This blog will be a reflection of my experiences this summer and beyond, as I strengthen my PLN and discover new Web 2.0 tools that will engage my students in authentic learning experiences. Also, this blog will be used as my portfolio - a collection of created "products" - as I explore different online tools and activities. Through technology, we have the opportunity to connect and communicate with individuals from all over the world. My hope is that this blog will develop into a resource and inspiration for other educators.

Friday, July 15, 2011

MyFakeWall :)

After my exploration, I created a list of various tools I could implement in my classroom, which would give my students the opportunity to “create” on the web.  Some of the tools found in my post Imagine & Create are tools I have used in the past and will continue to use.  When introducing new tools to my students, I want to be sure there is a definite purpose for the activity.  The tools are excellent, but I do not want to use them just to "use them".  There needs to be more.  I also do not want to introduce a new tool every activity, but at the same time allow my students to explore new tools, if they wish!  My goal for next year is to introduce my 4th graders to around 10 tools that will give them the opportunity to ‘create.’  Hopefully, when given a project my students will have a ‘box of tools’ they can fallback on in the future, after meaningful, authentic practice and creations with these tools.

Beginning of the Year:
  •  All of my incoming 4th graders have had practice with Glogster, and I intend to begin the school year with creating an “All about Me” glog. I will encourage them to add videos and music, which are aspects of Glogster that my students may be unfamiliar with (after talking with previous teachers).
  • Through Glogster and blogging, I will teach my students how to write good comments and incorporate a “critical friends” piece.  Below is a great video to use for writing a good comment:
  • ·         We start the year with a social studies unit on Harrisburg, our state capital.  During our unit, I will incorporate a project using Prezi (a tool some have experience with) and also include new options: 280Slides and Google presentation.  My students will choose various places (cities or landmarks) in Pennsylvania to research, using GoogleDocs to collaborate and create a presentation.
My New "Create" Project:
On my previous post, I marked the specific tools I have used in the classroom - along with NEW tools I hope to implement next year! I have many ideas, but wanted to focus on one specifically for my project:

·         Each year we are expected to teach our students about famous Pennsylvanians, during the extensive study of our state. This becomes a challenge, when trying to ‘cover’ an entire state’s history, places, people, events, natural resources, regions, industries… For my project last year my students had the opportunity to choose anything from famous places, famous people, explorers, or Native American groups for their project.  The students became the experts on their topic.  For their presentation, they had the ability to choose between Prezi, Glogster, PowerPoint, and Google Presentation.  Well…they all chose Prezi.  This year, I plan on separating PA's famous places and people into two projects.  My students have used their blogs to learn new facts and gather information from other people around the world & GoogleDocs as a collaboration tool. I plan on using similar methods this year – however, my students are going to create a fake Facebook profile page belonging to their famous Pennsylvanian.  Here is a link to an example of Ben Franklin's page, who happens to be from PA! 

I am super excited about this project and cannot wait to post my students’ work! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Imagine and Create...

Growing up, I was never an artist, or creative for that matter.  When drawing illustrations in the classroom I make fun of my terrible artwork, which more often than not is indecipherable. For this reason and many more, I absolutely LOVE Web2.0 tools that allow me to create and show my recently discovered artistic ability. With paper and pencil, I am a disaster. With my computer and the internet, I can create a masterpiece. This year my students began using tools such as, Glogster, Prezi, Animoto, Wordle/Tagxedo and Little Bird Tales, to create various projects and activities on the web. Just like adults, we have students that strongly dislike projects because of the 'neatness' and 'creativity' categories on the rubrics.  With these online tools, students feel confident in their design and final product. My students were motivated when given the freedom to choose and create a product that would show what they had learned, because they were using their strengths. The sharing and commenting aspect of the tools was also a motivating factor.  Over and over they would mention how special they felt when others appreciated their work and provided meaningful feedback. Exploring the web in search of these tools for my students and myself has been the highlight of my summer, as far as 'work' is concerned! :)

Thanks to Cool Tools for Schools and Go Web2.0 for an extensive list of tools! The first day of my exploration, led me to create a list of tools that sounded interesting and seemed appropriate for my classroom.  My next task was to dwindle down the list to tools that I wanted to investigate further and try out myself.  Here is my "shorter" list: 

