I am so grateful as a public school teacher of technology for all the wonderful resources available on the internet that inspire and motivate my students to learn. Edmodo is a social networking site that allows my students to practice good digital citizenship while “chatting” with one another while allowing me to publish assignments and instructions in a safe, efficient way. Voki is a program my students use to create talking avatars to extend and cement their learning. Animoto is a wonderfully creative slideshow tool that allows my students to be exposed to mashing together graphics, music, and text. BrainPop is a great source for over 700 quality videos on a wide range of subjects that include activities and quizzes for students age 8 to 14. Facts4Me is a website created by a retired teacher who was frustrated with the lack of resources available to her elementary students for research purposes. Facts4Me contains ninety categories with more than one thousand reports, and more are added continually.
Public school teachers in the United States spent $1.6 billion from their own pockets in educational products in the 2012-13 school year, according to a National School Supply and Equipment Association study. Read more: http://www.dailynewstranscript.com/news/x511626034/Teachers-spend-out-of-pocket-money-to-perk-up-classrooms#ixzz2gKg4SMpJ
That is just what teachers do because school budgets often times do not have the funds to cover everything a teacher might wish to provide her students. From professional development to classroom resources to subscription based websites, teachers all over the world reach in to their own pockets to give their students the best advantage possible and make their job easier to manage. I am very grateful for websites like Animoto, that provide free educational upgrades, but I also understand that the creators of the awesome websites my students and I find very useful have the right to be paid for their hard work and ingenuity. There are two web services I opted to pay for this year out of my own pocket.
One is Professor Garfield. I teach a unit on Digital Citizenship to my third through fifth graders using a variety of resources. One of the resources I depend on is the Professor Garfield videos and activities from Infinite Learning Lab. I discovered over the summer that their resources now require a subscription. Their classroom subscription for up to sixty users is $39.00 a year. I have a computer lab equipped with twenty-eight macbooks, so that is the subscription I purchased.
Symbaloo is another service where I have opted for the premium account, and I am loving it! Symbaloo has made my job in the computer lab so much more manageable and time efficient. I thought I had hit pay dirt when I discovered I could set browser preferences to open to the web pages I chose. I would go to the computer lab over the weekend, turn on all the computers, sit down at each one and open the sites I wanted students to visit that week, set the preference, and then close the browser. Then I discovered Symbaloo! From the comfort and convenience of my home, I can create webmixes that contain all the websites I want my students to have access to. I have the computers in the lab to automatically open the browser when I turn them on, and the browser automatically is set to my Symbaloo site. The only problem was I had the computers logged in to my Symbaloo, and sometimes the student would log out. I would have to log them back in. I also had a problem with students, either accidentally or purposefully, deleting tiles from my webmixes. I even had a student create a tile on one of my webmixes that went to a very inappropriate site! Thankfully, our filters blocked the content!
Enter Symbaloo Premium. For $34.99 a year or $49.99 for two years, a premium user gets a custom URL and up to 50 users on the account. My premuim account works from a dashboard, which allows me to create as many webmixes as I like, customize a white or black list of websites, turn on and off the visibility of each webmix as I see fit, and gives me the control to determine what a user can do within each webmix. I have created eighteen webmixes under my account, of which six are currently visible to students. I can control them all from a single computer anywhere.
Click on the image below to go to my Symbaloo.
I opted to pay for these two subscriptions personally because my district is already doing so much for me and my students. I am so fortunate to work in a district that always strives to provide what is best for students. My district has already provided my students access to Brain Pop, Facts4Me and Smilebox.
The first week of school, all the teachers are intent on explaining the expectations for each activity students may be involved in. At White Oak Elementary School, we use the CHAMPS program to teach expectations where C stands for Conversation, H stands for Help, A stands for Activity, M stands for Movement, P stands for Participation and S stands for Success. Each teacher was encouraged to have the CHAMPS expectations posted somewhere in their classroom.
