USN Lower School Technology!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The End of September, October Begins

Big News! The wonderful Keyboarding for Kids program we've been using for several years has gone GREEN! Now textbook free, our 4th graders begin working this week with its new online interface, which they'll see when they login the usual way. This is a huge improvement in our typing program, and I'm discussing the possibilities with administration and teaching teams, toward potentially initiating it in 3rd grade for the first time beginning after Winter Break. More on all that soon!

This is huge.

The Short Story:
3rd graders continue Type to Learn 3
4th graders meet the new online version of Keyboarding for Kids
Kinderkids meet Drawing for Children
1st graders refresh their Drawing for Children Skills
2nd graders meet Dance Mat Typing

The Long Story:
We move along in Type to Learn 3, and 3rd graders are printing progress charts in part so I can see who may be struggling and in part to give them tangible evidence of their progress to motivate them to make even more of it.

4th graders are getting along faster this year than ever in their Keyboarding for Kids work. This online version seems sleeker, less confusing, and really easy for them to manage. I'll be updating individual students with the program's messaging tool after they move on to doing it at home instead of in the lab.

Kinderkids and 1st graders are all working with Drawing for Children, the freeware graphics program that allows for a lot of creativity and a robust early experience with a computer program's GUI (Graphic User Interface). I'm having the Kindergarteners write their name at least once with a drawing tool, and I'm having 1st graders do so as many times and in as many ways as they can during the half hour. I'm also printing these for them to take home, so watch for this new refrigerator magnet item coming home! If you'd like to fetch the program for your own home computer, visit our Webliographer's Downloads topic and do so!

2nd graders are diving into Dance Mat Typing, a British Broadcasting Company website with a pretty durned good basic introduction to touch-typing. This program has no login, so one's progress isn't recorded, but as long as they remember where they left off, they can move through it and get an early experience with correct technique. Plus, it's FREE: I like that word.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Last Full Week of September

The Short Story:
3rd graders continue working in Type to Learn 3
4th graders get very familiar with Keyboarding for Kids
Kindergarteners meet Drawing for Children
1st graders refresh their Drawing for Children skills
2nd graders use their new "2ndgradestart" page at the Webliographer

The Long Story:

What's happenin' now:
We're continuing the work begun in September with all grade levels, making sure 4th graders will know what they're doing when they first login to the site at home; instilling first good practice skills for touch-typing with Type to Learn 3 in 3rd grade; and progressing through the 25 lessons at's "My First Clicks," an early-years computer skills training site I helped design years ago (Kinderkids and 1st graders). In 2nd grade, I responded to Molly Darr's request for her students to view and experience a couple of websites by creating a new portal for them. The "USN2ndgradestart" page is here, and will change as needed week to week (when our work is on the internet), archiving everything at the archive page. This will provide a good running record of our internet work!

I'm also aligning "lessons" in the lab to standards this year, a year-long project that should inform activities in the lab for years to come. This process is informed by the CSTA Model K12 Computer Science curriculum draft and the ISTE NETS-S, both touchstones for standards alignment. Once all that is complete, I'll make it public, since I do believe that we are on this planet to share with one another, toward making the world a better, safer, and more engaging place for all.

Over and out for this week. Stay tuned for more!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Carrying on Through September

This week we are establishing routines, recording progress, and beginning to branch out to internet work.

The short story:
3--Type to Learn 3 continues
4--Keyboarding for Kids, establishing login and practice skills "My First Clicks" linear progress "My First Clicks" non-linear progress
2--Ancient Civilization related websites on Webliographer

The long story:

3rd graders are working further into Type to Learn 3, the Sunburst software program designed to instill awareness of home-row key position touch typing, and they're doing pretty doggone well. One of my very main goals in Tech Instruction is to help them develop a sense of self-motivation and perseverance, and forging on through the 25 lessons of TTL3 is one way to do it. Like many of the things we do in the lab, we won't get to the end of it. That's the We'll work one or two more weeks in TTL3 then move on into other things.

4th graders are continuing to master the process of connecting to Keyboarding for Kids, our online touch-typing platform that allows them the opportunity to practice their skills daily, as homework, on their home computers. I'll be sending a long note home to accompany the textbooks, which will be coming home the week of Oct. 5, that will explain expectations, serve as a reminder of the procedures for login, and share some important thoughts about parents' role in the process (VERY minimal!).

