It Was Just One of Those … Years!

I was really excited about the online collaborative projects amd activities that I had scheduled for my classes this past year. Some of them we had done in previous years, both successfully and not so successfully, and some were new projects that my students hadn’t done in the past.

This just seemed to be one of those years where the planets were out of alignment and many of the projects just didn’t work out the way I had envisioned …

1st Grade: Describe A Snowman

My 1st Graders in 2009 did this activity and it was very successful. They loved making and describing the snowmen and trying to recreate our partner school’s snowmen and then seeing the results. I was excited to have this year’s 1st Graders involved in this activity. My students created their snowmen and recorded their descriptions. Then, we waited for our partner school to post their descriptions and my students recreated their partner classes’ snowmen. Unfortunately, our partner school never recreated my students’ snowmen which was a real disappointment for them.

Will I do this one again next year? Writing skills are being emphasized school wide in the upcoming year so having 1st graders involved in an activity where they have to describe something in detail fits in well with this. That means that this activity is on the “let’s try it again next year” list and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that our partner class participates fully.

2nd Grade: Monster Project

I really love the Monster Project and my students have enjoyed participating in it in the past. This year my students loved drawing their monsters and worked hard on their descriptions; writing and editing with their classroom teacher and then typing and editing again in the computer lab after our 6th graders tried to recreate their monsters. I uploaded the descriptions to the Monster Project wiki and we waited for our partner class to post their descriptions or redraw our monsters but sadly it never happened. Eventually, one of the project organizers had some students redraw my student’s monsters but unfortunately my students never had the opportunity to try to recreate someone else’s monster. Since our monsters didn’t get redrawn until May, I never had the chance to have my students reflect on their experience with the project.

Will I do this one again next year? As I mentioned above, writing skills are being emphasized school wide in the upcoming year so, yes, this project is back on the list for next year. I may have both my 2nd & 3rd graders do this since my 3rd graders didn’t get the whole experience when they were in 2nd grade.

4th & 6th Grades: Progressive Story Project

Both my 4th & 6th grade students had fun writing their contributions for the Progressive Story Project. Each class actually progressively wrote their part of the story in the Computer Lab by moving from computer to computer to add to multiple stories and then voting for the best story starter as a class. My 4th graders drew their pictures in KidPix with two students sitting together at a computer and taking turns to add to the drawing. My 6th graders used the drawing tools in Google Docs to work on their pictures at the same time. Unfortunately (and you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), one of the classes on the 4th grade story never sent in their pictures and none of the classes on the 6th grade story added to the story at all so it began and ended with my class.

Will I do this one again next year? Bet you can guess, can’t you? Yes, I will do this one again because it is a writing project and the students did enjoy the creation process and my 4th graders loved it when we read the entire story. I’m not sure if I will do it with 4th grade in the upcoming year or not because 4th grade is joining the Virtual USA Project but I’m definitely doing it again with 6th grade!

5th Grade: Time Zone Experiences

This was the third year that my 5th grade students participated in the Time Zone Experiences project. This year, they enjoyed creating their podcasts for the assigned times and listening to and commenting on the podcasts from the other school. However, due to schedules and other commitments at our school and at the other school involved, there just wasn’t much interaction this year between the classes.

Will I do this one again next year? There’s definitely writing involved with this project and learning to comment on wikis and work asynchronously with others, but after three years and moderate success with the project, I think it’s time to move on. Sadly, it’s never really gotten off the ground and I think it is a great learning experience but I’m planning to do A Week in the Life Flat Classroom Project with 5th Grade in the upcoming year.

8th Grade: Digiteen

This was the first year that I had any students involved with the Digiteen Project. I had followed it in years past and was always somewhat intimidated by it but decided it would be a great project for my 8th graders. I do a lot of Digital Citizenship related activities with my Middle School students and spent the first part of the year reviewing and introducing the tools my 8th graders would need to know to work on the project. Even with that review and their past experiences, my students floundered and felt lost at times. I don’t feel that this was a failure but it wasn’t the success I envisioned either. My students could definitely have used more prior work on researching skills and the fact that I only see them twice a week for 45 minutes each class was a big issue. It was difficult for them to complete the work that needed to be done in that short amount of time. I think that the Action Projects were the most successful part of the project for my students.

Will I do this one again next year? I still love the idea of this project but I am not planning on doing this again this upcoming year. Based on some things that happen at our school at the end of the year, I feel that it would be better for my students to be involved in the Digiteen Project at the beginning of the year and my incoming 8th graders will not be prepared for the project. So, my plan is to spend the time on research skills and wiki editing and other tools with my 7th graders in the upcoming year so that in September of 2012 they will be ready for the Digiteen Project. I am going to try to do some kind of Digital Citizenship project with my 8th graders this year either on Edmodo or maybe via a blog. If you would be interested in joining us, please email me at stmcomputers@gmail.com.

