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Biography Project: End of First Week

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At this point, we reviewed the biography Wilma Rudolph by Mary Dodson Wade. This title was written for grades K-2 and kept to about 350 words. I reminded the students to look for the five W’s and to note the organization (introduction, 1956 Olympics, 1960 Olympics, and life after the Olympics) and information provided in the introduction to guide them as they wrote their own drafts.

Once they felt they had enough notes to work on the project, as outlined in the assignment sheet, they filled in the same graphic organizer they used for their earlier investigation of biographies. This was so they could find any gaps in their research; several had to go back and research some missing details.

By Thursday most of the students had begun their drafts. The original plan was to wait for the drafts to be done and peer reviewed before talking about digital tools, but they needed a break and exploring tools seemed like the best idea. I reminded them that one of the objectives for this project was to present the biography using a digital tool that needed to be viewed online and allowed for comments. We went through some of the tools they had used previously. Then I briefly discussed Vuvox, Voki, and StoryJumper.  They I had about 45 minutes to explore the tools and come up with any of their own discoveries, which we added to the list.

By the end the day on Friday, all but one student had completed his or her draft, many had chosen his/her digital tool, several had begun gathering images or creating avatars, and one has peer edited with a partner (the partner was from 7th grade, thus only one from my class).

Biography Project: First Few Days

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After the great kick off to our biography unit that Mary Dodson Wade gave us, we looked at several of her biographies along with a handful of others. The students were asked to read and fill in a graphic organizer, also taking note of how the information was presented (one was in verse) and point of view. We then discussed what we wanted to include in our biographies.

It was time for the students to start choosing the person they wanted to research. All of our middle school students are completing this project. The Grades 5 & 6 students were required to choose a person of note from the Revolutionary War. The 7 & 8 students were allowed to choose someone from any time period. I will be focusing on my Grades 5 & 6 students as I discuss this project.

I started out by putting up a list of 20 or so notable people from the revolutionary War. I gave the students a 30 second or less summation of who the person was and what they did. From my brief discussion they were to have a few people in mind they may be interested in.

Next the students scoured their textbooks for information; I wanted them to practice using the index, a skill they all need to improve. Once they read the information in the textbook, they were allowed to explore the Internet. Finally, they were to make a list of the top three people they were interested in researching. I was lucky and most of the students got their first choice. The two who didn’t easily worked out a compromise. I love my class.

The students then went back to their textbooks to fill in the K-W Chart from their Big6™ Research Notebooks. The information in the textbook is sparse for even the most notable characters. The plan was for them then generate questions based on the information provided, hopefully getting at who, what, why, when, where and how. The “What do I want to find out?” part was given as a homework assignment.  It did not go so well. We spent a much larger part of the next day’s lesson going over how to generate questions that will yield relevant answers. I wish I had some before and after examples, but let’s just say they were less than thoughtful. Granted these poor children were in the middle of lunch and afterschool play practices, so I should have thought better of giving them this assignment as homework. Here is an example of “after” questions. This student did a nice job working through many of the five W’s.

Revised Questions

Following the Big6™ research model, we discussed the types of resources they needed to use and where to find them. I wanted them to use a print resource, mostly to practice finding books on the library shelves, as well as websites found through our Follett Webpath Express subscription. The students spent the next two days reading and taking notes from their sources.

Sample Note Sheet

Technology Integration

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Technology in my Classroom

In my classroom, tech integration means finding ways for students to do things that will allow them to utilize their laptops as much as possible.

I have tried to apply the idea of four tiers of tool usage from Ruben R. Puentedura’s A Matrix Model for Designing and Assessing Network-Enhanced Courses, as introduced to us in our podcast meeting, to what I find myself doing in my classes. The tiers are listed below.

Substitution: the computer substitutes for another technological tool, without a significant change in the tool’s function.

Augmentation: the computer replaces another technological tool, with significant functionality increase.

Modification: the computer allows for the redesign of significant portions of a task to be executed.

