Dot Day & ColAR app: Adapting for the Computer Lab

When I saw the post by FableVision Learning about Augmented Reality Dots, I wanted to definitely try to incorporate this in the lab for Dot Day this year. I knew there could be a few stumbling blocks to this though because:

  • There is really no desktop space in the lab to let students color the ColAR sheet without having to move keyboards which is not convenient and in the past has lead to a few dropped keyboards with the younger grades.
  • My students really want to be ON the computers when they’re in the lab especially the younger students.
  • I have typically used Dot Day as an introduction to Tux Paint for my Kindergarten students. It’s a great introduction to using that program but the ColAR sheet is vertical and Tux Paint’s screen is horizontal.
  • While I have the ColAR app installed on my iPad, I only have my iPad available in the lab for students to use.

Not to be deterred, I decided to forge ahead with this for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. I converted the PDF into an image so it could be used in Tux Paint and Paint.NET.

Tux Paint
The awesome thing about Tux Paint is that I can set all white areas to transparent in the PNG image I created and put this in the starter folder for Tux Paint and the students can’t color over or erase the outlines which is perfect for use with the ColAR app! The not so awesome thing about Tux Paint is that the image is sideways but my Kindergarten and 1st Grade students haven’t really minded.

ColAR Sheet in Tux Paint
My sample

My 2nd & 3rd graders were introduced to Paint.NET for creating their ColAR dots. I didn’t introduce the layers features or anything complex. They are using the Fill Bucket, Paint Brush & Pencil and learning about Edit/Undo or undoing using the history window. The students were warned not to color over or erase the black outlines and they all have done really well with this so far. The one warning I didn’t make was not to fill the outside paper with black which one student did. It still works in the app but the app had a difficult time with this image.


I try to be as green as possible in the Computer Lab which means almost no printing. Guess what? The ColAR app works pointed at the screen, too! I haven’t shown the the AR feature of the dots to the students yet. I can’t wait to see their reaction next week!
2013DotDay-PaintNET-ColAR 2013DotDay-TuxPaint-ColAR

What About 4th-8th Grade?
As part of our Dot Day celebrations, 4th-8th graders are doing an adaptation of Tricia Fuglestad’s Turn the Table on Tabloids lesson using Paint.NET to draw self-portraits and add the Newsweek magazine cover. I’m not leaving them out of the ColAR fun though. I am going to let them move their keyboards out of the way and color actual Dot Day ColAR sheets!

Cyberbullying – Yes or No?

Cyberbullying is a subject that I cover every year in Middle School. When asked what Cyberbullying is my students tend to talk about the sensational things they’ve read or heard – the cases where it leads to suicide or someone being charged with a crime. There always seems to be an attitude that if there aren’t threats of any kind that it’s not bullying or it’s just treated as a joke.

I felt that I needed to bring in examples that were real but not sensationalistic. I wanted my students to be engaged and to talk about the issues. Taking a cue from Stephen Davis‘ presentation on Technology and the Developing Needs of Adolescents, I decided that I need to let the students move around the room rather than having them just sit and watch a video or presentation of some kind. But, how could I accomplish this? Aha, I decided to adapt, Dan Callahan’s Things That Suck presentation!

Now as much as my Middle School students would love a lesson titled Things That Suck, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to call it that, so Cyberbullying – Yes or No? was born. I hung up big signs in the room: NO (on one side), YES (on the other side) and UNSURE (in the middle). The lesson started with a definition and video to help define Cyberbullying. Then, I had some examples which I presented one at a time to the students. After they heard the example, they moved to the appropriate area based on whether they felt the example was Cyberbullying or not. After they had moved, I had students defend their choice. This seemed to work well and made them think about why they chose what they did. Sometimes students moved as they heard explanations and, of course, there was the one student who always had to take and argue the minority position. After every second or third example, I showed a short Cyberbullying related video and then launched into another round of examples.