So, that was our adventure in how not to participate in collaborative projects. I refuse to let this scare me away from trying again with some of the same and some new projects for the upcoming year. I’m just crossing my fingers that it won’t be another of those years!

ISTE 2011 Virtually: Day 3-4

First things first, I am definitely going to ISTE 2012! While I was able to follow along virtually and participate online in the ISTE Unplugged sessions, the thing I wasn’t able to do is meet all of the wonderful people in my PLN that inspire me daily. I want that experience next year!

Starting With The End

I followed the closing keynote of ISTE 11 on Twitter and wished that I was sitting in that room or that I was able to see it live. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there and it wasn’t being streamed on the web, but now it’s online so that I (and you) can watch it.

Watch this – Chris Lehmann is amazing!

At about minute 24 in the video, Leslie Conery (ISTE’s Deputy CEO) asks the audience “What is it that you’re going to do next?” She then goes on to say “get it out of your brain” and she challenges the audience to tweet, write down, text two goals that you are taking away from ISTE 2011. At that point, the twitter stream was going too fast to even try to keep up with everyone’s goals!

Chris Lehmann's Closing Keynote - ISTE 2011
Photo by: Kevin Jarrett - Photo license: Attribution Some rights reserved

So, what are my two goals?

  1. Set up Edmodo for at least Grades 4-7. I’ve decided that it’s a better option for what I want to do than Collaborize Classroom though if I have time I may try this site with a few select classes too.
  2. Find (or start) online collaborative projects (preferably global ones) for all of the grades. I had some successes and some learning experiences (don’t want to call them failures) with that this past year and will blog about it at some point.
  3. Okay I know I said two but … I have a third (and more but I’ll stop at #3) which is to take the time to explore all of the things that I saved to Diigo or added to my notes or that I find as I read follow up blogs, etc.

My Day 3 & 4 Learning

Once again, I spent a lot of time at ISTE Unplugged and came away inspired by what people are doing and thinking about how I want to approach certain things next year. Here’s just a little of what I took away from the sessions I attended. The archives of all of the ISTE Unplugged sessions are now (or will be) available so if any of these interest you, you should go watch the archive!

ISTE Unplugged
Inspire Creative Writing with Online Discussions by Caitlin Tucker & Blended Learning: Differentiate Instruction and Bring Science to Life by Colt Briner
These were both sessions about Collaborize Classroom. I was very interested to hear how they were using or recommended using this platform. I loved the ideas of having students share writing and give feedback to one another on their work. I was impressed with the examples shown in this session and may try Collaborize Classroom with 7th or 8th grade this coming year but I still think that for what I want to do that Edmodo is probably a better fit.

Bringing Books to Life by Bob Greenberg
Amazing stop-motion animation videos from 2nd Graders! I need to stop thinking things like they’re too young for things like that and try some of these with some of my students next year even the younger ones. There are lots of ideas running around my brain right now about using stop-motion animation like this and paper slide videos and flip book animations using PowerPoint or other tools. I would like these to be tied into the curriculum though and not just animation with no purpose. I like the idea of retelling books they’ve read or tying these into Social Studies or Science somehow. I need to talk to some of the classroom teachers about this to see where they think the best fit might be.

Movie Magic by Josh Stumpenhorst
I first discovered Josh’s blog when he did the You’ve Got a Friend in Me lip dub video so I was excited to see him on the list of presenters. I hadn’t realized that Josh used PCs & PC tools – yeah! Usually all the cool tools shown are for Macs and I have to try to find alternatives for the PC. The examples in Josh’s Prezi are great. I really love the first one in the Authentic section about lockers. Lockers can cause such angst for 6th graders. I would really like to get into some green screen projects but haven’t really explored it much yet. The tutorial on Josh’s blog will come in handy!

Flipped Classroom Model: The Full Picture by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.
Interesting thoughts on the flipped classroom from Jackie – watch the archive to see where she stands on this. Unplugged sessions are quick so I’m definitely going to review Jackie’s presentation and learn more about the different models of learning she discussed. I still think that flipping some things is a great idea as long as all students have access to computers and the Internet at home. I have been toying with the idea myself. Why should I take 15 minutes of a 30-45 minutes class to explain how to do something? The students could learn that at home with a video before class and come in ready to actually do something instead of learning how to do something for 1/4-1/2 of the class.