One of the activities in the lab is getting ready to leave the lab. Under the P for participation is the expectation that students clean up their workspace. They should log out and close the browser, close the lid of their computer, put everything back in their headphone bag and place their headphone bag back in the drawer, throw their trash away, push in their chair and line up ready to leave. It frustrated me last year when students would forget to do those things, like push in their chair. To motivate them last year, I had a grid on their computer assignment chart where I gave them a mark for not doing their job. At the end of the six weeks, I would draw a number. If it is their computer number and they did not have too many marks, they could pick something out of the treasure chest. This year, I told the students no one would be receiving marks, because everyone was going to do their job correctly. They would help each other remember to get their job done. The pen container on the table will help them remind each other. The student will look at the picture posted on the side of the container facing them. It will be their responsibility to make sure everyone at their table did THAT job before lining up. The four pictures are headphones, chairs, trash, and computer.
I did something the first week of school this year that I have never done with my students before: I made them a promise. I promised they would be successful in the computer lab this year. One of the great advantages of being a teacher is the long summer break that gives me the opportunity to really reflect on the past nine months. This past summer, after careful consideration, I realized my frustrating moments with students the vast majority of the time was due to a failure on my part. I got very frustrated when students struggled with listening and following directions without realizing I have done the task I was asking them to do so many times it had become second nature to me, whereas, they may have never even seen the website I was asking them to go to. This year my plan is to videotape or screen capture my instructions and post the video on Edmodo. That way, they can watch it as many times as they need to. They can watch step one, pause the video, complete step one, then watch step two, etc. Even better, I will create a qrcode of the url where the video is hosted so they can scan the code with one of my iPods or their own smart device and watch it there so they can work on their computer simultaneously.
I did tell my students, though, the promise had to be a conditional promise. I could only keep my promise if they were a student that ROCKS.
So we had a great discussion of what each letter stood for and what that behavior looked like before students checked the class roster posted on the wall to see what computer they were assigned to this year. After retrieving their computer from the table, students opened Edmodo from our Symbaloo webmix and logged in.
They added themselves to the grade level chat room and began typing to each other. After allowing time for them to get use to the platform, students switched gears and began using the chat room in Edmodo as a backchannel while we watched the video posted below:
We talked about how Mark Bezos’s statement was true: Every day may not present us with the opportunity to save someone’s life, but everyday presents us with the opportunity to affect one. We talked about how we affect the life of everyone we come in contact with: either positively or negatively, for the good or for the bad. We choose.
Before leaving the lab, we had a discussion of why it is so important that we log out of a program we may have logged in to. One of my frustrations last year was students failing to log out before closing the browser even after being reminded multiple times. When my third graders were in the lab Monday, I realized for the first time students were closing the browser, thinking that they were logging out! Talk about an epic failure on my part of teaching the specifics! I can joyfully say ALL my students this week were successful in logging out of Edmodo!
Before leaving the lab, I had students write one thing they learned on a post-it note and stick it on my board right outside my door. I plan on doing that each week with all of my classes. After another week or two, we will move to a digital platform like Padlet to post our learning. This is going to be a great year of learning in the computer lab!
To introduce the project, students will view the video of the power of one life (used with permission from the creator). They will then watch the following portions of It’s a Wonderful Life (4:11-11:38, 1:49:40-1:52:36, and 1:56:52 to the end) to understand the driving question of this project. A backchannel using the fourth grade chat room in Edmodo will capture students’ responses to the videos while allowing them to practice good digital citizenship and proper grammar and sentence structure.
Driving Question – What effect did the life of the historical figure have on Texas, and if applicable, on my own life?
Students will be paired with a partner. Each group will draw the name of one of the historical figures. The group will use guided research to find information to record on their data collection sheet.
The students will produce a short essay using first person to describe their famous person and their contribution to Texas. When the essay is complete, each group will produce a “talking head” by following these steps:
#1 One partner will video the other partner’s mouth ONLY reading the essay. They will use the iPod Touch to make the recording. They will upload the video to Youtube.
