Category Archives: Technology Integration

Student Management Platforms

I have been using some type of student management platform for much of my career. I began with a tool that was attached to Oracle’s Thinkquest. In its simplest form I could gather formative information and communicate with students. This became especially helpful when I had to spend several weeks out recuperating from surgery.

Then I discovered Edmodo, a tool I still use because of its ability for students to attach many different types of files and/or URLs to assignments. I enjoyed the idea of seeing work from my different classes. At the same time I managed the various tools I used through a wiki – in fact I still do this!

Then a couple of years ago, the school system introduced Google Apps for Education and now everyone has a Google Classroom. Sometimes I am not sure how the students keep up. They join classrooms for their subject matter as well as clubs and after school programs. The admin in our building use it as a platform to instruct. That is where I became somewhat disillusioned. I do enjoy assigning work through Google Classroom. It is wonderfully easy to access, grade, and give feedback BUT it is cumbersome as a delivery system for instruction.

Last year I discovered Zeetings. This seemed to be the answer to what I was looking for. I could set up slides, images, and web links and embed checks for understanding throughout the lesson. The problem? Students had to be prompted, more times than I care to say, to add their name so I had anonymous participants. It was designed for the business world with free limited features, such as the class size must be limited to 30 participants. The paid version is quite expensive.

I have looked at Nearpod several times but just can’t seem to warm up to it and then I found Pear Deck. I am still a newbie to this program but I am enjoying what I have discovered so far. It integrates with Google Drive so your files are stored there and you are not limited to how many decks (presentations) you can create. The free version is fine but the paid version is not too bad either. For around $99.00 a year, I can utilize all of its features. Here are a few:

  • Instruction may use an item, perhaps a video clip or website on the teacher screen, while the students see a question about it on their screens. If they need access to the site it can be given to them.
  • It is easy to embed checks for understanding, multiple-choice and short answer questions, drag a dot, or draw/write on an image are just a few. It even has a feature for a quick question when you realize that you need to ask one while presenting.
  • It’s possible to share student responses – they are anonymous but later the information may be saved as a “takeaway” that shares the students’ names for formative assessment purposes.
  • Questions are able to be locked so the lesson can continue.
  • You can stop at any point, name a session and it saves a version of that. It is not necessary to create multiple decks for multiple classes. I enjoyed not being stressed to complete so much in a single class.
  • Pear Deck is quite intuitive and very easy to revise and edit.
  • How ELA Teachers Use Pear Deck

GoAnimate and CCSS

I (like 44 other states and the District of Columbia) am trying to find ways to help students to use text to support claims as well as look at a variety of other outcomes to show that one understands the reading. Currently our class is “digging into” the work of Edgar Allan Poe. After several sessions using close reading strategies, we have moved on to applying what we have learned.

We are focusing now on the revelation of character. The students were asked to have the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” explain himself as a character using text evidence. The platform I chose was GoAnimate, a very easy to use animation creator. Embedded is one student’s vision of the assignment.


Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate for Schools.

Using Edmodo

Edmodo

I have been a user of Edmodo for a number of years now. What surprises me about this social networking site is its depth. I began using it as a place to post private class discussions. For those who may not be familiar with this tool, teachers sign up for a free account and add groups; I associate a group with each period’s class. Each class is assigned a group code. After students sign up, you give them the appropriate code and they can join your class groups. This makes it quite easy for students to use Edmodo for multiple classes but keep them separate. For example, many of my peers allow extemporaneous discussion on Edmodo. I do not, believing that places like Facebook and Twitter are better suited for this kind of activity. I also discourage contact with me unless it is direct to keep discussions private. Each teacher can set their own parameters, since they will be unable to see the other teacher’s space.

Then I discovered the assignment piece. Working in a computer lab this was a wonderful way for students to turn in work. As long as I have the appropriate program to open a file on my end, students are able to upload most any file. There are times that we have had to work through this. For example, I want all Publisher files saved as .pdf and Window Movie Maker converted to .mov. Students don’t always understand that a working file is not necessarily a published file. I have had to get rather stern with this rule because I grade most work on a Mac computer that does not have these programs.

