Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reflecting on Learning with ePortfolios

Finally, finally, I have met a long-standing goal of mine - starting student ePortfolios. This idea has been rolling around in my head for over a year, with no place to go until now. The catalyst was an article I read a month ago about reflecting on learning. Oh, the article's content wasn't really important nor earth shattering, but the idea of reflecting on learning was. It isn't new, but it is something I realized we don't do enough of. Best of all, an easy way to do it is through ePortfolios. Now the ideas started flowing and I knew we were going to start them. Today, we actually got our feet wet.

Last week, we dispensed with the basics - setting up a Google Site. I created two versions of directions: fast track for those who had set up a Google Site before, and a picture heavy slide show for those who had not. I toyed with creating a video, but I wanted them to do one step at a time, thus the slide show. I posted these as homework, to be completed outside of class. While I could have used some already-made tutorials, I wanted to make my own to ensure the site was created with just the home page, and a specific name (we used their initials to add privacy in case we share them in the future). The site is very, very basic. One page - the home page, set as an annoucements page so we could start with a blog post. I did this on purpose as I want to build as we go, not get bogged down in the technology side of this.

Yesterday, their homework was simply to share the site with me. I did not want 100 shared sites on my own Google Sites page, so I had them change the permission of the site to "anyone with the link can veiw", and then paste the link on a Google Form I had created. The form simply asks for their name, class hour and link. I can then sort the form by class hour and name so I have a permanent record of all the links to refer back to each time we use the site.

As I mentioned, we don't do enough reflecting on learning, in fact, we do very little. So yesterday during class, we took notes to help us write. The questions included: What have we been learning about? (Poverty in India) Why are we learning this? (Oh this was tough!) What does this topic mean to India? What does this topic mean to me? Compare/contrast my life to life in India.

Yes we struggled, and yes our answers look similar, but this was just our start. As we do this more often, and we will as I have it in my unit plan now, things will become easier. Of course, it will get boring answering the same questions each time, so we will vary them; and yes it will get boring to read 100 student's writing about the same exact topic, so the students will learn to write their own questions. However, this all takes time, and we just needed to START!

Their blog post will include one picture - a pie chart they made using this website to show one statistic on India compared to the United States - population, population density, literacy rate, etc - one of our lessons from last week. They also have to discuss this pie chart in their post - another skill we are learning.

In the future, I hope they can add projects, other technology integrations, maps, and lots more. I also want to add response forms so we can read each other's posts and leave feedback without using the comment feature (too public).  The possibilities are endless! In the meantime, I am just happy we started :)

Technology in the Classroom for the Student and Teacher

As I look at my blog, I am embarrassed that I haven't posted anything since (gasp) June of 2012. Eeek! It isn't that I haven't been using technology, I have; I am just really busy learning a new curriculum. In fact, this month I am finally teaching everything for the second time and can evaluate the lessons, tweek them, improve them etc.

In the meantime, I did present the following presentation at the Wisconsin WEMTA conference last Spring. At the time, I decided to use that as a portfolio for keeping track of the neat things we do in the classroom. That hasn't worked, so I am returning to my blog.

My presentation included using technology as a teacher with a class website, Google Docs and other resources, along with the technology the students use in my class. We are a 1:1 district and this year every student has a Chromebook that loads in 8 seconds, so we tend to take technology for granted. But I remain steadfast in using technology when it improves a lesson, not just to replace pencil and paper. Therefore, we use it sporadically and usually with a choice of non-tech use also.

Enough rambling, please enjoy browsing through my presentation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Position - How Will I Integrate Technology?

Unfortunately as with many districts, mine has eliminated my position as a K-8 Technology Teacher and Coach. Fortunately, I had the foresight to see that this was coming and returned to school to get my 1-8 Teaching License. My school was therefore able to move me into a middle school social studies position for next year. I am very excited about this opportunity for growth. I am also apprehensive because now it is time to "put my money where my mouth is" and incorporate technology into my class the way I have been demonstrating to our teachers.

How will I do this? First, a little background information on our school. We are going into our 4th year as a 1:1 school from 5th-8th grade. Our 6th (soon-to-be-7th) graders have Chromebooks, and if all goes well, next year's 6th graders will also, allowing for 1:1 in the 4th grade as well. This is awesome, when technology works. Our middle school students are starting to get tired of being required to use the technology that is not as fast as they would like, nor as reliable. Thus said, I am not going to require they use it 100% of the time. Instead, I plan on giving them lots of choices, including paper and pencil. 

