Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Love my Web2.0 World

Another connection is made! Miss M who writes the Eternal Learning of the Open Mind blog saw my VoiceThread with the math problem for the Gr. 2 class in Arizona. She took her question in a whole new direction and created this delightful math question using Animoto.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Problem Solving

On Twitter today someone pointed me to The Teacher's Life on YouTube.  This teacher of Gr. 2 students is asking people to send his class math problems to solve.  I decided to have a little fun and created the VoiceThread problem below.
For a clearer view go to VoiceThread.

Fast forward to Monday morning. When I checked my email there was a lovely reply from the Math teacher:
"Ohhhhh this is perfect.... thanks so much for taking the time to do this!
They will love it:) ". This made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

On a little ego trip I re-visited the VoiceThread I had created and lo and behold a teacher in Indonesia had already located the VoiceThread and left a comment,
"Hi grade 2 in AZ. Good luck with this problem. Maybe our gr. 2 kids can give you some problems. I'll ask them tomorrow. We live in Indonesia and go to Jakarta International School. Look that up on the map."

Now how cool is that? A small amount of playtime on my part produced a connection between two classes half a world away from each other. I love web2.0!

A Whale of a Problem

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Power of Teaching Note-Taking Skills

As adults we all take notes unconsciously every day. We read and listen, we capture the essence of the information we take in. We act upon that information by making decisions. Sometimes we jot things down but often we don't.

The Academy Awards are coming up and we will have conversations in staff rooms and with friends about the various offerings for this year. We won’t remember every word we hear, only the important bits. We'll make decisions on which movies we'd like to see because someone said movie x made them laugh or movie y was extremely violent. We take mental notes.

The ability to sift through information and identify the gist or central theme or important details is a skill worth teaching. I have some links to useful note-taking tools in my wiki which includes graphic organizers and quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing ideas. Look under Gathering Information.

Teaching students to take notes effectively is a good way to combat plagiarism. One of my favourite methods is to use the highlighting feature in Word. Ask the kids to cut and paste a passage into a Word document. Then show them how to use the highlighting tool to select only those words essential to the meaning of the passage.

The Highlighting Tool

Make sure they use a light shade if they are going to print their work.

Sample Highlighting

When some of my students used the dark highlighting colours it inspired an idea for another useful technique. Have the students use the darker colours to highlight the information they don't need. When they print out their page it's much easier for them to write in their own voice because they can no longer see everything the original author wrote.

Black Out Highlighting

Photo used under the Creative Commons Licence by
A Schwerin Moses

Monday, January 19, 2009

Web Finds

Here are a few web finds for readers/English teachers this week:

1000 novels everyone must read from The Guardian

Links from Bookninja

Time Magazines Interview with Stephenie Meyer

Photo Credit: *Your Guide
Used under a Creative Commons License.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Letting the Light Shine Through


Sometimes I have to talk myself into doing what's good for me. Take today. We haven't seen the sun in at least a week. Dense fog blanketed the city and seeped into my mind. I got out of the habit of walking, just as I have got out of the habit of blogging. I was in a January funk.

So I finally grabbed the camera and headed up the trail through the forest. I was rewarded with fresh clean air and the sight of the sun streaming through the tress. It was an hour well spent.

Overheard in the Library This Week:
- Oh look, here's a picture of the Pentagon. It's shaped like an octagon.
- I bet Mrs. E. listens to heavy metal when there's no one around.

Honestly, I don't make these things up! I think the math department has some work to do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Twitter: a brief beginner’s guide

So you’ve joined the Twitter conversation and are looking for some interesting people to follow. Here are a few sources to get you started.

Liz B. Davis' Educators on Twitter spreadsheet. To add your name go to Liz's blog The Power of Educational Technology



Directory of Learning Professionals on Twitter

Just Tweet It

Other ways to build your network:
- When you follow someone you like check to see who they follow
- follow Mr. Tweet. This service will send you a list of people they recommend you follow. Their recommendations are great.

Network Weaving has some other useful suggestions.

What can you do with your Twitter account?
- ask questions
- use a poll
- tell about something that has caught your attention
- answer someone else’s question
- post a useful link telling what people will find there

Please leave a comment if you have other suggestions. Thanks!

Friday, January 9, 2009

iPod Experiment Class Two

Today we introduced the second French class to the iPod Touches but this time we had them using Edmodo. On balance we have find Edmodo easier to use than Twitter, no Fail Whale!
We had the students sign up for their accounts using the iBooks and then moved them to the iPods when we wanted to have them start sending messages.

We tried twtpoll with mixed success. It only took the first response entered. I think this may have been because all the responses were coming from the same IP address. I'm wondering if this is something twtpoll will be able to address as it would be a very useful tool for class use.

As a work-around we've asked the class to enter their responses from home tonight.
We asked them to post their suggestions/comments for using these tools and this is a sampling of their responses:

- Take notes use for research communicate translate send homework to teacher more fun than paper and pen
- good for researching and stuff like that without having to go to the library/comp lab on our REALLY SLOW computers.
- We can save it onto our ipod to remember
- We could talk to other French class. Or other french speaking people
- You can check on homework..
- Yes this is beautiful once it works
-it's fun, we should use them all the time

Some did express frustration with the small keyboard but they'll get used to that.

We just had a tweet back from twtpoll and they have said that they can add an option to allow more than one response per IP address. Sweet! I love how fast things move in web2.0 and how responsive companies are to the needs of educators.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Twitter Experiment

The Twitter Experiment using iPod Touches.

French 10 December 08/January 09

Introduce the concept of using iPods in class.  Before handing out iPods cover the basics:
  • how to get an account 
  • appropriate behavior re account names and posts (what goes online stays online/school appropriate)
  • nature of twitter - 140 character posts

Teachers set up twitter account for each specific class participating.  Example: twitter.com/parlons for French 10 class.

Students create individual accounts and join (follow) class account.  (In guide, insert screenshots to explain).
Student user names and passwords - We recommend part of the student's first name + Class/block.  For example
meg_fr10bl6 or some such variation.

Ideas for Using iPod's in the Classroom

Tweet daily classroom news.

Use TweetDeck to display answers on the big screen.

Use applications such as twtpoll to survey class using multiple choice questions.  Survey results will display in pie chart format automatically.
Update students with last minute information like field trip cancellation.
Ask questions and have students respond to quickly see whether they get it or not.
Have students tweet ideas in a brainstorming session.  This could be an extension of a 'think, pair, share' activity.

Advanced Level Ideas
Bring in other classes/educators for students to interact with.

Student engagement was phenomenal.  Word spread quickly throughout the building and students from other blocks came by to ask the teacher if their class would also be using the iPod Touches.  We found that having the student responses show up on the big screen with the teacher using TweetDeck allowed for very quick assessment.  It was also a good way to speed up brainstorming sessions as the students quickly fed off each other's ideas.  Some students worked in pairs with one researching and the other tweeting. 

Links to more ideas

Teaching with Twitter
Using Twitter to Make History and Create the Future: Twitter in the Classroom from Twitterhandbook blog
Twitter Tips TwiTip
Twitter: A Teaching and Learning Tool

Expand your PLN
Twitter for Teachers - List of educators using Twitter
Educators on Twitter
Directory of Learning Professionals on Twitter

Use a search engine like whosTalkin to find blog posts about using Twitter in the Classroom.  I liked this tool because it allowed me to exclude search terms to improve my results.  Example:
"twitter in the classroom -phishing"