Thursday, February 26, 2009

SHS: Book Reviews on Voicethread

Julia Roberts, library media specialist at SHS, recently worked with New Canaan High School library media specialist Michelle Luhtala to learn more about creating a Book Review Voicethread. Robin Stiles, library media specialist at SHS, soon joined in on the project. Julia began the process of adding several book reviews and other staff members have started adding their book reviews. Students and staff are encouraged to recommend new books and add video, audio or typed book reviews.

Julia wrote, " Our goal is to broaden our discussion around books...Having talked with others who have used this form of discussion schoolwide, I know it will take a while to catch on, but there have already been some voluntary student and teacher comments. The library staff has been commenting as they find time. (All comments and recommendations come to me first for some control.) Another goal is that the Summer Reading list will be on VoiceThread. Those who recommend a book for summer reading will comment. ... In the fall, we hope to have an online survey of What Was the Best Book You Read over the Summer? based on what we did in the spring to prepare for summer reading."

This Voicethread was shared with 30 teachers at the recent ITL Steering Committee meeting, and was motivation for several to start similar Voicethreads at their schools and many found new books to read on the Voicethread presentation! If you have read one of the books, please leave a video, audio or written book review. For the original larger version please go:

SHS: TV Production

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt co-teach the TV Production class at SHS. They work with all students on developing video skills through demonstrations, planning and creating videos for several weekly TV programs, and critiquing each others video productions.

Students are provided individual support and guidance to bring their personal and group ideas to fruition. This "independent study" environment has allowed every student to learn the basics of video production and some students to master a variety of video editing software at a very high level. When this happens students can serve as mentors to other students and the teachers.

One student, Brandon, has excelled at Motion 3 (part of Apple's Final Cut Pro suite which allows the creation of many visual effects, including particles exploding through space; movement around an object and 3D motion graphics). He has created several video pieces for the TV Production class (including the sample for the opening of a Good Morning Staples program shown below), and also applied his video skills to products for a Social Studies Civil War project as well. He is working simultaneously on many projects on his own MacBook Pro that he brings to school.

Mike Zito said this about Brandon: " He has inspired other kids and pushed Jim and me to keep up with him and elevate our program."

It was a real treat to sit in on this TV Production class today, not only to see the great concepts that are being taught and discussed, but to also conference with Brandon to view the many video projects he is working on and to hear the depth of understanding he has about video construction and the tools he is utilizing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CMS: 6th Grade Research Project - Social Studies and ITL

6th grade social studies teachers, Glenn O'Neill and Lucille Hyland recently worked with John Horrigan, LMS, to plan and implement a research project on a disaster. After determining that there were plentiful resources, studens followed their interests around a spcific natural or man-made disaster, such as: the San Francisco earthquake, Pearl Harbor, the Irish potato famine, Hurricane Katrina, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the Titanic, or the Love Canal disaster.

Students used
the online project guidelines and resources on the LMC page, which included the following:
  • Questions to consider
  • Disaster project note sheets
  • A project rubric
  • Instructions
  • Photostory Tips
  • Scanned pictures and music in the R -Drive
  • Resources to develop background knowledge
  • Specialized resources to develop more knowledge (books, magazines, Internet)
  • Suggestions for interviewing, viewing videos
  • Use of Noodletools to cite sources
This year was the first year for this Social Studies/ITL project and it was so successful that it will be done earlier in the year next year providing students with the opportunity to become oriented to their new library media center and to both apply and learn new information and technology literacy skills within a social studies context.

Here is one sample by Emily which focuses on the Irish potato famine:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SHS: Students Provide Middle East Policy Suggestions to President Obama

Dana Gilland, Social Studies teacher, and Robin Stiles, library media specialist, recently completed a project focusing on the Middle East at SHS.

Students pretended to be the new Secretary of State, meeting with President Obama for only 3 minutes to convey their thoughts on the foreign policy for the Middle East. They had to include 5 out of 9 main ideas from the semester long class on the Middle East. Students had to infuse American values with what they had learned about the identity of the region and the people. They then had to come up with a foreign policy approach/strategy to handle terrorism which would not create more enemies for America.

