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!


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!


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!

Sep 05

This year I have moved from teaching K – 8 Technology in the computer lab to a 5th grade classroom.  Here is a little video that I created as the students were moving into the classroom on the first day of school:

This is how I made the video: I used a Canon Powershot Elph digital still camera to make this video. It has a time lapse video/stop action setting. I set the camera on a tripod, pressed the button, and it took one picture every two seconds. The images were stored as a single Quicktime video that I could download right from the camera to my computer. I added the music and titles in iMovie. Easy!

Our new classroom blog is iFifth – Want to Learn Something New? Here’s a Class for that!

Jun 23


About a month ago, I purchased a Kindle 2 from Amazon.  Two teachers at my school have Kindles and absolutely love them. I had been wondering if the Kindle might be a good tool to use with unmotivated struggling readers.   Here are some of my impressions after several weeks of playing with it.

Ease of use – The Kindle was ready to use right out of the box – you don’t have to read a manual or install anything! Oh yeah, you do need to plug it in to charge it! Once charged, you turn it on and it immediately connects to your Amazon account. It is easy to search for books to download and WAY too easy to hit the PURCHASE button!!  In fact, once you hit that button, there is no “confirm” step asking, “Do you really want to do this?” Nope, the book will immediately begin to download!  (There is a link that will let you undo your purchase, however.)  Within minutes the book is on your Kindle. If you used the Kindle with students, you would need to disconnect the Kindle from your Amazon account to avoid having students accidentally downloading books.

Size – The size is comfortable and feels like a book in your hands, but is a bit heavier than I expected. I purchased a leather case for an extra 30 dollars.  The cover protects the face of the screen when closed and bends underneath when you are reading.

Controls – The Kindle arrived during the week I broke my elbow.  Since I couldn’t garden and arm movement was painful, the Kindle was a wonderful diversion!   I downloaded the book Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: The New No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Novel and spent the weekend happily reading.  I could easily hold the Kindle in one hand and was able to use the controls on the left side to turn pages with a push of the thumb.  Click, click, click – painless!  However, I do find the controls a bit stiff, especially when you compare it to the ease of the touch screen on the iPod touch.  I find using the “joystick” to select items a bit awkward and you have to press firmly to make selections.  The buttons on the keyboard are very tiny.   The organization of the menu and home button features is a bit confusing – I struggled to find the items that I wanted at first.


Viewing – It is very easy to read, even in outdoor light.  I love that you can adjust the font size. Images show up in grayscale. The screen is quite unique – it doesn’t emit any light, so if you want to read it in the dark, you will need a book light.


Text to Speech – One of the interesting experimental features is that it will read text to you! You can use either a male or female voice – it sounds a bit robotic but it does work! We were interested in looking at this for use with struggling students.  Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that many publishers have disabled this feature. So we’d need to check each book to see if you could use the text-to-speech.  This may not be enough of an advantage right now to justify the purchase cost.


Internet – I think it is neat that the Kindle has a free internet connection.  Here you can see a picture of my Clever Karen blog that I pulled up using the experimental internet feature.  Internet is in black and white and the pages often get chunked up and overlap in funny ways and it is very slow!  But it does work for many websites. I was able to use Plurk and get into my gmail account (sometimes the gmail would work, sometimes not).  Since I don’t have an iPhone (YET) this helps in a pinch when visiting the parents in the land of no WIFI or in airports that don’t have free internet.

Music – Yes, you can download mp3s to listen to while you read.  You just need to connect the Kindle to your computer and drag the files into the music folder.  The music plays in the order that the files are listed in the folder and you can’t control or change  the playlist.  However, it is nice to have music while you read. This might be helpful for kids who have trouble focusing to have some music to listen to as they read to help block out classroom noise.

Free Books – I was delighted to find many free books to download!  Many older public domain books are available on Amazon.  I downloaded some books by Jane Austen and Elizabeth Cleghorn.  I also found a free version of the Bible.  You also can get free books from Mobile Read, Feedbooks, Manybooks, and Project Gutenburg.  I downloaded a guide from Amazon called the The Kindle 2 Cookbook: How To Do Everything the Manual Doesn’t Tell You
(for 99 cents) that gave links and directions for finding and downloading free books.  It also had helpful directions for how to use the internet for email and how to download music and other practical stuff that I couldn’t find on the Amazon site.

