Learning in Room 104

•April 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For more insect life cycle fun (and learning) please visit our blog:



And here is our Voicethread

•April 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Voicethread and Learning with Digital Tools

•April 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I began my culminating project with the  ISTE Standards in mind.

My challenge was to make these goals meaningful to my students and to transform their learning through the use of technology.  Wielded with Voicethread as my digital tool, I decided to focus on the following standards:

1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
a. apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
b. communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
a. advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
b. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
6. Technology Operations and Concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Students:
b. select and use applications effectively and productively.
d. transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.

A lot of these ideas are far too abstract for my young etymologists…they are only 6 and 7 years old!

Nevertheless, they understood that they were using technology to consolidate and communicate their learning.  AND because we were using a website on the internet and because their voicethread was going to be added to our classroom blog, they understood that they had a global audience.  I can not tell you how much this motivated them to participate and also do their best!

It never ceases to amaze me what students can do when given a little bit of freedom to explore and experiment.  As I was conferencing with students, I found that some students had learned how to use the pen tool all by themselves.  They used the pen to circle and hi-light what they were talking about.  Before I knew it, some students were teaching others how to use the pen tool.  Some students went so far as to use it to write words like “pupa”, “nymph” , “abdomen” and “probiscus” while using their mouse.  This is pretty cool because our mini-lesson in writing workshop today was on using labeled diagrams in our nonfiction writing.  I love it when student apply their learning across content areas and especially when they use technology to do it!

Check it out:

Insect Life Cycles Voicethread

Voicethread Experts

•March 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Learning How to Use VoicethreadMy class has the great fortune of working with Ms. Bellone’s grade 4 class.  We are learning buddies and get together to explore different activities throughout the year.  Her class has used Voicethread before and were perfect coaches for my grade 1 students.

Using buddies is a great idea when you want more one-on-one support.  This is ideal when you are exploring new technologies and applications.  Knowing that Ms. Bellone’s class had used Voicethread, I asked if they could coach my students through the steps of using the website.  In order to prepare our Grade 4 buddies for their session with their grade 1 buddies, I quickly went over the steps with them.  I asked that they guide my students through adding both a text comment and a voice comment.  Once we were ready, we split up both classrooms to limit the amount of noise and to provide extra space for their partner work.
DSCN0317 by grade4maryDSCN0315 by grade4maryDSCN0313 by grade4maryDSCN0320 by grade4maryDSCN0312 by grade4maryDSCN0307 by grade4maryDSCN0304 by grade4maryLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use Voicethread
DSCN0300 by grade4maryLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use VoicethreadLearning How to Use Voicethread
It was amazing to see how quickly my grade 1 students caught on.  It was really exciting to see more and more comments being added to our Voicethread.  It was like popcorn popping as their little identities graced the pages of our Voicethread as recordings were posted.  My students quickly took ownership of their learning and posted comments with little or no support.  The grade 4 buddies had a lot of fun working with our class and we had a lot of fun too.  Our new student, Woosung, who had just arrived from Korea, exclaimed:  “I love ISB!” 

After the session was done, I asked my students to share what they had done with their parents.
I created a How-To sheet with screenshots for each step.  This was sent in an email, inviting my parents to see what we had done in class.  Many students went home to add more comments to our Voicethread.  Some parents wrote to me to express how excited their child was and how some of them shared the Voicethread with relatives overseas.  And there we had it…a hugely successful learning opportunity. 
Learning How to Use Voicethread

I am looking forward to the next Voicethread session, where students will be given the opportunity to post comments and questions independently. 

Introduction to Voicethread

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Using Voicethread
I have used Voicethread in the past and was looking forward to sharing this tool with my young entomologistVoicethread is a website where pictures can be uploaded and members are invited to post comments.  In preparation  I took a picture of each of my students using Photo Booth and applied the comic effect.  I then uploaded each picture and created individual identities.

I also uploaded some great pictures of our insects.  The pictures were taken with a USB microscope and uploaded to our voicethread.  I created a gallery from which the students could choose from.  In order to support my students in adding comments to the voicethread, I posted a question on each picture.  These questions could be used as a springboard for their own comments or questions.
Using Voicethread

Once everything was ready to go, I booked some time in our Learning Hub Tech Zone.

The idea was to show my students the voicethread, how to use it and then have a go at it on their own computers.
I showed my class the voicethread and how to navigate the website.  I modeled how to use the different buttons on the website and how to record a voice or text comment.

Using Voicethread

After we reviewed the steps with a few students coming up to the Smartboard to record comments, the students were allowed to explore the voicethread on their own computers.  Since it was the first time in the Tech Zone, things were a bit hairy.  We had some login issues, finding the website, using the headsets and other troubleshooting matters.  With time against us, the students only got a chance to access the website and navigate through the pictures. 

I had to go back and rethink how to better support my students.  There was simply too much happening at once and a lot of it NEW to many of my students.  Nevertheless, they were excited and energized.  They couldn’t wait to record comments and to share this with their parents.  In this way, I had succeeded in using technology as a motivating factor to learn and to communicate learning.  I was determined to make the next Voicethread session a great success.

