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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keep It Simple: With Apps, Less is More

Our blog has been a little quiet for a while (okay.. a LONG while..), which I attribute to an abundance of activity, not a lack thereof! A wonderful visit this year by teachers from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Champaign, Illinois reminded us of the importance of documenting and sharing our iPad journey, so the Burley team is making a resolution to post more frequently in 2014.

Now in year four of iPad implementation, our approach to apps has evolved considerably. We started where many teachers start: by combing through the app store, looking for apps for just about everything. And we still get excited when we discover a cool new app -- who doesn't? But as time has passed, we find ourselves settling in to workflows and tools that can be used again and again across the curriculum. We've realized that a powerful, effective technology program can be implemented with just a few simple, well-chosen workflows.

The other title for this post could be Make Stuff, Share Stuff. This is the heart of what our kids do with the iPads, and it can look quite different from teacher to teacher. In some classrooms, students and teachers are fluent creators in a wide range of multimedia apps. In others, people might be building their confidence with one or two creation apps. But the thought process is the same: What can I create to show my thinking, and how can I share it with others? 

There are innumerable answers to that question. Here's a list of just some of the possibilities.

Step 1: Make stuff.

  • Capture a photo of any classroom experience or student work using the Camera. (This is the sneaky one - no special media skills required, but it's still powerful to digitize and share current learning!)
  • Make a drawing / illustration / diagram / map using Skitch, DrawingPad, PicCollage
  • Make a comic / advertisement / review / poster using Pages, ComicLife, Strip Designer, Phoster
  • Make a narrated screencast using ScreenChomp, Educreations, ReplayNote, ShowMe, Doceri, Explain Everything
  • Make a video / podcast / documentary / book trailer / public service announcement / newscast using iMovie, SonicPics, Reel Director, Videolicious


Step 2: Share Stuff.

  • Kidblog - While the Kidblog app continues to be a bit clumsy, there's no denying the power of Kidblog to give students authentic audience and voice. Teachers can maintain a great deal of control over blog access at first and then gradually expand the audience as students are ready. And by using Tags or Categories, kids can post about a wide range of ideas and learning within one organized blog.
  • Edmodo - Students can post work, and the teacher can make selected posts public.
  • Google Drive - Logging classroom iPads into a single shared Drive account gives you a space where you can not only collect files, but you can also make selected files and folders public and share the link with others. This can be done from within the iOS app or from a computer.
  • DropBox - Files saved in DropBox can be made public, and you can easily get a link to those files.


And since sharing doesn't really count if there's no audience on the other end, let's add one more.
Step 3: Put it out there.

  • Create QR codes linking to your shared work (we use qrstuff.com). Then, post them around your classroom, school, or community, or print them on flyers, newsletters, or student business cards (an idea from my friend Kristin Ziemke.)
  • Create a TinyURL—an easy web address that parents can type in if you send it home on a flyer. (You can also use bit.ly, ow.ly, or goo.gl to shorten a URL.)
  • Post a link on your classroom website.
  • Invite families to come in for a technology open house to explore and comment on student work.
  • Tweet or blog about it, and see your audience grow!


While that may seem like a daunting list of options, you can start with one item from each category. It doesn't have to be complicated: imagine a teacher who uses just PicCollage, Kidblog, and QR codes to let kids create and share. Make a text & photo collage of top non-fiction books, post it on the blog, and give other readers access through a QR code. Make a collage about reading habits, then repeat steps 2 and 3. Make a collage showing sequential steps to a science experiment, repeat steps 2 and 3. One workflow, multiple uses. With a reliable workflow, you don't have to wonder: what can we make, and what will we do with it once it's done? Your focus can remain where it belongs: on teaching and learning, and on thinking about when to share and how to do so purposefully. You'll know when you and your students are ready to move on to a new creation app. However, you may be surprised how much mileage you can get out of one or two apps as your reasons for sharing grow deeper, and your students use the now-familiar tools to teach others.

As you explore workflows to use with your students, ask yourself these questions:

  • After some practice, will kids be able to do this independently?
  • Do I have a supportive classroom culture that promotes student sharing and collaboration?
  • Do I have systems in place to ensure student privacy, and to ensure compliance with any school or district policies pertaining to online publishing? (For example, we never post photos of students that are identified by their name.)