With Paint, I prefer the file to saved as .jpeg because the other image choices force me to download the project to be able to see it. I want to open it and use the annotation features that Edmodo includes. It is especially nice to annotate Word files and show students exactly where there are problem spots. The annotation component allows you to type anywhere on document in a variety of colors. You can also highlight and strikeout parts of the text. With the resubmit option, students are able to correct and attempt for a higher grade.

It was only recently that I discovered that Edmodo has a notifications feature. Sometimes the obvious doesn’t appear to me. With that feature, I know when students have submitted work or communicated with me. Edmodo also features a free phone app that will push notifications.

The teacher community on Edmodo is very active and helpful. You can connect with other teachers and share ideas and materials. Other features that exist and may prove useful:

  • Badges you can make or borrow from other users to reward work or behavior
  • Polls to survey students
  • The ability to make and assign quizzes
  • The ability to form subgroups
  • Add parents as observers of the work

Edmodo sponsors professional development called EdmodoCon in August. Unfortunately for me, my school system begins the first week of August BUT the sessions are taped for those of use who cannot attend this virtual event. I discovered a wonderful idea for using Edmodo to create a virtual gaming unit. I plan to modify and use this idea with my 8th grade Computer Technology students later this semester. It involves all the aspects of gaming but students “play” by writing blogs.

I find myself checking Edmodo just as I do email, Facebook, and Twitter to see if there is anything new because I feel like I am just doing the minimum now!

ISTE11 – Philadelphia: Workshop Day

Convention Center in Philadelphia

Convention Center in Philadelphia

The conference sessions do not officially begin until Monday but there are many things to keep one busy on the weekend. I chose to spend today in 3 hour workshops.

Using Technology With Classroom Instruction That Works, Howard Pitler, Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction at McRel, 2nd Edition of “Classroom Instruction That Works”coming out in January, http://www.mcrel.org/technology

  • The nine strategies of Classroom Instruction That Works are actually categories. The strategies are part of the categories.
  • https://sites.google.com/site/iste2011mcrel/ – Resources for this workshop and many great links to technology sites to support McRel categories/strategies.
  • Plurk (http://www.plurk.com/) like Twitter but allows threaded discussions
  • When employing instructional strategies always ask – “How do we know it works?”
  • In educational research .4 is a high for effect.
  • Polleverywhere – is free for about 35-40 responses
  • Setting Objectives: is the process of establishing a direction for learning, is a skill that successful people have mastered to help them realize both short term/long term goals, make sure objective is stated in writing and begins with “we” – not met unless everyone is involved, students should have opportunity to personalize the objective – “I want to know…” One way is to break down objective into subcategories, do a KWL and then add the students questions to the categories, students creates contract I know, I want to know, I will show this by.
  • Social Bookmarking – better way to disseminate information to colleagues and students rather than email or list links. Also better way for students to find information rather than Google Search.
  • Rubistar – helps students to understand at the onset of a instruction what is expected. Free, offers many different templates, and the ability to create your own.
  • Common Core app available to articulate the standards – http://www.masteryconnect.com/
  • Track Changes (Word or Google Docs) allows you to demonstrate how to summarize using four rules (refer to workshop resources/summarizing)
  • BrainPop app for iPad
  • Lesson Structure for Notetaking/Summarizing
  • Advanced organizer on penguins with Inspiration – five areas.
  • Watch video
  • Take notes (personal preference) on five areas
  • Collaborate to construct five sentences – one per each area
  • Show video again. Modify thinking as necessary.
  • Create Combination Notes – template at resource link

Tuning Up the H.E.A.T.: Designing Rigor and Relevance into Learning Tasks – Bernajean Porter, consultant Porter Consulting

