One Year Later….

I have not published anything on this blog in 1 year, so re-reading it was something of a trip down memory lane! I made this blog for the Part 1 of this course, and Part 2 requires a similar task. I have decided to update this blog with some of the technologies I have tried out this year in class, and what I found successful. You can see below for more technologies that I continue to use with my students this year as well.

Wordle
I briefly mentioned Wordle below, but I will go into some detail about it here. Wordle is an amazing tool that has many possible functions for a classroom. Wordle is a free online program where students can type words into a text box and then have it graphically displayed as a text based art. The trick is, the more you type the word, the bigger it will appear in the graphic art. This is great for posters, summaries, main ideas, themes, or making connections. A great example would be to take a Shakespearean play and make Wordles out of each act. The Wordles could be compared and the major characters (eg Romeo in Act I, Juliet in Act II) and themes would come out visually. A very, very cool website that students absolutely loved.

Read Write Think.Org
This website has a huge amount of teacher and student friendly applications. My students this year created comic book trading cards character biographies for a narrative project we did. This helped them create a strong identity for their main character and helped shape the story as well. That just scratches the surface of what read write think has!

Wonderville.org
Wonderville is an interactive site that has tons and tons of science content for kids. It has interesting videos, quizzes,  games, you name it! I was upset that I found this so late in the year, but I will certainly use it next year!

http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/default.aspx
This website creates graphs and data tables in an easy to use way. We tabulated the results of a survey on bullying I wrote and having the data results shown graphically really made the information come alive.

http://marystreetgrade8.weebly.com/
This was my class website from this year. I had a student update it as a class job, and you will find multiple resources that I came across listed online. Happy searching!

 

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One Year Later, I have returned…. See above for updates!

Websites

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Cold Chicken Moodle Soup and a side of Weebly

*Moodle

My goal for this online course was to familiarize myself with different websites and programs that I can use to enhance my students’ experience in the classroom. My previous entry was on Glogster, which I now feel comfortable using in my classroom. I am also evaluating a software program called Wordle, which is a web-based brainstorming program.

For my third entry to my Blog (which I can now count WordPress as something new I have tried out- although I think I prefer Blogspot’s user interface), I am going to look at another software program I have only heard about called ‘Moodle’. Moodle stands for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, or, “huh??”. While I would normally provide an introduction to this program, I would be just paraphrasing a marketing video they post on their website. Check it out here:

Also, here is a teacher explaining the multitude of options that are available on Moodle:

She seems excited about Moodle and appears to use it quite often in her Grade 8 classroom.

After speaking to a colleague about Moodle, I found out that the Durham Board has a special contract with Moodle where they have the software already set up according to school. After logging in my account and watching some instructional videos, I do not have what is needed to set Moodle up. I emailed a tech person/teacher in the board but considering it is July, I eagerly await his return email in late August. If I end up getting a reply, I will continue to update this blog with my adventures with that.

Weebly: How do I work this?

Since I cannot access Moodle, I thought I would instead discuss my experience with Weebly and having a class website last year. Weebly is the free website platform that I used this past year to make my class website. I taught the fifth grade last year, and my website is here:
http://coronationgifted5.weebly.com/

On the whole, I was very impressed with how user friendly Weebly was, and how it really gave me the all the necessary tools that I needed. As you can see from the website, I organized the website into headings according to months, and then further subdivided into both Homework and Class Updates. This website was vastly superior in look to the website that the school was using. I really wanted to encourage my students to visit the website in the evenings at home, so I tried to make it as kid and parent friendly as possible.

Weebly mainly works with a drag and drop process of adding content to the website. I found this much easier to use because I could see instantly where information will appear and how it will be formatted. Comparing this to a blogging website where often the information is put into a text box and then formatted by the computer, I much preferred the ability to see exactly how the site will look. Weebly offers different text boxes- paragraph with title, paragraph with picture, titles, picture and two column layout- all of which they call ‘elements’. You can upload photo galleries, a slideshow, google maps and youtube videos. It was also possible to add a blog, an area where people could leave messages and forums as well. I chose to make this site simple a way to pass information on to parents and students, rather than a Web 2.0 format. Weebly also allows you to change the format of the website, and the offer many pictures and designs. While this is much more limiting than Glogster, for example, it does allow for some personalization. During the school year, I would change the images and layout according to what we were doing in class. I also let students who had finished all their homework choose the layout as well.

Weebly: Student Reaction?

I found the website helpful for many reasons. In writing down what we had done in class, I was able to reflect on my day and what had occurred. I was able to keep track of homework assignments that might be rubbed off a blackboard. I also noticed that I got a lot fewer notes in students’ agendas. I never encouraged parents to not send me notes, but with the creation of the website it limited the notes regarding class trips, fundraising and projects. I updated the website every day or every other day, depending on the volume of homework that was due. I did not give an inordinate amount of homework and I often gave class time to student so they could work on their assignments.

Weebly: Should we stop using agendas?