Here's some closing advice I would share with beginning iPad teachers or with leaders at the start of an iPad rollout: It's okay to start small, but it won't help you in the long run if you start shallow. Initial iPad PD often focuses on pre-packaged publisher apps or on single-purpose skill apps to "get people started." I think this is a mistake. The opportunity to teach and learn with iPads can be a life-changing one, for you and your students. By empowering kids from the beginning to create meaningful work and then share it to inform, persuade, and inspire others, you help students see themselves as thinkers, authors, and creators whose ideas and knowledge have genuine purpose. And you begin a shift in your classroom that gives students ownership over their learning and authentic voice beyond the school walls. That's one of the greatest benefits of classroom technology. Head in that direction from the very beginning, and there's no limit to where you can go.



Thursday, January 24, 2013

This is How We Teach

Regardless of the subject, good teaching is good teaching.  One new piece of tech does not change all that we know about instruction.  As we develop curriculum and practices in technology we use strategies and tools we know work for students.  We scaffold their learning and provide support when needed.  Just like we do in reading, writing, math and content we make anchor charts for technology that guide students along the way.

Here are a few anchor charts my students and I developed during technology minilessons. 


 This anchor chart lists resources or strategies my students use when researching.



 Here, an anchor chart displays frequently used iPad commands.



Modes for taking our inquiry circles public.



 An introductory anchor chart to blogging.



Guidelines for posting comments. 







Monday, January 7, 2013

Flipping for Nonfiction


Flipboard has revolutionized the way my students look at, share, and respond to nonfiction.  Flipboard is an app that takes multiple informational sites and creates a digital magazine to flip through. It is simple and easily accessible for adults and students alike.  This doesn't sound like such a big deal – kids can pick up a magazine and read articles any time they want to. Why do it digitally? 


Timely material 
Flipboard uses the RSS feed of any website.  If a site has an RSS feed, you can add it to the shared student Flipboard account, and every student iPad will receive updated content as it becomes available.  This means that my students' digital Flipboard magazines are updated daily and include current events, science concepts, and any other type of current content you can find online.  Since the "magazine" is ever-changing, 5th graders can't wait to see what they will find next. 
This is what they saw on Monday...
...but on Tuesday they saw this!


Real world reading 
The third time we used Flipboard, one of my students said, "It's like you are teaching us to read like adults do everyday!" The reading that we do in school should inspire students to create habits that can last a life time.  When these young people grow into adults, they will have an academic way to look at digital reading. 

Accessible for all
I have loaded over 20 sites for students to follow on their iPads, which gives them a vast amount of choices.  Students make their own decisions about what they read on a regular basis.  Some sites are more challenging than others, but they all contain a variety of pictures, tweets, and comments that make the articles accessible, even if the student can't read the full article. Obviously, my instructional choices and conferring ensure that the students choose articles that are appropriate for them. 



How we got started with Flipboard
As with everything that I do on the iPad, I started with just having the students access Flipboard. I had a  few questions prior to starting.  Will the students be able to navigate Flipboard? Would flipping the pages and the amount of content overwhelm them? How could we use the app for more than reading independently? What technical skills would students need to use this tool and share their reading? To answer these questions, I had to actually use it with the students and see what happened.


Start reading
This is an easy place to start! I wanted to see if there was enough material to keep their interest.  I knew that, without student buy-in, nothing else I did with Flipboard would get off the ground.  After two days of investigating the articles in Flipboard, I saw students whispering and sharing their screens with each other.  They were energized and wanted to share what they were learning, so I knew I had to give them a platform to do so. 

Promote sharing
Edmodo was the obvious choice for sharing.  Students already had accounts, they knew how to use it, and I could easily set up one large group or smaller groups based on student interests.  Students shared links to articles they read so their classmates could read them. 