  • http://coachingheat.wikispaces.com/– resources for workshop including handouts
  • Students responding to what the teachers asks is NOT rigor.
  • “Technology accelerates something.”
  • Double loop learning – reflecting, responding, etc.
  • Gladiator Teacher – “Here’s the assignment, go forth, and good luck.”
  • Teaching the tool isolated from strategies does not = integration of the tool.
  • The highest technology is “questions.” Problem-based learning
  • Goal not to make a movie anymore but to make an impact – “Attention has now become the most precious nonrenewable resource on the earth.” Tony Hayes
  • The biggest factor in engagement is curiosity.
  • 38:1 is the ratio of teacher questions to student questions and about 85% are closed questions.
  • Raising the percentage of open ended questions increases test scores significantly.
  • Questioning website – http://fno.org/indexb.html
  • Without strong questioning skills, you are just a passenger on someone else’s tour bus. You may be on the highway, but someone else is driving. Jamie McKenzie
  • Idea for project – If you were a publishing market director, design a book-trailer that would SELL, SELL, SELL a book that needs to be read? Example of a good book trailer – The Graveyard Book” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_UUVwTaemk
  • Story is how people organize data.
  • Tools are not higher order – the task is
  • Bibme.org – for citation
  • radcab – look for credible, reliable searches – http://www.radcab.com/
  • Voicethread – use to debate asynchronously

To Use or Not to Use, That is the Question

Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 7.46.13 AM

Teaching ELA in a computer lab is a dream come true but I feel that I must use these resources often. I inadvertently learned an important lesson from my daughter. Last summer I came across an idea to have the students make a faux Facebook page to share what they know about a particular character from literature.  Derrick Waddell was even kind enough to make and share a template on Google Docs. While visualizing how students could use Creative Commons photos to make their characters come alive, I demonstrated how to use the template. I pushed to the back of my mind how difficult it was to highlight the text box and input information and how limited the information that could be shared was. I had a new tool and I was going to use it!

The students had an equal if not more challenging time using the template. They spent too much time locating pictures. The information for the characters was concise, impersonal, or generic. I was disappointed.

A few weeks later, my daughter, who teaches the same subject at my school, decided to do the activity and asked for the template. Since she has limited access to computers, I found an MS Word template and emailed that to her. She ran it off, modeled. and met me at busses with some of the results. They were wonderful!!! With pencil and crayon, her students spent their time thoughtfully deciding what their character’s liked,  who their “friends” would be, and what their “friends” would post on the character’s wall.

While delighted for her, I realized what an utter failure my lesson had been. Why? Because I used technology when something less complicated would have been better. Since then I have reflected and decided to ask myself a couple of questions before I plan.

  • Why am I using the computers?
  • Does the effort equal the result?
  • Is there a simpler way to yield the results?

With these guiding questions I can then plan more successful instruction. Now what to do about Myfakewall??????

*A disclaimer – I am no expert on Google Docs and my experience using templates may be unique. I am in no way dissuading others from trying this method

NCTE10

Listening to Carole Boston Weatherford

Listening to Carole Boston Weatherford

My first NCTE conference took place at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Somewhat dreading the “magical” atmosphere filled with children run amok, I was surprised when Disney worked its magic on me. The conference was a delight. I listened to and met many of my “idols’ in the field of literacy. What follows is my notes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Inquiry Circles: Kids Want to Know – Stephanie Harvey and Anne Gouldvis