The class website opened up an interesting debate in my school. If we have class websites, why do we need to ask parents to purchase agendas? The additional money could be re-allocated to something else, or simply not asked for at all. This was my first time having a class website, so the discussion was interesting to me. With the information on the website, we being eco-friendly and encouraging our students to use new technologies. My school started to do away with the printed version of the monthly newsletter, and instead updated the same information as it came in onto the website. Parents were given the option of receiving a paper copy, and only about 20% of my parents opted for this. Parents liked the idea of checking the website while they are at work at about 3:30, so they know what their child should be working on when they come home from work. Students would check the website in evenings for their homework assignments, and I noticed the completion rate go up slightly.

On the negative side, I did notice some students relying far too much on the website for reminders. How do you do your math homework when you come home and you didn’t know you needed the textbook? Many parents also liked their child using the agenda as a rote memory tool- the action of writing down the assignment put the reminder into their heads.

I think there is still a place for the classic agenda. Many students need to take ownership of their work and not rely on someone else to remind them of what is due. Some nights I would be too busy or I would forget to update the website, and the students who did not use their agendas would often forget about the work that was due. I also think the agenda is a teaching tool- it teaches the students about responsibility and the need to write things down. The website can act as a helpful reminder and a place to extend what I am teaching in class, but it cannot replace some of the basic responsibilities of being a student. I slowly weaned my students off of having their agendas signed each night. I did this for the first few months, but eventually I just gave them a few minutes to write down what was due. After this, I just put the reminders on the board and told students to copy it down before the end of the day. This last step was a bit much for some students, who still needed constant reminders about writing things down. For some students however, this started to ingrain the process of writing reminders down because that is what a good student does.

Moodle and Weebly: Moobly!

While I was disappointed I could not access Moodle, I was pleased to be able to share my thoughts on Weebly. I will be using both tools next year in my class and I will be looking for ways to link the two processes.

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An Introduction to Glogster

An introduction to Glogster

What on earth is a Glog?

As part of the online course I am taking, I was instructed to use Glogster to make a Glog related to the content of our course. I had heard about Glogs at my school, as our tech wizard teacher had briefly mentioned using them in her classroom. She had said something to the effect of, “it’s an interactive poster and it has lights, sounds, moving items, Youtube links and multiple text formatting options…!” The more Tech Wizard listed the functionalities and possibilities, the more intimidated the small group of teachers simply enjoying their lunch hour became. I put it in the back of my mind and focused instead on the next math lesson and whether my tuna fish had soured.

Upon arriving at Glogster, I was greeted with a picture of the Black Eyed Peas and my Google Chrome web browser crashing- repeatedly. It wasn’t until I started using Internet Explorer did the website run properly. I have updated my Shockwave Flash player multiple times, but it still does not seem to run properly on Chrome. Glogster runs perfectly well on the normally slower, and less efficient, IE.

For the Glog I made for the online course, I found that the creation of the Glog was very easy. You can view this glog here: http://daveraiken.glogster.com/daves-glog/

A Glog is a web-based program that is very user friendly. Anyone can sign up and create an interactive poster. Glogster provides a long list of text fonts, styles, frames, images, graphics that you can move around a background of your choice. You can upload your own images, videos or sound recordings. When you are finished, you can publish it to the internet as I have done above.

What do I get for the classroom?

The first page has a ‘teachers section’, as they have seemingly become aware of the implications Glogster holds for the classroom. Taken from their website, Glogster EDU Premium is “a collaborative online learning platform for teachers and students to express their creativity, knowledge, ideas and skills in the classroom”. The website lists the multitude of assessment and classroom activities that their program can be used for (book reports, class projects, presentations, distance learning, lesson preparation, etc) all in a “safe digital environment”. As noted in my first blog entry, my first priority in creating any type of online class activity or forum would be student safety and privacy. I don’t agree with publishing student work or having students work on a program that is accessible to everyone on the internet.

There are three account levels for Glogster EDU: Premium Teacher ($99/year), Premium School ($2 per student, per year) and Basic (Free, 50 student maximum). The differences between all three levels can be seen at this link: http://edu.glogster.com/product-information/. For the purposes of this blog, I created a Basic teachers account. I didn’t want to create an account for my upcoming school, as I felt it was inappropriate to do so until I have met my students and I have discussed the program.

Once I set up the account, I created a basic welcome page for the students to see. I included some graphics and a very brief introduction. This can be found here:
http://daveandthecomputer.edu.glogster.com/intro/

Creating this page, finding youtube videos and playing around with formatting took about 20 minutes- and my page is very basic. I have created an account with 20 students listed, with each student being given a random user name (eg s24q8re). I was emailed a separate log in and password for each student, which I would distribute privately.

Once students access the site, they can add in personal information of their choice (hobbies, interests, favourite TV show, etc). They can create different background (‘skins’) for their profile page- much like Myspace. They can then begin to create their own Glogs, which they can share with their classmates. I made a profile and a Glog for a fake student here:
http://s6ebdyn.glogster.com/jill-smith/

Students can make multiple Glogs and can access Glogster from their home. While on the EDU site, they can tell me when their assignment is ready to be published and/or handed in. As a teacher, I can change passwords to limit access for some students or change the password to something they prefer. I can access their account through the ‘manage my students’ function on my teacher homepage. The only negative to the Basic Account is I cannot change the account names from the random user name (24q8re). I can see a little image with their user name, but that’s all. While in their profile students can write their name in (eg. Jill Smith) but as a teacher, I would have to look at each individual profile to find out who each student is. A way around this is for the students to upload an image of their first name in capitals, so I can see who they are. I would be uncomfortable asking them to upload an actual image of their face onto the website. I can make comments on their profile page that they can see.

