Soaking Up November

Being a techie teacher I was quite excited when @JudyArzt invited me to her class for a Skype session with Alan November!  I use his book, Empowering Students with Technology, in two of the courses I teach and read it myself as a graduate.  @JudyArzt and I agreed that she and I would be mum during the Skype interview so that the students could ask their questions.  Can I just say how hard that was for me?  I was definitely using my wait time because when it comes to tech I can definitely monopolize the conversation, and having Alan November there to chat with I so easily could have done that!  I did get two questions in, as a follow up to his responses to others’, but focused on capturing the conversation on Twitter.  The Storify of those tweets is here, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few things he said.

One of the first questions was asked by @reisc25 about parent involvement.  Alan’s point struck me, not because of the tech solutions he provided, but because of how he removed it from tech.  Here I am, this teacher that strives herself in using technology to keep parents informed (Twitter, Facebook, website, Evernote) and have used DVD in the past, but these simple tips are just that…simple!  Not to mention that they are a fab way to maintain student relationships!

Another student asked at what age to put children’s work online.  I know that not everyone will agree with him, or me, but I felt validated.  I am of the mind that we should have children online as soon as possible.  If they can click their way through their parents’ smartphones and tablets, then they are ready to click their work online.  With the advent of touch technology, doing such things makes working with tech intuitive for kiddos.  In addition to that, I firmly believe that if we get kiddos on social media in particular then digital citizenship skills will be like breathing.  I say social media because when I think of putting student work online I think of portfolios, and immediately think of social media because of the reflective piece of portfolios and the learning process.

With all of the chatter going on in education about assessment and accountability the next question was pretty timely.  This student asked about whether Alan foresaw there being an assessment for technology, and how kiddos would fare with state and national assessments going tech.  His responses are below, but the rebel in me found his comment about no standards interesting.  But it also got me thinking.  If tech standards would be obsolete, than what about other standards?  Tech makes so much possible that doesn’t it make all other content standards obsolete?  He also commented on keyboarding, and I whole-heartedly agree with ditching cursive and replacing it with keyboarding.  He suggested some alternatives for kiddos to practice that skill, and I will be posting about an idea I kidnapped from someone about ten years ago that would also be an inexpensive alternative.

Thanks to @JudyArzt for the invite!  Thanks to @globalearner for taking time out of his day to Skype in.  And thanks to EDUC584 for asking thoughtful questions!  I appreciated the learning experience!

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Pin It!

Thanks to a friend, I am now a pinner.   When she first sent me the invite I was at a ‘not another social network’ stage.  But then she kept sending me links of things that she found on Pinterest.  And so I decided I should take a peek.

First, Pinterest is a site built upon collecting things that interest you and sharing that with others.  You can collect images, videos, sites, blogs, games, purchases.  Whatever you choose.  And teachers are well known for collecting. It allows me to collect sites in a visually appealing way; there has to be an image associated with what you pin.  And because I work with younger children I know the importance of meeting the needs of a variety of learners, the combination of visuals and text are helpful!  Of course the educator in me couldn’t help but start thinking about all of the educational things I could do with it!

Professionally, I’ve begun boards related to digital citizenship and kind-heartedness.  Pinterest is a perfect site to collect articles, websites, and what-not around topics that are important to you.  For me it is digital citizenship and anything that inspires kiddos to be kind to each other.  But I’ve also been able to collect curriculum related resources.  I love how this allows me to connect to fellow educators in another way (in addition to Twitter).  I’ve followed a few more education blogs since I’ve started pinning, too!

Now…in the classroom…I see a great deal of potential for it.  I am an avid of Symbaloo.  I have a great deal of Symbaloo webmixes on my classroom website.  I like that I can create visual buttons for all of the users to access.  But here is the problem, oftentimes I like to pull out a few of those resources for my kiddos to access.  For example, when we are learning multiplication facts I like to pull out specific games that will let my kiddos practice them in a fun way.   I often use Tumblr to aggregate those resources, but I really would prefer to provide them with a visual.  Pinterest would allow me to do that!  I can pull together specific games related to time out of all of the time games I have and post little notes on them so that they can determine which would be best for them!