Creating eBook – eContent with ePub format to support your curriculum or your flipped classroom by Helen Lazzaro and Tricia Lazzaro
I am very excited about having some of my classes creating eBooks and was thrilled to know that ePub is rolling out an education option! I had already planned on doing more writing with students this year and this will be a great way to not only have them write but to have them publish their work. I definitely am going to spend some time setting up accounts for my students and playing with the creation of books with ePub before school starts and since we use Chrome as our browser at school, they’ll be able to read them online.

Unbelievable Elementary Technology Projects by Brad Flickinger
Wow, amazing ideas and amazing work by students from Bethke Elementary. The movies created by the 5th graders are terrific. I would love to get into movie making more with some grades. Right now I only have 2 Flip Video Cameras and we would need to change some things in order to be able to share video of the students online. I’d love to pick up some Lego Robotics at some point but I don’t think that will be happening for at least another year. I intend to use some of the examples from this school to show my students that yes, students you age can do these things!

Empowering Students to Take Charge of Their Learning by Jason Schrage
It is always so helpful to see how people are using tools with their students and that’s just what Jason did. Jason showed how he uses LiveBinders with hist students and how his students use them too! Next year, I will be doing more research projects with students and think that using LiveBinders to collect the information might be a good solution. If you have been wondering how to use LiveBinders with students check out Jason’s session and his presentation binder.

Social Media in the Classroom by Elaine Plybon
One interesting point that Elaine brought up is that many people are getting fired or having problems at work from inappropriate use of Social Networking sites. Because of this, Elaine is trying to show her students how to use Social Networking responsibly. This point made me wonder. Many educators are using Social Networking sites in the classroom and many times this is because the students are already using them so their teachers are trying to meet them where they are. Is this going to cause our students more problems in the workplace? Might they not think that since their schools adapted to them, their workplaces will too.

Going Global: One Classroom’s Journey by Ben Curran
I was so inspired by Ben’s ideas and what he did in his classroom this year to connect his students globally. It’s hard to believe that Ben got started just after attending the ISTE Conference in 2010. This session contained lots of practical advice on how to get started and some great examples of what can be done. I am especially interested in learning more about and possibly joining the Challenge 20/20 Program but I would need the participation of the classroom teacher also to make this a cross curricular project so it may need to wait for the 2012/13 school year.

CIPA and COPPA – Fighting Internet Filters and Those “No One Under 13” Restrictions by Mark E. Moran
Mark had a lot of good information on both of these in his presentations (CIPA & COPPA). We’re not really impacted by these at our school because we don’t get any Federal funding but I was interested in what Mark had to say. I am working on a presentation for parents on Digital Citizenship and wanted to bring in some things about both CIPA and COPPA. The big problem that we have at school is students under 13 that are on Social Networking sites – mostly Facebook. As Mark pointed out, it’s not illegal; it’s just going against the Terms of Service of the website. I’m just afraid that if I say it’s not illegal that even more of my 2nd & 3rd Grade students will have Facebook accounts. I plan to emphasize that it’s teaching our kids to lie and that morally and ethically that’s not what we want to teach our kids.

Technology, autonomy and healthy adolescent development by Jamie Steckart
I decided to attend this session because the title of it interested me and reminded me of my friend Stephen Davis. I love the ideas on letting the students take charge of what and how they will learn. Jamie pointed out that in most cases Kindergarten students have more autonomy than High School students. That does seem rather crazy, doesn’t it? Jamie’s school is amazing. What’s even more amazing is that they can do all that they do with the small class sizes and expeditions that do not require additional money from the students using the standard amount of money that a school gets from the state. If this school can do it, why can’t every school?

Whew, and that’s only some of the sessions I attended! I would like to say a big thank you to Steve Hargadon for providing ISTE Unplugged for those of us unable to attend ISTE 11. I truly appreciate the opportunity to learn and to be part of it all.

EduBloggerCon 2011
Photo by: Kevin Jarrett - Photo license: Attribution Some rights reserved

Reading all of this I realize that I have a lot to do this summer and the learning opportunities aren’t over yet either! Here’s what I have coming up this summer:

  • Reform Symposium Conference 3 -This is an online conference from July 29th-31st. You should check it out too!
  • Rock Star Teacher Summer Tech Camp – I’m going to this one from August 2nd-4th and you can too! Last I checked there were still a few spots left.
  • EdCamp SFBay – It’s free. It’s teacher directed. It’s in the San Francisco area. I’ll be there on August 20th. Will you?
  • And, of course, reading all the blogs about the ISTE 11 & watching the videos from Video on Demand sessions

ISTE 2011 Virtually: Day 2

What I Learned

I’m a night owl so getting up for a 9:30am EDT ISTE Unplugged session (that’s 6:30am my time) wasn’t easy but that was my plan for the day & I did accomplish it. So what did I learn?

