Blackboard Collaborate

I cannot say enough about our virtual class last weekend.  I’ve never participated in anything like that before so I was a little nervous at first.  But, I absolutely loved it!  I found Blackboard Collaborate easy to use and navigate.  I was fascinated at how windows popped up with slides and videos to watch.  AMAZING!  I’d like to know if it’s possible to have multiple moderators so different people could present different information.  Maybe that would be too crazy, I don’t know.  I liked the ability to participate by virtually raising my hand, applauding, or writing a comment.  I think it would be tough to moderate a group as he/she would have to talk and keep up with some of the side comments.  The virtual class was one of my favorites during this 2-year program. More information and a short video clip about Blackboard Collaborate can be found here

I envisioned Blackboard Collaborate as something I would use in professional development courses, some teachers are using it in the classroom!  Anne Mirtschin wrote a great blog post about it on her blog.  I love it!


Digital Storytelling

I loved learning all of the tools available to help students tell stories digitally.  Students will LOVE creating these!  I can’t believe I had never heard of any of them before!

storybird – use given images to make a story. Perfect for younger kids.

tikatok – write a story, add your own pictures, and order a hard-cover book.

dvolver – animated movie.

goanimate – teacher discount.

xtranormal – cartoon animation.

animoto – video slideshow maker with music.

photo story – images + music.  Great for even younger grades. Download software from Microsoft. Free.

voicethread – use images, documents and video to make a movie.  No software.  Love the comment capability.

prezi – cooler than powerpoint.

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Anti-Social Web User

Apparently, I am antisocial when it comes to the social web.  I have a blog, but it is private.  The blog is used to share photos and videos of my kiddos with their grandparents and other family and friends who live  far away.  I don’t have a Facebook account and I don’t tweet.  I guess I don’t think other people would really care what I’m doing at any given moment during the day.  I certainly don’t need to know what celebrities are eating for lunch.  I never thought of it as a learning tool.

That being said, I use the web A LOT to learn.  I have another blog (again, private) that I use to store all of my favorites sites and blogs.  It tells me when the sites have been updated so I don’t have to spend hours checking each of my favorite sites.  I guess I use it the same way others use an RSS feed (I had no idea what that was until I just read our text).  I just signed up for Google Reader to see if I will like that.  I tried delicious a long time ago, but didn’t like the social aspect (ha! I am an antisocial).  I am trying Diigo now.  I love the idea of receiving information from others in the same field or with similar interests.  I have already found several great sites from the Diigo group. 

I follow a lot of blogs and websites and learn a lot from them.  I learn what other first grade teachers are doing in their classrooms and I get all of my recipes from them.  I use them to stay on top of the news and weather.  There is so much out there!  It is very overwhelming and very addicting.  I’m a very private person living in an increasingly social web-world!


Media Literacy in the Classroom (Chapter 8)

In years past, being literate meant you could read words in print.  Today, being literate involves much more because today media encompasses much more than print.  To be literate today, you must understand new technologies including blogs, wikis, television, digital media and video games.  Elementary school students are literate in all forms of media and technology.  Unfortunately, most of their teachers are not.  The author says these schools and teachers have “failed to recognize not only young people’s fascination with new media and technology, but also how teachers could use these new media tools to connect with their students and teach a myriad of subjects” (p.135).  This is so true!  I know some teachers who are not allowed to use television and videos in the classroom.  Some are not allowed to use their phones in front of their students.  At my school, we could use Discovery Education video clips, so I used them. It was amazing.  As soon as the clip began, I immediately had the attention of 25 first graders.  Every single one of them had their eyes to the front of the classroom and they were completely “hooked” into what was being said on the screen.  All of these students have grown up with television and iPhone apps.  I don’t understand why we don’t use this more.  I am not advocating that teachers turn the TV on for the whole day.  But, we should use whatever tool necessary to help students learn.  Technology is a big part of that.  The author mentions that after the first broadcast of The Wizard of Oz in 1956, libraries reported a huge demand for the L. Frank Baum books.  Video and YouTube clips can help students get hooked or introduced or interested in a topic. 