  


Apply non-fiction reading strategies
We shared links to articles for a few weeks, but students quickly grew out of it, in true 10 year old fashion.  As students shared, they wanted to have conversations about the articles that they read, and they began talking about these articles during reading instruction.  I asked my students to take the reading strategies that I was teaching and apply them to their Flipboard reading.  They did this by completing graphic organizers in Pages, taking a screen shot of that Pages document, posting it as an image in Edmodo, and including the link from their article in their post. This gave their peers access to the article, as well as to the student's notes and thinking -- and it gave me a way to assess the depth of their Flipboard reading and their use of comprehension strategies. You can see below how these posts inspired other students to reply and engage in an online discussion about the articles.



Flipboard continues to grow like wildfire in my classroom.  Students are engaging in conversations about reading strategies in authentic ways via the digital world.  They see themselves as powerful consumers of nonfiction and don't shy away from choosing to read in that area.  I love it when an app I "play around with" becomes a powerful educational tool in the classroom. 





Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tech Tips You Can Try Tomorrow

Curious about technology in the classroom, but don't know where to start?  

Here are few tech tools that are easy to use and have a high impact on student learning.

Wonderopolis
Make wonder and inquiry a part of your weekly routine! Visit Wonderopolis.org and follow along as they ask questions, post a blog and share photo and video resources about a variety of topics.  Wonderopolis is a great site for finding short, nonfiction text for readers of all ages.  Wonderopolis is also a great site to use as a mentor text for blogging.  We use it before we introduce blogs to identify what a blog looks like and sounds like, as well as what comments look like and sound like.  If you’re excited to teach students about the power of connection, post a comment or submit a wonder; Wonderopolis almost always responds to students and teachers.  You can follow them on Twitter @Wonderopolis.



TodaysMeet
TodaysMeet.com is a free, web-based tool that allows users to backchannel a discussion online.  A teacher can create a chat room that is available only to users who have the link (ie, your class).  Once students access the website via the link they log on with their name and engage in a collaborative discussion online. Students can view all the responses as they are posted live to the discussion site. Anyone with the link can contribute, so you can invite students to collaborate across classrooms and with others who are not present, provided they have the link. (Think—cross-school, cross-district, cross-continent collaboration!). It's great for staff meetings too!



Croak.it
Croak.it is a free website that allows the user to record 30 second audio clips.  The audio recording is then uploaded to a personalized website and available to anyone who has the link.  The developers created the site for users to  “Push. Speak. Share.” and the simplicity is amazing.  Even more unbelievable, Croak.it also has a FREE app available for iPhone and Android!  Use Croak.it to create student reflections, share book talks and differentiate with audio instructions.  This is a versatile little tool with hundreds of uses.  Croak.it!



QR Codes
A QR code, or quick response code, is a matrix barcode that holds information about a tool or product.  Using a QR code with a QR scan app provides students quick access to a website without having to type the URL. We use QR codes to distribute websites quickly and easily to students during lessons and create our own QR codes using the website qrstuff.com.
At our school we use QR codes to link to audio book recommendations that we attach to the front of books.  As kids “shop” for books in our library, they can scan the QR code to hear a book review created by another student.  Inviting students to create book reviews by students, for students empowers them as valuable contributors to our reading community, expands their audience and builds a buzz for books they love. 



Songify
Songify is a fun app that converts the words or phrases you speak into a remixed song. Songify scrubs the vocal track and adds preprogrammed beats and background music. The basic touch-to-start and touch-to-stop technology provides ease of use for all ages.  This app embraces multi-modal learning and easily differentiates instruction.  Students love to create songs to synthesize their learning during an inquiry circle. Oftentimes the songs created in class—including Terra Cotta Warriors and the Nile River—become classroom hits. As we know, kids remember information that is set to music so I use it to create songs for math facts, spelling patterns and comprehension strategies.



Google Form
Google form is a free online tool for gathering information in a streamlined fashion. A Google form can be created easily in Google Drive and shared via a link for others to complete.  Each Google form you create collects responses in a spreadsheet stored in Google Drive.  The spreadsheet can be sorted and grouped in a variety of ways making the data easy to access and interpret.  Google form is handy tool for creating quizzes, surveying parents or gathering feedback regarding inquiry circles and book clubs.





