Web Tools

What web tools are available to help you and your students create, collaborate, and communicate?

Blog Meisters Supporting 3White

Melissa White was looking for a way to help her students receive regular feedback on their student blogs. She recognized the challenge of responding to every student created post in a timely manner. Her solution was to involve classroom parents in the process.

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The Blog Meister program began early in the first semester of the 2012/2013 school year. Melissa was looking for a way to provide and model clear and complete comments, check for errors that keep photos, links, or other elements from working, and to be on the look out for unkind or inappropriate language.

She wrote to all of her parents asking for volunteers and ended up with five participants. Melissa made the decision to not have any of the parents monitor their own child’s blog with the thinking that they would check out their child’s blog any way. The students were divided evenly among parent volunteers, given directions on what to do, and started viewing and commenting.

Melissa made a point of telling parents that their job was not to teach or correct, but to give feedback on what was written. She shared examples of what a comment could look like and asked that they make a comment on every post or as many as possible. To provide variety, she asked for new volunteers for the second semester and switched students around for parents who signed up for a second session. She thinks that switching by the quarter might be even better and plans to try that next school year when she introduces the program at Back to School Night.

Melissa ended the first semester by asking the Blog Meisters to create a handwritten note to their students in order to bring closure and have an opportunity to give some constructive feedback about their writing and commenting. She felt that this final effort was a valuable experience for students and mentors.

Next steps for the Blog Meister program include exploring the idea of involving extended family members, such as grandparents, to participate.

Melissa feels that this program is beneficial to her students because they have really enjoyed getting regular feedback on their blogs, it has provided them with a bigger audience, and has provided models for developing communication skills.

If setting up a program like this interests you, Melissa, mwhite@aes.ac.in, is happy to share more of her insights and experiences.  And of course, any of us in the tech room will more than happy to help.


Documenting Learning

I have been promoting the idea of electronically documenting evidence of learning in our elementary school. I made a choice to give the topic the title of e-portfolios, which I have now changed to e-documentation. The amount of push-back and stress that I received and felt by using the term portfolio was somewhat of a shock. The first grade team even said that they were opposed to the idea.

This resulted more from the history that teachers have with summative portfolios compiled in folders and binders that are painstakingly built and maintained. The farther away from the primary grades, the smaller the degree of resistance. Teachers recognize the value in documenting student work; the problem is that the process has always required so much time and effort. Check out this website from Harvard’s Project Zero that outlines Documenting the Process of Learning

With our pilot of 40 iPads covering 6 sections of each grade from ecec to 5th, we have been stunned by the amount of content that has been created throughout this school year and the amount of work that has been archived on blogs and web tools like VoiceThread . Documenting has taken place and doing it electronically has proven to be extremely easy and powerful at the same time.

I believe that the best reason for changing the language from e-portfolio to e-documentation is that it moves thinking away from documenting end products to documenting the procress of learning when learning is happening. With an iPad, an “AH HA” moment can be captured immediately and the image or video, with voice recorded, can be uploaded and integrated in a variety of apps and vessels. I recently asked two fourth graders to document the most important steps for them in writing their realistic fiction piece. They took time to go through their writer’s notebooks and review the work they did with each of the lessons that were presented, they looked through drafts to see the changes that took place as they revised and edited, and then they started to document. The students took photographs with the screencasting app, Explain Everything, and used the tools provided to record their voices and share what was important to them. This was their first experience with the app and had very little direction with how deep of a reflection they could make. Check out the videos and share thoughts and questions about documenting electronically.

Recording Lessons For Independent Work

Here is an example of a recorded page from SmartNotebook. This is something that seems more difficult than it is and take very little time to do.

If you don’t want to upload it to Youtube and then post it on a blog, it is also possible to save a file saved to your computer and paste it into a shared drive or individual z drives for students to access at school.

Creating videos for students to review lessons or introduce them to concepts can also easly be done on and iPad with a screencasting app like Explain Everything. The three types of movies below could also be done by students as a way to show their understanding of a concept or teaching other students.

are vs our infographic2

Flipping the classroom does not mean that work has to be sent home to do at home. It can mean doing things differently in the classroom.

Infographics as Teaching Tools

Infographics are a great way to present information in a colorful and eye catching format. There are sites where it is possible to find ready made infographics, although most of the ones that I have seen are geared for college students and other adults, and it is also possible to create your own. This Are Vs Our is my first attempt and I did it by copying and pasting from images on the web onto a word document. What if students were to look at and study this infographic and then look for examples in the book they are reading or look for correct and incorrect uses in their own writing? Would this be an effective tool? Feel free to try it out with your class.

are vs our infographic1

Here is a page from a page from a site that gives more information on infographics that I found helpful. See what you think and possibly give it a go. What are your thoughts about having students create infographics to show understanding of concepts, comparisons, or information from different subject areas?

21st Century Learning

What does 21st Century Learning mean to you? Are you actually tired of hearing the term? Do you want to yell at the top of your lungs that it is what good teaching is all about? Or, does the term make you want to say that sound teaching/guiding skills need to be adjusted to the ways that students are gathering and processing information in today’s world? Please open the link below to leave your written or spoken thoughts regarding this educational buzz term. 21st Century Voicethread This will also give you another opportunity to see how VoiceThread might be used to gather ideas from students, family members, experts, etc. from outside of our elementary community.

Using VoiceThread

VoiceThread is an amazing web tool that allows for students and teachers to share ideas, projects, and lessons with others. Word documents, electronic presentations, photographs, videos, laptop camera files, basically any file that can be uploaded from your computer or downloaded from the web can become part of a VoiceThread project.

I think that one of the most powerful features of this web tool is the ability for others to record thoughts as feedback. Check out the four examples below of different uses of VoiceThread.

An English teacher shares an essay and elicits responses.

Color Poems are recorded and supported with images.

Presenting a math lesson on using a protractor that was made with SmartNotebook and then uploaded to VoiceThread.

Uploading political cartoons to create reflection and discussion.