Monthly Archives: March 2009

Wiki Update

It’s time for the first evaluation of the wiki unit.  Some things have gone beautifully and others not so much so.  First I’ll start with a better description of how this wiki is being used to educate my students.

I’ve always thought that I wasn’t doing a very good job of teaching students about the literary genres.  In the past students have enjoyed a TicTacToe game that encourages them to read from various genres.  Here’s the one the 4th and 5th grade students are doing this year:

 

TicTacToe Board

This year I added the wiki to the TicTacToe.  On the Harambee Library Wiki, students will post book reviews using various presentation methods.  Next week they will be learning what elements to include in the book review by filling out a template.  When posting their first review I want them to explore the various toolbar options such as changing the font style or color.  They will learn how to use Creative Commons images to find pictures of the book cover to save and upload.  We can use podcasts or animoto to present other book reviews.  Wordle can be a fun way for them to show the “parts of government” keywords for that middle square and I think it will help them remember these vocabulary words.

Yes, I’m excited about this project!  It started out well.  I used the videos and ideas that I got from Kim Cofino’s post, Blogging is Elementary to prepare my students for posting online.  I had discussed privacy and website evaluation but never touched on cyberbullying until now.  These videos really got the fourth and fifth graders thinking and made a big impact on them.

After watching Cyberbullying – Bulletin Board, students came up with good questions that they should ask themselves before posting.  We compared our questions to the ones that Kim’s students provided.

The second video really shocked them.  It might not work as well with older students who can be cynical about cyberbullying.

After watching this video students came up with rules for posting on the wiki that I think they will respect since they were the ones who thought them up.

This first part of the unit went very well.  Students were excited about working on the wiki and prepared to follow safe online posting rules.  This week students learned how to sign in to the wiki and make online changes for the first time.  Some classes handled this well but others had difficulties.  In my next post I’ll think about what worked and what didn’t.

Evernote

Have you ever wondered what happens when you hit “print screen?”  It seems like nothing happens.  I know that a picture of my screen is saved somewhere but didn’t really know where so I just didn’t bother with it.  Evernote to the rescue!

I signed up for an account and downloaded it (for free of course) today.  Now when I hit “print screen” I get a box that I can use to take a picture of whatever part of the screen I’m interested in saving.  Evernote saves it in a notebook that I can sync with my online account.  Now that image is available to me, no matter what computer I’m using.  I’m working on visuals that my students can use when they’re at computers so they can see where to click next instead of trying to remember all the instructions I gave them earlier.  Apparently I’m not a visual learner myself since it didn’t even occur to me to do this until a colleague suggested it.  I plan on putting the images into a document they can carry with them to the computer.  My artistic ability is nil so I’m not real sure what the final product will look like but hopefully it will be helpful.  Here’s a screen shot of part my Evernote page:

Evernote has lots of online tutorials to help new users make the best use of the options available.  I haven’t really explored it as much as I would like but I’m sure that I’ll be using it for other applications.  I’d be interested in hearing how others are using Evernote for personal use or in the classroom.

Some Days are Like That

Some days it just seems like nothing goes like you plan.  Today I needed a sub since I had a half-day meeting.  Unfortunately, my media assistant was also absent so we had two substitutes running the library.  It’s ironic that so many people think that “all you have to do is check out books” but then subs have so much trouble.

When I got to the meeting no one else was there, even though I was already late.  Now I began to think that I had the wrong day and was wondering how I should spend that time.  One person had forgotten (fortunately they had arranged for a sub) and another arrived late so we were able to meet with a smaller than expected group.

I love GoogleDocs but copying and pasting can be a problem.  It seemed like we spent a lot of time fussing with format.  I’m a detail person so I can understand the desire to make it look right.  Maybe we need more people on this committee who are not so detail oriented.  At least we did end up with a draft document we could use.