Edmodo is … a Social Learning Site by Paula L. Naugle – I hadn’t been in Edmodo for awhile and Paula had some good tips on setting up groups. I had posted about possibly using this next year and was still wavering back and forth. I think I have decided that it’s worth trying but I’m still trying to come up with how exactly I want to implement it and which grades I want to use it with. If anyone in a Computer Lab environment is using Edmodo, I’d love to talk about what you’re doing.

Virtualizing your 3-Ring Binder by Dean Mantz – I love Dean’s use of Live Binders and the winners of Top 10 Live Binder Contest have some amazing content as do all of the nominees. I almost presented using a Live Binder last year but then chickened out and used something else. I think I should revisit that idea or present on Live Binders itself. I’m also kicking around the idea of having my Middle School students use a Live Binder as a portfolio or their work.

Strategies and Tools for Teaching Better Web Research Skills by SymbalooEDU & Sweet Search – I am always looking for good tips on teaching Web Research Skills. I try to work on this from at least Grade 4 and it always amazes me when students take the very first link as the one that must be correct or use one of the question and answer sites as the truth. The top tip that I took away from this session was to add student or kid to your searches to get content geared towards students rather than adults. For example, don’t just search for presidents but search for presidents kids (or presidents students).

What I Wish I Hadn’t Missed

I always learn something new from the sessions I am able to attend via virtually and from the Twitter stream but there are some things that I really wish I hadn’t missed:

Learning Tools Family Feud: Crowdsourced Edition – I really wanted to see this one and heard it was a lot of fun. My PLN came through with the top 5 answers in many of the categories so I have the resources but I would have loved the experience of being there.

ISTE Flash Mob – I would have loved to have seen (or participated in) this in person. It looks like it was fun!

You can see the whole song on the ISTE Connect’s Video.

I heard that the Google party was amazing and that the DigitalJam with Kevin Honeycutt rocked! The social activities are something you just can’t get virtually.

Oh, and something else I learned today … I didn’t get into the Google Teacher Academy that is being held this summer in Seattle. I have to admit that even though I didn’t expect to get in, it was disappointing especially since some good friends of mine are going and I’d love to have the experience with them. On a brighter note, since I didn’t have to pay for a trip to Seattle, I signed up for RockStar Teacher Summer Tech Camp!

ISTE 2011 Virtually: Day 0-1

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend ISTE 2011 in person this year but that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn and participate in the conference from home virtually. Many of the educators in my PLN are in Philadelphia at ISTE 2011 and are freely sharing what they are learning on Twitter, Plurk and on their blogs and via other Web2.0 tools. This has meant that I can join in on the fun virtually from my living room or office or bedroom or wherever I have access to a computer and here is just some of what I’ve learned so far.

Saturday, June 25th:

Had I been in Philadelphia, I would definitely have been at EduBloggerCon enjoying the conversations of the day. I, however, did some chores and ran some errands while I followed the tweets from EduBloggerCon. I was not at a computer for the Web2.0 Smackdown which was one of the streamed events from EduBloggerCon. Lucky for me though I can check out the list from the EduBloggerCon ISTE 2011 Web 2.0 Smackdown – looks like some fun sites were shown. I was able to attend part of the Keynote Smackdown later in the day and had the privilege of hearing from some amazing people. I loved Tammy Worchester‘s Quiz Bowl with Google Forms to collect answers from the audience. Kevin Honeycutt‘s reminder that we can’t cut off the digital limbs of our students by cutting off their access to their devices was very powerful. The theme of our students and the influence they can have on our world was inspiring from many of the Keynote Smackdown participants. I’m so glad I got to actually “be there” for much of this and appreciate all the Steve Hargadon gives to the edtech community.

Sunday, June 26th:

Lots of activity on the twitter stream today with the kickoff to ISTE 2011. I started my day by watching the ISTE Music Video below and checking out some of the resources posted on Live Binders by Nedra Isenberg and Scoop.it by Bonnie Feather.

