Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Student Researchers: Step by Step

The Middle School language arts teachers recently gave a presentation to parents about our research and writing curriculum. The presentations listed the eleven skills the students learn as they go through the research and writing process. The "Speeches and Sweets" grade level evenings where students present their research to parents and other students is a big part of the program. 

The presentation is now on the Web. You can access it and then select the "Present" button in the top right corner to play the presentation. Here is the link to the presentation

Image Source

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Using Symbols to Communicate in the First Grade

She Who Likes to Share

The First Graders are studying Native American history and culture. Mrs. Laha and Ms. Carew had their students write stories using symbols to help the students understand how many tribes used symbols to communicate. The students chose an aspect of their lives to communicate through their artwork. The image above is by a student using her artistic skills to show how she likes to share. 

This project is a terrific example of teaching a concept through social studies. The concept in this case is how we use symbols to represent ideas. The teachers help the students gain understanding of the concept by connecting it to their lives. This transfer task really helps the students gain a deeper understanding as they make connections between the study of history and their own lives. 

Here are two more examples of student work. 

He Who Loves Art

He Who Likes to Throw

Friday, January 25, 2013

From Creation to Consumption :)

This past Tuesday Ms. Basta and the student government organized an afternoon of research and celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our student government leaders designed an activity to have the Middle School students partner with their buddies in the Lower School. They found helpful websites which were posted to the school's Web Resources site. The buddy teams used the provided websites to learn more about Dr. King and other civil rights leaders looking back to early American history. 

The students used images and text to construct collages to share their findings. Mrs. Heyder noted that a method was needed to share all the information so that everyone could learn from one another's work. She came up with the idea of laminating each poster to turn them into place mats for the cafeteria tables. The image above is one example. 

Our curious students now have even more to talk (and learn) about during lunch. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Using Blended Learning to Support Student Research

How is Ms. Ball using Noodle Tools and Haiku, our learning management system, to support her students in doing research for their Speeches & Sweets research project? See the image and text below taken from Ms. Ball's Haiku online classroom. 


The tool for the students to document their research is Noodle Tools. Each student creates a project and a Google Document that is shared to Ms. Ball's Noodle Tools account. Within the project, the students use a step by step process to input the books, web sites, interviews, etc. to create citations for each entry. Once a source is cited, the student then creates digital note cards attached to each bibliographical entry.

The note cards are very structured thus helping the students to be organized and thoughtful in what information they need to input into the card. They must first title the card with very specific information as to what aspect of their research they will record. An example might be a student researching sports injuries where she opens a note card to record the title of "Concussions". 

The student then moves to a section of the card where she can record direct quotations. Another section is where she will paraphrase the information making sure to really process the information to then write notes in her own words. Another organization tool is to "tag" each entry with very specific categories. This will help later in putting the digital note cards into "stacks" by categories and/or by which paragraph they will support in the outline. Noodle Tools also contains an outline area to the right of the project screen. 

Collaboration outside of the classroom (blended learning) is supported by Noodle Tools and Google Documents. Ms. Ball is able to access each student's project to review his/her note cards and to make comments right into them. She can return later to see comments the students made in response as well as revisions that they made. Once the students organize their note cards and draw up their outlines, they then start writing their paper in Google Docs. Ms. Ball will be able to review each student's writing to make comments right into the documents. She also can have students peer edit one another's work thus expanding the collaboration and learning. This communication and learning outside of the classroom is what blended learning is all about. 

A final note is that Ms. Ball is not alone in how she supports her students. All of the other Middle School language arts teachers are following similar procedures to further support our language arts and Information and Communications Literacies (ICL) curricula. See below for a screenshot of what a student's Noodle Tools "Dashboard" might look like. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Online Science Book for Second Grade

Chapter 2 from the Second Grade Online Science Book

One of the difficulties of having young students do online research is in finding websites written at the appropriate reading level. Last year, the Second Grade teachers and the instructional technologist tried a WebQuest for the Second Grade science unit on germs and healthy habits. Most of the sites we found were written for a much older audience. This year we decided to pull information from websites and books to write our own digital book to replace the WebQuest. One important consideration was to match text with helpful images and video to further the second graders' understanding.

We looked at the possibility of creating an Apple iBook. We could write the book using iBooks Author to then download it to a class set of iPads. We would need to download any video found on the Internet to then insert it into the iBook. One difficulty was in finding videos that were shared under Creative Commons agreements. A second consideration was that it could not be in Adobe Flash which isn't supported on the iPad. A final deal breaker for the iPads was that the students should be able to access the book from home to reread the text and review the videos. Learning about viruses, bacteria and fungi is not easy. It would be important for the students to repeatedly access the book. 

An important aspect of having technology literacy is being able to choose the right tool for the task. In this case, it became clear that publishing on the Internet would be the way to go. Flash-based videos could be embedded or linked into the pages of the book/website. Students could access the digital book from school and home. The book could be updated on the fly as the students provide feedback and as new resources are discovered. 

While the web-based book fulfilled these criteria, it does not offer students the opportunity to personalize the text and media. Being able to underline, highlight and take notes into the book as one can do in an iBook are not part of using a website as a book unless one uses browser add ons. In time, we will look to have the students use the Mindmeister web-based mind mapping tool to record their questions and understanding for easy access whether they are reading the book at school or at home. 

If you missed the link to the online book at the start of this post, here is another link to get you there. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Third Grader Researchers and Work Flow

What is your personal workflow system? Which tools do you use in your personal as well as professional world to manage information in performing tasks? In the field of education, we talk more in terms of a student's personal learning system but it still comes down to work/learning and the process of being efficient and successful. Students use hardware as in iPads, computers, and phones loaded with the software/apps that helps them find information, process and curate it, to then communicate their findings and understanding. 

Our Third Graders are on track to develop their own personal learning systems. The image above is a screenshot of one way the students are doing research on specific animals. The left side of the image is of a browser open to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The right side is of the Inspiration mind mapping software. 

Many of the Third Graders are using this split screen technique to read from websites to then process their findings and record the information into the notes attached to each category symbol in Inspiration. Other students like to have a full view of both the website and of their mind map. They read from the website, minimize the window and then maximize the mind map from the system tray to record their notes. 

The Third Graders began the process of developing their personal learning system last year when they worked on the ColonialQuest WebQuest. They used websites and books to record their notes into paper notebooks. This year they are using paper to record notes from books they are reading in the classroom. They will draw from the paper and digital notes to write their papers. 

As they progress through the Lower School into the Middle School, the students will start using our Haiku learning management system, more Web 2.0 tools for creativity and collaboration, Noodle Tools for research, Google Apps for content creation and sharing, Mindmeister for creativity, planning and collaborating and many apps on the iPads that they will use to best support their learning needs and styles. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Multimedia in Spanish Class

Ms. Basta has her students doing research about the history of historical sites in Latin America. Each student used images and narration in Spanish to share his/her findings. The students produced their slideshow presentations in the VoiceThread Web 2.0 website. Click the "play" button below to watch and listen to Noah's muy excellente slideshow.