USN Lower School Technology!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keyboarding Continues, with Some Additions!

We're working well through our scaffolded touch-typing program in the Lower School Technology for Learning lab. I want to take this news-light opportunity to mention a couple of things that have me working for our students outside of school hours.

The first is a PBS documentary you probably haven't seen, since WNPT, our local public television station, chose to run it at a 3:00 a.m. time slot. Actually, if you have an interest in education, you may have DVR'd it. Good for you if you did.

Here's a trailer for the film:

The special was a documentary on the state of American public schools called "Where We Stand: America's Schools in the 21st Century." And if you didn't see it, there's still a way. Visit the NPT website and search for it, or here, here's a direct link to the show's site, where you can watch the entire show in 5 segments, watch only the segments that most interest you, and also read and view additional material not included in the scheduled broadcast. My own participation in this was through the online virtual environment Second Life, as moderator of a discussion about the show during a special get-together at SL's ISTE Island, the "inworld" home of the International Society for Technology in Education, an 85,000 member-strong organization of which I'm proud to be a member. You can read more about ISTE's work in Second Life here.

There were 20 or 30 educators in at the four separate campfires where we talked about this sometimes alarming documentary. Attendance at my campfire, co-moderated by WLRN San Antonio's Education Director Malinda McCormick, was light, but we did have a nice chat with friend and leading tech innovator Kathy Schrock. We moved to the other voice campfire (two of the meeting groups were using voice chat only) to join 8 or 10 folks engaged in a lively conversation.

The video documentary increased my already intense concern for the future of our children, but it also made me truly thankful for the company I keep at University School of Nashville, especially that of your children.

If you watched it, feel free to comment here.

The second outside project has more impact here at school, and it's another 3-D virtual environment called Quest Atlantis. Sometime over the next couple of months, I hope to break it out here at USN for our 4th graders, and in order to do that I've committed to at least 2 hours in the evening, once a week, for the month of September, for online training facilitated by a wonderful teacher in Australia named Bronwyn Stuckey. She's a member of the faculty at Indiana University, the home of QA, and she's gently leading 15 American teachers through the training, all of us present in the environment synchronously. One of the things I'm learning, along with the remarkable underlying threads of social commitment and kindness and helpfulness that drive the program, is just how to introduce the project not just to my students but also to their parents. So stay tuned for your own learning. Meanwhile, if you want to do some preview, check out .

Lifelong learning: We start 'em early and if we're lucky we work to keep up with them!

Cheers to all.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Carrying on into the year

Monday of the third week in September, I didn't post last week since we were very busy pulling deeper into every arena of work, and it still continues this week in the same tracks. Read back last post for details.

The sole change of course is that I have my 2nd graders working in Dance Mat Typing, a site that does a fun job of introducing the concept of touch typing in home row key position. Little hands are challenged to begin and stay in that position every time they type, and this is really my first year of beginning the concept a bit more deeply than Type to Learn, Jr., which simply introduces the keys and requests that children use either the right hand or left to type simple combinations of keys.

We'll continue the work at all grade levels next week, the K-1 working through the 200 activities in's Premium@Schools site for one more week before moving on to other things, the 4th graders getting completely comfortable with Keyboarding for Kids, and the 3rd graders working through Type to Learn 3.

I want to announce that I'm working two hours, one night each week, taking the required teacher training for Quest Atlantis, a very promising 3Dinternet virtual environment where students embark on teacher (and self-) guided "quests" rooted in a curriculum of Social Commitment. Much more on that later, as I determine how best to pilot the program with my 4th graders later on in the year. If you want to read ahead feel free to visit Quest Atlantis's website. Otherwise, stay tuned here. This is going to be good:).

The computer lab this year is much remodeled. I'll do a whole post about that soon. Meanwhile, here's a little slideshow of 2nd graders and a sneak peak at the "new" computer lab:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Keyboarding and Learning Keys

We have a new tool in the lab! Everybody is learning about our new microphone-enabled headsets, Labsonic LS-5750s. We selected these for durability and performance and in order to begin working some with voice and audio this year. The new rule in the lab is that the boom mic stays up "like a bug's antenna" when we're not actively using them for recording. Hopefully, that will minimize the germ-passing. We'll clean them before each use as well.

We're moving into serious work in the computer lab (although "serious work" may look different in here than in some other classrooms), with activities this week as follows, in order of appearance each day in the lab.

