Fun With Flickr

Two years ago, I attempted to enhance my weekly vocabulary units that I was presenting to my bored-out-of-their-mind-please-just-let-me-graduate-seniors. So I coordinated with our school librarian who was anxious for teachers to come visit her and present ideas that she could assist in developing! Plus, she was very fond of web 2.0 learning tools and was one of my early inspirations in transitioning my content out into the World Wide Web (that sounds like such an archaic term these days). Our goal was to liven up the vocabulary unit and utilize web 2.0 tools and some of the fancy new CFF (Classrooms For the Future) equipment we just received as part of a grant from the state. Here is what we came up with…but first, a brief video of what we did and how we got started…

Objective: When this unit is completed, students will be able to

1. Identify and understand new words in context

2. Define and use the word

Process: After the class discusses each word, students will be then be assigned one word. Students will perform the following tasks for Vocabulary Unit 4 with their Vocab Partner:

  1. Come up with five sentences for their word. Make sure you utilize context clues in each of your sentences.
  2. Take one sentence and create a way in which you can visualize that word for your peers to see and understand.
  3. Present the idea to the teacher for approval
    1. Once your idea is approved, you will take a digital camera and spend no longer than 3 minutes capturing your photo. MY NOTE: Anytime you use digital cameras, video cameras, microphones, etc. make sure you give the students a specific timetable to use that equipment. This will allow all students to move along in the process and will use class time efficiently.
  4. Once you have your photo taken, show it to the teacher for second approval and then obtain a USB cable for upload. Upload to our class flickr page.
  5. Once your photo is uploaded make sure you post the
    1. Word – SPELLED CORRECTLY!
    2. Part of Speech
    3. Definition that correlates to your photo
    4. Sentence
  6. You may also enhance your photo by visiting big huge labs dot com.

You will have 30 minutes on Monday and Tuesday to complete this project.

Grading will adhere to the following criteria:

  1. Spelling and Grammar……………..10……7…….4……..0
  2. Sentences………………………10…..7……..4……..0
  3. Visual Appeal and Clarity……..10…..7……..4……..0

And that was the assignment in a nutshell. The rubric is a rough sketch. I cannot find the original rubric we used, but it was similar to those guidelines.

Once we finished the project, we had a viewing of the words on Wednesday. Each group presented their word to the class. It was a fun and engaging way to jazz up learning new vocabulary and retention. I noticed my vocabulary quiz grades improve significantly after this project. The students actually looked forward to vocabulary and I actually caught some of them looking ahead to future units!

This lesson put a fun, easy twist on something that had been boring and trite to my students. It did not take a lot of class time and in the end served as a valuable learning and retention tool. If you are worried about class time being eaten up by projects like this, then put a time stamp on tasks and enforce your time cap! Tell students they will lose points if they lag behind. I found this project to take a little more time during the first run through, but as we approached each new vocabulary unit, students became aware of the process and time it would take to get it done. I rarely had to subtract points for time.

Here are some examples of student work with flickr and Big Huge Labs

Websites used:

Flickr

Big Huge Labs

Coming Soon To iTeach: Collaboration Friday!

When I initially set out to start this blog, my goal was for it to serve as a universal resource for all educators. My mission was to have weekly contributors, sharing practical ideas for implementing technology into the classroom. It is still my hope that this will happen and to promote this new phase, I want to introduce Collaboration Fridays!

Collaboration Fridays will showcase technology driven lesson plans and ideas that teachers have successfully used in their classroom. Teachers in any discipline are urged to share their ideas and I will post as many lessons I receive each Friday. I felt Friday would be the best day to showcase outside lesson ideas because Friday we can look forward to the weekend and possibly reflect on a new lesson or work on designing something new for the upcoming week.
All teachers who share in this collaboration will receive full credit for their work and the same audience that all of my regular posts receive. Plus you will be noted in the contributors section that will be viewable this Friday. All work is protected and licensed through the creative commons license at the bottom of my page. In short we encourage educators to use and share this work, but not for commercial purposes.
Those who wish to share an idea or lesson are urged to do so and provide the following information:
Name:
e-mail:
Title/Position:
A brief summary of who you are:
Website or Blog:
Your written lesson with attached documents or examples of work:
You can e-mail Collaboration Friday Submissions to: collaboration.friday@gmail.com

You can send video, document (MS Word, PDF, etc.) and audio attachments to my e-mail.

