Interestingly, as I looked back at all of the feedback, there was quite a bit of overlap. Even though these projects were completed by different students in different grade levels, many of them shared the same takeaways.
how easy it is to communicate with people in different time zones and in other countries using technology.
writing feedback for other students makes you think and helps you practice your Writing Workshop skills – it’s like using Writing Workshop in real life.
to accept other people’s ways of working and how to put our ideas together through cooperation.
to work together with partners better to complete our goal even if we were making mistakes.
we have a lot in common with our global partners.
sharing our work online made me aware of what we were saying.
that we got to work with different people from other classes that we didn’t know how to work with, so we learned how to work with them and adapt to their way of working.
getting to know my international partner by reading their introduction and feeling like I know my partner even though they’re not in my class here at school.
how we could write about what we wanted to because it’s more fun to have your own choice for what to write about. I’m more of an expert on what I like.
that because it’s online we can watch it again and show it to our family.
that we were able to be creative with a partner.
Suggestions for improvement:
It would be nice to go on the wiki regularly and leave discussions to communicate with our partners.
I would like more practice being a peer-editor, especially on revising writing instead of just spelling and grammar.
I’m wondering if we’re going to use another wiki next year because we already know how to use it. I would like to do the project again next year because we’re experts (whole class agrees).
When I look back over this compiled feedback (and others from earlier this year), I am so happy to see that these students are becoming 21st century learners, as we have defined here at ISB. They are actually noticing and discussing their opportunities to collaborate and communicate globally, to be creative, to use a variety of technology tools in real life situations, to learn from their mistakes and to share their learning with others. These are the kinds of experiences we want all of our ISB students to have!
One other commonality that really stands out is that all of the students would like more opportunities to participate in similar projects. They feel a sense of accomplishment and growing expertise in these new modes of learning and would like more classroom experiences which include global collaborations. It seems that our students are ready for these kinds of experiences to be embedded throughout the curriculum at all grade levels.
What do your students think about their experiences with global collaborations?
One of my first tips for any teacher wishing to authentically embed technology into their classroom experience is always to start small. It’s easier to build on a simple, achievable idea, than it is to trim down an all-consuming tech monstrosity.
have her students experience tracking and sharing their developing understanding about their hands-on science experiments in a way that would be easy to manage and very student focused.
visually document the stages of growth in the life cycle of a seed.
utilize student “class experts” to ensure that the project was completed as independently as possible by the students.
In order to meet these goals, and provide a very simple start, we decided to use VoiceThread. Because this was the first time Rebecca had done a project like this, she wanted to make sure that the technology portion of the project was manageable. So, we decided to create class experts who would be responsible for different aspects of the project, which would allow Rebecca to focus on the science, instead of the technology.
Here’s what we did:
First, we selected a group of 4 (volunteer) student photographers to be responsible for documenting the daily changes in their seeds, over a period of 7 – 10 days (to capture the full life cycle). These students would take pictures of their own seeds, as well as help other students use the cameras to photograph their seeds. Once all of the pictures for the day were taken, the camera experts were responsible for uploading all of the pictures onto Rebecca’s computer.
When all of the pictures were taken, Rebecca and I chose which ones to put on the class VoiceThread. When had all of the pictures in a VT, we then showed the class and had them choose which ones they wanted to describe in partners. They spent some time working with their partners to write a script for their selected picture.
Once they were ready to record, I worked with 2 groups at a time to record their scripts. Each student had their own identity in Rebecca’s VoiceThread account with a hand-drawn self-portrait scanned and uploaded to VT as their avatar.
After the students completed their recordings, I shared the completed VT with my PLN via Twitter to show the students how many people would be enjoying their work.
Finally, we had a class discussion about what we’d done well and what could be improved. Among the things the students noticed were the need to speak loudly and clearly, to sound professional, and how drawing and labeling the photo really helped the viewer understand the topic. They were amazed and thrilled to see comments from so many other teachers around the world, thanks to you!
Here’s the completed VoiceThread:
After we reflected with the students, Rebecca and I realized that students learn best from seeing their own work (as opposed to samples) after having experienced the entire process from beginning to end. They are then able to focus on sharing their learning, instead of the ins and outs of the technology tools. So, we decided to repeat the basic process of the project with the next part of the unit, studying crayfish.
We also wanted to add more opportunity for student input, so this time around, we asked the class to choose which pictures to include in the VoiceThread, to select which picture they would describe and give it a title, and to agree on a title for the entire VT.
Here is our second completed VoiceThread:
As you can see, the students applied all of the ideas they generated during the first reflection: improved clarity and volume in their speaking, and increased use of the drawing tool to label the photographs.
Ideally, if we had more time in the school year, we would have repeated this process once more, this time with each student (or partnership) completing their very own VT from beginning to end.
After the success of these two projects, I asked Rebecca to share her experiences in our SpeedGeeking faculty meeting. Here’s what she had to say to our 4 prompts:
What was the impact on student learning?
The most valuable impact was the gain I saw in students’ use of specific language to describe their observations.
Observing students’ initial attempts to tell what was happening in the picture was a formative assessment.
When the words “stuff” and “thing” were banned and students had to generate the description using the scientific vocabulary taught in the FOSS investigation, it became clear where they were lacking understanding. This gave me the opportunity to clarify or re-teach points.
