Sunday, November 1, 2009

Igniting Student Creativity Through Digital Storytelling

Check out this SlideShare Presentation. You will recognize some of your favorite tools and learn about new ones.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The BEST Reason to Skype

Today I told my favorite teacher about using Skype in our classroom. Since she has been out of the classroom for many years, she was really astonished that our computers are used to talk to someone outside of our building - especially for the reason I was telling her. Everyone needs to be doing this - she insisted - you need to tell them. Although I know of others who indeed do, I promised that I would give it a try.

We have many classroom conversations on the web using Skype. In the past years my technology classes have had many good reasons to hold conversations on the web: Native American studies, water conservation, weather, goals for the future, insects, our state, other states, another country, our schools, field trips, animals, poems, and a variety of books. With kindergarten through fifth grades we have had many ideas to share, and plenty of questions to ask.

This year is different. We have a goal of connecting all of our classes through technology. To integrate technology such as web conferences, videos, podcasting, wikis and blogs - I have busied myself with finding contacts, comparing topics, researching standards, adjusting plans, and scheduling conversations with other educators. But this year is different.

It started being different last month. A fellow teacher came to me with a request from a parent. They wanted to know if we could use Skype to keep one of our students connected to school. The family had set up Skype at home for their child. This precious student will be at home much of this year. He will be in the hospital too. With cancer treatments some days are better than others. For now he cannot physically come to school. But this year is different - he can come to school virtually - thanks to a little bit of technology and encouraging classmates.

We immediately set up the best reason for Skype for his classroom teacher. A few students in our school use Skype at home and others have been in our Technology class video conference sessions. This was our first time to use video conferencing with a classmate who is at home. Everyone was excited.

During his first classroom session, our virtual student learned from his classmates and with his classmates. New and old friends warmly greeted him and then two students gave him a tour of the classroom. They explained the routines of the day and described the special learning areas in the room. Others showed close-up environment models on camera for all to learn about a new social studies project. With his supportive mother by his side, our virtual student shared his time and his smiles with us.

When it was over, we all agreed it was a success and made plans for more. His guidance counselor and I are also ready for more sessions so he can join our class times, and learn with more of his friends. Our virtual student has the option of joining us by video and/or audio. He can turn his camera and sound on and off as needed. Although it was fun for the star of the day, his image can also be on a computer monitor in our room instead of the huge SMARTBoard display.

We are always learning more about teaching with technology. 1) Take turns. Since schools need to be concerned about bandwidth, we all understand that we must keep informed about each other's web conferences. 2) Be nice. Talk with all of the stakeholders about safety, privacy, and etiquette on and off of the web. 3) Be flexible - you may be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes the best laid plans must change, so plan for change. We also found out that our document camera and sound system work very well as a webcam (surprise!). 4) Be clear. Video conferences help us all practice better communication skills.

Students and teachers are still learning together...wherever they are.

PS: Here's to our first favorite teachers - our moms.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Google Voice

Google keeps the new tools coming. Since one of my New Year's goals is to try more of them, I waited patiently for my Google Voice invitation and number. Thanks to good friends, I am learning more about the benefits of Google Voice. Start here if Google Voice is totally new to you.

Many setting options allow you to tailor it to your changing needs. For your incoming calls you can screen calls and/or listen in to the message. From your computer you can text message, connect other numbers to your chosen phone, personalize greetings, forward phones, share voicemail, and much more. Google offers many ways to learn how you can benefit from its features.

I have sent my Google Voice number to friends to try out what they offer. One feature that has my curiosity is the voicemail transcript. Callers leave a voicemail, and Google attempts to transcribe it. Fortunately, the audio recording is there too. When you listen to the recording, the transcript follows it word for word by underlining the words as it goes. Pretty neat. Great for ESL (English as Second Language) and many others. With so many dialects to decipher, I imagine (hope) that the more calls I receive, the better it will work.

Feel free to help me try out features. Today I found a call widget to embed in your website. Find it at the top of this message and leave a voicemail for me if you are are interested in collaborating on a project with any of my K-5 Technology classes. I'll probably leave the widget here for a while and see how it goes.

Oh! I just discovered another surprise feature. If - okay when- you misplace your cellphone, you can call your own phone from your computer and listen for the ring. Gotta love that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Free: Convert Your Presentations with SlideShare

Convert you PowerPoint presentation with SlideShare. Easily embed in your blog or wiki. Instantly post on Twitter and Facebook. You can edit your presentation at any time. Many other file types are accepted. Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On the Road to the Windy City and the Oprah Show!

