Monday, November 28, 2011


This week I have decided to use glogster with my elective group. I am teaching Speaking Out which focuses on teaching students to work on their public speaking skills, and fortunately, this quarter I only have 5 students in my elective. Because I have such a small group, four desktop computers, and 1 laptop I have decided I wanted to focus on teaching this group to effectively do research using the world wide web, use Web 2.0 tools as visuals for their presentations, and then present them to other classes. This group is all 3rd graders so we decided that each student would choose one planet (this hits on common core standards for next year) to rasearch. After conducting research the kids and I decided we would use glogster to display our information. I spent about 20 minutes teaching the group how to use glogster and they caught on very quickly. Although I have had a couple of questions I have really tried hard not to go over to the computer and do it for the students. I have focused on using questions to direct students in the right directions (ie. What word do you see on the page that means to make changes? Edit!). In the end, I hope this helps them to problem solve through things by themselves rather than having someone else do it for them.

I would love to hear of any new websites and/or web 2.0 tools you use in your classroom.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Group Project

This week my group for class and I created an activity where students would use a mobile device (I-touch) as a learning tool. Dave and I both used the mobile devices in our classrooms; he teaches middle school and I teach elementary school. Our group wanted to compare how a similar lesson would go.

Today begin my lesson I had a short mini-lesson on making predictions by looking at the text features in a nonfiction article. Next, I split students up into 5 groups by having students count off 1-5. Students gathered in their groups with 2 QR codes. They were asked to scan the first QR code which would lead them to This was not the first time my students were scanning a QR code but it was their first time using todaysmeet. I was a little nervous how it would go but throughout the activity most of my students had little to no trouble at all. They made great predictions based off of what we had discussed and were able to use the technology fairly well. The one thing I noticed my students didn't do was to talk with each other about their predictions. They were able to submit their predictions but there was really no discussion happening at all. This could have been due to many reasons: (a) they didn't have enough time or (b) they needed more modeling as to how to have discussions (to name a few possibilities).

After making predictions students were asked to get with a buddy from their group and practice the "I read, you read" strategy with the article they had just made predictions with. 

Next, students were asked to scan the second QR code, which sent them to  (an app, which is also a website) Again, they were familiar with this site. Here students were asked to create one post-it describing one idea or fact they had learned throughout their reading. Almost all of my students were able to do this. The few that did not have the opportunity were still reading when it was time to switch subjects.

Overall, I absolutely loved this activity. All of my students were engaged and were using technology to enhance their learning experience. There have been many times throughout my technology-integration attempts that I feel students didn't learn much and the whole lesson was a complete disaster. As I reflect on each lesson I am starting to see that those previous lessons were important because it helped my students grow in their understanding and abilities to problem-solve and use these new technologies. I truly believe that they are now getting to a point where they can use them fairly easily and in a way that enhances their learning of the core subjects and the technology at hand.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Dumbest Generation

I have spent some of the weekend reading about half of the book, The Dumbest Generation. Throughout the reading I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on why the United States is falling behind academically. The biggest thing that has stood out to me (which could be because I am getting my masters in Reading K-12) is the lack of reading being done, not only by kids but by teens and adults. Moreover, I notice that the younger kids are reading more than the older kids. Is it solely technology and outside interferences? Or is it that we teachers are doing something to discourage the love of reading? Or maybe is a little of both? Whatever the case, it is essential that we figure out how to get everyone reading again. Even myself, I absolutely love reading, but I don't find myself going to the library or bookstore nearly as much as I used to. I tell myself that it is because I am in graduate school and have enough reading to be doing, but is that really an excuse?

Moreover, the book discusses a lot about how technology is taking over our student's lives. Between laptops, I-pads, I-pods, cell phones, and all of the technologies out there, our students have stopped focusing on the importance of learning the "basic" skills that future generations learned. Television itself can severely impact attention, motivation, and academics of our future generations.

So I am sure you are wondering what on earth this has to do with 21st century learning. Well throughout my reflections I have thought a lot about what 21st century learning looks like in my school. I am very fortunate that I am in a graduate school program and I feel like I have learned a lot about how to integrate web 2.0 tools and technology in a way that integrates the curriculum and is beyond typing a paper. Unfortunately, I notice that a lot of teachers believe that signing up for the computer lab to allow students to play a game, play on Study Island, or type a paper is integrating 21st century skills. I believe that in order make our students effective learners we have to learn to effectively integrate what they are interested in to help them learn. For instance, when we want our students to learn about the important leaders in our community, allow them to use the twitter, xtranormal, todaysmeet, and/or other tools they enjoy using to share what they are learning. I am sure I still have a lot to learn but I do know that inviting students to communicate, be creative, work together, and use technology are part of the 21st century skills we want our students to learn. If we can create more authentic projects for our students, they are learning in a way that gives them choice, motivation, and the knowledge they need.... we (the US) needs.... to keep up with the rest of the world.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love your advice on how we teachers can effectively engage our students in 21st century skills and also increase their knowledge base?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post-Its and Corkboards

Wall Wisher and Linoit are 2 free websites that mimic a virtual corkboard. It can be used by one person, a small group, or even a whole class.

