First Voicethread with Students

It has been one year since a student named Justin Straus died of Chordoma Cancer. I knew Justin since first grade when he was first diagnosed. We had many moments together as did his fellow students. We started using Ed.Voicethread this year and I realized it would be the perfect tool for students and faculty to share their memories. I am in awe of what we created and wanted to share it with anyone who is reading my blog.

Here it is and I love coming back to it to see who has added a comment. You can view it but not comment as it is protected which is the wonderful part of Ed.Voicethread. Students and teachers added either text or audio comments.

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Camps going well

Good numbers of students learning Lego Mindstorms. Check out the pictures and movies at Week two is underway with pictures coming soon. Scratch and Alice camps have had smaller numbers but still working out nicely. We just showed the campers how to create a pong game with scoring. Check out our wiki, gallery and photos.

Summer Camps and Audio Boo

I am in the middle of doing the two summer camps I started last year. Lego Mindstorms and Scratch with some Alice. Lego has been full with this week’s camp having 21 campers. Check out the wiki for more information and pictures.

I have also started testing out Audio Boo on my iPod Touch. It is a free application for the iPod or iPhone that allows recording and posting to a web site. I think it is an interesting concept and wonder how teachers might use it with their Moodle courses. There could be an RSS of audio recorded by the teacher showing up in their Moodle course. Check mine out at DigitalKarl

Learning Projects from the MS Digital Learning Labs

In the last month, the digital learning labs have been a very busy place for students and teachers. Early May found eighth grade students working with Mrs. Birgel and Ms. Kim Arrington (Artist-in-Residence) as we worked with students on multimedia projects based on The Life of Pi book they had read. Students created ID Poems and Vox Pops using many software and hardware tools.

As this creative project came to a close, students in Sr. Glass and Sra. Harrell’s 6th grade Spanish classes learned about one of Spain’s most famous poets and playwrights, Federico García Lorca. The culmination of the unit was for the students to create a podcast on his poem, “Canción del jinete”. In the podcast, they recite and illustrate the poem with images that they believe capture the poem’s essence.

This week, Mrs. Hall’s 5th grade students finished their 20th Century History Podcasts which began 3 weeks ago in the Library with Mrs. Longee. Students worked in teams to research and write scripts (reports) to record. Images were used to illustrate their reports along with proper citation.

These projects represent a wonderful illustration of the digital learning that can happen with the software and hardware tools we have available today. As I told the students in each class though, without a script or report, all you have is dead air. Research, writing, recording, illustrating, citing, and preparing products that will live outside of Durham Academy are central to providing a 21st Century learning experience. The critical element of engagement was present in all students as they worked to create their masterpiece. Bravo to all!

All projects and many others are available at

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When the Shelf is Emptied and Learning Leaps

In February I wrote about shelf technology where I lamented the lack of integration of many of the tools we have at the ready for our students. I have had a wonderful week working with Kate Birgel, (8th grade Language Arts) and Kim Arrington (Artist-in-Residence) as we worked with students on multimedia projects based on The Life of Pi book they had read.

We used all of the “shelf technology” plus some last minute software tools that solved a need we discovered we had.


ID Poems: Check them out at our Digital Locker
Write a poem that communicates who you are and how you have transformed as Pi transforms.

* What’s in your name? You may look up the origin of your name to add to this activity.
* What does your name mean to you?
* What power do names hold?

Construct your poem as follows:
I am _____________
I am Favorite Animal
I am Favorite Candy
I am Favorite Color
I am Favorite Season
I am Favorite Clothing
I am like Pi….
My Favorite Quote
Name Meaning


Vox Pops: Check them out at our Digital Locker
Collectively the groups came up with at least 3 questions about one of the themes in the book. They then took turns recording each member’s response to the question. These are recorded, edited, and uploaded. In addition to audio Vox Pops, students documented the process with video cameras.

