This blog was started to explore the integration of technology into classrooms and, more specifically, into library activities. It seems like I’ve been in limbo over the last two or three years. I found it very hard to explore new websites, apps, widgets, or extensions when my schedule became fixed as a prep provider. Teachers brought their classes into the library, then left to prepare for the rest of the day. Time to meet with those teachers to discuss ways to collaborate vanished. Time for library administration became just as hard to find. While I spent time spinning my wheels the technology world continued on its merry way. I’m feeling very far behind.
Believe it or not, I actually like posting in my blog. You’d never know that if you just looked at the number of recent posts. There isn’t time to do this at work and when I get home there are always so many other things to do. Many changes have occurred over the course of the last two years and I’ve been encouraged to start posting again. I should have more time now. Half time gives you more time at home and therefore, more time to post. I can’t complain. Half time is better than no time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I rather like half time.
Harambee Elementary School almost closed. It’s a long and complicated story so I’m not going to try to explain it all. Currently we are being run by the Roseville School District. I didn’t say that we were actually part of the school district because that would be stretching the truth. Perhaps next year that will happen.
I’m fortunate to have great support in the Roseville District. My principal and colleagues are also very supportive. It’s time once again to see what the tech world has to offer.
As I’ve said before here, one of my major responsibilities is teaching students processes so that classroom teachers will be better able to use technology to teach content. One of the things we need to address is the login process. I’ve come up with a very low tech way of handling this issue. Each student has a username/password card. I clip them together in alphabetical order by first name and file them in a folder I have for each class, taking them out when we need them.
In about the middle of the 1st quarter, students make their username/password cards. Each student records their first name, last name, username, and password on a 5 x 7 card. This happens at every grade including kindergarten (when they are capable). I grade these cards. Did they fill it out correctly? Did they remember their username and password? When I grade them I provide correct information if it is not done correctly. We use these cards every time students go to the computers. The goal is for students to be able to login without using their cards. Every time I give them a card I mark it. This gives me an added piece of assessment. Many of the 1st grade students need their cards every time they login. But they quickly see that they will get to our online activity MUCH faster if they have the username and password memorized. Usually there are also a few 2nd graders who continue to use the cards. By 3rd grade most students no longer need to use the cards for logging in.
There are other uses for these cards. It is easy to upload a class list onto wikispaces. I try to use the same username and password as we use here at school but that isn’t always an option. Sometimes the username is in use and I have to make small changes so it will be accepted. The password has to be 6 digits long so I have to add to the student passwords. I record this information on their card so they can quickly get onto their wiki page. They usually memorize this login information so they can get to their wiki page from home. We also use a couple other sites during the year where the students create their own usernames and passwords. These are recorded on the cards.
It’s not a perfect solution. Students sometimes leave their cards at the computers, even though they’ve been reminded not to. This gives others access to their accounts. I have not yet seen that it has been a problem but the potential is there. It takes time to make the cards, usually a couple class sessions. That’s because I don’t just hand out the cards and tell them to make them. I make a big deal about these being the kind of thing that they should keep secret. Each student comes up to a small table to sit alone and fill out their card. While they do this I read aloud to the class. However, the time it takes to make them is easily made up in time spent actually on the computers rather than struggling to remember username and password. This very low tech solution to several username/password problems has worked very well.
Here it is Sunday night and it just occurred to me that I really should be working on the Harambee Library Wiki. I need to make pages for the 5th grade teachers and link the student pages. It’s not hard but takes time and I spent most of the weekend working on grading, lesson plans, and flipcharts. Working on the student wiki is not something I have time to do during school hours.
The students are enjoying the wiki and are getting ready for the next level. A couple of them have accidentally sent brief messages to all the other members of the wiki. I explained to them that if they were working as a group on a project this ability could be important. However, in this case each one of them is working independently on their own page so there should be no need to send messages. They might want to make comments and I needed to prepare them for that step.
To do so I first showed them the short video, Bulletin Board. The quality of this one is not as good as I would like but it gets the message across. We had some discussions earlier about posting pictures and I thought we should talk about the fact that once you’ve posted something online you can’t take it back. Many of them have facebook accounts, whether they’re old enough or not. In some cases it is a legitimate way for them to stay in touch with family in other parts of the world.
