Video Troubles

All the videos are uploaded and there are issues with compatibility. Very frustrating when we worked so hard to make everything just right! What we’ve discovered is the videos created in Microsoft PhotoStory 3 don’t work on Mac computers – even when Windows Media Component for QuickTime is installed.

Not being a Mac person and working on a Windows campus, I really don’t know what the fix is! I was able to use Premiere Elements to produce an mp4 video for the parent that alerted me to this issue. I then uploaded it to our school vimeo account so hopefully she’ll be able to view her child’s work.

There has to be an easier way to do this project so that they can be viewed regardless of the operating system. But we have to continue to keep this, at least partly, a student creation.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Preparing for Grandparents’ and Special Visitors’ Day

It’s almost here! Grandparents’ and Special Visitors’ Day is less than a week away and we have been working HARD to get ready – and we’re just about ready!

On the technology end, the first graders have been filmed talking about their ideas regarding grandparents. After a few retakes, these have been made into videos that the teachers will share with the visitors next Friday. It’s always fun to listen to their comments – you never quite know what they’ll say!

Second graders have finished a huge “Heritage” project created in Microsoft PhotoStory 3. It’s a lot of work for the parents as they find photos of ancestors. Most are sent to me in digital form but it takes quite a while to place these in each student’s home directory. The first year we did this, most of the photos needed to be scanned. (In case you haven’t experienced this, scanning 400 or so pictures is very time-consuming!) Although this is a time-intensive project, it’s well worth it. The students learn quite a bit about their heritage and listening to the children’s sweet voices can bring tears to the listener’s eyes! They will also be sharing their blogs with their visitors. They’ll show their self-portraits and bio-poems to their guests and then teach them how to leave comments on their post.

In between practicing for their Charlotte’s Web play, the third graders have been recorded as they read their “I Am” poems. They illustrated their self-portraits in MS Paint which were then uploaded to PhotoStory 3. These can be seen here. The teachers will be sharing these in the classroom. In a joint Spanish/Computer project that will be shown during Spanish time on Grandparents’ Day, the children each created a PowerPoint slide about a region in Spain which were then combined into a single slideshow. They added photos and facts, written in English that will be read in Spanish during their presentation.

Fourth graders have also worked on a PowerPoint slide about a Spanish country. They learned how to use Google Translate to write their facts. Their were also some “wow” looks as they discovered that there are keyboard shortcuts to make accented letters for the Spanish language. Unfortunately, because of the tight schedule on Friday, only one of the fourth grade classes will be able to present their slideshow.

This is always such a special day at our school. Grandparents and other guests are so much fun to meet. However, I always worry about the technology – will it work correctly? We’ll keep our fingers crossed. Everything works now; let’s just hope next Friday goes off without a hitch!

What is Real and What is Not?

Searching for information on the internet is daunting to adults! Think about what young students experience as they attempt to sift through the myriad of sites in an attempt to collect information about a topic!

To introduce how to evaluate websites, I told the students that I wanted to get information about the octopus. Using google, I typed in the word and we watched as the results popped up. Wikipedia was first then came a travel agency which we quickly decided wouldn’t help with the research. Stopping at the third choice – Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, I made a huge deal out of how interesting that looked and wouldn’t that be an unusual topic to research? Clicking on the link, excitement from the students increased as they, too, decided this was a very unusual animal. We started exploring the site until finally, one student said, “I thought that an octopus had to have water to live in. I’ve never heard of any living on land or in trees.” Hooray! I was getting a little concerned because everyone was buying into this strange animal! That let to a wonderful discussion on why you need to look at websites carefully and get information from more than one source. Next, I “googled” the Northwest Tree Octopus and we discovered a wikipedia article saying that this is a hoax (the 3rd graders loved that word!).

The next part of the lesson involved checking out 3 websites about frogs and filling in an “Evaluating Resources rubric_3 frog sites” rubric. (Rubric based on Kathy Schrock’s Critical Evaluation of a Website).  The sites we used were: Welcome to Froggyville, Frogs (from Exploratorium Museum), and The Froggy Page. Pretending that we were doing a research project about frogs, we carefully examined one of the sites together – talked about the author (if that person was an “expert” about frogs or were they trying to sell something), looked at the information on the pages (would it be useful for a project or were there just games). Next the students worked in pairs as they became a “web detective” to check out the value and authenticity of the other sites. As we discussed conclusions about the websites, the students were able to see that, although some of the sites were lots of fun, only one had information that would truly help to learn more about frogs. (Note: I’m not sure where I found the “frog” research lesson. If anyone knows, please share that so I can give proper credit.)