The entire set of examples that I had took a class and a half which I think is too long. Interest waned on the second day. I think this is best as one class and have reworked my presentation to take out some examples and one video. Some examples were better than others in sparking discussion and I feel I had too many obvious choices. So, I’ve reworked this a little too but may need to work on this more. Depending on the class and the discussions what I have now is probably still too long. Next year I intend to skip some examples or videos if needed to have this fit into one class. The students really liked the real world examples and wanted to know more about what had happened in these situations.

You can see and download my current version of the examples and links to the videos I used from Slideboom and Slideshare. If you use the online version, I’d recommend the Slideboom one because you can see the notes from the slides which include the source of the real world examples I used.

Cyberbullying – Yes or NoView more presentations or Upload your own.

It remains to be seen if this lesson will be any more effective on influencing actual behavior than previous lessons. Only time will can tell on that one but there were less comments like “Big deal. They were probably only joking.” with this lesson so I am hopeful.

Obsessions Become Lesson Plans

Lately I have been somewhat obsessed with Molly The Owl and we’ve even watched Molly a few times in some of my classes. I’m currently planning some lessons for a few of the grades about owls. I am also going to try to contact Carlos about doing something with my 7th Grade class who study Life Science and dissect owl pellets. Here’s some of what I’m working on – each class will do some of these.

  • Life cycle of an Owl
  • Food chain and how it relates to the owl
  • Vocabulary related to owls: brood, owlet, talon, raptor, nocturnal, pellet
  • Drawing (or coloring) an owl picture
  • Owl Math – some math activities using owls
  • Research types of owls and creating a spreadsheet of findings
  • Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection

Just so you can become obsessed too, here’s the feed of The Owl Box:

Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV

Keyboarding & A Broken Arm

My 7th grade students are about 3/4 of the way through a 4-week cycle of keyboarding lessons. They start each lesson with a speed test and record their score on a spreadsheet and then do typing lessons (we use Mavis Beacon) for 30 minutes and then finish out the class with some typing games.

Keyboard Blue Glow by ahhyeah
Keyboard Blue Glow by ahhyeah

On Tuesday, one of my students came to class with a newly broken right arm so I quickly posted a question on Plurk asking for suggestions for keyboarding with a broken arm.  One of the members of my PLN said there were lots of things online about one-handed keyboarding strategies. So, it was off to Google to do some searching. There is a lot out there but most of the links wanted to sell me software or adaptive keyboards or provided information on how to learn the QWERTY keyboard when you only have one-hand for typing.

I didn’t want this student to retrain her thinking to always typing with one-hand and then I remembered that there had been a discussion on the Elementary Tech Teachers Ning about Left Hand Keyboarding and I thought there might be some information on there that I could use since this student had broken her right arm.

Using some of the information on there and a few more searches, here’s what I’ve come up with so this student won’t be learning things she’ll have to unlearn and won’t be doing nothing for the next few classes until we’re done with the keyboarding lessons. Using the custom text option available on along with a modified version of the Left-Hand Keyboard Words and a few words from the List of English words containing Q not followed by U from Wikipedia and a few combinations of the numbers typed with the left hand, my student was able to practice her keyboarding – at least with her left-hand. I gave her the option of reading or just playing some keyboarding games about half way through the class but she kept with it getting through all of the a & b words and some of the c words. Custom Text

For the remaining classes, I’ll use the same list and have her continue through the alphabet or I may try to put some sentences or phrases together using the words to make it more interesting. I may also have her try to write something in Word using just the words you can type with your left hand. The only problem with that would be punctuation since those keys are on typed with the right hand. During the typing game portion of the class, I am going to encourage my student to play a game or two at using lesson #14 – Emphasize Left Hand. I may also have the whole class play a game during the last class to test their knowledge of the keyboard without actually having to type. and the Custom Text option could be useful in other situations, too. Even without a broken arm, a student may need practice with their left hand or their right hand. Use the Left-Hand Keyboard Words or Right-Hand Keyboard Words and practice away! Have your students finished your basic keyboarding curriculum or do you want them to practice with something other than the lessons in your keyboarding program? Have them find the lyrics to their favorite songs online and practice keyboarding with the lyrics. Use a site like Read Book Online or Read Print or the Classic Book Library and copy some text from a book or poem or short story into the Custom Text and have the students practice their keyboarding with that.

