Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tool 11

Finished!!! Yea!! I have really enjoyed the 11 Tools training. This is my third time to participate in an online training of this kind. The SBISD Library Media Office developed three such trainings for librarians and any other educators that were interested several years ago. These trainings were 23 Things, 11.5 Things, and 5.75 Things. I participated in the first two and now in 11 Tools. I never cease to be amazed at how many new "tools" and "things" are out there! Being an educator in the 21st Century is a constant learning experience! Some of my favorite new "tools" are Wallwisher, Storybird, Storyjumper, and Twitter. Plus, one of the biggest benefits from doing 11 Tools for me was a renewed interest in blogging. About a year ago I set up a blog for my library called Leo's Library Lair. At the time I was really busy with many other things, and didn't really get it started. Now, after completing 11 Tools, I have a renewed energy for having a library blog. There are so many things that I can do with it and so my goal for the year is to get this up and running and help my students to start developing an online community. (I am providing the link here to give myself some accountability!)

While I have been on the "incorporating technology" bandwagon for several years, my thinking has transformed some in that I see more of a need for our students to be more global citizens. It isn't going to be enough for them to be "good students" in our own little schools, they will need more global citizenship skills and we can help them by providing global learning opportunities. While trying to plan a "global learning activity" is a little intimidating at the moment, I intend to take some small steps to at least let our students begin to connect their learning to others outside of of the walls of our school.

Tool 10

Three things I try to make sure all students understand about digital citizenship are:
1. Safety, safety, safety! Don't put personal information out there without talking to your parents! Safety is such a key with students when talking about the online world! Many elementary students just aren't mature enough to think through the consequences of their online actions and need parental help.
2. Kindness and Respect - Being nice and showing respect to people and to devices and equipment. One of my pet peeves is when students come into the library or classroom computers and change the settings to their own personal preferences. With the exception of students who have disabilities and need to change settings, I do not allow this. We talk about this and the importance of respecting the property of our school.
3. Responsibility - How to give credit where credit is due for information found online that is used in projects and presentations. With lots of freedom, comes lots of responsibility. I try to teach students to make good choices and of course, cite sources!

Two years ago all of the district librarians were given the task of teaching digital citizenship to all of our students. We have the iSafe curriculum as a starting point, but I also use BrainPop and other web resources. One of our fabulous district librarians created flipcharts for teaching Internet safety that include the iSafe curriculum as well as other resources. Last year the district included teachers in the "teaching Digital Citizenship" requirement. This is key! Students will learn so much more about what is the right thing to do when it comes to digital citizenship if all of us (the whole staff) are giving them the expectations of being a good digital citizen.

Explaining Digital Citizenship to parents is very important as well. One of my goals for this year is to submit some articles to our PTA newletter and hopefully make a brief presentation at a PTA meeting explaining digital citizenship and what we are teaching regarding digital citizenship at school.

Tool 9

1. Why is it important to tie the activity to the objective?
This is key to everything we do! If we are not connecting the objective to our activities then we are just spinning our wheels! We are like a rudderless ship with no direction. There are lots of great activities out there, but to get the biggest bang for our buck with students, we need to make sure our activities are congruent with our objectives.

2. Why should we hold students accountable for the stations/centers?
This is a mistake I myself have made as a teacher! When there is no accountability, then many times activities will turn into "play" or students may even not do them. Asking for accountability helps teachers know what skills students have mastered and where they are still struggling. Accountability also makes learning more meaningful for students.

I loved the interactive websites! My favorites were Learning Games for Kids, TESiboard, and Thinkfinity. I got a little carried away at these sites and played several games myself! I can see using many of these websites in library lessons and after lessons for exploration time.

I really enjoyed searching the Tools for 21st Century Learning Database! A fabulous resource that I have not utilized! I spent lots of time looking at apps and web tools and flipcharts! I appreciate that you have a form for submitting additional apps for approval! I am interested in learning more about the Colonial Williamsburg apps - Today in 1770 and Word of the Day. These will be great to use with 5th grade. I also want to learn more about the iTalk Recorder app and the Diigo Reader app.

In the library, since my time with classes is limited, when I am using the devices with a whole class, we usually have a predetermined activity. When students are using the devices on their own, I either give them suggestions (apps to try or start with) or they already know where and what they are supposed to do on the devices since they have an assignment from the teacher. One thing I have found to be beneficial for students, especially younger students, is to demonstrate how to use apps before turning them loose. I use my document camera and put an iTouch or an iPad under it and show them an app, what to do, and then let them try it. This gives them direction and purpose. Too many times we think all we have to do is give the students the devices and let them go because they will figure it out. A few of the students probably will, but most won't and they end up jumping from app to app very quickly because they can't figure out what to do. This wastes a lot of time. So, I spend time actually teaching them different apps and before you know it, they have a whole repertoire of apps that they know how to use and use effectively.

