Mar 20

Mobile Photo Mar 20, 2010 10 43 55 AM

Over the past few weeks our fifth grade classes have been studying the Age of Exploration.  Each student was given an explorer to research and wrote blog posts as if they were the explorer.  Then each explorer had to go and leave comments on other explorer’s blogs, noting areas of similarity, agreement, or disagreement.  This has been an amazing activity and the students have created thoughtful postings and comments.  This was my first time using Kidblogs, and I highly recommend it as a excellent tool for student bloggers.

Here are the blogs from our classes:

Bosch Explorer Blogs

Veldman Explorer Blogs

Is your class studying explorers?  If so, we would like you to visit our blog!  An easy way for your students to interact with our class would be let them read our blog and respond by commenting to the posts.  Please have them comment as if they were talking to the explorer, not the student.  In return, we would be happy to connect with your class regarding an online project that you have created.

If you are interested in connecting with us, please contact me by leaving a comment below or by emailing me  here.  Currently, comment moderation is on for the student blogs, so I need to know if you are planning to leave comments.  Thanks!

Sep 29

I have been enjoying watching Ken Burn’s documentary on the National Parks this week.  Last year I did a project in the computer lab with 6th graders about the National Parks. I had planned to repeat the project this year, but unfortunately, I have not been able to do it because of my reassignment back  into the classroom.  But I thought there might be some other classrooms that would be interested some of the activities that we did last year.

Each of these activities are explained in detail on the links which are posted in an exhibit that I created at the Apple Learning Interchange.

1) Google Earth – did you know there is a layer in Google Earth that clearly shows all the US National Parks?

2) Inspiration – excellent topic to create word maps to examine students’ prior knowledge.

3) Wikis – the National Parks are an excellent topic to research.  Read how our students created a wiki from their research.

4) Comics – using Comic Life or other tools.

5) Travel Posters – we used Print Shop, but other tools would easily work.

6) National Park Trading Cards – students loved making these – so easy!

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7) Postcards – we took advantage of the Instant Alpha effect in Keynote to make pictures where it looked like the student was actually in the park.  Another easy trick!

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8)  Commercials – student used Garageband to create a commercial for the park that they researched.

Hope these projects give you some ideas of ways you can teach about the National Parks in your classroom!

May 31

This week our third graders did a scavenger hunt for simple machines. We divided each class into 6 groups,  gave each group a digital camera, and set out across the school looking for simple machines. Students took turns snapping pictures of each simple machine they discovered.

I used a new site called Stupeflix to generate this movie using some of the best pictures. This site is similar to Animoto. (My teacher account at Animoto keeps downgrading, so I couldn’t use it for this project because I had many photos to upload.)  At Stupeflix there is no limit to how many images that you upload or the length of the movie that you can  generate. It is easy to add text and music files, however they have no music choices at the site. I thought it was fairly fast to upload the images and generate the movies.   I was able to easily remix the movie to tweak some things that I didn’t like. You may download the finished movie.  It offers you ways to link to Twitter or Facebook, but I couldn’t find a way to use an embed code.  I ended uploading the video to Schooltube and getting an embed code from there.  Here is the video:

May 05

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This week I had one of those rare days in the computer lab where I wasn’t in the middle of some big project with my fourth graders.  At first I thought that maybe we could make cards for Mother’s Day using Print Shop. But then I remembered a recent post by “Mrs. Smoke”on Mother’s Day Photo Gift Project Ideas and her suggestion to use Wordle to make a word pictures of adjectives describing their mother.

I’d never used Wordle with students, so I asked my plurk buddies if they had any suggestions.  Several mentioned that sometimes there might be creations with objectionable words on the main page and they said it is helpful if you go straight to the “create a Wordle” page.  I had my fourth graders type in “wordle.com/create” into the address bar – most mananged that without difficulty.  If I were working with younger students or wanted to save a bit of time, I would create a link so they could go directly to the correct starting page.