Twitter
Create a classroom Twitter account to connect with other students and teachers.  Post this tweet:

“Looking for other (insert grade or subject) classrooms to connect with. Anyone tweeting with their class? #(grade/subject)chat”

People will contact you and then you can follow them.  Share your Twitter handle (your Twitter name) with your families and invite them to follow your class.  Start by tweeting student reflections one day a week.  Ask kids to share something they’ve learned or are wonder. These reflection tweets provide your families a “window” into your classroom and the curriculum.  Also use Twitter as a place to crowdsource information. Post mini-inquiry questions and see who answers.  Have fun and model connected learning! Twitter.com
You can follow our class @Burley106.




Kidblog
Kidblog.org is an amazing, safe blogging site created for teachers and students.  Teachers can create a class for free and develop accounts for students that are not dependent on an email address.  This is specifically helpful for younger learners who don't have an email.  Once a class is created, students can log on from any device that connects to the internet and post a blog.  You can use your blog for a variety of purposes—writing about reading, writer’s workshop, or as a general repository for student thinking. You can view our Kidblog here.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Croak.it! So amazing I can't imagine life without it!

Yay! I love you, Croak.it! You’re amazing!

I heard about Croak.it a few months ago on #1stchat (a weekly conversation about 1st grade on Twitter every Sunday at 7:00 CST).  I believe the amazing Karen Lireman  tipped me off to it and since then, life hasn’t been the same.

croak-it

Croak.it is a free website that allows the user to record 30 second audio clips.  The audio recording is then uploaded to a personalized website and available to anyone who has the link.  The developers created the site for users to “Push. Speak. Share.” and the simplicity is amazing.  Even more unbelievable is that Croak.it also has a FREE app available for iPhone and Android!

So what does this mean for education?

In my class, I’ve loaded each iPad with the Croak.it app.  It’s so easy for students to capture audio recordings as they simply push the white circle to start and stop their recording.

photo 1

Once they stop the recording they’re directed to the sharing screen…

photo 2 

…and then email the link to me or copy it to embed in another location.  As the teacher, I can share their Croak via Twitter so our followers can get a snapshot of what we’re learning.

Because each Croak.it recording has a personalized web address, it eliminates a lot of the “middleman” work I use to have to do as the teacher finding a home for students’ audio recordings.  Previously, I loaded audio recordings to my classroom website or a dummy audio recording storage space for students to access via the web. Now, their audio recordings already have a “web home” so I can quickly and directly link to it.

This has dramatically enhanced our use of QR codes in the classroom.  Before, it was cumbersome to create a site for the audio, publish it, and then link a QR to the site. Now, I simply drop the Croak.it link into the QR site and viola! We have a QR that links to audio.

This is tremendously helpful for differentiating instruction. When I want to provide verbal directions for students on an assessment or increase access to an article that may be too challenging for some students to decode, I create an audio file using Croak.it and link that to a QR code students can scan.

We’re also using them to create book talks.  Students use Croak.it to create a short audio book reviews.  They email me the link to their Croak and then I create a QR code for the link (below, an example from qrstuff.com).

QR stuff.com

I print out the QR code and students attach the code to the book they’re recommending.  When students shop for a book during independent reading, they can scan the QR and hear the book recommendation their peer created using Croak.it.  Book reviews created by students, for students are empowering for my young readers as they are excited to hear what books their peers suggest.  As early childhood educators have long known, students are capable of comprehending and telling much more than what they may be able to express in writing; this is evident as we depart from the traditional book review and provide opportunities for creating these audio book talks.  These audio book reviews create energy for reading and a book “buzz” for what’s hot right now in 1st grade.  In addition, they help readers find “just right” text and foster independence as kids have tools and strategies for locating the perfect read.

IMG_1641 

Scan the QR below to listen to a student book review:
Book review Pippi Longstocking

As you can tell, I’m very excited about Croak.it and suggest you check it out! It’s versatile and can be used across the curriculum as something students can create or as a tool teachers can use to differentiate and support student learning.  I think of new ways to use it almost every week and am thrilled to have it as a tool in my classroom.  So go ahead, Croak.it!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

#HurricaneSandy: An Authentic Twitter Adventure

Last weekend my student visited NYC and got stuck as Hurricane Sandy rolled in.  Luckily, his family was able to take shelter at a friend’s house in Brooklyn.  On Monday morning, I projected our classroom Twitter account on the Apple TV and suggested we tweet our classmate to see if he was ok.

