USN Lower School Technology!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"That's all she wrote!"

That's what my dear departed daddy used to say when something was over. I can close my eyes, get centered, and hear him saying it. I can almost see the gleam in his eye.

Well, there you go. We're done this week, ya'll.

We've been sifting in and out of "free-time" mode this week. Let's talk about "free time." This one might get me in trouble, but I don't expect it to, because I hope to state my case succinctly so that you know where I'm coming from. Please bear with me. Let's see, how to start...

When I first began "coordinating technology," 'way back in 1999, I created a little start page for my youngest students. I called it "K-1 Go Here" and I put it on the desktops of computers in the lab as an easy way for my littlest kids to get to fun and safe Internet sites. I limited the number of sites to four at any given time and set up the page/portal so that any of the four sites might be changed as new resources were discovered and as curricular needs changed. I think it was a pretty cool notion, though at the time I faced some criticism for "letting children have playtime" during what was designated an instructional period. We've come a long way. Now, "learner-centered instruction" and "academic choice" and "individualized instruction" and all those other buzzwords' application to learning technology skills is better understood. We've developed a Scope and Sequence for technological skills which serves as a guide for who learns what when, and as I say now there is substantial research to corroborate the notion that kids retain a skill best when they enjoy doing the activity that teaches it to them.

Take a look at the bulletin board in the Lower School Technology for Learning lab. It contains student work, a couple of jazzy posters with a computer-themed border design, and scrolling text down the side that reads: "Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is What We Do."

That said, I want to offer up a little video here for your enjoyment. In what is becoming a tradition for Kindergarten, our kids gathered in the Kindergarten atrium the morning of the last half-day of school to "visit" with Boowa, the big blue cartoon dog who is the "star" of's Boowa and Kwala website. The key to understanding what goes on here is that we often visit the website in computer lab, using it to learn specific computer skills: point and click, mouse control, drag and drop, arrow keys, the "back" button on a web browser, and more. It's a sound Internet compilation of age appropriate games that are kind, gentle, and amazingly non-violent. The creator and developer of the site is Jason Barnard, who over the years has become a good friend of mine. We connected via Skype, and he could see our kids by means of the video Skype offers, though his limited bandwidth (he is half-way around the world, really, on an island in the Indian Ocean) sometimes made things a bit "laggy." The exchange of questions (only a few of which are included) culminated in our singing with him, real-time, the Boowa and Kwala theme song. Then we went out to the field so I could take a great big picture of the whole class, all four classes together, to send to him by way of thanks.

Enjoy the video, have a wonderful safe, family-filled summer, and I'll see you in the fall!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Week of May 8

I can't belllllllllllllllieve that it's so close to the end of the school year. We've broken some new ground this year and should be able to build upon it nicely next year. Here's what's happenin' this week, in order of appearance in the lab each day:

3rd graders are finishing the "blog comments" they started last week, hints to rising 3rd graders about what they have to look forward to next year. These should be finished by the end of next week and once they are I'll concatenate and upload to the USN LS edublogs site for online publication. Come the start of the school year we'll share these in the lab with our new batch of 3rdies!

4th graders are group-participating in an online Jeopardy-style quiz game about electricity. We're having great fun with it and since it's really geared for older students some of the questions are outright difficult. Some of the distractor answers are very very good (or very very silly) and there's learning going on as we play. By the way, I sent home both an email blast and a paper note to remind everyone to get their Keyboarding4Kids textbooks back into school. Thanks in advance!!!

Kinderkidz are viewing some great movies on Rainforests via our webliographer. Live webcams with Amazon River fishes, a nice brief movie (with very big words!) on the layers of rainforests, and animals and plants galore.

Some of the 1st grade classes are studying wolves, and there are multiple resources on that topic in the webliographer as well. We're visiting and sharing, then exploring individual interests at computer.

2nd graders are finishing up their personal PowerPoints and getting a detailed introduction to PowerPoint in the process. Some classes will be using this vehicle for their insect reports over the next two weeks. Some will continue on their personal creations so we can share them in the last half-week of school.

That's it for now!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mayday! Mayday!

The week of May 1 we're doing some fun things in the lab, gearing toward year's end (sigh) and supplementing the classroom goings on as usual: These activities are extended work based on the acquisition of skills during activities that preceded these.

3rd graders are split focus this week, with half creating Word documents from a template destined to serve as a cover for the country-specific Asian scrapbooks they've been working so hard on in the classroom. The others are creating new Word documents to write a brief note to rising 3rd graders about what to look forward to in their new school year. These'll be inserted as comments in an posting when they're done so they can be shared via that vehicle with the new 3rd graders.

4th graders are going directly to the site and posting their comments. I'm proud of their work and hope to share it soon. Those comments will help rising 4th graders get a little more of a clue to what's in store for them next year!

Kindergarteners and 1st graders are visiting two lessons at the uptotenPremium@schools site, partly in celebration of the publication this week of my very detailed article describing that service at Technology and Learning's "Educator's eZine." If you want to read the article there you'll need to submit a free registration but they won't hound you with emails unless you want them. It's a reputable professional publication and I hope the publication of this article will garner some more teachers to the service. As of yesterday the teacher count was at 2748 worldwide, and I'm happy to share that I was number 1 (finally, number 1 at something!!!).

2nd graders slip into slightly advanced PowerPoint skills this week as they finish off their "The Amazing Life of a [theirname]" powerpoints. These are to prepare them for "The Amazing Life of a [theirinsect] powerpoints they'll create in the last few weeks of school.

That's all, stay tuned, and if you get a chance, check out the podcasts at TechTipTuesday and Snacks4theBrain!

Oh, and I'd love to share the wonderful news that we've received the three new Canon A430 digital cameras we purchased, one for each floor of classrooms! See a review of this wonderful too here! Photo courtesy of MobileWhack blog.