Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Chromebook transport system

For the part three years, I have taught K-5 Technology in an iMac Lab. We are going to Chromebooks and 1:1 iPads this year. I will be teaching three classes each day in the lab and taking the Chromebooks to classrooms to integrate technology into all subject areas.

While our district is supplying devices, accessories such as carts are not provided for our set of Chromebooks, so I decided to design a system myself. While most classrooms are accessible by elevator, two are not, so I had to think of how to carry 30 computers of a flight of stairs!

Here is my system:

For $90, I bought the wheeled luggage which houses the dish racks almost perfectly. I didn't think about buying anything to transport power cords, since I don't think we will need to plug in during classroom use, but the luggage came as a set, so...

We still are figuring out, as a district how to store and charge all the iPads. Anyone willing to share your own DIY genius?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Warning: Professional Development Overload

The past six weeks have been a whirlwind of learning! I have attended my first EdCamp, first iPad Institute, first Literacy Institute and first ISTE...interspersed with on campus and online classes...and capped it off yesterday by presenting my first two sessions ever!

I have also been busy networking with fellow Graphite Educators, fellow PBS Media Digital Innovators as well as my invaluable PLN Tweeps (@megcurlteach).

As a learner, I have been challenged by the daunting task of archiving all the great resources I want to use as well as deciding which resources to bring to my classroom (lab) this year. I have been taking digital notes, photographs and videos as a way to remember great ideas shared by other educators.

Now comes the real fun, planning my beginning of the year learning activities along with the rituals and routines necessary to make the whole set function!

I plan to discard last year's lesson plans in Evernote, read through the hundreds of resources I have saved to Pocket, scan my Google Drive for examples of student work to retool, and reuse.

I hope my enthusiasm spreads to my students and colleagues as we launch another brave new beginning!

I will be posting specific activities from my work with students. I would love to know about some of your successes!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Let's Talk About It!

I was an intermediate teacher (mostly at sixth grade) for twenty-two years before becoming a K-5 Technology Specialist. In my third year, I still struggle with instructional design for my Kindergarteners.

One strategy I have been using more frequently is to work on oral skills. As students play games or work on a digital task, I stroll by them, observing and making comments or asking questions. When I take the time to carefully watch their activity, I can easily find "teachable moments."

Here are some recent examples.

"Let's count together, 1,2,3,4,5...what comes after 5?"

"Where do these animals live?"

"What animal is this?"

"Which animal do you like most?"

"What happens when you click on the curved arrows?"

"Please point to the square."

"How does this game work?"

"Can you tell me how you do this?"

"What are you making?"

"Do you have a favorite drawing tool?"

Through these short interactions, I can communicate with each child individually. We can make connections, share an idea and develop oral language skills. I can also observe skills a student is using, find a teaching point or correct a misconception.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pass the Story Please!

My fourth graders are working on writing fiction. We added two twists using Google docs. Each student created a document in which they started writing a story with two characters. They are creating rebus stories, in which some words are omitted and are replaced by images.

Using Google documents makes this task seamless. Using the research tools, students can conduct searches in the same window in which they are writing. Research is opened under "Tools."

Students select "images" (signified by the camera icon) in the pull down menu of the search window. I help them narrow the type of images they find by asking them to use "clip art ______." When they find an image they wish to use in their story, they simply drag it into the sentence and resize it. If they want to use the same image later in their story, it is easy to copy and paste it.

Students wrote the beginning of their story only. They then shared their document with a classmate designated by me. Each student went to their "Shared with me" folder to find their classmate's story beginning. After reading the story beginning and selecting a different font, they continued the story. My instructions gave them freedom to change anything about the story except the characters. After writing the middle of the story, they share it with a third student who changes the font again and writes the story ending.

Students enjoyed writing these collaborative rebus stories.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Need to gather information easily? Try Google forms!

Our district now has Google Apps For Education (GAFE).  I have a difficult time answering the question, "Which App is the most useful?" I am really enjoying docs, presentations and drawings. When I need to assess students or gather information from students or staff, I use forms.

I am able to write my items in a variety of formats. Here are check boxes, a text field and multiple choice options. The red asterisk indicates the item is required. I find it really handy because students are unable to submit their responses if they leave a question unanswered. In this way, they never inadvertently miss giving a response.

A recent improvement to forms is the ability to drag images onto the items. It greatly expands the kinds of information you can share with your audience. I used Skitch to label a photograph to help students practice their search skills. Think of the possibilities in using images for math, geography, science and art.

While it is easy to write and edit the items in a form, the ability to automatically collect all responses in a Google spreadsheet is a huge time saver! Instead of looking at a stack of quizzes, surveys or assignments, you can view all responses on one screen. I love being able to compare all responses to the same item at a glance.

We collect teacher feedback after all school-wide professional development sessions. I used a Google form for our most recent session as a way to introduce the use of forms to our staff. 

When done creating your form, choose where you want the responses to go. I usually select a new spreadsheet, which will be named as the form is. Double check to make sure "Accepting responses" is showing.

How have you used forms in your classroom? How might you?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Solar System Animation

One of my latest discoveries is Animate on Using this great tool, my third grade students are creating animations to illustrate concepts as we study the solar system. A friendly tutorial shows students how to use the available tools to build their animations.

Our first step was taking time to experiment. Students selected a scene and at least one object to move through it. Most students really were motivated to go beyond the requirement and create a full story with many moving characters and props. They were very excited to show their work. Fortunately, the finished products can be saved and run in any browser.

As we studied the sun, planets and moons, students created animations which illustrated a planet revolving around the sun. They were also able to show the rotation of the Earth with a person or animal being pulled by gravity. Some showed the phases of the moon as it orbits Earth. 

By using this tool along with simulations, artwork and videos, the students were able to create a product that helps them understand some sophisticated concepts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Combine Content & Creativity

I continue to focus on social emotional learning. My third graders are creating projects which help them explore and internalize the Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers. Kuyper has developed curriculum that classifies and explains emotions for children.

I introduced the framework by playing the game (available as an APP) on our interactive whiteboard. Our first task was to create a drawing or a picture on that illustrated a character in the Green Zone. Students enjoyed using the art tools to draw their own images or creating a picture by selection scenes and stickers. Dialogue is typed into speech bubbles.

As we focus on each zone, we spend time defining each emotion, giving synonyms and brainstorming scenarios in which people exhibit each emotion. I do not assume my students have prior understanding of the vocabulary. The activities allow them time to explore an emotion of choice and use their ideas to show their understanding.

Students created movie scenes to show characters displaying yellow zone emotions. The Make A Movie feature allows students to program characters and objects along a timeline. Characters can move and display many special effects.

Students are currently writing stories with a character in the Red Zone. Red Zone emotions include angry, elated, out of control and terrified. Kerpoof's Tell A Story feature gives many choices for each character, making it fun to match face and body language with the plot. Students are having fun combining content and skill learning with the chance to use their creativity.