After everyone was at the right page, I locked their computers using Apple Remote Desktop and demonstrated all the steps of how to use the site. This is what I instructed them to do:

1. Type the word Mother, Mom, Mama, or Mommy 5 times, so that it would be the primary word on the page.

2. Then type at least 10 adjectives (they must be individual words, not phrases) that described their mom. I liked the fact that misspelled words were underlined in red so I was easily able to assist them with their spellings. This activity also allowed them to practice the skills that they had learned in the keyboarding lessons that we recently finished.

3. When all the words are entered, click “go.”   It takes 15 – 20 seconds for the “wordle” to appear.

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 4. Use the Randomize button to generate different designs.5. Use the Font, Layout, and Color buttons to customize the look of your design.  Lots of fun to play with this!

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6. Click the Print button at the bottom of the page when done – this will print your wordle alone without any of the other items on the webpage.  (We found we had to click it 2 times before it actually sent the picture to the printer.)

The designs looked wonderful.  It took about 30 minutes for most students to do the entire assignment and few had any difficulty.  A huge success – I will use Wordle again!

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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:

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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:

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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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Nov 24

I recently ran a 3 week after school class where  2nd and 3rd students created a book using Kidpix.  Each child wrote and illustrated a 5 page story, and most created a title page, end page, and an “about the author” page.  The pages were printed out and then I bound the stories into hard covers.  I used book covers from Lintor Publishing as an easy way to bind the books into a professional looking hard cover.  If you buy the covers in bulk, they cost around 6 dollars each.  I’ve found many parents are willing to pay to have their child’s project bound into a hard cover  because it makes a great keepsake.  (Silly me, I forgot to take a picture showing the covers!)

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The system to bind the books is quite clever and simple.  Here are the steps:

First you staple the book pages between the 2 binding pages.  These pages have a kind of contact paper which is facing to the outside.

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Here’s what the pages look like after they are stapled:

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Peel off the contact paper on the back side:

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Press it down onto the back cover:

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Remove the contact paper from the front side.  Press the front cover down.  Then open up the book, and bend the cover gently.  The contact paper binds the cover to the stapled pages.  (The white page below is the contact page pressed to the cover.)

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The students are always thrilled to have a “real” book which they created.  It is fun to watch them reading the stories to their friends and showing them off.


Nov 19

I spent a good chunk of my weekend putting together an online project for lower elementary.    I am hoping to connect our school with some other schools in a project where early elementary students share about their family and/or cultural traditions during the December holidays. This project is designed so that it does not require a lot of classroom time to complete and does not involve very complicated technology skills. It also will introduce teachers to Smilebox – which is a neat free tool for sharing images on the web and easily allows students and parents to leave comments.

Here is the link to the wiki where there are details about the project and how to sign up:

http://decemberholiday.wikispaces.com/

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And if you have never looked at Smilebox, here is the link to the Teacher Tool Page to get a free teacher account:

http://www.smilebox.com/occasions/teachers-toolbox/

Oct 27

Here is a fun activity to do in the Fall using Kidpix. Scan or take digital pictures of real leaves on a white backgound. Bring the images into Kidpix and save each one as a separate file. (I have a red, yellow, orange, and green leaf file that I use and I let the children pick the color of leaf that they want to use.) They use the wacky paint brush and stamp tools to turn the leaf into a person. I always use this lesson to teach the children how to “flip” the stamps so the the ears and feet go in matching pairs!Here’s an example, and yes, the child told me it was Indiana Jones!dsc00557.JPG

Click here to see all of the students’ pictures:

Leaf People Gallery

I took individual pictures of each picture on an orange background, and used Smilebox to create this little slideshow. Enjoy! Here is the link to the Smilebox.   Please visit our page and leave a comment!  Thanks!

SmileBox Video  

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Oct 27

The second graders have been learning about communities in Social Studies. They have studied urban, rural, and suburban communities. They recently made illustrations of these communities in the computer lab. Here is a video which features their work:

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