Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Blog as a Techno Tiger

Each year my class comes up with a unique name. Last year my class was the Global Gorillas. The Gorillas were a tech savvy group. They created wikis and blogs. They started their own digital sports program that was published on iTunes. Their knowledge and use of Web 2.0 tools was outstanding, and they used this knowledge to create weekly literature circle responses. The Gorillas dabbled in podcasting and video production including the use of green screening.

The year before the Global Gorillas my class named themselves the Cyber Chickens. They were also no stranger to technology. They hosted a blog and a podcast about “The Series of Unfortunate Events” books. They created a blog to teach others about cyber bullying and another to help others prepare for the Pennsylvania State Assessment. The most impressive feat of all for the Cyber Chickens was the work they did to force a local company to clean up their hazardous waste mess near our school. They published their work on a Project Trinity wiki and a Project Trinity blog. The Cyber Chickens had a pretty impressive resume.

The Historic Hippos were there the previous year, and they were no slouches in the technology department, either. In their day, they were cutting edge! They were the first class to produce and publish their own podcasts on iTunes. They had their own email accounts on Gaggle and they were the first class to have a wikispace.

A new year has begun, with a new crop of students. They have named themselves the Techno Tigers. The Tigers have big job ahead of them. Will they be up to the challenge? What new ground in technology will this class break? I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to find out!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dog for Obama

The Obama's have chosen the new "First Dog." Check out our research to help them make the decision.

(Special Thanks to my partner Denise Whiteman.)

Click to learn more about Hypoallergenic Dogs.

Check out past President's pets.

Click to view our wikispace.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wikis, Blogs, and Diigo

Web 2.0 has changed the way we as educators look at technology integration in our classroom. I used to think I was so tech savvy, because I had a website and my students made Power Point presentations. Web 2.0 tools opened my eyes to a whole new way to use the world wide web to make my students not only more tech savvy, but global collaborators. Below I will tell about two tools that are ever present in my arsenal and one more tool that I haven’t opened up to my students yet, but plan to now that I know the possibilities.

I discovered wikispaces about two years ago at a conference, and since then I can’t believe I ever lived without them. Wikispaces can be used as an easy website interface, as a place to provide links for students, a place to provide information for parents and a place to showcase student work. There is no html code and ftp uploading or any of the other things that make web design so awkward. An example of a wiki acting as a website would be Mrs. Abernethy’s Global Gorilla Wikispace.

Wikis are much more than glorified websites, however. They can be used to collaborate. Students can work together to create a website even if they’re not on the same computer, in the same room, in the same city or in the same country. My first experience with interactive wikispace work was on Project Lemonade, an international collaborative project my students participated in last year. As a part of the project, my students worked together collaboratively to create their own interactive wikispace called Project S.C.A.T. The collaborative nature of wikispaces is what makes them a true web 2.0 tool.

Here is a great video on how and why to use wikis in a classroom.

Wikispaces provides their own interactive tour on how to get started. Included is an introduction and how-tos on personalizing your wiki, adding files and pictures, and personal settings. Wikis can be as open or as protected as you choose. For use with young students, it’s best to set up the privacy settings for them to be sure they are safe.

Blogs can be used in a multitude of ways. They don't always have to be for typical journaling. I create new blogs for topics we are learning about. They make it simple to embed student projects or provide a place for students to interact with each other's projects by leaving comments. This year we have created blogs for our class election, for the Revolutionary War, for Literature Circle projects, for Science, for Pi Day, for PSSA Preparation and more! The students enjoy being able to share their work with family and friends. They really love it when someone leaves a comment on their blog!

When first setting up a blog, it is important to set up the correct comment protection. I choose comment moderation and allow anyone to comment. That way you are not shutting out opportunities to collaborate globally with people who may read your blog. On the other hand, no comments can be viewed on the site unless you approve them first.

Allowing students to blog creates another set of concerns. Gaggle provides very safe blogging that can be opened up to the public or closed off to just the classroom or the school. Regardless of what avenue you take for student blogging, it is the teacher’s responsibility to approve or reject all posts before they are made public.

Here are some tutorials (one for Blogger and one for Word Press.)

I have been using Diigo for about a year to accumulate, highlight, and code websites for my own consumption. Only recently have I realized the possibilities for classroom use. Creating a group with my students can change the way we collaborate and share resources on research projects. Jennifer Dorman is an expert at using Diigo in the classroom.

