Category Archives: Tech

Wrapping Up Summer Wonders Session 2

2 more days left in session 2. It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve been teaching Scratch programming again (my 4th year doing so I think) but this time I’ve got older students than I’m used to teaching. I always forget to account for the level of independence they have compared to my usual 2nd – 4th graders. They absorb information a lot faster and don’t ask a lot of questions. It’s been tough writing their evaluations because there are students who have never needed any individual attention from me so I’m having to seek them out to look at their projects instead. I’m really looking forward to next session when I teach my first ever comic book class. Should be a lot of fun.


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Center Ideas – Google a Day

Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with ideas for centers that make good use of technology. We often fall back on flash card apps and sites that don’t challenge our students or give them any control over their learning.

Google a Day is probably best used with older or gifted students. The premise is so simple I’m surprised Google didn’t think of it sooner. Each day, Google poses a question and times the user to see how long he/she takes to find it using Google. The question remains in a frame at the bottom of the screen as you search and hints are available for the easily frustrated and answers can be revealed when you’re stumped.

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A Fun and Meaningful Addition to the Virtual Field Trip

Using Google Earth and a KMZ file I created for them, my 4th graders recently took a virtual field trip across the Southeast region of the United States.  I tagged specific locations across the map which were provided to me by their classroom teachers and embedded links to web sites, encyclopedia entries, image galleries, and video wherever possible.  It was a fun activity and the kids enjoyed it, especially since they were able to explore on their own and not follow a specific path like our last Google Earth activity.

To reinforce the the subjects they were supposed to be learning about, I gave them a sheet of paper and asked them to write down one thing they learned in each location. It didn’t have to be about the location itself, but something they learned while they were there.  We gave them two weeks to explore and take notes not expecting them to find a fact for each location on the map (although a few did).

The next week, we had them bring their notes to the lab and opened up Print Shop.  In Print Shop, I had them design the front of a postcard they might have bought at a souvenir shop on their trip. The card had to represent the entire Southeast Region, needed to have pictures from some of the places they visited, and had to have some kind of slogan at the top (Greetings From the Southeast!).  Then they were asked to write a letter to the parents on the back as if they were really on the trip.  The letter had to sound like they were having fun and had to include a number of the things they learned while they were on the trip.  Finally, we printed the postcards out on cardstock and are mailing them home to their parents this week.  There was a noticeable rise in enthusiasm when they found out that their projects were going to be mailed through the postal service as actual postcards (I didn’t tell them until about halfway through the writing process).  This wasn’t a project that was just going to hang on a bulletin board in the hallway where the same 50 people would see it every day and maybe their parents if they happened to be in the building that month.

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ICE Wrap Up

As previously mentioned, I presented for the first time at the annual ICE conference this year.  I’ve been going for a few years and getting a little less out of the sessions each year.  That’s not a knock on ICE, it’s a great conference, but I’m a computer tacher and spend a lot of time in front of the machine and as a learner of technology, I move at a faster pace than the average teacher.  I go mostly to see new sites and apps and inspire new ideas.  So this year, as part of my effort to create more, I proposed two sessions, both of which were accepted.

On Thursday I presented Stop Consuming, Start Creating with two of my second grade co-workers.  Earlier in the year, we decided to make an effort to use our newly acquire iPads as creative tools.  We focused our energies on finding apps that not only allowed our students to create documents but which were easy to use and gave us an easy way to transfer the finished files to a computer without syncing.  The presentation went far better than any of us expected. We had such a huge turnout (for our room which was small) that many of our attendees were sitting on the floor and another co-worker was standing in the hallway turning people away. We started early in the hope that we could finish quickly and usher in a new group but wound up going 10 minutes later than planned and finished at our scheduled time.  The group seemed interested in what we had to say and I hope they take some of our lessons back to their classrooms and create some new projects of their own.