During my study abroad experience last summer we used Wall Wisher after every class to answer a question regarding what we had learned that day. Additionally, we could add a picture by copying and pasting the web address to a picture off of the internet. I thought it was great to see what everyone else took from the lessons. I felt it was more expressive than a post-it or "sheet out the door" activity because we were able to use a picture to help emphasize what we were trying to say. The only down side is that there is a limited amount of characters you can use. Unfortunately when I tried to use this with my students at school I found out that wall-wisher wouldn't work on our school computers. 

After talking with the media teacher at my school about Wall Wisher, she mentioned the Linoit. The media teacher at our school first used it with my class while we taught an internet safety lesson. We had the students do a Garfield internet safety activity and then use the Linoit corkboard to share some of the things they learned about internet safety. My students absolutely loved it.  A couple of weeks late I had my students use this website to share similes and metaphors they found in their book during independent reading. I think this tool is fabulous and I hope to one day get it set up where each student has a corkboard. Since my students use actual post-it notes during readers workshop, I think this virtual would save a lot of money and trees and it is a huge motivational strategy for my students who struggle.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today's Meet

Monday was a Teacher Workday for schools on the traditional calendar. Our school had a Race to the Top meeting in the morning. During this meeting we were introduced to the website Today's Meet is a backchannel that allows people to connect realtime with each other. It reminds me of AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), for those of you who have ever used that before, except that multiple people can be on it at once. Throughout our meeting each of the teachers were given I-pod touches, or we could use our own I-phones or I-pads. We scanned a QR code to get to the website and then were able to draw connections and have discussions throughout the meeting about what we were learning.

I LOVED this website and I can't wait to use it with my students. This week I plan to check-out I-touches for my students so that they can share the similes and metaphors they find in their independent reading with the class. Fortunately, all of the conversation is kept so that I can continue with my guided reading groups and strategy groups and read through the conversation during my planning.

I hope you can find a good way to implement this in your class as well. It may not be through i-touches or i-pads, but you could have your students use it in various ways in your computer lab or while your small groups have computer lab during centers.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PenPals have begun!

The past week my friend from New Zealand and I have been getting everything ready for our students to begin their online penpal experience. We set up accounts for each of our students on and put our students into groups of 2 or 3. We thought this would make the conversations be more realistic and personable. Additionally, we decided that we were going to focus on economically friendly schools as a discussion topic for our students. Their school in New Zealand is an Eco-friendly school and they go above and beyond to be green. I don't know a whole lot about what they do at their school, but I am anxious to learn. I have talked with my class about the topic, vaguely, and asked them to brainstorm ways that our school is eco-friendly. Additionally, I told my students that throughout these discussions I want them to be thinking about a school-wide project our school can implement to help our school in North Carolina become an eco-friendly school.

Today I checked the blog and saw that my friend's class has made their first posts. My students will go to the computer lab tomorrow, read, and respond. I am so anxious to hear the reactions from my students when they see the words "rubish" (trash), "mum" (mom) and "nude foods" (foods with no wrappers). The whole language diversity/similarity is going to be a new learning experience in itself. This is my first penpal experience with another class, let alone another class across the world. I am anxious to see what comes from this experience!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Preparing our students for the future

This week a couple of co-workers and I gave a presentation on using I-pads in the classroom and proposed that we make our goal to get each teacher in the school one to use in their classroom. We have such a wonderful and supportive PTA that they agreed to buy 10 right now and work on getting the rest of the teachers one in the upcoming months/years. This is similar to what our school did for SmartBoards and now we are lucky that every teacher in the school has a SmartBoard in our room. How amazing will it be when each classroom also has at least one, if not more, I-pads to use for instruction?

Throughout my presentation I couldn't help but think about The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. In Friedman's book he discusses how China and other countries around the world are getting ahead of the US. We are not producing enough engineers, scientists, and critical/creative thinkers, which is putting us way behind. Many times the focus of such technologies are used mostly for intervention, which I think is great because they are great motivational tools and there are a plethora of applications that adhere to that group. My focus for my presentation wasn't just intervention, I focused on finding apps that stimulate the mind of our "average" and "gifted" students. As teachers it is important that we don't forget these students because these days, "good" isn't good enough. We have to be the best.

A couple of the apps that I suggested for higher level thinking are:

(1) Crossfingers: Crossfingers is a free app that challenges students to use tangram pieces to figure out a puzzle. The levels are actually very challenging, even for me as an adult. I put about 4-5 students in a small group and allow them to take turns trying to figure out the puzzle. Their teamwork and problem-solving skills continue to get better and better. They watch and learn from each other, but they also learn from their own experiences with the game.

(2) PuppetPals: This is another app. There is a free version but there is a cheap version that allows students to take pictures of themselves, characters from another book, different settings, and cut out what they want to use in their play. Some of my higher level students wrote a script for a book they were reading and created a puppet show summarizing the book. This incorporated so many different skills and objectives, and presented the students an authentic way to be creative and show their understanding of our curriculum.

The applications for the I-pad in the classroom are endless. My hope is that one day we become a one-to-one school.

Check out this school that has I-pads for each student:
Unlocking Literacy with I-Pads