  • Despite all of the technological changes, children need to think and be curious.
  • Eric Schmidt (Google) “Teachers will be learning how to ask the right questions. Teach people to be curious.”
  • Teachers need to model what they are curious about
  • Einstein – “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.”
  • Passion and wonder are contagious!
  • “Curiosity Coma” Loman
  • Need to explicitly teach thinking (comprehension).
  • We get in the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking.” Camus
  • Learning is the consequence thinking.
  • David Perkins – Smart Schools
  • Comprehension Continuum – Stephanieharvey.com
  • Students need to read metacognitively
  • Facts, Questions, Response form – helps to work out thinking – Interactive reading process
  • Read with a question in mind to synthesize information
  • Turning a heading into a question called the definition question
  • Consequence question – why does it matter? What different does it make? So what…
  • The action question – what can we do about it? How do you think you can help? Can you think of a plan?;
  • The questions a student asks after reading a text are a better assessment than the questions that a student can answer about that text. – P. David Pearson
  • Adopt and adapt our teaching language/instructional moves as their learning language/instructional moves.
  • Sara Holbrook – great poet
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me – Loewen
  • Docs Teach
  • Locate materials, construct focus questions, create mind maps, draw conclusions, explore and compare sources to understand different perspectives, synthesize information across sources, read critically to evaluate information and ideas – who is the author, what is the author’s purpose, perspective, bias
  • Cheyenne Again – Eve Bunting, Irving Toddy
  • Every effort must be made in childhood to teach the young to use their own minds. For one thing is sure, if they don’t make up their own minds, someone will do it for them. Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Writing Circles, Jim Vopat

Keep on Writing in the Real World

  • Endless Mountain Writing Project – part of National Writing Project
  • Authentic writing experiences – interesting, meaningful, useful product, engages, higher level thinking
  • Scribe Notes – a record of what occurred in class on the previous day – a list, a performance, a song, and more, narrative form, students take turn and all participate, post today’s scribe, make a writers chair, give points for doing, “Ransom Note generator” – postcard, letter, ransom note, slide show,
  • Code of Chivalry Project – Make the school chivalrous, discuss the Arthurian Code of Chivalry, Read Sir Gawain and Green Night, Develop a modern code, use modern codes to lead discussion that is bad in school, Gave surveys and disaggregated, made public service announcement after watching PSA already made, premiered project with admin and popcorn,
  • Engagement and Inquiry phase – what issues does the community have? What do we have to say about it? Write a narrative that has an impact like The Lorax, Gathered primary source info by doing interviews, found a documentary on the subject, did collaborative writing, Story maps – Readwritethink, 6 Trait – letting students choose trait to work on

Teaching the Holocaust in Middle School

  • Unit is based on critical literacy. Real content that allows students to deconstruct, interrogate, and be an agent of social change.
  • Help students understand the geography of the time to understand why this is important
  • Refer to Handout for Intro, Prejudice as Oppression, Children of the Holocaust, Resistance, and Action.
  • Bring in picture of loved one and scan, Write about picture that was brought in and share with the class, and then look at archives at USHMM, to find pictures like the one they brought in, and make a comparison,
  • Define prejudice, perpetrator, victim, and bystanders, relating to bullying. So far from the Sea by Eve Bunting
  • Kids – read poetry by the children I Never Thought I’d See Another Butterfly, Create a counter narrative of propaganda – anti-bully for example, Bullet point bio – most important information about person, look at other issues of genocide
  • What did you learn and how are you going to use it in your life now? Answer the question anyway they want as long as it is answered
  • Compare first chapter of Night with the students’ belief system
  • Teachingtheholocaustsocialjustice.wikispaces.com
Pam Munoz Ryan and Lois Lowry

Pam Munoz Ryan and Lois Lowry

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Google Lit Trips

  • Go on the trip with the characters; then students do it themselves
  • Jerome Burg – founder of Google Lit Trips
  • Bring Literature to life, taking students on the same journey with the characters, using technology
  • Engages students in the journey as well as introduce geography concepts, activates background knowledge,
  • Combines digital literacy skill, research, literary study, content skills, reading and writing
  • Need Google Earth 5 – download has flight simulator
  • Go to Google Lit Trips site, download .kmz file
  • Make a folder in Google Earth called Google Lit Trip and drag file there
  • Deselect all layers – click box next to the primary database
  • Check the Terrain and 3D building layers
  • To use with students file must be on all computers
  • Use organizational tools on GLT site
  • Outline expectations such as number of placemarks, pictures, websites, etc
  • Trip enhances not retells the book
  • Email Google to tell them of places not on the software
  • Keepvid.com – save a video to this and then show.
  • Creating paths may be difficult
  • Choose book, plan with a storyboard (image, websites, information)
  • Add new folder to “My Places” in Google Earth
  • Can edit field trips that are already made Right click properties or highlight slide – Get info on Mac
  • Save often or will lose.
  • Can change placemarks

