should go around a bulletin board display on the side of the room. I want to add some words that describe the basic concept of copyright to the right of the current display.

Why Creative Commons?
When we create movies, podcasts, and other work in the computer lab I must be able to point the students to resources that can be used to enhance their work. I have found invaluable resources at podsafeaudio to create movies out of family vacation photos, a presentation that I am working on for the K12 Online Conference, and images for my blog. I want the students to recognize that they can have very professional looking and sounding work without breaking copyright law.

Making It Personal
We will be looking at videos from the Creative Commons organization to learn about the choices they have for their own work. Once we gain a bit of understanding, I will be having the students create little animated aquariums. They will be able to post their animation with the license of their choice. Hopefully, the will continue to build on their working knowledge of these important topics as a result of this work.

Image Citation:
Photo of my classroom bulletin board by me.