Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tool #11: The wheels are turning...

Some of the tools that were part of this training were tools that I was already using the classroom, such as Google Docs. I find this to be an incredibly powerful tool for both teachers and students. I am looking forward to using Blogger in my upcoming Civil War unit. The tools that I plan on integrating into my classroom in the future are some of the available video applications, such as Animoto. I'd also like to set up an online forum using Ning or Edmodo so that I have a way to communicate with my students and parents in a safe, transparent way outside of the classroom.
This training has definitely gotten the wheels in my brain turning. I am seeing new ways that I can incorporate technology into the lessons I already have, as well as new ways I can present information to the kids. I think one of the most powerful aspects of the 21st century classroom is ability to go beyond the traditional classroom setting and collaborate with students around the world. As an American history teacher, my students often ask me how a particular event is taught in other countries and I often don't have a complete answer for them. I would love to open our classroom up to invite students from other places to discuss these things with the kids. It would be so much more profound coming from someone that is actually learning it that way than from me just telling them. The possibilities are truly endless and we create globally-minded young people in the process, which has positive ramifications that go well beyond school. I look forward to learning more and putting it in to practice in my classroom.

Tool #10: Creating Good Digital Citizens

I think teaching our students to be good digital citizens is something that is vitally important. It starts with defining what the term digital citizen means for students. What expectations do they have for themselves and others online? "With great power comes great responsibility"... maybe show them the clip from Spiderman!

One of the struggles for educators and parents is that we are often playing catch-up. The kids are living in a truly digital age that many of us "older folks" are still working to wrap our brains around. Parents and teachers have to be working together to ensure that kids understand the ramifications, both positive and negative, that their actions can have online.

I plan on creating an online mini-lesson on digital citizenship to do with the kids at the beginning of the school year. I'd like to also share the lesson with the parents at back-to-school night so that hopefully they can understand & use the term digital citizen and create similar expectations at home.

Tool #10: Creating Good Digital Citizens

I want my students to understand & consider... 1) You leave a digital footprint wherever you go online. What will that footprint say about you? Remember that once something is out there, you can't get it back.  
2) Your words are extremely powerful and you are not truly anonymous, even when you think you are. How will you use that power? 
3) Check your sources and know where your information is coming from. Just because you saw it online, does not mean it is true.

I plan to share the 'Digital Dossier' video with my students. It is interesting and frightening all at the same time!

Tool #9: iPad Apps

App: 'History: Maps of the World'
This is an app I plan to download. Students are often taught history without the proper geographic context, which I believe leaves out an important component. I think having a geographic station to go along with other stations would make a lesson more complete. I can especially see using a station like this when learn about the trails west, Trail of Tears, etc.

App: BrainPOP
This is another great app for stations since the accountability piece is already built in. The students watch the given video and complete the interactive quiz. I've used BrainPOP to review presidents and events leading to a conflict.

App: Sock Puppets
This app sounds really fun. Students could create their own sock puppet videos about historic figures or events and then share them with their peers. I would also be fun to have the students write songs about events and then create sock puppet music videos.

Alternative stations using the iPad-
Using flashcards to review unit vocabulary
Watching a video and compelting a quiz created using Google Forms
Using the built-in camera and mic to share their thoughts on something and post to a forum where their classmates could view and comment. 

Tool #9: Cool Tools cont...


Accountability regarding stations/centers that utilize the new technology is no different than holding students accountable for any work they do in the class. There needs to be an expectation set that there is a purpose to what we do in class and students will be responsible for responding to what they have learned.

Interactive Websites - Stations
This is a very cool website that examines the various conflicts in which the U.S. has been engaged. I can envision using it near the end of the year to get the kids reviewing the conflicts as well as facilitating discussions about reasons countries go to war, are those reasons just, issues surrounding dissent, etc. Each station could highlight a different conflict that we have studied and the kids would be expected to analyze them based on a series of criteria with the lesson culminating in a round table discussion on war.
The students often hear about the Lewis & Clark Expedition journals, but very rarely get the time to explore them. It would be fun to have a station where the kids could explore the journals themselves and create video diaries of that day on the expedition in their own words. The kids could then view each others video diaries to get an understanding of daily life on the expedition. A rubric could be created to grade the video diaries to ensure they are held accountable. 

Tool #9: Using Our Cool New School Tools

1. I think one of the most important things to remember as we begin to more fully integrate technology into our classrooms is keeping our learning objective at the heart of the planning. Don't use technology simply for the sake of using technology. Use it with a purpose and a goal. Often we think of technology as some "end all be all" when in fact it is simply another tool in a teacher's toolbox. Technology should be used to get students to collaborate with one another in creative ways that allows them some choice in how they express what they have learned. The key being that they actually learned the given objective.