My goal for myself is to use the technology for teaching, all the neat Web 2.0 sites and other websites I have been collecting. My soon-to-be-developed website will have all my resources that we use in class so that students can see examples of how I use technology with the hopes that they may want to try some of them out when given the choice. During class group work, I have some activities like backchanneling that will require technology, while others will not. The menu of choices I offer them will not require a particular product, but will give them the choice of how they want to demonstrate their learning. The key here is I am motivated to use technology, find it intriguing and want to challenge myself to use it. If the kids feel likewise fine, otherwise it will be their choice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I found the following video and really liked it because it did a good job explaining how to "read" an analogy by determining the relationship between the sets of words. 

Here is the YouTube link.  

Additionally, I found some great poems written from analogies by a fifth grade class. Below are some analogy examples. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Research with Varied Reading Levels

Yesterday I received an email from a listserv that I belong to regarding the use of Slideshare for research. This email reminded me of some good advice I found reading through the Buck Institute's book PBL in the Elementary Grades. The book suggested using Power Points found online as resources for lower level readers. Of course you would want to preview these to be certain the information is correct and appropriate, but there are really a lot of good Power Points on the web to choose from. I did a quick search for Wisconsin invasive species in Slideshare and found one that was done by a UW Madison scientist which would have been an excellent resource for our third graders when they did their Invasive Species PBL last year. 

Some other ways to find websites that are easier to read include using the Advanced Search feature on Google. When doing a Google search, on the bottom, left side you can find "More Search Tools". When you click on that, you can select reading level. Sweet Search 4 Me is a search engine geared specifically for elementary students with every web site evaluated by their research experts.Twurdy is another search engine that rates its articles by reading level.Teaching students to "read" pictures can also provide them with some of the information they need.

In Wisconsin, your local library card will gain you access to Badgerlink, which includes the Elementary version of Encyclopedia Britannica. The articles in this encyclopedia are easier to read and also allow the viewer to listen to them. Some schools have direct access to Badgerlink when at school. Finally, check with your school's librarian to see what resources are available through your library catalog. Ours lets us search for both books and online material by reading level. Hopefully at least one of the above suggestions will help you support all reading levels in your classroom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Choose Your Ending Story

Currently, I am working with a class of first graders to create a story that allows the reader to choose their own ending. We are beginning by creating a simple web of our story, something we have done before. The students need to web the beginning, middle and two possible endings to their story. Creating two endings to their story has caused many to stop and think. They are very capable of creating an ending, but creating two possibilities is a challenge which is why I started with the graphic organizer.

Once they finish their web correctly, they will open a Power Point I sent to them with the mechanics of the story already created (the links to each page) as it did not work as smoothly as I had anticipated. Detailed instructions for the Power Point can be found here.  My pre-made Power Point and a sample story can be found here. After we are finished, we will do a gallery walk so all the students can share their stories and pick their endings!

Collaborative Story Writing

In discussing our upcoming lesson plans, one of our first grade teachers had an idea for a collaborative story where each child wrote a page for a story and they were all combined to create the entire story. After discussing the best way to do this so that she could print it if she wanted to and also send it home to parents, we decided to use Power Point and Flipsnack. She emailed the students a three page Power Point that had the title page, beginning of the story and then a blank page. The students wrote and illustrated their page and saved it.

After all the students finished their page, she copied them all into one large Power Point. We have the ability to pull documents from student files, but if you did not, you could have the student email it back to you, or save it on a flash drive as you walk around the room. If your school has access to Google Docs, a single presentation could be created for all to create their page on.

Her original idea was to have the students rearrange the pages so the story made sense, but in this case she was able to leave them in random order. She only picked one page to precede the ending, which she created. For older students who may write more on a page, allowing them to go through the entire story and rearrange the pages to make sense would be a wonderful exercise. Once the story was completed, we saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to Flipsnack.com to look like a real book. The PDF could be printed as she wished, and the Flipsnack book link could be emailed home to parents. I was really impressed with how it turned out! You can view it here.