Any questions or comments please let me know! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to
adding lots of new work every Friday!

Toon Doo is Cool for School!

I have to work on my post titles!

This post is going to focus on a website that all teachers can utilize in his or her classroom immediately and it is very easy to use. The site is called “Toon Doo”. Toon Doo is a free open application that allows anyone to create a comic strip. All it takes to sign up is a username and password. Easy enough! And no spam e-mails!

Here is how you can get started on Toon Doo…

Here is an assignment that I assigned for my class for our initial reading of Hamlet.

  1. Read Act 1 of Hamlet
  2. Take notes on the lines or passages you find important.
    1. Provide at least 5 passages (one for each scene, but you can use more than five).
    2. Provide the Act, scene and line number in this format I, i, 1-10
    3. Provide a brief summary (short paragraph) of why you chose that passage.

This was their homework and the next day we discussed and reflected on their first reading in class. Then I had the take their passages and translate them into a comic strip via Toon Doo. Here was my model that I showed them.

Toon

I feel Toon Doo can be used in any classroom at any level and it is easy for students and teachers to create. Plus, it will give you something that you can print out and post on your bulletin board for back to school night or simply for your Administrators to see! Here are some more ideas for other disciplines:

Math and Physics – Create a Toon Doo for a three-step equation. You can use symbols and text and if you wish to make it flashy and creative you can have characters embedded as well. When you are finished, you can hang them around on a bulletin board or post on your class website.

Special Education – The possibilities are endless for your students! Have them create a Toon Doo simply for fun! Or you can give them a specific task to create a Toon Doo for, possibly a life skill task or conversation skills between two people. I’d be interested to hear feedback on what you used Toon Doo for!!!

History and Government – Like language arts, you can create a Toon Doo for a specific moment in History. Example: The signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Foreign Language – Have students create a conversation between two characters in the language you teach. Or you can create a conversation between two people in English and have the students translate into French, Spanish or German.

Hello Animoto

Have you ever wanted your students to make a video for a class project but felt uneasy about the laborious process and the amount of class time it would take to accomplish this task? Fear not! Animoto is here to save you time and still give you the video your students can enjoy and share!

I have personally used Animoto for back to school nights and in my Language Arts classes to help students understand themes, characterization and symbolism within the novels we cover. Animoto is simple, easy and free for educators to use. All you need is a digital camera (or properly cited photos form the web), a laptop and an Animoto account for educators. Watch how simple it is…

Here are some ways you can utilize Animoto in your classroom

Create Novel Movie Trailers!

  1. Animoto utilizes “MTV Style” editing to show brief clips of a specific subject or theme set to music. This is perfect for gleaning the main elements of a novel or chapter you just read in class.
  2. At the end of the school year when you are reviewing for finals or mid terms (depending on your schools academic calendar) have the students make a brief Animoto video that they can use to
    1. Reflect on what the novel or unit was about
    2. Pick out the important elements of the chapter or novel

i. Main Points

ii. Characters

iii. Themes

iv. Symbols

v. Setting

    1. Tell them that their audience will be next year’s incoming class and they have to convince them that this novel will be an amazing read! Just like film directors would do with a summer blockbuster.
    2. If you want to stretch out this assignment and go a step further, visit http://www.bighugelabs.com/flickr/ and you can create movie posters for the novels.

i. You see what is happening here…Students are creating a product that requires them to use prior knowledge and also display that knowledge in a creative manner.

  1. As a teacher, you can show these videos on the first day of class next year. You can print out and hang up the movie posters of the novels on your bulletin board.
Here is how easy it is to create an Animoto video
and…
Here is what I just created in roughly five minutes

Creating Animoto Videos in other Disciplines!

