Monday, March 29, 2010

Did You Know 4.0 and Seventh Grade

The seventh grade was recently requesting a class using our private, ad-free Chatzy room. I paid $29.00 for the private room. At the rate we are using it, the 5MB of chat should last a long time. This is a short week before Easter break, so I decided to work on some technology awareness concepts.

Did You Know 4.0
I decided to use the Did You Know 4.0 video by XPLANE as the basis for our discussion. I always gain interesting insights when we have Chatzy discussions. This weekend, before the chat, I prepared questions that I wanted to ask at the start of the discussion and at various points throughout the short (less than five minute) video. The entire class took a full 42 minute period.

Room Etiquette
We did a quick review of room etiquette as we have already used the Chatzy room twice. The short list goes as follows:
1. You must sign on with your first name (last initial is only required if we have two or more matching first names).
2. If you sign in with a different name, you must leave the chat room and re-enter with your proper name.
3. Stay on target in the discussions. Save private jokes and messages for your online chats at home.
4. Do not type repetitive characters. As an aside, I don't know why, but students like to add messages like "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa". I explained that I paid for the chat room and I'm charged by the character.
5. I enter each question preceded by Q and a number. They respond with Q the same number and their answer so I can easily look at the chat later and know what question was being answered.

Question One
Q1. What do you know about the Google Book Search scanner or Google Books?

A few of the students answered with responses such as it finds books, Google lets you preview pages in books, it's all about books and reading, it makes books more available, and it lets you buy books. There were a number of "I don't know" responses, as well.

At the twenty-two second mark in the video, they talk about how a Google Book Search scanner can digitize 1,000 pages an hour. I couldn't find any video specifically titled as a Google Book Search scanner, but I did find a YouTube video of a Kirtas APT 2400 book scanner digitizing a book which worked for my purposes.

Question Two and Three
Q2. What do you watch more of TV shows or YouTube videos?
Here the room was split between TV and both evenly.

Q3. Has anyone in the room every been Rickrolled? I haven't.
Again, the answers were split in half. I had never really even heard of this until seeing the Did You Know video. The answers to the affirmative were actually pretty funny and ranged from "so much *shutter shutter*" to "every time something is good on YouTube he shows up". We ended up watching the Rick Astley, "Never Gonna Give You Up," video at the end of class.

Question Four
Q4. How many text messages do you think the average American teen sends each month?
Their guesses were in the one to four thousand range with some discussion of whether there was a difference between the amount boys and girls sent. The video claims 2,272 - so they were in the ball park with their guesses.

It talks about the fastest text message. It's one thing to read about it, but I found an interesting three-minute YouTube clip of James Trusler trying to break the record on a Guinness World Record show. It was interesting to see him try to type "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human." It must be on a commercially available cell phone, completed without the use of predictive texting technology, all punctuation, capitalization, and error-free.

They felt the text went a little too quickly on the screen. I told them I would bookmark the video on my Schoolnotes page.

Closing the Class

We left the Chatzy room and returned to the chairs in the center of the room. I took them on a brief tour of LIFE Magazine on Google Books. I told them they might find it useful in the remainder of grammar school and into high school as a source document. If they were writing a paper about the death of President John F Kennedy, they could search the LIFE Magazine by decade. Slide down to November of 1963 and bring up the actual magazine. We flipped past old ads and I zoomed in on the article.

We took a quick peek at Alice in Wonderland, pausing to look at some illustrations, and the Harvard College Library book stamp.

It was a very good class. I'm going to repeat it for the other seventh grade and my two eighth grade classes this week.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Different Way to Review Concepts

"Can we do that again?" is music to my ears. I have been reviewing some concepts of communication and collaboration with the sixth through eighth grade students. I put the concepts together in a voting format and offered Krabby Patties to the winners. Everyone was engaged and excited to the last question.

The Concepts

The students (through various grade level projects) have worked on wikis, seen or worked on blogs, created podcasts, and used a chat room. They have participated with students in classrooms around the world both synchronously (real time) and asynchronously (with a delay). We have used a range of tools from word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation to graphics and multimedia. They use the products well, but I wanted to see what terminology was sticking with the students. It gave us an opportunity to discuss misconceptions.