Mom's Choice Award winning author, Ginger Hodge, took her own mom on a road trip to the Windy City. They had two destinations in mind: the Valedictorian and the the Oprah Show. While I kept in touch with the author of When Donkeys Fly via Skype, others were old school cell phone communicators.
This trip is theirs to tell on here When Donkeys Fly to Oprah and take a peek here:
Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Windy City Trip
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Our students love to keep up with where the donkey flies and what the donkey finds to do next. Elementary classes interested in projects about Ginger Hodge's book, When Donkeys Fly, see activities and contacts here . Contact us to collaborate with SURFFers (Students Ready for the Future).

Monday, March 2, 2009

What to Do? No Computers in the Lab?

Last week we had a day with no computers in the Technology Lab. Were the students surprised? Yes. Was the teacher worried? No - it was a great opportunity to talk about technology and the balance in our lives.

Technology = a tool that helps us work (more efficiently). If the technology makes a job harder, then choose another tool or learn a better way to use the tool. It takes time to learn to use a tool properly. Ask any craftsman, artist, or electrician.

We could ask our parents and grandparents how they worked before computers. How did they play? Outside was for sports, inside- what? no texting, no Wii?! What did they use in school? Paper, pencils, books, what? no SMARTBoard, no computers?!

We then considered the history of paper. Originally made of papyrus, it was considered a great advance in technology for communication. Paper is taken for granted now and many practice ways of recycling it. I wonder what history would reveal about rules of using paper.

The students thought about what they do in school and the games they play without modern technologies. Our south-eastern region is known for thunderstorms. Students told stories about what they do when the lights go out or the dreaded cable TV service goes down at home (audible groans).

Out came the old-fashioned paper, crayons and clipboards for the activity....1) Fold the paper. 2) Illustrate a game that you play. 3) Write a caption. 4) Smile for the camera.

Rules for game choices were: no electricity and no batteries. So here is a sample of
Games We Play! Batteries Not Included

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Games We Play
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I tell my young students all of the time: computers are to help you get work done, so you have more time to play outside where you belong!

We may have another No Computer day....for old-times sake.

Images from Flikr

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Dreams for the Future!

Bold Dreams? Big Dreams? Tell us too - this story is about YOU! We are waiting on you for this Voicethread project.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pods, Touch, Phones and Spyglasses

I was just in another web meeting with educators who use many of THE latest technologies in classrooms. Main topics of the session were mobile technologies: ipods, itouch, iphones or other brands of mobile devices. Concerns of cell phones and cyberbullying naturally came into the chats too. And then there were the spyglasses - yes, spyglasses.

We talked about using mobile phones in education. The cons to mobile devices in the classroom usually stem from control. How do we control behaviors on mobile devices - how to stop the negative? Have you seen all of the shows about mean-girl uses of email, texting and the internet? Much was communicated about cyberbullying: we all need educating and need to educate others more- and more often.
Bullying has been around longer than we have, so our jobs still must include teaching manners, etiquette and the Golden Rule to all ages. Whether with pencil and paper, face-to-face, or electronic means, students need guidance and guided practice. Let's get together and figure it out before it is too late.

Cellphones in the classroom? Scary to us, but we need to jump in where our children are spending their time. I remember the scary feeling before I used a computer for the first time. That first computer experience in the early 1980's took me by surprise and I have been hooked ever since. Now I am trying to overcome the fear (concerns) of mobile technologies and I'm learning to look before I leap.

I was reminded about a new ISTE book Toys to Tools, by Liz Kolb and her website. Liz was featured in a WOW (Women of the Web) webmeeting recently. She shared many ideas for practical uses for mobile phones in classrooms. You can learn so much in webmeetings like this one
listen to the show and check out the chat for great resources and links.

Now for the spyglasses - spyglasses in education. NEWS to me. Your kids ages eight through eighty-eight will get a kick out of this. Spyglasses are showing up in classes!They look like sunglasses and are used for - well a little computer that you happen to wear. Need convincing? Go here and see for yourself and then click this picture to find more details.

Another resource that needs to be included here is iTouch in education from Tony Vincent. He is the same one whose resources helped me learn how-to and create class lessons for podcasting.
See Learning in Hand and lets learn more together.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Elementary Projects- Google Maps and More

If you were to offer 3rd-5th grade students a ticket to anywhere in the virtual world, where would you guess their overall favorite place would be?(*answer below) We have been going all over the map with the help of the updated tools in Google Maps. Driving directions have been the most popular use of Google Maps, but please take a look at what you can find now.

Students wanted to get a close-up look at the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, and Niagara Falls. Students who have lived in other places got a glimpse of their former hometown, and some even saw their actual home.

These trips took us to Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, Nevada, California, North Carolina, and many more. We also got to see far away places like Rome,Tokyo, Berlin, and Lithuania. Travelers shared vacation spots from San Francisco to Washington, DC. Zooming in on South Carolina in Terrain View helped students in their understanding of our state’s geographical layout.

Explore more at Google Maps Tours Video clips, and detailed tutorials will help your family plan trips, avoid traffic, and help children feel more comfortable before riding unfamiliar public transit systems.