When students later wrote an assessment response about what was happening with a sprouting seed, I could see more exact language and explanations.
Having to express themselves orally and fluently was also a learning experience for most students.
What was easy?
Once Kim met with the classroom “photo experts” and taught them a few pointers about using the camera and how to download the pictures to iPhoto, the picture taking was easy. Now the students are teaching each other and helping each other become better photographers.
Kim orchestrated the recording for the voice thread, but this seemed easy since the students had worked out their scripts in advance.
Uploading the photos and individual student identification portraits took time but was also easy to do.
What was challenging?
Making detailed observations and clearly using the correct words in the descriptions was challenging for many students.
Careful planning was needed to keep students on task on recording days.
Steps to complete the project:
Students viewed a sample of a voice thread. (Kim)
Photo/Camera experts (4 students) were taught camera basics: photo tips and downloading pictures. (Kim)
Student online identity pictures (self-portraits from the beginning of the year) were scanned and uploaded to voice thread. (Khun Kob, Rebecca, Kim)
Students photographed the sprouting process while making their daily observations. (Students)
Photos were selected for this project. (Rebecca)
Students picked a picture to describe and worked with a partner to write a script describing the picture. (Students)
Students recorded scripts for their respective pictures. (Students & Kim)
Students viewed and critiqued the final project.
Total classroom time: 4-5 class periods (not counting the picture taking during seed observations). While recording was being done outside the class with Kim (2 periods), other class work could continue in the classroom.
It would have been easy to develop a large-scale project using a variety of tools for this unit (I’m seeing a wiki, with the life cycle of a seed mapped out, VTs, pictures, and videos embedded on each page, links to external sources and global partners collaborating), but starting small enabled both Rebecca and her class to enjoy the project, see the potential of the technology, and build the confidence to try it again only a few weeks later. Establishing a successful and positive first experience with technology is a surefire way to encourage teachers, students and parents to keep building those skills and to continue using new tools to enhance learning.
All too often, teachers think that they should use a tool only once and then move on to something else. On the contrary, I have found that using the same tool a number of times not only helps deepen student understanding of both the power and limitations of that specific tool, but it also helps them focus on their learning instead of just the technology. The first time students use a tool, they are focused on all of the bells and whistles, the second time they’re more focused on sharing or presenting their learning using the new tools, the third time they’re “old pros” at the tool and can focus entirely on the information they’re sharing.
What do you think? What are the pro’s and con’s of using the same tool more than once (if it’s the right tool for the task)?
Tara, Jeff and I host these sessions in the Learning Hub on the first Wednesday of every month in order to build parental understanding of the ways that technology is changing society, and therefore, changing education. Every month we watch a short video and then discuss the implications on education and learning, always with practical examples from classrooms here at ISB. Each of our sessions is re-capped in our community blog, Connect 2.0, for those parents that can’t attend face-to-face.
Each of these sessions gives us the opportunity to understand a parent’s perspective on technology, share exciting projects our students are engaged in, and help clear up any misconceptions about the use of technology in the classroom. We have been fortunate to build some lasting relationship with the parents who willingly spend one morning a month in the Hub.
Although our numbers fluctuate every month – usually depending on the topic and competing events at school – we are hoping that the positive experiences parents have had with us will spread throughout the elementary school.
In fact, the wonderful parents who regularly spend the first Wednesday of every month with us have shared some of their reasons for attending:
I want to thank Tara, Kim and Jeff for hosting us ES parents at the monthly Technology meetings this school year. WOW! It is so wonderful to be able to explore and discuss how technology is affecting us as parents, not to mention learning what our kids are doing on the IT front…or want to be doing…or shouldn’t be doing…or will be doing whether we want them to or not. I’ve learned that by understanding what is “out there” and being able to have open discussions with our children about these things (instead of ignoring it) is paramount on the parenting front! Plus it’s always great to gain insight that can help us with our daily lives…whether or not we are currently in the work force or plan to reenter it in the coming years. Thank you and I look forward to these opportunities again next year.
These quick and friendly appointments have represented a valuable opportunity for me to
get more familiar with the most recent technological updates, realizing how easy it could be just trying (podcasting – I did it and now we are getting addicted to it !)
finally starting to use the various instruments we have at our disposal (Facebook – I do not hide my name anymore, just know how to use it protecting our privacy !)
get a bit of understanding of the new world into which our kids are born and immersed and have a first clue about how different their learning experience is compared with ours
I also enjoyed the formula (monthly, about 1 hour long, right after kids enter their classes) and hope you will continue offering us these useful updates.
I attend the Parent Technology Meetings for the light, non-filling, breakfast items that complement the coffee. Just kidding…
I attend the Parent Technology Meetings to learn what my children’s world looks like and what their future holds in the realm of technology. How can we, as parent’s, help guide our children, if we are not familiar with their world. Today’s classroom (libraries, household, businesses)…today’s world is completely unlike the one I grew up with. It is continually changing.
These meeting give me a chance to become educated about technology. I am learning what my children are doing in school, with technology. I am learning how the technology works so that I can use and understand it. I am learning the benefits of technology.
