2nd Grade Success!

We have ALL of the 2nd graders recorded in VoiceThread. After a rough start a couple of weeks ago, the iPad app worked just as planned when the students created their own VoiceThread. It’s so much fun to watch the students as they quickly grasp the technology (and help their teachers learn how to do it!). We had student photographers taking pictures of the process (they loved that job!) and hopefully this weekend, I’ll create an animoto to share.

Here are a few examples.








How Much Can be Accomplished in 40 Minutes?

Not much if technology doesn’t work as expected!

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!!

What Makes Teaching Worthwhile!

  • Watching children’s faces when they figure out how to do something with technology.
  • Observing another child demonstrating to a classmate how to open a link, log off the computer, write a blog post, and so much more.
  • Discovering that a student has taken a task learned in class and created something with that knowledge.

    Jack's ppt created after Antarctica trip


  • Listening to a VoiceThread that exhibits the joy and excitement of learning.


Book Reviews with 4th Grade

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.

**The idea of  students as contributors is based on Alan November’s concept of the Digital Learning Farm, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Digital Learning Farm and iPad Apps, and Silvia’s presentation of Orchestrating the Collaborative Classroom. These resources are some of the best I’ve ever experienced – I highly recommend taking a look at them.

Update on Kindergartners and Using a Mouse

I did an informal survey of the kindergartners this week when they came to the lab and discovered that many (if not most) are more used to using an iPad at home rather than a computer with a mouse. That would explain why there seems to be more difficulty in manipulating a mouse than in previous years. Interesting how changes in technology affect things we’ve taken for granted over the years. We’ll go back to more in-depth mouse practice in the coming weeks. I’ll have to start searching for fun mouse-practice activities!

from Microsoft Clip Art Gallery

Learning About Snow

Since we generally don’t get much snow in Texas (with the exception of the past 2 years!), our students enjoy learning about this topic.

from Microsoft Clip Art gallery

Second graders learn about the water cycle at this time of year so snow is always fun and interesting to discuss (not to mention wishful thinking). The teachers start by reading Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and learn about his amazing work photographing snowflakes. When the students come to the lab we begin the “Snow Quest.” I have them work in pairs as they learn to search for information and write answers to a few questions.

Besides learning about Wilson Bentley, the students explore other winter topics including hibernation, conditions needed for snow, and more. Here are some of the websites we use.

The following site does not contribute to the educational value of the lesson but it’s always a favorite! (It does help develop fine motor and visualization skills!) Make-a-Flake allows viewers to vitually cut a snowflake. Take a look at the gallery to see what other people create.

If our Texas winters don’t always bring snow, at least we have some fun, interactive ways to learn about it!

Kindergartners in the Lab

We welcomed our youngest students to the computer lab on Friday. They were very excited to come to the lab for the first time. We talked about what to do when they hear the bell (headphones off, hands in lap – ready to listen). I had them pretend to work on the computer, then rang the bell. I have never seen such quick responses! When it came to the end of lab time and the bell rang, their response was just as prompt.

The most difficult task was learning how to log onto the computer. Ctrl + Alt + Delete poses a bit of of challenge for the students as their little fingers just don’t spread quite far enough to easily reach the keys! By using “bunny ears” on the left hand and “pointer finger” on the right, everyone was able to (eventually) get onto the computer. They learned how to open their kindergarten folder (double clicking is a bit tricky at this age but highlighting the folder and using the enter key works just as well) and go to TVS TechnoWizards to find their activities.

But I did note something interesting. For the last few years, we haven’t had to spend much time on how to use a mouse because most students come to school knowing the basics, having had quite a bit of experience on home computers. After watching several students from each class struggle with the mouse, I wonder if the rise in popularity of touch devices such as iPads and parents’  iPhones have resulted in a lack of familiarity with a mouse. Are desk top computers used much anymore? Next time the kindergartners come to the lab I’m eager to find out how many students have tablets.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Second Graders Meet the Webville Outlaws

Second graders met NetSmartz’s Webville Outlaws during computer lab today. NetSmartz Kids has excellent information for students – videos, games, and more. The site is developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and has age-appropriate resources to help keep children safe online as well as off-line.

Meet the Webville Outlaws:

Look-at-Dis Louie

Look-at-Dis Louie sends pictures that may not be appropriate for children. We NEVER open attachments because we need to get permission and help from adults to make sure it’s okay.


Potty-Mouth Pete

Potty-Mouth Pete says mean and rude things to people. He hurts others’ feelings. It’s important to always tell an adult if you run into a Potty-Mouth Pete and it’s never okay to get mad and act like him!


Meet-Me Mack

Meet-Me Mack tries to convince you that he’s your best friend and wants to meet you someplace. Remember to NEVER meet with someone you don’t know and always tell an adult if a “Meet-Me Mac” contacts you! 

Wanta-Know Wally

Wanta-Know Wally is a snoop. He wants to get your private information such as last name, address, phone number, credit card, and more. Always tell an adult if you are asked for private information when you are on the internet.


After discussing the Webville Outlaws, the students listened to situations where one of the outlaws was making himself known. They had to figure out who the culprit was and tell what should be done to keep safe.

Another excellent site that was used during the lesson was Bad Guy Patrol, from Alberta Children’s Services. I like that the site has two levels (ages 5-7 and ages 8-10) and that the content is read to the viewer. The second graders had worked through the younger level last year so they were excited to move up to the “big kid” section. The site offers a variety of tips as students work through four challenges to capture flags. A certificate is available to be printed upon completion. 

Other internet safety activities are available on my teaching website, TVS TechnoWizards. I welcome suggestions for sites that other educators use with their students.

Embarrassed Dog!

What a wonderful Christmas we had! Except for our poor dog! Continuing his quest for chocolate, he tore open one present belonging to our son. Apparently he smelled the remnants of the Hershey’s Kisses that had been in the gift bag. He exhibits this poor behavior only when we’re gone! One way to calm him down is to put a sweater on. So, our other son bought him a Santa suit which appeared to thoroughly embarrass him! But at least it kept him a bit calmer.

Hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday!