USN Lower School Technology!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Last Week of April, 2010

Time's flying by! Drop in for our annual International Fair from 5:30 pm to 7 pm Friday night, when 4th grader Caroline Knowles, her crew of fellow 4th graders, and I will be sharing Hopi American food, inspired by our Mesa Verde Unit in Quest Atlantis. I'll be sharing Quest Atlantis with interested attendees, too, via my laptop and a dedicated internet connection! Here's a great composite picture of two of my Questers who became virtual twins, dreadlocks and all, in Quest Atlantis!

The Short Story:
3rd Graders are creating Word cover pages for their Asia study scrapbooks
4th Graders are making graphs with the NCES Create-a-graph website
Kindergarters are making special cards with Kerpoof's "Make a Card" feature
1st Graders are looking at tutorials in Kerpoof, especially the "Make a Movie" tutorial
2nd Graders are also making graphs at the NCES site

The Long Story:
3rd Graders are creating Word cover pages for their Asia study scrapbooks by modifying Word Art on a template residing on our network. I created the template to facilitate getting the task done in the brief 30 minutes I have with the kids, and I'll be cleaning up any mis-formatting and printing them all for the students once they are all finished. In the course of the re-formatting, students open a browser and use the safe-search Google field in the Webliographer to find an image they would like to appear on their document's cover, then copy it into a text box on the template. This retains the desired sizing and makes for a good consistent cover page for all the kids' scrapbooks.

4th Graders are making graphs with the NCES Create-a-graph website. This site has been around for maybe a decade, despite the best efforts of the folks at the National Center for Economics Statistics to take it down several years ago. There was such an outcry by educators that they put it back up and it's been up and available ever since. It's easy to see why it was missed: Students can enter data, choose a style of graph, edit many design elements, and preview their work before revising it until they have just what they want. When satisfied, they can print, save, and/or email a copy of their graph to a teacher, themselves, or their favorite computer lab teacher. Here's a sample:

Kindergarters are making special (shhhhh) cards with Kerpoof's "Make a Card" feature. I'll share some of that work when it's the appropriate time to do so. With a certain holiday coming up a week from Sunday, it may be too early :-)

1st Graders are looking at tutorials in Kerpoof, especially the "Make a Movie" tutorial. This is a good introduction to the concept of tutorials, and it gives the students a source of reference once the logins and passwords go home. With luck, they will be able to use these accounts as long as they would like, since I set them up in such a manner that their usernames and passwords can travel with them up the grades through Lower School and beyond. I would really like to see what older kids could do with Kerpoof, and while introducing the Movie making interface to the 1st graders, I am struck by nothing so much as how it's kind of a nice little subtle introduction to programming. You have to see it to understand, and if you'd like to do that, click on over to the Kerpoof Tutorial page and watch Make a Movie Learn how to make a movie using Kerpoof Animation Studio.

2nd Graders are also making graphs at the NCES site. With them, however, I first demonstrate the site and then walk them through the process a step at a time. The biggest challenge is attention span and self-control in whole class, and I welcome the chance to work on that with them. The results are mostly stellar (the example above is actually one emailed me by a 2nd grader!).

See you in May!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

April Proceeds Apace!

We are workingworkingworking in the Lower School Technology for Learning Lab. Here's what we're doing this week:

3rd graders continue with Keyboarding for Kids
4th graders add desktop shortcuts and continue to explore their new mobile netbooks
Kindergarteners "Make a Story" at
1st graders login to their new student accounts and Making a Story and saving it online
2nd graders finish up My Lemonade Stand

3rd graders continue with Keyboarding for Kids. Parents, I'm proud of the way many 3rd graders have pursued acquisition of this skill and I want to remind you that the K4K accounts will be "live" online all summer long. A rainy day at the beach? Pop 'em online on the laptop and have them practice for 10 or 15 minutes before they explore the Webliographer for fun, interactive, and educational links!

4th graders add desktop shortcuts and continue to explore their new mobile netbooks. This will be a real boon to our 4th grade writing program. I talked to a colleague of mine at ISTE yesterday whose child will be attending an independent school in Eugene, Oregon next year and one of the things she's most proud of is the mobile laptop cart that even Kindergarteners get to use one day a week. Is this the way of the future for our technology program? It's a possibility, as we continue to do what we've always done at USN--constantly re-evaluate our programs to do the best we can do for our students. Stay tuned! I'll be writing a detailed article about our new resource for the USN enewsletter, so stay tuned for that too!

