Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CES: Authentic Learning - Science, Language Arts, ITL

Today I was honored to be the audience for 4 presentations by the owners and employees of 4 different fitness centers. Each presentation focused on the special features that made their health and fitness center an excellent choice for anyone interested in special exercises, diet and individual attention. Although these companies were "not real" and the owners and employees were 5th graders in Ed Wolf's class at Coleytown Elementary, it only added to the obvious learning and sophisticated display and presentation of information. The "owners" presented their companies' missions and special services AS IF their fitness and health centers were legitimate companies.

It all began several months ago when Mr. Wolf wanted to have his students apply their prior knowledge of using wikis (See blog entry -- Jan. 21st - Community of Learners -CES) to a new project dealing with their study of the human body. Instead of researching the systems of the body, he wanted his students to have a strong purpose for using the researched information. He engaged the students in a proposition --
Can you create a "real" website using a wiki for a "real" fitness and health club that provides specific health, diet and exercises for specific people with certain needs, such as a 60 year old man recovering from a heart attack or a 15 year old soccer player?

The Mission Accomplished group, a doctor, diet specialist, fitness specialist and orthopedic specialist spoke about the yoga classes designed for a 23 year old leukemia patient. They described a selective diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. They said that whoever came to their gym received one to one time, and the staff would create personal connections with everyone. They created online diet tables with pictures. They also brought in a former client "Mr. Malon " [aka Mr. Wolf!] who provided a testimony to the great work done at Mission Accomplished!

The Groove Fitness and Health group expalined that their club was more social than any other gym.They offered a special individualized program for every person, and even provided children's programming. They detailed special programs for a 10 year old gymnast, a 40 year old Survivor participant and a 65 year old recovering from a heart attach. They offered cardio workouts, stretching plans and diet recommendations.
The !BAM! group explained that every professional who works in their gym focuses on the needs of the individual. They stated that the staff values respect and responsibility. They worked closely with a 10 year old dancer and provided real videos of turns, leaps and dance routines for their client to use at home. They embedded these videos within their website, and used them to illustrate how they worked closely to meet their clients' needs.

The Shock Fitness and Health group presented their plan for providing ONLINE personal training programs. The strength and diet experts talked about their recent experiences with a 10 year old tennis player, a 65 year old heart attack survivor, an obese 10 year old and a 50 year old smoker. An easy to read grid was organized to tell and show each client various foods and exercise programs. Pictures of the lungs after smoking, and before and after pictures of some clients were shown.

After the incredible presentations which focused on all of the major systems of the human body and what they need to stay healthy, the students answered my question:

What did you like best about this project?

and they responded:

  • I learned some incredible presentation skills.
  • I learned how to research in a group.
  • I liked pitching and presenting about my company.
  • I liked gathering information and putting it to GOOD USE!
  • I enjoyed creating my own clients.
  • I liked working together and getting to know the people in my group better.

Friday, June 12, 2009

21st Century Librarians Wiki

Started by Joyce Valenza, library media specialist at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, PA, this wiki is for library media specialists, and everyone interested in new strategies to positively impact teaching and learning.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally

This article in Technology and Learning details the application of Bloom's Taxonomy to learning in the digital world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

District: 5th Grade Social Studies Pilots

Today John Bayers, principal of Greens Farms Elementary, led a small group to discuss a summer writing workshop to look at some possible changes in the 5th grade social studies curriculum. The group consisted of Michael Brownstein, technology teacher at LLS; Joe Pullia, 5th grade teacher, CES; Anne Nesbitt, assistant principal, KHS; Nancy Giglio, 5th grade teacher, KHS; Melanie Carroll, 5th grade teacher, LLS; Calla Constantine, 5th grade teacher, GFS; and Dianne Connolly, 5th grade teacher, SES.

The goal of the writing group this summer will be to make some minor changes to the 5th grade study of culture through the exploration of these essential questions:
  • How do the cultural universals help us compare and contrast various communities?
  • How does human interaction with natural resources influence the development and survival of a culture?
  • How do technology and trade affect the growth of a culture?
  • What contributed to the development and “cultural diffusion” of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome?
The group will look at:
  • how the four big ideas from the recent social studies curriculum review process are integrated into the social studies units (Global Understanding, Multiple Perspectives, Effective Citizenship, and Historical Thinking)
  • the possiblity of including "Big Think" activities that provide students with the opportunity to apply their learning to a "real" problem
  • the inclusion of other ancient civilizations that broaden the understanding of "culture."
  • the possibility of one or more schools piloting the proposed changes during the 2009-1010 school year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

CES: Crouch/Greenberg 2nd grade/3rd grade Westport/Bridgeport

Today, for the second time, Stacey Crouch's 2nd grade students at Coleytown Elementary School communicated via Skype with Bob Greenberg's 3rd grade students at Columbus Elementary School in Bridgeport. Bob Greenberg had attended last year's ITL Summer Institute because he is a regular user of Classblogmeister, created by our keynote and workshop leader, David Warlick.