Those are all great ways I can use them as an educator, but are also some stellar ways for my kiddos to use them.  Did I mention that there’s an app for that?  Whether you use Android or Apple there is.  This makes the application much easier to integrate in the classroom.  Here are a few ideas I have for how it could be used by students:

    • Student Portfolio ~ I currently use Evernote in the classroom as a student portfolio & do love the multi-modal capabilities.  But I could just as easily see this be done with Pinterest.  Students could take a snapshot of their work, upload it, and then write a reflection.  They could also video record their reflection and post it.
    •  Research ~ They could gather resources for a research project and write their notes right on the pin.
    • Share Books ~ They could post images of the book jackets, rate them, write book reviews, develop theories about characters.  Speaking of characters…
    • Character Pinterests ~ They could create boards that demonstrate their understanding of a character or historical figure.  For example (we happen to be reading Despereaux) they could locate images of light and revenge to demonstrate what is important to Roscurro the rat.
    • Timelines ~ They could develop a timeline of a typical day of a historical figure (we happen to be exploring Native Americans) and post images that demonstrate what things they would most likely do during a day: hunt, skin, tend to the corn, etc.
    • Scientific Procedures ~ Couldn’t they capture images of the process they went through during an experiment and capture their notes of it along the way?
    • Problem Solving ~ They could do the same for explaining how they solved a mathematical problem.
    • Explore Language ~ What a fun way to create pictorial representation of vocabulary and/or phonetics they are currently exploring? It could even become a visual dictionary for them!!!<span style=”color: orange;”>Student Portfolio</span>
    • Digital Story Telling ~ Pull together images and write captions to pull together a cohesive story.  They could do the same thing with non-fiction writing and create an infographic!!!

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m also thinking it would be a good way to group together student projects instead of listing them on my website.  When they all publish something, I could pull them together on a board and make it one-stop shopping!  I would love to hear some ideas of how you have used or would use Pinterest with your students!

Tech Fail

“Boys and girls, today we are going to explore the app Talking Tom Cat, an app that we’ll be able to use often.  I bet some of you are familiar with this app.  What do you know about the app?”  And so began my well-planned Guided Discovery.  Until we discovered that, after an hour and a half, the app had only downloaded on a handful of the iPods.  Although I had wanted my students to explore this app, I quickly provided them with another option, to explore Doodle Buddy.  Again it was only downloaded on a few iPods, and the disappointment was growing amongst my students.

Tech fails happen.  The wireless can shut down or slow down.  Access can suddenly be blocked.  Batteries can die in the midst of an engaging project.And when it does, I have found a few things helpful.  Remain calm.  Having integrated technology into my classroom for a number of years now, one thing I have come to expect is that it rarely goes as planned.    “Boys and girls, it looks like it’s taking a while to download on the devices.  That’s okay.  Let’s take a look at Doodle Buddy.”  Remaining calms shows our students that we can not only expect the unexpected, but that we can beyond a disappointment and try something else. It’s good to have a backup plan, but even if you don’t you can still try something else.  On this particular day I chose Doodle Buddy.  It would have provided me with a slight alteration in how I was going to provide the choices that day, but what can you do?

Not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but…when all else fails let them play“Okay everyone, there must be a problem with the wireless, and we won’t be able to do what was planned today.  We will try again tomorrow.  In the meantime, explore one app that has gone unnoticed before and be ready to share about it.”  I have discovered over the years that once a huge tech disappointment has occurred, no matter how calm you remain, it can create problems throughout the day.  The kiddos just had this expectation to be working with tech, you got them all pumped up about it, and now you’re going to rip it out of their hands?  All it takes is one to two minutes for them to explore something else and an additional three to five for them to share.  In the end they feel fulfilled and they were able to become the new expert in the class on a particular application.  Not to mention that they have now added to their “I’m done, now what?” list!

