One of the requirements of being a Google Certified Teacher, is to develop a "personal action plan." The idea for mine came during a discussion with our middle school language arts teacher, Deb Kuhr. Deb told me that she had been reading and discussing Simon Wiesenthal's book, The Sunflower, with her 8th graders. The Sunflower recounts Wiesenthal's personal dilemma (whether partially fiction or entirely non-fiction is apparently the source of some debate) around "the possibilities and limits of forgiveness."
The Sunflower is a book in two parts. Part one is the story of Wiesenthal's experience in a concentration camp as well as a request for forgiveness from a dying Nazi soldier. Part two is a symposium of responses."
"Among respondents to the question are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, former Nazis and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. " (Wikipedia)
In our meeting I learned that the students, moved by the deathbed scene, wanted to create a video re-enactment of that part of the story. I thought it would be interesting to crowdsource the symposium, also through video. We shared the idea with the students, showing them the It Gets Better Project as an example.
Next we created the "Would You Forgive?" Google site as a home for the project. The students worked on writing the descriptions for the various pages of the site. They continued working, as part of their language arts class, on the script for the reenactment which was filmed after school and edited by one of the students over spring break. The students also wrote essays articulating their personal responses to the dilemma. Additionally, they video- reflected on the meaning of the entire project.
At the recent edJEWcon conference Mrs. Kuhr and the 8th graders shared the project and the re-enactment with educators from other Jewish schools, requesting that these teachers show the video to their students and solicit video responses. It was impressive to hear the students speak so articulately about their work.
From my perspective, working with a small class of "seniors" has had its highs and lows. There have been some real "blah" moments, some confusion around project management and productivity, even some questions as to "why are we bothering to do this?"
The edJEWcon session was a high point. The students watched others watch their video. They were able to see and hear outside appreciation for their quality work. This had an impact that surpassed any amount of teacher feedback.
We still have a lot left to do and not much time left in the school year. The students are excited to promote the site and the re-enactment, to receive and review responses. It is our hope that this work will reach people, touch them and inspire them to think.
Andrea, Silvia and some students reflect on student blogging.
This video will be used as part of a free, online course for teachers.
Diigo (Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other Stuff) is a free social bookmarking tool that allows its users to store, manage and share Internet resources. Users can bookmark, highlight, tag, and annotate selected web pages while reading online. As they are stored in the cloud, bookmarks can be retrieved from any computer anytime and anyplace. Resources may be shared with other users.
As a social bookmarking tool, Diigo clearly has the potential to make reading and research a social activity in the classroom. In collaboration with our social studies teacher, I’ve used Diigo with our 4th and 5th grade students: 4th graders were researching the pre-colonial French settlement Fort Caroline (Jacksonville, Florida) and 5th graders were gathering information on the Lost Colony of Roanoke (North Carolina). Using the researched information, students are currently in the process of creating eBooks about their topics.
Objectives for students were:
- to research and become familiar with informational texts about their respective topics
- to use Diigo to collect and organize their new information
- to apply various Diigo features, including highlighting and annotating of web pages or text passages and tagging of web pages for organization and classification
With an educator account, I created a Diigo Group for each class. Privacy settings of educator accounts are pre-set, limiting communication to assigned teachers and their students. Also, by default, student profiles are private. Each student was provided with their login information and created an avatar for their profiles using one of the following websites:
In each classroom, we then created tag dictionaries to categorize websites, ensuring consistency of keyword tags. We brainstormed tags to include in each dictionary, for example “Ft. Caroline” instead of “Fort Caroline”, or “Native Americans” instead of “indians” or “natives”.
Since our students already had an introduction to Web search techniques in an earlier unit, I began by focusing on annotations. The great benefit of Diigo’s annotation tool (virtual “sticky notes”) is that it allows students to summarize a website’s important concepts and main points. Annotations encourage student interaction and engagement and are central to collaborative research. The students explored: What are the elements of a quality annotation? We brainstormed and I used the definitions students gathered to create a reference sheet:
While the process may seem straightforward, students struggled with the concept of a quality annotation. I’ve blogged about this issue here.
