Teaching and Learning with the Unlinked Net

Unlinked

Images from OpenClipart.org

I have been thinking of this post for a while as our students begin blogging more this year. Most all students in the Middle School are now blogging through Language Arts classes using Edublogs. In grade five, students use a teacher’s blog to post with the teacher serving as the editor who must approve both posts and comments. In grade six students and teachers use the class blog feature in Edublogs so that each student has their own blog but are managed under the teachers blog. This system worked well last year as it provides the students with ownership and a place to find their voice. The teachers still serve as editors and must approve all pages, posts, and comments. This systems works well to establish solid writing, collaborative commenting skills, and learning how to interact in an online community. These are important skills that must be taught if we do not want a world of trolls on the internet. Starting this year, grade seven students and teachers will be expanding the use of class blogs with the students starting with restricted publishing as they start the new year. This will soon move to full editing and publishing done by the students with the teacher only serving the roll of monitor. In grade 8, the class blogs have no restrictions for what is posted and commented and the teacher serves as a monitor. While the blogs have different setups, the goals are the same: Write for an authentic audience, Write more, Learn to write collaborative comments, and establish a presence on the internet that showcases your work and yourself. I feel it is important for students to work at creating their own “Google Juice” so they are searchable with results ranging from silly photos to articles written by them. All of our blogs are open to the public and indexed by Google and other search engines.

The idea of cultivating “Google Juice” is also why four years ago we started having students create and manage digital portfolios with Google sites. These portfolios hold not only a link to their personal blog but also samples of exemplar work along with goal settings and reflections on the student’s learning. These portfolios live at the edges of what we do as all of our Google Apps services are private only to our school which means no one outside of our school or any search engine cannot access them.

This leads to the title of this post as I have been asked by teachers the following question: “How will parents find our blogs?” The quick answer was to send them a message with the link. While that works, it does raise the larger question in my mind of how do we expose all of the wonderful learning and teaching going on when it is not linked by our school or not accessible to anyone outside of our school? Should we expose this part of our school to the world? What are the risks? What are the rewards? I can make a page on Veracross which would allow anyone from our school to find the blogs. I do encourage teaches to list their blogs in the Edublogs directory as a way to engage with the world. 

 

Until I figure out the best solution, here is a list of the blogs so far. Some will have a link to class blogs on the side.

Grade 4 – Mrs. KarolMr. Mason

Grade 5 – Mrs. Goldstein, Mrs. Parry

Grade 6 – Mrs. WilliamsMrs. Donnelly, Mrs. Saffo-Cogswell

Grade 7 – Mrs. Howes,  Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Grade 8 – Mr. Sheard, Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Students Remember

NewImage

The image above is called “Working Memory” from Openclipart.org which depicts my retained memory each year I walk this planet. I have been teaching since 1993 when I started as a Science teacher at Grey Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC. As my classroom became more technological I became a Technology coordinator and ended up leaving in 1999 to take the position I now have at Durham Academy. In 1997, I had a classroom with a variety of Macintosh computers with inkjet printers. We did a lot of hands-on activities and used the computers when it made sense. Today, I work with iPads, Computer Labs and no shortage of the most powerful tools we can deploy for learning. I still think we should use technology when it makes sense.

I became a teacher to help make a difference in the world and over the years, I think I have helped make some dents in the future. This past weekend I had a message on Twitter from a former student who well, just wanted to thank me. I am so grateful that she did this as while I think I have made a difference, it is nice to be remembered. That is a big part of me even as a parent and grandparent; I want my grandchildren to remember me when I no longer walk this planet with them. To have a student find me and thank me is very fulfilling and thought provoking as I try to remember my classroom and this student. I have some ideas as to who she was 17 years ago. Was she the one who made Speedy, the really cool mouse-trap vehicle? 

This is the exchange of messages:

Khaleyremember

Clearly I was concerned about being remembered even in 1997 as the image below shows. Harrison I think refers to how some of my students thought I looked like Harrison Ford, yeah right:)

Rememberme

Poetry in Place with Audioboo and Cell Phones

PIP180

Each year, the 7th grade travels to Washington, D.C. where they engage in many different activities. Last year students did VoiceThreads about Words on Stone. This is one example.  When Ms. Howes and Ms. Starnes approached me this year about an idea, we came up with using Audioboo to record a poem in place. Students were writing and studying poetry so they had to choose a poem to recite in a place connected to the poem. To make it happen, we created a Google Doc that we shared with all students giving them the directions on how to setup the app and record their poem. I was most excited the day we brought the students into the computer lab and told them, “Get out your cell phones”. The looks on their faces was priceless as some thought it was a trick since cell phones are supposed to be in lockers turned off. Many students indeed did run to their locker and got their phone. They download the free app and set it up. Those without phones used a computer or found a poetry friend to record with. I want to find more ways to prove that students carry technology with them everyday that can be harnessed for powerful learning.