Thankfully, the next day Talking Tom Cat downloaded on 90% of the devices and the children were able to produce their multiplication stories. Talking Tom Cat was a choice, but they all choose to use it.  It provided a great opportunity for us to talk about everything that I had initially planned in the Guided Discovery.  Not to mention the conversations we had about fluency and rate.  This app has now become something the kiddos use to create videos for themselves: they read their multiplication facts into it & listen to them repeatedly.  It may be lower level on Bloom’s but, it is making a difference for those who have chosen to do this!

For Me, It Was Phoebe

January 2010, my husband and I were in the car on our way to Maine to enjoy a restful weekend.  As usual, my husband was driving and I wa jumping around the various apps on my phone.  Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds I spotted a post about a young girl in Hadley, Massachusetts  who committed suicide.  Immediately I was clicking on links to discover why.  Why would this young girl kill herself?  In the series of video clips and articles that I devoured my heart broke.  It broke for Phoebe.  It broke for her family.  It broke for all of us.

Do you remember her?  Phoebe Prince.  The fourteen year old girl recently immigrated from Ireland.  The freshman who caught the eye of a older football player at her school.  Who dated that older boy and paid dearly for it.  For three months, other girls (the “popular” girls) tormented Phoebe.  They taunted her in school.  Cornering her in the library, bathroom, and hallway calling her a whore.  These girls threatened to beat Phoebe up, prompting Phoebe to ensure she was never alone in school.  They made harassing phone calls to her home, sent her mean-spirited text messages.  They went on Facebook and ridiculed her, calling her an “Irish slut”.   On the last day of Phoebe’s life, as she was walking home from school, one of her tormentors drove by her and threw a full soda can at her head.

But that wasn’t all.  I wish it was.  What I later read is what makes a place in my heart for Phoebe Prince.   I wept when I read that after her death these same girls that tormented Phoebe were continuing to harass her.  They were publicly proclaiming at parties/dances and on Facebook that they were glad Phoebe was dead.  It appeared as if they felt no remorse for her death.  All I could think about was her family.  Could someone be so insensitive that they would leave disparaging remarks on a memorial page?  A page that was viewed by Phoebe’s friends and family, those who loved her?

And for all of those things I will remember Phoebe Prince.  I will always imagine the fear she felt as she walked through her school.  I will always imagine how helpless she felt when she attempted to protect herself by going to her school’s administration and them failing to do anything about it.  I will always imagine the pain her family felt upon losing her.  And their hearts being ripped apart when others spoke ill of their long-lost daughter.   I know that there were others before Phoebe, even as far back as 2003 (that I can recall) and others that followed.  And it saddens me that they are gone from this world.  That they felt suicide was their only option to escape their pain.  But for me, it was Phoebe that changed my views on social media and mean-spirited behavior.  And for that, I thank her.

Kindness is Free

If you are in education, than you are familiar with funding issues; particularly if they are directly related to mandates (aka unfunded mandates). During the iCitizenship Town Hall Meeting a panel member mentioned the importance of funding to provide professional development for staff members in creating positive school climate to reduce bullying and cyberbullying.  The panel member stated how funding is important for teachers to be trained in philosophies such as Responsive Classroom, as well as how to integrate technology into the classroom.  All true, but…

Kindness is free.  It doesn’t cost a thing to say a kind word to someone else.  To listen to their story of happiness or sadness.  To open a door for someone with full arms. To help someone clean a spill.  To post a positive comment on their wall or feed.  It’s free to smile.  Free to give and free to receive.  And if we just do kind acts, it is free for children to learn positive habits.  The more we are kind, the more kindness children see, the more kind they become, and the more kind the world becomes.  And do you know what we have?  A happy global community.  All for free.

Talking Tom

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Does this face look familiar? It may as it is one of the most popular apps on the iPhone or iPod. I know it from my nephew who uses it to say silly things and once in a while slap it around or pull his tail. Because of this I never considered using it in the classroom. Too violent. But, scrolling through my tweets, and then downloading and reading a suggested book about using apps to encourage higher level thinking I changed my mind. The ladies at Appy Hours for You made me realize how beneficial it was. I did not realize that the speaking you do could be recorded and then shared with others! How beneficial!