Always Have a “Plan B”

More and more I rely on the Internet and the resources that can be found there but that can sometimes be a problem when the Internet isn’t available for some reason. This week is World Math Day and so I had planned to practice on the site with three of my classes today. You’ll notice that says planned – when I got to school today I was told that the Internet wasn’t available. Okay, we sometimes have problems that just require a reset of some things but that wasn’t the case today. Today, there just was no access from the cable. I’m still not sure what was wrong and hope it’s fixed tomorrow but I’ll have a Plan B ready just in case it’s not!

So what were my plans and what did we actually end up doing?

2nd Grade:

The Plan was to have them log in to the World Math Day site and customize their avatar and play the game so they knew how it worked. I don’t see 2nd Grade on Tuesday or Wednesday (the actual World Math Day) so I wanted to get them excited about using the site so they could play at home. Plan B was Jumpstart 2nd Grade! We don’t have the latest and greatest version of this game (and couldn’t install it if we did because of disk space issues) but even the older versions have good grade level activities and the students love it. I did send home the letter I had crafted at home that said we tried out the World Math Day site and encouraged parents to have their child participate in World Math Day from home. I just added a hand written note that we didn’t actually get to have our practice due to Internet issues. Note to self: Don’t just email these things to yourself, put them on a flash drive you bring in too!

3rd Grade:

The Plan for most of the 3rd Graders was the same as 2nd Grade – we were going to try out the World Math Day site. I also don’t see 3rd Grade on Tuesday or Wednesday so this was going to be the day that I could show them how this worked so they could actually participate from home. I did send home the letter but we didn’t get to practice. Plan B was installing the software program, Jumpstart 3rd Grade, and working in that – most of them anyway. A few were finishing up something in Microsoft Word. They’ve been asking about using this all year so this gave me the chance to get it installed and to review how to handle CDs and install software with them.

6th Grade:

The Plan for 6th Grade didn’t involve World Math Day – whew, right? Well, yes and no, 6th Grade was going to continue their Keyboarding Lessons. These typically start with a 2-minute timed test and guess where those are? If you said, on the Internet, you win! Luckily I had brought a timer to the lab a week or so ago so Plan B was to create my own timed test. The students typed the alphabet as many times in Microsoft Word as they could during a 2 minute period. Then they examined what they typed for errors and counted how many of those they had. They then used the Word Count function in Word to see how many characters they had typed. They subtracted their errors from that and then divided by 5 to get the number of words they had typed – typing programs typically count a word as 5 characters. Then, they divided that result by 2 to get the number of words they had typed in one minute. Yes, they could have divided by 10 but I wanted them to see the steps and to know that 5 typed characters equals one word. They really enjoyed typing the alphabet for their speed test! Each Keyboarding Class ends with 10 minutes of some keyboarding game that is typically on the Internet. Instead of going to the Internet, they spent their game time playing the games in Mavis Beacon instead.

4th Grade:

The Plan for 4th Grade was again World Math Day since I don’t see 4th Grade on Tuesday or Wednesday. So, on to Plan B, and like 6th Grade, 4th Grade continued their Keyboarding lessons. I had to make the same modifications to the Keyboarding lesson that we usually do but all went smoothly and they enjoyed the games in Mavis Beacon. I also sent home my letter about World Math Day along with their logins and they were excited to play at home to try to help set a new world record. I hope they’re able to do so.

And, now I’m working on my Plan B for the rest of the week … just in case. There’s a current discussion on the Elementary Tech Teachers Ning about what to do when the Internet is down. If you are technology teacher in Elementary School (or even Middle School), this is a great Ning with loads of ideas and help. Join it!

So, what do you do in the computer lab when the Internet is down?