#2 The students will screencapture a picture of the face of the famous person, preferably facing forward with a full view of the mouth. Since my students use Macbooks, the screencapture is in the PNG format. In order to make the image poster size, the students will need to change the image to a JPEG format by double-clicking the image on the desktop to pull it up in Finder. Click on File, Export, change the format at the bottom to JPEG. Go to www.blockposters.com and drop in the image. Make the image 2 pages and choose landscape and letter. Students will print the poster, cut and tape together.
#3 The students will then create a QR Code of the video on Youtube. They will go to the Youtube video page and copy the URL. Using the QR Code generator site at qrcode.kaywa.com, they will paste in the URL and create the code. From that page, students will screencapture the code. The students will need to drag the code on to a document in Pages to print it out in a 1″ by 1″ size to glue on the poster.
#4 The posters will be displayed in a “Famous People of Texas Talking Heads Gallery” in one location in the hallway for all students to scan.
TEKS Covered in this project:
Social Studies: 113.15(b)(2)(B)(E), (3)(C), (4)(B),(5)(B)(C), (17)(D), (20)(A)
ELA: 4.13(A)-(H), 4.15(A)(C)(F), 4.16(B), 4.17(A)-(D), 4.18(A)-(H), 4.19(A)-(I), 4.20(A)-(C), 4.21(A)-(F), 4.22(A)(B), 4.25(B)
Technology Applications: 126.A(b)(1)(A)(C), (2)(A)(C)(F), (3)(A)-(D), (4)(C)(D), (5)(A)-(G), (6)(B)(C)(D)(E)
I am so grateful to my district for obtaining a site license to BrainPop. Students seem to thoroughly enjoy the method BrainPop uses to present content. In the last few weeks, all students have been assigned two BrainPop videos a week in the Digital Citizenship category. Below is screenshot of all the videos in that category.
Due to benchmark STAAR testing on Tuesday and Wednesday, I did not have students in the computer lab for technology. On Thursday and Friday, the third, fourth, and fifth grade classes watched the last three BrainPop videos together on the white board while using Edmodo as a backchannel. According to Wikipedia, “Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks.” The students were on the floor with their laptops. They had logged in to their Edmodo account and selected the grade level chat room as the group to post in. While watching the videos, they were able to post their comments and reply to each others’ comments in Edmodo. Below is a screen shot from each grade level chat.
Using Edmodo in this way served several useful purposes. First of all, the load time on the videos is much quicker when only one computer is accessing the website instead of twenty-four individual computers. The most powerful purpose, though, is to give students the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching to them all year. Before posting or sending anything over the internet, ask yourself these two questions: “Am I willing for the entire world to see it?”, and “Would I want that shared/posted about me?” Below is a short clip of the exercise:
Last week was one of those weeks that left me questioning if I was in the right profession. I left school Monday highly frustrated. It happens to me about three or four times a year. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my job! I highly respect and appreciate my co-workers and administrators. I just get overwhelmed at times with what I regard as poor student engagement: in other words, not listening to instructions and allowing their brains to process the instruction and turn it in to action. As an enhancement teacher, I see six different classrooms of students a day. That calculates to over 120 students. I get them 45 minutes, once a week. When the Intermediate students come to the computer lab, I feel a great deal of pressure to manage the time they are in there in the most efficient way possible. The students come in, get their headphone bags that are laid out on the counter, great me with a handshake, and then have a seat on the floor in front of the projector. I explain the job they are to complete by demonstrating using the white board as well as writing helpful information, in case they get “stuck”, on the chalkboard. What frustrates me is when they go to their computer and do not know what to do. I do not have the time to show each one individually the steps they need to take to get their job done. After explaining my frustration to my principal, Mrs. Parker, she suggested I use the “ask three, then me” approach. I immediately implemented that strategy the following day. Students must ask three other students before asking me if they have a question about the assignment. I believe that strategy is going to lower my frustration level, but I had an idea over the weekend that I believe will be even more advantageous – introducing Class DoJo.