I think the potential for this website is quite large- especially for students who prefer the computer to manually creating a poster on a certain topic. Media literacy and art (layout, colour schemes, size consistency, etc.) come immediately to mind, but so does language or social studies. I was impressed with the program and I would certainly use it in my grade 8 classroom next year.

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Educational Website

Hello!

As part of a course I am taking on technology in the classroom, one of my assignments is to make a blog detailing what I have learned in the course. As my first assignment, I have to find an blog that is dedicated to educational technology and critique it.

The blog that I will be discussing is at this link:
http://kimcofino.com/blog/2011/06/12/blogs-as-showcase-portfolios/

This blog is written by a woman named Kim Cofino, who is an educational technology facilitator in international schools. After scrolling through some of her posts, Cofino posts every few days about conferences and PD sessions she attended, student assignments, students responses to current events, and events in her personal life. What attracted me to her blog was her most recent post entitled, “Blogs as Showcase Portfolios”.

This is the first time I have written a blog, and I was curious about the classroom implications. I have seen, in my practicums, the use of blogging platforms in classrooms, but I have not implemented it myself yet. In this specific blog post, Cofino talks in a conversational tone about her experience with using a classroom blog. She has used blogs for the past six years in various formats, and she is a strong advocate for their use. I can see that the content of her blog is reliable and relevant because of her years of experience and clear examples of her work, and her students’, work. Her long history of blog posts suggests that she is consistently trying to improve herself as an educator and specialist in the educational technology field.

Specifically, she is using blogging as a digital portfolio of student work. She wants this to replace the paper porfolio of student work, which she feels is not the best way to share and praise students work.

In this blog entry, Cofino provides multiple links to blogging websites, previous articles she has written in regards to blogging, and instructional entries on how to use them in a classroom. This blog entry serves as a summary article of the work she has done over many years of blogging. This blog entry is a perfect example of an educational technology that students might already be familiar with, and therefore encouraged to engage with. This also opens the door for excellent home-school communication, which she encourages in the post.

The best link she provides is to actual student’s work with her digital portfolio project. You can click on 9 different students blogs and see what they have created. As a professional, this was helpful for me to see a finished product. The students made their blogs personalized and visually eye-catching, an element that was likely something they greatly enjoyed. For example, Sophia’s blog (one of Cofino’s students) can be found here:
http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/17hongs/showcase/

Sophia has posted an entry about her goals regarding their student led conferences. Sophia has provided thoughtful and introspective answers to the questions that Cofino asked. While this is just an assumption, I sincerely believe that the action of typing and writing this in such an interesting format probably encouraged Sophia to provide a stronger response. It would appear that the days of the little writing notebook where the room is silent except for frustrated sighs and pencil scratching are a thing of the past. Sophia also posted images of her artwork, along with her written work. She posted a review of a poem she liked and she filled out a lengthy ‘about me’ section. Cofino has clearly turned this blog assignment into a cross-curricular project (art, media, writing, reading, goal- setting), which as a fellow educator, I am impressed with.

In this entry, Cofino has also cut and pasted her assignment into the body of the entry. This was helpful for me as a professional because I can see the success she had with it. While not all the content is perfectly relevant to my teaching, the majority of it is- or can be adapted.

My only problem with her work is the notion of online privacy. In an age where our digital footprint continually grows larger, posting student work might be crossing an uncomfortable border. Confino does not provide any identifying details for the students, and I would hope waivers and permission letters were sent home, but the notion of student work freely on the internet does concern me. If, as it appears to be the case, anyone on  the internet can post to student blogs, that opens the door to abusive comments or behaviour. My preference would be to find a blogging platform that is strictly ‘in-house’, so to speak, where the students would need to log-in and log-off. My students should share their work amongst their peers, not the entire world. I would treat my blogging project the same way a corkboard is used in the classroom- a place to share and present excellent work, but it is kept inside the classroom walls.

Despite the above flaw, I can see the creativity and interest that this project brought out in her students. Cofino has created an impressive online community within her class. I have been looking for a way to start a blog project in my classroom, but I was unsure as to how to get it off the ground. I know there are multiple blogging platforms available, but her suggestions and critiques will help me to find the best one available. While she is teaching a grade 6 class, I strongly believe this can be used just as successfully in grade 8, which I will be teaching in the fall.

While searching, I also came across this blog:

http://www.whiteboardblog.co.uk/

It is hailed as one of the best blogs on educational technology, and it is easy to see why. I was wary at first because it is based in the UK (compatibility issues, video copyrights not transferring to Canada, etc.) but the content that the authors provide is quite impressive. Each blog entry provides a link to websites, free software and other educational tools. A good website to bookmark!

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