Themes for Vox Pops

* Storytelling
* Find Self
* Man vs. Nature
* Human Relationships
* God/Religion
* Man’s Inherent Nature
* Man’s will to live
* Good vs. Evil
* Rebirth

I am a proud and grateful teacher and happy that we had the shelves stocked.

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Romeo and Juliet Project = Tears of Joy

Every year it seems that a student who I am lucky enough to teach reminds me why I am a Digital Learning Coordinator. This year, Matthew A. showed me what happens when students are given a challenge, some limited instruction, the gift of time, and the opportunity to learn and instruct with their Whole Mind by Daniel Pink. I worked with our faculty last June to delve into this book and ideas for classroom. Mrs. Birgel was there and has applied the ideas of design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning into her teaching. I believe that Matthew’s project demonstrates most of the themes. Can you see them with your mind?

Background: Matthew is new to our school this year and I had not really had the chance to work with him. He is a good student but quiet in how he goes about his day. In many schools, students like this become invisible. I wondered about Matthew as I did not know his story. While I do not yet know his whole story, I do know that his mind is capable of the themes Daniel Pink discusses. He worked hard on this project with very little (I mean little) help from me other then showing him a tool or a trick (Alpha channel in Keynote). The rest he did with dedication and the sticktoitness of a digital engaged learner.

The tools he used were: Keynote, Skitch, Garageband, Paper (Romeo and Juliet were drawn by hand an scanned using a Scan Snap 300), and of course our Moodle Blended Learning Environment where he shared his project as a QuickTime movie for his classmates.

Watch this project and learn about Romeo and Juliet Act 2 – Scene 2 as well as how our students are using their whole mind to learn

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Telling the Story of Romeo and Juliet

Mrs. Birgel and I started to work with the students on the Romeo and Juliet project. It involves giving students the creative license to retell an Act from a Scene. They are working either alone or in pairs and choose the Act and Scene by “claiming it” in the Moodle discussion forum so all classmates can see what is open. Of course there are scenes available for extra credit.

So far students are using the following software tools:

Garageband to record
Skitch to illustrate their recordings
iMovie to record a narration with video (video shot with the Flip Mino HD)

Students Recording

iChat to create a chat sequence. Screenshots are being taken to compile into Keynote. I have to let the students use my computers so they can get around the filter and blocking to make it happen. They also knew how to do the rest. I call this the learning back story or the learning that happens outside of the classroom. Most teachers are never aware of its existence although some are beginning to harness it into their Moodle courses.

Romeo 4

Scratch to create their Romeo and Juliet game
Comic Life to create comics to be used in Keynote or for print
Keynote for presentations which will become QuickTime Videos

So far students are using the following hardware tools
Flip Mino HD to shoot scenes
Logitech headsets

The reason this is so awesome for me is because of Daniel Pink’s book Whole New Mind as we are touching on the elements he discusses.

Last week I was having these same students take a Technology Assessment at Atomic Learning based on the NETS standards. Once they took it, they then started to work on creating their digital portfolio which will consist of a Word, Excel and PowerPoint document. Not my choices but are desired by the Upper School to show that students are capable of handling the curriculum from a technology point of view. If students complete all of the elements successfully, they will be exempt from taking any technology courses for the next four years. I only hope they get to work with a teacher like Mrs. Birgel who will employ creative projects that demonstrate all aspects of learning and the mind.

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Who is the Teacher Here?

A long weekend reveals these gems from my “students”.

Dear Mr. Schaefer,
Thank you so much for converting my MPEGs to DVs! I couldn’t have done my Independent Project without you! I really appreciate it! I hope you enjoy my picture of you working on my movie- I did it on Skitch!
Thank you,

Amanda Jowell
Ryan created a tutorial of images on how to use the My Files.


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Evidence of Digital Learning – Choice is Good

What happens in a class when some students finish the report on Vertebrate Animals? I was so excited to see this on the board when I walked through the lab that I took a picture to preserve it as well as document that I was not making it up.