I had come across Class Dojo on Richard Byrne’s FreeTech4Teachers blog in September. I thought it looked like a great tool, but did not know how it would work for someone with over 300 students until this weekend. I created 15 classes and populated them with students in less than an hour. (I have five third grade classes, five fourth grade classes, and five fifth grade classes.) Now here is how I will use it. When the each class comes to technology, I can use the Class Dojo app on my iPad to walk around the lab while students are working. If they have to ask another student about directions that were given at the beginning of class (ask three, then me), I will denote that as a negative behavior. If a student responds in a friendly and helpful manner, I will denote that as a positive behavior. At the end of the week, I will look at each grade level and determine what class had the most positive points. When that class comes to the lab, I will randomly pick one person to come to the treasure chest. Using Class Dojo in this way will allow me to set up a weekly competition between classes within each grade level. I believe this approach will encourage students to be better listeners AND encourage them to respond kindly to their classmates that need a little extra help.
Here is a screen capture of my classes:
I cannot believe eleven weeks of school are already in the history books! Although my blog does not reflect it, students have been busy in the lab working toward getting their web license. As students finish the Digital Citizenship unit in Moodle, they are beginning a new unit that was created over the summer. In July, I took advantage of the opportunity Google offered to take their Google Power Searching course to earn a certificate and become a better Google searcher. I enjoyed the course so much and learned a great deal of useful information that I felt my students would also benefit from, so I created a course in Moodle for them to access. I included twelve of the lessons found in the Google Power Searching course. The third graders do lessons one through four, the fourth graders do lessons one through eight, and the fifth graders do lessons one through twelve. The lessons consist of the Google video and a short assignment that shows me they watched the video. I decided to have them turn the assignments in to me through Edmodo. In Edmodo, I created an assignment for each lesson. Students log in to Edmodo, click the Turn In button and leave a response or upload a file, depending on what the assignment calls for. I spent some time this weekend grading the assignments. Since I have over 300 students, I was a little apprehensive about how much time I would need to commit to in order to get the assignments graded in a timely manner. I was SO pleasantly surprised! Not only was the grading quick, it was a great deal of fun, as well. In some cases, I was even able to award badges to students for going the extra mile. Below are a few images of the process:
Google Power Searching Unit in Moodle
Google Power Searching Lessons in Moodle
Google Power Searching Lesson Two in Moodle
Assignments for Google Power Searching Lessons in Edmodo
Edmodo Grading Page
Edmodo Badge Page
Google Power Searcher Certificate
We took a break from the Digital Citizenship Unit in Moodle all students are working through to do a Homecoming project. White Oak experiences homecoming once every three years, so Homecoming 2012 was a big deal. Since our motto for this year is “We are WILD about Learning,” the students at White Oak Intermediate School wanted to show parents and alumni “We are WILD about Technology,” so each student created a QR code of their blog, screen captured it, dropped it on a page document, printed it out, then decorated it to say something about them. Each design was slipped in to a quart size ziploc bag and displayed by classroom in the entrance to the school for parents and alumni to enjoy. Parents were encouraged to guess which design belonged to their child, then scan the code to see if it went to their child’s blog. Here is the tutorial video students accessed to complete the project:
“I realize the theme for this year at White Oak Intermediate School is WILD about Learning, but are you really going to begin each blog post with the word WILD,” you may ask. The short answer is, “Probably not.” But the title does sum up nicely the first week of school for my technology classes. Students were WILD about Edmodo. When I first logged in to my account, the immediate response from most of them was, “That looks like Facebook!” We talked about how the creators of Edmodo wanted to create a web tool that educators could use that would be familiar to students. We also talked about why Facebook is required to ask for your birth date before allowing you to have an account. COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) requires website operators to protect the privacy and restrict marketing to children under the age of 13. Edmodo is the perfect social networking site in that it does not collect personal information and does not market to its members.