We talked a lot about the importance of finding at least three sources to make sure the information is validated. One observation was that even though a website looks bright and fun, it may not always have the best information for their project. Hopefully, this activity will help the students become more discerning as they research the topic for their upcoming class project.

Going Places Safely on the Internet

As children grow up using technology, it’s important to introduce digital literacy and citizenship early.

A few weeks ago, our first graders met the NetSmartz Webville Outlaws (Look-At-Dis Louie, Meet-Me Mack, Potty-Mouth Pete, and Wanta-Know Wally). Building on that, today we used a lesson from Common Sense Media called Going Places Safely, for grades K-2. The lesson discusses safety rules when traveling somewhere in person. The timing was perfect since the students will be taking a field trip on Friday so we talked about staying with the adults, not wandering off, talking only with people they know . . . Then we were able to relate this to taking a computer field trip. The safety rules for the lesson were:

  1. Always go online with an adult.
  2. Don’t wander off – stick with websites that an adult says are okay.
  3. Talk only with people you know.

For our computer field trips, we visited New York and Washington, DC. The New York sites were the New York Philharmonic Kidzone and Destination Modern Art. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park and American Museum of Natural History: Ology were the DC highlights. I gave glimpses of things to look for on each site, told the students to be sure to visit all of them, and that they would write and illustrate their favorite “field trip” from the four choices.

The children were really excited and couldn’t wait to start exploring! The webcams on the National Zoo site were a huge favorite. They loved watching the various animals and were amazed that they were seeing exactly what they would see if they were there in person.

After about 20 minutes of exploration, the students began writing about what they visited and what they saw. Then they added an illustration. Sometimes, it’s not easy to get the children off the computers but they were eager to show off their favorite “field trip.” Most drew an animal from the zoo but we had several who had discovered a painting on Destination Modern Art that they illustrated. Here’s an example of Monet’s Garden (I just love the spelling – Monays garden!).

Common Sense Media offers numerous lesson plans, complete with student handouts. I highly recommend their resources and, judging from the engagement of the students, I’d say they would second that!

iPads in the Hands of 2nd Graders

Our school is very excited to have six iPads for Lower School! We started off sharing these with the teachers so that they could explore apps and think of ways to use the devices within their classrooms. Our 2nd grade studies Bats during October and we felt that using the iPads would be an effective way to have the students work in small groups to conduct research.

The teachers introduced the iPad by discussing the importance of treating equipment with care. Then an iPad was given to each group, along with information that they needed to find. The students went to TVS TechnoWizards to the Bat page to begin their research.

As one teacher said, “You could hear a pin drop!” Even though many of the students have iPads at home, using them at school meant a new and different experience.

Next steps – the goal is to move away from being consumers of information to becoming producers. It’s easy to find apps or websites that reinforce what is being learned but we really want students to create! I’m really hopeful that we can start with digital storytelling and move on from there!

Upper School Blogging Buddies

One of our fabulous Upper School teachers (who truly transforms learning with the use of technology) has her students blog in her classes. I’d mentioned to Jennifer that we were working hard on writing quality comments and posts and she suggested that her students comment on the Lower School students’ work to encourage them in their blogging efforts. Our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders had written poems and illustrated them in MS Paint and they are eager to receive comments.

I was the hold-up in this effort; got too busy and didn’t change settings to allow anyone to comment. But, once I opened up the blogs – WOW! Jennifer’s upper school students took off! She told her students about this opportunity this evening and within minutes, there were half-a-dozen comments waiting to be approved. Here are a few sample comments to some biopoems, “I Am” and “I Remember” poems. The comments are excellent models for the younger children as they learn how to ask questions and build conversations.


Blogging with First Grade

We’ve been working on guiding 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders to write quality blog posts and comments and now it’s time to move on to first graders. Some of the teachers really wanted to start their students blogging because they understand the value in writing for an audience.

I started by asking if anyone knew what a blog was. As first graders do, they came up with lots of answers but really didn’t know the purpose of one. We talked about how we communicate with our friends versus how we would do so with people who lived further away. After a bit of a discussion we talked about the purpose of our blog (to help others learn new things, to share what we know and do in class).

Next I read a few pages of It Could Have Been Worse, by A.H. Benjamin. This is a cleverly written book where Mouse is returning home but runs into several situations where he is about to be caught by a cat, bird, snake, and more. Fortunately for Mouse, he manages to escape the would-be captors (although he doesn’t have a clue they are after him) but the creatures trying to catch him end up in rather humorous predicaments.

I stopped just before we discovered what would be the result of Mouse being chased by a snake. The students were asked to predict what would happen next. Without letting them give an answer, I said that they would be writing this as a comment on their blog. They were SO excited! We were fortunate to have some college students observing and they jumped right in helping the children log into the blog, guiding them to sound out words, etc.

