Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing for Purpose and Audience

The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections.

A framing question to prime the inquiry pump about writing for different purposes and audiences might be to ask your students how the intent of their writing might influence their choice of the various digital tools. Specific questions might include: Is the language of texting and blogging the same? Would you text your teacher? How does publishing your work on the internet affect your word choice, idea support and your draft revisions? Are full sentences the most effective way to collaboratively brainstorm online when gathering supporting evidence for a group project? How is writing a script for a comic strip different than writing a narrative?

Pop Quiz – What do you call a Narrative Script? Answer below

Marshall McLuhan said “The Medium is the Message” (1960).  Never more true, digital tools can be used to carry, and make, meaning. Blogging is generally used for supported opinion and peer feedback, and is a great way to model appropriate and respectful online behaviour. Popular blogging sites are www.edublogs.org and www.blogger.com. Teachers can moderate all comments prior to posting. The site can be expanded to include class newsletters, uploaded images, videos and files, or an online extracurricular club.

A wiki is a collaborative space for online discussions, group projects and e-portfolios. Each group or student could have his/her own page for uploading files, images, and scanned or digital work. www.wikispaces.com will import your students without the need for an email account. You can also post homework, a class calendar, forms and invite parental discussion. A great feature of wikis for educators is the History record of contributions. Student participatory levels are easily determined, and assessed, and inadvertent deletions can be restored. For OCDSB workshop notes on wikis please go to http://ocdsbwikiworkshop.wikispaces.com/ You will also find lots of help and resources at http://www.wikispaces.com/site/tour 

www.weebly.com peeks my interest. Seems like a combination of website with embedded blog. It was very easy to use, drag and drop and I added students without email addresses.

TIP – most web hosting sites provide help and FAQ’s for self-directed learning

These suggestions represent just a few of the many, free web resources available to students for thoughtful, purposeful and creative writing. If you are using something that is working well in your classroom, please share your stories.

Answer to Pop Quiz – A screenplay!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bitstrips - when the sum is more than the parts.

The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections.

This morning I had the privilege of working with an awesome group of grade 5/6’s using Bitstrips as our medium. The students were introduced to the application last week and happily spent the class creating their avatars, and their families’, after having seen their teacher’s example, which included her family and her dog. We are using Character Education to drive this unit, with links to Language Arts expectations and Learning Skills.

Today’s task was to take one of the traits from the Character Wheel, conveniently found in their planner, and create a digital story. They were asked to consider what it would look like in a school setting and how students might act or talk to each other. As a reflection piece the work would be posted in the computer lab for discussion.

But we never got to the assignment.

The students quickly saw that, through the on-line class-sharing mode, many comments were posted from classmates, and their teacher. (Teachers can select to moderate comments). They were excited to expand their stories, and invite comments or reply to other comments in the queue in a blog-like atmosphere. What struck me most was how positive and supportive their comments were, and how respectful the depiction of other students was in their social stories. Character traits were fundamentally embedded into their conduct, both online and in class.

Future lessons will break down the ten traits for discussion and understanding, but sometimes true character speaks for itself.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two Thumbs Up?

The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections.

With the advent of netbooks, tablets, and moble devices such as cellphones and iphone touches, what constitutes 21st Century Learning keyboarding skills, and mastery?

From a curriculum standpoint, if a grade 9 or 10 student opts for Business Studies, we find:

Electronic Communication: Students will identify the skills and competencies (e.g.,keyboarding skills, software knowledge and skills) needed to work effectively in an information and communication technology environment;
Digital Literacies: Students will:demonstrate efficient use of a computer workstation (e.g., proper keyboarding technique, correct posture).

But how do they get there from here? Should we be “teaching” keyboarding at elementary? From a very early age, students are texting, their thumbs used in the newest version of the two-fingered hunt and peck. And they input text with astonishing speed, not even considering the emoticons, short forms and acronyms that form the language of the cyber-streets.

Read the following blog, authored by Dr. Leigh E. Zeitz, Ph.D. , for some thoughts and research about keyboarding. http://keyboarding.wordpress.com/ Thanks to Kent Manning for that Twee-source.

All The Right Type is a Ministry licensed software for school use and provides tutorial style practice, a motivating rowing race and tracking.

On-line websites offer similar experiences, and can be used at home. For grades 7-10 check out http://www.freetypinggame.net/play.asp  and http://www.sense-lang.org/typing
For grades 1-6 try http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Started

The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections.

Welcome back to a safe, inclusive and creative year. We are bursting with plans and ideas to help you use the tools and software readily available to facilitate demonstrations of understandings about curriculum, globality, citizenship and diversity.

To assist with some of the early classroom dynamics of using digital media, we have been working hard to help with computer lab and classroom workstation management, first day activities and digital media learning skills. The Instructional Technology Coaches will be contacting Principals soon to re-establish the connections they made last spring and to provide the supports where needed.

What to do once the students are logged in?

A great first day activity, which would promote acceptance and appreciation, would be to create a “Classroom of Care” using Bitstrips. http://www.bitstripsforschools.com/ Open an account and have students create an avatar to add to the class profile. Students can select attributes, props, and backgrounds that reflect who they are, and then present themselves or let classmates determine what makes them special. You can connect with other OCDSB Classrooms of Care online through a safe, sharing environment. If you are new to Bitstrips, take a tour . You and your students will have created a magical place for chronicling all the great collaborations throughout the year.

The following is a document that reflects the Learning Skills from Growing Success.

Learning Skills for Computer and Multi-media Projects

•    I will use the computers and Internet appropriately for school purposes.
•    I will report any problems with the equipment to my teacher.
•    I will complete and hand in assignments within agreed upon timelines.
•    I will not share my userid or password.
•    I will ask before I print.
•    I will respect copyright.
•    I will respect the equipment and leave my workplace tidy.
•    I will have my userid and password.
•    I will sit at my assigned computer and place books under my chair.
•    I will use my time effectively when researching on the Internet.
•    I will complete all pre-work (storyboards, scripts) before using the computer.
Independent Work
•    I will review my work to ensure that I can finish within the allotted computer time.
•    I will get on task.
•    I understand that computer time is limited, so I will stay on task.
•    I will understand my role in group work (e.g. data researcher, equipment manager).
•    I will listen to others' ideas about how to use the computer or applications.
•    I will ask my elbow partners if I do not know how to do something.
•    I will use new resources and tools to create assignments.
•    I will try to solve a problem on my own before I ask the teacher.
•    I understand that I have the right to a safe learning environment, and so do others.
•    I will be aware of how my projects are progressing.
•    If I am not sure about something, I will ask.
•    I will choose applications or web resources that will help me be proud of my work.