These sessions give me a place to express my lack of understanding, my apprehensions, my thoughts. I share what I feel, I ask questions and I learn from others. We come from different points along the technology timeline, depending on our age. I am able to hear differing viewpoints. This allows me to evaluate and form educated opinions about technology.
The sessions are invigorating. I may not grasp everything that I learn, but I am trying. It will make things easier, because not just their world is changing, my world is changing as well. I don’t want to be left behind.
I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to learn more about technology through these eye opening sessions.
In order to continue to promote these sessions, we’ve already organized a great list of topics for our monthly sessions in the 2009-10 school year, for those parents that like to plan in advance:
September 2009: An Introduction to the Ways Education is Changing in a Digital World: an introduction to the major technological changes that are currently shaping society and changing education. We will also give an overview of all of the sessions for the rest of the year.
October 2009: An Introduction to Blogging: What is a blog? How and why do people blog? How can parents get connected to all the teacher and student blogs being authored at ISB?
November 2009: An Introduction to RSS: What is RSS? How can it help me stay connected to learning happening at ISB, as well as more personal interests (like gardening or travel)? Bring your own computer and we’ll help you set up your own RSS account!
December 2009: An Introduction to Podcasting & iTunes: What is a podcast? How and why do people podcast? What are some great podcasts for students and parents to listen to and watch? Bring your own computer and we’ll help you subscribe (for free) to podcasts from ISB and around the world!
February 2010: An Introduction to Digital Literacy: What are the new literacies for the 21st Century? How is the understanding of literacy changing in education? How are ISB students learning and using 21st century literacy skills?
March 2010: An Introduction to Social Networking: What is social networking? How are your children using social networking both in school and outside of school? How can we use social networking strategies for learning?
April 2010: An Introduction to Wikis: What is a wiki? How and why do people use wikis? What is the controversy over Wikipedia? Plus, we’ll share some examples of wikis being used for learning at ISB.
May 2010: Summer Tech Activities With Your Kids! Some great tech-rich activities you can do with your children over the summer, like: starting a family travel blog, taking control of your summer vacation pictures, finding the top 10 kid-friendly podcasts for long car trips or plane rides, or making your own summer travel video for YouTube!
Overall, these sessions have been a big success! We’re actively spreading the word about new kinds of learning all students should be regularly experiencing in the classroom, we’re helping parents understand why this kind of learning is important, and we’re helping build a strong voice among our parents to share that feedback with our admin team.
One of the new things we started this year was having parents actually try some of these tools during our sessions. We had a hands-on Facebook training where parents were able to create their own Facebook account, which they really appreciated. As you can see, we’re planning a few more hands-on sessions for next year in order to help parents actively engage in these new media.
What are you doing to help your parents connect to the new ways of learning in your school?
It’s that time of year again. The time when all fifth graders start worrying about moving up to sixth grade. The transition from top of the elementary school to bottom of the middle school is not an easy one to make, as I so clearly remember.
So, as part of our CoETaIL course 2, Chrissy, Diane and I have developed a fun, quick and simple project to help ease the transition to middle school for our grade fives. Last year Diane and I did a very similar project with her ESL students and it was a huge hit!
One important facet of the project is to realize that all fifth graders around the world are going through the same challenges, so, as one aspect of the project, we have created a very simple VoiceThread (and wiki) and would love to have other students contribute and share their concerns:
We would absolutely love it if you and your students would be willing to share their thoughts about moving on to sixth grade with us! If you’re interested, please add your info here or leave a comment on this post and we’ll contact you directly.
There are a few things I particularly love about this project
The focus on bringing in our students’ individual cultures and personal experiences by asking them to reflect on a specific inspirational saying in their first language. I have this vision of the conversation our students are having with their parents when they ask them about inspirational sayings and how this can help them deal with the challenges they might face in life.
The looks on the students faces when they realize kids all around the world have the same concerns as they do, that we’re all the same in so many ways.
Just in case you’re interested, here’s our UbD unit planner for grade 5 core classroom and ESL pull-out:
Extend oral language through conversation
Build confidence with oral language, especially in a conversational format
Retain natural fluency during presentations and/or recording
Build confidence to engage in spontaneous dialogue based on focused topics
Develop and uncover strategies to cope with life changes, through the lens of transitioning to sixth grade
Conversational language is crucial to efficient and clear communication
Conversational dialogue requires all participants to be responsive
Why is conversational language important to communication?
How can we improve our conversational language?
How can the words of wise people help us discover changes we can make within ourselves?
Goal: You will produce a podcast that showcases strategies, teachings, inspirational sayings and experiences to help fifth grade students succeed in sixth grade around the world.
Role: You will work in teams to research, author, record and broadcast your podcast
Audience: Students moving on around the world though iTunes, class blog, and the internet.
Situation: You are moving on to sixth grade and need a variety of strategies, teachings, inspirational sayings and experiences that will help you succeed.
Product Performance: Your podcast will be posted on the class blog and on iTunes. A successful podcast will include:
Strong, clear speaking voice
Modulated voice with emotion and emphasis
Teachings or inspirational sayings that can directly provide guidance for students transitioning to sixth grade
3 strategies linked to an experience that sixth graders will have designed to help fifth graders succeed
A written script with proper grammar
Engaging language, intro & outro, and audio enhancements.