Prancing on the Blogging Platform and Dipping into Blogging

•February 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Blogging is really big in the Elementary school at ISB

Our classroom is already involved in our Grade 1 blog, Smartones.  This is largely a parent communication piece where Grade 1 teachers post pictures and updates to document the learning and the fun that is happening in our grade.  Actually, it was one of the first blogs that was created during our wave of teachers and students using digital tools. (Jeff Utecht , our fabulous and super supportive IT coordinator, writes a blog post about the birth of Smartones.  )  Because we were new to blogging and weary of the time demands the blog would place on classroom teachers, we decided to turn commenting functions off.  We were excited about teaching and learning and sharing this with our parents, but not too keen on spending precious time, personal and professional, on moderating comments.  Certainly, as the IT rep for our grade, I didn’t want this falling on my shoulders either.  We are really proud of our blog and what we are doing with it.  But it is true: we are using Smartones more for the platform than for the purpose of blogging.  The reason for this is the communication is a one-way street.  There is no online dialogue and our students are not the ones posting comments or posts.

Now comfortable with the blogging platform, it was time for me to embrace an old digital tool and use it for its authentic purpose.  I wanted to start a dialogue on (and sharing of) my students’ learning.  And so, isb104.wordpress.com was borne:

Working with Grade 1 students, and with the timelines for my COTAIL course project, I decided to focus the blog around my classroom’s work on our unit of study on insect life cycles.  I was concerned about how much of this blog would be my work and how much would be my students’, a common concern when using digital tools with 6 and 7 year olds.  A lack or limited use of digital tools, typing skills and understanding of the responsibilities of online publishing were concerns that kept students from Smartones.  I did not want this to be the case with our new classroom blog.  I had to find ways that would gradually release the responsibility for adding to the blog. 

In order to monitor what is posted on isb104.wordpress.com, I have not (yet?) given my students an account they can use to write posts on the blog.  Instead, I have energized my students to reflect on, discuss and share their learning by telling them that their learning will be published on the internet!  You won’t believe how this announcement has motivated my students to do their best thinking.  Now my job is to document it, share it and give them opportunites to do the same.

So here is the plan (using the gradual release of responsibility model):

Model:  Our first investigation focuses on the beetle life cycle.  I will use my students reflections, comments and questions gathered during this investigation to create the architecture of the blog.  I will also use this as a sample of how their work will be published to the world.    In addition, my writing on the blog will model a potential future practice that my students will be doing (hopefully…if not this year, then for sure in their not too distant educational career). 

Guided Practice:  I will use different digital tools to help my students use digit tools that will help them consolidate and communicate their learning.  I will upload pictures and videos to the blog and document conversations and learning that take place in the classroom.  We will also use Voicethread as yet another way to publish our thoughts and learning.  Our Grade 4 buddies, who have used Voicethread, will help teach their Grade 1 buddies how to post to our Insect Life Cycle Voicethread.

Independent Practice:  Students will be invited to share their thoughts, questions and ideas on the blog and the Voicethread.  The dialogue will begin.  The conversations will be given room to grow and deepen.

Application:  Students will share their thinking with a global audience.  We will invite parents and possibly another classroom from another part of the world, to join in our investigation of insects and their life cycles.  (This may occur after the completion of my COTAIL course.)

I am excited about using the blogging platform to the fullest with my class.  It will be interesting to see how well they receive the idea and the opportunity to contribute to a discussion that goes beyond our classroom walls.  I am also excited about sharing our learning with my students’ parents in an interactive way.  I hope that this will stimulate a deeper understanding of not just the content, and what is being learned, but also a deeper understanding of how this can be achieved using digital tools. 

To Wiki or NOT to Wiki

•February 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Having decided to share my students’ learning with a wider audience, I then had to decide what would serve as my platform to do this. I was thinking of creating my own classroom blog so that I and my students (with adult support) could blog about their learning and new discoveries. But after having created two blogs already, I thought I would explore a new digital platform…enter the Wiki.

My first challenge was to determine which wiki site to use to host my students’ work. Jeff Utecht suggest 3 possibilities: wetpaint, wikispaces, and pbworks.

The first choice was eliminated due to ads, and seeing as this was going to be for educational purposes, I decided to try the other sites.

My second choice was wikispaces since my school had used this site extensively.
I started to play around with the different options.  Some of these included, layout, colour scheme, importing YouTube videos and creating a chart.

I wanted to structure the wiki using a chart where each column would hold different items.  I found this a bit of a challenge and not very user friendly.  I couldn’t edit the size of the cells because they were automatically formatted to fit the content.  This minor inconvenience led me to try my third site…

PBworks seemed simple and a little more user friendly in the chart department.
Because I was used to the sidebar being on the left on wikispaces and wetpaint, I had to adjust to the right-sided sidebar.  I tried to change this orientation, but could not find a way to do so.

Then I started to add some content…just to play around with the architecture of the wiki.  I quickly found out that I had little content to post, at least for the moment.  (I wanted this to be created with the work my students developed, not just a storehouse of information – information that was created by others.)  As a result, the look and feel did not appeal to me. 

I also wanted to document our classroom learning as it happened.  That’s why I wanted to use a chart in the first place, to create a calendar that would record our discoveries and our questions, as they transpired. 

I quickly realized that I was playing with the wrong tool!