Kinder and 1st graders are progressing through the MyFirstClicks sets of activities at I changed the K-1GoHere! Center Number 2 link so that it now leads to the free (ad-supported) iteration of that wonderful website. This gives us the opportunity to practice working without clicking on ads and shows them what the site will look like if they visit it from home (the Premium@Schools ad-free site is only available in-school). Both grades are notating their own progress at the Interwrite interactive board on a Google spreadsheet as they go. I like this process and will likely extend it to some other activities in other grade levels. For one, it gets the kids out of their seats, and B) it puts more of the responsibility for their own learning in their hands.

2nd graders this week visited sites in the Ancient Civ (shortened because of Webliographer titling length limitations) topic on our Webliographer. Each class is studying a different culture from history--Rome, Persia, Greece, and Egypt. Two teachers this week sent me new links to add to the Webliographer, a wonderful development, and I spent an hour or so adding links to some Persia resources since this is the first year for 2nd graders to explore that culture. Ask your child what we looked at!

That's it for this week. Know that I'm knee-deep in getting 4th graders set up for our Quest Atlantis work this year. After K4K textbooks go home we'll be beginning those adventures!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 Computer Lab Update!

Hey, all,

I've been working on putting up pictures at all the computer lab pages on this week. To see them, login using your myUSN username and password. I'll put a couple in this post, but there will usually be weekly pics at in slideshow format for your viewing and download, if you see any you wish to keep.

The work this week:
3rd graders are entering Type to Learn 3 this week, and we'll be working in that arena for several weeks, just to give them some fun introductory exercise in using "home row key position."

4th graders embark on Keyboarding for Kids, the online platform we have purchased whichwill gift them daily typing practice for homework, beginning in early October. I have found that working weekly in the lab until we're satisfied everyone is completly comfortable is the way to go, so expect to see them home with explicit instructions and their textbooks by then.

Kindergarteners and 1st graders have been keeping track of their own progress on the Interwrite smartboard on a graph, marking a red X in a spreadsheet by their name to indicate which of the 25 "MyFirstClicks" lessons they have completed.

2nd graders have mostly completed the Learning Center in Type to Learn, Jr., a very fun little keyboarding/typing game that helps introduce the locations of the letters on a computer keyboard, as well as some very basic concepts like the shift key and some punctuation. They all printed their completion certificates and then went on to play each of the three extension games on each of the three levels each is offered.

With several grade levels, I have begun allowing some "Free Choice" time at the end of the period (at the beginning for 3rd graders) and this requires explaining and enforcing clear expectations of the options. In general, all students may use the Webliographer "Free Choice Options" as a jumping off place, and those options are broad. To visit any of them, see that topic on the Webliographer, and here's a list of the sites currently included there:

20 Questions: Play 20 Questions
BBC: BBC - CBBC - Games
Between the Lions: Between the Lions | PBS Kids
Enchanted Learning: Enchanted Learning
Fact Monster Arcade: Fact Monster Arcade
Fact Monster Online: Fact Monster--Online Reference and Games!
FreeRice: FreeRice Game--Feed the Hungry and Build Your Vocabulary!
Great Sites: 700+ Great Sites for Kids and Adults Who Care About Them
Interactive Games!: Oswego County Schools Interactive Learning Games
Invention Playhouse: Lemelson Center Invention at Play--Invention Playhouse Official Web Site of LEGO
Linerider: Linerider
Linesanta:LineArena - Snowline Line Riding Game
Puzzles.COM: Puzzles for Everyone
SanDiegoZoo: Animals Animals Everywhere!
The Color Test: The Color Test

Students may also utilize any program installed on their computer specifically as a Free Choice Option. These include:

My Lemonade Stand
and Drawing for Children

and will soon also include a new program I recently discovered called SebranABC, a simple and rich group of beginning literacy and numeracy practice games. See the CNet review for more information about Sebran.

Next week, we'll continue on the path of learning in the Computer Lab, and I hope everyone stays well and will be here to join us! Get those flu shots!!!

Have a great weekend!

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