Friday, April 24, 2009

Chatting Up Internet Safety

In the Kindergarten through eighth grade classes, I take time to talk about Internet safety and responsibility. This week, I gave a test run with great success. This is a long post. I want to remember the details the next time I use Chatzy.

My First Encounter - Princeton '08
Last May, I went to Children and Electronic Media at Princeton University in New Jersey. I had the pleasure of attending with several of my online colleagues: Kevin Jarrett, Vicki Davis, Kathy Schrock, Robin Ellis, and Kristin Hokanson. During Vicki's session, she opened up a Chatzy room. It was quite interesting to hear her talk about the site first hand. For a small fee, she was able to create an ad-free private chat room with the ability to save the chat transcript. I was intrigued, but didn't really use it until the past week.

Time for That Talk
This week, the seventh grade was going to be connecting with students in Tennessee and Maylaysia in our Middle School 1001 Flat Tales project. As their teacher, I find it imperative to follow all the content on pages my students frequent. Last weekend, I was subscribing to the page edit and discussion RSS feeds for all pages my students would encounter on a weekly basis. I found a cell phone number posted by a student from one of the schools. I removed it and notified all the teachers involved in the project. I am helping Jeff Whipple run the project again this year.

I always plan a responsible Internet use talk befo
re summer vacation. I try to find a different way to present the information every year so it does not become stale. This year I decided to try Chatzy.

Self Preparation
I've been participating in backchannels for a little over two years. My experiences in learning to listen to a live presentation, audio, or video production while participating in a chat room has grown. I remember the first time I attended a Women of the Web 2.0 p
odcast and attempted to chat at the same it. It was very unnatural. I've since become more adept, but not perfect.

I have helped moderate a chat room, too. In moderating a chat room, I have three basic jobs. I listen to the content and digest the information, I ask and answer questions, and I make sure no one feels left out and their questions are being addressed. This practice was especially helpful in class this past week.

Getting Chatzy Ready

The actual logistics of creating a private room are simple. I registered for an account and created a room. I went the extra step and paid $9.00US for a Chatzy Plus room. The $9.00 gives me an ad-free room. I have the ability to have a complete chat history. I can also have a secure (https) room. I have the room for one month and can store up to 500KB of information. Once the month passes or the chat room has exceeded 500KB, the room reverts to the "pre-Plus" status.

After two 42 minute classes with my seventh grade, I have used 122KB. At
this rate, I may have enough space for my two eighth grade classes. I may not have enough space for my two sixth grade classes to have the experience this year - unless I pay another $9.00. There are two other price and storage options, as well.

Rules of the Road
When the students came in, I explained the phone number in the wiki and the need to review Internet responsibility rules. I had located a pretty good Internet Safety video on Discovery streaming. It is called Internet Safety: Pitfalls and Dangers - copyright 2008. I told them we would watch and listen to the video as we participated in a chat room.

My rules were: 1) this is a school chat room and appropriate language mu
st be used at all times 2) the students had to sign in with their real first name 3) there would be questions that I posted that would be answered as the video progressed.

During the Movie
It was pretty quiet with giggles here and there. It was our first experience, so there were a lot of "lol" and "hi" messages throughout the chat. You can see an example of the beginning of the chat at the bottom of this post. Interestingly, one student did not log on during the entire class and actually excused themselves to the rest room at one point. I have to follow up with the student to learn more about that.

I always find students need "play time" with new resources. I conside
red this first experience working play time. We did view about eleven minutes of video on the following topics: Good Neighborhoods/ Bad Neighborhoods, Social Networking Sites, Your Words and Pictures in Cyberspace, Online Shopping, An E-mail Internet Scam, and Cyberbullies. I did receive feedback from the students.

I tried to figure out the "question answering to noise ratio" by creating some charts. You can click on the charts to view them in a larger format.

When I went back to compare the two days of chat transcript, I found the students were more talkative in the second class. Monday generated 486 messages and Tuesday typed 768. These are two separate sets of students. I found that just because a student added a lot of "noise" it didn't mean they just fooled around. There were, of course, students who posted far more messages and far fewer answers to questions. Even though it appears that Tuesday did a better job answering questions, I'm pretty sure I have bad data. I did not ask students to type the number of the question they were answering. I believe I missed actual answers because they were one word answers: Yes, No, IDK.