Once the app was downloaded on all of the devices (a future post coming about that) a Guided Discovery followed. Because of the possible cruel nature of the app I knew that it would be important to do. The kiddos noticed a great deal of what the app could do: record, repeat what you say, feed Tom milk, Tom scratching claws and more. A few important things came up during the sharing of our Guided Discovery. One thing we had a quick chat about was advertisements. There are advertisements at the top of the app for similar products. We talked about how this is common in free applications and the goal was for the developers to make money.

An important conversation we had was about the option of slapping Tom and pulling his tail. One of my students said, “You can slap Tom in the face.” So I asked, what does he do when you do that? They stated that his head goes back and he makes a face. I replied that it sounded like he didn’t like being slapped too much. I then reminded them of our Twittequette and the part that says, ‘Be honest, positive, and kind’ and asked them if we would be following our Twittequette by slapping Tom. They agreed that it would be unkind and that if we slapped him we would not be following it, but one kiddo said, ‘Yeah, but you can do it.’ I loved this comment! Here’s how I responded, “You are right we can do it. There are a lot of things we can do in life if we choose to. We can also hit the people in our lives, but is that the kind thing to do?”. They understood and when we went to use it, they were all kind to Tom. Some pouring milk for him to drink. Once they were using it, they realized that another kind thing you could do was pet Tom and that he showed his appreciation for that by purring.

After the Guided Discovery, which lasted about ten minutes, the kiddos used the application to record one of the multiplication stories they created the day before while playing a game. It may sound redundant to have them record the stories after that, but my intention was that the more they say it, read it, write it, the more the story structure becomes a part of their repertoire. There stories are posted here. Please check them out. As my husband said, “They are really cute.”

BrainPOP! Citizens

I can not say enough about BrainPOP! and BrainPOP! Jr.  They are incredible kiddo friendly sites with informative videos on a variety of topics.  Each video is accompanied with a quiz and Activity pages that may include a graphic organizer, vocabulary page, and an activity. Sometimes kiddos like to learn more and there are sections for that ~ FYI and Q&A.   Not to mention the fantastic BrainPOP! Educators section they have with an array of resources, including webinars.

For this post I will be focusing on some specific content available on the websites for: Cyber Safety.  There are a variety of ways to stay safe online and the folks at BrainPOP! have resources available for both age groups.  They also have a webinar available in the BrainPOP! Educators section to get you familiar with the resources available.

You will probably notice that there are more resources available for the BrainPOP! site (grades 4 and up).  This makes sense considering that young adolescents are more likely to be online and engaged in social media.  I found about ten BrainPOP! videos available with topics on:

Each video covers one of the nine elements of Digital Citizenship.  You will also notice that there is also an Online Safety Poster that you can customize for just your kiddos.  In addition to these topics there is an Online Safety Game available.  There are an array of resources available in the FYI section that you could jigsaw your class; having kiddos responsible for reading and reporting on one of the top tabs.

You can use a lot of the BrainPOP! resources listed above with primary aged kiddos (K-3), but you may like the audio – visual feature of of BrainPOP! Jr.  The closed captioning is a favorite feature for my kiddos because they like seeing how to correctly spell the words.  Not to mention that Annie’s voice reads roll overs.  BrainPOP! Jr. has an Internet Safety, Blogs, and E-Mail videos available.  This is perfect for this age group because many of them are beginning to explore social media sites like Club Penguin and Facebook and have a tendency to talk to strangers online (even though they wouldn’t do that off line).  There are even more resources available in BrainPOP! Jr.; they have a comic, topic specific game, and other multi-modal activities available.  Just check the bottom of the page for them, the kiddos LOVE them!!!

Other videos that I’d like to point are the BrainPOP! Jr. Bullying, Anger, and Friends videos.  While not cyber safety specific; relevant.  Students need to practice positive social skills off line, or face – to – face.  It is during this practice that they will acquire skills necessary for their online lives.  It is helpful for them to understand friendship; how to be a good one and knowing what they want from one.  They should know how to recognize and control their anger; know what triggers them.  This type of self awareness will help prepare them for positive online relationships and conduct.