Friday, May 18, 2012

Making Stories Talk

Have you been testing this week? It's a pretty straight-forward format - teachers read directions, students are quiet, read the questions silently and mark their responses. When they are finished for the day, both teachers and students are looking for exciting ways to express their ideas and things they are learning and have learned throughout the year. So why not put some sound in the mix and make your stories talk!

Below are a few of the tools I like to help the teachers incorporate into their lessons and students request them as a favorite and fun way to share their ideas (and even do a homework assignment).

Blabberize is a fun way to take a photo and make it look like it's talking. Your creation can be done in just a few minutes by uploading a photo, mark the moving points for the "mouth", and record your voice/message. It can then be shared on a blog or website.

Voki allows you to add your voice to a talking avatar that you've created or use one provided. It is a great way to present an idea and can be shared on a website or blog. The Voki website has free lesson plans for all grade levels and subject areas.

Voicethread is a easy way to create an audio presentation and allow others to comment through phone, text, microphone, webcam, or upload a file. You can even draw on the page while recording your comment.

Here are some of the ideas we used for our "talking stories."
  • "All About Me" story
  • Events from a field trip
  • Book Talk
  • Movie Trailer
  • Demonstrate a Concept, Rule, etc.
  • Explain a topic (Cyberbullying)
  • Present an "Oral Test"
  • Recreate an historical event
Whenever you get ready to have the students create a story, demonstrate a mathematical process, review for a test (and the list could go on forever), maybe one of these tools will bring a little "vocalization" into your classroom. Feel free to share your ideas for a talking story. I'll help spread the word.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Different Way of Looking at the World

While looking for some 4th quarter Social Studies resources to share with the teachers I noticed some interesting sites that were shown at the NCTIES conference earlier this month. The show.mappingworlds site in particular caught my attention. It has a new and different way of looking at data for our states and the world. All the collected data allowed numerous possibilities for projects in more subject areas than just Social Studies.

It is easy to get started – choose from USA, World or Japan, then select a subject and topic. The states or countries or prefectures change shape according to the data collected. Being able to watch the states change size and shape helps to make the information more meaningful. Who would have thought that the top two states, Iowa and Illinois, produce the most corn and would have the shape of a man’s face?

What a great way to help students remember facts. Included with the visual changing of the states are sections for maps, rankings, books, and interesting facts. The animated maps can be embedded or downloaded as an image. The data can be downloaded as an Excel file to use for graphs and charts.

This is a site with endless possibilities for making collected data come alive visually. Where would your fact-finding adventure take you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Meeting Standards Using Online Resources

As part of my instructional technology responsibilities, I try to help teachers use whatever resources they have available in their lessons. Teachers have access to computers, the Internet, some interactive whiteboards and numerous applications so they can create new activities and assessments and/or use SMART or ActivInspire lessons that coorelate with the desired standard.

I have really enjoyed finding resources and helping the teachers learn where to look for different types of activities to compliment the standard they are teaching. The Learning Village resource has been our one-stop shopping experience for finding everything from a grade-level pacing guide, instructional tool such as Thinkfinity, links to subject-area wikis, technology integration activities, and much more. Learn 360 and netTrekker are two resources that correlate the videos, images, etc. to a specific standard. This makes it very easy to develop an activity or assessment. Some of my favorite reading/language arts activities come from ReadWriteThink and Wonderopolis.

Our elementary group has pulled together many of the Elementary Resources into Livebinders by grade level. They are on our DIT wiki and available to the teachers. We update the binders and wiki pages as we find resources for the core subject areas.

If you need an idea for an activity or are looking for a website to reinforce an objective you've taught, why not check out one of the above online resources. I highly recommend any (really all) of them to help make learning fun.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ah Ha Moments - Using Student Response Systems with Websites!

In one of my workshops we were viewing, testing, and working with lots of online resources trying to find more ways to integrate a technology piece into vocabulary curriculum. The website brought about a lively discussion; each spoken idea sparked another way to use the site in all subject areas.

Free Rice is a site that can be viewed in English, Spanish, Italian, French, and Chinese. Everything on the site changes into the chosen language. What a way to practice another language! It appeals to those who want to help others, make a difference in someone else's life, and just have fun learning new words and their meanings or the multiplication tables or Chemical symbols. For each correct answer, the United Nations World Food Programme donates 10 grains of rice to help end hunger. The teachers quickly figured out ways they could find time for the students to participate and even set up a "challenge" to see which class could help contribute the most for this non-profit organization.

