A Classroom Blog?

Blogging is a great way to get students to write.  Students would love to create a blog including photos, artwork and other artifacts of their learning.  Don’t just limit them to the written word.

Reading Student Blogs: How Online Writing Can Transform Your Classroom by Anne Davis and Ewa McGrail generates all sorts of possibilities about classroom blogs and individual student blogs.  Although this kind of project takes some planning, it can turn out to be one of the most successful ways to engage students in various kinds of writing.

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Give some thought about why a blog would engage your students.  Can you give them a chance to get creative with words and ideas?  Can they see how everything they are learning is sometimes interconnected? Is is possible to give them space to write free of testing, grading, drilling, measuring and comparing?

Try to find peers, other than your students, to comment on blog posts.  Having their words available to all is a great everyday lesson in digital citizenship and the creation of their digital footprint.

Some ideas to create some buzz around content are:  “answer burning questions, comment on the news, debate a compelling issue, pick a “pro” or “con” side, or comment on a noteworthy post.”  These are just a few ideas introduced by the authors.

Having students comment on their current reading material may be another great way to have interaction between students.  What books are popular and cause a stir when reviewed in the blog?

It is early in the year.  It may be a great time to start students contributing to a classroom blog.  You many recognize some interesting writers in your group.

 

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Apps of Interest – June 2017

anxietyhelper and Verena by Amanda Southworth

I’ve discontinued App of the Week because, let’s face it, although I look at apps every week, actually reviewing one put a ton of pressure on this blogger.

Now, apps of interest will be reviewed and connected to curriculum when possible.  Overall, reader, you will get a sense of what is out there with a focus on uses in the classroom.

Having said that, the two apps in the article today are here because of a few unique qualities they possess.  The designer and creator of anxietyhelper and Verena is 15-year-old Amanda Southworth.  She came to the attention of Apple and recently attended her first developer conference.

Both of these apps are aimed at the middle and high school grade range and do not, in fact, address specific curriculum outcomes.   They are very timely in that they address the health and well being of this age group.  anxietyhelper addresses mental health including depression and anxiety disorders and how to access help for these illnesses.  Verena focuses on resources for the LGBTQ community.

A recent article in Mashable features Amanda’s story and her amazing capacity to code. As various school boards put an emphasis on coding in the classroom, Amanda is an example of how individuals come to coding on their own and follow their own path. While it is a great skill to introduce to all students, some will excel and some with be satisfied with the basic skills.

Take a look at these apps.  While they are not as sophisticated as some, they have an amazing capacity to reach out to students the same age as Amanda, trying to get guidance and answers to some difficult questions.

App(Website) of the Week – GoNoodle

I admit it – doing the Dinosaur Stomp with a number of grade three students mid-morning is an excellent way hit the reset button on your day.  These “movement breaks” in elementary school (as in every sedentary environment) are good for bodies and brains and the body-brain connection.   Remember brain gym.

I think we are past the time to recognize that the health of our students is partly our responsibility as educators because we see them for so many of their waking hours.  Elementary school is a natural place to see the positive rewards of extra movement in your classroom.

Instead of an app this week, I would like to suggest the website  GoNoodle.com. A site where you can incorporate movement into your class while not skipping a beat teaching curriculum.

GoNoodle begins with a video entitled GoNoodle 101 but I don’t think you really need the guidance.  Preview a few videos and choose something to your liking.  Strategically place the video during your teaching and voila – movement and learning.

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Lots of math songs and some American content but I still think you can bookmark the site for a quick change of pace in your classroom.

App of the Week – Litsy

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Cost: Free

Size 26.2MB

Version: 1.4.1

Type: like Instagram for books

Litsy is an app discovered by my co-worker that is very much like Instagram for Books. A Book Riot review of the app is called, “If Goodreads and Instagram had a Perfect Baby…” And you would have to agree this app is a great combination of both of these sites.

Litsy speaks to our creative side by allowing us to pose books for photographs.  Using kits and materials in the library (or from home) we feature books in great environments.  If you would like to follow us our name is Open Sesame – Portals to Teaching Resources.  We thought it was very catchy.  Search us by Doucette_Library as well.

Users have a Litfluence score that appeals to students who are gamers to begin with.  Your litfluence score is based on how many people are following you, how much you post and if people are liking what you post.  Although we are not competitive, some students may find an appeal in this aspect of the app.

We are using the app to feature great resources we would love to see in classrooms and to talk about how we can creatively use books to connect to curriculum or to create a great classroom atmosphere.  We get to pick icons that suggest a good pick, so-so, pan or bail.  Ours are mostly picks since we want you to see the resources we really like.  We also get 451 characters to tell you everything you need to know about this book.  That is sometimes a challenge.

The app would also play well in a classroom for students to use to feature what they are reading, if they like it and if they would suggest it to classmates.  So our use of the app is showing you how you could use the app.  A win-win in my opinion.