  1. For Vocabulary words
    1. At the beginning of the Vocabulary unit have go over the list of words with your students as you normally would at the beginning of a unit.
    2. Have students define words, provide proper parts of speech and provide sentences (maybe 3 to 5).
    3. Students are arranged in groups of two. Each group will be given the following:

i. One digital camera

ii. One Vocabulary word

    1. Students will have to create an Animoto video for the word they are given. Students must include in their video:

i. The word

ii. The part of speech

iii. The definition

iv. At least two sentences

v. An image relating to the word

    1. Once the videos are created, the teacher will present the videos to the class and will serve as a brief review for the upcoming Vocabulary quiz.
  1. For Math teachers
    1. This would be a flashy way to introduce a new formula or problem. You can take the above examples and apply it to your discipline.
  2. For History teachers the possibilities are endless.
    1. In history class you could have students research an Amendment and make an Animoto video displaying the main points of that Amendment and also find images that represent that Amendment. This could work for numerous historical units:

i. Presidents

ii. New Countries covered

iii. Bill of Rights

iv. American Wars

  1. For Special Education and Life skills Teachers
    1. This would be a great way to show your kids how to perform a basic task such as raising your hand
    2. Students, with assistance, can find images of kids raising their hand in class. Students and teacher can assemble the images and even take a photo of the child performing the task, and compile them into an Animoto video.
    3. This could work with various life skills

i. Crossing the street

ii. Washing your hands

iii. Brushing your teeth

Again, this is another practical, easy to use application that every teacher and student can use. I hope this idea has helped to bring technology into your classroom and look forward to hearing how you are using Animoto in your classroom!

The Summer is for Reading!

As the temperatures begin to heat up in classrooms around the country, I felt it was a good time to discuss summer reading lists!

Summer reading has always been an unorganized disaster that most school districts fail to upgrade year after year. At my previous district we assigned one book per summer. The following September we would begin the year with an essay exam in which students could respond about a book they

A) Did not read

B) Read in June when it was assigned

C) Read the back cover and sparknotes

Personally, I found this exercise to be a waste of time and resources. Plus, students were only assigned to read one book! ONE! I know some districts have reading lists that students can select from or offer free personal pan pizzas when you finish a book…BOOK IT! (clap if you remember!) What a great way to educate and fatten at the same time! Go America!

In order to make summer reading an effective tool in our academic arsenal, we need to first define what we want our students to gain from their summer reading lists. The obvious answer is to get them reading during their summer long down time. That’s the wishful thinking response. Other responses might include preparing students for the initial unit next fall, introducing a theme or simply to expand their world view on books teachers cannot fit in during the school year. While all these examples are practical, there is no checkup through out the summer and no way of collaborating.

Here are my problems with summer reading:

Why is there not summer reading for every subject?

What is our objective and end goal for reading in the summer?

Why is there not summer reading for Faculty and Administration?

Now some of you may work in districts that can answer all of those questions with specific examples of how your district has integrated summer reading programs, but I am here to provide an answer to all of the above through two free web applications.

Goodreads

and

Shelfari

If you are unfamiliar with these applications let me briefly explain what they can do. Enjoy!

In short, Goodreads and Shelfari are social networks for people who love reading and sharing their thoughts on the books they read. Here are some ideas in which you can make Goodreads and Shelfari a part of your summer reading curriculum:

  1. Create a class group and assign a reading list for the summer.
  2. Have students post a discussion topic on the book they are reading and respond to other student posts weekly
    1. Teacher can create a rubric for discussion posts.
  3. Use the online discussions as an icebreaker for the following year or segue way into the first unit.
  4. Include parents in on the summer reading fun! Parents can read along and include their thoughts on the books!
  5. If students do not have computer access it will give them a valid excuse to visit a library (shiver!), Internet café or school districts could (if available) laptops for the summer.
  6. Create a group for cross-curricular reading, i.e. Language Arts and World History.
  7. Create a faculty reading group!
    1. This is a great way to share good reads (pun intended) concerning education. Most of us take courses throughout the year and are introduced to various new books on our craft. Every teacher should have a good reads or shelfari page!
  8. Make reading interactive and fun! Like Facebook!