Adding still images to the podcast
Six Facets of Understanding
Explain: After completing a self-assessment of your oral language (through GB recording), explain which areas you, personally, need to improve upon, why and how you will you have improved.
Interpret: Share an inspirational saying via the class blog (in translation if not in English) and describe a personal experience when this saying was beneficial. Sayings could include personal images, or audio recordings.
Apply: Collaborate with partner classes around the world to produce a VoiceThread describing the challenges and opportunities of moving on, as well as find commonalities among all students.
Perspective: Listen to a “real” podcast or book about a life change (anything that can be found and is appropriate). Discuss as a class, or in partners, how the broadcaster or author coped with the change using strategies, inspirational sayings or teachings.
Self-Knowledge: Personal Action Plan: Begin with a personal reflection of a similar experience to determine your successful coping strategies, develop an action plan to put those strategies, along with the new ones learned during this unit, into practice next year.
Empathize: In partners, role-play the first day of school – one person is the teacher, one is the student. Reflect on the experience with your partner.
We would love for you to join us in this project! Please feel free to leave a comment here or add your school to the wiki. We’ll be working on the VoiceThread during the last week of May, but please feel free to add your comments whenever you’re ready!
Here at ISB we use the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop model of literacy instruction. We have been fortunate to have the wonderful Maggie Moon consult with us on a regular basis over the last two year.
One of the best things about working with Maggie is that she is open-minded about what literacy can mean and how to ensure we meet the needs of our students in today’s world. Last year we started on a path to define digital literacy and to see how we can fit (at least some) aspects of digital literacy into the Workshop model (which does not reference anything beyond the traditional view of reading and writing).
This year, with the addition of Jeff and Tara, we are continuing to push forward and have begun to develop a full Writer’s Workshop unit focused on digital literacy. Our plan is to implement this unit in September of 2009 in grade 5, with Tara, Jeff and I co-teaching in our 7 grade 5 classrooms (that’s going to be an interesting logistical nightmare, since they all teach Writer’s Workshop at the same time and there’s only 3 of us and 7 of them…)
We are only in the initial stages of the planning process, following the Understanding by Design format, and I would love to get some feedback from you!
Here’s what we’ve got so far (we’re using a Google Doc, so planning updates can be found here):
Personal Narrative with Blogging
Students will begin to understand:
Purpose and audience for communication determine the appropriate media choice.
Design and layoutimpact the quality and effectiveness of communications.
reflect on, organize, analyze, interpret, and synthesize informationeffectively communicate and create ideas.
Students will begin to understand:
Writers attempt to have a story unfold in a show, not tell, fashion through well-chosen details that make a story come alive
How do I effectively communicate?
GRASPS Task (still working on the wording here, essential the entire blog will be the task)
Build Understanding Through the 6 Facets:
Explain: Reflective blog post: After collecting entries: try various stories to see how it goes – select a story and improve it, why did you choose this story?
Interpret: personal narrative practice, once you’ve selected your story, what is this story really about?
Have Self-Knowledge: Author’s message – the way you write and present the story shows the significance of the story to the reader. Reflective writing after – why did you write this story this way, how does it reflect you? What was challenging for you? What do you understand about yourself from writing this?
Have Perspective: Reflection: who is your audience, why/how would you change this story for a different audience (how do you change the way you write based on your audience?) – during revision, write the same story for a different audience – how do you change your writing for different audiences.
Empathize: after the blog post is up, how do you respond via the comments (to something that you don’t have a connection with).
Apply: Design your blog post for your audience, choosing images, paragraph spacing, headings, etc (choosing an image that shows depth and connects to your post)
Allow students the choice to either write in Writer’s Notebook first or directly on the computer
Have students write in MS Word before posting online (to avoid technical issues)
Teacher models same sort of writing as the students are doing. Write a portion of personal narrative and then show how you would change it for a different audience. Give students the choice of who their new audience is.
What does good blogging look like? (synthesis, analysis – not just copy and paste)
Students link to other sites in his/her writing (for example, if you snorkeled on Phuket, link to a Phuket site)
Students reflect on why he or she is choosing this piece of writing.
Commenting and how to make it constructive. Set a minimum expectation of how many comments a student must write on someone else’s writing.
Students incorporate comments from others and make revisions to his/her own writing based on these.
Final reflective blog post linking back to prior drafts, comments by their audience that helped change their minds, and reflect on how the interaction with their audience helped improve their writing.
Choosing and inserting an image, citing sources for images
First 8 instructional days: brainstorming in the writer’s notebook, across those 8 days, choose 2-3 stories to post on the blog (reflect online why they chose those three) – these posts should be in draft form, then students will choose 1 to stick with and take through the writing process (reflect online why they chose the final story)
One of the reasons we’re doing this as a discrete unit is so that teachers can see how it will fit within the Writer’s Workshop model. We’re hoping to do it early in the year so that teachers and students can take advantage of this new model of writing throughout the year. Personally, I hope we’ll end up using these blogs as ePortfolios by the end of the year, but I don’t know if that will happen.
What do you think? How does this look? What are we missing? What needs to be revised?
Last week Tara, Jeff and I had our second opportunity of the year to organize and facilitate an elementary faculty meeting. We absolutely love having this dedicated time with our colleagues to help build a deeper understanding of 21st century literacy at ISB and to share practical examples of authentic use of technology here in our elementary classrooms.
