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We have just entered our second year as a one-to-one laptop school for our 5-8 students. This is great, but also challenging because we have combined 5/6 and 7/8 classes. I started out worrying that they would be bored while I tried to catch the incoming 5th graders up to speed. I shouldn’t have worried; there are only two 6th graders, and they have become my assistants. They were very helpful getting the 5th graders familiar with the Schoology set up, which we use as our LMS.

File Sharing

We started out the year setting up accounts with Dropbox, which is an awesome free service that gives you 2 GB of storage (with the ability to earn more), and a way to store and share documents, photos, ad videos. This is a great way for the students to share items with me that don’t require us to use our school’s server, which they can’t access from home. So far the students have shared work with each other for peer reviews and a small project related to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

Blogs

Last year my class and I dabbled just a bit with a class blog from edublogs that they all contributed to for a project. This year I want them to have their own blogs. I had just begun to set them up. I was going to start out with a current event unit, which would then carry on for the entire year. However last week I met with the teacher’s from our other campus and we decided that all the middle school students from both campuses will be working on the same project as part of a common assessment across the two campuses. So this has stalled my plans a bit as another option thrown out was blogger. Then today, I was speaking with the Tech coordinator from the other school, and he mentioned using the wiki and blog service available from our Mac OS X Server. Phew! So now we have three options to look at, and I want to get started! I hope to have a decision by the end of the week.

Conference Calls

Last week, a really cool thing happened at my school; we had a three-way Skype conference call between my middle school students, middle school students from our sister school located 3 hours away, and a consultant in Canada.  We use something called Real Spelling to teach our students about words, why they are spelled the way they are, and how they understand spelling through structured word inquiry. The consultant, Peter Bowers, from WordWorks Literacy Center, led a lesson with our students about the suffix ac- and other doubling of letters in the English language. It was a great leaning experience for our students to be able to have a lesson with an expert.

That was the first of several such sessions with Peter. We have some kinks to work out, like our students thought that the other students got more time to answer questions because they kept calling out. Ours need to work on projecting their voices.

My students are tasked with investigating some words, creating a presentation, and sharing it with the students from the other school with the intention of teaching them what they have learned. I don’t know yet, how that presentation will look; we are starting to plan now. I’d like to see about doing something with the SMART Board and the Notebook software. It’s exciting.

What I’m doing differently at the beginning of this year, with a couple of COETAIL courses behind me, is I am more willing to take some risks and try things out with the students learning along with me. Usually, I want to know how to do everything well, before I show it to them. But I realize I don’t have time to learn everything edublogs or Dropbox can do, and it’s likely the students will show me something.