Note: ** = used last year, and plan to use again this year!
  •  Digital Storytelling Tools
    • **Little Bird Tales: Allows children to upload their own artwork or use a drawing tool when creating their story on the web. The author can use text and/or record their voice. (Elementary)
    • Storybird: Collaborative storytelling - Begin by choosing an artist or theme (visual images) and use these pictures to tell your story...
    • Story Jumper: Start a story with a seven-step story starter process. When you are finished you can choose to share the book or even publish into a hardcover copy ($$).
    • Tikatok: Students can create and share their own book - this site also gives an opportunity to publish your book.
  • Presentation Tools (These tools all have the same purpose, I look forward to giving my students many different options to choose from.)
    • **Prezi: Easily create exciting and engaging presentations that zoom in and out around the canvas!
    • 280Slides: Similar to the Powerpoint, with the ability to access anywhere and share with others on the web. This tool has built-in media searches for Flickr and YouTube, which makes it easy and handy to add videos and images to your presentation.
    • PreZentit: Working on a new version...but looks neat.
    • Empressr: Create an online slideshow to share with others - includes 3D transitions.
    • Viddix: Create a video presentation and connect various content to your video (images, documents, websites) on a second panel.
  • Animation and Videos
    • **Animoto: Great video slideshow maker, the biggest challenge for student use is that the videos are short unless you pay for an account or are an educator. 
    • Memoov: Struggling to access their website, but looks interesting.
    • **Blabberize: Take any picture and make it blabber! :) 
    • **Voki: Customize your avatar and add your voice - can be embedded into blogs and websites. New: Voki for Education!
    • GoAnimate: Make animations easily, similar to Voki.
  • Others:
    • GoogleMaps(My Places)/MapMe: Create maps of your favorite places and destinations - so many creative ways to use these tools in the classroom.
    • Pixton for Schools: Interactive and teacher-moderated comic strip creator, which looks awesome to use (easy to use and fun) -- only downside is a cost for the program.
    • ToonDoo: Free tool to create cartoon comics or books.
    • **Glogster EDU: Create online posters. Easy to setup your class with usernames and passwords.
    • **Wordle/Tagxedo: "Generate word clouds from the text you provide."
    • Creaza Education: "An engaging suite of creative tools (4) where learners can create, publish, and share digital stories." - This looks really neat, I am still looking into this! Any comments or advice would be much appreciated!
    • My Fake Wall:  Students can create 'fake' Facebook profile pages for characters in story or famous people, groups, etc.  Excellent tool and excited to use in my classroom! :)  
    • Museum Box: Make a virtual box using text and media to describe a person's life or event!
    My explorations have led me here...now to determine which of the above tools to use for my project. :) If you have any classroom experience with any of the above tools, I would appreciate your advice and expertise! :)

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    A lesson learned...

    "One fails forward to success." - Charles F. Kettering
    Luckily, I received my current teaching job a few weeks after graduating from Eastern University. This was definitely a check off my life's to-do list! Making lists is an obsession of mine, and a habit I try to break! I have grocery lists, classroom lists, around-the-house lists, and so on...obviously, I would have a life list.  My life list is the only one I do not write down, since that would be strange to say the least! I was ecstatic to start the school year, while being slightly apprehensive to begin my career with 6th graders. From other teachers and friends, I heard 'rumors' about 6th grade behavior, difficulty of curriculum, and not to mention talk about individual students in my room.  Am I ready for this? 

    Failure #1: Classroom Management
    Each and every year, I enjoy my students' unique personalities and talents they bring to our classroom family.  I would not say my students were out-of-hand my first year, but I made the mistake of wanting to be "liked."  Maybe I was having my own popularity contest...I wanted to be their friend and their favorite! I spent the previous summer setting up my classroom and diving into the curriculum.  I did not take much time to "visualize" my classroom routines, management plan, or much else.  There were behaviors I did not address the way I should, which later turned disrespectful.  A few months in, I realized my problem. It was time to sink or swim, do or die. I took my Christmas break to research strong management plans and decide the specific plan that would be best for myself and my students.  I had a classroom meeting with my students, apologizing for my lack of discipline and management system, explained the new procedure, and jumped right in! I struggled with being consistent for awhile, but by the end of the year my classroom was running smoothly and I felt more comfortable in my own skin.  
    Each year I tend to change my classroom management system - sometimes in small amounts and other times all together.  I am going into my fourth year of teaching (now in 4th grade) and I am still trying to figure out what works for me!  My students and I work together throughout the year to create a safe, accepting environment where we can learn from each other and have a good time! Lets just say I no longer "forget" my management plan! :)