Research is not simply about finding information, but also evaluating and synthesizing the information found. The skills necessary to evaluate and synthesize require students to read text closely and paraphrase the useful information, respectively. These are critical, transferable skills, but working with elementary students I have learned that these are often the most difficult for the students to grasp. Thankfully, we were not under any time constraints, giving us time to model and review when needed.
For my students, Diigo is a powerful collaborative learning tool in the classroom. Students interacted with informational text and with one another and were motivated to stay on task. They read, highlighted, tagged, and annotated relevant websites for their research projects.
The annotation process, however, was harder to learn for my 4th than my 5th graders. Fourth graders also spent a lot more time looking for relevant images than focusing on reading text. Reasons may be maturity, existing skills, class size (20 vs. 11 students), time of day (Friday afternoon classes for 4th grade), or a combination.
Overall, this was a great collaborative project. Diigo allowed my students to not only manage information, but also to hone their communication and collaboration skills -- all vital to success in school and their overall future. I would like to repeat this lesson, possibly on a grander scale: Not only with a classroom at another school, but perhaps “classmates” in another country.
Fifth grade students are getting ready to read the book "Jamestown" by Gail Garwoski.
A stirring story of survival set against the backdrop of the founding of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a group of London businessmen known as the Virginia Company to establish an English settlement in North America. In 1607, 104 men set sail aboard three tiny ships on a voyage to a new land. What they found became the first permanent English settlement in the New World-Jamestown.
Among the brave adventurers who made the journey was a young boy named Samuel Collier, the page of famed Captain John Smith.
How could we move away from assigning the traditional reading of the book (chapter by chapter), then writing a book report and possibly give an oral presentation in front of the class? How could we tie the lessons, delivery, supported skills and objectives NOT only to curriculum, but also to our Learning Target (based on and adapted from www.galileo.org )
We are looking to move towards competency in five categories:
- Learning Environment
- Learning is engaging
- Students are self-directed
- physical environment conducive to learning
- resources meet learning needs
- learning is social and interconnected
- using a variety of techniques and resources
- authentic learning experience designed, developed and evaluated
- criteria are established for assessment
- Role of Teacher
- teacher as a learner
- teachers as a cognitive coach and guide
- teacher has strong instructional repertoire
- classroom is open & public
- Teacher actively connects to larger global audience
- produces deep meaning
With that in mind, we had a brainstorming session with our 10 year olds. What did they know about the early settlers? What did they want to know?
We started with the traditional KWL concept and upgraded to KWHLAQ.
Could we compare pioneers and explorers who came to the Americas, the "New World" (with respect to the population who called these lands home and "their world" for thousands of years before the European came to "discover" it) and the "Digital World". What were dangers for the early settlers? What are dangers for cyber citizens? Were there double standards for the old and new world? Are there double standards for the analog vs digital world?
By now, students are pretty independent in creating collaborative Google Docs to share with teachers and their classmates to take notes. The concept of the Official Scribe from Alan November's Digital Learning Farm is embedded and works naturally for our students.
Below is the screenshot of the initial brainstorming session.
We were not sure, if all student understood. 5th grade teacher, Shelly Zavon, wrote a reflection after our first meeting with the students. I especially like her blunt honesty, that NOT EVERYTHING, not every class or lesson goes as planned nor well. We had to go back to the drawing board, we need to keep meeting every week to debrief after a lesson and tweak for future ones
I am hoping that the Jamestown project will come together soon. The idea is good; I just need to find a way to help the students dig deeper and start thinking on a higher level. For some reason, the students don’t like to be challenged to go to the next level. They want to do everything quickly and get to the fun part, which hopefully in this case will result in a music video.
With both of these projects, the students have had to move to a more advanced level of critical thinking (and accountability). I know this has been good for them, but is has been a grueling process for us teachers. I keep thinking, “learning is messy” and as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming.”
How can we make the learning about Jamestown authentic? How do we connect the learning of the past and make it relevant to their present and future?
It just happened that Google Glass shared a new video with the request for applications to becoming a GOOGLE EXPLORER!
Two ideas came to mind:
- What if we were to ask our students to create a video with the same requirements as above (minus the last three points) to apply to become an Explorer , not for Google Glass, but for Jamestown. What would you do to become an explorer and leave for Jamestown?
- What if we were to ask our students to time travel with a device like Google Glass and take a video or pictures and they narrate/document what they are witnessing.