As always, our goal was to continue building a collaborative community, to develop connections among faculty at different grade levels, and to allow teachers to have time to network and share ideas. Thanks to @FrznGuru (Rebecca), we had a great way to structure that experience: SpeedGeeking!
Basically, SpeedGeeking is just like Speed Dating – a way to quickly introduce people to a wide variety of new ideas in a short amount of time. Since we have a large faculty – over 70 teachers – we knew this would have to be a very organized and structured experience, otherwise it would drift into chaos.
We decided to have 12 four-minute SpeedGeeking sessions split into 2 groups (one group has six sessions, the other group has the other six sessions). This way, we could make the most of our limited time, enable as many teachers to share their successful experiences as possible, keep the group sizes limited, and ensure that not every teacher saw the exact same sessions (so they are encouraged to keep talking about what they saw after the meeting).
We also made sure that we organized the SpeedGeeking groups in advance, so they could move from table to table together and were mixed between two different grade levels. This way we had half of one grade level viewing one set of SpeedGeeking sessions and the other half viewing the other set (to encourage further conversation). We were careful to match up the sessions on each side so that each group had a session on podcasting, portfolios, VoiceThread, SmartBoards, and 2 sessions on our ETC wrap-up.
As usual, we posted our agenda online (and e-mailed the link the day before) so that teachers could know what to expect before arriving, and so that all of the work that was shared in the sessions could be accessed at any point before or after the meeting (if available online).
In order to create a positive environment, we started the meeting off with this quote:
Unfortunately, we actually lost power due to a major storm right before the meeting so we weren’t able to project the image. Thankfully, everyone had their laptops, so they could follow along with us via the agenda.
Next we transitioned into our SpeedGeeking experience. We had two large rectangles made up of 6 tables each on either side of the room. Each table was numbered and had a specific group of teachers (linked on the agenda) selected to start there. Once one 4-minute SpeedGeeking session was finished, the group of teachers seated together at their first table moved together to the next numbered table in line.
1. Brian: SmartFolios
2. EARCOS: Mary
3. Vince: GarageBand
4. Rebecca: Sprouting Seeds VoiceThread
5. James: Class Wiki
6. EARCOS: Jim
We used Jeff’s iPhone timer to clock each session and had a cute cow-bell sound to signify the end of each session (found on Free Sound, my new favorite place for Creative Commons licensed sounds). Thankfully my laptop was fully charged and Jeff had his laptop-powered speakers so we basically did the whole 30 minute SpeedGeeking session in the dark!
Once we finished SpeedGeeking, we asked teachers to discuss at their tables anything that sparked their interest for about 3 minutes, and then had tables share back to the larger group (if they wanted to).
The buzz in the room was amazing! Teachers were visibly excited and energized by the discussion and it was obvious that everyone found at least one thing that sparked their interest in the 30-minute session.
Finally, we wanted to end on a light-hearted note, and thankfully the power came back on just in time, so we watched the video Everything is Amazing, Nobody’s Happy (sorry, embedding is disabled, you’ll have to click on the link to watch). Of course, the video was a hit.
When we ended the meeting, I was encouraged to see just how many teachers stayed afterward discussing the ideas they had heard, asked us for assistance in trying something new, or just stopped by to say how successful the meeting had been.
This is the second time we’ve organized a sharing meeting like this for our faculty, and although both have gone well, this one was the better by far! Here’s why I liked it:
Because we had so many groups, we were able to highlight so many teachers – we made sure to have some specialists present, as well as some teachers who had never worked with technology in their classroom before this year.
We enabled teachers to interact with others outside of their grade level. It’s amazing how rarely teachers get the opportunity to just talk with teachers outside of their team.
We focused on the positive, on the commonalities among our colleagues, on the successes that we all have in our classrooms every day. Sure, we can all be doing things better, but that doesn’t mean that amazing things aren’t happening already.
We empowered others who are not normally highlighted and we helped build networks and infrastructure for supporting teachers who may need assistance.
We laughed, a lot, together. How often can you say that about a faculty meeting?
And, what I loved the most about this meeting is that I never, ever could have organized it by myself. It was the power of the team: Jeff, Tara and Kim, that made this meeting so successful. Without Tara, we could have forgotten how important it is to make people feel comfortable, supported and appreciated. Without Jeff, we could have forgotten about the fun and the levity and the big picture. Without me, it might not have been quite so organized and smooth. Man, I love my team!
How have you helped share successes in your school? What should we do for our next faculty meeting (assuming we’ll be asked to organize another one in the future)?
We started the year (and the project) by sharing student writing and reading and commenting on each other’s blog posts. However, one of our major goals for the project was to develop a weekly, entirely student-produced, podcast focused on reading strategies called Students Teaching Students.
Considering none of us here at ISB have ever done a regular podcast with students, we knew it might take a while to get it off the ground, but we wanted to make sure it was meaningful, appropriate, and authentic use of the technology to enhance our curricular goals.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve finally gotten the podcasting part of the project off the ground. It was surprisingly easy!
Here’s what we did to get started:
Chrissy, Robin, Ali and I spent some time brainstorming the steps that students would need to go through to produce a thoughtful podcast on a weekly basis – and how to make it practical within our laptop cart teaching environment.