He responded much to the joy of my six and seven year-olds.  

After connecting with he and his mom via Twitter, I asked if they could update us throughout the day.  The family was generous with their time and tweeted frequent weather reports and photos from the storm. 


As our day continued, my class used The Weather Channel app to learn more about Hurricane Sandy.  We looked at radar maps and talked about the timing of the storm and how it would fall on a full moon when tides are at their highest which would cause flooding in many areas (a nice connection to our current solar system inquiry).

After seeing photos and short video clips on The Weather Channel, my class had lots of questions. Here are few they tweeted to their classmate:




                                                                                                  
My student in NYC took the role of Hurricane Sandy reporter very seriously and answered all the questions his friends posted. 


In class, at least once every hour, students asked, “Did we get any new tweets?”  I sent an email to our staff and invited other classrooms to learn along with us via Twitter. Soon, our 1st grade friend was sharing his storm experiences with our school.

The following day our Hurricane Sandy reporter continued to update us in the aftermath of the storm.  He walked around Brooklyn and shot various short videos that he posted to Twitter explaining some of the damage and storm clean-up measures.  Back in class, my students felt knowledgeable about the storm and were excited to learn more.  It also became an outlet for kids to connect with their classmate, since he would miss several days of school.


video

As the week progressed we continued to get updates from our reporter.  Checking in with Twitter became an opportunity to connect with our friend who would end up being out of school all week.  Throughout the week I watched my students—both near and far—share their learning and use social media to connect and collaborate.  Hurricane Sandy provided us an authentic opportunity to thoughtfully use social media in the classroom.   

Here are a few take-aways:

My students were empowered to be part of a learning network that was for students, by students.  So often, young children only have access to information that is filtered through an adult channel. While oftentimes that is appropriate, kids also need the model of other children as information providers.  By watching a peer research, report and field questions, student now have a "mentor" experience for what it looks like and sounds like to be an information sharer.  As Peter H. Johnston shared in Choice Words (2004) kids need to visualize themselves as a "can do" kid.  When young learners internalize the belief that "I'm the kind of kid who works as a reporter. I'm the kind of kid who asks good questions. I'm the kind of kid who ________," they experience the success, feedback and confidence that inspires them to make additional attempts in the future. Over time, this repetitive process produces kids who desire to think, learn, share and are inspired to do it again and again. My students were thrilled to see their classmate work as a reporter and now believe that any first grade student can do this important work. 

For the first time,  students saw Twitter as a place to ask questions, conduct research and gather new information.  Previously we had only used it to tell others about our learning. Now, students see Twitter as a tool for learning.  I spend a lot of time in first grade teaching my students where they can go to find answers to their questions; now they can add school-supervised Twitter to their list of resources. 

Connecting with a classmate via Twitter allowed students to emotionally process the storm.  Their peer told about his safety plan and how residents were told to prepare for the storm.  My students were able to see that unusual things--like superstorms--do happen, but that adults around the country prepare for these events and have a plan for when they occur. Watching their peer's video tweets and seeing NYC clean up and get back to normal was therapeutic for all  involved.



After tweeting and blogging to our reporter, my class now sees social media as an effective tool for connecting with others.  In addition to our classroom tweets, each day students commented on his Kidblog.  Students posted comments to see how he was doing or to ask for an update on the hurricane.  As a result of this collaborative learning experience, my kids now think like connected learners.  This was apparent Friday afternoon as we said goodbye to a student who was moving.  As students sat on the rug and said goodbye and good luck to their friend, one girl said,  "Make sure to tweet us ok?  And send some of those video tweets so we can learn about your new house and your new school." Another child chimed in, "And leave lots of comments on our blog!" 

YES! I cheered silently in my head as I saw my students think like connected, empowered learners.  This is why we do this!  I am very grateful to my student and his family for engaging in this authentic learning experience.  Together, we have provided students a foundational experience for using social media in the classroom. I can't wait to see what we learn next!




Do you have a classroom Twitter account?  We'd love to connect with you! Follow us @Burley106

Video used with permission from the family




Friday, October 26, 2012

Making Book Trailers

Image created on the iPad using Snapseed,
PS Express, and Keynote.
Last year I tried my hand at having my class make book trailers.  They did a decent job given that I wasn't quite sure how to jump into this new medium.  Well, this year we've learned from the past and I'm proud to say that the fifth graders are creating book trailers that are better than ever! 

