USN Lower School Technology!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Countdown to the End of School -- T Minus 7 Days

I watched a great presentation on Quest Atlantis last Monday night, and I hope readers can suspend disbelief long enough to visit one of my other blogs, Oh!VirtualLearning! to read about it. My friend Jeff Agamenoni in Great Falls, Montana teaches 7th and 8th graders and introduced them to QA this year. His observations filled an hour for a globally situated audience and I'm as proud of him as I can be. This was the first of what I am sure will be many presentations from a dedicated Web 2.0 proponent and a good friend. I'm looking forward to meeting him someday "in real life," though we've had many a Skype conversation and collaborated in virtual worlds many a time.

What's happening in the lab?

My main thrust this last week has been on giving my older kids a set of tools they can use over the summer to continue their online learning adventure. I frequently advise my students that while online learning is not the be-all and end-all, it's a resource that they should keep in mind, that it's important to balance their lives to include a healthy mix of safe online experience with robust exercise, outdoor activity, quiet family time, reading books, playing music, and generally living life. That said:

3rd graders played TimezAttack Online, and I made sure they played via the Web browser, so that progress is saved for them. They can continue to play through the summer, though they may find that their environment choices (levels) have reverted to a total of one choice. The pay version contains all the levels, and we likely won't pursue purchase until the new school year, if at all. Here's what the game's website says about that:

Difference between the base version and the full version
Entertainment. We put ALL the education into our base version so that EVERY child can master multiplication. The full version then adds entertainment--more worlds, characters, and creatures to learn in. So it's worth the investment, but you shouldn't feel any obligation to upgrade if money's tight. The base version works just as well--children just don't keep begging to play it for as long.
4th graders, after completing a quick 1 minute typing speed assessment at,  chose their activity this week from a menu of 1)TimezAttack Online, 2) Quest Atlantis, and 3) Scratch. Generally, the winner was number 1, likely because it was the most recently added to the menu--new items are often best sellers :)

Kinderkids are creating a slideshow of thank-you art for Boowa at, in order to thank site creator Jason Barnard for taking the time to Skype video call last week, singing songs and chatting with all the kindergarteners. Here's the slideshow!

and here's a short Quicktime movie snagged from the events:

1st graders are exploring the Fairy Tales topic in the Webliographer. We don't often use commercial sites in the school lab, but NOGGIN is an unusually rich one, and using it gives me a good opportunity to reinforce our rule/advice to children never to click on advertisements at websites. I share with them that clicking on ads can take them away from the fun to a place where the site only wants to sell them something, and it may be dangerous, leading to spyware and adware. There are four other good links at the Fairy Tales topic, and many web explorers like the GrimmFairyTale site.

2nd graders are working to finish their PowerPoints by the end of school. I'll spend some time after the school year is over organizing all our kids' work into portfolio folders they can carry into their next grade level, so if we don't get finished, the'll have access to their work when they return for 3rd graders. 

Finally, I'll mention that I'm deeply involved in an assay of activities that we pursued in the lab this school year, planning to organize them, look for links with classroom units and alignment with new Computer Science department objectives and curricula, and overarching alignment with the National Educational Technology Standards for Students, from an organization I work closely with, the International Society for Technology in Education. It's going to be a full summer for me, and much of my summer effort should substantially improve my students' learning come school year 2009-10!

See you next week, the final full week of the 2008-9 school year!

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