Kindergarteners are visiting again this week to "Make a Story." This clever and powerful online art program is education standards aligned and we will be using it in the lab as just one more way to practice digital graphic literacy and in the process add to our skills banks the problem-solving and self-learning that mastering Kerpoof presents. Here's one of the Kindergartener's pics as an example:

1st graders login to their new student accounts and Making a Story and saving it online. In an upcoming class I'll show them how to open a file, save it on their computer in the My Pictures folder, then how to print that picture. If they are printing at home, do what I do in the lab, set your printer to "Draft" to save color ink!

2nd graders finish up My Lemonade Stand, the computer-resident software that I described in last week's post. This week, many more are muscling through the virtual 30 days of entrepreneurship that the program offers. Our high score for the week is as of Thursday over $3400 dollars. That's pretty good business decision making (and luck) for having started with a seed fund of only $2.00 on day one!

Four more weeks of school. But remember: Lifelong learning never ends, and online learning is ALWAYS available.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Virtual Summer Camp Announced!

07/19/2010 07/23/2010 $150.00
Description Rising 4th - 8th graders
Instructor: Scott Merrick
8:00 am - 11:30 am

Come explore a virtual recreation of the real life Mesa Verde National Park, and then, time permitting, we'll delve into Quests that students choose from a menu including a NASA mission in outer space, a Frankenstein-like monster mystery, and many more. We will also take some time to learn how to build and create our own virtual art and architecture. Camp to be held in the Lower School computer lab.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Week of April 12, 2010

Hey, all. It's a big week in the Lower School Technology for Learning Lab!

The Short Story:
3rd graders continue making progress in Keyboarding for Kids
4th graders are introduced to our new mobile netbooks lab!
Kindergarteners and 1st graders visit and produce art at Kerpoof
2nd graders create their own business cards using a Microsoft Word template

The Long Story:
3rd graders continue making progress in Keyboarding for Kids as we position them for writing success upon entry into 4th grade next year. The first 3rd grader has FINISHED all 64 lessons in K4K and has started through his second course of it, so it's proven that with diligence and effort, even when that effort is optional, we can do this! Please encourage your child to work and let them do so at home if at all possible. They need simply to visit the Webliographer and click the Keyboarding for Kids image, log in as they would at school, and carry on!

4th graders are introduced to our new mobile netbooks lab! This is a tremendously exciting new development that's been months in the planning and setup, and I'm proud to say that we are rolling (literally) the laptops out to the students this week. We'll talk about care and maintenance, rehearse how to login to the laptops and set up the necessary shortcuts on each child's individualized desktop, how to troubleshoot in case the wireless access is lost, and all manner of new things presented by the Windows 7 operating system and Microsoft Office 2007, which you may know is quite different from the Office 2003 the kids are used to using. Stay tuned for pics and more description of this newest innovation in the lab. By the way, MUCH thanks to Technology Assistant Spencer Engelbert for all his help, and also to the whole tech department...

Kindergarteners and 1st graders visit and produce art at Kerpoof, the immensely rich online drawing, painting, and moviemaking tool. K kids dive into the "Make a Picture" function, producing a printed coloring book sheet with their name on it and customized with a background and images of their own choosing, 1sters produce interesting wordlists and pictures with the "Spell a Picture" interface, printing those out at the end of the session. It's FUN! We'll do more yet at Kerpoof next week, after student accounts are set up with my new free teacher account. This will allow us to save, to customize each child's avatar, and to start building a collection of drawings. I am careful to talk about how this is a "commercial" site and though it offers lots of options without logging in with a paid account, there will be stages along the way where students may want their parents to upgrade. I encourage them to use the site's free parts instead...

2nd Graders create their own business cards using a Microsoft Word template, simply highlighting and typing or pasting clip art into pre-defined fields. I would love for them to be able to create these on their own, free-form, but having them only for 30 minutes limits me to this procedure. It works, but it is really hectic as each child works to complete his or her own single card on an Avery-based template. After the class leaves, I copy that card and paste it into each of the 9 other positions on the page, and I'll do all the printing after all classes have completed the design work. Here's an example of what the final product looks like:
That's it for this week. See you next!

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Week of April 5, 2010

The Short Story:
4th grade-Quest Atlantis
3rd grade-K4K
Kindergarten -Boowa and Kwala MyFirstClicks center number 22, Vegetables and the Garden
1st grade-Fairytales websites on Webliographer
2nd grade-My Lemonade Stand intro (Pitt business cards)

The Long Story:
4th grade-4th graders Quest the light Atlantis! Continuing to move into and along through the winding time-traveling mission of Mesa Verde, we find that we can help Lorisa, the girl who is hiding from wrongly judgmental classmates on a field trip to Mesa Verde National Park by going back and forth into three periods of history and talking to Puebloan culture denizens, all along the way learning more and more about their rich and fascinating culture. I took a few pics of my own as I pursued the mission over the weekend and I'll add a couple here:

In this first one, chestertesterusn, my student avatar, is viewing a video about the Puebloan culture inside the museum. Later on, he'll have the chance to pursue a detailed scavenger hunt by investigating the displays in the museum, like the one at the wall in the right hand side of this picture.