In order to make comments safe for everyone I showed them two more videos. The one called Talent Show made them quite uncomfortable and they were eager to comment on what they saw.
I also showed them another short video called Re: Cry of the Dolphins. The original video was a poem that received some scathing comments and this video is the author’s response. We had some issues with the first class that saw this one but they asked to see it again and it ran much better the second time. Once again students were surprised that others were willing to say such cruel things. They were also intrigued by the actions in the film, where the author reaches out of the screen to take the first comment off the board. This video is especially powerful since it was a real-life story.
Each class made a list of questions to ask themselves before posting and tips to remember before making comments. I don’t know how many students will make comments on other wiki pages but I think they will think before they post. Of course, I monitor all activity on the wiki and can take problem students off but I don’t think that will be necessary after these videos and discussions.
Last year I had some students resetting the desktop wallpaper on some of the library computers. I don’t really mind that, as long as they are getting their work done before they start messing around with the wallpaper. However, there are a couple issues here. The first is copyright. Did they get permission from the artist or photographer? Of course not! The second issue is a little different. They had taken a picture of a student from our own school website and turned it into a desktop wallpaper. To be honest, it was a little creepy. We discussed that in class but that was last year and this year I decided to tackle the issue in a different way.
Our tech support often sends out links to things she thinks we can use in the classroom and one day she sent out a link to a blog post with the perfect solution. iLearn Technology is a fantastic blog. In it Kelly Tenkely provides information about ways to integrate various web 2.0 tools into the classroom. The post that caught my eye was the one about Bomomo. In this post she specifically mentions that here we can “allow students to create their own desktop images for classroom computers.” I didn’t read any further and went right to the site.
I am one of the least artistic people in the world. However, even I can make a cool looking picture on Bomomo. I was instantly hooked and knew my students, whether they were accomplished artists or not, would enjoy this site. I showed them how to make their artwork the desktop image and many asked if they could do this at home. You can see their work in the art gallery on the Harambee Library Wiki.
Now I need to address the issue of copyright. We’ll work on that next quarter.
My first grade students spent a significant amount of time studying genres. They enjoyed making their own Gruffalo, reading Garfield mysteries, and trying to understand the difference between realistic fiction and nonfiction. Now it’s the end of the year and I wondered how to pull this unit together. I was very excited when I found that ABCya.com had a word cloud site for elementary students. I’ve looked at Wordle but I was nervous about using it for elementary students because sometimes older students submit wordles with inappropriate words. WordClouds for Kids doesn’t give students the opportunity to see the works of other and sometimes, that’s a good thing.
I gave my first grade students a list of the genres we had looked at and sent them to the computers. They didn’t have to type all the genres if they didn’t want to and each student typed their first name in the cloud. I have a student teacher who helped by saving the word clouds to a flash drive while I helped students check out. This activity would have been difficult without the help of another adult. I just posted the results on the Harambee Library Wiki. Look for them at the top of the navigation bar on the left.
We made a few mistakes because initially we thought that we needed a hyphen between words that should be together. The instructions did not say that typing the same word more than once would make it bigger but they learned right along with me. It was a good way to end the unit and they did a wonderful job!
Welcome to any and all visitors from the 2011 Teaching and Technology Institute. I am glad to see that so many are taking advantage of this opportunity to learn more about technology integration into the classroom and hope you come away from today’s seminars with a host of new ideas floating around in your minds. Even if you take only one of those ideas back into your classroom, the time spent here will be well worth it.
I started this blog several years ago as the result of an assignment in the E2T2 class I was taking. If you go back and look at some of the earlier posts you’ll see that while I used technology myself, I didn’t use it so much in my instruction, and there was so much I didn’t know how to do. I fumbled through figuring out how to put a picture on my blog and how to size them or arrange them in the post. You can see how I tried things with my classes that were sometimes wonderful successes, other times failures, and more often than not, a mix of the two. However, no matter what I’ve done to integrate technology both into the classroom and into my own teacher prep toolbox, it has all been a success for my students.