Research was primarily done in the LMC, while the synthesis was done primarily at home or during free time before exams. To present their strategy students were required to create a digital story. Students could use any platform they were comfortable with, including PhotoStory3 and iMovie. Their presentations constituted their final exam, and the movies were presented during that time slot. Here is one sample created by Suzie.

Monday, February 23, 2009

ITL Professional Development Day

All library media specialists and technology teachers met on this professional development day in the SHS LMC. Our agenda included many topics and activities, including:
  • A discussion of the survey soon to go out to all staff about possible alternatives to the ITL Summer Institute (which, due to budgetary constraints, will not run as it has the past 2 years).
  • A review of the current status of our "Defining 21st century skills" project and the task to be undertaken by this Wednesday's ITL Steering Committee meeting using VoiceThread to add comments.
  • The creation of an ITL NING (professional social network) to share information.
  • Break-out sessions for elementary, middle and high school staff to discuss programs and services as well as possible collaborative opportunities between LMSs and technology teachers.
  • A live guided tour of by Bret Hoffman from TeachingBooks. This K-12 subscription provides background materials, audio recordings and videos on books, authors and more! We learned about the new Web 2.0 features and plan to participate in the Beta version.
  • An update on current uses of Blackboard by several teachers.
  • An update on the development of a new Internet Safety Curriculum.
  • A discussion on the due date for the K-12 Cablevision Area Nine Cable Advisory Council Video Contest and how the entries will be handled.(For more information: rules, application form and flyer)
  • A conversation (utlizing Skype) with Valerie Diggs, high school LMS at the Chelmsford High School in Chelmsford, MA. She has implemented one of the first Learning Commons in the U.S. and presented the major principles of a Learning Commons and answered questions. (Read David Loertscher's article in School Library Journal)
  • An online discussion about the possiblity of applying for the AASL National Library Media Program of the Year Award for 2010.
  • A quick look at developments in our virtual teaching and learning space in Second Life's Lighthouse Learning Island, which is managed by Kathy Schrock.
  • Looked at this video on flixxy

Friday, February 13, 2009

KHS - SCRATCH Workshop Coming Soon!!!

Aimee Anctil, LMS at KHS, has uncovered a SCRATCH expert at her school -- a student. What is SCRATCH? Scratch was created by MIT and is a visual programming language. Users can easily create games, stories, plays, art, animations -- and they can be interactive. All of these can be shared on the web. In fact, you don't have to start from "Scratch," as you can download other people's work, and tinker with it to get it to do what you want.

According to the website "Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create and share Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively."

Aimee is starting the "Scratch Club" on February 26th (before school starts) with 10 kids signed up so far...for a 7 week session!

This is a great example of the creation of a learning environment that allows kids to lead and teach others.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

BMS: Student ITL Committee

Meg Tiley, Assistant Principal, and I have been coordinating a student ITL committee for three years at BMS. This group meets before school three times a year with several subcommittee meetings throughout the year. The mission is to increase awareness of the importance of effectively utilizing information and technology at home and in teaching and learning activities at BMS. Currently two groups are focusing on two different initiatives: a call-in information literacy contest held for one week live on BAM (Bedford's TV Station), and a video contest which asks students to creatively focus on the technology that they use at home. The group has an ITL Student Committee Wiki for agendas, and notes. In the wiki each student and teacher is represented by a self-created avatar name and icon.
Meg Tiley said, "Bedford has over 30 students involved in the Student ITL committee. We were able to target those kids with technology interests from their elementary schools and we advertise committee participation school-wide. It has been a wonderful connection between the students and faculty and the needs of our students. Currently, we have one student representative on the faculty BMS ITL committee. As we all know, our students are steps ahead of us with regard to current technology. We have found the student ITL committee to be an invaluable part of the BMS community. Each year, the student ITL committee holds one to two ITL contests to get other students involved in Information and Technology Literacy and what it means to them and to BMS. It is my hope that the committee will continue to grow and that students will feel empowered around some of the decisions regarding technology within the classroom."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SES: Author, Elise Broach, Starts her Westport School Visits

Rae Anne Locke, LMS at SES, was the first of all the elementary LMSs to host author, Elise Broach. The 3 presentations planned for the day provided many opportunities for students to sharpen their creative and critical thinking skills. Of course the SES PTA and the PTAs of each school are instrumental in the planning and financial support of these visits!

