Monday, September 13, 2010

Reviewing Last Year's Work With Students

Every year, I begin class in a very standard way. I remind students about new rules in the school and how they will be handled in my classroom. I review rules from the previous year and how they apply. I introduce changes in the physical layout of the computer lab and other equipment in the school. I make sure every student knows how to access the teacher's homework online, the school's web page, the Accelerated Reading list, and passwords to essential user ids. This year, I wanted the students to have a way to reflect on last year's work and give context to this year's work.

I have the pleasure of seeing students from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Many students return year after year. We are fortunate to have several new students join various classes. This year, in grades six through eight I will take a look at a few projects completed in the 2009-2010 school year and see how many ISTE NETS for Students are involved in the work. I am using the 2007 standards.

I began by introducing who ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is and what the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) are in a very basic way. I showed the students the list:

1. Creativity and Innovation
2. Communication and Collaboration
3. Research and Information Fluency
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5. Digital Citizenship
6. Technology Operations and Concepts

The process was thought provoking for both the students and myself.

The Website Evaluation Project
In the middle of the school year, as sixth grade students, we worked on a website evaluation project. It was based on a web quest I found that originated with Joyce Valenza. I brought up a slide with a screen shot from our wiki page and the students took turns deciding which of the words in the six NETS for Students were reflected in the project. One person circled a word, one student said why they thought it was applicable, and the student who circled the word volunteered some additional information on why they thought the project fit in the chosen category.

Here is what the students determined about this one project:

Communication: The students had to communicate with each other in small groups and across groups to support their feelings about the relative worth of various dinosaur websites.

Collaboration: The students collaborated by working in a group with a specialty of either content, authority/ credibility, bias/ purpose, or usability/ design.

Research: The students practiced research skills by thinking about how useful each website would be if they were trying to use the dinosaur pages for a science report.

Information Fluency: This was circled on the board and led to an interesting conversation about the word fluency. The student realized we were looking at information. We equated the word fluency to language. For example, was a student fluent in saying good morning in Russian, Spanish, or English. In the same way, students have varying levels of fluency in finding and understanding information via Internet searches and determining the worth of the information they are reading.

Critical Thinking: This selection led to another interesting conversation. One student remembered the words critical thinking as a question heading in the social studies book. When we are thinking critically, we are thinking about important topics. If there is a war, we are thinking critically about what is happening in different parts of the world that might cause a leader of a country to make a decision. When we are looking at web pages, we are thinking critically about what is good and bad about the information presented and who created the website to decide if it should be used or passed by when doing research.

Problem Solving: A student determined that in the project we had a problem: which website was best for a sixth grader. As a group they looked at the website from different perspectives to make a decision.

Decision Making: Multiple decisions had to be made for each website. The students had to be prepared to agree or disagree with other students who looked at the same website.

Technology Operations: The students had to be able to edit the wiki and maneuver through the website links.

Concepts: Some of the concepts and terminology the students learned included the words bias, authority, credibility, design, and usability.

Next Class
I had five other projects selected: America the Beautiful videos, Math Blaster Ages 9-12 tutorials, creating avatars with Gimp, citing sources for America the Beautiful and the tutorials, and creating and presenting a Dinner with Famous Guests PowerPoint.

I will walk the class through the America the Beautiful project this week. As we work on new projects this year, I will end each project with this reflection. It's a good way to practice communication as a group and realize that each project helps develop a huge set of valuable skills.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Group Work as a Teacher

I've been working with a group of teachers to instruct them in the use of MacBook computers with ActivInspire and the Promethean Activboards. It's been a great experience made even better with the book Building a Professional Learning Community at WorkTM: A Guide to the First Year by Parry Graham and William M Ferriter.

How I Learned About the Book
I've been communicating with Bill Ferriter through Twitter for at least a couple of years. Over time he has shared a wealth of information and conversation (albeit 140 characters at a time). I've looked at PDF worksheet files that he has shared and found a lot of value in them. I decided to pick up his book for summer reading. It has been a great value to me.

The Book's Focus

I really appreciated the way the book was written. It is not an easy book to read cover to cover in a short period of time. There is a lot to digest and think about. I split reading it over June and July. I read about half of the book over the course of three or four days each time.

I specifically liked that each chapter of the book starts with a scenario from a fictitious school. It put me in the frame of mind to reflect on my situation. The scenario is followed by research, ideas, and suggestions. The chapters wrap up with worksheets, surveys, and check lists.

Wrapping Up the Summer Sessions
The last session this summer was part show and tell and partially practice in hooking up the projector, speakers, board, and computer. I wanted to make sure that the group stayed focused and felt their time was well spent as we worked. Initially, I was going to have the teachers break into groups with the six boards, but due to floor polishing I couldn't.

