USN Lower School Technology!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Last Week of January 2010

The Short Story:

The classes I was able to see this short week did...
3rd grade--searched images for printing and cutting out for posters for their Master Art Unit--copy and paste using Windows clipboard
4th grade--began blogging in a secure, closed platform called ""
Kindergarten--revisited Boowa and Kwala "Special Occasions" page with St. Valentine's Day activity
1st grade--watched a fabulous video about Ezra Jack Keats from YouTube and explored Keats resources on the Webliographer
2nd grade--visited 2ndGoHere! at the Webliographer to do word problems from

The Long Story:

3rd graders continue an internet search and MS Word copy-and-paste extravaganza as they collect images from the internet to print, cut out, and glue onto their posters for their Master Artist Unit report. This unit used to be my favorite when I had my own 3rd grade classroom, and the computer skills this project entails will stand them in good stead for the rest of their school experiences and beyond. Many of the 3rd graders finished their work and were able to login to Keyboarding for Kids, the online typing program that will get them up to speed quickly with regular attention to it. They're just beginning, and my goal with these students is to get them so interested in achieving progress that they will work as often from home as they possibly can.

4th graders embarked on a new adventure (I'm serving them up right and left this year) as they took to for an introduction to blogs and blogging. I'm working on a presentation for them at that you can visit here. Check back because it's a work in progress as I tweak out details with the kids. At Kidblog, the students select their usernames and use an assigned password that follows a convention that is fairly easy to remember. With Kidblog, a teacher can set up the blog to be viewable only by students and teachers or make it viewable to anyone who registers for an account. The latter option can open up commenting to a broader audience, but at least at first, we're keeping it locked down. Any 4th grade student or teacher at USN can post, read, and comment at our blog, but no one else can see anything more than the subject lines. I only just discovered this ad-free, secure platform for our kids, and the possibilities are still just potentials, but check out this exchange:

Mr. Merrick's Blog:

ScratchcatSome people are loving it. Some are exploring it more deeply than others, and a few really don’t “get it” or see what it’s worth. I would love to hear your own opinions here. Remember to be appropriate and to use the spellchecker before posting. Don’t be telling me what you think I want to hear. Tell me what you really think and why!

What do you really think of Scratch?

Response from one student:

I like it a lot, but i wish it had better instructions. I had to work a while to make a decent project. They should have some more instructions for each little thing so you know how it works and how to use it and stuff. But scratch is really fun!

We will be continuing to explore blogging for several weeks. Talk to your child about the experience!

Kindergarteners are revisiting Boowa and Kwala and checking out the activities at the "St. Valentine's Day" page at Special Occasions. We'll not really be able to visit those as we get closer to Valentine's Day since we'll be making digital valentine cards with Drawing for Children. More later on that!

1st graders viewed a great video about Ezra Jack Keats at Normally YouTube is blocked at school, more for the toll it takes on our bandwidth than for other issues it presents. I can override that blocking and did to view:

We also took some time to check out the Keats sites on the Webliographer. Ask your child to take you on a tour!

2nd graders visited 2ndGradeGoHere! at the Webliographer and did math word problem work at the website We'll expand on this next week, offering a choice of word problem topics from a a substantial set of options, then emailing results to their teachers from the site.

February, here we come!

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week 3 of January, 2010

The Short Story:
3rd Grade--We're continuing with Keyboarding for Kids, the fantastic online touch-typing program from Ellsworth Publishing, and we're seeking out images for Master Artist reports.
4th Grade--We're continuing with Scratch projects and we'll be blogging about Scratch beginning next week
Kindergarten and 1st--We're doing free draw pictures with Drawing for Children.
2nd Grade--We're engaged in drawing and writing support for in-class story writing projects.

