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Book Trailers

28 Mar

My 5th graders recently began making book trailers.  What is a book trailer you ask?  It is similar to a movie trailer- a short video that tries to get you to read a book.

We began this with group trailers.  I read The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor to my class.  They worked in small groups of 2-3 to create a book trailer using Photo Story.  Students found photographs at Schools Clipart for their projects.  They then either used the music maker within Photo Story or music from FreePlay Music for their trailer.  We looked at examples of other trailers such as the one here and here.  Talked about the role of images and music in the trailer, and learned how to give enough information to hook a person, but not so much that it became boring or gave away the ending.  I have posted below a couple of examples from our class.

We are in the middle of creating individual trailers now.  I will post an update once the students finish those.

This project was a lot of fun and the students really got into it- even those kids who are virtually non-readers.  They all enjoyed reading the books, because they were thinking about how to turn it into a trailer.  I am so proud of how they are turning out!

I plan to share any comments left with the student, so if you are as impressed with their work as I was, please leave a comment.


Flip Cameras

5 Jan

Flip Cameras are a new favorite tool of mine!  I have two flip cameras in my classroom and then our school has an additional 12.  I have had several teachers ask “how can we use these in class?”  Usually with comments of how difficult of a task this would be.  First, these cameras are INCREDIBLY easy to use!  It took all of 5 minutes to explain the basics of how to record.  I did spend some time talking about facing the camera, not shaking/moving it, and speaking clearly, but these are the same things we teach kids for a live presentation.   As for ideas on how to use it in a lesson…here are a couple straight from my classroom.

One area my students struggle with is understanding why text features are so important, and why they shouldn’t just skip over them as they read.  I broke my class of 20 into 5 groups.  Each group was handed a text feature (captions, glossary, charts/graphs, maps, index).  Each group had to create a short (about 30 second) video telling people what the text feature is and why it is so important.  I won’t bore you with all 5 videos, but here is one to give you an idea of the end product.

Other ideas:

Fluency Practice– My students LOVED reading and watching themselves read.  Especially when reading dialogue, students would try again and again to make things “sound right”.  I have never seen them want to read the same thing so many times.  I did this with a group of low readers and the results were astounding!

Brainstorming– I have a couple of students who have a very difficult time writing.  They can’t seem to get what is in their head down to the paper.  Allowing them to have a friend record their explanations and then play those back and write what they said helps tremendously.  Could they do this to a scribe?  Sure, but the addition of another student asking for clarification, or giving suggestions has helped the students go beyond what they thought they could do.

Commercials– A great way to make a commercial. We shoot, load, and project them onto the smartboard for INSTANT gratification.  By recording them, they can show these off later to parents.

How have you used flip cameras in your classroom?

Early Resolution

23 Dec

Let’s state something right up front:  I have neglected this blog.   This year brought a major change in my position at work and in struggling to get my feet back under me, I put the blog to the side.  I had already been struggling to balance time between my blog, social networking, my kids, my job, and all of my other responsibilities, and something had to give for a while.

I am continually amazed at several of the bloggers I follow.  Many post at least once a day, some up to 4-5 times a day.  Where do they find the time?  I know that time is relative and that you will make time for the things that you want to make time for, but still, I’m not sure I could compete.

As a new blogger, I thought I had to compete.  I exhausted myself and burned out, then neglected to update at all.  Vicki Davis recently posted Globally Connected…Personally Disconnected? When I read it, I was relieved that she was human too, lol.  I met Vicki briefly at the google Teacher Academy and have always admired her efforts in edtech, but she seemed a little more than human.  All of the wonderful activities she plans for students, writing a book, daily blogging, and all of the other things she does of which I am not aware;  I always wondered how she still had time to do all of the things she talked about doing with her family.  I admit, I was a bit jealous because I couldn’t find a balance.

I decided to make this post a sort of Professional New Year’s Resolution- a week or so early.

  • This year I will try to post at least weekly to my blog.  I would set a goal for more often, but I need to set it at something I can realistically do.
  • I will try to use at least one new tech tool each week.  I have been putting so many great sites on my delicious account and haven’t used many of them.
  • I will try to stay on top of my RSS feeds.  I get so many GREAT ideas from the blogs I follow and I need to read them more often.  At one point, I had over 1000 feeds I hadn’t read.  I recently deleted all and started fresh.  I am staying on top of it so far.
  • I will try to be more open minded in my teaching.  I notice that lately I have been letting the textbook lead the teaching, instead of letting the students lead it.  I know how to let the students lead, I used to do this, but lately I have been in a bad rut, and my resolution is to get out of that rut.
  • Continue to search out other professional development opportunities- the learning should never end.

Those are my professional goals for 2010, what are yours?

GoogleGab- Search

8 Sep

Welcome to the first edition of Google Gab!  Today I am going to start with the basics of Google- Google Search.  There is so much more to Google search than most people realize.  Most people know how to type what they want information on and then they muddle through millions of listings trying to find “the right one.”  There are more ways to use Google search to speed up the process.  You can use it as a calculator, dictionary, thesaurus, unit converter, time converter, and more.  You can search for only books, powerpoints, .pdfs, images, documents, or excel spreadsheets.  Even with all of the things Google offers, it still claims web search as its “bread and butter”.  In fact, while a nearly unheard of word 10 years ago, Google is now a noun and a verb!  Have you Googled lately??

