New Blog by Shawn Avery: Tech Tutorials

One member of my PLN who I have formed a strong connection with is Shawn Avery (aka @mr_avery).

Shawn is a 6th grade teacher in Massachusetts and his class blog is http://mravery.edublogs.org

Shawn has some excellent ideas for integrating technology in the classroom and has done some inspiring work with movie making (check out his new Math Move Network).

Shawn is a big supporter of teachers and students around the world so please take a moment to check out his new blog, Tech Tutorials.

This blog reviews web 2.0 tools and provides screencasts (how-to videos) on how to use the tools.

You can subscribe to Shawn’s blog by entering your email address on the right hand side of his blog. You will then receive an email every time he publishes a new post.

Tech Tutorials

Enjoy Shawn’s blog and spread the word!

Blogging in 2010

The school year begins here on the 1st February and for the third year, I will embark on the blogging journey with my new Grade Two class.

As my class will still be called 2KM, I have decided to keep my 2009 2KM blog and customise it to my 2010 class. If you are setting up a class blog for the first time I would recommend calling your blog something that you can reuse for several years. In 2008 I taught Grade Three and my blog was called 3KM blog. In 2009, when I began teaching Grade Two, I called my blog 2KM blog. In hindsight, if I had just called my blog “Miss McGeady’s Class” or something similar, I could have modified my original blog for every new class.

Teaching younger students, I find having a class blog as opposed to individual student blogs an excellent way to introduce students to blogging and appropriate online behaviour. There are some students, such as Riley from my 2009 class who are capable of maintaining their own individual blog although in lower primary years, this is the exception to the rule.

Throughout the past couple of years, I have learnt a lot about how to best manage a class blog and here are my thoughts on how I’ll approach this in 2010.

  • Many of my students won’t know what a blog is so I will introduce them to the concept by showing them around the 2009 2KM blog and discuss new vocabulary such as post, page, dashboard, categories etc.
  • A pivotal part of blogging is the interaction with others and I will try to convey this to my students. I will introduce my students to comment writing and we will compose comments as a group on some of our favourite blogs such as Mrs Yollis’ Class Blog and Mr Salsich’s Class Blog.
  • Successful class blogging involves a home-school partnership. In order to introduce parents to the world of blogging I will provide them with a guide such as the one I distributed last year “You Guide to Getting the most out of 2KM’s blog 2009“. This year I would like to encourage some homework tasks involving commenting on our or others’ blogs.
  • I will begin the blogging process by writing posts myself and having students leave comments. I will then progress to writing posts as a class on the Interactive Whiteboard and writing posts with small groups. When some students become very confident with post writing, I will allow them to write posts themselves which I will check before publishing.

Next time I will write about how I will set up blogging guidelines in my class and introduce students to the world of appropriate online behaviour.

*Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on how to best set up a class blog!*

 

2km blog Jan 2010

Teaching Technology Post “Noughties”

For a while now I have been questioning the curriculum that is seen in many primary school I.T/ICT/Technology/Computer classes. Many primary school students spend an hour each week in a computer lab learning about Office programs and the like….”how to make a PowerPoint, Word Document, Photo Story etc”.

Now that we have left the “noughties”, these sorts of skills will no longer get students very far.

I believe that students should be taught basic skills in an authentic way and the list of skills that students need to know has changed dramatically in recent times. In 2008, I was involved in creating a Scope and Sequence (list of skills) for my school’s technology curriculum. I now cringe to think of some of the stand alone “skills” I listed in this document just 18 months ago!

Granted, there are many technology teachers who are now moving beyond these “stand alone, software based” skills into the world of Web 2.0, collaboration and multimedia which is fantastic. I also believe that teaching students about technology is not the sole responsibility of the technology teacher and technology integration in the general classroom is essential.

Today I came across a fantastic blog post by Kim Cofino which basically put all these thoughts I had been brewing into words! Check it out here….

Kim suggested a list of skills that emphasise “bigger, more wider-reaching concepts like collaboration across distances, communicating ideas to multiple audiences, or creating something new using technology tools”

Some of the skills that Kim suggested included:

  • knowing to hold your mouse over an icon or a link to see what it does.
  • understanding that the menus for any program are at the top of the screen, that they are usually very similar, and generally what you find within them (for example: “view” usually means how you see things on the screen and that menu is found in almost every program).
  • recognizing when something is lit up (or underlined) on a website, you can click on it.
  • knowing that the cursor changes when held over different parts of the screen and what that means (the little arrow turning into a hand over a weblink for example, or being able to stretch out a picture when it turns into the double-sided arrow).
  • using tab to move from cell to cell or box to box on forms or websites.
  • being able to recognize drop-down menus – and that they hold additional features.
  • understanding that right clicking on things brings up more options.

These skills are transferable across almost all computer programs and operating systems. Many of her readers also added to this list with excellent suggestions.

Reading Kim’s post has really made me think about how I’ll approach teaching my Grade Two students in 2010 as well as how I will approach my coaching of fellow staff members. As she says, it is important to make the implicit, explicit.

I also loved this cartoon that Kim included in her post! It perfectly captures the way I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried to explain to many people that I’m not an expert but just have a few strategies that I try when I’m trying to figure something out!

tech_support_cheat_sheet

Xtranormal New Features

We’re currently on school holidays until the end of January, however it is hard to switch off completely! I received an email about Xtranormal’s new software and have been having a play around today.

I have previous blogged about the great online movie maker “Xtranormal“. Click here to read my post about it this effective and simple tool to make animated movies.

My Grade Two students loved making movies on this site, however being an online application we had a few problems with the Internet being slow etc!

Xtranormal now has a program that you can download to your computer rather than making your movies on the net. It it is a beta software called “State“.

According to the site…

STATE lets you make better movies, faster.

  • Multiple actors per scene
  • Multiple scenes per movie
  • Audio import
  • Custom camera placement
  • Walking actors
  • Actors and locations marketplace
  • Voice recording NEW!

A cool feature of this program is that students can customise their actors’ voices with their own.

State is only available for Windows, however talk on the Xtranormal forum indicates that the Mac version may be coming soon.

The downside is, while State is free it only comes with a choice of two actors and one scene! You can pay to download “Showpaks” which are collections of actors and scenes that don’t come with the free version. The Showpaks tend to be around $40 US and give you quite a good selection of actors and scenes. I still think the program could be a useful digital storytelling tool to use in the classroom and the simplicity of it makes it ideal for younger students.

There are State tutorials on the Xtranormal website that you could go through as a class to introduce your students to the program.

Completed movies can be exported as standard movie files or shared on the web.

Here is a short video I made today with the State software.  

Trialling Xtranormal State from Kathleen McGeady on Vimeo.

 

Speechable

Speechable is a cool website I found out about from David Kapuler’s blog. It is simply an easy way to add a speech bubble to an image. You can upload an image from your computer or a URL and photos can be shared with friends via email or on Facebook®, MySpace®, Orkut, blogs, and message boards.

Here is a pic from the Speechable gallery

Adding speech bubbles to images could be a fun activity for children, a literacy task or even a classroom competition. You can make photos private which means you can still email and embed them but they won’t appear in the site’s gallery. Check it out.