I think they turned out really well so I wanted to share them with you. There is an iTunes Podcast feed if you want to subscribe as there are 115 poems. You can view them at the MS Cav Studios Audioboo channel.

Here is one from a boy and one from a girl to give you a taste.  Sylvia S.  and  Jack P.





Students and Me Minecrafting

 
I have long wondered what the big deal was about Minecraft even though I think the power of games are something schools and teachers need to utilize. Over the years I have purchased games for our students to learn with like Gamestar Mechanic, Scratch, and Evolver from Dimensionu. In fact we have run Minecraft EDU at the Lower School for about 2 years now so most of the students now in the middle school have been exposed before they get to me. I no longer prevented students from downloading the Minecraft app so they could play at recess. Both labs are often full or near full because of this change. I had mentioned to some students that perhaps we should setup our own Minecraft EDU server even though I had never played. The students were listening (like they always do) so one day, I got a message that a Google Doc had been shared with me called
BugguCraft Server Proposal. Below is a portion of what was outlined in the now 34 pages outline of why we should setup a BugguCraft Server. Yes, that is 34 pages written with a plan on setting up, administering, creating, rules, contests, and other assorted information.
 

We (David, Tanner, Davi) have been considering making a server to house our mini-games called BugguCraft. We decided to create a server so we could ban, make rules, and make classes and games that are easily accessible and fair. Tanner’s contributions will include adding Bukkit to be able to make this game fun, which will make cheating almost impossible, and it will be more fair. Tanner knows Java so he can program the plugins that go in it. We will be the admins, and we can “Kick” people off of the server if they are being naughty (this means if they are griefing, spamming or cursing in the chat, or not obeying the rules), or “Ban” them, if the rule breach is more serious.

Rules:

No griefing

No swears

No hacking

No cheating

No trolling

Be fair

Be nice

Have fun

The 3 boys have really taken off with this and over winter break they purchased a Minecraft gift code to thank me. They wrote me a nice note about how they appreciate the help of Mr. Beck who setup the server hardware (an old iMac) and myself and how grateful they are. They even gave me a suggested username: Kartuffle. Today, at lunch recess I joined in for my first Minecraft lesson in the labs with the rest of the students. David was very patient with teaching me the basics and kept telling me I was a fast learner. Always nice to hear since I was trying to use the keyboard shortcuts and get a handle on what I was doing. The first thing I learned was that instead of destroying the objects I was harvesting. This is pretty big as most people, myself included, do not see the chopping as a mirror of what our civilization has done for years.

It was a great day and by the way, we are going to offer a student run Minecraft club using some of those 34 pages of ideas and rules. Later, I have to chop some wood!

We Learned the Address

As part of the 150 year anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, I asked teachers, students, and administrators to record themselves reciting the speech. This is our mashup on Vimeo as YouTube is blocked for our students. http://vimeo.com/79823268

 

 

Since I submitted it to the LearnTheAddress website, you can see it there as well.

Hi, Karl-

The video you submitted to LearnTheAddress.org has been approved!

See it (and share it!) at http://www.learntheaddress.org/#WbMh8gs4VBg, and see all the submitted videos at http://www.learntheaddress.org/videos.

Thanks for your participation!

Writing – #More or #Less

This year our 6th grade students have their own blog as part of their Language Arts class. We use Edublogs for this as the My Class feature allows teachers to manage some aspects that are important to them. Check out Ms. Williams’ and Ms. Donnelly’s for links to student blogs. I know students are writing more since the access to iPads is 24/7. We have seen some scores go up in our ERB tests which while not directly attributed to the iPad or any other technology, there is no doubt the more you write, the better you become at writing. In fact, in our school’s application to become an Apple Distinguished School, we wrote this statement. 

Any worthwhile examination of the effects one-to-one iPads have on student learning must include a look at testing data. After only one year of our program, it is far too early for that data to be conclusive. However, we did discover some thought-provoking data points.

In the classrooms where the teachers had the most experience with integrating digital devices in class (6th grade Language Arts), median student testing gains on three of the five ERB CTP4 subtests were not significantly different from the prior three years of testing. But in two areas, median scores jumped significantly. The running average for the three years prior to the iPad program shows the median student scaled score increasing 9.5 points in Writing Concepts and Skills. Last year that median gain was 13 points. In Reading Comprehension the median gain was even larger – an increase from 3.3 point average gains to last year’s 12 point gain.