We decided that we would use our student book club groups for the current Historical Fiction unit as the podcasting groups. Each week one group would produce a podcast during Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop time. To help ensure they are able to produce their podcast independently, we provided a checklist of steps.
Once we had the process organized, we introduced the idea to the students over two lessons.
During the first lesson we listened to a sample podcast (I chose a language-learning podcast so that students would be able to focus on the introduction and the features of the podcast instead of the content).
As we listened, students were asked to think about the different features of the podcast. They then brainstormed in teams what makes a good podcast. We came up with this list:
Exciting, catchy, but short, musical introduction.
Music is quiet while speaking.
Clear introduction of each speaker, all guests, the “big idea” of the podcast, this episode number & title, and the topic of this episode.
The speaker uses enthusiasm and excitement in their loud, clear voice.
Use first names only.
The show should sound like a conversation between podcasters.
Keep it interesting for the listener.
Stay focused (when writing your script & when recording).
Everyone in the group needs to have a speaking part in the script.
Once we had an idea of what a good podcast sounds like, we talked about the quality of the intro and outro music. Students were given the challenge of creating their own intro and outro music for the entire class’ podcast based on the criteria we brainstormed:
calm – not distracting
not too loud
fades out at the end
fast-ish to get listeners excited
include a catch phrase (optional)
relate to our topic – gives a feeling for our topic
less than 30 seconds (including any catch phrases)
They spent about 30 minutes using Garage Band (which they had previously learned about in music class thanks to another fantastic teacher, Vince) creating either an intro or an outro (in small teams or individually). At the end of the lesson, we voted on which songs would be used for the entire class.
Once we had our music for our class podcast, we were ready to practice creating a podcast to learn how the different tools work and to go through the process of brainstorming an idea, writing a script, producing a podcast, and exporting the file into proper format.
We spent an entire language arts block (1.5 hours) going through the process, following the checklist. Here’s how we broke it down:
15 minutes to brainstorm an idea for the podcast. All groups had to create a podcast for students learning how to be a better reader using the different Reader’s Workshop Strategies they had learned that week. Once they chose a strategy, they had to be able to explain it and share how it helped them read their current book.
45 minutes to write a script following this basic outline which we brainstormed and agreed upon at the beginning of the lesson:
Welcome to Room 229′s Historical Fiction Podcast Series
Episode Title: This is Episode 1
This episode is brought to you by:
Introduction of podcast (what is this podcast about for first time listeners)
Introduction of cast (speakers)
Introduce the book (or series of books) you’re reading
Introduce the Reader’s Strategy that you’re going to be talking about
Describe the strategy
Explain how you used the strategy to help you read this book
Looking forward to learning with you next week
20 minutes to record their podcast (no editing due to time constraints).
At the end of the lesson, we listened to all the trial podcasts to share constructive feedback for each group.
I was very impressed with the quality of podcasts that the students were able to produce in such a short time frame, especially for their very first experience!
Since this trial run, student podcasts have been produced in small groups, one group per week, during the Reader’s Workshop time. We even decided to create our own channel on iTunes to share our podcasts with our global partners (and anyone else who’s interested in Reader’s Workshop strategies)!
Overall, this was a surprisingly easy project to put into place. I’m always a little intimidated and nervous when I try something new, but this ended up being even easier than I expected. Garage Band is so easy to use, the students were so excited to share their learning, the book groups were such a natural fit for creating podcasts, and uploading the files to a podcasting host (G-cast) and then creating the iTunes channel were a breeze!
Although we’ve only really just gotten started, I can already see how powerful this process will be for our students. Since I’m a newbie at podcasting, what else should we be doing?
We are looking for elementary classrooms at all levels to participate in this writing workshop. The project will last about a month and we’ll set up small grade-level based groups to create collaborative groups for our peer editing process (following the planning process we started last year). If the suggested time frame doesn’t work for you, feel free to start your own workshop later or earlier in the year – our goal is to bring together teachers that would like to embed collaborative writing and authentic audience into their classroom experiences.
work collaboratively with peer reviewers around the world
follow the writing process to build an understanding of your selected style of writing
utilize a wiki for writing, editing, forum discussion, and revision history
understand how to connect information through hyperlinks
create and embed multimedia elements to bring a story to life
Here in Bangkok, I’ll be working with one of our fantastic grade 4 teachers, Sonja Merrell, and we’ll be using the workshop to build our understanding of persuasive writing. Sonja and I worked together last year as well and found the project to be a great venue for establishing authentic audience and for really grounding students in the writing process.
One of the best things about doing this project for the second time with the same teacher is that we’re able to make the improvements we thought about during our reflections last year. Looking back at our reflective conversation, I’m pleased to note that we do have a class blog up and running and students are very familiar with the web 2.0 world: writing for a global audience, commenting on others’ work, and looking for connections within our network of learners.
Our plans are to ensure that we have a clear and consistent focus on the concept of persuasive writing through a slightly revised layout of our pages and by providing a checklist for students to follow. Hopefully the improvements we make this year will lead us to other ideas for next year’s project! I love the fact that the learning is never done and these projects are so easy to evolve and revise that we can keep making them better and better.
We would absolutely love to have you join this project with your class! Fill out the online form and you’re in! All materials, resources, rubrics and related information can be found on the wiki. Feel free to leave questions here or on the discussion tab of the wiki.