The Long Story:
3rd Grade--Third graders are using their 30 minutes of computer lab time to seek out a favorite image of their artist, then revising a template so that it contains the correct information for a printed cover for their upcoming Master Artist unit reports. This entails some basic Google search strategies: enclosing in quotes, spelling correctly, using the Google "Images" feature; as well a copying and pasting skills in conjunction with the concept of the Windows clipboard function. Graphics manipulation skills such as resizing and maintaining the relationship of height and width (aspect proportion) are called into play, as well as spelling and grammar (capital first and last name of both artist and self) without a great deal of preliminary setup. The template strategy allows fast and clean work; and when 3rd graders are finished and their document saved on the network, they are logging into Keyboarding for Kids. There's not much time to make progress, but the login practice is needed at this stage of the process.

4th Grade--We're still working in Scratch, saving completed projects on the network in the appropriate folder so that I can review and upload to the "USN Tigers Stuff" gallery at the Scratch Wiki. I've found a marvelous secure blogging solution at and we'll go there next week to begin blogging by commenting on my own blog post, "What do you really think about Scratch?" Watch here for more on that initiative!

Kindergarten and 1st Grades--It's Free Draw time at Drawing for Children, the freeware graphics program that is our program of choice in the computer lab. I'm being selfish here: I want to upgrade the lab bulletin board from the November turkey drawings. Plus, giving students choice is important to the development of their own decision-making skills and allowing them to explore the potentials of D4C is essential to their understanding just how to explore software and online programs. It's all good, and watch for pics here soon.

2nd Grade--Second graders are approaching their story writing projects variously in different classrooms. Ms. Pitt chose to have her kids type up their stories from their hand-done storyboards, a procedure that will take a few class periods (since typing is still tentative at best in 2nd graders) but which I will facilitate as completely and as quickly as possible. Other classrooms are drawing illustrations for their stories, which we'll print out and they can use in their handwritten stories.

In a sidenote. I took a professional day Wednesday this week to attend a full-day professional development workshop at Vanderbilt University which featured Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote address and a score of experts from Microsoft. Between you and me, much of the day flew over my head completely--I am more of an end-user kind of guy than a programmer, but I did get some exercise "liveblogging" and I won a nifty MS Visual Studio backpack at the end of the day raffle. I needed a new backpack, as my old Targus ebag is getting a bit frayed. If you want to check out my work during the morning, go visit and play the CoverItLive blog file!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

January 11 Week, What Goes On?

The Short Story:
3rd Grade--Google Image Search for art class image and Keyboarding for Kids
4th Grade--Keyboarding for Kids and Scratch "ABC's" -- finishing final letter
1st "Learning to Read" -- finishing final units beginning with vowel blends
2nd Grade--"Winter in Six Words" for the Winter Wonderland Wiki --Drawing
for Children digit
al drawing

The Long Story:
3rd Grade--Google Image Search for art class image and Keyboarding for Kids. Our Keyboarding for Kids work took a back seat this week in computer lab as students searched for and printed full page versions of one representative piece of art from the artist they've chosen for their Master Artist Unit research topic. These will be laminated by the teacher and taken by the student to Mr. Douglas's art class, where he will proceed with his annual art reproduction project, teaching the kids to transfer/copy images to their own paper via the age-old method of gridding it out and copying grid by grid. We used the doubly safe-search Google search embedded in the Webliographer, illustrating the difference in search results that can be obtained by placing two words, such as an artist's name, in quotation marks as opposed to simply typing them. The quotation marked terms usually return significantly fewer, better targeted results, since you are asking Google to look for
those two words, together, in that particular order. We also navigated the school network 'way down into the folder structure, starting at My Computer and burrowing down to S:\LS\Classes\3 Third Grade\3rdART until we found alphabetized artists' images collected by 3rd graders over the years in this activity. It looks like most of the students were able to do all of this in a rather hectic 30 minute
session, and we'll get the few remaining students up to date by finding images in books, scanning, enlarging, and printing them.