What I Learned from the Process
During the both classes I had a preset list of questions in Word. I aligned the questions with the clips before hand. This was very important. I did add questions on the fly, too. I had pre-numbered the questions, but did not place the numbers in the chat room the first day. As a result, it was hard to see what the students were responding to if they just typed Yes, No, or IDK. I had the second class type #1, #2 and so on then their answer. It was much easier to follow the thread.

I taught the students the "Twitterese" of type @ and a student name when directing a message to another student. That worked really well. They picked it up right away and seemed to find it useful.

I learned that Chatzy has "Join Chat" and "Messages". I think when I do this again with the eighth grade, I will simply eliminate messages from the chat room. You'll see the difference in the chat below. It made it hard for students to follow along if they were not in the chat, but rather using the messages.

The students in day two were much "chattier" than the students in day one.

How the Students Responded
Our bell system is out of order. The second day, I had run overtime with the class by almost ten minutes. Their social studies teacher called down to make sure I still had the class. When they got to her room, they were so excited. I went up to apologize and asked her to join me to see what we had been doing.

I explained how I could drop messages into the chat about the video. The students could respond and discuss things with me and each other. She said that she sometimes feels left on the sideline when they are working independently online. She would like to feel more involved in the electronic portion of class. This felt so right to her.

We were discussing the concept of using the chat transcript to generate a grade. We will talk more about this idea.

I took the opportunity to talk briefly about Google presentations and the side chat available on that platform. It gave her so much to think about and she is so excited.

Future Plans
I am going to try this with the eighth grade before the end of May. I want to finesse the process before next year. This will definitely become part of my repetiore with, at least, the middle school students. It's very promising and I'm so glad I am able to use this tool at school.

Sample Preset Questions
Q0 - What is your name and your favorite day of the year?
Q1 – Have you ended up in a “bad” neighborhood on the Internet?
Clip 1
Q2 – Do you give your email freely? What personal “rules” do you follow when giving out an email address (your own AND a parents)?
Clip 2
Q3 – Do you communicate online? How do you protect your identity?
Clip 3
Q4 – Do you think your screen names tell too much about you?
Q5 – What do you think would show up if you Google your screen name? Your own name?
Q6 – Do these types of videos scare you or do you think they are silly?
Clip 4
Clip 5
Q8 – Do you open all email? What “rules” do you have for deleting emails without opening them?
Clip 6
Q9 – They say cyberbullying is a big problem. How big a problem do you see it?

First Few Minutes of Chat
Mrs. Oro: What is your first name and favorite day of the year?
Mrs Oro from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago

Mrs Oro: My name is Mrs Oro and my favorite day is my birthday!

#1 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago

#6 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago

#2 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago
#2: hi #1: hi :)
#3 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago

#4 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago: hello Mrs. Oro from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago
#13 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
My favorite day is Leap Day.
#2: hey you stole my color

#5 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
wat up G!!!
Mrs. Oro: Hello :-)

#6: You stole mine #7 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago
#8 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
Hi Hi Hi
#9 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago: hey
#2: heyhey #6

#3: HEy!
#7: Hi!!!

#10 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
yo watsupp
#11 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago: I am
#11 and my favorite day is march 8th because its my birthday

#10 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago

#14, yo.
#13 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago

#12 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
HELLO!!!!!!!!!! Mrs. Oro: @#13 You don't have your favorite day every year.
#10: i think that #3 like #10

Mrs. Oro: @#11 Your favorite day just past.

#11 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
Hey everybody
#13 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
#10: jkjkjkjk

#3: Wow

#12 from x.x.x.5 left this message 5 hours ago:
Mrs. Oro: @#10 That's enough of personal messages

#9 from x.x.x.5 joined the chat 5 hours ago
#10: ok lol jkjkjkjkj

#7: How's eveyrone doing? lol

#2: hi its #2

#6: hi hi #9
Mrs. Oro: @#2 Hi

#9: hey #6

#2: hi hi #9
#3: Whats up?

#1: hi #7!!!!

