Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Phases and Faces of the Moon in 1st Grade

In first grade we have been working a science unit centered around faces and phases of the moon.  Students have been reading the stories, Phases of the Moon by Gilla M. Olson, and Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin. As they learn about the moon they have been taking notes in their science notebooks, and creating visuals to represent the different moon phases.  During this process we have been working on creating a class VoiceThread to show our understanding of the different phases and faces of the moon, as well as playing around with the app, Stop Motion HD.  One of the student assessments will be for the students to show the different phases in the correct order, and we thought it would be fun to turn these into stop motion movies to play back for the kids.  Today, Suzan (1st grade teacher) and I played around with how this might work (check out our amateur video below).  Check back next week to see our completed VoiceThread and student made Stop Motion videos demonstrating the different phases and faces of the moon.

This project challenges students to gather information from a variety of sources: teacher notes, readings from the two stories, and visuals and movies played in class.  Students then take that information back to record in their science notebooks.  These students are first graders, so there are developmentally appropriate supports in place, like reading the story multiple times, and giving students sentence starters for their notes.  Students are also asked to demonstrate their understanding of the different phases of the moon through their written work and in constructing an accurate representation of the moon phases.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WallWisher, Nat Geo, Google Docs, and Earth's Changing Surface

Yesterday at one of our elementary schools, we kicked off our study of Earth's Changing Surface, by exploring this interactive map from National Geographic.  

We started the class by visiting our class WallWisher Wall to answer the question: share one assumption about how forces below effect the land.  In pairs, students posted their thought to our WallWisher board where the whole class was able to read each other's ideas.

Then we opened up our Google Doc that contained the directions for the assignment, and learned how to use the interactive map.  After a few minutes of directions, the students were able to choose the questions they wanted to explore using the map.

After answering their questions, they revisited their WallWisher Wall and added something they learned about how forces below effect the land.  

It was really interesting to watch the students learn how to navigate the different layers like earthquakes and tectonic plates, and to measure how far Vermont is from the nearest volcanic eruption.  Students were able to independently (in pairs) explore the maps and choose areas from our class questions on which to focus their research.  Each student was engaged and able to confirm their previous assumption about how forces below shape the land, or learned something new about how these elements like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions might be connected. 

Check out our walls from both classes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Google Custom Search

Technology is great and has made our job as educators easier in so many ways, but even I have to acknowledge that sometimes it makes it more complicated.  Now there is always a better way to do things, and faster.  While it is my job to push teachers and students to try new ways to use technology, sometimes there are tools that you just need to use. Now.  One of these tools is Google Custom Search Engines.

Google Custom Search Engines let you create a search engine that only pulls content from sites that you have allowed.  Clearly, this is a great tool for teachers.  We can now build search engines around specific topics, like the 5th grade at DBS did for their study of Government, or you can just keep adding sites throughout the year for your class or school.  I cannot stress how easy it is to create a search engine and then share with your students, or better yet, embed on your blog like this.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Clea.nr extension for your browser

Clea.nr is a browser extension that you can quickly and easily install to literally clean up the content displayed on your browser.  If you are tired of showing videos in class and worrying about the ads and the inappropriate videos that show on the side, Clea.nr will fix this for you.

Quite simply, it turns this:

into this...

So check it out and install it on your favorite browser: http://clea.nr/install/

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tech Integration Free Course

Yesterday we kicked off our first class of the year for our Technology Integration Course at the Hartford School District.  This class will be run through a blended learning model where we have some in person meetings, and other times when teachers are responsible for accessing content through our Edmodo site, conducting independent research and work, and engaging in conversation through an online medium.

And while I know that I will be providing a level of support and learning opportunities that cannot be matched through a course run solely online, I am still intrigued by the model of offering free learning to a greater audience.

Free, online continuing Education has seen a dramatic increase in the last few years with such big name institutions as MIT and Stanford offering self-directed courses.  These courses offer students the chance to access content from renowned institutions and professors either for free or for a small fee.  Check out this article from the New York Times about the appeal of online education.

As someone who loves to try new things, and finds value in self-guided learning, I am excited about the increased popularity of these type of learning experiences for myself, and also for our students.  In an effort to increase awareness and engagement in these models, I am offering our Technology Integration Course* to you, for free.  This free, online course will differ in some real ways from the course the participants at the Hartford School District are taking.

3 Ways Your Course Will Differ:
1) You will not be able to access our Edmodo site, instead I will make all material available through Bitly Bundles and Google Docs.  Here, you can add your comments or notes to each resource to share with others in our class.

2) I will not be providing you with feedback.

3) You will not be receiving a grade or credit.  You are engaging in this opportunity solely for the purpose of learning new content.

This is my first time opening up a course to the general public, and it's both exciting and nerve wracking.  It will be a learning experience for me to see if I am offering content in a way that is accessible to those that would like to take this modified version of our class.

If you are interested, please join us.  Check out our first month's assignments through this Bitly Bundle, October Tech Integration Course Plans.  Start each month by reading the Google Doc titled (month) Tech Course Plan.  This document will start with a narrative about our direction for the month, how and which resources to access and explore, and what assignments you should complete.