Let’s get started:

Google- the calculator.  Simply type your problem into the search bar, click search and Google will calculate the answer, using order of operations!

Google- the conversion expert.  Do you need to know how many milliliters are in a cup?  How many miles is a 5K run?  Let Google convert units of measure for you!  Type in the unit you know (inches) and what you want to know (millimeters)

Google knows time and weather!  Need to know what time it is in London?  Need to know about the weather in Cairo?  Google knows!  Type in either time or weather followed by the city.

Finally, have you ever wanted to find a powerpoint, word document, or .pdf document?  Google can help!  If I am looking for a powerpoint on adding fractions, I would type in the search box followed by filetype:ppt  This will search only for powerpoint files.

The filetype may be changed to any below so to fit your needs:

.ppt- powerpoint
.pdf- Adobe PDF file
.xls- Excel
.doc- Word
.swf- Shockwave Flash

There a few others that can be found by clicking on advanced search.

Now I realize that many of you may already know these tricks, but I wanted to make sure everyone reading did.  Next week, GoogleGab will continue with more tools and how to use them in the classroom.   If you have not already signed up for a Google Account, I would encourage you to do so.  As GoogleGab continues, we will be using tools that will require a google account.

Google Reader

14 Jul

Last week I touched on iGoogle, this week I will discuss another of my favorite Google Tools- Google Reader. I was a little slow to discover this tool. In fact, I didn’t really enter the “blogosphere” as a reader or blogger until this spring. When I was at the MACE conference in Manhatten, KS early this spring, Tammy Worcester talked about Google Reader during her keynote, and I decided to give it a try. I found a couple of blogs and subscribed to their RSS feeds through Google Reader. Now I subscribe to over 25 blogs in topics ranging from motherhood to the most common in my reader- educational technology. I also have Google Reader feed into my iGoogle account so that I can keep up with everything from the same place.

What is Google Reader?

Google Reader is an RSS feed reader. RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. Just like you subscribe to magazines and they are delivered into your home mailbox, Google Reader lets you subscribe to blogs and have them delivered into you Google Reader mailbox which can then deliver to your iGoogle account.

How do I set up Google Reader?

Signing up for Google Reader is simple. To go and sign up for an account. This should be a simple and self explanatory process. Setting up your feeds, while simple, is not so self explanatory. Here is a video that shows you one way to add subscriptions.

Where do I find blogs?

Great question!  You can start by adding this blog 🙂  To find other edtech blogs, look at my blogroll.  I have linked to some great blogs and they would love to have you join their readership.  You can do a google search just for blogs.  The way I find most of my blogs is by going to links on the blogs I subscribe to and by using stumble upon.

How do I manage everything?

If you would like to learn how to manage your Google Reader account- create folders and organize everything, here is a great video!

Even More

27 Jun

Today I will be giving a very general overview of my time in Mountain View, CA at the Google Teacher Academy. Each Monday for the next several weeks (probably waiting to start until July 7), I will address a new application. I will be providing screencasts or links to tutorials on how to use each program, as well as giving ideas on how to integrate the technology into the classroom.

“Even More” pretty much sums up yesterday! Why Even More? Because just when you think you have seen or heard it all, there is always “Even More.” This happens to be a function to see all Google has to offer, but many of us picked it up as a theme for our teaching and professional development. When you cease to realize there is always “Even More” you cease to grow as a teacher and as a human being.

We started off at 8:30 with breakfast and right at 9:00 with a whirlwind of information. After some basic introductions we were asked to break out into groups and to discuss “What is the most innovative classroom technology?” Sounds easy enough, but we could NOT include any technology. Some great innovations, both large and small scale were mentioned. Everything from serving breakfast, to methodology, to classroom management was mentioned. Through it all though, a common theme began to emerge. Stepping out from the “norm” and truly affecting change for students. Putting students and their needs first, be it one child at a time, or broad changes.

We then headed into breakout sessions where we were introduced to advanced search, Google Docs, Google Earth, and Google Maps. We spent a very short 30 minutes reviewing each application, learning the basics about it and how it could be used in education.

Next was our Google Tour followed by lunch at the main Google campus. We are not allowed to give a lot of specifics of what we saw while on the tour. What impressed me most though, was the morale of the employees. Google demands plenty from its employees, yet gives them the freedom, trust, and affirmation to be truly innovative. How nice it would be to follow this model in our classroom. Give our students trust, skills, high expectations, and affirmation, and just see how far they can go. I would imagine that the students and teacher would be surprised at how much learning can be accomplished when that learning is authentic.

Lunch was amazing! We had our choice of everything from soups and salads, to sushi and made-to-order pasta. No one left hungry! We hopped back on our shuttle to another campus to finish our afternoon.