Authors are great "primary sources" and although we can bring authors in through a variety of technologies now (Skype, webinars, and others), there are special connections made between the book(s) and the reader when the author is present. The SES library media center on Tuesday, 2/10/09 was filled with children, teachers, parents and the author and it was "charged" with the excitement of a good presidential press conference or an interview with a popular movie star. Some of the "new literacies" components of this visit involved the authors use of the Smartboard to present, the sharing of digital images in BlackBoard and via e-mails, and the communication of the event through this blog.

Elise Broach has written many children's books, and you can find out more about her on her website. With a Ph.D. in history from Yale it is easy to understand her ability to merge historical facts with fiction in powerful mysteries.

The two books that she talked most about were Shakespeare's Secret and Masterpiece. Her presentation style maintained the attention of the two 4th grade classes and the adults present. Students answered and asked many detailed questions about both books, and for this blog entry, I'll focus on Elise Broach's presentation of Shakespeare's Secret.

In Shakespeare's Secret, Hero, a sixth grader, has moved and is just starting a new school. She has a name based on one of the characters in a Shakespeare play, but she is not interested at all in Shakespeare. However, when she finds out that there could be a very valuable diamond somewhere in her new house AND that it could lead to learning more about who the real Shakespeare was, Hero decides to try to solve the mystery.

Shakespeare's Secret was a Nutmeg book this year, and students throughout Westport and Connecticut recently completed voting for their favorite Nutmeg. The favorite Nutmeg book will be announced on Feb. 14th.

Elise Broach presented evidence that convinced many in the audience that William Shakespeare was not the author of "his" plays. Could it have been Queen Elizabeth I, Edward de Vere, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon or a group of writers? Absolutely.

Over the next two months Elise Broach will bring her love of writing and incredible communication and detective skills to all the elementary schools in Westport.

(Rae Anne Locke, LMS; 5th grade team: Eric Lawrence, Peter von Euler, Nonie Price, Elise Broach, Diane Connolly, and Jason Bedient, student teacher.)
All images from Rae Anne Locke. Click on images for better view

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SHS: Honors Western Religious Symposium Wiki

Eric Mongirdas and Rebecca Levine, Social Studies teachers at SHS, created a wiki for students in their Honors Western Humanities Classes to collaborate in a Socratic Seminar. This is the homepage of their wiki with some sample comments and collaborative discussions created by students.

Rebecca said this about the project: "This Wiki was a great tool to promote student discussion beyond the classroom walls. Students were able to discuss historical content critically at their leisure and without the constraints of limited class time. Furthermore, this tool empowered students who may shy away from class discussion to participate fully on their own time. As for added value, the Wiki was tremendous. Students used the material discussed online to formulate theses for midterm essays on the changing role of religion in the West. "

Welcome to the Honors Western 2008-2009
Religious Symposium Wiki!

The purpose of this Wiki is to communicate with your academic colleagues regarding Christianity and Western Humanities. It is our (Mr. Mongirdas and Mrs. Levine) intention that you collaborate across class periods on topics introduced in the curriculum.

Throughout the semester, we expect you to comment periodically on our Wiki. You will be assigned formally to comment on certain topics, but we encourage and expect you to visit the Wiki frequently and post your musings on class discussions & activities, homework, essays, outside reading, etc. We will be using the Socratic Seminar rubric to evaluate the depth and breadth of your comments.