In the middle of the meeting my tech person came in to get a password from me.  One of the subs had shut down circulation.  That was just while checking out to individual students, no classes had arrived yet.  That made me wonder what I’d find when I got back.

Fortunately, I got back to the media center in time to help with the class that was there.  I rushed to check in a couple boxes of books, check out the class, and try to get ready for the next two classes.  Just when I thought I was on top of things and could go to the bathroom, my next class arrived three minutes early.  By the time my last class arrived I’d misplaced my lessonplans.

Finally I was able to take a break and eat lunch at 3:00.  On the way back to the library I was button-holed by a teacher who needed to talk through an issue involving a book and a couple parental opinions.  I ran outside in time to deal with the end-of-the-day bus stress (missing person=more stress).

It wasn’t a disaster compared to most days but it wasn’t all that much fun either.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a little calmer.

No Daydreaming Here

How do we synthesize what we learn?  How do we make it part of who we are and what we know?  Practice and play are important, especially when it comes to using technology.  I think that reflection is also vital.  Sometimes I sit staring into space thinking about something I was doing online and trying to imagine what it would look like in a classroom.

Of course, I have to do this at home, on my own time.  Sitting at my desk daydreaming is not allowed.  There is very little time in a day that is not considered student contact time, especially for classroom teachers.  I am lucky to have some time for library administration and collaboration with teachers.  Unfortunately, there’s always so much to be done that reflection is not going to happen.  This can only get worse as we lose the help of educational assistants because of budget cuts.

I wanted to write some lessonplans this week but just couldn’t quiet my brain down enough to think clearly.  There were too many tasks on my mind.  What kind of a model am I for my students?  We expect them to reflect but don’t show them how to do it.  In fact, we might interrupt their reflections if we think they are not paying attention in class.

Students need time to play and reflect.  I know that I’m not getting that for myself and I’m certainly not encouraging it when teaching my students in the library.  I don’t even know if I can imagine what that would look like.

The Wiki Way

I now have four wikis.  Why I can’t just do one thing at a time is beyond me.  Three of them are professional, and one is personal.  When I first started looking at these online tools I wasn’t sure how to use them in the classroom.  As I use them personally I become more proficient and therefore more comfortable with the thought of teaching them in the classroom.  Maybe, if teachers had time, this would be a good way to explore.

The first one I got involved with was on Wetpaint.  It was my first real introduction to wikis and it was started by my friend, colleague, and office mate, “haretek“.  The Harambee Tech Tips is a private site where we try to help teachers in our school use the technology available.  I think it’s really helpful.  Hopefully, as more teachers integrate technology into their lessons they will find this wiki useful.

The next two professional wikis were set up on the same day.  In June I will be a presenter in a workshop at Hamline University.  I’m still a little unsure as to what I’ll do but my original thought was to show how delicious and blogging could be tapped for personal professional development.  I thought that if I had a wiki it would be a place for participants to return to when they were home trying to remember what they’d learned after experiencing a day full of mind blowing ideas.  Blogging Educators is my least developed wiki since I haven’t had time to work on the presentation.  For this wiki and the next one I used wikispaces.

I’m very excited about the Harambee Library wiki.  I have 120 fourth and fifth grade students who will be posting book reviews this quarter.  This gives me a chance to teach students more processes so they will be ready for classroom teachers who start blogs or wikis.  More information on my hopes, plans, and lessons for the use of this wiki will follow.

And finally, my personal wiki, ghostlibrarian’s wiki that I set up on zoho.  Why set up a personal wiki?  In an effort to be more healthy by controling my weight and eating habits, I signed up on a site called ediets.com.  They have a lot of good information, exercise plans, a lot of different meal plans, etc.  My biggest complaint is that you can’t search the meal list when changing a menu item.  You have to browse through the list which is organized alphabetically by title.  On my wiki I can post my meal plans for the week in an abbreviated form.  I can link to recipes I want to use or copy/paste them into the wiki.  Those recipes are then indexed and I can easily search them.  I’m sure no one else is interested in my recipes and plans so I made it private.

