Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bulletin Boards 2.0

I am not a fan of bulletin boards. I see them as static wastes of space as they are used in many classrooms and a contributor to the practice of visual over stimulation. However, there are instances in which bulletin boards can convey useful information. This post describes my latest attempt to do so.

I teach in a computer lab. I very rarely print any student work. My students use Google Apps and other applications that allow them to save their work digitally. My newest bulletin board takes advantage of QR codes to display student work. Using this method, students, parents and teachers can view projects done by themselves and others. They will be able to see the array of skills used and how work changes from Kindergarten through grade 5.

I have shown the ISTE NETS with Creative Commons images arranged over a cloth backing. I have just begun to attach QR codes for representative student samples and rubrics. In the center, I gave an explanation guiding people how to view the work. My next step is to provide a brief label for each QR code.

We are becoming a 1:1 iPad school later this month. With all students having the ability to generate QR codes and scan them, I plan on adding many more pieces of student work and rubrics. I like the fact that this bulletin board is capable of communicating a lot of information.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Partner work

I am currently a big fan of students working in partnerships. I am finding many advantages of cooperative work in my computer lab. My fourth graders are currently working on Google drawings which illustrate and explain how to play a variety of sports.

Some important social skills are used when students work with a partner. They get practice in using listening and speaking skills. Students use negotiation skills as they decide which facts, images and other resources to include in their projects.

They get the benefit of being exposed to another person's thoughts and opinions. If conflict occurs, students learn how to deal with it.

In my classes, students have a wide range of abilities. I have students with learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, autism and limited English. Partnerships give all learners a teammate to help them read, write, translate, process, remember, and stay focused on the learning.

Too often, individuals get stuck and I cannot always be available to help them right when they need it. In partner work, each learner has one more possible source of assistance.

I believe teachers sometimes avoid partner work for a variety of reasons. Obviously, there is a gamut of possible problems when students work in partnerships. There must be thoughtful decision-making by the teacher if collaborative learning is to be successful. Setting the stage for success includes realistic expectations and the promotion of student responsibility. Giving students some choice of partners along with the positive expectations of working with others can be valuable.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Chromebook transport system

For the past 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?