In the second picture, you can see the first questions of the scavenger hunt itself. You'll note that these questions reflect knowledge about details key to understanding this very interesting lost culture. Part of one class session has been dedicated to demonstrating how to facilitate the taking of this little "test" by minimizing the window rather than closing it and reopening it as answers become clear. Stay tuned for more info as more and more Questers progress into this fantastic educational unit!

3rd grade-Keyboarding for Kids proceeds apace. I'm feeling better all the time as at least several students in each classroom pass the 20 lesson mark toward completing the program. Whether any of them will actually finish all 64 lessons before the end of the year (when it is optional, not required) remains to be seen, but I have high hopes that at least a few of them will. Parents, if you have not yet bought into this valuable learning opportunity for your child, help them out by encouraging them to make progress and to make it the right way, with HOME ROW KEY POSITION, ALWAYS!

Kindergarten -K kiddos will visit Boowa and Kwala MyFirstClicks center number 22 this week, "Vegetables and the Garden." This is a review lesson in the 50 lesson continuum that was introduced the second week of school, and the gentle, satire-free activities encourage the use of mouse control, arrow keys, and more for their completion.
1st grade-The 1sters visit Fairy Tales websites on Webliographer. They've been exploring fairy tales in the classroom, but they may not have visited the ubercool Grimm Fairy Tales site or the gently fun Snapdragon version of Goldilocks.

2nd grade-My Lemonade Stand is an out-of-print software version of a classic, but it's so well done that we keep using it year to year. In it, a budding business boy or girl has 30 days to make (or lose) a fortune, beginning with a budget of a mere $2.00 and deciding quantity, price, and whether or not to even sell each day based on the weather "Forcast" (even good game programmers can misspell things--and you'd better bet I point that error out each time I introduce the game). The forecast includes High Temperature, Humidity, and Percent chance of Rain, also all good concepts to reinforce, and a skillful (and lucky) player can amass wealth well into the thousands in the 20 or 30 minutes it can take to work through the 30 days of business. Ms. Pitt's ready to do her class's business cards, so we'll do that this week. More on that project next week, when we'll all get it done...

See you then!

Oh, and here are the K-1st grade Spring pictures I promised last week--all in a slideshow for your joyful Springtime viewing!

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Hello, April!

Be sure to see the previous post (below) for news about Doodle4Google!

The Short Story:
3rd graders--continue progress in Keyboarding for Kids
4th graders--continue progress in the Mesa Verde Mission in Quest Atlantis
Kindergarten and 1st graders--create colorful "Spring" drawings with Drawing for Children
2nd graders--analyze and review "Money" games at Internet4Classrooms

The Long Story:
3rd graders--are setting themselves up for success by diligently working each week in Keyboarding for Kids, and if they show an interest in doing so at home (which many are reporting in lab class) please allow them to practice as often as they can and will. Please also make sure that they are using only home row key position!
4th graders--continue progress in the Mesa Verde Mission in Quest Atlantis, helping Lorisa understand the value of her ancestry and exploring in great detail the rich culture of the Puebloan people. At the end of April, our school will stage an International Fair, an annual celebration of cultural diversity, and Caroline, a 4th grader, has volunteered to organize a group of her classmates to cook and share food from Hopi history. I plan to be there with a poster display and Quest Atlantis running on my laptop connected to a large flat panel monitor, taking advantage of the opportunity to share this amazing, challenging, and fun way to learn. In more Quest Atlantis news, Middle School Technology Coordinator Jake Wilson has decided that QA will benefit his 5th graders. He's signed up for the mandatory 8 hours of online teacher training in April and I'll be going into his classes in a couple of weeks to re-introduce former Questers to Quest Atlantis and to show the new 5th graders how it all works. Amazing!
Kindergarteners and 1st graders--are using Drawing for Children to create fun, fun, fun, little drawings celebrating Spring! I'll pop in an example I shared with them right here, but check back for a long and entertaining slideshow right here next week!

2nd graders--examine the 26 learning games about "Money" at Internet4Classrooms (each spends 10 minutes with the game whose number matches their own computer number, then chooses any of the games with numbers higher than 18 to "test drive") and reassemble to demonstrate the best ones for their classmates. Via this exercise, I'll choose a particular set of games we'll all do on this topic next chance we get. Next week, we'll begin making business cards for their own imaginary businesses in the Business Unit! More on that later...

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