Redefinition: the computer allows for the creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the computer.

I have substituted paper homework books and weekly newsletters for Schoology. It lets me manage my courses, assign homework, and it allows students instant access to their grades. Parents also have access to this information, which many have said they really appreciate.  Recently, the students have learned how to use the notebook layout in Word for taking notes. This was new to me as well, and I have found that I really like it.

At the augmentation level the computer replaces another technological tool, with significant functionality increase. When we made the transition to 1:1 laptops, one of the first things the students noticed as an improvement was being able to compose their first drafts of writing on the computer instead of by hand. They really thought this was fabulous: spellcheck! The challenge for them now is making sure they use the spell check correctly. I get a lot of “witches” in their papers.

I see our voicethread project as a modification. Once the students have published their voicethreads, their friends and family members from around the world will be able to view and add comments, something that would not have been possible had the students written a traditional essay.

As for redefinition, that’s where we are headed next.

Is it Integration?

We were asked the question: if we are working towards technology redefining the way we learn, is it integration? As I have reflected on some of the things I do in class, trying to put them into the different categories, I got to thinking that maybe it wasn’t the right term. Maybe the term integration is a reflection of augmentation and modification rather than redefinition. But then I remembered something I read from Ruben Puentedura’s article, “It is important to note that no particular “quality” label should be attached to any of the tiers,” since what is important is that expectations match the tier. A class should be using technology at several different tiers, the problem being that usage at only one tier wouldn’t provide a variety of opportunities for learning.

I looked up the definition of integrate, and this is what I found: combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole. If I take this to mean combining the different tiers to create a whole, then using technology at the different tiers would meet the definition of integration.

Technology at my School

Generally, I see technology being used at my school as a way for students and teachers to do old things in new ways. Some examples are using online services such as Raz-Kids or Tumblebooks for reading activities in our lower elementary classes. Our Pre-school and Kindergarten classes have five iPads each, which are used for reading and math activities. The teachers often use iMovie as a way for students to make presentations at out Community Time meetings, as a way for children to present learning, without the stress of having to perform in front of a large group. I see these as being at the substitution level.

We also have several document cameras. I like not having to make overheads, which would usually require me to make a paper copy of something before I copied it onto the transparency, which reduces waste. I know ours have a record function, but I haven’t yet found a use for it yet. Although as I write this, I think maybe I could use it for our daily MUG (mechanics, usage & grammar) Shot, which is part of the Write Source program. I think I will try that next week.

Course 3 Reflection and Lesson Plan

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So far Course 3 has had the greatest impact on my teaching. I was finally able to use the image I had chosen for week two’s task of finding an image to include in a lesson. I have been amazed at how interesting the students have found Diego Rivera’s Great City of Tenochtitlan. They have made some really wonderful connections between the market scene in the mural, and those that they have experienced themselves in different parts of the world, from Bali to China to right here in our own city in Indonesia. Their favorite detail has been the severed arm. They were able to discuss so many more aspects of the mural than I thought they would. I find myself wondering (and looking forward to) how I am going to find such interesting images for all of the topics we are going to cover in Social Studies this year.

 

Each year our middle school students go on a week-long trip that is geared toward exposing them to some sort of cultural or natural aspect of our host country. Last year they went to see orangutans in the north of Sumatra. This year they are heading to the island of Java to take in the heritage site of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple at the time of its construction in the 9th Century. When they return they are required to share their adventure with the community at one of our monthly Community Time meetings.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I found the digital storytelling assignment to be my favorite. So with that in mind, for the final lesson plan, I have the students working on creating a personal narrative using VoiceThread as a way to share their experience of the trip.  I have taken the Language Arts aspect of the assignment, and our Performing Arts teacher has taken the same idea and tweaked it to meet his standards. My own digital story was created using VUVOX, but I chose VoiceThread for the student project because I really like the idea that their friends or family members that live back in the U.S. could leave them an audio comment.

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