Tool 8

In the library, we received iTouches 2 years ago and Dell netbooks and iPads last year so I am already familiar with the devices. I did know that the Dells had the web cams, but I wasn't familiar with the "webcam central" software and the ability to record video. I will definitely have to explore with this. The videos you had were great and I think will be a great help to teachers as they set up and manage their devices. I also learned about setting a particular website as an "app" or link button on your home screen. I had learned this before, but had forgotten how to do it. Again, nice to have these videos to go and be able to refer back. When you are first setting everything up, it is a little overwhelming, so it is easy to forget. One thing I would like know about the iTouches and iPads - is it possible to organize the apps on one device and then somehow "copy" or "duplicate" this to all your other devices? It would sure save a lot of time!

In the library I usually have a helper every morning that comes in and gets out the devices and helps to get them set up each day. I know of classroom teachers who have "technology helpers or captains" that do this as well. It is a nice routine to establish.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tool 7

I have to be honest...I was a little apprehensive about this tool. "Developing an online project" with another classroom sounded a little intimidating! However, after reading through all the information, watching the interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, and visiting several of the sites recommended, I find this pretty exciting! I did sign up for a Skype in the Classroom account. I already have a Skype account, so it was easy to add a Skype in the Classroom account. I also looked at the Skype in Schools wiki and the Authors Who Skype With Classes website. It is amazing the opportunities that are available.

A few years ago our school purchased a Video Conferencing unit and a few other teachers and I signed up with an organization called Collaborations Around the Planet or CAPSpace. What was great about this organization is that teachers from all around the world would post projects and requests looking for other classrooms around the world to either do a video conference call or Skype. I assisted several teachers on our campus setting up video conferences. It was really great and the students LOVED it! Unfortunately, I believe my email got dropped, or you have to register again, because I stopped receiving updates. I am going to register again so that I can have another avenue for setting up collaborations.

The project that I am planning is an after school book club that focuses on reading and sharing Newbery Award books. A couple of things I would like to do with this group is set up a wiki or blog where students can post questions and comments about what they are reading. Plus, I would like to create an online group or club on one of the online book communities such as GoodReads. I saw this suggestion at TCEA last year and loved it. Within the online group, students can post books they are reading and questions for other readers. The school that presented the idea had great success. Other things our group can do is set up a time to Skype with either other schools in our district that are doing an after school book club, or I can search out a school from another part of the state or country to Skype with us. If possible, it would be great to Skype with a Newbery Award winning author! I still have lots to iron out on this idea and I appreciate the Steps to Developing a Collaborative Project link. This has lots of great ideas and suggestions!

Tool 6

Wow! I didn't realize there were so many tools for promoting discussion in and out of the classroom! I am already familiar with several of these, but I wasn't thinking about these as "discussion promoters." I already use Google Docs, which the more I use it, the more value I see in terms of discussion, or at least getting students to express their thoughts. I have had the opportunity to use Today's Meet and Poll Everywhere several times in professional development settings. I have not tried either of these with students, but would like to try Today's Meet - especially with 4th and 5th graders. I have used Skype several times and know that there are many opportunities for using Skype in the library. One time during our weekly Books and Breakfast, one of our teachers was out of town, so she Skyped with her group. The students were so excited and their weekly discussion was great!!

One tool that has been new to me is Twitter. This was something that I wasn't really interested in using, not being one to "put all me business out there" so to speak, or read about what someone had for dinner. However, this summer at the November Learning Symphony, we were asked to create a Twitter account to use during the 3 days of training. They taught us about the power of Twitter when it comes to education. Quite frankly, I was amazed! We learned about hashtags and how to search for educational ones. Another tool they showed us was TweetDeck, which is a separate application that allows you to sort your Twitter feed into different categories for easy reading. I have downloaded TweetDeck and have just started using it. I still have a lot to learn about Twitter and TweetDeck, especially in customizing it for my use, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how useful this tool can be for education. I have signed up to follow CoolCatTeacher and let me tell you - she Tweets A LOT!! Tons of good information, but it is hard to find the time to read it all.

The other tool I tried for #6 was Wallwisher. I have seen this used before, but didn't think much of it until I started seeing some of the ideas the other teachers on my campus were posting for Wallwisher. I created one thinking specifically about Books and Breakfast, a weekly book club at our school for 4th and 5th graders. Each week during Books and Breakfast, students have a different question or discussion starter to answer based on their reading. We create bookmark for students, so they can keep track of each week's topic and their thinking, but I wonder if we could add a technology piece to it as well. Having a question posted each week on a Wallwisher, would give students another opportunity to interact with each other and their reading. All Wallwishers could be embedded into a Books and Breakfast wiki so that all groups would be able to see them. I think I am going to give this a try this year! The Wallwisher I created is posted below. If you have read the book, post a thought!