While thinking about my approach, I decided to page through the book. The idea I found came from a chapter on Negotiating Personalities and Conflict. This chapter ends with two reproducibles called the Team Agenda Template and Team Roles to Consider. I didn't use the exact worksheet or roles, but it was perfect for my needs. It really calls to mind working with students on group projects and making sure they have clear roles to play in their learning. It shouldn't be any different with adult learners.

My Version
These are the modified topics I used.

Topic 1: Each person will connect the laptop to the projector, board and speakers. What worked well for each person? What did not work? Was it one individual, several, or everyone?

Topic 2: Each person will open a flipchart they found on Promethean Planet or a flipchart they created themselves. Others in the room will act as students. What worked well for each person? What do individuals need to learn to move forward?

Topic 3: The group will focus on student outcomes for the lesson. What student weaknesses would this lesson support? What ideas were brainstormed as a result of viewing this lesson? Do you think this lesson could help younger or older students in the building (with or without modification)?

Topic 4: As a group reflect on a lesson or lessons Ann could provide to move the learning forward.

If a lesson wasn't prepared in advance, I had bookmarked a website called Faith First as a tinyurl ( The teachers enjoyed testing it out. Another teacher shared a website her college son was using. Everyone really got into talking about the possibilities of the websites in class - both the strengths and potential downsides. They discussed the importance of trying things outside of class hours to make sure they knew what to expect.

I intended to also use the short survey of the value of the meeting, but forgot to use it.

A Hearty Recommendation
I've been leading the teachers to become more comfortable with sharing in online spaces though the use of a private Ning. The teachers helped me by posting the results of the topics, reflections, and discussions on the ning. As a result, I created several screencasts to help everyone remember how to find a flipchart on Promethean Planet, the difference between Mac folders, opening and saving a flipchart from Promethean Planet, and the difference between save and save as. We are becoming a learning community. The book has given me a wealth of ideas as a teacher leader to help others expand their comfort and knowledge.

It is a resource for an administrator helping a district, a principal helping a school, or a teacher leader helping fellow teachers. It brings up both the benefits and real work involved in becoming a professional learning community.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reverse Photo Search

I always learn something on the Tech Chick Tips podcast. Several months ago, I heard about and tucked the idea away. I got a chance to try it last night.

The Set Up
I was speaking with Vicky about potential projects for the coming school year. The conversation drifted to digital citizenship on the Internet. I wanted to share a lesson idea with her, but it was in ActivInspire. As I captured screens and put them into PowerPoint, I realized that I didn't copy the citations onto the flipchart when I made it. I wanted to upload the PowerPoint to Slideboom, but needed those citations first.

I always search for Creative Commons licensed photos and usually look for Attribution 2.0 Generic first on Flickr...but how to find it.

TinEye Reverse Image Search
I decided to give TinEye a try. Anna and Helen made it sound like you just take any image and send it to the website, so I removed all the extra words and buttons that had been on the page and took a screen shot of the image on the Mac. It turned into a simple PNG image. I uploaded the image to TinEye and WOW there were several sites that had used the same image.

An even bigger wow is that as I wrote this post I was on a different computer. Rather than go downstairs to load the image to Blogger, I opened the PowerPoint I had put on Slideboom and captured a screen shot of just part of the image. Tineye found it again! It wasn't even as sharp as the original.

There was still a little work to do. On some of the sites I found, they didn't cite their source. On others, only was cited. I had to use the logic that I would have used when I originally found the photo. I thought I would have typed Facebook, so I entered the word facebook into Flickr's search bar for the user hoyasmeg and it turned up!

No So Lucky the Second Time
I had a second image and was not so lucky with TinEye. I imagine TinEye does not search Flickr. I went to Flickr and tried to remember what I would have typed to generate the image. I don't know what my original search was, but I tried patrick parade boys since the image I wanted had two boys who were at a Saint Patrick's Day parade. No luck. Then I tried patrick parade boy and there it was!

What I Learned
First, it's easier to cite your sources when you find them. No surprise there. Second, TinEye is a great way to do a reverse image search. Third, know your patterns. I usually look for images in Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic. Finally, think through keywords you might have used and if that fails think through keywords pertaining to the image as you are looking at it.

Sounds like a good lesson for the students this year.

Image Citations:
Emery, James. "Looking at Facebook photo_2008". hoyasmeg's photostream. 2009 May 9. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

"Kids in the Parade". greenmelinda's photostream. 2007 Mar 18. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

"Boy watching parade". greenmelinda's photostream. 2007 Mar 18. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Murphy, William. "I REFUSE TO MOVE". infomatique's photostream. 2007 Mar 17. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.