21st Century Literature Circles

  • 21st Century Fluencies – information, solution, creativity, media, collaboration = digital citizens
  • Do three circles three times a year – mini lessons, reading
  • Themes – booklists with various reading levels, brochures, articles of the week – Kelly Gallegher, poem of the week, project ideas
  • Lesson plans – choice, time to read/write, group discussions w/feedback, projects w/21st century skills, norms-essential part
  • Formative assessment: pre- anecdotal notes, surveys, during – article of the week rubric, self-reflection, exit slips, literature circle rubrics, literature circle group assessments, anecdotal notes, Post: literature circle rubrics, literature circle group assessments, literature circle project assessments, summative assessments on indicators
  • Share rubrics before project so students know exactly what is expected. Students choose their project, planning sheets before beginning technology,
  • Google – Education Facebook style websites
  • Told story on Voicethread as the character’s point of view
  • Soundtracks – real world occupations, song categories to support discussion – choose songs that fit main and minor characters, and theme and explanation of why this song fits (written support) and cover art
  • Write a summary of the book, copy and past summary into Wordle.net, create profile for gallery

Jeff Wilhelm and Jim Burke

  • Jeff Wilhelm
  • Little transfer of knowledge taking place.
  • Literary Elements Books have to discuss the “how” and “why” to get to the “what”
  • Think about what expert readers/writers do and then have the students do it.
  • Capitalize on the power of sequencing – where are students (activate background) and build on it.
  • Use inquiry contexts, visual aids, practice with simulated texts, think-alouds, model, mentor, monitor strategic reading
  • Use list that students construct as to ways authors construct characters, setting, etc.
  • Character – What makes a good parent, teacher, or friend, What makes a hero, what is bravery, How to refrain a unit to include inquiry????
  • Setting – How does culture shaper who we are, what do we need to know to live in a certain culture, to what extent to time and place contribute to our understanding of self, To what extent is the American dream accessible to all, refrain a unit based on setting???? Levels of setting, microculture – class, mesoculuture – school community, macroculture politics/culture of the USA, place, time duration as well as the current time, Show pictures of same location in three time periods make inferences at setting, heuristic???? “Whoever’s doing the work is doing the learning.” Literature – you have to create the meaning, Setting is social and psychological – mood Passage, sensory details, Setting is rule setting – use prior experience to figure out the rules. How does setting affects characters, plot and theme
  • Alan Sitomer – What is role of new literaries? How much time to spend on them. Access and keep of with speed of how technology evolves. The Era of the Blend”
  • Move beyond the either/or in the world of technology. Digital reading/writing is going to coexist with traditional reading/writing. Soup of coexistance, teacher will be blenders, Students create compositions that include a spectrum input of technology and ideas
  • Jim Burke – What’s the BigIdea – What does the world expect of me? Look at your resume 25 years in the future. What would happen if they google you name. What would you find in Linked In and Facebook? Interview rotarians, Got interview questions from the net and prepared for an interview, Made a collaborative paragraph.
Watching a Presentation from David Weisner

Watching a Presentation from David Weisner

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Carol Jago

  • Imagination the neglected stepchild of American Education – Eisner
  • Make time for questions during instruction
  • Reading literature feeds the minds for imagination
  • 7 1/2 hours spent by teen on media based technology
  • Blissful productivity – sells video games
  • Need to find a way to feel this way from school related activities
  • Find one poem that’s easy, hard, and one that’s just right – and then analyze why its just right for you, present the just right poem for class
  • School is the place where young people come to watch old people work. – Jago
  • Mass exodus from real world to virtual world.
  • Annie Dillard – on reading