Image Citation:
Huynh, Lee. IM. L.e.e.'s photostream. 2009 Apr. 26. 2008 Oct. 6.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fourth Grade Podcasting

This is the second year in a row that my fourth grade students have created podcasts in Garageband. This year, I'm going to tie it into an Internet safety lesson.

The Project Outline
We started the project back in January. I have an outline document created in Word. The students are paired in groups of two. Dependi
ng upon the number of students in the class, I may have one group of three students.

The students open the document from the file server. They take turns being the interviewer and interviewee. Whoever is interviewing asks the questions and types the answers. By this point, the students are very good at basic word processing skills. They use proper capitalization, grammar, and spelling. They use one space between words and after punctuation marks. They understand word wrap and do not press the return at the end of lines. If we have students new to our school, this project gives them a partner to review and practice word processing skills. They switch seats and roles and complete the next interview.

When they are finished, they print a copy of the script and I review the copy for school appropriate language. I sometimes request more details.

Next Comes the Fun Part - Musical Intro
We open Garageband and learn how to open the Loop Browser. They learn to drag loops onto the time line, delete tracks, stretch and shorten loops, and delete segments of music. The program becomes a favorite piece of software for downtime when they complete projects the remainder of the year.

Recording the Script
Once all the scripts are typed and approved and the intro is complete, we get out the headphone mics to record the podcast. In this example from last year, we used the built-in microphones. There was so much background noise. This year, I was able to purchase some USB headphone mics. The Mac seems to only recognize one headset at a time. The students took turns recording questions and answers. The results are much better. I think you can hear the difference in this example. There were the same number of students in the room all recording at the same time.

Small Problems
One of my biggest disappointments in Garageband, and iMovie for that matter, is that it automatically brings up the last file in progress. This has resulted in file changes on several occassions. They were not malicious changes, students just didn't realize they were editing someone else's work and saved the changes by mistake.

As a result, when the students are finished, I come to each machine and save twice: once in the Garageband folder and a second time in the Documents folder. I name the file with the year, class, and student's names: 0809-4a-Ann-Kathy. I use the Share option to Export the Song to Disk as an MP3.

Even Out the Sound Levels
The music clips can be louder than the voices, so I've been using The Levelator to even out the sound levels. The only problem is that the file has to be a WAV or AIFF file. Zamzar comes to the rescue. I upload the file, wait for an email to tell me it's been converted, and download the WAV version of the file.

Levelator is so easy. I just drag the WAV file to the program and it generates a new file with the word "output" in the file name.

Where to Place the Files
I have chosen Podomatic to host my files. I started out with a free account. It is great, but I have decided to spend $99 to upgrade the account. It removes ads from the podcast page, gives me more storage space, and gives me detailed statistics.

Even in the free mode it is great. I copied the RSS feed for the podcast page to iTunes and the students can download their podcasts onto their iPods at home.

Tie-in to Internet Safety
One of the topics that I review each year with students is the concept of public and private information. This year, I plan to teach the lesson and then have the students review each podcast and determine how well their classmates did in keeping private information off the Internet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Why Monitor Blog Stats?

Everyday I find more resources for my classroom because I monitor the statistics on my various web sites. This morning I found an interesting wiki for Scratch as a result of my stats.

My Main Tool

The site I use most often is Stat Counter. It is a free site. At this point, I am monitoring several wikis and this blog. It's very easy. After you sign up for a free account, you will have to provide the URL of a site you wish to monitor. The Stat Counter can be invisible or displayed. There are several choices. Finally, you will be given a window with code. The code can be copied and pasted into an HTML/Java Script Gadget in Blogger. In Wikispaces, use the Embed Widget icon and paste the code in the Other HTML window. Each tool has its own location for pasting HTML. Classblogmeister was one of the hardest. I pasted the code in the Control Panel window in the About You sidebar.

I'm still trying to figure out where the code goes for my DEN Blog.

The Main Display Window

This is a portion of my main display window in Stat Counter. It shows me the web site title along with counts for the number of visitors today, yesterday, this month, and total. When I click on the web site, I get more details.

Where I Find Value
I learned about a new Scratch resource as a result of looking at Stat Counter today. It is actually a lot of fun to see where people find value in my writing. When I saw the name of the person to make the last edit on the wiki, I saw jepcke. Judi is a colleague from Twitter. We share resources, but I wasn't online when she might have mentioned creating this wiki. My Stat Counter helped me find it. Now it's bookmarked with my other Scratch resources in Delicious.