To be continued...

Tool #8: The Hardware

Dell 2120: I am really excited about the web cam tool. The kids really love being able to create videos about a given topic and this makes the process much easier to integrate into the classroom because a separate device is not needed.

iPad: I think that podcasts are a great way to utilize the iPads in my classroom. I'd love to see the students creating and posting their own podcasts on a given topic. I'd also like to create my own podcasts that I can use in stations. I know the iPads will also be great for basic research as well.

Device Management:
1) I plan on having a strict sign-out/sign-in policy so that the students are accountable for the devices they use.
2) Rules for technology use will be placed in a very visible place in the classroom. I will go over the expectations for proper use before any devices are ever checked out to students. I also plan on sharing expectations with the parents so that they will be aware and there will be fewer issues if a student loses the privilege of using the technology.

Tool #7: Reaching Beyond The Classroom

I really like the idea of "flattening" the classroom. I'd like to start by setting up collaboration between my two classes and between the social studies classroom upstairs. I'm in Civil War mode since it is what we are about to start. One of the main objectives of our Civil War unit is the kids looking at the war from different perspectives and I think by following & commenting on each other's blogs they will get to see that soldier's experiences in both the Union and the Confederacy were really not all that different. I think I am going to ask them to follow the blogs of at least two regiments in the other class and 2 from upstairs.

Another tool that I think we could use during this next unit would be Today's Meet. The unit is very student-centered with very little direct teaching involved so the kids have various things on which they are working on any given day. They are also competing for regiment points. Mrs. England and I could set up a Today's Meet board that is active throughout the day. The kids could post about what their regiment is experiencing that day and recieve battle points for each post. They could see what the upstairs classes are experiencing as well.

Looking into the future, I'd love to use Skype to bring in historic experts and let the kids interview them. There is an actor named Bill Barker who plays Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg with whom I would love to set up a Skype session.

There are so many possibilities!   

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tool #6: Blogger

We are just about to begin our Civil War unit and we are making a change this year to be more 21st century! In this unit, students are put into regiments and given two identities; a Union or Confederate soldier and a family member of that soldier. In the past, they were required to write 12 journal entries throughout the unit, 6 as their soldier and 6 as their "home" identity. This year, each regiment will be creating a blog. Each member of the regiment will be required to blog as their soldier and/or home identity about what is happening to them on a daily basis, what battles they are involved in, etc. These blog posts will take the place of the journals. I'm excited to see how it goes...

I created an example to share with the kids at

Tool #6: Wallwisher

This is a very cool tool! I could see using this to put up messages for my students with reminders, etc. They could also post questions to me and each other. I'm going to have to play with how I could use this with curriculum as well.

Tool #5: Stupeflix

I have to admit that I wasn't particularly impressed with Stupeflix. There must have been something wrong with the site while I was creating my video because I had a really hard time getting the timing and pictures zoomed where I wanted them to be. I think I'd be more likely to use Photostory or Animoto to create a video of this type.

Tool #5: Word Clouds

I've used Wordle and other word clouds in various ways in class. A successful example was when the students completed a note sheet online about the three Seminole Wars and then had to create a word cloud about each war to summarize what they had learned. They had to have 10-15 words and/or phrases that summarized what stood out to them about the war. They came out really well and made for a quick, creative check for understanding.

Here's one I created about the Civil War, our upcoming unit;
Wordle: Civil War

Tool #4: My Head In The Cloud

The cloud is amazing! Google Apps has really changed the way that students are able to turn in written assignments and collaborate. Just last week, the kids were divided into groups and given an event leading up to the Civil War. They had to research and write a newspaper article for our class version of Harper's Weekly. Each group shared the article with their group members and me. They were then able to have some members typing the article, others would edit what had already been typed and another could look for images to add to their article. When they were completed, I was able to compile them into a template and give each student a copy of our class newspaper. It worked really well.

Google Docs made my planning for our annual Historic Dinner Party much easier. I was able to create a spreadsheet of items that I needed students to bring in for our buffet. I made it available to all the parents who could then go online and put their name under what they were able to bring and the time they planned to volunteer. It made my life so much easier because I didn't have a ton of e-mails to respond to about what we still needed, etc. The spreadsheet made it very clear what items were still needed and when I needed volunteers. Loved it!

I am looking forward to using Google Forms to make assesment paperless. I can envision using forms for a quick check for understanding at the end of an assignment or as a final station after students have explored a topic.