Modeling and Mentoring Literate Lives:: Trusting the Reading Workshop

  • The Life Cycle – Mary Lee Hahn, Teacher needs to be a reader, who belongs to a community of readers, flexibility, student-centered, in the moment, structured, mini-lesson, literature circles, focused instruction, MUST – read aloud, assessment-driven instruction, Choice of independent reading, conversation
  • Reflect and refine Blog – Kathy Meers??
  • Possible Phases of RW – Babymouse, Transition, Self-Challenge, Good Choice
  • Reader’s Notebook – Aimee Buckner – think tracks, Use notebook to jot notes, think deeply, talk with peers to articulate thinking, go back and add thinking, “Reading is Thinking” as well as talking, writing about your thinking, and discovering
  • Self-selecting the next book – Donalyn Miller “forever readers” finding time to read, anticipating book emergencies, book selection, reading list can show trends, look for choosing too easy or too hard, (genre, date finished, difficulty)  Reading List – Fountas  and Pinnell, are they comprehending the book? Book commercial – spontaneous time to promote a book they are reading, In the notebook – books to read list, book passes – janet allen (like speed dating) preview stacks of 5/6 of a genre, write plans for reading (reading resolutions) Notecards or reading notebook habits before and now, think about what they have read,
  • Tools of 21st Century – Franki Sibberson – Abbey loves books video, Melbourne Library, Bill Gaskins, Look for Previews and Podcasts for book previews, Tales2Go. Storytime Anytime app, Duck, Duck, Moose app, Cat in the Hat app, Toy Story iPad app, Consume or produce the media forms today = literacy, Reading in Action – bookcast, book trailer, Book Reviews McKillup Elementary School, Many websites that go with book, The Exquisite Corpse, Toon Book Reader, Spaceheadz, The Search for Wondlad, Skeleton Creek, Hallmark recordable books, Scaredy Squirrel on Facebook, The Pigeon on Twitter, Possum Magic on Google Earth, Twitter TV, Skype an author, QR codes, The Global Read Aloud Program, Laura’s Life Blog, Shelfari – social network for readers – can put together private groups, Voicethread as Book Talk, Judi Morellian Skimming gives a false sense of comprehension

Engagement A Critical Component of Helping Struggling Readers and Writers

  • Kylene Beers – Drive by Daniel Pink – Motivation, RSA Animate Drive, (Turn and talk) Autonomy, Mastery – working to continually get better, Self-directed
  • Linda Rief – middle school teacher, have students read their writing to you, Put best piece of writing on a Portfolio Wall, “lead a writerly life” Donald Graves, Write what matters to them, Have students fill in own report cards, 22 Frames animation software, Sam animation,
  • Kylene Beers/Robert Probst (Response and Analysis) important, students may be read on through students, All roads lead to theme. We read to identify theme. Developing nine lessons – Nice Notice and Note Lessons – helps to look for clues that authors leave in the text, generalizing principle/statement.
  • Lesson of the Elder – that moment in YA novels when, an older, wiser person offers a life lesson or advice to the main characters. What was the advice given to the main character. Often is the theme.
  • Lesson of Contrasts and Contradictions – moment in a story when there is a sharp contrast between what you would expect and what you would see. Why did the character act this way? What does it show me about character development?
  • Think-aloud – not effective, filled with text specific information and is difficult for transfer, unless it has a generalizing statement.
  • The Aha Lesson – point in which a character realizes something and things change – What has he learned and what do you think it will mean?

A New Way to Look At Presentations

ISTE10 and the Twitter feeds this summer were buzzing about Prezi, an online presentation tool. Educators suggested that the way we view students presentations would change based on Prezi. So I decided to check it out. I used Prezi to create an introduction to ELA display.