Follow links below to engage in Socratic discourse about our units of study.
(These links do not go to the original wiki, but take you to some samples of students' comments with names removed.)

Rome Links

Medieval Links

Renaissance and Reformation Links

Monday, February 9, 2009

GFS: Music

Suzanne Propp, Music teacher at GFS, has been using an iPod and a microphone to record kids' singing and playing various pieces of music on the instruments in the music room. The students then listen to the performance to do an assessment of their skills. Here is how she describes the activity:

"Laughing All The Way" is an activity I use with 5th graders to teach them to read a musical score. After several lessons where students read through the music, we rotate through the instruments so that everybody gets a chance to try all of the different parts. Then we work on finalizing the performance. Recording the performance on the iPod and playing it back immediately helps the students assess their performance; they listen to see if they are (a) keeping a steady beat and (b) playing the correct notes. Later we work together to add expressive elements (dynamics)."

This activity meets many curricular objectives from the ITL and music curricula, including:
  • Create, perform and respond using: half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted quarter notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, dotted eighth notes, sixteenth notes, syncopated rhythms, triplets, eighth rest, quarter rest, half rest, whole rest, fermati and ties.
  • Perform and respond with understanding to metered signatures of 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8 through singing, movement or accompaniments.
  • Identify and understand the function of music symbols, such as repeat sign, single bar line, double bar line, first and second endings, and D.C. al fine, multi-measure rests and coda.
  • Review treble clef and recorder notes C- D'.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of rhythm patterns by performing orchestrated accompaniments on Orff instruments and in other ways.
  • Perform pieces that use a variety of layered ostinati (speech, body percussion, instruments).
  • Identify and perform pieces in AB, ABA, AABA, Rondo and other forms.
  • Self-assess performance and final product using rubric established by self, class and/or teacher.
  • Use a variety of production technologies for sharing information, e.g., word processing, photographing, audio recording, drawing materials, maps, models, multimedia presentations, scanning, videotaping, multimedia presentations and video editing

Friday, February 6, 2009

BMS: Digital Photography -- Abstract Architecture

Kathy Fleming, Technology teacher at BMS, is currently working with students over a series of sessions on a Digital Photography unit. Students viewed several YouTube videos and a BrainPop video about taking good digital images and using digital cameras.
Students learned the three essential elements of a successful photograph: the subject matter, the composition and the lighting. The subject matter must be interesting, or beautiful, or striking, or funny, or touching. The composition is the arrangement of the subject matter within the photograph and it should create a balance and/or special meaning. The lighting defines the shape, mood, depth, and contrast.

Students also spent time reviewing and identifying basic photography principles, such as:
• The use of focus to add depth or a 3-dimensional feel
• Looking at the background - for weird looking objects or for being too busy and distracting.
• The use of flash both outdoors and indoors
• Moving in close on a a subject
• Getting down to the subject’s eye level
• Using the Rule of Thirds
• The power of vertical vs. horizontal images
• The meaning and use of a Dutch tilt
• Acting as "a picture director"
• Capturing the feeling of the moment.
• The use of lines, angles, & shapes in objects (esp. in abstract images)
• Focusing on a small part of a larger thing (esp. in abstract images)

Students were given many images, and asked to work with a partner. The students wrote short comments under each photo which described the basic photography principle that was followed.
They were also asked to comment on images that did not show any of the principles, and asked to explain how the image could be improved.

They also perused many images in Flickr's Abstract Architecture Gallery and made comments on some of them.Each student then used a digital camera to take 5 – 10 abstract architectural photographs around the BMS campus. They were told that quality, not quantity was most important. When they returned to the classroom they used a card reader to download their images to their "Y-Drives." After reviewing their photos, they selected the 2 best and inserted them in to a Word document, under which they described how each photo demonstrated the principles of photography.

