Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Tools, New Titles...

The current budget crisis has prompted my district to encourage its employees to be a little greener. One of things we have been asked to consider is the amount of paper that we use each year. In doing so, teachers looked at their student enrichment packets for summer practice and severely cut back the paper. I was asked to look at this from a different perspective - How can we omit this wasted paper altogether and still provide parents and students with tools to practice skills this summer?

The U.S. Department of Education published a study on the Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students. This study states that "Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills..." Technology that is correctly designed for students to use independently can enhance their ability to think independently, practice basic skills, problem solve and develop a love of learning. My goal was to find resources on the web that students could independently use to do all of these things.

My first task was to decide the best way of sharing these resources with parents. I decided the best way to share these resources would be to create a google site housing a list of resources. This way students and parents could sit down and open one basic site with links to many more sites to explore. I then created a simple bookmark to send home with the students that included the web address for the Web Tools page on the Camp Rock 'N Read site that I had previously created for use this summer at our summer reading camp. Google sites is free, manageable, and easy to access. They are limited in their ability to embed, but I worked around that problem. I am anxious to see how this is used this summer by students and parents. I know that often times the worksheets would actually end up in the trash can. I am hoping that this technology will motivate students to practice skills this summer. We will see where it goes!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Looking For Some Advice!

Today I am looking for some advice in the google sites and flickr creative commons realms.

Google Sites

This summer I would like to build a resource for my students. I have opted to use google sites since it is free and relatively easy to use, however, I seem to have hit a little wall. I would really like to maintain an on-line book resource "center" for parents and students to use to pick out popular books. I wanted to use shelfari because that is what I am currently using for this blog. When I went to add my shelfari widget, I discovered that adding widgets to a google site is not an easy task. Does anyone out there know how I can go about doing this? I am also open using to other resources with similar capabilities. Shelfari is perfect for me since it gives an image of the book and I work with younger students who respond best to pictures.


I would also like my students to write reports about animals, continents, etc., and be able to use real pictures to fully develop their reports. When I looked at the creative commons on flickr, I found great pictures that would be awesome for my students. I understand I can add them to my favorites, but is there any way that I can mass upload them somewhere else? I do not want my students to have access to flickr because it is hard to limit their search options and I do not know what they will stumble across. I also do not feel comfortable sharing my own username and password with them for this purpose. I considered downloading the pictures and then having them pick photos from a pre-existing file, but this seems so work intensive on my part. I feel like there has to be an easier way to go about it! I am open to any suggestions for alternate tools to use in this arena, too! Picture sharing is definitely not my strength, and I want it to be a positive experience for my students!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back In Action

After intensively blogging this fall, I am afraid that I neglected my blogspot during the cold, winter months. I am trying to get back in the swing of things! I have recently learned that the teaching position that I currently hold is being re-designed and will not exist in its current form next year. I am going to be back in the regular classroom next year and hope to be teaching first grade. If anyone has any great sites for first graders, I would love to start exploring them so please send suggestions my way! I am especially looking for sites where students can go beyond the basics, are encouraged to think outside the box, and can explore what their world has in store for them!

That being said, what have I been up to? Well I have recently been using two sites with my students. I will give a brief overview of the first one and get into a little more detail with the second!

The first site that we have been exploring is Professor Garfield. This website is full of things that are very student friendly. It has a wealth of activities. Because I am a reading teacher, I use the "transport to reading" link and look at the reading activities. For the earlier grades, I like to use Orson's Farm. The activities presented to the students are focused on developing phonemic awareness skills, enhancing decoding and blending skills, and practicing rhyming skills. The site is visually appealing to younger students and uses music to further engage the learner. For older learners, I have used Garfield's Island. This also uses games to help students practice word skills, but also includes a reading comprehension activity. The students can listen to two books. The stories are presented in a way that guides students to stop and think as they read and will also read the stories to the students. The kids seem very engaged by all of these activities.

The second resource that I have been using I was introduced to by Carrie Mitton earlier this school year. This is site is called Kerpoof and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The site allows students to explore using technology to write stories, make cards, etc. Here is a short overview of the program.

For a recent fourth grade project, I used a rubric to help successfully guide the students through the assignment and also to assess their work. The students responded well to the task and went beyond my expectations. I was especially impressed by their creativity and the creative thinking that went into the story design.

Both of these resources have been very motivating to my reluctant learners. Check them out! I am back in the blogosphere and hopefully will not neglect my blog any longer!