The learning curve was a bit high for me because I am spatially challenged. I had trouble visualizing what I wanted so I tried to keep it simple. Adding images and even a movie were fairly easy. The movie needed to be in flash format so I had to convert the original movie file. Prezi provides two short tutorials to using this tool but to be really effective I need more.

Here are some further resources.

Basic Prezi Tutorial

The Power and Point of Using Prezi

Using Prezi as a Presentation Tool

A benefit to Prezi is like Google Docs, it in online and therefore available on any networked computer. It does require an account but Prezi offers education licensing with most features for free. Your email is your account log in and must be from an educational institution to qualify.

As always the question is, “why use this over other programs like Google Docs?” Perhaps it is its nonlinear quality that allows students to freely integrate what they have learned. I am still thinking….

In the Beginning

I am not sure what happens over the summer but I always forget that the new students in August are not as proficient as the previous year’s May group. This leads to impatience and frustration on both sides.

I was able to get all of my classes on Google Docs last week. After allowing two classes to sign up  themselves, I personally set up the third class, a process that took about two hours. Why? It seems it took almost that long to undo all of the mistakes of the first two classes. Middle school students do not realize that typing anything incorrect leads to problems. The most prevalent one was inputting the wrong email address, thereby never receiving an email to verify the account. The second problem, teachers who allow students to make up their own password. After the summer break, no one remembered them. As students (and teachers) become more comfortable with using this technology perhaps some of these problems will resolve themselves. In the mean time, I need to take three deep cleansing breaths and move on. The results are worth it. I have received two assignments this evening. They are graded and entered into my grade book. The convenience of it all equals the time spent.

I tried a new tool today. It is a virtual whiteboard sponsored by a French company, Edoboard. Over all I was pleased but it took some work to get to that point. Edoboard requires Flash Player and it seems that all of but one of my eMacs did not have the version required. So lunch was spent installing the plugin. I had to invite my students to participate. In each class, one invitation had an error and I had to re-invite. Students filled out log in information, verified and entered the classroom. The assignment was to compare Ponyboy and Soda, characters from “The Outsiders.” In my first block I allowed all of the students to input information at the same time. This involved some problem solving to share space and information. I wasn’t sure if that approach was successful so in the second block, I took volunteers of two and three students. The students experienced no space problems but some students opted to not volunteer. While the first block was chaotic, there were some very good observations. The second block was more controlled but the product was mediocre. I am going to have to reflect on how to best use Edoboard in the future.

I love how technology can make tasks easier, more productive, and motivating but to get to that end requires some set up time, patience, and time to allow the students to get used to learning in this way.

Word Magnets

I have been teaching in a computer lab for the last seven years and threw most of my “make and take” type stuff away. Recently I wished I still had those strips of words that could be manipulated around on a magnet board. I wanted students to rearrange words in a sentence to better understand the parts of speech. I even bought some magnet tape and  foam letters.

About that time Candace Shively, in her weekly update at TeachersFirst, reviewed “Word Magnets.” I quickly accessed the site and was amazed with how easy they were to use and exactly what I needed. The bag of craft supplies will remain in the closet.

Word Magnets is just that; an electronic version of the magnets that kids play with on the refrigerator. For my initial foray into using them, I had the students create sentences with various types of dependent clauses. They immediately got to work and came up with very good examples of whatever I asked. The ease of use (vs boring paper and pencil) seem to motivate. I could quickly monitor as I walked around and drag, remove or insert to make corrections.

Some problems did occur. Occasionally a computer froze up. Later in the day many more did. Refreshing the site corrected the problem but the student was dismayed if a large amount of work was deleted. We found that on Macs that Firefox worked better than Safari. Initially I had the students write each word of the sentence as a single magnet but later found that clauses worked better with coordinating conjunctions being separate magnets. You might want to think about your lesson and then decide what set up works best.

I guess I get excited about the simplest things but I believe that technology’s first benefit is “better and faster” and that is what Word Magnets does. I look forward to better ways to use this tool.