    Failure #2: "I am the teacher."
    As you work with your curriculum and teach the subject matter - you begin to learn more and more about what you are teaching.  My first year - I knew what was in my teacher manuals.  It was hard for me to get my head above water (wow, there is so much you learn EVERY year, but especially year one!).  I did not feel confident during each lesson, because I was 'afraid' that I would not be able to answer their questions. Come on, I was the teacher - I should know this stuff! One day, a student of mine made a correction to something I said, adding his expertise to the discussion.  Not wanting to look 'bad', I made the mistake of telling him that he was wrong.  Maybe not exactly in those words, but nevertheless it was my point.  I felt terrible, actually sick to my stomach all night. I researched the topic and his thoughts, realizing I was ultimately wrong.  The next day, I discussed in science class my error and apologized to the student.  I explained that we all make mistakes and I do not know EVERYTHING.  I could sense my students' appreciation, and felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders.  We created a poster saying "questions we have" and would list specific questions after lessons, activities, reading assignments, etc. My students would be motivated to solve our problems & questions.  
    This failure reminded me a lot about the inquiry-based learning we read about this week.  Ultimately, this experience changed my view of my students. We are all learners in the classroom.  I appreciate their knowledge and strengths, giving them opportunities to 'teach'.  The past couple years, I have continued to encourage my students to ask questions about what I am teaching... 

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Web Exploration: Organizing & Collecting Content

    When using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, my confidence lies in the tools where my students create, explore and present information through project-based learning.  This is where my exploration began during the 2010-2011 school year, as I began implementing 21st century skills and Web 2.0 technology tools in my day-to-day classroom activities.  In the beginning of last week, I focused on finding and researching different tools that would allow me to organize and collect content from the web. In my exploration I found: NetVibes, Delicious, Paper.li, Diigo, Symballo, LiveBinders, and more. Before I made my final decision on the project, I needed to first research and spark conversations on Twitter about how some of these tools could be used in an elementary classroom. 

    As a result of my searching, I have decided with the collaboration of my friend and colleague @Beverly_Libell to focus my project on using Diigo, a social bookmarking tool, with my students this year.  How will I use Diigo in the classroom?  For students, I believe it is important to start with discussing the importance of social bookmarking and how using this tool will help them share information with each other and others outside of school. My early lessons will consist of modeling to my students how to bookmark and tag, how to add to a list, and how to write a good description of the site. I started my Diigo with six teacher-created lists (used to organize the bookmarks): technology tools, reading, math, science, social studies, and interactive games.  As we work with Diigo, students will be encouraged to work together to organize our content even further by adding more lists to our library.  Once we practice using Diigo for the "basics," we will move on to learning how to annotate notes and share our information.  I am currently in the process of typing an informational letter to post on my classroom website for my students' parents.  In my letter, I will inform the parents about the importance and student benefit of using Diigo and also encourage the parents to download the Diigo toolbar at home. 

    I have also created my own Symbaloo webmix with a variety of websites that I use often in my classroom and at home, which is currently my homepage on Firefox.  When seeing Symbaloo (thank you, @MrTRice_Science), I decided that this dashboard was more appealing and elementary friendly than NetVibes (my opinion).  After creating my own webmix,  I am debating how I want to use this tool in my classroom.  I would love some ideas in this area, especially with my focus being on the use of Diigo. I do not want my students to be using two different tools for a similar purpose.  Here is my personal webmix.

    Through our use of Diigo, I hope to find other 4th grade classrooms to share our accounts with and form groups within and outside of our school. Last year I used Diigo as a professional tool and with my fourth grade team (which did not catch on, yet!).  I am excited for my students to have access to our "McCabe 4th" account (all using a classroom gmail account to log-in) and watching them learn together as they add content to our content library! :)

    I would appreciate any thoughts or advice for using these new tools in my 4th grade classroom.

    Staying Connected...

    In September 2010, I signed up for my own professional Twitter account.  Before PLP, I viewed Twitter as the social network used to follow celebrities and people out of my "average-life" reach! While Facebook was the social network I used to connect with people I knew and therefore, were within my reach. Since then my view has changed.