3--learning to turn on computers as they begin coming in early next week, and how to login to the computer correctly. Then continuing in Type to Learn 3, with a goal to make it as far into the program as we can before moving on to other tech tools and skills.
4--continuing with Keyboarding for Kids. Progress is good as students get completely comfortable with logging in, achieving 3 good scores in each line, then moving to the next line or lesson. In a few weeks, textbooks will be sent home and the students will be assigned daily keyboarding homework. More on that later, but let me make my first iteration of the most important thing about keyboarding homework: This must NOT add stress to your homework at home routine. It should be fun and a nice break from paperwork. The sooner this skill is learned, and learned well, the better served your child will be.
K--continue into and through the 200 activites at Premium@Schools "lessons," really fun, gentle, Flash activities with a theme of kindness. There is nothing not to like about Boowa and Kwala, and I'm taking pics of the Kindergarteners hard at "work" to prove it. Look for those here as soon as I have all classes photographed :)
1--continuing the same as the K kids, only at a pace more brisk. They know what they're doing, and I believe we'll make it all the way through the 50 lessons within a very few class sessions. Above and beyond this being every child's chance to see every available activity (in the lessons, at currently boasts 1254 "games" and 7,289 teachers logging in to use them). USN was school number 1, by the way :)
2--finishing Type to Learn, Jr., all 3 keyboarding games at all 3 levels each. Those who get finished will visit's excellent "Dance Mat Typing" to begin understanding what "home row key" typing is all about, with the help of the site's resident Scottish billy-goat. This also gets them into using the Webliographer for the first time this year. If you don't have that site bookmarked, do so now from the link in the sidebar. It's a wealth of resources for both you and your child, and for the world's children as well.

That's all for now. Here are the Kindergarten pics! I'm posting with only my first two classes, but I'll add the rest later this week, so check back!


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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Labor Day Week! Labors of Love!

We are in the midst of our 3rd week of school, and a fun and productive one it is. 3rd graders begin their journey with Type to Learn 3 (link provided for informational purposes--please do NOT purchase the program), and we'll stick to it for several weeks while introducing the concept of Free Choice Options in the computer lab beginning next week. I'm very big on "Free Choice" within parameters: The kids already know that our responsibility here leads us to make all computer use choices within the Acceptable Use Policy, which allows for uses which are "in support of education and research and consistent with the educational objectives of the school."

4th graders continue on their own journey into Keyboarding for Kids
(link provided for informational purposes--please do NOT purchase the program), the Ellsworth Publishing Company online platform for learning touch-typing. They are so enthusiastic about this that I hope to support that enthusiasm well into their self-motivated experiences with this very simple repetitive practice tool. I'm very proud of their work so far!

Kindergartners venture into the Premium@Schools lessons to begin giving me the opportunity to guide them in their mouse use. It's interesting to me the ways different children approach the tool, and just when I think I've seen every way to hold a mouse, some new little one gives me a new one. Gently guiding them to grip that huge device (in their little hands) is what I do, and it usually results in more efficient and effective computer users. We'll have more opportunities to monitor and guide when we get into Drawing for Children and ArtRage, but for now, we're working linearly straight thru as many of the 200 activities (in 50 lessons) as I can help them negotiate in the next few weeks.

1st graders are doing the same, moving straight through the Premium@Schools lessons. I'm looking at how much more comfortable they are with the task(s) and feeling pretty good about our work together last year. Soon I'll introduce "Free Choice Options" to them, and I'll be watching to see their preferences and to examine why they make the choices that they make.

2nd graders are continuing with Type to Learn, Jr
(link provided for informational purposes--please do NOT purchase the program). This simple program encourages students to begin learning where keys are on the keyboard, and further to begin poising both hands over the keyboard while they find them and type them, so that right-hand keys are struck with the right hand and left-hand with the left. They are excited to be playing the three games in the program, and I trust this gentle introduction to set some personal knowledge they'll call on soon. Most current research agrees that 2nd grade is too soon to actually teach touch-typing, for a number of reasons, but I like this little brush with its concepts at this time in the students' development paths.

By the way, if you haven't seen it yet, do check out the "All Grade Levels" page we set up for newsletters and such as we move toward a complete remake of USN's website this October. And I will, by the way, be out this weekend, down to Tampa, Florida for the Second Life Education Community Conference, where I'll be networking with others toward understanding and purposing 3-Dimensional internet tools for our children's future. More on that later, and you can keep up by watching the Second Life Education Blog at, to which I'm a frequent contributing author. It's a different world, ya'll; one that I consider important as it develops popularity and adoption by schools and universities.

That's all for this week! Have a great one!

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