Tuesday, January 24, 2012

NETS Standard #3 for K-2 - Some initial ideas

NETS standard #3 for K-2 talks about engaging with learners from other cultures via e-mail and other electronic means.  In my mind this sentence shows how quickly the technology is changing for our students because email is becoming less useful than some of the newer platforms.  Email is still a great way to communicate but it requires a login so for K-2 students to be able to actually send emails themselves requires a fair bit of set up and monitoring.  I think 2nd graders are capable of it, they can all log into Webkins and Club Penguin, but you can't give a second grade student an open email account.  Email is still something students need to learn how to do but there are so many other ways for students to communicate electronically.  This NETS standard really gets to the heart of Web 2.0.

I may have just dissed e-mail but as it turns out one of the second grade classes at Glencliff is getting ready to use email to communicate with the author of a book they read recently.  I set up Gaggle accounts for the students.  These are email accounts that get run through all kinds of filters.  You can also set them so that you get notices and flags for certain things.  Also, since I set up all the accounts I can go look at all the accounts making them not private at all.  These will be presented to the students just like that: as email accounts for school use only that are monitored by Gaggle, their teacher, and me.  Their work will be reviewed before they hit send.  But the great thing will be if the author emails them back.  I could also foresee using these to have the students send digital work home for their parents to see without me having to send all the emails.  How great would that be! Less paper, less work for the computer TA!

Regarding learning across cultures in K-2 I think there are several social media outlets that would be useful but because of the age most of these will be administered by the teacher and there won't be as much hands on experience for the students.

The first and easiest to start option is Skype.  Within Skype you can join a group of educators who post ideas and requests for inter-classroom projects.  I have found it very easy to communicate with the teachers who have posted ideas.  Additionally, if you follow @Skype on Twitter they regularly post requests from teachers for collaboration partners and I've found some good contacts that way too.  The biggest problem with using Skype is time differences and scheduling.  Last year we did a 3rd grade Skype with a 2nd-3rd grade class in Peterborough, Canada.  Even though it's the same time zone and everything it took a long time and a lot of hassle to find a time that would work and in the end only 1 of the 2 classes on our end that wanted to participate was actually able to do it.  However, the students who got to participate absolutely loved it and the teacher said their understanding of some of the similarities and differences between Canada and the United States really excellent.  

Recently I explored Oddizzi.  Oddizzi was created in the spring of 2011 by a primary teacher in, I believe, England.  I like many of the features of Oddizzi including satellite and map searching and photos of many landmarks in many countries.  But I think the social networking aspect of Oddizzi is the best part for our younger students.  Rather than a real time discussion, you send e-postcards to other students in Oddizzi and get messages back from them.  These are sent between full classes, not individuals.  There are also options to study weather and news.  I found the news links hard to use but maybe they'll come along with time.  Most of the signed up users were from Great Britain or were British schools in other countries, especially the United Arab Emirates and just a smattering from other countries and we'll be looking at it seriously.

Twitter can't be discounted as a classroom tool although again, the teacher needs to be the practitioner in this case.  However, with all the personal learning networks on Twitter it would be fairly easy to connect with a teacher on the other side of the world and share information with other classes.  I know of a U.S. Kindergarten class that has done this already.  I like the use of Twitter because it is not real time so each class can send questions and check for responses on their own schedule.  It's also short and sweet which makes it easy to incorporate into an already too busy schedule and fits a K-2 attention span.  It can even be a great way to work on editing when the class needs to prune down a wordy question into 140 characters.  It would be an excellent way to communicate with an author.  What if the librarian started a conversation with a schools' favorite author and then took 5 minutes of library time to send the author a tween asking a question and check for recent tweets back from the author?

A Winter Kindergarten Project

This week the Kindergarteners at Glencliff are studying winter and we were looking for something easy and quick to do on that subject.  At Tumblebooks we found A Penguin Story by Antionette Portis.  This is a beautiful story about a young penguin searching for "more."  In this case he's searching for more colors.  He's only seen white, black and blue but he believes there's got to be something more out there.  Eventually he finds some scientists who have orange clothing and equipment and he's thrilled with his discovery.  The story is excellent and could be used with Kindergarteners in so many ways.