On Friday, I co-presented a project I’ve been working on with our school librarian, QR Codes: Bringing Children Beyond the Book.  We’ve been putting QR codes on bookplates and taping them to the inside cover of some of our library books.  Each code, when scanned on a mobile device, links to a web site that somehow extends the reading experience for that book.  A student could be taken to an interview with an author or illustrator, a video of events depicted in the book, or a web site about the same subject matter.  It’s been a fun project to work on and we were excited to share it with our audience, which was also large and made up mostly of librarians.

Both sessions seemed to be well received and I had a few people approach me later in the day to tell me how much then enjoyed them which is always an ego boost.  I had a great time presenting this year. It dramatically changed the conference for me and I look forward to submitting more proposals next year.

If you’d like to take a look at our presentations and notes, they can be found online on the ICE Wiki.  Thursday sessions can be found here and Friday sessions here.  Just search for the names of the presentations and take a look at some of the other great sessions that were offered as well.

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Project Idea – Quick and Easy Podcasting Using Your iPad or iPod Touch

Grades: I’m currently doing this with 2nd graders but it could easily go down to Kindergarten with a little modification

Subject: All

Resources: iPad or iPod Touch, SonicPics App, A host site for the podcast

A couple weeks ago I convinced a couple of our 2nd grade teachers to let me try a daily podcast with their classes.  It’s one of those projects that sounds daunting and time consuming but I assured them that not only would the students be doing all the work, they really wouldn’t have to do anything at all except for maybe the occasional class discussion.

The idea is that each day, a different student will take an iPad and use it to take pictures of the things the class is doing whether it’s a project, a special, an assembly, or any other thing they find interesting.  Then, at the end of the day, he/she will use SonicPics to create a short slide show about the day with narration from the perspective of the class (“we did this” rather than “this is me doing…”).  We already have SonicPics installed on all our 2nd grade devices and the students know how to use it pretty well.  The trickier part is the publishing which is where the teachers often start to get nervous.  It’s not easy to take 5 or 10 minutes out of your day, especially at the end of the day, to publish a podcast, so I devised a way to make it easy enough for the students to publish it themselves.

First I set up a series of bookmarks in the bookmark bar on Safari for the students to use.  I arranged them in the order that they would be using them.

  1. Sonic Pics – This one links directly to the IP address of the iPad the students are using for the project.  Because each device has a different address, I have to ask that the teacher designates one iPad as the “Podcast iPad” so that the link will always work.  Sonic Pics downloads files directly from the iPad through a web browser using this address.
  2. Convert – Unfortunately, our wiki doesn’t play nice with the video file that Sonic Pics creates so the students need to convert it. It’s a step I was hoping to avoid but I found a site that is easy enough to use and so far the students haven’t had any trouble with it.
  3. Wiki – The wiki we use is simple and easy to use and our students already have experience with it through a storytelling project they have been working on all year as well as the class wikis they use to post their finished tech projects.  The wiki also has a blog and podcast section so with just a few clicks, students are able to post the video file to the podcast section of the site.

So far the project has been working out very well and the quality of the podcasts have been improving with each episode.  To make it easier on the teachers and myself, I’m introducing the project to one class at a time, trying to add a new class every 3 or 4 days (although I’ve admittedly gotten busy this week and fallen behind in that respect).  I take 2 or 3 of the more tech savvy students in the class and train them to be the trainers for the class.  I work with them for a day or two until I am confident they understand the process and don’t need me anymore. Then we let them work on the podcast for a few more days to get really comfortable with it before starting to turn it over to a different student each day. From that point on, a new student will be responsible for the content of the podcast each day while the trainers help guide them through the publishing process.

I’m hoping to have this pushed out to all my 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms before the end of the year. After that, I’ll evaluate whether or not I want to try introducing it to the 1st grade team.

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ICE Presentations Are Finally Ready

I’m watching 101 Dalmatians with the family while getting ready for ICE tomorrow. I just uploaded our resources to the wiki which you can find here (I’ve got sessions on both Thursday and Friday).  I’m really looking forward to finally taking part in the conference as a presenter and have already started thinking of ideas for sessions for next year.

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