Read some reviews about the app and join us to see what we are featuring.  The first books I posted were the ones I reviewed recently in a blog post on creating wonder in the elementary classroom. My co-worker has been busy posting back to school finds and some other great resources.

Join us or do some posting yourself or use it in your classroom.  Get the word out about what you are reading or follow us and see what you great resources to pick up for your classroom or practicum.

The app creators are responsive still to feedback on what you would like to change or see added to the app.

Join the fun and visit us on this book-loving social media app.

 

 

The Horizon Report K-12, 2016 (Preview)

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Horizon Report K-12, 2016 Preview

The Horizon Report compiled by the National Media Consortium is the report that names the trends in education that are most important to pay attention to in the coming year, 5 years and 10 years.  It will be published on September 14, 2016 in its entirety but the advance sample or preview is available today.  NMC also collects information for the coming report in a comprehensive wiki and you can join to view the background information.

This Horizon Report will focus again on the adoption of the makerspace model of learning and teaching into classrooms.  It has moved to the “one year or less” category and teaching students seem to be adopting this model through their studies.  Many workshops and ideas are introduced during their time in the teaching program.

The second trend to on-line learning also remains on track for adoption in the next year or so with the continual changes in the open-source resource market.  Many contributing trends are also affected like blended learning where students are responsible for the background work of watching videos and reading resources in non-class time.

Long term trends in education are generally accepted as more evolutionary than revolutionary, happening gradually over time in schools that are creating new spaces for students to learn in.  Because re-designing spaces takes huge budgets, “re-arranging” of learning spaces in more the norm in most school districts. Here, screen installation for collaborative learning areas, and more flexible work spaces are technology use and general group work adaptations schools can make without a large investment of cash.

Another long term trend in education is the “rethinking how schools work”  and this trend addresses the move to a more authentic, multidisciplinary environment for learning. Teacher education is also meshing with the mid-term trends focused on collaborative learning approaches  based on the four principles: “placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction and doing, working in groups, and developing solutions to real-world problems.” And the other mid-term student-centered trend delving into deeper learning approaches in the classroom.

It is exciting to see the acknowledgement that coding is a new literacy to be addressed by educators in the short-term and the notion that students are becoming the creators of their learning rather than consumers.  These two notions are coming to the forefront of education practice especially from a teacher education viewpoint.

The report is rich in topics that are so important to our students as they enter or continue their education to become teachers and to practicing teachers who provide mentoring for our students.  More news when the complete report is released next on September 14, 2016.

Classroom Blogs

Creating a classroom blog is a great way to include students in feedback writing and response journaling.

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You can begin by following other blogs to show examples of content that is of interest to students.  Perhaps get them to share or investigate bloggers that would be of interest to them.  Perhaps model your own blog that shares classroom content and receives comments on various topics that come up in class.

Educblogs and kidblogs websites both allow for educational blogs with a dedicated audience.

Is a blog just a blog?  A blog is not just a blog in the classroom.  It is a forum to voice differing opinions and to model responsible digital citizenship in a curated environment.  It is tempting to say that it provides an arena to learn to fight fair.  Not only to voice your opinion but to authentically listen and respond to others’ viewpoints.  Feedback from the blog will allow for classroom discussion for students in a relatively safe space.  Try not to correct spelling and grammar but look for interesting content to spark discussions.  Allow groups to contribute blog posts during their discussion of various topics.  Although many topics can be open for discussion, one of the most important lessons you are teaching is about the power of words.

Blogging is a tool to teach so much more than using this social media vehicle.  Blogging is literacy, digital literacy, responsible digital citizenship and debate club all in one.

Over the summer or before the beginning of school, start following a few blogs and get a taste for the content.  Notice what works and the presentation of the content.  Show these examples to your students or use what you are seeing to develop a blog for your classroom.

Ms. Cassidy’s Blog and Learning is Messy are two great examples or, dare I say it, google the top blogs in your interest area and see what you find.

 

App of the Week – First Nations Language

Before I review two apps this week, I have to admit that language is essential to my existence.  I love to read and, coworkers would concur, I love to talk.  Language and communication is my currency.  When I hear that grandparents in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities are struggling to pass their language and traditions to younger generations, I have great empathy for them.  The traditions and especially language is unique and crucial to identity.  Passing on language and oral traditions surrounds youth with a foundation on which they can build their lives.  They know from where they came and can plan better where they are going.

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First Voices

Cost: Free

Released: June 18, 2012

Social Media and Social Networking

Size: 2.4 MB

Seller: First People’s Heritage Language and Culture Challenge

This app is a very simple but great idea for many dialects from First Nations language.  Individual communities within various regions are searchable.  Once you find the language you are looking for, you are provided with a provisional keyboard to communicate on social media sites using the language.  Combining the appeal of social media with the traditional language is a brilliant marriage for young and old.  Since putting out the initial list of translation keyboards more have been added.  Check the First Voices website for additional options.