First and Second grade Technology classes joined online projects with classes
nation-wide. Students enjoyed checking the map that shows the schools that
are participating in the Winter Wonderland Project. Students shared their knowledge of places, and they learned many new locations too. See
Google Map of participants

Please click here to see some of our Winter projects listed by class:
1st grade:
2nd grade:

More collaborative projects are coming our way for new Technology
classes this semester!
See other items about our classes:
Foreign Languages on Voicethread and Microscopes in the Technology class.

I wonder if the favorite place of the new semester’s classes will also be their *own home?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wordle and the Presidents

What is a Wordle? My elementary technology students are learning to create and format lots of them. For our purposes, a Wordle is a word cloud that shows main ideas and details of your selected text. We chose inauguration speeches for a hallway display titled Guess the President.

It is becoming a big hit - especially after Mrs. L Smith, a 4th grade teacher, who correctly guessed one of Lilli's (her student) Wordle as Abraham Lincoln's speech. She explained the clues that she used to make her great guess! Her students were delighted that she joined in the fun in their technology class and came up with more ways to use Wordle to improve their writing. Other teachers are also brainstorming ways to use Wordle in their classes.

Today - unexpected music to my ears from a new student who asked, "Can I do this at home too?"

The Wordle above is not from Abraham Lincoln's speech. Can you make a good guess? What are some more ways to use Wordle in your classroom?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Inauguration Watch

Keep up with inauguration news ! Do you know of any more resources for our classes? We are looking for more for elementary students.
If the widget below is not visible (blocked at your location), go to

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Setting Goals for Technology

Goal setting is the topic of the new year. In response to a blog in elementarytechteachers I came up with mine, so I need to document them here in my web log.

Before I do I have to mention a refreshing new blog I read today. Penny's take on the SEVEN THINGS meme was to include what I will call simply images with captions. We teach students how to understand more information by reading captions. What a better idea for our goal setting writing assignments she has inspired. Search for images that reflect your goals and write captions. Many web tools are available to learn and apply here. Just pick one...or two.

Last year was the year of wikis, blogs, podcasts, and voicethread to name a few. Twitter got a third try from me over the holiday and I have now realized the value in its use. I even unblocked messages on this blog - I can handle that now. I have tip-toed around Google docs and played with Google Earth. It is time to move on now.

So here are my technology goals for 2009:

1.Google Docs - For collaborating- I need to find those who know and encourage others to go along with me too.
2. Google Earth - I want to build and use more meaningful lessons. Right now I am working it in on two projects.
3. Collaborative Projects - I love to join other classes whether down the street or across the globe. Now it is time to MAKE them happen too. Working on that and crossing my fingers.
4. Maintain & Repair - Take tools and projects that I started, finished or dropped last year to their next level.
5. SMART Board - Build spectacular :) lessons with every tool for every subject and every level for every teacher... (You all get that way too - don't you?)

There they are. How about you?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Have You been Tagged by the SEVEN THINGS Meme?

Have you been tagged?

I was just tagged by Vicky S in the meme going around the education blog circles called “Seven Things”.

Here are the rules:

* Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.

* Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.

* Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.

* Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter and/or Plurk.

  1. My blogger friends probably do not know that I am the middle child of five children. I have an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister. The things that you have heard about a middle child are probably all true.
  2. I have a delightful 26-year old daughter and a wonderful 18-year old son. Time marches on….I miss following them around for sports and their other childhood events.
  3. My daughter and I love to cook and experiment with ideas in the kitchen. She lives in a few hours away, but we stay in close touch. We love to talk about dishes that we have tried at home or dining out at different restaurants. Must have gotten the loves-to-cook gene from my mother. She is still cookin' at 80-years old.
  4. Photography has been a secret thing that I want to pursue – some day. Thankfully my son has taken an interest in it, so I hope to learn from him. He has taken beautiful shots from the first day. Although I take lots of pictures - I do not have the artist's touch.
  5. Giraffes….for some reason I started collecting them many years ago. Maybe because they are tall, graceful, just a bit unusual, and have very kind eyes. I have them on all desks, shelves and at each computer at school. My students get attached to the one at their station. Digiraffe (short for Digital-giraffe) is our classroom mascot.
  6. I took a few years of piano lessons as a child and wish that I listened to my parents about practicing more. I still play sometimes when no one is at home. We purchased a digital piano – it has a volume control and I can plug up a head set.
  7. Love to sing and dance. I leave singing in public to others (my sisters). Another thing I do when no one is at home is crank up the music to sing and dance like I did when my children were small…and thought it was great fun.

Now...who to tag? Apologies in advance if you have already received this. I am behind in my blog readings, so here goes.

I would like to read the blogs and know more about:
Maddy Shapiro
Kevin Jarrett
Noel Forte
Adina Sullivan