Watch us develop, as a 5th grade learning community, the topic further. I wonder what we will create.
The picture above makes me smile… I see a group of Kindergarteners thinking, wondering, discussing, testing things out, collaborating, being proud of their independence as they are working with iPads.
It was the first time, we “let go” with the iPads. Previously, we had iPad Centers, working with 3-4 students at a time or we took two buddies out of the class to record each other in a separate room.
This time, we decided students were ready (I was not so sure, if I was ready) to give each 5/6 year old their own iPad in hand. My eyes were constantly darting across the room, trying to foresee any potential disasters or accidents about to happen in regards to the physical well being of the devices (I am happy to report that there was not one incident!)
Mrs.Y.’s , the Kindergarten teacher, goal was to work on NOUNS. Building on the iPad skills they had developed in the previous weeks. We modeled for the entire group how to:
- find “nouns” in the classroom
- frame a picture so several nouns would be captured
- open up Skitch app
- using arrows to point to the nouns
- use type or handwrite the name of the object
- email their picture to their teacher to be included in their blogfolio
Some students tentatively starting with one noun and then worked their way up to more than one in a second (or third, or fourth) image. They became more creative as they were wandering around the classroom to take “just the right” image. Mrs. Y. projected her email program to the board and as a class they went through each screenshot that had been taken and mailed.
You could really see the pride these students were displaying in their work.
I have seen learning in the
21st Century modern classroom!
The learning just oozes through the cracks of the physical classroom walls.
Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.
It all started out with a conversation between Mike Fisher and me. He had written over 40 children poems and was in the process of wondering what to do with them? I was looking for an authentic task for 9-11 year old students. We felt we had a perfect match! How about getting the students Language Arts and Art teacher involved? The initial idea was to make a unit of poetry come alive, study Mike's poems and visualize the poems by creating illustrations.
Great plan... it snowballed from there...
A quick Skype call between Mike and the teachers, helped flesh out each of our expectations and a timeline for the "project". A critical component was the participants' willingness to be flexible and see where the students would take "the project".
- ...Mike allowed students to alter his original poems if they felt inspired to remix them, making the creation process fluid and embedding new ways of looking at forms of copyright?
- ... Mike offered to write a new poem to additionally created illustrations by students, flipping the collaboration roles?
- ...we published a poetry book on various platforms? (hard cover/eBook)
- ...we had student run a marketing and advertisement campaign?
- ...we involved the Math teacher to support students in calculating how much the book should cost, what would the profit be, how would a profit be split?
- ...allowed the class to handle the entire business venture?
- ...we incorporated Alan November's concept of the Digital Learning Farm and leaving a legacy?
Each student was "given" a poem from Mike to be responsible for. We set up a first Skype call with Mike, the author, for students to meet him, ask questions about "their" poem.
Part of our job as teachers was to observe students as they were taking on the roles outlined in the Digital Learning Farm. We were/are looking to identify NEW FORMS of assessment, since our "project" was not to be an add-on to traditional assessment tools.
As I was watching students talk to Mike Fisher via Skype, Will Richardson's call for Thinking Differently About Learning, which includes Learning to Talk to Strangers came to mind. As students interacted, I was watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction. Stay tuned for the publication of a Taxonomy of Skype Conversation to facilitate assessment of video conferencing.
As the Skype conversation was happening in the foreground, other students were busy documenting and collaborating in backchannels. A Google Doc was opened and shared among all students, teachers and Mike Fisher. The multi-tasker Mike is, allowed students to Google Chat at the same time as he was talking to students via Skype.
Other students had taken on the task to tweet the Skype call
Take a look at the 4th and 5th grade Twitter feed, documenting the skype call. Students are exhibiting understanding of Twitter grammar, syntax and etiquette. They are showing progression by starting to add value, links, citations and they own thoughts. They are summarizing and articulating thoughts in 140 characters or less. They are directly communicating, disseminating, collaborating and connecting via social networking. We are using Twitter and HOTS as a way to assess these skills.
We had other students use different tools to take notes too. The notes app on their iPad or traditional paper and pen
One student chose to summarize what he heard during the Skype call by mindmap doodling. He was able to re-tell the different poems that were discussed between his classmates and the author.