Vicki Davis was our keynote speaker. During her presentation she used a program called backchannel that allowed for a truly interactive presentation. Basically the participants were in a chat room and we were able to throw out questions, links, and comments relative to her presentation. For those who don’t multitask well, this was a nightmare, but I enjoyed the interaction. She made a few statements that really hit home for me.

1- Technology is a tool, much as pencil and paper are tools. We should introduce students to the technology, give them some basics, teach them digital citizenship, then let them learn and innovate.

2- Tools (in this case technology) are inherently morally neutral. The people using them make them what they are. It is up to us to teach students digital citizenship, not just take the tools away. We wouldn’t think of taking away pencils or scissors because someone COULD use them inappropriately. Instead kindergarten teachers spend months teaching how to properly hold the scissors and pencils, how to use them appropriately and safely. The internet and technology are no different. We should not take those tools away, we should however provide students with instruction on how to use them appropriately and safely.

3- The most destructive weapon: humans. No explanation needed.

Afternoon sessions introduced us to Blogger, Reader, iGoogle, Bookmarks, Notebook, Browser Extensions, and Google Apps and Sites.

Esther Wojcicki spoke to us about using Google Docs in her high school journalism class. The quality of collaboration and production was amazing. Her students exclusively use Google Docs until they are ready to turn in assignments for production. This allows students to edit their own work, work at a time convenient for them, even if that is at midnight. They could work together on projects, edit each other’s work, and provide comments and feedback. The quality of work produced was unreal.

We ended the day formulating our action plans. We paired up with each other and discussed how we would take what we have learned and share it with other teachers in a way that will impact them.

Our celebration dinner capped the night. We had another wonderful meal followed by a short ceremony in which we became Official Google Certified Teachers! What a day it was! I am still processing everything and will likely continue to do so for a couple of days. It was truly an amazing day!

Upon reflecting about the day, I truly feel that what moved me most was the spirit of those attending. People came from all over the US and from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, not so much to learn new technology skills, but to collaborate and learn from each other. When I first read the credentials of some of the attendees, I was intimidated. I felt like I would have little to contribute. Here were district level tech specialists, state curriculum people, authors, national PD trainers, and entrepreneurs, how could I ever compete? Surely they would wonder how I ended up at Google. The impressive thing was that EVERYONE there knew that they had something to learn from each person they met. Egos did not cloud the collaborative nature of the group. Resources, links, ideas, were freely shared with everyone. The networking was inspiring. The power of this group lies not in what we learned within the walls of Google, but what we learned from each other, and what we will continue to learn from each other. Out of 50 participants, 22 had found each other in the 4 weeks prior to coming to California through use of 2 wikis, countless tweets on twitter, and posts on blogs. We recognized each other as friends and colleagues before ever stepping onto the Google campus. The power of that is indescribable to those who were not there.

This was truly a life changing experience. If I take nothing else from the experience, it would be that to truly affect change in education we need to focus on the students and their needs, learning styles, and futures. The right changes will not come as part of a law, test, curriculum, or through a computer. They will come from teachers dedicated to doing what is right for kids, being innovative in their approach to teaching, and being willing to freely collaborate and share with each other.

Thank you to Google and my fellow Google Certified Teachers for an experience that I will never forget!

iPhones in class?

21 Jun

Abilene Christian University has done some research into using iphones in their curriculum. The video (way down below) shows what it might look like to have the iPhones fully integrated into university life. This fall all freshman attending the university will be receiving and iphone. This is the first university to undertake this sort of project. I applaud the fact that instead of trying to take technology out of student hands, they are coming up with innovative ways to make the technology useful in education.

So many times schools want to shut off what kids are using to the point that it takes away a teaching tool. Our district has a policy against iPods in middle and high schools. While I understand that some kids can and do abuse technology, by making such a drastic rule, teachers can’t put the iPods in their hands for a meaningful learning experience. I truly hope that soon, school and district administrators across the country will see that we should be taking what interests the kids and using that as a medium to help them learn. How different are these two scenarios:

Kid 1– Sits in the back of history class doddeling in a notebook, not paying attention to anything in the classroom.
Kid 2– Sits in the back of math class texting a friend, not paying attention to anything in the classroom.

Not much, neither kid is paying attention. Kid 2 would be suspended for using a cellphone in many schools. Kid 1 would be ignored or told to put it away. Would we take away his pencil and paper though? Doubtful, but I would be willing to bet that kid 2 no longer has his phone. Some may say well “he broke the rule of having a phone in class”. True, but the fundamental issue is that NEITHER child was learning!

A better response would be to realize that kid 1 is artistic and kid 2 is into tech and to craft assignments based on these interests that would engage them. Kids have a natural curiosity and I truly believe that 99% of children desire to learn and show that learning, but most of the time, we give too many restrictions and parameters and they give up because we don’t let them use the tools that best teach them or help them convey what they have learned.

Why not have kid 1 use his artistic abilities to recreate a scene from history, to create what propaganda might have looked like, or design a 3D representation of the battlefield? Why not have kid 2 create a tutorial video for posting on youtube about the current math assignment? In both scenarios, the students use what they know well to demonstrate what they don’t know so well, and both learn in the process. Isn’t that experience preparing them for the future more so than listening to a lecture and cranking out a worksheet?