After the students "read" the story I switched them to ThisIsSand.com.  This is a site they've been using for some time to work on mouse skills.  But with the project the directions were that they needed to create their vision of the penguin's land.  They could only use the colors white, black, blue and orange.  I showed them how to get those colors which required some more finely tuned mouse skills and they got their creative minds going.  Here are a few of the works they created.

"The white part is the snow and the glove is over it that the guys gave it to the penguin."

"My favorite part is that the black one is the biggest hill.  Penguins climbed that hill."

"The penguin was climbing up the hills and then he flipped when he was going down this hill because there was snow."

To get the pictures and add text I screenshot what I wanted, uploaded it to BeFunky.com and typed in what the student dictated to me.  I only did this for 3 students as it takes about 5 minutes each to add the child's text.  We'll email these to the author and we hope she responds.  Wouldn't it be great for the students to get an email from the author!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

NETS Standard #1 K-2

NETS profile K-2 mentions the following:  "Illustrate and communicate original ideas and stories using digital tools and media-rich resources."

Right now I think Voicethread is one good option for primary students to express themselves using digital tools.  There are several reasons I like it.  First is that they can combine crayon/pencil/marker drawing that are scanned onto the computer with their own voices narrating a story, poem or idea.  I think it's really valuable to be able to combine the tactile with the digital, especially at younger ages.  Here's a Voicethread done by first graders this year based on the book The Jigaree by Joy Crowley.  Jigaree Voicethread by Mrs. Abare's Class.  Also, students can comment on each others' voicethread pages bringing in the web 2.0 aspect of technology too.

I also don't think we should overlook flip cams and cameras.  Kindergarteners do a unit about themselves and having them film each other with a flip cam talking about themselves and their families is a great way for them to use age appropriate technology.  They can't put movies together yet but they could work the camera if it was set up on a tripod and they'll love watching the movies.  I love the idea I've seen for 2nd graders to make a movie about the different properties of space (gravity, rotation, etc.) and they could certainly film that and maybe some advanced students could even put the the movie together.  I was surprised to see on the Danbury site that they expect their 4th grade students to create a movie and get it ready to present.  Maybe this is something we need to start early if we want our students to be ready for that stage in grade 4.  Two of the 5th grade teachers at Glencliff are doing a lot with flip cams this year.

2nd graders might also be ready for Storybird although it might be a little too hard for some of them to navigate.

I've used Animoto with first graders in a non-fiction unit about space.  I don't like Animoto because it requires a login which I have to enter for everyone.  Also, I found the pictures for them and got each movie prepped which was a lot of work.  They did the writing and the typing.  Still, the results are excellent quality and they were thrilled.  Here's a sample.

Other ideas I'd like to look into but which I haven't done completely yet are:
Pecha-Kucha, a site where 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each and the presenters speaks for 20 seconds about each slide.  If you had a class of 20 students it would work perfectly but I love the idea because it's so finite and I think kids could handle 20 seconds.  The material on the site is not necessarily kid friendly so I'm not sure if the site would be the way to go or using the idea somewhere else would be better.

Another one is SAM - stop action movie.  This is free and requires no login.  If you want to use more than 50 frames in a movie you have to pay but it's $30 - really reasonable!  This concept uses both a camera as well as movie editing.  I need to explore it more.

Wallwisher is an online corkboard/brainstorm area that students as young as first grade could use.  It's fun to watch new ideas pop up and would be a neat thing to leave up on a computer in the classroom or project for brainstorming.  There's another option geared toward young children but I can't find it just now.  As soon as I do I'll add the link here.

Blabberize is another very fun presentation vehicle that would require some set up for young children to use but I think they would love using it and be able to express some pretty neat ideas.  They would need to have more direction than I gave my son when he did this one but I think that could work.  What if the students used a picture of an endangered animal and talked about how they are endangered?  What about a fairy tale unit with a knight or a princess talking about life in the castle?  The possibilities are endless.  There's also a commenting capability with Blabberize although I haven't tried it yet.