USN Lower School Technology!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Positive Feedback from Quest Atlantis

Hello friends, parents, and students,

While working from home on my Monday Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach podcast, I received this in my email just a moment ago and I want to share it with you. As you may know, Quest Atlantis is predicated on seven "Social Commitments." It also features chat which is monitored 24/7 for compliance to a contract called the iBurst, whereby our kids promise to behave in many good ways, including being helpful to one another. Here's the email:

Greetings from Quest Atlantis!

I have been reviewing the chat logs and I noticed something that I wanted to bring to your attention.

One of your students really exemplified one of the Social Commitments today. Please see the excerpt from the chat transcripts below.

I just wanted you to be aware of this. Please pass along the Council’s appreciation to your Quester for demonstrating one of the Social Commitments so beautifully.

Have a great day!

Stephanie Scharf, QA Chat Monitor
On 03/27/2009,

At 05:58:11 PM ghawk20 said, 'how do you run'

At 05:58:28 PM sportsfanaticusn said, 'press the ctrl button'
Way to go, sportsfanaticusn! The more help we can offer to those in need, the more we help the world(s) become a better place!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back from Spring Break! We Take Off in New Directions!

I hope everyone had a great Spring Break. My son and I trekked to northern Kentucky to explore Paducah and the wilds of Metropolis, and you can see pics from that at my personal blog at

Here in the lab, I'm taking entry level computer programming to the people. All classes grades 2 through 4 will spend some quality time with the free open sourceware program "Scratch," developed and made available from the fine folks at MIT's "Lifelong Kindergarten" project. This fine little program is very intuitive and easy to learn, and I'm expecting that a good number of kids will take to it like shine on a doorknob, teaching me things about programming as we learn together.

My plan is to spend just two (or three) weeks in the lab working with the program with the second graders. Third graders will get four weeks, then it will revert to a "free choice" option for after other work is done. Fourth graders may well spend the rest of the school year, as I discover projects to help drive them toward their own discoveries and the realizations of their own competencies.

Kinder and 1st grade kiddos will be drawing all week and likely into the next, as we share pictures illustrating something that happened over Spring Break. I have begun posting their words on that topic at the USN LS Edublogs blog and that should fill out nicely by the end of the month. Often there is no classroom assistant or teacher with me for K and 1 these days, as special projects geared to getting things done by the end of the year draw them away from the lab classtime, so it's just little old me calling them up to the teacher 'puter to take dictation. Mark the site though, and visit for fun insights about how our community's families choose to spend their leisure time--and, even more interestingly, how their children perceive those times!

Some kids didn't go anywhere, but their art says they had fun!

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Marchin' On through 2009!

Well, well, well, here we are in March! Where has most of the school year gone!?

It's a good thing we have most of the rest of March, and April, and May to continue working because we are going to need it!

Let's go in order of coming into the lab, starting with our 3rd graders:

We finished up our three weeks in the award-winning program "Timez Attack" this week. I'll be rolling around the room later today on my little office chair, going from computer to computer to computer recording the student progress. My intention is to make a case for purchasing the full-fledged program for next year, so that all the exciting levels of work are unlocked for the students. Should I be successful we'll buy the Timez Attack upgrade and the 3rd and 4th graders (and those 2nd graders who may need extra advanced practice, just another available tool for individualized instruction) will have access to them! I note that several students' parents have already purchased the program for home, and that is heartening--I don't recommend home purchase, partly because I don't want to be viewed as endorsing a commercial product--but those decisions on the part of parents just justify my faith in the program!

4th graders continue questing! I am seeing the overall progress of my little n00bie questers begin to string out in a broader spectrum as some forge forward seemingly voraciously and some still languish in the early stages of introductory missions and quests. I'm getting around to the latter group individually to help them work through those areas where they are confused, and hopefully everyone will be on track soon. However, I have to share that the quality of the questing (in the form of written submitted "Responses" and "Reflections," two required features for quest completion) is VERY encouraging. For example, a recent response from one 4th grader came to me for review and I had to print it out to share with her teacher. I won't name her by name, but when asked to describe a personal occasion where she felt she'd been disrespected, here's what she wrote:

One time someone told me that I needed to dress better. I didn't get very upset,
but I wished that she hadn't said that. I told her that I didn't care what she
thought about my clothes and that she should stop being mean. I wish I hadn't
said that, either. I couldn't agree more with the saying 'treat others the way
you want to be treated.' To me, respect means to make sure that you don't take
anger out on anyone else. It aslo means to have a good attitude about what your
friends do or wear, even if you don't personally like it.
If you look at the goals for this quest, the student did a very good job of addressing them. Yesterday I reviewed and responded to over 25 mission/quest submissions, approving about half and asking others to resubmit after adding detail or correcting grammar or spelling. While I do not require perfection (note the "aslo" in the above submission), I do require attention to both!

Here are the goals, by the way--and please bear in mind this is only one introductory quest in a virtual world rich with opportunities to learn and reflect:

Having Respect
Your goal(s) are to:
Do you feel like there was a time when you felt someone didn't respect you? Was there a time when you didn't respect someone else? Share your views on respect.
Share a time when you were disrespected or you didn't respect someone else.
Then, describe how you would you like others to treat you.
Also, describe what it means to show respect.

I will report that managing this "classroom of 72" is a challenging load for me, as my QA mentor suggested it might be. However, I'm so encouraged by early performance that I persevere! This week one classroom was inworld during the regular 4th grade time and we found that bananausn (one of our quester users from USN) was also online. It turns out she was home with a case of pinkeye and via the magic of our virtual environment, we were all able to chat and explore together! Fun!

Revisit this blog for more on our journey into the fabulous learning experience of Quest Atlantis!

Kindergartners explored Lesson 24 at (now up to this week, challenging their memory in four fun activities. Two of them are scaled to "Younger Kids" and "Older Kids" and I challenged all our "young kids" to pick the older option and share with me and the teacher assistant (when present) when they were successful. Beaming faces testified to their pride in being just that.

1st and 2nd graders are working at to drill basic addition facts. It turns interesting and fun (and, yes, maybe a little bit competitive, but in a good way!) when we all go to the 0,1,2 Addition page and click "Give Me Time" to do a 60 second timed drill that allows the user more time as he or she completes the number sentences correctly. I like this drill site because it does not require young children to enter the numbers on the keypad, only to click on the correct answer button. I'm hoping that some of our children who are most in need for retention of addition facts 0-10 will benefit from the experience and re-visit the site frequently!

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