The E2T2 classes I took changed not only the way I taught but even my view on what I should actually be teaching. I feel very strongly that my students are leaving elementary school better prepared to face middle school and life beyond because I was willing to take advantage of an opportunity to stretch beyond my own technology fears. Don’t pass up any opportunity to do some of this scary stuff. You will not regret it.
Behold the computer lab I have in my library. There are 25 computers. The screens can be easily seen by standing back and looking around the room. It is a very inviting, friendly space to work.
Other teachers have started signing up for the lab. On the one hand I’m delighted because this is what I was hoping would happen. On the other hand, I now have to negotiate for time and space.
I was making plans for next week when I found that the lab had been signed out for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for the rest of the school year. I freaked out because that’s when I have 4th graders. I checked the schedule again and found that the same thing happened on Fridays with a different teacher. So now my fourth grade students are left with one day a month per class of computer time during library classes. Fortunately some arrangements have been made, at least for next week. Who knows what the rest of the year will be like?
When I tested students at the end of the first quarter, I was less than satisfied with the results. For some students it was a fun and easy way to learn about genres. These were the students who probably would have learned it anyway because they generally pay attention in class. For the others it was too much play and not enough learning. I wouldn’t abandon the games. They’re a great way to reinforce what is being taught. In the future I might make the test “open book” by making a scavenger hunt that would use the games to find the answers. I think it would direct the learning better than the way I did it this time.
The 4th and 5th graders have been studying genres. I’ve noticed that no matter how much time I spend on this subject they don’t seem to be able to apply what they learn. Often they can give me a list of genres or define them, but if you ask what genre they are currently reading right now they don’t have a clue.
I started this unit with a power point presentation that I modified for my classes. I found it on this wonderful site called Pete’s Power Point Station. Be prepared to spend some time in this vast array of links to a huge variety of power points. It was easy to import the ones I liked into my Promethean IWB. Some of my students actually gasped when they saw the first page. There was so much on the one that I used that we didn’t even get through everything and will probably come back to it again from time to time.
Next I put students on computers to play games. My objectives were two-fold; they need practice logging into the system and they need to learn more about genres. There are some wonderful genre games that I linked on the 4/5 Links page of my website. I let them choose which ones they want to play, making sure they understood that the objective was to learn more about literary genres and if that objective was not met there was no point in using the computers. According to my observations, the top 3 games were Genre Battleship, Genre Hangman, and Genre Word Search (which unfortunately does not always load correctly).
At the end of the quarter they will take a pencil and paper test. Why pencil and paper? Because sadly, I still have students who are having trouble logging in. This happens for various reasons: they haven’t turned in a signed AUP, they’re relatively new to the school and haven’t been on the computers much yet, they are ESL or SPED students who have other issues. I don’t think it’s fair to give these students less time to take the test because they have trouble accessing it.
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t use the computer to make the test. I think there are a number of sites to help with this but I only looked at a couple. Quizstar is one I think I’ve used before but since I couldn’t remember the account information I started another one. Unfortunately I’ve only seen “Your mailbox is over its size limit” messages in my inbox and no message with the activation link for this new account. Next I tried EasyTestMaker. They didn’t send an activation email so I was able to get started right away and it was kind of fun. I’m not done yet but I won’t mind going back to it. Who knew MAKING a test could be fun?
Having access to the work others have done is an incalculable advantage. As so many others have said, why reinvent the wheel? Making learning fun is something many of us strive for on a daily basis and we have a ready-made fun source right here. If games are going to help students learn, then I’m all for them. Online tools make our jobs much easier and take the drudgery out of some things. Who knew GIVING a test could be so much fun? [Insert evil grin and wicked Halloween laugh here!!]
As the result of a grant, East Metro Integration District now has someone to help integrate technology into the classroom. We are fortunate to have Carl Anderson join the team. Some of you may know him by his blog, Techno Constuctivist. Carl is interested in pushing the boundaries so his posts are interesting but his blog is also a great resource for sites that can be used by teachers and students alike.