Using a wiki as a meal planner is a long way from the classroom applications that I’ve been exploring but it gives me the opportunity to become more adept at using an online resource.  If teachers can personalize web applications, I believe that they will more readily find ways to integrate them into the classroom.

That’s my Wiki Way, what’s yours?  How many wikis do you have and how are you using them, professionally or personally?

Walking through molasses.

In his blog, SMaRT Education Initiative – 1 to 1, Michael Summers discusses a question that was raised by fellow blogger Kelly Tenkely in her blog iLearn Technology.  Their concern, and one that should be ours, is Why can’t we seem to move forward? If integrating technology into the classroom is really the best thing to do to help our students, why isn’t it happening?  I posted the following comment on Michael’s blog and am wondering what others think.

As with so many problems, I don’t think there’s just one answer.  As someone who only just recently started blogging, delicious, twitter, etc., etc. I think I’m still pretty close to the difficulties.

I think one of the biggest obstacles to change is administrative.  Our leaders don’t have a vision for what needs to happen and therefore are unable to help teachers see the light.

Another problem is the technology itself.  It reminds me of when I was growing up, at a time when television reception was so poor that we often got “Experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by” messages.  And if you missed part of an episode there was no chance of seeing it later.  For us reruns were very good if you missed part of a show.  Today this sort of thing almost never happens on TV.  When technology becomes that seamless teachers will be more comfortable using it in the classroom.  The problem is that our students don’t have the luxury of waiting.

In our country the time available for professional development is woefully inadequate, and when it’s provided by the school or district it is too often not applicable to the teaching assignment (eg. a whole day of reading or math staff development when you teach P.E.)

Is it even possible to effect such a fundamental change?  Are high stakes tests going to continue to rule the classroom?  Here’s a sad story that perfectly illustrates the current state of affairs.  I was team teaching with the community cultures teacher and we had the laptops out so the students could learn about how companies use gimmicks in advertising.  The first class that came into the room asked if they were going to be taking a test.  They had taken so many tests on the computers by then that they automatically assumed that they were in for another one.

Technical Difficulties

I was trying to embed a video on my website for a class I’m teaching tomorrow but editing pages in firefox has been a problem so I tried to open Internet Explorer.  I knew I was online because firefox was working, but IE would not work.  I could have gone to my home computer to work on it but by then it was time to do other things and my momentum was lost.  This illustrates a few things I’ve noticed about “technology” as I’ve struggled to master some few pieces of it over the last few months.

  1. Problems are very common.  Expect it.  This is what holds teachers back.  I think many of them would love to dive in but either they’ve run into problems in the past or they’ve heard the horror stories.
  2. There’s always another way to do it.  Look for it.  The more experience you have the better you are at figuring out the work-arounds.  It could be that the only solution is to move to another computer, but that’s a viable solution.
  3. It takes time.  Be prepared.  I like puttering around with my various projects so I don’t mind too much but suddenly you realize that you just worked all afternoon when you were only planning on working for an hour.  Problems can really drain what little time you have away so that it doesn’t seem like anything was accomplished.  Which leads to the next point…
  4. Encountering problems is actually a good thing.  So relax.  It may seem like a bad thing at first, but this is how we learn.  The more problems we have the better we are at dealing with them and the more comfortable we are teaching with technology.

I still don’t have that video where I want it to be.  Let’s just hope that I’ll have time to work on it tomorrow.  In the meantime,

D

ONapostropheT WORRY

Reading Lists

In her blog, LiteracyInformation, Gail Harris has posted links to some very helpful Googledoc lists.  It’s very common for librarians or media specialists to be asked for books that illustrate certain characteristics, such as metaphor or point of view.  These documents are public so anyone can add titles to them.  Just click on the link for the list you’re interested in seeing.  If you know of other titles that illustrate the topic add it to the list.

Book Lists