Hope this helps and I would love to hear ideas and feedback on how your district is approaching summer reading this year.

SlideShare is Everywhere!

Have you ever plugged in your flash drive into a laptop, opened a powerpoint presentation and it doesn’t work? Have your students ever done the same thing, and used technology downfall as an excuse to get out of presenting? Have you ever wanted to embed your powerpoint slides on a wiki to share with students and parents? If you answered yes to all of the above then I have your solution.

Slideshare is a site that allows users to upload, store and share powerpoint slide presentations. Slideshare gives you the ability to have your powerpoints at your disposal where ever you go and the best part is that it is totally free!
Last year while I was teaching 1984, I utilized slideshare with my students who were presenting chapters of the novel to the class. I introduced them to slideshare and they were able to upload their presentations and then post them on our class wiki. If you reference my earlier post on wikis in the classroom, you will see that I had students maintain a daily log of their work on the presentations. They had to provide progress, group tasks and any documents they would be handing out during their presentation. Here are two of the examples that students used via slideshare.



You will notice that once the presentations are embedded into your blog or wiki, they allow you to utilize most of the functions that is alloted in a presentation program. Also, teachers can utilize this with all of their presentations they use in the classroom. You can even email them to students if they missed a class in which you gave a presentation. Slideshare is also useful for professional development classes and workshops. It is one way in which you can share your presentations and student work without having to locate, find and sync a flash drive.
Students and colleagues alike can follow along with a slideshare presentation as well. If teachers embed their slideshare presentation to a blog or wiki, students and faculty can follow along on their laptops. This may assist students who have trouble following slides or if students wish to use the presentation as a study guide later in the unit.
I hope you enjoyed this idea and would like to hear feedback about how you utilized slideshare in your own classroom!

Where for art thou Twitter!

I have been using Twitter for over a year. Since New Years 2009, Twitter has taken off to new heights. Everybody wants you to follow him or her on twitter, from United States Senators to Shaq, twitter has become a ubiquitous forum for those who want to know everything.

So, why is Twitter so cool? I still haven’t figured that out yet but it has become a forum for all of us to communicate and collaborate. So how can we utilize the concept of twitter in our classroom? Here are some ideas I am pondering…

…but first, let’s learn about Twitter in Plain English…

Language Arts

Objective: Have students twitter between characters in a story from the previous nights reading.

Process: Students will read chapter 1 of Lord of the Flies. After they read they will construct a twitter list between Jack and Piggy

This twitter list must include the following elements:

  1. Setting
  2. Characterization
  3. Context
  4. New Vocabulary
  5. A twitter screen name for Jack and Piggy that reflects their character.

NOTE: Entry can only be 140 characters long! Be specific and concise.

EXAMPLE

LeaderJack: Looks like we are stranded! Fat kid is freaking out. I call him Piggy.

TimidPiggy: There are no adults here! My Auntie says I should not go swimming because of my Asthma.

TimidPiggy: Where are the other boys. Found a coch shell – Raplh blew it and we found the other children

LeaderJack: Piggy wants order. I blew the conch shell and we gathered everyone.

LeaderJack: They elected me chief!

Have students read their twitter posts out loud in class and explain why they selected their material. Segue this into a class discussion. Compare and contrast postings from other students.

Social Studies

Students can make a twitter list for historical figures. Like the language arts example, students can glean the main points of a specific historical figure and use that to understand whom this historical figure is.

Activity 1:

  1. For homework, assign students a historical figure based on the current unit of study.
    1. NOTE: you can also use this to personify Amendments, Bills, etc. i.e. what would the First Amendment twitter about?
  2. Students construct a twitter list for the aforementioned assignments. Students must provide the following elements for their twitter list:
    1. A screen name that represents the personality of the figure, Amendment or bill. NOTE: it will be the roles of your classmates to guess whom you are referring to based on your twitter information.
    2. Organize your “tweets” chronologically.
    3. Provide context and information pertinent to your subject.

Students bring in their Twitter list and present it to the class. Students will try and figure out who is Twittering based on the information provided.