Take a few minutes to peek into the classroom as students were debriefing from the Skype experience.
So, where do we go from here? The students are very excited and are taking ownership. There is no talk about what kind of grade they will be receiving for their work. An authentic audience will decide if they were successful. Students will volunteer to take on different roles in the publishing, marketing, finance, communication department. We will allow them to take the lead, consulting, coaching and modeling if needed.
Stay tuned as this "school project" unfolds.
As first graders are learning about the butterfly life cycle, we wanted to stay away from usual activities such as coloring in a pre-printed coloring page. INSTEAD of such an activity (created by others) and a quiz about recalling the different stages of the life cycle as assessment, we decided to have students built on their knowledge and fluency of creating a collage and CREATING a visual of their learning. The digital visual was to become an artifact for their student portfolio.
Our first graders are working weekly on a Hebrew visual dictionary on the iPad PicCollage app. They are very comfortable with the app itself. We were ready to spill over from Jewish studies into their General Studies class and push them on their workflow (fluency) with the iPad.
- we reviewed the stages of a butterfly
- showed students a National Geographic video of the life cycle
- modeled the creation of a PicCollage Butterfly poster by breaking down each step
- embedded digital citizenship (images copyright issues)
- emphasized the workflow of :
- choosing appropriate tools/apps (critical thinking)
- navigating to website ( workflow, information literacy)
- searching for images (information literacy, critical thinking, creativity)
- saving images (workflow)
- switching apps (workflow)
- browsing for images> importing images > editing images > adding text (workflow)
- designing (creativity)
- saving (workflow)
- emailing final product (workflow, communication)
I was impressed by our 6 & 7 years olds to get to work, able to follow along the workflow path, some having a little trouble with spelling some of the words, but ALL comfortable with tapping, swiping, switching between apps, pinching in and out, editing, saving images and simply knowing that these images will be waiting for them in their Photo Album to be used in another app.
This activity was NOT about using the iPad app, it was about creating a visual of their learning. It was about workflow, skills and creativity.
The emailed collages, will be placed on student blogfolis with a written or audio reflection of their creation or learning process.
Recently, I tried to explain to a teacher from another school how we are trying to use iPads BEYOND apps. We have over 100 apps on our school iPads and introduce our students according to age level to a variety of them, but the focus of the use of the devices NEEDS to remain primarily as a tool for:
- exposing students to skills, characteristic of a "modern learner"
- critical thinking
- personal learning
- transformative learning
- workflow fluency
There is nothing wrong with using apps for isolated skills practice, such as multiplication, spelling, memorization, taking digitized quizzes or substituting otherwise traditional analog activities. These purposes should not be the only reasons of using iPads though. As students are being exposed to different apps, the focus needs to remain on the purpose, creation, workflow and sharing of what they can "do"with the iPads. They should "do" what they could not conceive or accomplish without them before.
I have shared last week, how our first graders are showing first signs of fluency when working with the tools at their disposal. How do we approach the workflow fluency with Kindergarten students?
- Students listened to a story (about dinosaurs and Hanukkah) without seeing the illustrations in the book
- in Doodle Buddy, they visualized the story by drawing the imaginary images in their heads.
- they saved the images in the photo album
- emailed the images to their teacher (to be inserted into student blogfolio under categories: Art, Writing)
- We started out by having students use Skitch to take a picture of themselves (some of them asked a buddy to take it for them, which they then reciprocated)
- by using the pen tool, they chose a color and then wrote their name on the image
- from Skitch, their "annotated" images were emailed to the teacher (to be inserted into student blogfolio- Category: Kindergarten, Me, writing samples)
- Using iMovie students created a new project
- recorded a buddy telling them about their "favorite part of Kindergarten".
- they played the movie back, re0recording if necessary until the movie clip was to their satisfaction
- students saved and named their project
- the movie was sent to a school vimeo account (to be embedded into student blogfolio- Category: Kindergarten, Me, Oral Language)
- The Kindergarten teacher set up scenarios and took photos in the classroom, demonstrating the Math concept of "fewer, more, equal".
- the images ( different scenarios with different groups of children) were emailed to each iPad and saved in the Photo Album
- students looked at each image and chose the scenario, they wanted to "explain" (all students chose an image they were part of!)