Ms. Crouch and Mr. Greenberg planned the focus of each session and a wiki was created on which the students could asynchronously communicate. The teachers had their students come up with a list of 5 questions to ask their friends while on Skype. During the two 35 minute sessions all students had an opportunity to talk on camera at least once, and most twice.

Before the second session all students read the book City Mouse, Country Mouse and discussed which mouse they felt most like. Students were coached by their teachers to think of other questions to ask each other. One more Skype session is being set up for this year.

The collaboration was designed to complement Westport's 2nd grade social studies unit on understanding urban, suburban and rural communities. Next year Mr. Greenberg will be a 2nd grade teacher, so the grade levels will be the same. Ms. Crouch and Mr. Greenberg are hoping to have their students Skype again next year.

Monday, June 8, 2009

BMS: When/How Do You Use Google Spreadsheets?

Today Rita Hennessey, LMS and I with Jeremy Royster, 6th grade social studies teacher, worked with a class to test a 6th grade orientation session for next year. This was our second time working with a 6th grade class to create their own rubric to assess websites. We used a Google Spreadsheet with the students, ONE for each of the 5 groups.

We learned something that was not surprising -- if you introduce Google Docs to a group of students for the first time as a vehicle to accomplish a task; the task may not be as important compared to the fun of playing with Google Docs --- changing other people's answers, adding random colors, etc. We decided that the next time we use Google Docs we will limit the number of students in a Google Doc during the first session and provide better guidelines for its use.

(NOTE ABOUT GOOGLE SPREADSHEETS: Last summer I started having a serious problem with Google Spreadsheets. I would prepare a spreadsheet for a workshop, and even after selecting "open for viewing and editing without the use of a password" -- particpants in the workshop would click on the link and reach a password protected page. It became so problematic that I stopped using Google Spreadsheets with groups that I knew did not necessarily have gmail accounts. It was impossible to use them with students. Recently Scott Johnston who works for Google (a friend of Bryan Davis's, a social studies teacher at CMS) solved the problem. It is a bug that will be fixed in the future, but for now, if you are using a Google Spreadsheet link that has been opened to edit without a password, you have to FIRST go to GOOGLE (, which places a cookie on your computer. Then you can click on the Google Spreadsheet link and it should open. If it does not repeat the process a few times, and it will!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Internet 4Classrooms

Internet4Classrooms was started 12 years ago, and continues to organize links by subject area and grade level. There are skill level pages for grades K-8. There are subject and special areas listed for K-12 links, including free clip art by subject, smartboard sites, library media specialists topics, and many, many other areas. There are also links to assessments in language arts, math, science and social studies for grades K-12.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

KHS - Skype with Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda

Today at KHS, Tara Doyle, technology teacher, and Elena Wetmore, 1st grade teacher, communicated with a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda, Emily, a friend of Ms. Wetmore's. Emily first wrote a letter to the class. Then the class wrote letters back to her asking questions. One boy in the class asked Ms. Wetmore if Emily had the Internet and Skype so they could talk with her. Ms. Wetmore wrote to check that out and found out that she did have a computer with Internet access. Many pictures were shared so students could see where and how Emily was living in Rwanda. This is a picture of the road to Emily's job.

Ms. Wetmore and the class talked about the different location, Rwanda, and came up with questions to ask Emily. A script was created and each person who wanted to speak had a part. It was practiced many times. Here it is:
Script for Skyping

Student1: Hi Emily! We are Ms. Wetmore’s Class.
Student2: How are you?
Student3: We are from Westport, CT in the USA.
Student4: Where are you from?
Student5: Did you get the letters we sent you? Were they torn at all?
Student6: What time is it there right now?
Student7: We are growing beans, pumpkins and sweet corn during
Student8: What types of plants are in Rwanda? Do you have a garden?
Student9: Do you have pets or animals around your house?
Student10: What do you miss most about the USA?
Student11: When are you coming back to the USA? Maybe you can come
visit us sometime.
Student12: What is your house like?
Student13: We read about water pumps. How do you get your water?
Student14: Thanks for skyping with us.
ALL: Chow for Now!
As it turns out as they were talking more questions were thought of so there was a line that formed at the microphone.

Although there were some technical problems and the connection was lost, students did get a chance to see and talk with Emily.