This is a great idea for a unit review and students can use their “tweets” as a focused study guide.

Activity 2:

This activity would target secondary and middle school students.

Objective: Have students create their own twitter account and follow a US or State Senator or Representative.

Process:

  1. Students find a US, State or local dignitary to follow on twitter.
  2. Students will follow what the dignitary is “tweeting” about and file a twitter report each week on whom they are following
    1. This could be a form of current events in the classroom.

Recommendations: Make sure you alert administration, parents and your tech director before allowing students to participate on twitter.

Mathematics

For math, teachers can use this tool very simply.

  1. Every night one student will tweet a selected math problem to the class.
    1. EXAMPLE: 32 + 43 = ?
  2. Students will have to answer the problem by the student posted for that night as an extension of the homework.

NOTE: Based on grade level, you can make your tweets more challenging. I see this working well with more involved math such as Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus.

Colleagues

I have always felt twitter would be an effective tool for teacher collaboration. Imagine a world where your entire school building is on twitter. Your principal opens up his twitter account every morning and can see what you will be covering in your classroom today. Maybe something peeks his interest and he sends you a direct message to ask if he could drop in to see this lesson. Cool right? Unless you don’t care for your principal and feel that he or she serves a better purpose at his or her desk then in your classroom.

Or imagine collaborating with other teachers on your own twitter account. Say you are covering Hamlet and a neighboring teacher is covering the same unit. You collaborate through twitter about what you are covering each day. Maybe even set up a web cast between your students where you can discuss Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1.

The above examples are simple blueprints of what you can do within the parameters of a twitter post. And you thought only celebs and Senators could twitter! Pshawh! Also, check out TWEETDECK. It is a great forum to organize all of your tweets on your desktop!

I hope these ideas peeked your interest and that you take leap and make twitter part of your classroom! I look forward to hearing your feedback and how you have used twitter in your classroom and school district!

Rethinking Current Events with Newsvine


If there is one thing students and teachers despise it’s clutter. One way teachers create clutter is asking students to print out a current event. Students print out weekly current events, read and summarize it, have it graded and then throw it out. I found more current events lying on my floor or in my trash than any other classroom document. Cringing already teachers? Fear not! I have a environmentally friendly solution that will surely net you Environmental Teacher of the Month.

The process will not only cleanup your classroom and tag you as the “Green” teacher, but you will enhance the discussion and debate in your classroom. Students will be interested in what they read because they are engaging and collaborating with their peers through a threaded discussion. I have found that students speak volumes via the web based forum as opposed to the prompt and answer method. Think of the amount of content students send and receive from each other on facebook daily! Imagine if you could take this enthusiasm and translate into the academic arena. Let’s get students discussing the economic stimulus like they debate the relationship of…of…(insert popular “it” couple here).

I found a way for Social Studies and Civics/Government teachers to replace the old printed paper current events with a practical web 2.0 solution! Here is a brief introduction to newsvine.com and how it can supplant paper current events.


Hopefully these eloquently narrated videos will help you set up your class newsvine group.
Positive Outcomes of this Lesson
  1. Students have an archive of current events to look back on throughout the semester.
  2. Teachers can design a rubric for the discussion forum and then quiz students on current events.
  3. Invite parents and administration to participate in the discussion. A great way of allowing parents to participate in the learning process.
  4. Creates a fourum to facilitate classroom discussion
  • Students can lead the class in discussion and answer questions gleaned from the discussion thread.
  • Create a debate session based off current event discussion.
Recommendations
  1. Become familiar with the newsvine site before you start using it in your classroom.
  2. Take time to instruct students on how to properly utilize this site and provide a handout on your class wiki or moodle for reference.
  3. Make sure you set your classroom group to private before going forward.
  4. Create a teacher made rubric that covers all of the content you want to assess on the site. Many times students get online and forget about spelling, grammar and providing acceptable academic content.
  5. Consult Administration, Technology director and parents before creating this forum.
  6. Invite all the members of #5 to join in and even participate in the online group discussion forum.
  7. Enjoy the idea of saving trees and limiting the use of paper (CLUTTER) in your classroom!