11 Jan

I tried out blabberize in my classroom a couple of months ago.  I had made “blabbers” several times, but had never had an idea of how to use them in the classroom.  Students were researching planets in reading class.  The other 5th grade teachers were having them write a paper.  I wanted to try something a little different.  So we blabberized them!

First each student was assigned a planet and had to research it.  Then they had to write a script speaking as though the were the planet.  They were required to give a certain number of facts in the script (although I can’t remember how many I said now).

Each student found an image of their assigned planet on Schools Clipart (a site paid for by our district). They then read the script into blabberize using microphones.

Here is one example of a finished product.

The students loved the project and used much more creativity than I would have thought. I would love to use blabberize again, have you used it in your classroom?  Do you have other ideas?


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?


30 Aug

I recieved a shocking email a week ago.  It was an agency representing the Illinois State Board of Education.  They were putting together a training course for Illinois teachers on gifted students.  They were requesting the use of my google application video in their curriculum.

When I made the video, I had never put together a video before, at least nothing other than what I could make using Photostory, Powerpoint, or a little with Movie Maker.  When I read about the aplication process, I was completely overwhelmed.  I really didn’t think I could make anything that would “wow” google enough to include me in their teacher academy.  In fact, I wasn’t really even sure how to go about making a video.

I did what any 21st century person would- I googled it!  I searched for other application videos and used them as inspiration.  I really thought about what being a 21st century learner meant.  The ideas came forth quickly and I began working on the project.  I had to learn to use pinnacle (the only software our school had, and not an easy program to learn) and worked with students to put it together.  The end result was exactly what I had envisioned, and I was pleased.

I had no idea that over 7,00 people would view the video on youtube, nor did I forsee a time when someone would let me know they saw someone present at a conference and my video was shown.   Never in a million years did I imagine that anyone would want to use it in their curriculum, but each of those things happened.

To me this truly demonstrates the power of networking, of the internet, of web 2.0.  Someone without a “name” for herself can express her views and other people will listen; Other people will share a similar view.  The power in that is immense.

How does this translate to the classroom?  If every student could see that their opinions, thoughts, and beliefs do matter to someone, think of how truly motivating that would be.  Suddenly someone appreciates them in a way they hadn’t yet experienced.

Two weeks ago, I began a new year teaching 5th grade.  I plan to incorporate many opportunities for my students to express themselves, and to share their learning, their ideas, and their hopes for the future with someone outside the walls of our school.  I hope they find that experience as uplifting and motivating as I have.

Wordle and Animoto in the Classroom

25 Jun

Last month a coworker asked if I would be a guest presenter at her daughter’s school.  Each child in this 3rd grade classroom had the opportunity to invite a guest.  I accepted the invitation, met with her daughter and we planned a presentation of animoto and wordle.  Two of my favorite tools.

We started with animoto.  Due to CIPA I couldn’t allow this group of students to create their own animoto videos, so we decided to do a class video.  I allowed my coworker’s daughter to choose the topic.  She chose rain forests.  I pulled up my account and typed rain forest into the search engine.  The students then took turns selecting images from the hundreds available.  I saved those images and we imported them into Animoto.   The video was created while the students worked on their next project- Wordle.

Our next project was wordle.  I have posted on wordle more than once.  It is one of my favorite tools to use with students.  They love using it, it is very simple and quick to explain, and they can customize to their hearts content.  Since they were down to their last few days of school, I gave them the topic of summer.  They creations they made were wonderful.  For 30 minutes, you could have heard a pin drop.

This is the one thing I love about technology.  Once the kids get into it, they become completely engaged.  I would love to hear how you have used either (or both) of these tools in your classroom.

Blogs or Wikis

24 Jun

blogThis week I have taken a class on blogs and a class on wikis.  I have wanted to use one or both in a classroom setting for the past year, but due to the change of my position last year, I didn’t get the opportunity.  I will be using one or both in my classroom this year.

During one of these classes, a colleague asked which is better, a blog or a wiki.  Wow!  What a tough question.  I guess the answer lies in how you want to use the tool in your classroom.

Both Blogs and Wikis have advantages and disadvantages.  There are thousands of great examples of teachers using each tool (and thousands of not so good examples).  As with anything, these are tools.  The content of the lessons in which the blog or wiki are used are truly what makes it a great tool or just something else to do.  I am including some links below to a few of the better sites I explored this week.


Blogs tend to be more of a conversational tool.  The teacher or students post information and others comment.  The blog may also have links, widgets, and other tools for the students to use.  Blogs are a more universal format and teachers and students are probably somewhat familiar with their layout and how they work.
Blogging Bears
Mrs. Cassidy’s Classroom Blog
Tamiki Primary School Blog
Mrs. Trefz’s 5th Grade Class


Wikis tend to be more of a collaborative tool.  Students can more readily create content and add their own flare to the project.  Many teachers are using these as a classroom website.
Mrs. Abernathy’s Global Gorillas– Love this one!
Arbor Heights Elementary
Go West

School’s out for summer?

22 Jun

learnSchool is out for summer, at least for our district, but my learning isn’t over yet.  I am in the middle of a blogging class, one of four classes I am taking this week.  I have many colleagues who ask why I take classes during my summer vacation.  The answer: I love to learn!

I love technology and most of the summer class I take are put on by our instructional technology department.  This week I am learning more about blogging, wikis, Web 2.0 tools, and Dreamweaver.  Once they hear the classes I take, then I get the question “Why are you taking those?  You teach those same things to us at inservices.”  This is true.  So why do I take the classes anyway?  Because there is ALWAYS something new to learn.

I learn new tools, new ways to use old tools, and fun ways to implement the technology in my classroom.  Plus, for the past two years, I have been looking at technology from a different viewpoint.  Now I need to take a new, fresh look at how to use these things with my students.

I sincerely hope that everyone who teaches likes to learn new things.  How can we pass on a love of learning to students if we don’t have that love any more?  Not that classes are the only way to achieve this.  Many teachers work on lesson plans, read education publications, and talk to other educators during their time off.  They may learn by taking vacations, spending time with their kids and grandkids, or reading novels.    I hope that all teachers out there are doing something (however small it may be) to learn something new this summer.

“When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die.”  Lillian Smith