Since this lesson is in progress the finished products will not be posted for another 2 weeks. Please come back very soon to view a few samples of the amazing digital photography work done by the 7th grade computer students at BMS.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

GFS: Research and Writing a Feature Article

GFS Library Media Specialist, Kelley Auringer, has been working with the four fifth grade classes and their teachers: Calla Constantine, Stacy Fowle, Kristen Lukovits, and Sarah E. White for the last month on the process of creating and writing a feature article. The students did research for their own articles using i-Conn and the information site Kids InfoBits to find inspiration and information. A template was created that guided the students in finding a topic, an angle and four main ideas upon which to build their articles. The 5th graders also learned how to conduct surveys and interviews and to use this data as part of their research. The students reviewed NoodleBib and used it to cite all of their sources. The articles were designed, formatted and printed as an activity in the computer lab with technology teacher, Sally Wanamaker. This is the third year GFS has done this collaborative project.

[Since this year's projects have not been completed, here are two sample projects from last year: Sydney's Cell Phones Article (Page 1 shown below) and Kari's School Time Article]

(Click on image above to view in original format.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

SES: Research Grade on 5th Grade Report Cards

Last year all 5th graders started receiving grades on their report cards for Research and Technology. In many cases the library media specialists and technology teachers support the 5th grade teachers in preparing the students' grades. Rubrics (Research and Technology) and check lists of skills (Research and Technology) were created by all elementary library media specialists and technology teachers to support the grading process.

(Click on image of note taking rubric to improve view.)

RaeAnne Locke, LMS at SES, reported on her part in the grading process:
"As a result of collaborative work with the 5th grade team, I was able to see student progress as the quarter progressed and help evaluate for the ITL report card grade in research. After co-teaching an introductory lesson on types of questioning for research, I was able to follow-up with reinforcing lessons incorporating note taking and asking “think” and “fact” questions. A note taking rubric (see above) was established, and each 5th grader submitted their best example of note taking from their note taking sheets which included one "think" and "fact" question used for their ancient Egypt essay. The rubric grade was incorporated into each 5th grade teachers’ final grades for the report card."

The assessment of the level of attainment of research and technology skills by 5th grade students will help with the placement and teaching of new literacies in grades K-4 and 6-8.
(Our current K-12 ITL Benchmarks)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

CMS: French Class in the LMC

John Horrigan, LMS and Sharon Gardner, French teacher, co-taught an 8th grade French class at CMS. During 6 sessions, students researched a province in France utilizing a variety of print and online resources following a project description and rubric. They synthesized the information to create a coherent, interesting and informative story, harvested images to support their narration, created a digital story in Photostory and created a written handout to explain the final presentation. All students used Noodletools to create Works Cited Pages, citing all sources used in the creation of the final projects.

The following is one student's final Photostory project:

Monday, February 2, 2009

KHS: in Action

Recently I observed Aimee Anctil, library media specialist at KHS, work with a 5th grade class to help students create graphic organizers during a pre-search process for their study of ancient Egypt using is a free online mind-mapping tool. Teachers can make an account for a class (Ancient Egypt-5L, for example) with a password that can be used by all students in that class to create, store and share their products. (As usual when dealing with Web2.0 products, students should not use their full names and no personal information should be given.)

This is what the KHS account for one class looks like inside
(Click on image for larger view.)

Aimee described the process: "First, students completed a pre-search of 2 - 3 cultural universals that they wanted to research about ancient Egypt. After they had chosen the one with the most helpful resources, we wanted them to learn more about their cultural universal. Their job was to skim and scan a World Book Online article looking for key words that would help them expand their understanding of that cultural universal set in the context of ancient Egypt. They were encouraged to use colors and other features of the program to help organize and manage their work. We decided to use because not all students have access to Kidspiration or Inspiration at home, whereas is free and accessible to all. We posted the directions for logging in on the Assignment section of the LMC Blackboard page. Each class had their own login. We also used the recorder feature in Smart Notebook to record directions for accessing it and posted that under the login information."

Below is one example of a student's organization of ancient Egyptian concepts dealing with architecture.(Click on image for larger view.)