Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Paper Bloggin'

I don't remember when I first saw this idea, nor do I know where I saw it... but I've wanted to do it forever. To give my 6th grade students a visual indicator of what blogging looks like, you do it with paper, tape, and a wall.  I'll be the first to admit that a tree or two died in the midst of this lesson -- and I apologize for it.  Fortunately it wasn't ON Earth Day.

Here's what we did:

Step 1:

  • Each student was instructed to type a story and print it out.  There were no instructions on content or length just that they evidence effort.  
  • Grab some tape and tape it to a wall in the room

Step 2:
  • Read someone else's story.
  • Go back to your computer and type a multi-sentence response.  You have to be nice.
  • Print it.  Grab some tape. Tape it under the story.
Step 3:
  • Either repeat Step 2 or...
  • Read someone's comment about your story.
  • Go back to you computer and type a multi-sentence response to their response. You have to be nice.
  • Print it.  Grab some tape. Tape it under their comment.

There was much enthusiasm and enjoyment.  Kids were eager to share their writing and to read what others had to say.  I think they had fun.

Unfortunately, they had a grumpy teacher.  That normally happens when what I think are awesome instructions are misunderstood or bent.  It was hard to keep a lid on the goofy chit-chat.  

If I do this activity again, I'll tweak the instructions and be a bit more proactive about classroom management. :)

Enjoy the pictures of the paper blogs. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

App Test Drive Week 3

Since this past week was testing week, I wanted some laid back classes for my seventh graders  Sounds like a great App Test Drive Week to me! I give students a number of apps to try out for me.  They have to use the app for 30 minutes, then fill out a short form -- one each day.  See below if there is anything you can use in your classes.

  1. Animoto: (3.5 stars out of 5) Animoto is an app that allows you to quickly create and edit videos. Disclaimer: Only two students reviewed this app.
  2. explOratorium: Color Uncovered: (3.8 stars) This app allows students to learn about the lesser known facts about colors and illusions.
  3. explOratorium: Sound Uncovered: (3.9 stars) Made by the same museum as Color Uncovered, this gives sound bytes into some surprising sides of sound. Just be prepared.  Students need headphones and be ready for them to test your age with sound.
  4. FaceTalker: (4.5 stars) Take a still picture.  Turn it into a video with a moving mouth. The high score may be due to the goofiness factor rather than the serious educational value. However, there is value in it.  Disclaimer: Never give middle schoolers an opportunity to be absolute goofballs unless you’ve had your morning coffee.
  5. Morpholio: (3.5 stars) Morpholio, in tandem with its mother web site, is a place to create, share, and store your drawings.  It’s like an online collaborative canvas and portfolio for your artwork.  Disclaimer: This app was only reviewed by two students.
  6. Springpad: (3 stars) Springpad will probably never be a student favorite, but adults will like it. It’s basically a personalized student organizer with places to put notes, schedules, etc... and it looks like Pinterest.
  7. Ubersense: (4 stars) Record a video and play it back in slow motion.  It doesn’t sound exciting but it is if you are a coach, teach in the sciences, or have any sort of repetitive motion in your disciplines.  When replaying the video in slo mo, you can analyze the form and motion and compare to an expert’s motions. Disclaimer: Again, only two students reviewed this app.

Click here for the raw data and to see students’ comments.

I’m always on the lookout for good apps and have a wonderful group of students who are willing to test drive them for us.  If you have ideas, let me know.

Previous test drives:
Week Two

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

If students designed their own schools...

Today's #edchat was about about students having a say in what they learn.  It was a great conversation with divergent thinking and understanding of letting go of control, keeping to Common Core Standards, and whether curriculum should be static or dynamic.

Someone shared this video (14+ minutes long, takes commitment to watch).  I love LOVE the concept.

However it left me with LOTS of questions.

  1. How were these students selected for the program?
  2. What accountability is there with teachers and administration for there to be learning?
  3. Would this work in middle school?
  4. Why are they meeting in a garage?
  5. Who pushes the students deeper? What if their weekly questions are shallow?
  6. Are there no behavior issues?
  7. What do you tell the college admissions people when asked for grades?
  8. Does their state department of education not care about state standards?
  9. Who makes sure each student learns in each main body of knowledge rather than continuing to drink from the same well?
  10. Where is all the technology? 

Don't take me for a hater.  I think they are getting to something really good, but... maybe I'm having trouble breaking out of the 20th century mindset.  

What do you think?  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Educreations and KidBlog

A while back I wrote a post about how I love using Educreations and KidBlog together to assess student learning in math.  Recently, someone asked me how that works and to simplify it for first graders.

In my new technology role, I don't teach any regular classes, so my student blogging days are on hold for now.  That means I haven't done this in a while.  The good news is that it's like riding a bike.  I picked it up again pretty quickly and made a short video to show you how to do it.

The steps are numerous and a bit confusing.  All I can say is that it's worth trying.  Practice yourself till you feel comfortable.  Then, write the instructions on the board for them to follow.  If you're with little kids, trying printing the icons and placing them next to the instructions.  (This link will get you to the post you see in the video.)

I hope this helps.  If not, ask away.

NOTE: I apologize for the low-tech recording session.  I propped one iPad on books to record another iPad. I was also in a room with noisy fans and air ducts.  There has to be a better way...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Socially Aware Videos

Some lesson ideas spring up from the craziest places.  One day I was planning ahead and looking at a calendar and saw that March 22 was World Water Day.  Not only that, but there was a QR code connecting to a video, and that got me thinking.

Later that day, I saw a video on Facebook. It was a poem written by a guy who was bullied when he was in school.  He was heavy and he like pork chops and he got picked on.  He talked about friends of his who also were bullied.  He talked about how they feel the pain to this day as adults.  And that got me thinking.

I teach at a private school that charges a pretty penny for tuition.  Most of my 7th grade students carry at least one iDevice to class each day -- their own personal device.  These kids don’t know about hunger or thirst or abandonment.  I wanted to give them an opportunity to look into those worlds with videos.  

I selected six social issues and found informative videos them.  Students then had to team up and create a video along a similar topic.

The Original Videos:

The Student Videos:

Adoption/Foster Care:


Social Media Overuse:

Water Conservation:

In hindsight, I expected too much from them.  I really thought I could tell them to create a video, and they would be able to figure it out.  I really thought I could tell them to upload the video to YouTube and they could do it.  What you see when you watch these videos is a spectrum of ability levels and interpretations of the term “video.”  (Granted, the Google Presentations you see here were originally PowerPoints that ran on timed progressions.  Looking at it like that, we can call it quasi-video.)

What this means is that next year I’ll tweak how I do this.  Instead of assuming they can self-teach and figure it out, I’ll approach this lesson a bit differently.  I guess we’re all learning all the time.

With that said, there are some real gems in this collection.  I hope you found them and enjoyed them.