Dec 31

I am asking help from all of my social networks (so pardon me if you’ve already heard this).

I spent many hours in December working on a Holiday Tradition project in school. One of our Smilebox slideshows from this project is one of six finalists in a contest to win a digital camera for our school. Could you take a minute and go to the Smilebox blog and leave a vote for “Holiday Traditions with Mrs. Veldman’s Class?” Thanks so much!

Smilebox Blog

And here is a peak at the entire project, if you are interested:

http://decemberholiday.wikispaces.com/

Dec 15

Recently I have been experimenting with Scribblar, an exciting online collaboration tool that has both chat and a whiteboard.  It is easy to use because it is a disposable room that you can set up without needing to make an account or have email or have passwords (which is a real advantage when working with younger students).  Everyone that connects on the page can work together on the whiteboard at the same time.  There are a variety of text and drawing tools as well as the ability to upload graphics.   Here is a screen shot of what the “room” looks like:

scribblar-4.jpg

To set up the activity for use in the classroom, I made 10 different rooms (so easy – just enter your name and it creates a room for you).  I made a wiki page that had links to all the rooms and I gave each room the name of a color – red, blue, green, etc.  Then I put a sticky note on each student’s computer with the color of the room they were to use for their project. Each student was paired with a other student on the opposite side of the room.  They were to do the project without verbal talking to each other, using only the chat and the online tools to collaborate.

The assignment was for each team to come up with their own version of the 12 Days of Christmas.  I used this online Cat’s 12 Days of Christmas as a model. Each team had to use the chat tools to decide on a topic and then work together to write and decorate their project.  I supplied of folder of public domain clip art from this site that they could use to decorate their project if they wished.

Now, this is the week before Christmas. They are sixth graders.  They never stop talking to their friends.  Did I mention that there is only one week of school left???  But once they started the project, the room was dead silent except of the clicking of their keyboards.  They used the chat window to brainstorm ideas and then to divide up the tasks.  (“You do the even days and I’ll do the odd.”)  There were some conflicts about ideas, some people who erased their partner’s work – both accidentally and on purpose.  But they learned to work together on a simple, but real collaboration and had a blast doing it! One group even opened up a second tab on their browser so they could search for ideas to use that went with their topic.   Here are some of their end results:

scribblar-2.jpg

scribblar-1.jpg

scribblar-5.jpgscribblar-3.jpg

Note – all of this was done with no talking!!  What a teacher’s dream!

We did run into a couple of glitches.  At first, we discovered that when the chat was left inactive for a few hours, the whiteboard was wiped clean.  Oh no, all the projects were gone!  When I emailed the site to ask if there was a way to save their rooms, I heard back from Stephan Richter, who said they were hoping at some point to use this as a deluxe feature, but they kindly TURNED IT ON for us since we asked!  WOW!  The students were pretty impressed by this.  We had to recreate the work from the previous day, but when they returned to the chat room the following day all their work was as they left it.  We also had a few people lock part of their work and then were unable to unlock it to edit it. A few times someone couldn’t see text that the other person had added. Usually if they logged out and then back in everything would be back in sync.

I really liked this tool and am hoping to try some more activities with it. Any ideas, anyone???  Thanks, Scribblar!

Dec 11

Here’s a little Christmas slideshow from Smilebox – some Christmas trees created by the first graders using KidPix.  Enjoy!

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