As we discussed the possibilities for the site to be incorporated with Social Studies, one of the teachers shared an idea of how she was going to use her student response system with the site. She is going to create a questionnaire with A, B, C, D responses to choose from for the students to respond to as she marks their answers on the website. They all will be able to participate, learn new vocabulary and help end hunger. Some of the teachers were going to create vocabulary questions, using the terms from their studies, and have the students do quick assessments with the response systems. They felt the students become more engaged when using the technology.

It was so much fun to see the "Ah Ha" moments of how to use the websites with the technology available to the teachers and students. Maybe you could share one of your "Ah Ha" moments - the more, the merrier!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Listening is Powerful

This past week I have been attending PLC and LTM meetings in my elementary schools and talking about how I could help them with technology activities that would go along with their lessons ( Yeah, TPACK). I learned so much as I sat and listened to each grade level break down an objective into What to Teach and How to Teach.

It was very interesting to "see" their thought processes as I listened to the teachers pull out key words, discuss what basic skills were needed and how they could teach the students. Individual teaching methods and comfort levels with technology were evident. Listening to the ways they were going to teach the skills made me think of numerous ways to use technology to produce the same results.  The availability of technology in the classrooms produced some concerns, but we were able to work with what they had and everyone could see the possibilities. The teachers were very appreciative as I shared resources they could use to develop an activity. Offering my time and services to help them with it made them realize more possibilities were within their reach.

I found that providing a listening ear was very powerful - we listened, we heard, we learned and the students are going to be major winners.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Summer Ideas

OK, so your children (and maybe you, too) are home for the summer and you hear the first, "I'm bored." They are home from summer camp, family vacation trips, or wherever and need something to occupy them. My husband and I were in the same frame of mind last summer when our 11 year old granddaughter came to stay with us for a month. Luckily, we had lots of ideas and events from the local community and pulled a few more fun things to do from our technology backgrounds.

So when swimming all day, every day loses its appeal, you could check with the local YMCA and Chamber of Commerce to see what activities are on the schedule. I've included some websites below that have tons of ideas; everything from puzzles to making crafts and even some cooking.
July activities from Activity Directory Today
Enchanted Learning Crafts and Activities
The Teachers Corner
July Calendar Events
Activity Ideas That Work

Summer Activites from Barbara Feldman / Surfnetkids
International Joke Day is July 1st : submit your joke
National Ice Cream Day is July 17th - make it, take it, definitely eat it!
Newest Coloring Pages - free downloads, print out and color

Thinkfinity ideas for creating Comics, book/CD/DVD covers, trading cards, stories and more

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg (or putting one toe into the water since it is summer). What are some of your summer activity suggestions and how do you keep the boredom out of their time off?

images courtesy of Glitterfly, 123Greetings, Authentic History, and Carvel

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Words in the Clouds

 I have been having fun using Wordle to create word clouds for about everything and adding the created  image to blog posts, wiki pages, handouts, and more. While working on a presentation I was going to do at the AIG conference, I found a very similar resource called "WordItOut."  It also allowed me to create a cloud of words from my own text but with some additional features.

My presentation included different ways to teach vocabulary and use words from any subject area. What fun we had taking a paragraph written on a given topic and pasting it into WordItOut. We tried Math terms, Science vocabulary, Social Studies events . . The ideas were flowing. Instantly the words were put into a design that showed the most often used words in larger and bolder print. We could change the colors, the layout and even the target area where the word cloud would show on the page.

WordItOut is another free, online resource and you don't even have to register to use it. The Create tab is where you can start your own word cloud. Just type in the words you want to use or copy the words from a story, blog post, or list and paste it into the box. The word cloud can be changed to fit the mood or style needed - the possibilities are almost endless with all the colors, shapes, angles and more. The Discover tab lets you view page after page of creations created by others. Wondering about a special topic - just type in a keyword search to get an idea and see what has been done. It doesn't show you how many word clouds go with the search, but I don't mind clicking on the Next button to see more.

To find out the latest news or maybe need to report a problem, just click on the Community tab. You can read and share comments or check out the FAQs. If you have an idea for a feature that might make WordItOut even better, send in your suggestion under the Ideas button. I really like the fact that they are open to suggestions that might make their program work better for the end user.

A fun, end-of-the-year project would be to have the students help design a word cloud of things they have learned and then put it on a t-shirt or bag. WordItOut has a great feature to create and purchase customized gift items. What a way to share what is going on in your classroom! Check it out in the Community section.

Here are some other resources and links for ideas and uses of WordItOut and word clouds:
    I suggest giving WordItOut a try with your next lesson and see how your words look in the clouds.