Friday, October 30, 2015

Using Schoology To Personalize Instruction For 5th Grade Bloggers!

I am always striving to find ways for students to share their writing in authentic ways, and blogging seems to provide that opportunity.  For the last several years I have helped students create their own reading blogs. This is a painstaking process as I teach each step and wait for all students to accomplish each step through the creation stage. More recently I started trying to find ways to give students more control over the "how" of their learning. Giving students control gives them the opportunity to work at their own pace, hear instructions more than once and seek their own understanding. Though I have "flipped" the tech instruction for the Oak Hills staff, I hadn't ever tried it for students. This week, I created screencasts for the steps required for blog creation for my students. I used the learning management system that our district has adopted called Schoology (pronounced Skool'uhjee) to deliver the instruction for students.  

In a series of three videos, I delivered instruction for my students with great success! By delivering the instruction via video, I was free to walk around and help students who were struggling. It was eerily quiet in the room with students focusing so intently on their lessons, but engagement was 100%.  You really can't beat that! I think they enjoyed the level of independence this teaching method provided them! I can't wait to share their blogs very soon!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Storytime Online - Such A Fantastic Resource For Teachers and Students!

Last month, I was at a district media specialist meeting when fellow media specialist, Randy Schlede, shared a fantastic resource with our group! The website was Storyline Online. When I browsed the site, I found some excellent read alouds by well known actors and actresses. I noticed the book entitled, I Need My Monster, written by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam and read by Rita Moreno. I mentally tucked it away thinking it would be perfect for my students this week! Little did I know what a treat we had in store!

I came back to it this week and finally listened to Ms. Moreno read the book! I was alone after school in the media center, but that didn't stop me. I laughed out loud in my big empty library. This book is so well illustrated, and the idea of "needing" a monster is such a clever turn on the familiar theme of scary monsters under the bed. The illustrations and clever plot, together with Rita Moreno reading it with the most hilarious accents, it was the perfect blend of fabulousness! My first graders were glued to this video read aloud! When each new monster appeared in the story, they grew still with nervous anticipation.

After it was all done, we brainstormed what characteristics we would choose if we could pick a monster under our beds. My students were surprisingly detailed!  Along with claws, a single eye and horns, some of my students thought their monsters should be humorous, smell like flowers and be able to grant wishes! All in all it was fun hearing them share their imaginative ideas.

We took a few minutes to create monsters using a fun web based Monster Creator by the British Council. To make their monsters, students added monster arms, legs, eyes, mouths, ears and noses. Once their monsters were created, students could make them dance, sing, sneeze, shout and blowup! The monsters and 1st graders had a great day in media!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

ITEM 2015 - Connect, Collaborate & Create!

This year's ITEM Fall Conference (ITEM stands for Information & Technology Educators of Minnesota) was a fabulous opportunity for learning! It was great to hear from innovative library and tech specialists from all over the state of Minnesota! Because we are often isolated as the only library/tech specialists in our schools, it is so great to have the opportunity to learn from each other! This year, keynote speakers included super energetic Brad Gustafson and the ever inspirational Jennifer LaGarde! (pictured with me in the upper left hand corner) Brad spoke to us about using digital media to amplify student voice. He even treated us to a few seconds of drone action! Jennifer travels around the nation speaking about libraries and teaching! I have had the opportunity to hear her speak before, and every time I walk away with a renewed sense of purpose about what I do everyday with children. I think it is safe to say I have a professional crush on Jennifer! 

My Lakeville media specialist colleague, Paula Hansen, and I presented a session on Promoting Your School Library.  We featured our tech and library work with students and shared our "get the word out" approach using blogs, social media, and professional writing/speaking. We used the Emaze web app to create our presentation (see below), which worked well for collaborating with each other from a distance!

We discussed eBooks, Makerspaces, Personalization, Collection Genrefication, Instagram for the Libraries, Innovative Library Spaces, Digital Storytelling & Tech Integration!  I felt like my brain was exploding with new ideas to bring back to my school and my students!

Keyboarding - An Old Skill For A New Generation!

This week I introduced keyboarding to my 3rd & 4th grade students. Later I will also introduce it to our 5th graders, who are right in the middle of creating their blogs, so I didn't want to interrupt their momentum! 

Keyboarding isn't the most fascinating topic for me to teach every year.  I find myself roaming around the lab, watching and addressing issues that arise with students struggling to keep their fingers on the "home row" keys.  It doesn't feel innovative or creative, which is my favorite part of teaching!! But whether or not it is my favorite thing to teach, I always feel like I am really making a difference in the future of my students. 

Keyboarding is a skill that will creep into every part of the lives of my students! Even when their thumbs are texting, they will be using a QWERTY virtual keyboard to do it!  There are those who believe that our students will soon be able to completely voice activate their digital world, making keyboarding obsolete. I can't deny that this is certainly a strong possibility, but I still think there will always be the need to interact with text in some shape or form. Students who can effectively keyboard will have another tool in their toolbox for communicating well with their world, and that makes it a worthy goal!  For now, it supports their learning which is why I will continue to introduce it. 

For parents looking for ways to support their child's learning, I would recommend having their child use one of the myriad of free or paid online keyboarding courses at home too!  I use with my students. It is free and gives students feedback on their WPM (words per minute) and accuracy. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

1st Graders Go Wild With Mashed Up Selfies Using Photobooth!!

Each year I look for opportunities to get kindergarten and 1st grade students familiar with using our computers and iPads. There is a surprising array of skills that many adults just take for granted that our 1st graders need help with!  I love introducing our students to Photobooth because it gives them an opportunity to "play" while learning how to use a computer!  

Students go wild for Photobooth, a program that Apple provides for free on their computers and iPads.  I like to have students try Photobooth before introducing the same concept on the iPads because it is surprisingly easier for them to manage. It also gives them great options for effects that twist and stretch their selfies into unrecognizable messes!  Oh how they love that!! Check out our our mashed up selfies!!