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Proof is in the Project

Project based learning is deeply seated in research as an effective way to engage students and produce better test scores. As the body of research builds, I decided to do a little research on my own. What is Project-Based Learning (PBL)? If you’d like to see PBL in action, spend some time with Mrs. Abernethy’s Global Gorillas. Whether students are reading, performing science experiments, or preparing for the state standardized test, students are deeply engrossed in a collaborative, project-based environment. How do they feel about this type of learning? View the results of a recent survey below.

Survey in a Google Document

Survey Analysis

1. When asked whether technology has helped them learn better, students responded unanimously, “yes.”
2. Given the choice between a paper-pencil test and a project for a grade, 83% chose project.
3. Students were asked which they would prefer to do the most to help them learn. Their choices and responses are as follows: read a book (15%), have the teacher tell you (12%), or work in a group (73%).
4. Students were given a list of projects they participated in this school year, and they were asked to choose the project they liked the most. A description of the projects and the results are below:
a. Class Election: Students participated in a simulated election. Click to see how the election worked. Students participated in a primary, held convention parties, gave speeches, planned campaigns, and participated in debates. In addition, the electoral vote process was employed in the actual class election. Before the election took place, students went to the polls to see firsthand how it was done. Later in the week after watching Barack Obama get sworn into office, our new class president and vice president were sworn into office, too. To learn more about this project go to our Election Blog.
b. Literature Circle Projects: Students are required to read one novel per month. Each week students create projects to demonstrate comprehension of the novel they are currently reading. Students are given latitude to exercise their creativity and they really do. From web 2.0 tools to paper-pencil, regardless the medium, students show what they read. To learn more, please visit our Literature Circle Blog.
c. Dinosaur Collaboration: Our class does quite a few collaborative projects with Mrs. Blazosky’s first grade class in Clarion. This is one of those projects. Students have been collaborating to build a Dinosaur Blog. My fifth graders created projects to teach her students about dinosaurs. Her students responded with projects of their own. From movies to Toon-Doos, the multimedia is rich. In addition, the fifth graders edited posts done by their younger collaborators.
d. Morpheus Fortuna: A traveling bog turtle, Morpheus makes his rounds to various classrooms around the state of Pennsylvania. Students enjoyed their visit with Morpheus and created movies and more for his blog and wikispace. It was meaningful to them that other students in their state would be reading and viewing their projects.
e. PSSA Projects: Students created their own projects to give tips for PSSA test taking. They created movies, interactive Power Point presentations, and other media rich projects. They shared their knowledge with other test takers across the state on a PSSA Blog.

Student results were as follows:
a. Class Election: 34%. Although this project was done at the beginning of the year, students chose it as memorable. Some reasons given were personal in nature. For example: “We got to choose our class president.” “…I got to run for Class President and we got to do awesome commercials.” “I remember doing signs and voting for Cassie.” ”I was a candidate till the primaries.” In reality, the students probably remember this project so vividly because it was so real and correlated with real life happenings (the Obama election.)
b. Literature Circle Projects: 23%. Some comments include: “What made this project memorable was that you had to do one every week. And I would always try to make the best one I could.” “Because we did them so often and their were so many different things to do.” “I’ve done tons of stuff for it, easy and hard. I’ve done things I’m very proud of during Lit Circles.” In my opinion, the variety, the hard work, and the use of web 2.0 tools will be very valuable skills for these students in the future.
c. Dinosaur Collaboration: 19%. Student comments: “Dino project because I made a video.”
d. Morpheus Fortuna: 11%. Student comments: “He was awesome and so much fun to do projects on.” “…I liked taking him to music and gym..”
e. PSSA Projects: 11%. Student comments: “Because I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I got to work with a friend.”

(To view more complete answers and answers to other questions, please take time to view the Google Document.)

What all of the student comments have in common is an enthusiasm for learning. Students enjoy working collaboratively with other students in their classroom and with others via the world wide web and video conferencing. In this day of state standardized testing, how do you justify project-based learning? Let’s turn that around. In this time of testing, how do we justify not using it? If you need further proof that project-based learning is effective, meaningful and worthwhile, please visit our website, and take a look around.