USN Lower School Technology!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's Rainyrainy Outside but Warm and Active Inside!

Wow. There's a lot going on this week, with Skype video calls planned for Kinderkids, Scratch shareouts with 3rd graders, TimezAttack Online for 4thers, PowerPoints at grade 2, and 1st graders exploring both Tonematrix and 

That pretty much says it all. See you next week.

Just kidding, though I have recently been informed that I write too much here. Do you think so? Please comment below :) In any event I'll start listing the high points at the top of the blog for those who are too busy to get the whole skimmy.

Now: Let's get detailed, in the order the kids come into the lab:

3rd graders have now spent several class periods exploring Scratch in both guided and self-
directed ways, and they've now saved at least one project in a special network folder to share out at the projector with their classmates. This allows for some critique, some dialog, and some applause for the project they've either found or created, and collatoral learning abounds. One of my projects this summer, as I move into my first year of a 10 month contract (as opposed to the 9 month work-year I've enjoyed for the past 13 years) is to link everything in here to ISTE NETS for Students and to look for gaps in my school year where I can nurture the developmentally appropriate skills that help students achieve them. I'll be cross-referencing and utilizing resources at Computer Science Teachers Association as well.

I am filming some of these shareouts, and though I won't reshare all of them with you, I will give you a taste of how it goes, right here. Bear in mind that I have 72 3rd graders and that, despite varying degrees of enthusiasm, I can claim virtually universal engagement with Scratch. My only regret is that we didn't get started earlier in it, and you can bet I'll make some changes to
 accomodate that earlier work next year!

Here are the first four videos:

4th graders are enjoying the new full version beta access we've been granted at, for their fantastic creation TimezAttack. Earlier in the year we played with the free download version of the program after installing it on our lab machines, and just a couple weeks ago the online version was released. Along with hundreds of other schools all over the country (world?) we were given free access to the online version until the end of this academic year, May 30. After that, we still have access but the game reverts to a free version with only the one environment. Are additional environments important enough to justify a good-sized expenditure of our software budget? I'm leaning on the affirmative side here. From my observations, both
 3rd and 4th graders who play this game are more likely to pursue it if they have the goal of accomplishing new levels of environment, and will be more engaged as the program helps them retain automatic recall of the basic multiplication facts. The way the license works is that there is a flat fee for each 3rd grader in the building, then any other student, K12, can take a free ride on the 3rd grade. I can envision it useful for children in other grades who need remediation in their facts retention, plus the program tracks student progress and allows assessment via the teacher interface. Finally, I can see us adding TimezAttack as required homework in 3rd grade, much like we do for Keyboarding for Kids in 4th. This will help prepare them for their future K4K work, as well as help them master their multiplication facts at an earlier age. If it looks like we can migrate it to individuals who require more of a challenge at any earlier grade level, it will be there for them, too! There, I just worked out my purchase request verbiage :)

Kinderkids have a treat this week, a Skype videoconference with one of their favorite online characters, "Boowa," from We've been working with site creator Jason Bernard since the site first went live in 2002, and he was kind enough to agree to meet with our kids this week in two sessions, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. It worked out great, since the Friday kinderkids were slated to miss computer this week due to K-3 field day anyway! Here is a brief video from the meetup! (I also had Jason connect with 4th graders for a few minutes before the end of their lab time, just as a treat.) 

1st graders either connected with Tonematrix, which we visited last week, depending on whether they got to see it last week, or helped create a beautiful digital splatter painting at It wouldn't load on our lab computers, likely protected against multiple access from one IP adress, so we created a large version on the Intelliboard. Here's what one of them looked like, after randomly calling kids up to the board for a 10 minute swipe at "artputer."

We also explored "kerpoof," a digital art and media site on our Webliographer. We don't visit many "commercial" sites at school, but this drawing tool, designed by Disney, is really fun and membership is not required to use it. 

2nd graders are working with Microsoft Office 2003 PowerPoint to design basic .ppts from their About Me flipbooks created in the classroom as an extension of their Insects unit. PowerPoint may be becoming passe' as cloud computing software like Google Presentations take the forefront of presentation tools, but it's a great place to start! I'll share one of those (in progress, not yet finished!) right now so you can get the gist. I created the template for them, since their keyboarding skills are not yet conducive to getting a task like this accomplished in one class session, but wooo, they're having fun and learning! Slideshare, by the way, doesn't allow for animation to play when it's been flash compressed, but the custom animation is one elementof PowerPoint that many kids are exploring!

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