The Methodology
I created an ActivInspire flipchart to use with ou
r Activotes. I set up a "class" called Groupings. The students sat in groups of three and passed the Activote between them as they worked together to select the best answer. If I didn't have the Activotes, I could see using Poll Everywhere with the website. It would still work well. Instead of ActivInspire, I would use PowerPoint.

I created a spreadsheet to keep track of which group had correct answers. As each question was presented and voted on, I hid the ActivInspire screen and typed a 1 or 0 for the correct and incorrect responses.

After 15 questions, the winner(s) were declared and they took a Krabby Patty candy. In four of the five classes, there was one winner. In one class, there was a three way tie so the fourth team got a packet of conversation hearts to split.

We Will Do It Again
The eighth grade class, in for the second time this week, wanted to have another competition today. I had to tell them that I would put together a new set of questions for after our Easter break. This is going to become my new standard for what can be dry, information reviews of concepts. It's a win for everyone.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photo Mash-Ups in 7th and 8th

Last week, I gave the seventh grade a choice of several projects that I want to accomplish before the end of the school year. Among the choices: editing photos, Chatzy, and Scratch. Editing photos was their first choice.

Combining Photos
I took photos of the seventh grade students. I assigned an eighth grader in each class to take the photos. Each student had two photos taken - one sitting and one standing.

In order to make the images more manageable memory-wise on the machines, I resized them to 800x600 pixels. I gathered a variety of images taken in and around school over the last few years. The object was to make an interesting image by combining a sitting or standing shot into a different background. It was a short one day project. Some students did it because it was their assigned task. Other students enjoyed creating multiple images.

The Gimp Commands
I reviewed a few simple tasks to make the project work.

The lasso tool was used to trace around the sitting or standing image. Next, they used Edit - Copy and Edit - Paste as New Image to isolate the image on a transparent background. The eraser tool is used to eliminate any extra parts of the image that are not required in the final merged shot. We discussed the need to save images with transparent backgrounds as GIF files.

I had the students select the new background. They had to make sure that both images were viewed at 100% size so they knew exactly how much they had to reduce their image with the Image - Resize Image command.

Finally, the shot of the student was combined using Edit - Copy and Edit - Paste Into. The blue four-headed arrow slide the student to the final position on the image before it was Layer - Anchor Layer command was selected.

Finished Product
The final combined image was saved as a JPEG, brought into Word, and printed. If a student did not want to take the image home, I kept it for display in the hall. The project will lead into a very good discussion next week on believing what you see on the Internet. We will use Chatzy for the discussion.

Image Source:
Oro, Ann. "Boys in the Box." njtechteacher's photostream. 16 Mar 2010. 18 Mar 2010.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Choosing Who Takes a Turn

It's hard to be pick which child takes a turn in class first when there are so many eager students. I gave the Interactive Fruit Machine a try with fifth and first grade today. It was a rousing success.

As a Teacher I Liked...
Several features made this site a favorite for the teacher in me. It was super simple to type in the list of student names. When you're short on time even a few moments can seem like a lifetime. The site gives a little icon that looks like a disk. When you hover over the icon its label is Save As Web Page. A small html file is placed in the computer's download folder. It links to a save space at For each class, I saved the list of names and renamed the file: 1a fruit_machine.htm, 1b fruit_machine.htm and so on. Now, I can quickly click the file and the machine is up and running.

The Interactive Fruit Machine was really exciting for the students. I projected it on the board and had speakers attached to the computer. I could see a classroom teacher setting this up on a stand alone computer, too. The teacher could make the Interactive Fruit Machine a classroom job. The student could easily bring up the file and click the Fruit Machine button when required.

My Students Liked...
The look of the Interactive Fruit Machine in action is just fun. I clicked the Fruit Machine button and the names began to spin on the screen. The first grade students were cheering each other on as their classmate's names came up.

When a name appeared, I clicked the Remove button so that everyone got a turn with no repeats.

There are sounds, too. There are clicking sounds as the names spin by and when a name is highlighted, the sound of children cheering.