- using Explain Everything, they then imported the image
- chose the pen tool and color
- recorded, paused, and drew their explanation
- the project was saved and mailed to teacher to be uploaded to classroom vimeo account (to be included in student blogfolio under Categories: Kindergarten, Math, Oral Language)
As we were using the above apps, we continue to ask and reflect:
- How is the app used to directly support curriculum content?
- How are we allowing students to demonstrate evidence of their learning in this moment in time?
- How are we/they documenting their learning process?
- How do we provide opportunities for students to think about and reflect on their own learning?
- What skills of a "modern learner" are we exposing our students to and how are we supporting the development of new literacies?
A discussion of basic literary elements (character, setting) using several different picture books led to the creation of eBooks by my first grade students. By creating the eBooks, students were to demonstrate understanding of character, setting, and a sense of sequencing, while practicing their written storytelling skills. To begin the process, I used a wordless picture book (relies entirely on illustrations to tell a story) to allow the students to show off their creativity and imagination while developing their writing skills. They needed to interpret the illustrations (visual literacy) and then write sentences about each picture (reading and writing literacy) to tell a story. I chose a total of six pictures from The Red Book by Barbara Lehman (2004). Students used the Book Creator app on the iPads to create their masterpieces. Following are the various steps:
1. We began by looking at an example, the Butterfly ebook created by our school’s last First grade class (in 2011). We discussed how this book is visible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection and the importance of doing a really good job when publishing.
2. As a class, we used our visual literacy skills to briefly describe all six pictures I had preselected from The Red Book.
3. With a copy of the six pictures in hand, students then each decided on the order of the pictures for their own stories and used a storyboard template to develop their stories.
4. The next lesson was spent transferring (typing) handwritten text from the storyboards to the Book Creator app.
5. Once typing was completed, students created the artwork on paper with colored pencils. I then used each student’s iPad to take photos of the pictures and imported them into each story.
6. An important part of the eBook creation process was the review and edit process. Students used a Book Checklist while reading through their stories and carefully marking off each box.
Check out some of the very creative eBooks by the 1st grade authors!
Lastly, it was time to reflect on our learning. We first reviewed the process of creating our eBooks by remembering all the different steps. We also discussed the different products used (iPad, pencil and paper, storyboard template, editing checklist). Finally, we talked about the skills we learned (identifying literary elements in fiction, using different products, matching illustrations with our sentences, editing our work). Before video recording student reflections, I offered my own reflection as a model for the students.
- I’ve learned that 1st grade students are very creative.
- I’ve learned that even though they cannot yet spell many words perfectly, 1st graders like to write. And they like to draw too!
- I’ve noticed that 1st grade students know all about setting and character and used both in their books.
- I’ve discovered that 1st grade students quickly learn new words, like font, end mark, and checklist.
- Also, I’ve discovered that 1st grade students love working with the iPads. They are little wizards with this tool! Swiping and tapping comes naturally to them, and even though I only asked them to change the font size to make it more easily readable, they immediately discovered how to change the font style altogether.
- I’ve learned that creating eBooks is a great skill builder.
- I’ve truly enjoyed working with 1st grade on our very first eBook creation!
Listen to the student reflections in the following brief video. I am looking forward to your feedback!
I recently found a video of 1st graders using the iPad to visualize a poem that their teacher read to them. After students drew what they imagined, they got into pairs and explained their drawings to a partner. The teacher also circulated to listen and to ask deeper questions of understanding.
The concept inspired our Kindergarten teacher and me to try something similar with our five and 6 year old students. Learning how to listen or read a story and being able to visualize the setting, characters and storyline is an important skill. Being able to "translate" one media (oral text) to another (an illustration) is a critical literacy skill.
Our librarian helped pick a book "How do Dinosaurs say Happy Chanukah", appropriate for this time of year. The Kindergarten teacher explained to the children, that she would be reading the book to them without showing them the pictures. A gasp was heard around the room: "What? No pictures?". Instead they were asked to use their imagination and draw the pictures in their heads first.
We then handed out the iPads and ask them to draw the picture they had formed in their heads on the iPad with the help of Doodle Buddy. Once finished, we saved the images and emailed them to the teacher.