USN Lower School Technology!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Talkin' Turkey!

Turkeys created with a sort-of-new twist on an old activity. Instead of outlining one's hand on a piece of paper and creating from the resulting line-drawing a turkey for Thanksgiving, my Kindergarteners and 1st graders outlined their hands using the freeware Drawing for Children, then decorated their turkeys, sometimes lavishly, with tools the software program has to offer. The downside of D4Children is that it creates HUGE bitmap files, so I stored them locally and ran around the room when they were done moving them over to a network folder, then quickly pulled that folder to my own computer and deleted it from the network. I then resized the pics, used Photoshop image processing to convert them to small .jpg files, and uploaded the whole kit and kaboodle to Picasaweb Albums (by Google). What you see above is the result.

Departing from the standard "save it, don't print it" green philosophy of the lab, we also printed these for each child and sent them home. I can only imagine Nashville's fridges covered with turkeys for the holidays!

My 4th graders are polishing "All About Me" Powerpoints (we'll finish working the week after Thanksgiving break and start to share them out in class!) and 3rd graders plowing through Type to Learn 3, which we will leave behind as a scheduled lab activity soon. Second graders visited Nova's Trebuchet online and worked on destroying Medieval castles, then chatted with National Geographic's "Ghosts in the Castle" denizens.

I hope that everyone enjoys our pictures and appreciates the wide range of creative approaches to the exercise. We'll see you at Parents' and Granparents' Days and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Foggy, Chilly, and Stimulating

Hey, all,

This week in the lab we're power-moving through Powerpoints in the 4th grade. The "All About Me" powerpoint. Last week I introduced "Custom Animation" and this week in the wholeclass intoduction I emphasized the little-used feature called "Help." How many of you actually use F1 or Help when you want to do something you don't know how to do? I thought so--not many.

In the lab, I encourage my students to help one another, one reason why this room may be more chatty than other classrooms in the Lower School. They'll certainly need to know how to collaborate and learn from one another if they are to succeed in the 21st century workplace. They also need to begin to learn that just because an adult is in the room it doesn't mean that all knowledge comes from him, or from her. They need to start questioning, nurturing their inquisitiveness and exploring natures. By and large, gauging from the energetic chat I'm hearing, it's happenin' in the lab!

3rd graders are working through Type to Learn 3 and the big news for them is that I'm trialing out the new release from Sunburst, Type to Learn 4! This is a completely new build and I'm very excited about the possibility of making it available to our kids, not only in Lower School but schoolwide, K12. Also, it will provide a fun alternative to Keyboarding for Kids, especially those who have finished all the lessons later in the year.

Kinderkids and 1st graders are printing turkeys they made last week, or just beginning to work on ones they will print and bring home next week. We do this using a new twist on the old activity where a child places a hand on a piece of paper and traces it, then adds beak, legs and feet, and a wattle to create a fanciful drawing. The difference in the lab is that the child holds a hand up on the monitor screen, traces it into our freeware Drawing for Children program, and adds details and flourishes using the computer. The results are stellar! I'm going to put a slideshow of many of them, both K and 1, right here on Friday.

2nd graders continue their own pursuit of keyboarding skills with Type to Learn 3. We'll keep working through the year, intermittantly, on this to take advantage of their enthusiasm to learn, though we'll break out into other technology skills as curricula demands. For instance, this week and next we'll work with Nova's great online trebuchet. What's that? Ask your 2nd grader, and next week I'll post an answer!

That's it for the week, and for now I'm prepping for a talk to the Vanderbilt Web developers next Friday, all about Web development in Virtual Worlds. It's never boring in my neck of the woods!

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Easing into November!

Hey, all,

I didn't post last week due to my being out with a pulled lower back last Thursday and Friday, so I have some catching up to do!

Here's the quicklist:

3, Type to Learn 3
4, Keyboarding for Kids last week, then Powerpoint "All About Me" introduction
K, Drawing turkeys with Drawing for Children
1, Drawing even more turkey-looking turkeys with Drawing for Children
2, Creating and printing custom letter-writing stationery using Paint and Word and then continuing Type to Learn 3

Here's the detail:

3rd graders are progressing through Type to Learn 3, the animated software program (25 lessons and hundreds of activities) that helps them begin to learn touch typing.

In 4th grade, we're finally to the point where kids are doing more or less daily keyboarding practice with Keyboarding for Kids and we can now move on to other skills and challenges. To start with, I'm introducing Microsoft Powerpoint in a very basic way, drawing comparisons with the interface in Word, which they have already been using, and showing them a few beginning tricks--how to create a new slide, apply a slide design to one or all slides, and how to edit text. We'll deal with custom animation and more advanced options later, but for now the fun part is that each child is off on a 5 slide slideshow called "All About Me." Now there's a topic of interest! Each slideshow will have a title slide and a "The End" slide and at least 3 but not more than 5 slides about them, their likes, dislikes (kind ones only!) and more. We'll allow the learning to gestate and by the couple of weeks approaching Winter Break we'll share out. You're going to like these!!!

Kinder kids traced their hands on the monitor (no mean feat) and tricked out some turkeys with Drawing for Children. Wow! I'm going to add a slideshow right here before I post:

1st graders are doing the same activity, only with more detail and both grades created this week, saved the files, and will go find them next week to reopen and improve before saving again and printing. Neat!

2nd graders finished up stationery personally designed with Paint, inserted into a single page in Word, then formatted for filling the paper and washing out contrast and brightness before printing. The result is a nice abstract background of their own design for hand-writing letters. Several are already writing them in class. Yay!

The Thanksgiving season brings us Grandparents' Day every year, and this year is no exception, with music teacher Doni Princehorn working like crazy with all grades levels and with the PE department to make us a beautiful show. The link for reservations is at so go fill it out and come join us!