Book Samples – Amazon also lets you download the first chapter of most books.  I’m enjoying getting little tastes of books to see if I like them.

iPod Touch – I love the free Kindle app for the iPhone and iPod touch.  It’s convenient to have a book available read wherever you go.

Other Features – It is nice to be able to highlight, take notes, and look up definitions.  The highlighting feature using the joystick is a bit clumsy, but it works.  The battery lasts for days!

My Opinion – I think I will enjoy using the Kindle when I travel and for the convenience of getting books to read on impulse.  I love the fact you can get many free books.  But, I miss being able to share my books with friends or just being able to thumb through pages.  I’m not sure how often I’ll feel inclined to shell out $9.99 to get a book.  For elementary students, I think the cost is a bit expensive to justify using it, YET.  With the limited amount of children’s literature available, the lack of text-to-speech on many books, and the clumsy controls for notes and highlighting, it isn’t practical, YET.  I say YET with capital letters, because I think electronic books such as the Kindle will become more practical and cost effective as more books become available.  Also, features like color and a touch screen would make it easier and more appealing for students use. It will be interesting to see what future versions of the Kindle will be like!

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


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 “” 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.


 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!


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!


Apr 06


Here are some neat interactive websites that will allow your students to create pictures that simulate the works of famous artists.  These activities would work nicely on an interactive whiteboard to demonstrate characteristics of these artists or could be done by students on a classroom or lab computer.  In most cases students can print out their creations (or they could be emailed to the teacher for printing).  In an art classroom, computers can be set up so that students can do these “virtual art projects” when their regular art projects are completed.

Mr. PicassoHead – create an abstract face with this online tool

Pointillism Practice Page
– paint with dots like Seurat

Matisse for Kids – from the Baltimore Museum of Art, click on the “Matisse for Kids” link on right under Related Links

Keith Haring Coloring Book – create colorful paintings using Haring’s familiar characters

Jackson Pollack – paint with drips and splots

Jungle – awesome tool to create a painting like Rousseau

Surreal Painter – make a surrealistic painting similar to Dali and Picasso

Still Life – create a lovely still life picture in the style of the old masters

These activities and more are linked on my Learning Links website.

Apr 06

Our first graders recently typed short stories about themselves in Kidpix and then drew a self portrait.  I put them together into slideshows using Smilebox.  I love Smilebox because it is such an easy and fast way to show off their work and the end result is so much fun for kids to watch.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: First Grade Faces
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: First Grade Faces
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow
Mar 29

History Remixed is an assignment where middle school students will be taking a historical event and remixing media to create an eyewitness video report of the event.  They will be combining clips from Discovery Streaming and still images with audio that they will record on GarageBand.  They also will be using a green screen video to record themselves in a scene from history.

Students: Here is a list of copyright friendly historical images that can be used in the project.  Be sure to bookmark each image before you download it so that you can site the source at the end of your video.

New York Public Library Picture Collection – many historical pictures here, older version

New York Public Library Digital Galleries – updated website

American Memory Collection 

Library of Congress (may be similar to American Memory)

Wikimedia Commons (check copyright before using)

National Archives Digital Vault

Life Images Search

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence

Library of Congress Images at Flickr

Kathy Schrock – Primary Source Listing – more helpful links here

Mar 21

Here is a slideshow with my slides that I presented at MACUL this week.  If you have an interest in joining the project in the fall of 2009, please leave a comment and I will get in touch with you!

Mar 14


I will be presenting a seminar called “The National Park Project” at MACUL this Thursday, March 19, at 2:30.  I’ll be sharing about a project that I did last fall with 6th graders that incorporated research, creating a wiki, and differentiated instruction.  If you are attending MACUL, I’d love to have you join me!

If you aren’t attending, I have posted lesson plans, worksheets, and resource links here:

The National Park Project

Bad Behavior has blocked 16 access attempts in the last 7 days.