Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A New and Exciting Resource! Learn 360

Starting in the fall, we will have access to a great new resource through our AEA.  It will be an amazing resource to enrich our curriculum with our new projectors.  Some of the features that we will have access to are streaming books and videos to extend curriculum.  Classroom blog, calendar, and podcasting capabilities.   There will also be lesson plans full of 21st century learning skills for teachers to use and integrate!  I am very excited about this great new resource from the AEA.  

Check out the flier for more information at:|Product%20Literature
Scroll down to Learn360 then download the PDF

Monday, June 13, 2011

Awesome Adaptive Technology!

Touch to talk is a technology that I have recently discovered.  It is a resource that one of my non-verbal students will be using next year.  We are acquiring the necessary resources from the AEA and through considerations made in his IEP.  This program allows him to touch a symbol that will communicate the word or phrase he wants to say.  We are very excited about him being able to interact more with his peers and adults through this program next year.

Another new technology I have discovered through research is Boardmaker.  It is a program that contains many visual cues and pictures that would be useful for creating schedules and routine reinforcers for special needs students.  I had seen it used in social stories but never knew what the program was.  After researching its availability to me, I discovered that the special education teachers in the district are given Boardmaker so I will be tapping into their resources this year with some of my behavior kids!'re getting a projector!

About 2 months ago our administrator emailed us the agenda for our next meeting as he always does, or maybe he just posted it on his blog..I don't remember the exact details now, but then he said something interesting.  He informed us that there would be a surprise announcement at the beginning of the meeting.  School ended and not wanting to be late all of us hurried to the media center for what we knew had to be a momentous announcement!  There were rumors a flying...was someone else pregnant...was someone leaving our school...was our other administrator having twins (we already knew she was pregnant).  We couldn't fathom what would be so important and exciting that he just couldn't put it on the agenda and it had to be a surprise.  Well, we didn't have to wait long and we were told that each and every classroom was getting it's own projector!  The clouds opened up and the sun shone down as we dreamed of no more complicated checkouts, no more making sure we had the right dongle, no more buffering and wondering if we would get to the lesson because we only had the projector for 2 hours!  No we would each have our own.  As we came down from our high I sat in my spot at my usual table thinking..."oh no, how am I going to use this thing on a daily basis...I barely even checked it out because it was such a someone is buying one for me...I need to know how to use it...I need to know what to do with it."  Then and there I decided that this summer I would become informed about, review and study how to use a projector to enhance the student learning in my classroom.  Below you can find my software evaluation, several great websites I came across, and more of my insights about having a projector for my very own classroom use!  Here goes nothing...21st century learning, here I come!!!

Websites and blogs I came across that have helped me in my quest:

Software Evaluation:
Kidspiration is a program that I plan on using with my students when my projector is up and running next year.  It is a piece of software that I have access to through my school but I have never used in the past because it is not a tool that most of my kindergartners could use independently in the computer lab, but as a community of learners using a projector, I think it would be a great way to display our collective thinking!  I used the following criteria when thinking through if and how I would use Kidspiration with my kindergarten students.  To complete the evaluation I used what I already knew about Kidspiration after some technology PLC meetings as well as information gathered from peers.  I also went to the Kidspiration website for other ideas and uses.

“Essential Criteria Checklist for Evaluating Instructional Courseware”
Assessment of Commercial/Published Products
Pick 2 Y/N
Did You Know Kidspiration 3 Includes Math Tools?The following checklist includes four sets of essential qualities used to discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable software material as well as criteria for specific software functions. If software does not meet all these criteria, it probably should not be considered for purchase. For each item, circle Y for yes if it meets the criterion, or N for no if it does not.

Title: Kidspiration    
Publisher Inspiration Software
Content Areas: All  
Grade Level(s) K-5
Cost Information and Pricing Options Available: Available through the district
Courseware Functions:           
______X________Drill and practice        ______X______Instructional Game ______________Tutorial                         ______X______Problem Solving ______________Simulation                    ______X_______Other
Objectives: Building concept maps and graphic organizers to collect individual or collective thinking.  Various math skills which can easily be differentiated!

