09-10 Reflections: 4th Grade

4th Grade is an interesting year. They are ready and eager to learn how to type and we do spend a bit of time keyboarding. Many of them are very involved in some kind of social networking sites at home so Internet Safety is a topic that I feel must be covered. For all the time that 4th Graders can spend online, they still need a lot of guidance not only in safety but in Internet Literacy. I definitely need to cover this more next year in the lab. They love competing against one another in computer games and enjoyed World Math Day and love to visit sites like Arcademic Skill Builders and Tutpup. Most 4th graders still enjoy using KidPix and other graphics programs and it’s amazing how good some of them are in using these programs.

    Online Collaborations

    The major online collaborative project that 4th Grade participated in was the Voices of the World project. This was the second year that 4th grade has done this project. I love the idea of classes all around the world using art and voices to express themselves on a theme each month. However, there is not much interaction between schools other than having the projects posted on a wiki. The project organizers want a single student voice to say each word or phrase but I need something that involves all of my students and because I had to create multiple versions of the project so that each one only had a single student voice, I fell behind in getting our assignments up each month. Also, comments aren’t allowed on the wiki and most classes don’t comment on one another’s projects at the source of the project. I am currently looking for some other project to involve my 4th graders in next year because I want one that provides more of a real connection between classes and something that the students can hopefully maintain themselves.

    4th Grade also created a Tongue Twister VoiceThread. They enjoyed creating the VoiceThread and taking one another’s challenges. We had hoped that others would listen to and take the challenges presented but sadly that didn’t happen this year. Are you interested in taking the challenges? You still can!

    Lessons I Learned

    • Even though we covered it in 3rd Grade and 2nd Grade, 4th Graders need to be reminded that it’s one space between words & no Enter Key unless it’s a new paragraph. I worry that I’ll bore them if I repeat things from prior years but I have found that they really do need the review. I am working on coming up with new fun ways to do the reviews but I definitely have to do them!
    • If I can make it a game they’ll definitely be interested. Speaking of review, one way that I have found that definitely engages 4th grade it to make it some kind of game.
    • Even some 4th Graders are on Facebook. I love social media and I get why the kids want to have accounts but I worry about having them on these types of sites this young. Many of our 4th graders who are one friend our Middle School students or even students who have graduated from our school and are now in High School. I don’t care how “good” kids are the things posted by friends on the wall of a Middle School or High School student are often not appropriate for a 4th grader. I really feel that I need to do some parent education on Social Networks next year.
    • Just because an online collaborative project sounds good, it’s not necessarily a good fit for everyone. Having worked with the Voices of the World project for two years now I can honestly say I don’t think it’s a good fit for my 4th graders. It’s time to find something that is!

    Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

      • Keyboarding instruction
      • Internet Safety Lessons & Poster creation
      • Tongue Twister VoiceThread

      What are some technology activities and projects that are successful with your 4th Grade students?

      Collaboration Conundrum

      One of the things I have been very excited about this year were all of the different online collaborative projects I have been doing with my classes. These all involve some fun and different activities using a variety of tools and applications. The conundrum is this. My students are doing a great job completing these activities and we’re posting them online. A lot of other schools are also completing the activities and posting their projects online too. But, it feels more like the parallel play that you might see with very young children at a park rather than children playing and interacting together.

      Ann Oro shared a wonderful map illustrating the collaborative projects that her students are doing this year and I loved the idea so much I am planning to put one up in my computer lab starting next week. I think it will help the students (and parents at Open House) see the connections we are trying to make around the world. Some of the projects my students are involved with have many schools participating but none that I feel we’ve connected with. So do I include these on the map as long as we’ve added to the project and the other schools have added to the project or don’t I? We’re in the project and the other schools are the in project. We’ve both posted finished activities, videos, pictures, etc. to the project but have we truly collaborated? Does there have to be a more tangible connection of some kind or is just being part of the whole project and adding to that enough?

      Last year, I stumbled upon the Voices of the World wiki and loved the project and the global feel of it. I was thrilled this year when my 4th Grade class became a part of this project. This project is now one of my do I include all the other schools on the map projects. I don’t know that my students feel the connection to the other schools they way that I hoped they would or that they really understand that there are students all over the world drawing pictures and saying or singing the same thing as they are. Would putting all of the schools that have participated so far this year help them to understand?

      Another of my do I include all the other schools on the map projects is the A Room With A View project. My students are doing their part. We take a picture each month and record information about the day and time the picture was taken and upload it to our wiki and to the gallery for the project. Each student also writes a paragraph about the month and what they like or don’t like about it that they post online. Once again I don’t think my students feel connected to the other schools. It’s hard to find the new pictures each month because there are a lot of schools involved. I have posted a request for a few other schools to connect with on the A Room With a View ning and may email a few participants directly next month to try to make more of a connection.  Would adding visual references for the schools help my students connect more with the other schools? Do I really add all the schools involved? Since my class is 6th graders do I only put connections with other 6th grade or 5th & 6th grade classes? Would that be missing the point of the project?

      I always seem to have more questions that answers. I do know that because I’ve been thinking about this I plan to have my students spend some time looking at, listening to and commenting on the work of others involved in their collaborative projects. This is our first task in the computer lab when we’re back in school with my classes involved in the Winter Wonderland project and the Voices of the World project. As we watch and listen and comment we’ll add another string to our map as we connect our school with others around the world.