One of the most interesting aspects of my job is figuring out how to best support teachers – everyone is at a different comfort and experience level with technology, and most are uncomfortable admitting what they don’t know. Building individual relationships with new colleagues, as well as getting to know team, department and faculty dynamics are a critical factor to my success as a 21st Century Literacy Specialist (or as a Technology Facilitator, for that matter).
Towards the end of last year I realized that I was able to make connections with a number of individual staff members, and therefore help shift those teachers through projects at every grade level. But, I realized I still wasn’t starting the shift with any groups of teachers. Most of the teachers were at different grade levels and didn’t regularly cross paths with the other teachers I was working with. The momentum was with individuals only.
As powerful as that momentum had been, I started to realize that teachers truly appreciate support and common goals with their team. If they can try something new with their team members, they have a built-in support structure that fits easily into their daily practice of teaching and learning that also conveniently slots right into the existing infrastructure of the school. Plus the added benefits of a safety-net: everyone participates, everyone helps, everyone agrees that this is the path to take. Convenience, comfort and accessibility are all be strong benefits to working through the process as a team.
So, this year I started my quest to find a team at ISB that would allow me to be a mostly-silent, but always willing to help, member. Luckily the wonderful and welcoming grade 4 team allowed me to join, sit in on their weekly team meetings, and offer my two cents when appropriate. It has truly been a valuable learning experience.
Working with an entire team has helped me understand each individual member of the team better through their interactions with others. I also have a deeper understanding of their needs for curricular support, as well as the challenges they are facing in their classrooms. I hope that, by being there for them, they also see me as a productive and contributing member of their team. I try to offer ideas that will streamline their daily tasks, help engage their students, and add a digital literacy component to their units of study.
One of the most powerful experiences has been over the past week and a half while the team has been discussing their current social studies unit, Influence. The team had previously decided on their Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions, but were not sure how they wanted to assess student learning.
As a member of the team, I was part of all of the discussions about how the unit went last year, struggles and successes, ideas for improvement, concerns and how it all fits into the bigger picture of student learning in grade four. Because I had all of that background, I was able to share an idea for a final assessment that (hopefully) will meet the needs for this unit, adding in a 21st century-style approach, and also take into consideration time factors, other units of study that need to be completed, technical resources, and teacher and student comfort level with technology tools.
Without being a participant in all of those discussions I would have only had a one-sided view of the need at hand, and certainly would not have been able to put the curricular needs of the unit into the context of the entire grade level. Just stepping in to offer my ideas for a quick 10-minute discussion once in a while would not have prepared me to truly meet the needs of the team. I have also been able to spend dedicated time with some of the team members and our Curriculum Coordinator to fully flesh out this unit so that it meets the needs of the teachers and the students. Now this unit will be part of the grade 4 curriculum for years to come.
To truly collaborate with teachers, I am starting to believe that we, as resource people, need to be part of their team environment. I can certainly work individually with teachers to help them with their specific classroom needs, but to make any major shifts in the thinking of the school or to effect change in the curriculum, the collaboration needs to come at the team level.
What do you think? How are you best supporting your teams or departments at your school?
When I arrived at ISB last year, one of the first major projects I started with two of our wonderful grade 5 teachers was student blogging (um, and did I mention that we started blogging at the same time as participating in Chris Craft’sLife ‘Round Heredigital storytelling project?). I had come from a middle school position where every student in the school (grades six – eight) had their own individual student blog and was ready to continue that experience here.
What I didn’t know was that none of the teachers or students really had any experience blogging prior to my arrival (oops!). So, while they (both the teachers and the students) were absolutely fantastic at going with the flow and experimenting, I realized quite quickly that individual student blogs may not be the appropriate “first step” into the world of web 2.0 – especially at the elementary level.
So, over the course of last year I started to figure out an easier, more approachable, entry into participatory writing and reading online. I started with a grade 3 class, whose teacher, Betsy, was so flexible and ready to learn with me that we had so much fun getting this started with her students.
After that much more successful, and far less stressful, experience with Betsy’s class, I knew it wouldn’t be long before another teacher wanted to try something similar. And, just as I expected, my amazingly collaborative colleague, Sonja, approached me at the very beginning of this year to start a reading and writing project with her grade 4 students.
We started off much the same as last year’s grade 3 class, with one important difference: we focused on the importance of quality commenting before we gave the students their usernames and passwords for the class blog. We spent several lessons exploring our blogging buddies blogs, learning how to write an appropriate and fair comment, and building our understanding of blogging as conversation.
Interestingly, as soon as this class got started with their collaborative blog, more and more teachers have been asking me to help them set up a blog with their class. Just this week, I helped another fourth grade teacher, Kristen, set up her class blog and was amazed at how quickly her students were able to pick up the basics. At this point, I’ve got the introduction to blogging organized into five lessons (slightly revamped from last year’s version):
For our first lesson we spent some time examining other quality blogs, looking mostly at Anne Davis’ excellent Blogging: It’s Elementary WebQuest (just for the blog links, mostly). Each table group had a chance to look at one of the blogs listed on the process page and followed a Visible Thinking routine called: See, Think, Wonder. Each time we had a focused discussion at the table groups (starting with the question: What do you see?) we came back to the full-class and shared our observations, thoughts and wonderings. This was a great way to help students understand the basics of a blog and the concept of blogging as writing.
