Orchestrating the Collaborative Classroom Workshop

This morning I attended Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Orchestrating the Collaborative Classroom workshop. It was 4 hours of non-stop fantastic information! She based her subject on Alan November’s The Digital Learning Farm. Silvia provided numerous tools (the instruments) and gave examples on how to use them to transform learning. (In this video, Alan talks about the role of the student as contributor).

Silvia showed a number of applications to us and then gave real-world examples of how she uses them with students. We didn’t just listen! We interacted! Many of the tools she shared I have either used or knew about but what made the session so effective is that we were able to see examples of how they were used in the classroom as well as participating in discussions through the actual use of the tools. The notes to Silvia’s workshop are on her wiki.

The Instruments:

Wikis, Blogs, Google Apps, Podcasts, Backchanneling (Twitter, Today’s Meet), Linoit (online stickies; iPad app available), Skype, LiveBinders, Social Bookmarking (Diigo, Delicious)

Today’s Meet, Linoit, and LiveBinders are ones I want to explore further. Today’s Meet would be a good way for even younger students to backchannel (definitely with guidance!). I can think of lots of ways for teachers to use Linoit with students; such as discussing story elements (groups could be in charge of one story element and add stickies, then all could be pulled together on the SmartBoard).

Silvia then talked about empowering learners by having them take on the roles of researchers, notetakers, tutorial designers, curriculum reviewers, contributors to society, collaboration coordinator. She said it’s time-consuming at the beginning, but once students understand their roles, the “concert begins!”

BLC Pre-Conference: Scratch

I was fortunate to be able to attend another workshop at MIT at the Lifelong Kindergarten Media Lab called Happily Ever After: Digital Storytelling with ScratchScratch is a programming language designed for students ages 8 and up. It reinforces mathematical skills, promotes problem solving, and encourages collaboration. We spent the morning collaborating and creating. We were told that we would be pushed out of our comfort zone, and we were! One activity was to work with a partner to create a story. After 10 minutes or so, we had to move to the next computer and continue that particular story. Again, after a few minutes, we moved on. By the time we returned to our laptop, our story was completely different! Although we hadn’t been “taught” the function of each set of blocks, this was a great way to learn quite a bit about Scratch. As we arrived at each new station we really had to do some quick investigating to determine how the scripts worked. This helped us learn more about how to put the blocks together to get the sprites to respond the way we wanted. Next, we were given about an hour to work on whatever we chose. Since attending the Scratch workshop last year, I’ve struggled with how to work with the broadcast blocks so I worked on an interactive story. Didn’t finish, but that’s okay. I’m just pleased that I was able to come up with a simple story with different backgrounds! We had a “show and tell” time which would also be a great way for students to share ideas with others. I can’t wait to introduce Scratch to students!

Edinburgh

What a busy time we’ve had in a beautiful city! Jennifer has been a fabulous guide (she spent a year at the University of Edinburgh) and has provided us with a wealth of information as she led us around the city.

We met with Joe Marshal, head librarian of rare and valuable books collection at the University of Edinburgh. He gave an incredible behind-the-scenes tour. Imagine looking at (and being able to touch) books that are several hundred years old! We learned about the preservation process, saw Adam Smith’s personal library collection, viewed medieval manuscripts, and much more. It was an amazing experience!

The next appointment was with Dr. Fraser Hunter, curator of Roman Antiquities at the National Museum of Scotland. He gave us a tour of some of his favorite exhibits, providing us with the rich history behind each. It was very interesting to learn about ancient Scottish culture. We truly needed more time; there is so much to see in this museum!   

It’s hard to believe that our trip has come to an end. I’m eager to see my family again but this has been a fantastic journey. I’ve learned so much and can’t wait to share information with our faculty. We were lucky to have good weather a majority of the time (showers are pretty common in the UK). I’m already trying to figure out how I can get back to this part of the world!

On to Cambridge

This morning we left London behind as we traveled by train to Cambridge to meet with Starlitt Newman, a librarian at the Cambridge University Library. Before boarding the train at King’s Cross, we had to have our photo taken at Platform 9 3/4, where Harry Potter caught the Hogwarts Express.

Starr gave us a fantastic tour of more than just the library and some of their special collections. She provided a wonderful overview of Cambridge University as we walked through the streets of the town. We learned quite a bit of history as she guided us through Clare College and King’s College Chapel. It’s amazing to realize that Cambridge’s oldest college was founded in 1284!

Starr worked with the Tower Project which catalogued books published in Britain between 1910 and 1919. One of the featured author/illustrators was Arthur Rackham – illustrator of fairy tales, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and more.

After the tour, we explored more of the town then headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow it’s on to Edinburgh.

Reflections from the Week

This has been an amazing week! There are many, many ideas to take back and implement. First, the SAMR model will be the basis for my plans and my goal is to work with the teachers to encourage them to focus on learning as the goal with technology as the tool – not to use technology only because it’s “cool.”

