USN Lower School Technology!

Monday, March 29, 2010

USN Doodle4Google Announcement!

Congratulations to everyone who took the time and had the fun of creating a Doodle4Google for our school's participation this year! Our judges, Faculty members Maura Rankin, Elizabeth Coble, Stephen Douglas, Steve Smail, Lee Ann Merrick, and Emily Holt, considered all of these often beautiful and creative submissions in the light of our weighty charge to narrow the over 170 entries down to only 6. These are scanned images, since we had to submit the originals to New York for preliminary judging as the first step in the long process that will decide upon one winner in the end.

I would love to scan them all and share them in a slideshow so that you can see how difficult our young artists made the process for their judges--I may do that!

Meanwhile, here are the Doodles that prevailed. From top to bottom, Maggie Robinson, Evelyn TeSelle, Henry Standard, Samantha Olivares-Mejia, Alex Dano, and Ford Cannon.

And here are the artist's statements:

1) Maggie, 3rd Grade, If I Could Do Anything I Would…
Save the Animals--We should save animals. The puffer fish represents fish people catch and don’t release. The owl's eyes mean we should give a hoot and not hurt animals. People think snakes are dangerous and kill them. People cut trees taking giraffes’ food. Turtles die in fishing nets.

2) Evelyn, 4th Grade, If I could Do Anything I Would …
Educate the World--One of the hardest things a person has to face is making decisions. Any decision you make affects everyone around you, and education gives you the power to choose wisely. If everyone in my generation had a good education, then the future world would be full of good decision makers.

3) Henry, 4th Grade, If I Could Do Anything I Would …
Clean the Ocean-- I like a lot of animals that are being killed and hurt by pollution, littered waters, and oil spills; so for my Google doodle I decided to draw mankind changing that.

4) Samantha, 4th Grade, If I Could Do Anything I Would…
Save the Animals--My doodle for Google is about saving animals. I chose this mainly because I saw dog prints on a goody bag and I thought that would be perfect for the O’s. I just got to work and then there was a dog, spider, snake, tiger and a bird.

5) Alex, 4th Grade, If I Could Do Anything I Would…
Have a Day at the Park—Have a Day at the Park is about going to the park and having a picnic with your friends and family and everybody that you love. When you look at it I want you to think of peace, love, nature, and of course GOOGLE!

6) Ford, 3rd Grade, If I Could Do Anything I Would …
Explore the Oceans--If I could do anything I would explore the oceans, because there are lots of living creatures under the water.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First Week After Spring Break!

I'm glad to be back with my kiddos, though I did have a fun and relaxing Spring Break. Now, with only 10 weeks or so of school left to go, I'm racing to get goals and instruction finished. Welcome back to you and yours!

The Short Story:
3rd Grade
--Keyboarding for Kids
4th Grade--Mesa Verde unit at Quest Atlantis
Kindergarten--Katie's Room
1st Grade--Math at Internet4Classrooms

The Long Story:
3rd Grade
--Keyboarding for Kids work continues. Typing correctly in home row key position is an invaluable skill and this is the very first year we've instituted K4K for the third graders. I was gratified to receive a compliment from a parent just yesterday, as he mentioned his child's work on the computer at home. If you have any problems installing and running K4K at home, please pop on over to the USN Lower School Webliographer to the Keyboarding topic, where there's a great link to the Ellsworth Publishing website page for "Troubleshooting." You'll be glad you did!

4th Grade--The Mesa Verde Mission at Quest Atlantis continues. This set of missions begins with a missing girl on a field trip. She's hiding from her classmates at the fantastic QA replication of the real life Mesa Verde National Park because she is of Hopi descent and she fears ridicule from her classmates about the primitive culture her ancestors enjoyed 800 years ago. One classmate in particular has been vocal about his low opinion of the "Puebloans," and a conversation with him turns up in the mission's trajectory. There's a detailed "scavenger hunt" which requires the quester to learn a great deal about the Puebloan's life style and culture, then a journey into the past is in the offing. This is a well designed, beautifully illustrated, thought-provoking experience and I'm happy to provide it to our children. More than that, I'm pleased to be learning with them as I pursue the Mesa Verde Mission myself!