Tara Doyle, technology teacher, helped Ms. Wetmore a lot with the technology part of it since it was the first time Ms. Wetmore had used Skype. Because they needed to meet when Emily was available, they did not use their regular computer time, so they met at a different time with Ms. Doyle for the Skype session.
Ms. Wetmore said, "The kids were so into it and learned a lot. I loved seeing them come up with other questions as they heard things (a skill we had worked on when doing a podcast interview about a person's history with Ms. Anctil our library media specialist). "

Map of Rwanda from Wikimedia Commons (Click on image to enlarge.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

KHS: Heroes and New Literacies

At KHS, on Friday, May 15th, Ali Moran, 5th grade teacher, and Aimee Anctil, LMS, invited parents and others to attend their 5th graders' presentations entitled, "What makes a hero?" This was the culminating project for their hero study.

During this study the students were immersed in "new literacies" for the 21st Century. These "new literacies" were co-taught during Internet workshops by Ms. Moran and Ms. Anctil and included Internet navigation skills, how to read live search results, and the critical evaluation of websites (usefulness and truthfulness).

What makes a hero? was the guiding question throughout the study. The students worked collaboratively to create digital story presentations (using iMovie or Photostory) that effectively expressed what being a hero meant to them.
The presentations were excellent, and the conversation following the presentations was equally amazing. Students reflected on what they learned about using websites, including methods to determine the authority, currency and usefulness of a website.
Students used music created either by Photostory software or GarageBand and some students also selected short pieces (under 28 seconds) of popular music that enhanced and transformed the selected images to tell their "hero stories."

One Sample:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wider Audience for Student Produced Video

At an administrators' meeting today, I presented, for a second time, the possibility of having a district sanctioned celebration of student created video in the Westport Public Schools called the Westies. Mike Zito, SHS media teacher, Deb Perry, CMS technology teacher, Barbara Eilertsen, LLS library media specialist, and I created the proposal, which was designed to motivate students to create high quality videos for a broader, authentic audience. The 5h grade entries would come from the students working in some capacity with each elementary school TV studio; the 6-8 videos would come from both the TV studio, the media club and the technology classes learning video editing; and the 9-12 entries would come from video production classes.

While principals and other administrators recognized the potential value of this opportunity for students, several areas emerged as obstacles:
  • Each elementary school manages the studio in a different way, so there may not be equal opportunity for all 5th graders to produce video.
  • Competition at the middle and high school has not been promoted by the district in any curriculum area.
  • Confusion about the connection between the Westies and the Cable Contest.
  • Confusion about the real purpose of the Westies.
It was determined that a wider audience could be created by putting more student video on Cablevision's local access Channel 78 without the competitive element associated with the Westies. (The competitive element involved the awards ceremony for the middle and high school students.) Permission slips from parents of every child involved in the video would be essential before the video could be shown on Channel 78. Also it was determined that the video contest could continue next year with students submitting video they had created for their TV studio or in clubs or classes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Train the Trainers Workshops - August 10, 11, 12 and 13th

Breaking News:
This will be presented at the ITL Steering Committee Meeting on Wednesday, and distributed in an e-mail later this week.

District funding has been given for up to 20 educators to participate in a four-day ITL workshop on August 10, 11, 12 and 13 this summer. The workshops will focus on learning ITL skills by using and/or developing handouts created for specific ITL topics, such as: Blackboard, blogs, Destiny, Google Docs, Google Earth, MovieMaker, PBworks, Picnik, Podcasting, Scratch, Skype, Social Networks for School, subscription databases, Twitter, United Streaming, Ustream-TV, Video Production, Voicethread, Wolfram/Alpha.

We will use the combined knowledge and abilities of the groups to teach each other about some of these topics. I have presented workshops on many of the areas named above, and will use the created handouts to present on those topics.

The goal will be to have a large group of ITL members prepared to either give workshops or train others to give workshops during the 2009-2010 school year.

It is hoped that the participants will learn enough about each topic, and have the necessary resources, to present several workshops (or train others to present workshops) during the school year. The summer ITL workshop time will be considered as preparation for the workshop(s) (2 hours of prep for each hour of training during a staff meeting or a professional development day). Taking the workshop does mean there will be expectations for participants to present workshops if possible, but it is NOT required.

Workshop participants should be members of their school's ITL committee: 2 people from each elementary; 2 people from CMS; 3 people from BMS and 5 people from SHS. Names should be given to principals who can send me an e-mail by June 12th with the names of recommended attendees from each school.
It would be possible for more than 2 people to attend if their are only 2 people from each school on any given day (4 people for example -- where 2 do 2 days, and 2 others attend the other 2 days). The schedule is NOT currently developed, so attendees may not be able to pick areas of interest in advance.