In addition to being given more access to various media and technology, students really need to be taught how to be critical thinkers when it comes to using this technology.  They need to be taught how to sort the good information from the bad and that they should not believe everything they read.  Students need to be taught about internet safety.  They need to be informed about how and why media is made and how to interpret different messages and points of view.  Click here to learn more about media literacy and how to teach it to your students.  Media literacy should be incorporated into all subject areas.  For example, in Language Arts students can study advertising and create their own advertisements.  In Social Studies, students can study photographs from the past and discuss how images can be manipulated.  This is important!  Look what came up in a Google search for Abraham Lincoln:


Google in the Classroom

Am I the only one who thought Google was just a search engine?  I had NO IDEA how much Google has to offer!  I love the idea of using Blogger in the classroom.  I think it’s a great idea for a teacher to have a classroom blog.  As a parent, I would love to know more about what my kids are up to at school.  It’s so easy to lose forms and calendars that are sent home with students.  This would be a great way to communicate with parents and students.  Comments can provide excellent feedback and ideas too.  I also see Blogger or Google Sites as a great tool for students to use.  I can see these tools used in all subjects areas as a way for students to share the information they’ve learned.  It would be fun and motivating since the information would be seen by parents, peers, and the teacher.  I also am now converted to Google Docs.  This is such a time-saver, especially for group work!  No more emailing documents back and forth! Hooray!  Google Squared would be great as a starting point in a research project.  Google SketchUp looks amazing!  I would need some kind of tutorial, but this would be great for students to use in any assignment.  It looks like it might be best for upper elementary students.  During my student teaching, I was always looking for new ways for first graders to practice sight words.  I wonder if this would be something they could learn to use to maybe illustrate sentences using sight words.


Reflection: “Did You Know?”

Wow!  The video clip and the following class discussion was really interesting.  The number of texts sent and the amount of time kids use apps and social media is amazing!  My three and five-year-olds use an ipad!  While some apps are just for entertainment, I have found some really educational ones for them to use.  I really liked one specific point that was made during the discussion.  The statistics reflected in the video clip are real.  Technology is here to stay whether we personally agree with it or not.  As educators, we should prepare children for the world.  The world includes technology.  I think, however, that we shouldn’t use technology in the classroom just for the sake of using it.  There should obviously be a purpose.  Kids love technology.  They embrace it.  It can be a great resource for the classroom.  I think it’s important to communicate with parents.  Parents should be aware of what their kids are doing and the websites they are visiting.  They should be provided with good, appropriate websites to visit.


Summary: Creating Learning Connections (Curriculum 21, Chapter 12)

The author describes an epiphany he had when teaching a ninth grade science class.  He noticed his students became more interested and more motivated after he used a digital camera to photograph their work and projected those images in front of the class.  He discovered that using technology in the classroom allowed him to make “authentic connections with the students” (p. 196).  The author also explains how different students are today than students were in the past because of the huge amount of screen-time they experience daily.  In the late 1980s, computers in the classrooms failed because “teachers did not understand how to use them as a teaching tool” (p. 198).  I think this is seen today too.  A lot of teachers do not know how to make blogs, podcasts, or slideshows, so of course they are not going to integrate them into their classrooms.  I REALLY liked how the author calls these teachers “digital immigrants” because they were not born into the digital world and even if they try to learn these great tools, they still have an “accent”.  Students in classrooms today, however, are “digital natives” because they are “native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language of computers, video games, and the internet” (p. 200).  It is so true!  It does take time to learn all of these new technologies, but it is clearly worth it.  Teachers and students can use wireless tablets, LCD projectors, interactive whiteboards, and student-response systems.   They can use digital storytelling, which can combine, images, text, and audio into a slideshow or simple movie.  They can also collaborate and share information using blogs, podcasts, document-sharing websites and message boards.  They can also create podcasts using an mp3 player, a microphone, and a computer.  Students today learn differently and have access to so much information.  Teachers should take advantage of these tools that really engage their students.  I am not one to use technology for the sake of using technology.  But, there are so many ways to create meaningful experiences for students. I am not a digital native.  I remember using an Apple II GS in elementary school and I remember playing with the first Nintendo system.  But, I also remember spending hours in the library doing research for homework assignments that now I could do in minutes from the comfort of my own home.  I’m comfortable with technology and I’m interested in it but it seems really hard to keep up with.  It’s worth the time and the learning curve because I saw how engaged and excited my first graders were when they used the SmartBoard or watched a Discovery movie clip.

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