Kindergarten--In Katie's Room, located online at the Thomson Online Courses "Growing with Technology" website, early learners get a gentle introduction to the "home row" keys on a computer keyboard. I demo the first activity at the projector-connected computer then I send the kids off to "break the codes" by typing on their keyboards with the correct fingers. There's more at the website, including activities about computer terminology and more, and we will be back.

2nd is a fantastic website that is subtitled "Aquatic Animation for Analysis and Education" and which allows the user to look in virtual unlimited 3-dimensional ways at a whole host of swim strokes. Lisa Preston, chair of our Physical Education department and a stellar teacher, comes in to demonstrate this website for our second graders toward awakening a visualized understanding of the physical elements of the breaststroke. She's even concocted a little 3 question Google Survey the children can fill out during their lab session to demonstrate understanding of the concepts. Parents may want to visit the site with their children, and I guarantee the visit will be a learning experience.

1st Grade--1st Grade Math at Internet4Classrooms is rich and varied, and though we've found a few of the games' links lead to broken or dysfunctional websites, having 20 or so links to online interactive math practice and drill websites gathered together by topic (fractions, telling time, money and counting, etc.) in one place is very handy. This week the 1st graders visit the site after a brief demo and choose a topic to explore, after a brief demo. It's interesting that most of the children choose to go straight to the ones I've demonstrated, even though they have full reign to go to any of the dozens of games. These resources and those like them are available anywhere with an internet connection and a computer to make it, and options for online lifelong learning will only increase.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Second Week in March, Come On, Spring Break!

The Short Story:
3rd Graders work in Keyboarding4Kids.
4th Graders are re-entering Quest Atlantis!
Kindergarteners are enjoying an introduction to Stacker Blocks followed by Free Choice Options.
1st Graders revisit the Literacy section of the BBC Bitesize learning website to share a couple of the games before engaging in lab Free Choice.
2nd Graders share their favorites at BBC Bitesize Science full class before they turn to Free Choice Options.

The Long Story:
3rd Graders continue to work in Keyboarding4Kids. I had planned to report progress to their teachers last week but in light of the relatively little time they had to work last week due to the introduction of the Google4Google competition I moved that back a week. Teachers will get a comprehensive report to help them identify students who may need some additional motivation to work, and to identify them early on.
4th Graders are re-entering Quest Atlantis! After an hiatus generated by a couple missteps in online chat, we are re-entering with the goal of completing initial activities and then diving into the Mesa Verde Quest, a series of task performances with an underlying theme of cultural diversity. Here is an online slideshow to give you a taste of how rich this environment is, followed by a statement about the unit from the Teachers' section of the QA website:

Mesa Verde Overview: The Mesa Verde Unit provides students with an opportunity to travel back in time to learn more about the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited an area in the American southwest until about 800 years ago. Along the way, they'll learn about the characteristics of a civilization, features of the Ancestral Puebloan culture, and how to balance your cultural heritage with the need to fit in as a teen in today's society.

Students will visit the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling at a virtual representation of Mesa Verde National Park to witness how this ancient society created their unique arts, beliefs, customs, and lifestyle amidst the harshest of conditions, and they will attempt to determine why these cliff dwellers suddenly left their beautiful stone city. Additionally, students will explore their own heritage and the artifacts that have shaped their OWN story, learning that we all contribute a chapter in the greater human experience.

Kindergarteners get an introduction to StackerBlocks, the wonderful freeware software program we have on all our lab computers. It's a Tetris-like game, with good customization options and I've used it in the lab for years. Spacial literacy skills are hard at play and predicting and manipulating the falling blocks is good practice for those neural muscles. After the introduction, kindergarteners may make their own Free Choice options and many do choose to begin working with Stacker Blocks 3D. It's available at the Webliographer in the Downloads section for download at home, too!

1st Graders get to share favorite BBC Bitesize Literacy games from last week before a quick reminder about Stackerblocks and Free Choice options. I blogged all about my "Free Choice" guidelines back in September (you can read that here).

