USN Lower School Technology!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We Warm Up in the Lab During the Coldest Week!

Wow, it's cold out there, but it's warm in the computer lab!

Third graders are practicing their copy and paste skills in Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word as they gather images to adorn their poster creations that will display their learning about their Master Artists. Check back here next week for example pictures! Along the way, they are reminded of the two-step procedure in case inappropriate images or websites greet their searches (1--close it, turn off the monitor if it won't close and 2--tell a grownup) and they are learning about how to resize images in Word, how to relocate a saved document on the network, and how to change the destination printer while printing. Lots of "collateral learning" going on!

Fourth graders continue their tentative explorations into the fun and exciting 3D online world, Quest Atlantis. The excitement in the lab is palpable as they gain control of their QA interface, begin to understand the culture of communication and helpfulness, and learn from early mistakes. I did receive my first (and hopefully last) email from a QA Chat Monitor that one of our students was "spamming," typing gibberish into the chat field repeatedly, and this provided us with a good teachable moment. The student account was not disabled, but should the behavior continue the next incident will lose him/her the privilege of participating in this community "play." The Quest Atlantis founders, by the way, have pursued significant research into the way students learn best, and their game design is solidly rooted in this research. See their philosophy and foundations at While I've got you here, though, let me give you a taste of it:

It is generally accepted by educators that learners should participate in domain-related activities, not simply receive the results of someone else’s activities as summarized in tests or as heard in lectures. Underlying the development of QA learning tasks, QA unit plans, and the experience of Quest Atlantis more generally is a participatory framework that emphasizes action and reflection as central components to the learning process. This notion of an active learner engaged in real-world activities is central to the child-centered, experientially-focused, and inquiry-based learning environments promoted in academic research, and is consistent with current frameworks and plans for educational reform.

Kindergarten: It was soooo cold this week that I felt it necessary to take my kindergartners to the beach with Boowa and Kwala! They could practice their mouse and design skills by dressing Kwala up and then printing their masterpiece; they hone their visual skills by picking out pairs of parasols that match; they could work on hand-eye coordination by attaching a crab to their mouse and navigating down a sandy path (in 5 increasingly difficult levels); and they could play Frisbee catch with Boowa (hand-eye work again, but much more challenging than Mr. Crab!).

1st graders worked with a couple online "games" at the BBCKids website, including "Clockwise" and "Matching Time," two exercises geared to practicing concepts relating to time and timetelling. Again, the game design is incrementally levelled, from Level 1's "on the hour" questions to Level 3's "on the five-minutes" ones. We also discussed the meaning of "millenium" and "fortnight," two time-words we don't see so much over here in the New World. Nashville makes use of the latter concept in its "Fortnightly" social dance school, and I was pleased to see that some of our kids are already familiar with the term precisely because they attend their dance classes every two weeks!

2nd graders also forayed into math, visiting for some rousing sessions of "Math Baseball," either on the "Easy" or the "Medium" levels. Easy is single digit, but it can be challenging as well if students try to see how many "runs" they can bat in how fast. My students' Easy level record as of this typing is 76 runs and more than one student has batted in more than 35 at the Medium (double digit) level. Using sites like Funbrain's Math Baseball, students can challenge themselves and differentiate their very own instruction. As I told my students, they are going to have to learn their math facts, and if they can be having fun while doing it, more's the better. After completing Math Baseball, they were able to visit the Funbrain Math Arcade, an interesting set of math games set up for delivery on a boardgame-like table. My favorite was the Pig Toss, I have to admit. In it, estimation and spatial skills are challenged as some of my hillbilly relatives jump as high as the user sets them to onto a seesaw with a pig at the other end, then the pig flies as far as the user sets it. It's estimate, revise, estimate revise, until the game is finally won and the next game can be played. It's none other than Math Basketball! Yay!


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