Getting Started Online – teaches children about the basic concepts involved in the Internet (World Wide Web, Hyperlinks, Back button etc). This introductory lesson also gives valuable practice in visiting and navigating around web sites.
Staying Safe – encourages pupils to keep themselves safe online by following the SMART rules. Also tests their understanding usign interactive activities and fun quizzes.
Using Your Browser – helps people to learn more about their web browsers… what are the different features and how are they used?
Searching Online – teaches children how to search effectively, and keep themselves safe when doing so. Also identifies search engines which are particularly suitable for children to use.
Trying Top Tricks – finding information on the net is great, but it is also important to know how that information can be used. This section explains about printing, using the Find tool to locate specific information within web pages, copying and pasting text, and saving images from the web. Also includes information about copyright and why it is important to credit others when you use their work.
The Welcome to the Web Challenge – When the children have completed all of the sections of Welcome to the Web, they can complete this exciting challenge. It requires them to use all of the skills which they have learnt to catch the creator of a destructive computer virus!
Our fourth graders work in pairs to explore the webquest. I always enjoy watching their interactions with each other and how secretive they become when they figure out who the computer virus culprit is! Much is learned through this fun and informative quest.
In May I discovered an online course – Creative Computing Online Workshop, (CCOW), designed and facilitated by members of the ScratchEd Team at Harvard University. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working with 4th graders on the very basics of Scratch, a programming language designed for ages 8 and up. However, the basics were about all I could do! One of my goals this summer had been to practice Scratch so when I learned about the course, I immediately signed up.
With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share your creations with others in the online community.
Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.
Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is provided free of charge.
Back to the course – the workshop was 6 weeks long and well-worth the time spent! The first three weeks were fast and furious; learning more and more about the power of Scratch. I quickly realized that, although this was a program designed for children, my non-analytical mind just couldn’t grasp everything as quickly as I’d hoped. At one point I became so frustrated that I was ready to quit! I’m glad I stuck with it! We were supposed to be looking at other design notebooks and leaving feedback and it was all I could do just to keep up with each week’s assignments.
Fortunately, the ScratchEd team AND the CCOW community were absolutely fantastic! From the excellent how-to videos to the “office hours” to each week’s activities, the designers of this workshop guided us to the point where we were ready to create a final project to share with our fellow CCOWers. I can’t say enough about the community of learners! There were beginners all the way to expert programmers who easily created amazing Scratch projects! And, then there was me – plodding along, not able to figure out why something didn’t work . . . But my fellow workshop members were ALWAYS available to fix issues, answer my “why” questions, and offer guidance on how to feel more comfortable using Scratch.
Throughout the six weeks, we kept a design notebook describing our thoughts, practice projects, and finally, our final project.
My project was three-fold:
Continue practicing Scratch projects. (I struggled with some projects that I just couldn’t get to work but I was particularly proud of a multiplication and addition game – thanks to lots of help from the CCOW community).
Although I didn’t progress as quickly as I’d hoped (As I mentioned before, programming baffles me!), I am definitely further along than before taking the course. This was challenging but one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had! I am excited to use Scratch again with my students and now feel that I can do a much better job guiding them to ask questions and problem-solve with each other.
I did learn something important. Normally, learning comes easily for me but this time it didn’t. It’s important to share with children the struggles that occur in the learning process – how important it is to ask for help, to share ideas, to understand that sometimes you just have to step away for a bit, that learning is ongoing!
Now that the CCOW workshop is over, my learning won’t stop. I know it will takes LOTS of practice to feel confident with Scratch. I’m now enjoying having the time to examine the many projects created by my fellow CCOWers. What I’ve seen so far is superb! As I titled my final project –
Scratch 2.0 is now out and it looks to be a very good upgrade. One of my goals this summer was to become more familiar with Scratch so that I could more effectively share it with my 4th graders. So, I was thrilled to discover the Creative Computing Online Workshop; a six-week course for those who want to learn more about using Scratch in the classroom.
The course started on Monday, June 3. Unfortunately, I was on vacation with my laptop and NO internet access! All I could do was read the multitude of posts coming through on my phone. It was very frustrating! Of course, the purpose of the vacation was to relax! So, upon arriving home today, I started working on this week’s projects.
Karen Brennan, along with several others, designed this course and if this week is any indication, it is going to be extremely useful in helping me learn how to better use Scratch with students.
One of our activities was an “About Me” project. Yes, mine is very simple but I was able to successfully use the broadcast block which has given me trouble before.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks. It will be a challenge but I can tell much learning will be taking place!
I’ve looked at Glogster Edu for the past couple of years but had only used it during SSTVS. But this year, after hearing that other schools in our area are using it, I decided to buy a subscription for our 3rd and 4th graders. A glog is an interactive poster that allows the creator to add images, text, links, video, and more.
Starting with 4th graders, it quickly became apparent that this was a HUGE hit! The students were more excited about this than I’ve seen them about anything recently! To learn how to make a glog, the assignment was to create something that told about them – their likes, favorite activities, fun links, etc. After showing the basics, I let the students explore and experiment. They picked it up very quickly and enjoyed designing their first glog. At the end of class, I told them to find some website links that they would like to add to their glog. I would show them how the following day.
As the students arrived the following day, I was immediately greeted with: “I worked on my glog last night and added several things.” “Some of my favorite links are now on my glog.” “My dad and I worked on the glog and added a video.”