What Else Have I Learned?
Over time, I see that even though I may not receive a lot of comments, my resources are being used. Many people come to my blog to learn, get ideas, and solve problems. I help people find my resources on my wikis when I link to them on the Classroom 2.0, Elementary Tech Teachers, and other nings. My whole goal is to give back to the teaching world what I received when I was looking for resources back when I got started as a computer teacher.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Slideshare for Classroom Wiki

Over the years, I've wanted a method to gather student works for display on the Internet. The reasons are three-fold: to share the work with parents, to cut down on printing costs, and to give the students a more permanent record of their work with me.

PowerPoint/ JPEG Combination
Most of the programs I
use in class can generate JPEG images. I've recently been placing classroom PowerPoint and Activstudio flip charts in Slideshare to help explain my work on my blog.

I decided to bring many examples of my third grade student's work home and try to create PowerPoint slides. It worked well. I have 22 students. They have worked in Word, KidPix, and Kidspiration on various projects.

How I Will Use the Content
Over the years, I have sent home letters to the parents to show the work we complete i
n computer class. It can be a waste of paper and photocopying supplies when students forget to pass papers on from their backpack to their parents.

This year, the school included a spot for parents to share their email address if they wished to receive information from the school. I decided to collect the email address and create an online newsletter. As of April 9th, I am still tweaking the newsletters. I hope to send a link to th
em by the end of Easter break on April 20th.

Basic Logistics

Many pieces of work are stored on our school file server. The files are stored by class (e.g., 3A, 4A, 4B, and so on). KidPix and Kidspiration are stored on local drives. It took about a half hour yesterday to create an EasterBreak folder on the server, create subfolders for each grade, and slide the files from the local drive to the hard drive.

For the KidPix projects, I was already saving the files as JPEGs in the Documents folder. The Kidspiration files end up in the Documents folder by default. When I returned home last night, I opened the Kidspiration files and Exported them as JPEGs.

It didn't take too long to create the PowerPoint file, slide each JPEG to a Title Only slide from the folder on the desktop, resize or crop the image, and upload the finished PowerPoint to Slideshare.

Tweaking Slideshare
My only hesitation about the whole process came after loading a few sample Slideshares to the wiki and viewing them. At the end of the series of slides, it shows "related" slide shows. I searched their FAQ to see if they could be removed and then decided to take a closer look at the individual screen for a slide show. I noticed a tiny link labeled Custom underneath the embed code. I was so happy to see there was a second embed code titled "Without related presentations". Now I have all 22 presentations embedded on the wiki.

I will be able to save the wiki page to the school delicious account. The students can view each other's work when they finish the planned project when we return to school. They will be linked to via the online newsletter.

It's great when a plan comes together.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Xtranormal's Extra Fun Introductions

Working with students from other schools requires an introduction. In the lower grades and middle school, text often forms the basis for communication. Earlier in the year, I was captivated by a short film created by Lisa Parisi and Christine Southard's student for the Time Zone Experiences wiki. Another example is an Oskar Shindler interview. One of the teacher's on Twitter (I forget who) shared her son's link to this movie. I've enjoyed watching my seventh grade students create introduction videos for the Middle School Flat Tales project using Xtranormal.

What is Xtranormal?
It is a website that allows a person to choose from a variety of scenes and characters. It is currently in beta and there are four different sets of characters that can be selected using a free account. Once signed on, you begin to type the dialog. You can have a one character monologue or a two character dialog. I've asked the students to have two actors: one is the interviewer and one is the interviewee.

In addition to typing the dialog, you can give the characters various expressions and actions, change camera angles, and add music.

What Has Worked Well in My Classroom
I created one user name for each class: saintmichael5a through saintmichael8b. I was able to sign up to 21 students into a user name at the same time. I'm sure I could have had more students signed on. My largest class has 21 students.

It is easy to use. I did give each class a quick overview. I demonstrated adding text. Showed how to drag the animation or expression into the text box (that was not intuitive). I also demonstrated how the backgrounds and costumes do not take effect until the Action button is pressed. They watched the 9pm Time Zone Experiences video and loved it!

They were creating movies in no time at all.