Once students were logged in, they answered a poll question about having internet access at home and then replied to a post that asked what they most wanted to learn this year. You can see the responses by grade level to the poll question in the screen shots below:
After receiving instructions on joining their classroom teacher’s group, they were anxious to begin connecting with one another using this tool. After several replies left under the questions I had left them, I realized they needed a group of their own where they would be free to chat in order to keep the WOLab page uncluttered for posts and assignments. I quickly created a 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade chat room where they spent the rest of the class period typing messages and replying to classmates. It was thrilling to hear comments like “This is so much fun!” and “I thought I was not going to like school this year.” In the next few weeks, I will be sending home with your child the instructions and code for creating a parent account. In this way, you will be able to log in to Edmodo and see your child’s activity on the site.
This week students will be introduced to the Digital Citizenship unit in Moodle. They will log in and see the unit is divided in three sections: digital contact (the ten things you never share online without your parents’ permission), digital content (that all that information on the web is not all good, it is not all true, and it is not all free), and digital conduct (if you are not willing for the entire world to see it…DON’T POST IT!) You can view the content of this unit by clicking on the image below, then clicking on Enhancements, Technology with Mrs. Peery, and logging in with the username: woteacher password: woteacher.
This year’s theme for White Oak Intermediate School is Wild about Learning. Students in the computer lab are being introduced to the procedures and expectations. Students enter the computer lab, pick up their headphone bag from the counter, walk to Mrs. Peery for a handshake and greeting by name, then sit on the floor in front of the projector, ready to receive instructions for the task of the day. Each student chooses a fidget to keep in their headphone bag. They are allowed to squeeze the fidget in their hand(s) during instruction time. For those students that need movement to be able to help their brains focus, this gives them the movement their brain needs without causing distractions for other students. After instruction time, they head to their computer to complete the task. Each student is assigned a computer by number. They always use the same computer anytime they are in the lab. When it is time to be dismissed, they LOG OUT of the program they are on, close out to get the screen back to the desktop, close the lid, pack their headphone bag with their nametag clearly visible, push in their chair, return any items to their correct places, throw away any trash, place their headphone bags back in the drawer and stand at the front of the room on the taped line, ready for the hall. When students are ready to leave, if they have completed the dismissal task on time, they will watch a short funny video.
This week students are being introduced to the educational social networking site called Edmodo. Student accounts were created over summer break so they could log in to the site this week and get a feel for it. This site looks alot like Facebook. Teachers are allowed to create groups or classes. Through this site, teachers can post notes, assignments, and polls. They can upload resources like videos and documents for student to access. They can send and receive comments and assignments to their students. Two of the six strands for Technology instruction in the state of Texas are Communication and Collaboration and Digital Citizenship. The use of Edmodo will be a great opportunity to incorporate hands on learning for both. If you would like to know the scope of the TEKS for Technology, visit my page titled TA TEKS on this blog.
Above image found at: http://www.public-domain-image.com/animals/insects/ladybug/slides/ladybugs-insects.html
Here is one great idea to incorporate in your summer plans. This was a full-page feature in the June 28, 2012 White Oak Independent newspaper. It is called “The Lost Ladybug Project”, and here is how you can be involved. According to the feature, some of the species of ladybugs are disappearing in North America. The three species that are declining in number are the nine-spotted ladybug, the traverse ladybug, and the two-spotted ladybug. Entomologist need our help to look for and document the siting of any of these ladybugs. If you locate one of these species, note the date, time, location, and habitat. Take a picture, if possible. Then send the information to http://www.lostladybug.org. Or send a printed picture with the information to: Lost Ladybug Project, Cornell University, Department of Entomology, 4117 Conrstock Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853.
Dig Deeper: What is a ladybug? How did it get its name? What benefit does their color have? How are they different from mosquitoes? What is an entomologist? How many species are there in North America? Why is the traverse ladybug named that?