As the day went on, I read the tweets and plurks about the ISTE 2011 Kickoff and was so happy to be able to congratulate Amanda Marrinan, who I had the privilege to meet last year, on receiving the Kay L. Bitter Award this year. You can see Amanda get her award in the ISTE 2011 Conference Kickoff Video at minute 36:

The most interesting part of the day was trying to follow the Opening Keynote on Twitter. Now, I read fast but the messages sped by at more than one per second. It was impossible to keep up but I was happy to see that, for the most part, the messages were positive and that people were enjoying this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. John Medina who is the author of the book Brain Rules. Even though I wasn’t getting most of the keynote and didn’t actually hear the speaker, I was intrigued enough to want to buy the book. Luckily I did see the tweets that said that Amazon had the Kindle version of Brain Rules on sale for $2.99 – for that price I had to get it and am looking forward to having the time to read it. You don’t have a Kindle? Neither do I but I do have a Kindle app for both my computer and my iPod Touch!

Lucky for me (and for you), the Opening Keynote is now available on ISTE’s Video Channel on YouTube.

As I watched this, I made a note of the things that made me think:

  • “The human brain appears to have been designed to solve problems related to surviving in outdoor conditions in unstable
    meteorological conditions and to do so in near constant motion. If you want to design a learning environment that was directly opposed to what the brain is naturally good at doing, you’d design a frickin’ classroom.”
  • Dr. Medina compared the human brain to roads where at the level of the Interstate Highways all of our brains are wired the same and at the level of State Highways our brains are still mostly similar but at the level of boulevards and alley ways, there are massive differences. “All of human learning occurs in the alleyways & boulevards.” You have to create a database and it must be memorized. Almost as soon as you have memorized something, you have to be given the opportunity to improvise off of it in order for the learning to become solid in the alleyways & boulevards. Any school system (or education environment) that only emphasizes one or the other is failing the human brain and we are n danger of creating robots or kids that can only play air guitar.
  • “The emotional stability of the home is the greatest predictor of success.” If there is emotional instability, executive functions are reduced. Executive functions can be increased from 20-102% with regular aerobic exercise. Dr. Medina’s perfect classroom would have aerobic workouts with islands of learning.
  • The Atlantic Monthly asked the question Is Google Making Us Stupid? Dr. Medina says we don’t know what technology is doing to the brain – yes, it’s changing the brain but everything changes the brain. We don’t know what the long term effects will be because we don’t have any long term data. One thing that we do know is that shining a blue light into your eyes just before you go to bed, disrupts cryptochromes which can affect sleep.

Lots to digest and I’m sure there will be more after I read Brain Rules.

Now, I’m on to planning the rest of my ISTE 2011 experience which will include:

Won’t you join me? How will you experience ISTE 2011?

To Change … or not to Change?

What I Know

I know that Edmodo would feel familiar to my students using other social media sites and I like what I’ve seen on it so far but:

  1. I already post all assignments on my Computer Lab Wiki and I can set up discussions on the wiki – though I don’t often use the discussion feature and when I have the students don’t seem to really use it effectively.
  2. Parents can see what’s happening in the lab on the wiki: both the assignments and completed work that gets posted for each grade.
  3. Other teachers can see what we’re doing in the lab and are welcome to use the ideas themselves.
  4. I can have students turn in assignments via Dropbox or the online grading program I use – though I to admit that I haven’t used either of these options this year.
  5. I can contact students through the online grading program and through the wiki. I haven’t done this often and do admit that students don’t always check these when I do send them a message but would they check anything?

What I Wonder

I wonder if my desire to use Edmodo (or maybe I should look into Collaborize Classroom, instead?) is more about me and jumping on a bandwagon and trying a new tool than it is about my students.

  1. Would my students be more likely to participate in discussions if they were in a more private environment rather than a public one like on our wiki?
  2. Would the parents even notice if they couldn’t see all of the assignments anymore? Would it matter to them as long as completed projects were still posted publicly?
  3. Should I use this blog or a different wiki to post lesson plan ideas for other teachers and not worry about the fact that every assignment isn’t publicly available? The bigger question for me is would I maintain something else in addition to what I am using with my students?
  4. Is the turn in process better with something like Edmodo or not? What would my students or I gain?
  5. Would students check messages in Edmodo more than they check messages I currently send?

I am thinking of piloting Edmodo or (maybe Collaborize Classroom or both?) with at least some of the grades I teach next year. I wonder …

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of something like Edmodo over a wiki?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Edmodo over Collaborize Classroom?
  3. Would one or both of these tools fit well into a Computer Lab situation?
  4. Would it be better to use this with my older students who are already almost all on the popular social media platforms or would it be better to use it as an introduction to social networks for my tween age students?

Do you have any answers? Comments? Suggestions? I’d love to hear about your experiences with Edmodo and Collaborize Classroom if you have used these with K-8 (5 year old – 14 year old) students.