What I would like to focus on in the coming year would be digital storytelling. I’ve used PhotoStory 3 in the lab but there are so many uses that would be beneficial to students in the classroom. However, when we move to Windows 7, PhotoStory won’t work.  I plan to do more using VoiceThread. What I like about VT is the collaborative nature. Last year we focused on just creating a VT but we didn’t really discuss appropriate comments. This is the year to take it a step further and have the students work collaboratively.

Podcasting is another tool that I want to learn more about. I can see numerous uses in grades K-4.

We were also given suggestions for iPad apps along with ideas on using a single iPad in the classroom. I can’t wait to get my hands on an iPad when we return.

A huge thanks to Leah for the wonderful ideas, for working us hard, and giving us the opportunities to explore and create. Having this conference at ASL has been awesome! Everyone has been wonderful; we have been well-fed too!! As an alum, I found it exciting to return to attend the Learning Institute.

Reflections on Digital Storytelling

We’ve been discussing digital storytelling and it is a fabulous method to use in the class. There are SO many uses across the curriculum. I worked in PowerPoint to create Rules for the Computer Lab. The hardest part was searching for and deciding which pictures to use. I was trying to take a shortcut, though. I had a rough idea of what to say but didn’t write the script; instead I spent too much time looking for pictures. This is what some of the students do so I can now say that there truly is a reason for following steps in order to create a digital story. When I create a digital story, I tend to use PhotoStory 3 or VoiceThread. This time I chose VT but unfortunately, I was unable to record my story because I wasn’t able to get the mic on my computer to work.

My goal is to help our lower school teachers find effective ways to incorporate digital storytelling into their curriculum. Just thinking off the top of my head, here are some ideas that teachers are already doing that could be transformed digitally:

  • Did You Know facts
  • Book Reviews/Reports
  • Biographies
  • Self-portraits using I Am poems or bio-poems
  • Junior Great book reflections
  • Teachers can create short presentations to introduce content to students.

VoiceThread is excellent for collaboration as others can leave feedback through comments (by voice or type). Students are sharing with a real audience. This is also a good way to share with parents so that they can get a snapshot of what is happening in the classroom.

Surviving and Thriving

We are attending a fabulous course, called Surviving and Thriving, taught by Leah Treesh at the American School in London’s Learning Institute. The course is designed to guide us in incorporating technology into our curriculum with the premise of: Technology is the Tool and Learning is the Goal.

Leah gave us a wonderful resource called the SAMR Model. There are 4 levels to the model (with the top one being the ultimate goal for integrating technology). This  gives a good description of each level and why we want to move toward redefinition.

  • Redefinition
  • Modification
  • Augmentation
  • Substitution

Here are a couple of links to blogs that discuss the SAMR model:

Scratch

Scratch, developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, is a programming language created for children ages 8 and up. After working with 4th graders for the past few weeks, I’ve decided that children’s brains are much more capable of learning Scratch than mine is! However, after watching the collaboration and problem-solving that occurs when students use this program, I know Scratch is worth teaching. So, I have to try to stay a step ahead. Look on the Web 2.0 page to find links to some very helpful Scratch sites.

Here are some photos taken at the MIT Media Lab when I attended an Introduction to Scratch workshop last July.                                                                  

Lego Scratch Cat

Mitch ResnickLifelong Kindergarten Group

Awesome 2nd Graders

I was so proud of my 2nd graders today in the computer lab!! The students have started working on a Heritage Project that they create for Grandparents’ Day. The families collect photos of grandparents, great grandparents, etc. and these are uploaded into PhotoStory 3. Students record their narration then it’s made into a windows media video. Today, the kids created their title and closing slides in PowerPoint. Normally I save the slides as JPEGs so they can be uploaded to PhotoStory but I decided to let the students do this today. Every single child was able to do the saving as JPEGs!! I told them that many adults haven’t ever done that. They were thrilled with themselves! This lets me know that, even though something might be hard, it’s worth letting the kids give it a try.

Welcome to the Web

One of the best sites I’ve found for helping students learn their way around the web is the Welcome to the Web webquest. Mark Warner, a primary teacher in Kent, U.K. created the webquest to help students explore the following areas:

  • Getting Started Online
  • Staying Safe
  • Using Your Browser
  • Searching Online
  • Trying Top Tricks

As students work through each section, they answer questions that help them understand various aspects of the world wide web. Secret codes are gathered to be used in the Challenge, where students problem-solve to determine who is trying to unleash a computer virus.

This is the third year that I’ve used this with 4th graders and they love it! Students have asked to stay in from recess so that they can work on the webquest!

Mark Warner also maintains a site called Teaching Ideas. It contains a wealth of information!

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