At the end of this first lesson we developed a list of things we know about blogs:
Blogging is free
People can leave comments on a blog post
People can see other people’s comments on a blog post
If you are the author of a blog, you can edit or delete anything on the blog as long as you have the correct username and password
A lot of blogs have things in common: pictures, comments, links, dates, archives, calendar, videos, opinions, recent posts, author’s name, conversations
A blog is like a website EXCEPT that blogs invite conversation, opinions and ideas while websites usually just tell their ideas without any feedback
Even though many blogs have the same features, they have different information
Authors put links on their blog because they think their readers will like them
Blogging is like a conversation with other people – some people you might know, some people you might not know
Bloggers want their reader’s opinions
Everyone in the world can see our blog
Blogging is reading and writing
For our second and third lessons, we watched two public service announcements from the US. We start with a PSA called the Bulletin Board to focus on online safety:
We watch the video all the way through once, then have a “turn and talk” moment to see what we understand about the video after the first viewing. Next we watch the video very slowly, stopping at every event to check for understanding. Again we have a “turn and talk” moment for students to share their revised understanding. Finally, we watch the video all the way through and share what we’ve learned. We start creating a class list of questions we can ask ourselves before we post and things to remember about staying safe online, which will be finished after watching the second video during lesson 3.
This lesson focuses on responsible behavior and discussion is prompted by the PSA called The Talent Show:
We follow the same procedure as the second lesson, watching once all the way through, then stopping to ensure understanding and finishing with a full run through. At the end of this lesson, we complete our class list of questions to ask ourselves before we post anything online. Here is what grade 4 developed:
How will this affect my reputation (what people think of me)?
What will my friends or family think about me after they read (or see) this post?
Could someone find me (in real life) based on this information?
Who is going to look at this, and how are they going to interpret my words?
Is this inappropriate, immature or bullying?
Could I hurt someone else’s feelings with this post?
Would I say this to the person’s face?
What could be the consequences of this post?
What will I cause by writing this post? Be culturally sensitive.
Would I want someone to say this to me?
Do I have a good reason/purpose to do this?
Is this something I want everyone to see?
We also make a quick list of safety and responsibility tips to help us remember to follow the blogging guidelines outlined in our permission slip. Here is what grade 4 came up with:
Only post things that you would want everyone (in school, at home, in other countries) to know
Think about the future – what will people think a few days, weeks, months from now, if they read your post;
Don’t share personal information like: last name, mom’s maiden name, address, telephone number, password, birthdate, username, passport information, license plate number, picture of your face, full name of yourself or your friends
Choose a complicated password for others, but easy for you to remember
Think before you post
Use only your first or an avatar (made up name that represents you)
Don’t talk to strangers. Get a parent or an older brother or sister to help you.
Only say nice things about other people.
Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
If you think you will regret it, don’t post it
If you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, do not post it online
Use appropriate language and good grammar and spelling
Think about your readers feelings (embarrassing) when you post online
Be culturally sensitive
Only post things that you can verify are true (no gossiping)
We usually model the process of writing a good comment, and then create a comment as a piece of shared writing with the class. After this process we develop our own list of quality comment characteristics. Here is what one grade 4 class came up with:
Constructive, but not hurtful
Think about the author and their purpose for their post before leaving a comment
Comments are always related to the content of the post
Personal connections to what the author wrote
Answer a question, or add meaningful information to the content topic
Follows the writing process – it’s like a mini piece of writing.
Use a comment sandwich: start with a positive, add constructive feedback, then finish with a positive.
Make your comment sandwich thick and tasty! Lots of meaningful, meaty thoughts that relate directly the content of the post to keep the blogger satisfied!
I love the idea of creating a comment sandwich – having the visual for the students has been extremely powerful, and focusing on commenting as part of the writing process has improved their commenting considerably (not as many “good job” posts as we had last year).
Once students are comfortable with the process of leaving meaningful comments, and have returned their parental permission slip, we introduce them to the actual process of writing blog posts. The basics of logging in, creating a new post, putting your post in the category for your name, and submitting for review. Usually we have the first post be a short introduction to the student.
I love the fact that having a category for each student makes it appear as if each student has their own blog (by listing the name categories in the sidebar) and that no posts will be published until the teacher can approve them after moderation. Such an easy and safe way to begin blogging!
That’s it! That’s how we’re starting to set up class blogs in grades 4 and 5 at ISB. So far we have 6 different classes set up:
I’m sure this is just the beginning! Most of these classes have already decided that if and when students are ready, they will be given the option to have their own individual blog.
Our next steps:
One thing that we still need to work out is how to embed the practice of blogging into the daily routine. We work with laptop carts – four per grade level, 12 laptops per cart – so teachers do not have 1:1 access and often have to schedule specific time with the carts. The organization and pre-planning necessary to naturally and easily use the tools can be cumbersome and frustrating for some teachers. Right now we’re thinking about using a rotational strategy – allowing small groups to use the laptops each day for regular reading and writing online.
Anyone have any thoughts on how to introduce blogging to elementary students? Or how to make rotational blogging and commenting practical and realistic for our teachers?
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