    My first tweet was definitely exciting - I think I actually typed in "this is my first tweet." Silly...I know! :)  Our principal, @Lyn Hilt, encouraged us to begin participating in #edchat, #elemchat, and to start "lurking." She would retweet our messages to help us reach a broader audience, in hopes that we would build our PLN.  I also found lists of educators on Twitter to follow through Google searches and blog posts. It was intimidating for me to tweet in the beginning. Usually, I am extremely shy before you get to know me then, once you know me, it becomes hard to keep me quiet! :) I did not know the people on Twitter and I felt like they did not know me. At first, I felt as though I was an outsider to those who had already learned to rely on one another as they connected on Twitter. As a result of my Twitter insecurities, I lurked for many months.  I would tweet randomly throughout the school year - mainly asking for comments on my students' new blog posts using #comments4kids.

    I will admit, 'lurking' did give me a lot of interesting ideas and methods to use in my classroom and I learned more than I thought was possible. But is that fair?  I am not sharing my ideas with others...this is how you begin to build a true PLN. This may be the BIG reason I feel disconnected when using Twitter. Recently, I have made a few new connections with other fourth grade teachers, one of them from our class: @pattigrayson.  We have hopes of connecting our classrooms next year and I am super excited to begin working together. Also, taking the advice of individuals in Teaching 2.0: Learning in a Connected World, I tried to participate in my first #4thchat on Monday night.  I started with a few tweets in the beginning, which was very impressive for me; however, there were very few responses to what I said.  Soon, there were tons of tweets pouring into the chatroom. It became difficult for me and I stopped participating. How do I stay connected in a Twitter chat? I know this is a great way to "meet", collaborate and learn from other people.

    To this day, I am not sure if blogging will be my thing - but I do know that Twitter will allow me to learn from and collaborate with educators from around the world. This is a very powerful thing, and I hope that by the end of the summer I can truly say that "I feel connected." 

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Initial Thoughts...

    To start - I am thrilled to continue my professional development through this course and program, especially after a fantastic and valuable experience through my involvement in PLP this past school year. I have been teaching for a total of 3 years - definitely a "new-be" in the education world.  So when I say, 'I have always used technology in my classroom' -  do not be shocked, since I have not been teaching long! :) I believe that my job as a teacher is not only a satisfying career, but an important one.  More than ever before, education is at a crossroads.  We need to choose as teachers whether or not we will make the change that is beneficial and necessary for our students.  Change is not always fun, but it will always be a part of our lives.  I know, without a doubt, that I have developed more professionally this year through PLP than in my four years of college (should I say that?!?!).  Social technologies make it possible and handy to learn from and exchange ideas with educators around the world.  As I began to develop my PLN (Professional Learning Network) beyond the walls of my classroom & school building - the learning far exceeded my expectations. I am not where I want to be (by any means!)...but I believe I am on the right track.  

    As I begin the process towards my masters degree, I want to reflect on my initial thoughts and reactions to Alan November's Ted talk and Randy Nelson's video. I agree with Alan when he discusses how students need to be involved in the own learning.  He says, "it's absolutely fascinating what they will do without a grade, without money, just because they...own it, built it!" Students need to be engaged and participating in a learning environment where they are given authentic learning experiences.  Do we have a meaningful purpose for each and every assignment?  To be honest, I know there are times in my classroom where this has not been the whole truth! When the students take ownership of their learning, make choices, collaborate with others, become connected learners, and have a purpose - this is when learning explodes!  Through multiple projects, I have seen the positive results of this in my classroom.  One in particular, my students had the choice to pick a topic of interest (within the curriculum) and become the 'expert.'  The students used GoogleDocs to collaborate with their group members, as they researched information and created their unique presentations.  It was hard for me to give up the control and allow the students to go for it; however, the results WOWed me! :) As the students presented,  other students became interested in the topics and researched even more. They started working with other members in the classroom to begin new projects (on their own, without me giving them the assignment).  It was totally student-directed, and they learned SO MUCH from each other. 

    Here is where I get stuck - as I, along with other educators, begin to shift the ownership of learning to the kids from the teacher - what is the most effective way to organize your classroom? How do I get to this place? I have been making small changes, by incorporating various tech tools and 21st century skills in my classroom; however, I do not want to simply give assignments/projects here and there.  I want to figure out how to create this culture of learning in my classroom - everyday!  Throughout this summer and the rest of this program, my hope is to develop an even stronger PLN where I can learn from others and hopefully someday answer these questions and many more... 

    "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." - Henry Ford