4th Grade--Keyboarding for Kids continues, and we looked together at the Scratch Wiki,, a repository for a growing collection of student work, with its Projects and Galleries, including our own USNTigers Student Stuff one. Students are cautioned to create their own accounts only with their parents' permission and to follow the policy of the website publishers by reporting any content they see might be inappropriate. This is a common means of policing sites that might have tens of thousands of visitors and users per month, and with community compliance, it is quite effective. Still, visiting the site gives us a chance to discuss the concept of "appropriateness," and I encourage students to share work only to the "most appropriate common denominator," which is to say that what may be appropriate in some households may not be in others, and if they even think what they are posting may be offensive in any way, not to do it!

Give this project a look-see!

Scratch Project "ABC's" -- finishing final letter: The K kids proceeded last week through Starfall ABC's to varying degrees of accomplishment. I remind them that the site is available anytime, anywhere, from any computer with internet access, and this week we all complete the final 10 letters of the alphabet, from Q to Z, to show those who didn't get as far along the variety and the fun of the activities for each letter at

"Learning to Read" -- finishing final units beginning with vowel blends: We took a similar approach here to last week's 1st grade beginnings in the more advanced section at We all completed the final 5 unites, from blended vowels, "Vowel Teams," through "Y as Long E." The room got very quiet as kids worked through these, a sure indication of engagement.

2nd Grade--"Winter in Six Words" for the Winter Wonderland Wiki --Drawing for Children digital drawing: With the exception of Ms. Pitt's class, who were charged with beginning to type storyboarded stories in MS Word and began those quite successfully, 2nd graders finished their "Winter in Six Words" for the Winter Wonderland Wiki. Next week and the following one, I'll be doing voice recordings of their narration on a Voicethread to share with the world! Then we'll post that on the WWWiki.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

January Means Winter at USN

Happy New Year one and all. I hope that you've had a moment to check out the wonderful parents' resource I posted last week. If you haven't yet done so, check it out and bookmark it. Parents often ask me about how best to talk to their kids about internet opportunities and potential pitfalls, and Net Cetera is one great resource for that.

What's going on here?

The Short Story:

3rd Grade--Keyboarding for Kids
4th Grade--K4K and Scratch "ABC's"
1st "Learning to Read"
2nd Grade--"Winter in Six Words" at the Winter Wonderland Wiki

The Long Story:

For the very first time, I'm introducing Keyboarding for Kids to our 3rd graders. It takes a good while to set up new accounts on this online platform, for which the school pays a considerable licensing fee, but Ellsworth Publishing's decision to take away the required textbook and go completely online has made it possible for us to do so (and well worth the time, considering the potential gain for our kids). 3rd grade teachers consulted with one another about homework loads and decided it was best not to require our 3rd graders to go online each school night and practice their typing for 10 minutes--as is the requirement in 4th grade--and I concur with that decision. That said, any work your child does online between now and the end of May, and during the summer for that matter, will incredibly increase their ease of entry into 4th grade and beyond. It's there for them if they want it, and I have to admit I'm very interested to see how many avail themselves of the opportunity we're giving them.

4th graders continue their Scratch explorations, and I'm helping students who may be falling behind in their keyboarding work by asking them to spend the first 15 minutes of their lab time online at K4K. This indicates increased vigilance over past years' practices, and I hope it will reap benefits accordingly. I have reminded the 4th graders that the computer lab is open at 7:30 each day, so if your home computer experiences issues with K4K, please help by trying to get into school early as often as possible. Thanks!

Kindergarteners and 1st graders are exploring the wonderful world of, the younger group by moving through the alphabet at the "ABC's" section and the older working through the fine online phonics activities at the "Learn to Read" units. We're keeping track of progress via a google spreadsheet to make sure the kids know where to pick up when they return to the lab next week.

2nd graders are drawing winter pictures and typing six words on them. Why? For the Winter Wonderland wiki created by California elementary teacher Vicky Sedgewick. We're modifying the requirements for the "Winter in Six Words" activity and will be recording voice to accompany each picture on a Voicethread website by the end of January. Fun! And a step toward understanding and participating in the global dialog that is the internet of the 21st century.

That's it for this week: Stay warm and safe!

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