USN Lower School Technology!

Friday, February 27, 2009

February is Out Like a Lion

Hey, all,

We're proceeding apace through Quest Atlantis in 4th grade, and it was gratifying to have a parent slow her vehicle exiting morning hookup, roll down her window and shout "We're LOVING Quest Atlantis! [My son] is obsessed! Thank you for that!" While I'm hoping the obsession comment was a bit of an hyperbole, it does feel good that students are beginning to understand the value of the work, that they enjoy it, and further that many are sharing their enthusiasm with their parents! I've been on a track in QA similar to the one the students are on: Much of it is the process of figuring out how things in an unfamiliar environment work, persevering through new processes, paying attention to the order of things in a new order, and sharing with one another--both questions and insights.

For example, I'm discovering the teacher review and feedback functions are not just limited to reviewing quest submissions, but also consist of working on my own quests and missions, previewing those to understand the progressions themselves, and telegraming and emailing students. Doing so last week, I previewed and eventually assigned the wonderful "Communicating with Technology" mission, with elements helping questers learn and demonstrate learning about several important facets of digital communication, in particular chat, email, and blogging. Here's a composite screengrab from one stage of the mission:

You can get more detail by clicking to enlarge the image, and it will give you some notion of the quality of the content we encounter in our questing. Most children have chosen to pursue commitment missions in one of the seven Social Commitments, which are, again,
social responsibility, compassionate wisdom, creative expression, diversity affirmation,
environmental awareness, healthy communities, and personal agency. Depending on which commitment they choose to pursue first, they're off to fulfill requirements that they illustrate a grasp of its meaning and demonstrate actions in support of it.

Some Quests can be very simple ones, as in the "Draw your own political cartoon" one. Here's an example of one early sumission from one of my students in this Quest:

While its effectiveness as a "political cartoon" might be challenged, it clearly illustrates a beginning understanding of the concept and a creative way to approach the task, short of actually "drawing." It also illustrates some "collatoral learning," project-based learning where the technological skills of search, copy, paste, save, upload and more are practiced in the context of task-based learning. I'm beginning to see more and more of this, and I'm proud of the path my students are beginning to show as they move deeper into the virtual world of Quest Atlantis. Stay tuned! And for some deep reading about my motivations for bringing this work to our students, please read Eat Your Vegetables and Do Your. Homework: A Design-. Based Investigation of Enjoyment and Meaning in Learning, bySasha Barab et al.

3rd graders continue their own path into Timez Attack, the 3dimensional multiplication practice program that offers a fun and amusing way to practice times table. Not only that, but it's design is informed and underscored by best practices in instructional technologies. Rather than launch into my own review let me point you to an objective review at the MathNotations blog that I agree with in every particular! I'll be finishing up next week with them and then moving on to something else new and exciting. Shhhhhhh! It's a secret!

2nd graders worked this week to beat 4th grade teacher Ms. Dent's record on StackerBlocks3D, a tetris clone that is also available for download via the Webliographer's Download topic. I like this game because it is free, opensource, and fully customizable. It also encourages visual pre-planning based on a visual assessment of current spacial environment, fine motor hand-eye coordination, and perseverance. An arcade-like look is popular,

as is the "Bobbles" interface:


No one's beat Ms. Dent's 7264 points yet, and I'm beginning to despair of ever doing so. I'm stubborn, though, so stay tuned here as well.

Kinder and 1st kiddos visited's program online to drop back to Lesson 36, Counting-Part 2, which contains 4 activities designed to help them with numbers, including a very nice Paint by Numbers activity:

By the way, if you are missing some of the multitudes of color-printed work that has been in backpacks in years past, please be aware that we're making a serious effort to print only the most important pieces of our "artputer" work this year. It's all in a hopefully appreciated effort to work toward environmental (and financial) responsibility. I hope you approve! We'll be saving all artwork in a network folder at the end of the year, one which will follow your child through Lower School and perhaps on into Middle School!

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