Set 1. Instructional Design and Pedagogical Soundness - I answered yes to all the criteria below.  It is a very flexible program that I could tailor to my student's needs quite easily.  I would use it with a whole group first and then as the year went on, based on my student's understanding of the program we could try it in the computer lab on an individual basis!  I am also very excited about the math manipulative section of Kidspiration.  I think this will bring some exciting new modeling to math that I was unable to do before!
YES         NO         
Y            N            Teaching strategy is matched to student needs/levels and is based on accepted methods
Y            N            Courseware methods are likely to accomplish the stated objectives
Y            N            Presentation on screen contains nothing than misleads or confuses students
Y            N            Readability and learning difficulty are at an appropriate level for target students
Y            N            Comments to students are not abusive or insulting
Y            N            Graphics fulfill important purpose (motivation, information) and are not distracting to learners.

YES         NO        Criteria specific to drill and practice functions: YES NO
Y            N            High degree of interactivity (not just reading information)
Y            N            Appropriate feedback for correct answers (none, if timed; not elaborate or time-consuming)
Y            N            Feedback is more reinforcing for correct than for incorrect responses.

YES         NO        Criteria specific to tutorial functions:
Y            N            High degree of interactivity (not just reading information)
Y            N            High degree of user control (forward and backward movement, branching upon request)
Y            N            Comprehensive teaching sequence so instruction is self-contained and stand alone
Y            N            Adequate answer-judging capabilities for student-constructed answers to questions.

YES         NO        Criteria specific to simulation functions:
Y            N            Appropriate degree of fidelity (accurate depiction of system being modeled)
Y            N            Good documentation available on how program works (if not intuitive)

YES         NO        Criteria specific to instructional game functions:
Y            N            Low quotient of violence or combat-type activities
Y            N            All content accurate and up-to-date
Y            N            No racial or gender stereotypes; not geared toward only one sex or to certain races.
Y            N            Exhibits a sensitive treatment of moral and/or social issues (e. g., perspectives on war)
Y            N            Content matches required curriculum objectives.

Set 2. Content
YES         NO         
Y            N            No grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors on the screen
Y            N            All content accurate and up-to-date
Y            N            No racial or gender stereotypes; not geared toward only one sex or to certain races
Y            N            Exhibits a sensitive treatment of moral and/or social issues (e. g., perspectives on war)
Y            N            Content matches required curriculum objectives

Set 3. User Flexibility
YES         NO         
Y            N            User normally has some control of movement within the program (e. g., can go from screen to screen at desired rate; can read text at desired rate; can exit program when desired)
Y            N            Can turn off sound, if desired
Y            N            Interface is easy to use (e.g., similar format from screen-to-screen for forward and back movement in program)

Set 4. Technical Soundness
YES         NO         
Y            N            Program loads consistently, without error
Y            N            Program does not break (i.e., stop working), no matter what the student enters
Y            N            Program does what the screen says it should do
Y            N            Program works on desired platform
Y            N            If included, online links work as indicated
Y            N            If included, animations and videos work as indicated

A lesson for Technology Integration in the Kindergarten Classroom!

This is a lesson I have done with my kindergarten kids in the computer lab!  They enjoy it, it ties into our standards, and promotes the use of 21st century literacy skills.  We are feeling good about laying a solid foundation in 21st century literacy skills that our students can build on as they move through school and into the unknown job world of the future!

Grade Level:

Curricular Areas:
Reading Language Arts/21st Century Literacy/Social Studies

Identify community helpers and what they do
Identify the differences between fiction and non-fiction
Represent Learning through drawing
Listen and participate while watching a demonstration

Lesson Summary:
Students will watch a demonstration of a teacher modeling how to log in and watch a fiction and non-fiction digital book about community helpers then create their own digital drawing of a community helper they would like to be when they grow up.  Students will then do this process on their own with teacher support.   Finally students will add a text box stating which community helper they have drawn and add additional text as appropriate.  

Teacher Prep
Faculty Notes
Have student log in cards ready to hand out

Have AEA login written on the board or on cards so that students can access bookflix
Students will already know
`how to log in to both the computer and to bookflix
`basic skills in kidpix
`basic skills in typing and mousing

Check lab computers to make sure both programs are working appropriately.
Before going to the computer lab, review previous bookflix and kidpix experiences.

Introduce the new experience in the computer lab by modeling the step on the projector/teacher computer before students are sent to their computer.

Students will activate their prior knowledge by remembering and discussing previous projects done with bookflix and kidpix.