Information about our course
Course Description:  Teachers will participate in year long technology integration course where they will learn how to effectively integrate mobile technology, construct project based learning opportunities, construct units that address Common Core Standards, collaborate, and co-teach with the technology integrationist.  Throughout the year teachers will participate in bi-weekly planning sessions with the integrationist and team members, bi-weekly co-teaching opportunities, and monthly classes to further support their technology integration skills.
  • Teachers will develop best practices of technology integration, including project based learning opportunities
  • Teachers will employ and model effective co-teaching and learning strategies
  • Teachers will develop lessons and units that teach Common Core Standards and use effective technology integration
  • Teachers will become technology leaders in their school
Content Outline:
  • Develop Digital Citizenship Curriculum
  • Develop Units that teach Common Core Standards
  • Develop Units that incorporate technology and project based learning opportunities
  • Develop a presentation for staff or conference about technology integration
  • Develop a blog or website

Please drop me a note @HartK8 with comments and/or suggestions.

*Technology Course is modified for online, free model.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tech Integration, a Model that is Work(ing)

This year, some ambitious and adventurous teachers embarked on a mixed mobile tech integration project with me.  They agreed to meet with me twice a month to plan, and twice a month to co-teach, and in return they get a classroom set of mixed mobile devices (most classrooms opted for a mix of laptops and iPads).  There were a few motivating factors behind choosing this model:

1) Students need to be comfortable with a variety of devices and platforms to access information and demonstrate understanding.  What they are using today is most likely not what they are going to be using in a few years, so it is important that they are flexible learners, especially when it comes to technology.
2) Students need to understand when technology is necessary, and which tool best serves their purpose.
3) Technology integration should change the way our students are learning and how our classes are structured.  There have been many instances of classes that have had an influx of technology, only to have it replace a task that could just have easily been done without it.  With mixed devices, differentiation is already built into the model and pushes teachers to think in different ways about how to structure their class time and lessons.

We have started our year slowly by:
  • Introducing our students to the new devices, and how to care for them properly
  • Discussed our school AUP, and in some cases begun more in-depth conversations about how to be a good digital citizen (thank you Common Sense Media!)
  • Started (taken off) with our Google Apps for Education accounts
  • Taken class videos
  • Created voice recordings for reading fluency
  • Creating Glogs from Glogster (in process)
I am incredibly excited for and proud of the teachers that have taken on this project.  They are committing to changing their instruction and embracing taking risks with and in front of their students.  There have definitely been bumps in the road already, namely that our wireless network is not yet quite in place, and Glogster would only run on Chrome.

If you're interested in this project, check back here for updates.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Flipping PD

Next week I will be helping to lead a half-day in-service around the ELA CCSS for writing for K-5 teachers.  I will have about 40 minutes with each group before they move on to another session.  I have decided to shake things up a little and flip my session.  If you are not familiar with term flipping as it applies to education, keep reading.

"It started with a simple observation: Students need their teachers present to answer questions or to provide help if they get stuck on an assignment; they don’t need their teachers present to listen to a lecture or review content.From there, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams began the flipped classroom: Students watched recorded lectures for homework and completed their assignments, labs, and tests in class with their teacher available. What Bergmann and Sams found was that their students demonstrated a deeper understanding of the material than ever before."
From iste.org

There are many ways you can employ this method, and you can find examples below.  For my purpose, I am going to have teachers visit my blog where I will have posted sites, videos, and articles around how to use technology to teach the Writing Common Core Standards.  Teachers will be charged with choosing a few to explore on their own, and to come to class with questions and/or things they would like to share.  During our time together, we will have a conversation about what resources people have explored, what they liked, how they envision using the tool with their students.  After our conversation, I will allow more time for exploration and problem-solving.

Visit this blog after next week to see how it went.
Five Ways to Flip Your Classroom With The New York Times

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why I Think You Should Be On Twitter.

I love Twitter.  I was a late convert and didn't really see why I should get on Twitter.  I was a connected educator, I read blogs, I was on a listserv.  And then I joined Twitter.  And it was just as dramatic as the previous sentence implies.

At first I started slowly by finding organizations and people in the tech world that I wanted to follow.  Then I found tons of great resources, noticed people that I enjoyed reading their posts, and slowly started making connections with other educators around Vermont.  I soon found that not only did I enjoy reading what they have to share, but that I have things to share, and questions to ask.  Twitter became my go-to for tech integration ideas and support.  The wealth of information and ability to receive feedback from others around our state and beyond is a resource all teachers, and really your students must have. While it is 'one more thing' that gets added to our list of things to check and contribute to, I would argue that it should become your first thing, and will probably replace your other things.  

Two easy ways to start:
1) Set up an account for your own professional purposes.  Start following organizations that you already enjoy like Edutopia, Sir Ken Robinson, PBS, Ted Talks, your favorite person from NPR, trust me, they're all on there.  You'll find information that is interesting, and that you will want to bring back to your classroom.

2) Set up a class account.  Use your Twitter account to follow professionals in areas of interest for your class/students.  Share the posts from scientists, authors, historians, etc.  Engage your students in the real conversation that is happening around these topics, and allow them an opportunity to share their thoughts. 

Try it.  You know you want to.