Both my PowerPC iMacs and the new Intel Macs play nicely with the program.

What I Wish For...
Xtranormal does not seem to give an option for titling the movies in progress. As a result, I had the first two bits of dialog start with 1) What is your name and 2) My name is. When we return to class, the students click on My Movies then Movies in Progress. The students have to click on the Show Dialog link to find which is their production.

It did get bogged down when everyone was trying to click Action or Take Five (the button you select to save a movie before it's published). This only happened on one occasions. Most other times, it was fairly quick - less than five minutes. I found the speed reasonable considering the magic that is going on behind the scenes to create the video.

There are some "questionable for school" items: an "up yours" animation, a fart sound and lots of gun sounds. There are also bikini girls and undie boys (as I called them). I was very clear that this is a school project, so only school appropriate words, sounds and images would be allowed passed the Mrs. Oro filter.

It is a hit with the students. A huge number told me they created their own account over the weekend. I am policing the movies. I did catch some text that needed to be eliminated and couldn't tell "who did it" because of the general sign on, but overall it is well worth it for the project.

Jan Smith put together a wonderful intro video on the Flat Tales website. You should take a look at that, too!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

First Grade Reptiles Lesson

I used to feel uneasy when I had to have a larger than usual class in K-3. With my new tools, I look forward to these times. It gives me an opportunity to learn how to integrate the Activboard, Activotes, and Discovery Streaming into the school day. I hope that someday I have more Activboards in the school and want practical, first-hand knowledge of what can be done.

Book Fair Schedule Change
I had the entire first grade in the computer lab today. They will be going to the book fair tomorrow. Usually half of the first grade is in my lab while the other half goes to the library. The next day, the students switch and I have the half who went to the library.

What To Do?
I started by browsing Promethean Planet. I was specifically looking for a lesson designed for K-2 with Activotes. I downloaded a few lessons, but the one that caught my eye was called Discover Reptiles by Nicole Glover of Kentucky. It got my attention because I was certain that I could find a complementary video on Discovery Streaming. Reptiles are fascinating creatures. I headed over to Discovery Streaming and was not disappointed.

Discovery Streaming Reptile Choices
There were a tremendous number of choices. As you can see from the image on the right, there were 44 video clips just in the K-2 grade range. I previewed about five.

The first video that fit my need was Animal Groups: Beginning Classification (copyright 2000). I liked it because it talked about all the vocabulary in the Activstudio flip chart: turtles, lizards, crocodiles, snakes, vertebrates, scales, cold-blooded. It was a one minute 54 second clip.

The second video I chose was The Jeff Corwin Experience: Wild Animals in the City (copyright 2005). In one segment in New York, they show how a snake was left behind in an apartment and had to be collected by the animal control department. It was a ten minute clip, but we only watched the first few minutes.

Running the Class
When the students arrived, they sat in a horseshoe around the Activboard. I reviewed the Activote and explained that everyone would have at least two turns working on the board. We would write, erase, or move things on the board. I modified the original flip chart. Several slides were changed from "reveal" type items to Activote questions.

This was the second time they used the Activotes, so I made the first few questions very easy. I focused on having the students click A, B, C, D, or E to identify the snake, crocodile, turtle, lizard, and iguana. Next, the students slide vocabulary to where they thought it belonged in different sentences. They must have worked on the concept of reptiles. They were aware of the concept that reptiles are cold-blooded animals. Afterward, students erased a block to reveal the actual answer.

Next, we watched the first video and filled in the blanks about different animals on the board. Other students clicked to reveal the answer and compare it to what was written by the previous student. Before moving on to the Jeff Corwin video, I needed to review some vocabulary: rural, urban, and suburban. Those words all came up in the clip. We used the Activote to determine if the students felt we were from a farming (rural) or big city (urban) area. I talked about the word suburb and how it applied to our area. I asked who had traveled to New York and Miami.

Finally, nearing the end of our 42 minutes together, we watched the snake being bagged in the New York apartment.

Looking Forward to Opportunities
I am looking forward to more opportunities to gather the students around the Activboard and use the Activotes and Discovery Streaming. It is a great combination of products. My hope is that I will eventually have more classrooms with boards and I will have a personal understanding of what can be accomplished with students. I know the children had a fun learning experience.