We plan to use data points like these as jumping-off points for conversations about the roles technology integration may or may not impact student testing outcomes. And we’ll certainly keep an eye on testing to see whether these gains recur this year, or were anomalies.

Today, I read the story How Digital Writing is Making Kids Smarter on Graphite.org and thought it was great information about how writing more, without cursive, is helping our students. The article also mentioned the video above which I thought relevant as only a few years ago, the term hashtag was not part of the vocabulary of most people. Now we see it everywhere with the rise of Twitter. #iamgettingsmarter.

 

MS Studios is On the Air Literally

MS Studio Logo

The above logo was created by a student for the station using stock photos from our Google Apps for Education. We collaborated on making it together as he shared it with me and I added the DA logo. Just one part of how the 4 C’s of Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking are addressed in this student led project. From their ideas come the shows and images along with thinking how to involve as many students as possible while maintaining confidentially when needed.

We are pleased to share these links with you.
The blog:
http://msstudios.edublogs.org/

The iTunes subscription feed for automatic downloads: Click view in iTunes and then Subscribe
Subscribe to MS Studio Podcasts

If on the iPad it does not show up, search for MS Studios and you will be able to subscribe.

Listen in to what is happening each day and week by students for all of us.

Power to the Pupil!

Being the Subject is Different

liveeworkcreate

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28826792@N00/5971423516

Joanne Shang, a colleague, is getting her Masters and needed my help. 

This is her request:

Hi Karl,
I need to ask you for a favor again!
I am working on an assignment, for my graduate course, to create a documentary on someone in my everyday world who lives creatively. 
I can’t find a better person than you who lives your life with an obviously creative approach, integrating technology and working with middle school children at work and 
managing a farm and working with animals at home. 
May I ‘interview’ (and videotape) you at work on Tuesday 4/2) and Wednesday (4/3) while you are engaged in creative work.  
I wish I had the opportunity to tape you working on the farm too, but due to time constraint, that will be for the next project. 
 Having nothing to loose I agreed as I am prone to do. I think she captured it very well and I am amazed at all that I do and have done since I was born on a farm in Southwest Wisconsin fifty-six years ago.
 

 

Launching MS Studios – Student Voices-Saying No is Not an Option

DAPodcasting MS Studiossmaller 20130405 080911 pngA group of teachers who are also members of the Middle School iTeam which supports our school’s iPad Learning Program took an Atomic Learning Catalyst Course on Going Mobile. During this coursework we collaborated with each other and teachers from around the country. We had a guest instructor, Brad Flickinger, one evening who introduced us to how his students produce KBOB Studios which are news, movies and other media projects with a few iPads. I have long wanted to have  a student voice for news and thoughts but was not quite sure how to get it going since I would need to find time outside of the “normal” class structure.

I looked up how he Brad was doing it at his school and kept thinking on how to weave it into our school. Then I got this message. How could I say no even though I had not yet figured out all of the details? We have motivated students with a passion to produce and all they need is an adult. I can do that and if I look at the long view this is the spark I have needed to say yes even though I have more then enough on my plate.

Dear Mr. Schaefer,
I heard that the teachers just finished taking a class where a school had a website that students could post podcasts to. I also heard that you were interested In bringing that concept to DA. The student body is in full support of your idea, we actually came up with the same one. I guess great minds think alike. There is a handful of us (not including myself) who already consider themselves online DJs. A few have volunteered to manage the site and even create a blog to go with it! Kids have volunteered to advertise and talk about the concept during community meeting as well (that’s the group I’m in). Ashley is considering proposing it to the student council as well. As this idea spreads across the school more and more people want to become a part of it. We have the strength in numbers, as well as passionate workers. Now all we need is technological talent, adult supervision and a faculty member that is willing to invest in this project and cares about it just as much as we do. Will you help us?
-Yaa B.

We have met about 3 times with me although I know they meet without me to discuss ideas. Two students created logos, one is above which will be merged with a new model since we now have a name and the other logo had good features we want to include. We decided to start with audio as it is easier to produce although we hope to grow it into having videos and a blog.

I felt it would be important to automate as much of the production as possible since there are many newsworthy events that happen that can simply be recorded. I checked out SoundCloud and Audioboo and decided on Audioboo as it has a nice app and will allow some customization as well as serve as our audio host for the podcasting part of MS Studios.

To prove the concept I recorded the morning announcements although I missed timed it so I did not get the start. Students will be better at this in time.

Thank you Yaa, Joseph, Sean, Ashley, Isabella, Jack, and Alayah for the efforts you are putting forth to get MS Studios and my hope off the ground.