As the comments were submitted, I approved them. When these were shown to the students, there was a lot of excitement. “Look, there’s my name!” “Oooh, I see mine too!”

After all were submitted, we finished reading the book. No one guessed what would happen to the snake and Mouse but that’s okay. They practiced predictions and writing; and enjoyed doing it!

Here’s a link to Mrs. Kee’s class blog.

Internet Safety with First Graders

I’ve had a hard time finding internet safety activities for 1st grade. I believe it’s a fine line – you don’t want to terrify the kids but you do want them to understand the how and why to keep safe. And there are some great videos available; they’re just a bit intense for the younger students.

We started with BrainPop, Jr. Internet Safety. The students always like the BrainPop movies and seem to retain what they learned. Even though it was BrainPop, Jr. I thought the material was still geared more for slightly older students.

Some of the other activities I found were:

  • Meet the Web Outlaws (Netsmartz Kids)
  • Bad Guy Patrol – This has 2 levels (ages 5-7 and 8-10); has audio as questions are asked and the player chooses the answer. The answer is reinforced as further explanations are given. Students receive a certificate when finished (which the students loved!).
  • Name that Outlaw – this is a good reinforcement to use after introducing Netsmartz Web Outlaws
  • Router’s Birthday Surprise – Also from Netsmartz, this has lots of good information in it but it’s just a bit too long to do in the lab setting.

I’d love to know about other activities that would be appropriate for 1st graders.

Scratch with 4th Graders

This week, one class of 4th graders was introduced to Scratch, the programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT. Scratch is intended for ages 8 to 16. 

As the Scratch Educators page says, “Scratch is designed with learning and education in mind. As young people create and share projects in Scratch, they develop important design and problem-solving skills, learning how to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.”

The students had seen the link to Scratch in their 4th grade folders but I hadn’t said anything about it. A couple had already done some exploring and discovered they could draw things but hadn’t yet figured out that they could make the sprites move! So, when I mentioned Wednesday that we would learn about Scratch the following day, there was a good deal of interest.

The next day I started out by having the students open Scratch then come to the floor to watch the following video.

Intro to Scratch from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Upon returning to their seats, it was all I could do to keep the students’ attention as I tried to guide them through creating the cat to move! They were SO excited. We did some basic blocks (move 10 steps, forever loop, change costume) then I let them loose. They spent the next 15 minutes exploring and seeing what they could get their sprite to do. I felt like I had lost complete control but while watching them, decided they needed the exploration time more than they needed me talking!

The next day, several of the students excitedly reported that their parents had downoaded Scratch at home. When others heard that, they wanted to know exactly how to find the program so that they could also get it. Everyone was eager to start class, so we began by building onto the dancing cat program started the day before by adding a speech bubble and a color change.

Before letting them explore, I wanted to show the pen down block. Everyone chose a ball then we added the following blocks: move 10 steps, if on edge bounce, pen down, change pen color by 10, forever loop, and clear. The students experimented with how to make the ball bounce in various ways so that it didn’t always move in the same direction.

When class was over, I asked the students to save and shut down the computers. There was no response! After several requests, I finally asked, “By your lack of response, am I to assume that you are enjoying this activity?” The answer was a resounding, “YES!”

The exciting thing about Scratch is how it draws in even the most reluctant learners. Everyone was eager to experiment with the sprites and the blocks. There was a healthy buzz as students offered suggestions to each other; lots of problem-solving going on!

2nd Grade Portraits on their Blog

They did it! Our second graders were able to copy and paste their bio-poem into a new post on their class blog. Then they inserted their self-portrait that had been created in MS Paint.

We would love for you to take a look at their posts (and feel free to leave comments!).

I have to admit, after starting the process with the first class, I thought this had to be one of the most ridiculous undertakings I’d ever come up with! However, since the students didn’t look too frustrated, we kept on until everyone had the poem copied, pasted, and the picture on their blog post. I should have taken pictures of their expressions when they finished. They were SO proud of themselves! Here’s a sample:

In creating their post, the students learned numerous skills:

  • moving from one window to another
  • selecting text to copy
  • shortcuts for copying and pasting
  • minimizing a window
  • adding a tag for the post
  • inserting a picture by finding it on their computer
  • choosing the correct picture (had to be jpeg)
  • the importance of saving

As I talked to Mrs. Cooper at the end of her class and mentioned that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this with the other groups, she commented, “I think the only person that’s worn-out is you. The kids look fine and they’re proud of what they did.” I truly appreciate her encouraging words because it really did get easier as we worked with the other classes. I learned to make the steps even smaller so that each child could easily accomplish them without getting lost. We still encountered some bumps in the road but everyone has their post proudly submitted!