What you see in the picture is the basic requirements for the paper:
Cover (Hand-drawn image scanned in using the wonderful Snappy)
Title Page
Table of Contents
31/2 pages of text
Appendix (Optional)

It is the list of Appendix ideas that impresses me the most. Mr. Bryson took suggestions and the students generated the list. It takes courage to do this on Mr. Bryson’s part as he does not know the applications listed. Of course, he tells his students this which allows for a flipping of roles in the class.

  1. Poem
  2. Interview
  3. Painting
  4. Photographs that you take
  5. Presentation with Keynote or PowerPoint
  6. Podcast
  7. Flash Presentation
  8. Alice World
  9. Movie
  10. Skitch Drawing
  11. Art Rage Drawing

Notice in the picture that another teacher has written directions on the Photoshop project for The Lightening Thief Book.

Update on 2/18/09: In the other lab, the trading card assignment now has a model for students to create. Notice the terms in red. How many students get exposed to this content enough to know and understand it. How about teachers?

The environment of learning that is taking place with these students allows them to assemble a digital portfolio to be proud of and certainly meets the ISTE NETS.

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Students Connected Learning

As more and more students bring in digital learning devices, I should expect the types of exchange that I have had with a student to take place. In fact, on Monday I presented to the faculty about this very issue. Since students can bring in digital learning devices, are we helping, harnessing, or hindering the use by our students.

Here is an exchange by a 7th grade boy who asked great questions regarding his learning:

Hi Mr. Schaefer,
I was wondering if students are allowed to bring in a laptop of their own to work on during classes like taking notes and other stuff or does it depend on the teacher? Also, are students allowed to bring in a laptop for work use during study halls of educational purposes (of course).

This is my response:

Students are allowed to bring laptops or other digital Device to school and can connect them to the network so they have Internet and can even connect to the student servers if needed. I have directions and can assist. The Acceptable Use Policy states this.

Student Personal Laptops, iPods, Cell Phones, and other Digital Devices

Durham Academy believes the use of a digital device (laptop, iPod, etc.) can benefit the educational program if used appropriately. Students in the Middle and Upper School may bring a personal laptop to campus for their academic use. Prior to using it, they will need to set it up so it can connect to our network. Student’s wishing to do this should get the instructions from the divisional technology teacher. While on the Durham Academy network, all actions will be logged just like any other computer on campus using our installed network tools. Durham Academy is not liable for any loss or damage incurred, nor can it load any software onto a student computer. Students should secure their laptop in a locked locker or classroom. All students’ laptops and digital devices should be clearly labeled with the student’s name. Improper or non-educational use could result in loss of privileges for the on-campus use of such devices.

Depending on the teacher students should certainly be allowed to take notes or other class related work during class. Study hall should be a great place for you to use your laptop.

I have talked with the faculty about students bringing in their laptops and if we are helping them, harnessing the power or hindering the use by students. I think students should be able to use the laptop whenever it is appropriate for classwork and if you take notes, you should add them to a teachers Moodle course for other students.

My concerns are mostly related to securing the laptop when at school to prevent theft or damage.

What type of laptop do you have? Do you bring it to school? Have teachers told you that you can use it or that you can not use it?
Let me know if I can be of help.

His response to mine is also telling:

Thanks for your email. I have the regular white, 13 inch MacBook and its great! I have not brought my laptop in yet but now that I have your thoughts I will bring it in soon (and see you to hook it up) and talk to teachers about whether I am allowed to take notes in their class from now on using it. I have been interested in this because I do think (like you) that technology use from a laptop or iPod can be helpful to students and I think it would make daily school life easier.

So the question is when he brings the laptop to school we will help, harness or hinder? Do we build a community of learners who share content with each other in the open, or do we stick to the same way of learning?

As I was writing this post, a student came in and exclaimed he got a new iPod Touch for his birthday. And the beat goes on…..

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