After seeing how much the 4th graders enjoyed Glogster, I introduced it to 3rd grade. They were just as excited! We spend two class periods doing an “intro” glog; adding links, uploading MS Paint illustrations, and more. Plus, these students are also working on them outside of class.
The next goal is to help the teachers see the uses of Glogster in their curriculum. Since it’s so close to the end of this school year, we’ll probably wait till next year. Already, the students are excited about creating glogs next year so we’ll be off to a great start then.
ReadWriteThink, which offers excellent interactives for students, now allows students to save their work in some of the activities. This is a fabulous addition to their website since students often aren’t able to complete their work in one session. Below is a tutorial from ReadWriteThink on how it works. So glad they have added this capability!
As a culmination to their fieldwork, the professor of our TCU visitors had her students create some wonderful Prezis about what they had learned in their three weeks of observations at various schools. The “Field Work” Prezi was a collaborative effort by the college students to thank the teachers of the classrooms that they visited. What a wonderful idea! I absolutely loved viewing what they thought of our lessons. It was also interesting to discover what other schools are doing.
Having the TCU students visit is such a treat for us. The children love receiving the extra attention (it certainly helps having extra hands in the lab!). And I like to talk to them to find out about their observations in other schools and learn more about what they practice and discuss in their college classes. It’s a win-win situation all around.
One of our techno savvy 2nd grade teachers, Mrs. Cooper, offered to host a group of TCU students wanting to observe technology integration in the classroom. She thought about presenting a new lesson but eventually decided to have the students share and teach the college visitors using iPads. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working on creating VoiceThreads based on the water cycle (a topic studied by the younger students). Since VoiceThread is a collaborative tool, the students wanted to share their work with the visitors and then invite them to leave comments. It was a fabulous way for the children to “teach” others about how this application worked! The college students were wonderful – leaving comments on as many VoiceThreads as possible. Some left written comments while others recorded theirs.
The next activity was to share Mrs. Cooper’s blog with our visitors. Mrs. Cooper had written a post inviting student comments on an opera we saw this morning. The 2nd graders went right to work – opened the blog, logged in, and entered their comment. Several also shared a biopoem that had been written earlier in the year. Of course, they encouraged the college students to leave comments on their posts!
The only problem we encountered was that a handful of iPads weren’t able to connect to the wifi so we had a few disappointed students. However, with others quickly offering to share an iPad, all turned out well.
It was very exciting to watch the learning that was occurring. There was a busy buzz within the room, lots of talking but not one person was off-task. One of our faculty members happened to walk by and asked, “Are they playing games?” Hence the title of the post! Why do some folks think that iPads + happy interaction = playing games? These students were so focused on sharing, teaching, and learning. They didn’t need games to be actively involved!
Our second graders have been involved in some wonderful learning activities in which the students rotated through each classroom to learn about whales, the water cycle, and poetry. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to take what had been learned and use VoiceThread to share their thoughts.
Each student illustrated a picture in MS Paint and I compiled the drawings into class VoiceThreads. That seems to be where my problems began! For whatever reason, the first class was unable to record their comments using the iPads. Since the VoiceThread app had worked perfectly a few days earlier, I wonder if trying to have 5 or 6 students logged onto the same VoiceThread prevents this. Who knows? But, with another class coming into the lab, I had to make some quick adjustments! I went back to what has been working for the 4th graders – individual VoiceThreads. The students created theirs and then we started recording – no problems at all! We didn’t get everyone recorded but we’re off to a good start.
Lessons learned: Try to think of and test every possible situation and ALWAYS have a back up plan!!
Our 4th graders have been reading the Texas Bluebonnet books over the past few months and they voted on their favorite this week in the library. I’ve been wanting to get the students into VoiceThread and thought creating book reviews might be an easy introduction to the application. So, in the computer lab, we illustrated our favorite choices using MS Paint. The students then wrote their book review using either MS Word or pencil and paper so that they would have a script to read while recording (Much easier than trying to “wing” it!).
Next step was to create a VoiceThread. This is the first time we’ve used this application this year and the students were quick to catch on with uploading and adding titles. Unfortunately, the recording didn’t cooperate. The students learned how to plug in the mics but when they spoke, their voices weren’t picked up. Not sure what the problem was but when you’re in the middle of class, you have to quickly come up with a backup plan!
Fortunately, I happened to have some iPads in the lab. I gathered my tech support helpers for the day, showed them what to do, and had them record their VoiceThread. They were really excited to be “in charge” of helping their classmates sign into the VoiceThread app and guide them through the recording process. Below is one of the book reviews:
On the first day we were only able to get about a third of the class recorded but by today, we had several experts to help speed along the process. I was so proud of how well the students worked together! We had a couple of photographers (see the animoto below), several tech support personnel (every once in awhile, I’d hear someone call, “Tech support! I need some tech support!”), and a scribe (who checked off who had finished recording and sharing their VoiceThread).
The idea of a VoiceThread is to create conversations. I’d wanted the students to make comments on their classmates’ book reviews but we just ran out of time. Next week I work with another 4th grade class and hopefully we’ll get more accomplished. I hope to meet with my tech support group during recess which should help things move a bit more smoothly during class. I was very pleased with how the students took on their leadership roles – they were truly taking their jobs seriously. My goal is to continue incorporating ways in which students can contribute to their learning.
Check out Martin Burrett’s ICT Magic Advent calendar.
Mr. Burrett has cleverly put together an advent-type calendar displaying a website a day with a winter and/or Christmas theme. Besides being lots of fun, the sites so far are great for encouraging logical thinking. Check back each day to see the newest site.