2nd Graders share their own fave BBC Bitesize Science activities from last week's pair-off exploration, completing the jigsaw activity (where a large set of activities is distributed amongst the group for visiting and then the group reconvenes for sharing), then heads off to Free Choice.

With Kinder, 1, and 2, I am recording just what choices the children make during their Free Choice, and I plan to report the results next week in a spreadsheet created graph. I'll be explaining to the older children just how I came up with the graphs and how to interpret them!

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Happy March!

The Short Story:
Everyone gets a short introduction to Doodle4Google. Entries are to be submitted no later than the end of school Friday, March 26. I'm telling the kids this year to doodle as much as they would like to, but please to only submit final versions they really really think can win the competition. See the winners from last year's Doodle4Google competition!
3rd Graders work in Keyboarding4Kids.
4th Graders may work on Scratch projects or on updating their blogs after visiting last week's posts about Scratch and editing/revising to make them more polished.
Kindergarteners visit the BBC's "Little Critters Activities Centre" for math and reading practice.
1st graders go to the Literacy Section of the BBC Bitesize learning website for all manner of practice with their interactivities.
2nd graders pair up to examine BBC Bitesize Science activities then demo them for the class at the projector.

The Long Story:
Everyone gets a short introduction to Doodle4Google. This huge annual competition nets the winning drawing $15,000 for their efforts, plus $25,000 more in grant funding for a computer lab at their school. LOTS more can be found at the official website. Entries are to be submitted no later than the end of school Friday, March 26. This year, as in past years, our K12 school may submit only 6 entries to the state competition, and I'll put together a panel of volunteer teachers to do the judging for our school. I love the theme this year: "If I could do anything, I would..." Reminder: This is an ENTIRELY optional competition. I tell the children that if they want to do a drawing they certainly may, but they should not submit it (to the basket on my desk) unless they really really feel it could win the national competition. At USN, we're not so much about the concept of competition, but if we look at this as analogous to a sports competition with a nice award for the winner, we're in a healthy mindset to compete on an artistic level.
3rd Graders work in Keyboarding4Kids. Remember that this too is optional (at least for homework). The kids know their login process, "usntigers," "usntigers, "their password" parents check your email for individual password help), and that they are to accomplish three good scores (20 wpm or better, 3 errors or fewer, and then move on to the next line or the next lesson. HOME ROW KEY is the only way to successfully do this work. If you notice your child typing out of that standard touch-typing position, please correct them immediately and monitor that they always work that way--I would rather them not do the program at all than to be doing it incorrectly!
4th Graders may work on Scratch projects or on updating their blogs after visiting last week's posts about Scratch and editing/revising to make them more polished. This gives them a chance to see how easy it is to revise a previously posted blog, and to read the approved comments I've shuttled through the approval process since they made their posts last week. We also discovered today that a digital template of the Google doodle outline can be imported to the Scratch painting platform and that can be used for its design. Fun!
Kindergarteners visit the BBC's "Little Critters Activities Centre" for math and reading practice. Little Critters does a good job of engaging the younger set in very simple "fill in the number sentence" practice with Count Hoot, and the three stories that can be read and clicked through are fun and attention-keeping. The mix of audio narration with the screen-displayed words and actions is hard to beat for immersing young ones in the world of reading and writing.
1st graders go to the Literacy Section of the BBC Bitesize learning website for all manner of practice with their interactivities. There are 9 wonderful activities at the site, and I can attest that they are engaging by the number of chuckles I hear coming from the headphone-outfitted 1st graders!

2nd graders pair up to examine BBC Bitesize Science activities then demo them for the class at the projector. I assign partners by proximity-paired seating and charge them to know the game well enough to explain to the class how it works. I also challenge them to use an outside voice when they explain, and it might take instructions for them to "get mad at me" before many 2nd graders' voices are loud enough to fill the room. By using this "jigsaw" process, all the games get to be explained and we will hopefully build some interest in revisiting BBC Bitesize Science!

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