One of the issues that we had last year is that we didn't have any student created examples to look at.  While the professional ones are nice to get a feel for the genre it helps to have examples that are within the students' reach.  This also gave us the opportunity to examine them and notice which elements we thought worked well and which elements needed improvement.  Once we spent some time immersing ourselves in the genre we began planning.  I ask students to consider what things they would explicitly and implicitly share with their audience, how they would build the mood and tone of the trailers, and what types of images they would use to accomplish this.

We also addressed copyright issues.  As fifth graders, they are ready to think about intellectual property and what that means.  Students were asked to create all of their own images or they could use stock images that I found through Photopin and give credit to the artist.  (I pulled appropriate images to share with them through Dropbox and organized them by the search term I used so that I could locate the links to give credit later.)

Before students started I did a quick tour of some of the apps they might use to create or edit images.  These included Drawing Pad, Snapseed, PS Express, Scribblify, Magnetic Letters, and Keynote.  We spent several days just creating images for the trailers before students even began with iMovie.  Once students had several images I did a quick tour of iMovie, showing them some basics on how to get started.  Over the next few days I or a student periodically introduced small things like how to lengthen or change transitions and how to add sound effects.  This workshop model enabled students to experiment as they worked and internalize how to use iMovie to achieve the desired effect.  I also gave students a checklist to use as they worked to help them reflect on the images, music, and overall feel of their book trailer.  To see our final products please visit our 302 Book Trailers Vimeo Channel!

 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Back to the Beginning

Even though it’s October it still feels very much like the beginning of the year.  One of  the first thoughts that many teachers have about their students is “they look so little!”  It’s true.  Those tall confident students that left us have gone on to be “little” to next year’s teacher and we have our own new crop of “little” people to educate.  This becomes even more pronounced in a technology classroom.  Everything takes longer, typing, starting, opening, finding, searching.  Whatever it is they need time to figure it out.  Patience is key.  So what can we do?
  • Remember to go slow: after all many of our students are experiencing some of these technology tools for the first time.  Even if they have devices at home they probably don’t use them for much more than playing games or surfing the internet.
  • Find your specialists: there will be some students who do know how to do things or pick them up very quickly.  Start sending kids their way to address minor issues and questions.  Have them teach a quick lesson to the class on some basics.
  • Create lots of visuals: Anchor charts for technology are just as important as they are in every other subject.  These visual reminders help students to know what to do and to start developing a sense of independence.
  • Be realistic:  Things will take more time.  They just will.  You have to go slow to go fast later.  It’s okay.
  • Build from the ground up:  When I have students learning a new app I use it a few times in either the same subject or across subjects within a week.  Their first “project” or experience is filled with play and experimentation.  As we gather examples from the class I start to show student work and we tease out elements or things the class has done that we like and want to emulate.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What does "transformative" mean?


You have probably heard people describe the iPad as "transformative" in the classroom. However, it's important to define what we mean by that term and to be clear about the very real benefits that mobile technology can offer. At Burley, we see the greatest transformation in key classroom relationships:  the relationship of the students to their work, the relationship between students and other students, and the relationship of students to the process of assessing and reflecting upon their own work. These are three places where we see real transformation, and these are themes we are looking to expand upon as we enter year three of our iPad adventures.  

1.  Student work and content creation.
 Kids in our 1:1 classrooms are creating more types of content that can be shared more readily with more people than ever before.  This fundamentally changes the nature of student work; kids see themselves as experts, teachers of others, and authors.  This leads them to ask better questions, investigate original ideas, and express themselves with creativity and passion.  I know this is a common argument for the use of technology, but I can't believe the difference mobility and 1:1 make in this area. Media creation and high-quality publishing are seamless parts of the student experience and environment, because the technology is right there with them at all times. The size and portability of the iPad support a collaborative, flexible, and creative learning environment. That makes a difference. Here are some questions to push ourselves in the coming year:
  • What are the best ways to share different types of digital student work?
  • How can we access a wide, engaged audience for student work, and how do we make the greatest educational use of our access to that audience?
  • How can we ensure that student projects have real relevance and meaning beyond the classroom walls?
  • How can we use the iPad to open up more opportunities for students to advocate for issues they are passionate about?