Students will actively participate with questions and comments as the teacher explains and models the use of these two programs together with kidpix being a way to represent what they learned in bookflix. 
Make time in the classroom either the day before or day of the project to do the prior knowledge step so it is fresh in their minds. 

In the modeling stage make sure to place more inattentive students close to the screen so they can be optimally focused on the learning task at hand. 
Explain to students that they will be watching a Bookflix book and then making a Kidpix drawing with a text box to represent and extend what they have learned about community helpers.  They should view both the fiction and non-fiction text on community helpers.  Then open Kidpix to make a digital drawing of the community helper they would like to be when they grow up and add the text box “When I grow up, I want to be…”
The students will watch the demonstration of the teacher doing the assignment first, then proceed to their own computers to log in to the computer, log in to Bookflix, view the community helpers books, open Kidpix, created their digital drawing, and add their text box with the appropriate writing prompt. 
This may take two computer lab sessions or an extended computer lab session to complete.

The teacher should make sure to model thoroughly for the students and be available to help students throughout the process as adding a text box can get tricky for kindergarten students. 

This lesson can be differentiated for different levels of writers/typists.  Some may just create their digital drawing, others may add a text box with just the name of their community helper, others may do the assignment as listed, and some may add more information about the community helper as appropriate. 
The teacher will assist the students in printing or saving as necessary for the applicable outcome. 
Students will print their finished project to have a paper copy to place in a class book in the classroom library or if technology is available save it to compile it into an ebook for the classroom computer. 
Make sure to export Kidpix drawings to the desktop so they can be pulled to the website for parent viewing online.  Students can do this if time remains or older students can do it at a later time if time runs out. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Words are interactive!

Margaret Santori uses Wikipedia as a tool for her students to not only learn information about a person or topic but also to introduce or reinforce the idea that civil discussion and discourse happens among adults in the real world all the time both when they agree and disagree.  This is vital information for students to understand about any text.  Texts are written by people, who have biases, opinions, and personal writing styles and all of these things influence the information taken away by the reader.  This idea is very interesting to consider that we may even be getting more reliable information now because of the web and the fact that we are exposed to more points of view than ever before.  So words are interactive in the sense that points of view and civil discussion can create the availability of highly authentic information learning online.  

Another way that words are interactive is the way we have started to use words online.  Some of my favorite website are cooking websites and I love the interactive nature of the words in the recipes I find.  For example on I search for my favorite oatmeal bread, one of my favorite breakfast foods made by Alton Brown.  Just by clicking on different words in the recipe I can watch the video of the episode, see what different ingredients look like, convert the recipe for different serving sizes and look for alternate ingredients I could use if I am out of something important.  If you enjoy oatmeal bread, check it out!  I also love to add raisins to it!  I put the Youtube video here, but feel free to check it out on too for the fun interactive words!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Classroom Noise Level and Collaborative Writing

I go one step further than our author, Marva Solomon states, “Online writing is not quiet . . . All the children had strong physical reactions to the multimodal elements they added to their pages”.  I am not of the opinion that any writing time in kindergarten and the early childhood classroom should be quiet unless the child makes that choice.  In my experience children produce much better writing and much more cohesive, well planned pieces (online or otherwise) when they collaborate with other kids, adults and consult resources.  This can be a struggle in the kindergarten classroom because there is a fine balance between a productive writer's workshop and a slightly out of control kindergarten classroom.  (I strive for the productivity)  I have found a couple of links that support my thinking on collaborative learning as a whole.  Both of these ideas could be modified for an online experience.  - a link to a wealth of activities for collaborative talk and learning in the classroom
Download  - a sample writing project to facilitate collaborative writing from the National Writing Project

However, my favorite website by far that I use today in the classroom and is the most current I know of comes from the AEA website Discovery Educations - Hub for teachers is the perfect website for digital storytelling!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gaming and Education

My favorite website/educational gaming experience for kindergarten kids comes from a website called  On this website kids can experience the alphabet and letter sounds, watch videos, play games, read books and other kinds of text as their reading level or interest allows.  What I like most about this site is that is easy to differentiate for kids.  They can first click on ABC's, Learn to Read, It's Fun to Read or I'm Reading.  My favorite section is the Learn to Read section because as kids learn to read they can go through books, games and videos that all work together to promote a certain reading skill.