Learning to Avoid Ads on Web Pages
In the first grade, we were following the CyberSmart lesson for K and 1 called Find the Ad. I chose a math game on the Nick Jr web site called Moose and Zee's Balloon Math. We looked for the word AD or Advertisement.

It's interesting to note that most of the students thought ad meant 1+1=2. To explain the concept of an ad, we talked about commercials that try to sell them a breakfast cereal or juice. They learned not to click on the ads. After everyone had a turn, they had a choice of creating a Kid Pix drawing, using the balloon math on their own, or trying Diago's Puzzle Pyramid. They definitely needed the time to calm down from all the excitement of the Interactive Fruit Machine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Two Worthwhile TED Talks

Yesterday, I viewed two TED Talks on my iPod as I was waiting for my son's karate lesson to conclude. They are so interesting, I wanted to share them here.

Temple Grandin
I enjoyed listening to Temple Grandin at the 2009 Celebration of Teaching and Learning in NYC. She spoke about many similar themes in her TED Talk: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds. I believe most teachers should listen to her talk and think about the logic in her words. It is important to be reminded about how the different needs of students reflect their inner workings. It is fascinating to think about the different types of genius that will be required to solve our world's problems.

Jamie Oliver
The second talk was Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food. Many of us realize we do not do what is best for ourselves in our choices of food. I'm always looking for different themes to work our computer magic in class. He suggests if everyone taught three people to cook a good meal, and they each taught three people in short order we could teach the whole country. How awesome would it be to make a cooking show within the computer lab? It's something to think about. You can learn more about his wish on his TED prize winning page.

Take some time to listen to these two talks. You might find some insight into your classroom and community.

Image Source:
West, Liz. "spring vegetables sc". Muffet's photostream. 2006 Apr 17. 2010 Mar 9.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Introduction to PowerPoint in the Third Grade

Click the play icon then the cc icon to see the page notes.

We have finished our third grade bird research project. My intent was to have the students read for content in a web page and write their own sentences about what they learned. With each research assignment, we used a new tool.

PowerPoint as a Writing Tool
I placed a PowerPoint file with the glyph from the Winter Wonderland project in each students folder on the file server. It gave the students their first experience with the file server. We talked about how the files on each computer are "locked" on that computer's hard drive. The file server is connected to each computer in the building, so we can share its hard drive.

The students arranged the parts of the penguin into an individual representation and learned to use the notes section. They wrote sentences telling what each part of the penguin represented. For example, they used one color beak if they like warm weather and another color if they liked cold weather. They wrote five sentences in all to describe the glyph. Next they added three sentences telling what they knew, for sure, about birds.

Learning About Our State Bird
Next, we reviewed what the students might know about the Eastern Goldfinch - our state bird. I did not tell them if they were right or wrong with the details about the eastern goldfinch. The following week, we looked at the flip chart while holding a printout from Little Explorer's Picture Dictionary. I would show a question and the voting results, such as where does the eastern goldfinch live. I asked them to read the page and stand up when they thought they found the answer. Everyone was successful in finding all the answers.

At the end, they retired to the computer and Kid Pix to draw the eastern goldfinch by following the outline on the Little Explorer's printout.

When they returned to class the following week, I had each of their images on the second page of their PowerPoint. They chose five details to share with the class about the bird.

Comparing the Penguin and the Goldfinch
The final activity was creating a Venn diagram in Kidspiration to compare the penguin and the goldfinch. I made a template, which I will place on my project wiki. They found three facts that only apply to penguins. Three facts that only apply to the goldfinch and three that both birds shared.

When they returned the following week, they added three sentences to the PowerPoint slide that contained their Venn diagram. They wrote three sentence: what they liked most about penguins, what they liked most about goldfinches, and one sentence telling why they thought the birds were more similar or more different from each other.

A First Presentation Experience
The work culminated in the students standing at the front of the room, reading their PowerPoint notes, and advancing the presentation by tapping the Activboard with the stylus. They did a great job speaking loud enough for the class to hear, being a good audience member, and switch from one piece of paper to the next - a big juggling job.

All the presentations are on the computer class wiki.