2.  Student communication and collaboration.  With ongoing access to web 2.0 tools, kids have more access to their peers' ideas, feedback, and questions than ever before.  They use their PLN (peer learning network) to solve problems and explore ideas, and peer expertise is valued.  This elevates the role of the student and increases active participation in learning. The PLN changes how students see themselves and one another and gives them a greater sense of agency. Web 2.0 tools also enable students to understand the role of the Internet and social media in communication and learning, and to practice safe and appropriate online interaction in a teacher-supported environment. Kidblog and Edmodo are two key tools we have used in past years, and we look to build in this area for year three. These are among the questions we will explore:
  • How do we scaffold the experience of using online collaborative tools so that we can eventually turn over the content and management of those tools to the students?
  • What is the appropriate balance between teacher-guided blogging and open, student-directed blogging? Is there a continuum for this across grades 1-8?
  • How often do we need to provide instructional refreshers on appropriate purpose and tone for educational social media?
  • How can we continue to use social media to empower students, and to expand the authentic purpose and audience for student writing and communication?

3.  Student self-assessment and reflection.  Using the iPad, kids can capture more of their thinking in more ways than ever.  They can snap a photo of something they have created or record a quick verbal reflection or video.  This opens up rich opportunities for students to self-assess and track their own learning.  When kids have access to vivid records of their own thinking, they can develop habits of mind that promote ongoing reflection and personal academic growth. However, maximizing the benefits of digital reflection by making it systematic and organized will be an area of focus in the coming year, guided by questions like these:

  • What are the best digital tools for documenting, archiving, and sharing student self-assessment and reflection?
  • What role can self-assessment artifacts play in teacher assessment and instructional decision-making, and what are the best systems for streamlining this process? 
  • At what point are students able to take full ownership of their own reflective process?

As often as we hear the word "transformative," we invite all of our iPad colleagues to take a look at your classrooms and identify specific places where you are really seeing that fundamental change in how students learn, share, communicate, create, express themselves, and reflect -- and share what you see! While the iPad offers many valid and valuable classroom tools and resources, we are all seeking that sweet spot where the technology enables something entirely new and better for kids and for learning (think the Redefinition level of Dr. Ruben Puentedura's SAMR model). In collaboration with all of you, we are looking forward to another year of teaching, learning, exploration, and transformation.
5th grade Students working outdoors with iPad devices

Monday, May 21, 2012

We are bloggers!

Currently, each student in my class hosts a blog on Kidblogs.org.  Kidblogs is a safe and easy blogging site for students.  There are various settings that allow the teacher to manage visibility and access. Each child enters his or her blog with a password.  Students can write blogs, read the posts of their peers and respond with comments.

Originally, I thought that we would use these blogs like we traditionally used Reader’s Notebooks–as a place to discuss our reading history, habits and strategies.  As my students developed their skills in blogging, I saw how the blogs could be a repository for all our thinking.  Now, students use their blogs to post book reviews, respond to text, share  new learning in inquiry projects and ask questions of our blogging community.

My students love to blog and truly view themselves as members of a global blogging community.  In the past few months we’ve received comments and feedback from around the world.  As I thought about all that my students have done with blogs, I wanted to make sure they understood the purpose of blogging.  So, I asked them to reflect on why we blog.

A few responses:

“When you blog, you tell about your work and what you do at school.”

“The reason you blog is so you can share your learning around the Earth.  It’s also very interesting!”

“If you live in another country you could blog, only it would have to be in a different language.”

“You blog in order to learn from other people.”

“A blog is a way you tell friends where they can get info and how to share it.”

“Blogging is sharing information with others!”

These responses showed me that my students do indeed, understand why we blog!  They know that we blog to share information and to learn from others.  They also know that their blogs are a forum for self-expression.  Through blogging they have learned that their thinking and learning matters. They recognize themselves as active agents in a digital world.  I hope that their current understanding of blogging lays a solid foundation for future explorations in technology.

It’s an exciting time to be a young learner…onward, bloggers!