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Ninastako Cultural Centre

Cost: $6.99

Version: 1.3

Size: 53.5MB

Released: March 10, 2016

Seller: Gloria Wells

On a more local level, the Ninastako Cultural Centre app allows non-speakers to learn some conversational Blackfoot.  After learning a few greetings or other categories of the Blackfoot language and users are up for a challenge they can access a few games to practice their new language.  A listing of Blackfoot surnames is another category of interest.

The Calendar entry from the main menu also allows students and members of the Blackfoot community in Southern Alberta to access information about upcoming events and classes.

In both cases, these apps speak to learning and continuing to use First Nations’ languages.  These languages are essential to these communities and bringing them to social media, smartphones and tablets may be the best way to connect with younger learners.

Give them a try or introduce them to First Nations’ students in your classroom.

 

The Maker Movement – Not only kits…

What if I told you the Maker Movement in classrooms is not just about the ingenious kits that you can purchase to introduce to students?  It is not only about the unique prototyping and creativity that comes from students.

What if I told you the making is about great citizenship?  What?  Not about the kits?  “Surely you jest!”  In a K-12 classroom there are learning opportunities that change from day to day (or in some classrooms stay the same from day to day) but in a maker class set up to appeal to K-12 students something else happens.

In an elementary maker classroom, students are gaining foundation skills other than how to complete a circuit or video and edit an iMovie.  Students are learning to co-operate, collaborate, take turns and negotiate with fellow classmates and other mentors in the room.  They are learning, sometimes most importantly, to listen carefully to someone else in order to solve a problem. They are learning to effectively communicate their own ideas to their peers and facilitators.  Some are learning to slow down and enjoy the process and others are learning how to observe, learn and apply their learning to new situations.

In middle school, challenges are beginning to show leaders in various fields and peer groups are, sometimes, the most important people in a student’s life.  In a maker classroom, we see new experts coming forth, peers learning to respect others and unusual groupings getting together to solve challenges.  Engagement in a middle school classroom looks like elementary in the noisy, active way but with more technology based solutions coming forth.

In high school, more sophisticated ideas are emerging in classroom maker spaces.  Students are using and learning foundation skills to solve authentic problems that they have invested time and energy in.  Engagement and investment from students comes from their brainstorming of solutions that address current problems they are aware of in the world at large.  Groups are formed with the solution in mind and students are focused on collaborating with a group that can further their goals.

Gaining these skills throughout each student’s experience in the K-12 classroom prepares them for life after their formal education.  Workplaces and post-secondary institutions value these “soft skills” that are acquired in classrooms that are innovative, student-centred and contain “making” as a focus of curriculum learning.

Start including hands-on making with the available materials in your classroom and see the evolution of a more caring, respectful classroom.

Also, one more practical tip, check out this link to an interview of Gary Stager of Invent to Learn given by the ATA.  He discusses all the most practical reasons why a Maker Space in your classroom makes sense.

Following Ed Tech

If you have been embedding educational technologies into your classroom over the last year or so, you may have noticed that the most current ways to find out about new innovations is by reading various blogs.  The technology teaching and learning is moving so fast that it hardly has time to be written up let alone published.

The outcome is not carefully controlled research by a team of experts but instead it features easy ways to integrate educational technologies into your classroom.  Experts who blog are those classroom teachers that find a few minutes in their day to contribute through social media to the moving target of technology integration.

I am going to recommend two different types of blogs that are helpful in getting a handle on new ideas to feature in your teaching and learning.

Firstly, I would like to recommend EdTechTeacher.  This blog features 17 teachers in various positions in schools who voice what works for them and how to do it.  Having a variety of voices keeps this blog fresh and current and allows you to zero in on those technologies that are unique to your school.  This site also has some free resources including webinars for a busy teacher to watch in order to add something new or use some technology that is currently underused in your classroom.

Secondly, I will recommend FreeTech4Teachers.  This extensive and detailed blog has only one author, Richard Byrne (who I suspect is passionate about educational technologies).  He sometimes updates his blog several times a day – yes you read that right, several times a day!  In pretty short order he gives a tip or trick or website or app or way to use technology in a way that has you saying, “Of course, that will work in my ….class.”

Following a couple of blogs makes it easy to learn new technologies and to apply current technologies in different ways.  These are two examples of great blogs to follow.  Keep in mind Ed Tech Magazine had 50 top blogs on their 2016 honour roll.

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Quick Note about Mix on Pix

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Our favourite person who comments on this blog, Francois Robert  has agreed to make the Mix on Pix app available for free for a little while longer for you students or teachers who would like to get it on the iPads in your school.  Again, it is a great way to have students capture the process of their learning and to comment on it.  Or for you to comment on it for them.  A fun and useful app.