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 ed.voicethread.com) 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.

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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.

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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: http://www.itnews.sk/buxus_dev/images/2006/Microsoft_Physic_Illustrator_velky.png

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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Quick Surveys in Fourth and Fifth Grade

I have two different projects going on in the fourth and fifth grade. It was so simple to create a Survey Monkey questionnaire for use in our discussion. The students enjoyed the quick survey and it provided us with some interesting results.

The Fourth Grade
We are continuing to work on the Space Mission Patch project. The students completed their initial research on what w
as contained on each of the patches in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. I wanted to quickly roll up which were the most popular patches. Last night I created a free one question survey. It was a simple "select one choice questionnaire".

Once the questionnaire was created, I posted the link to my school delicious account. The students are becoming quite adept in starting up Firefox, choosing the All Tags triangle, and selecting the fourth grade links to find the required websi

The results: The favorite patch in my first of two
fourth grade classes was the Apollo 17 patch with 35.3% of the vote (6 votes). There was a tie for second with Apollo 11, 13, and Gemini 6 all receiving 11.8% of the vote (2 votes).

What We Did With the Results

We brought up each of the winning patches, I had them point out the details and try to decide why NASA included those details for those patches. We looked at which patches used Roman numbers for the mission number.

Next Steps
I gave out a simple research project to compare s
ome of Earth's statistics with another planet. They took a worksheet to the computer to compare the diameter, high and low temperature, length of a day, length of a year, number of moons, and number of rings. They completed that research today using Windows to the Universe. They decided on a name for their ship. The missions are the Angel missions for our parish's patron saint, Saint Michael the Archangel.

The Fifth Grade
The fifth grade continues to work toward understanding Greenwich Mean Time. They learned to edit a wiki for the first time. I created a sand box area to have them edit the page and tell what GMT stood for, what it is used for, and how many hours difference there is between GMT and Eastern Daylight Time.

All but one student could tell me what the abbreviation of GMT meant. Most had a fair answer for what it is used for. They were still a bit shaky on the number of hours difference between GMT and our Eastern Daylight Time.

Survey Time
Next, we must begin gathering data for our partner classes to tell what happens during different times in the day for the Time Zone Experiences wiki. I was certain that the students all started and ended their days at different times and I wanted to be able to quickly see that information. Last night, I set up a quick, free seven question survey over on Survey Monkey. They navigated over from the fifth grade delicious links at the beginning of clas
s to complete the survey.

Armed with our data, we are ready to begin personal bits of writing to explain what happens at different times of day in our part of the world.

Image Citation
Comer, Clint. "Nap Time." Clintus McGintus' photostream. 2008 1 Oct. 2007 14 Jan.