Monday, March 31, 2008

VoiceThread in the Works - Robots!

I was watching a great video called the "little yellow drum machine" at:

You can see this little wonder below:

It was a huge hit with the students. This has great entertainment value, and can be used to teach about music, math, science and technology. I used it to start a writing activity. The students are going to create a picture using ms paint. It will be a picture of a robot, accomplishing a task that they themselves don't want to do. They have to be specific, and show how the structure of the robot relates to it's function. Relating structure and function is also an important idea in high school biology. Here is an example of what the start of one picture might look like:

Granted, this is only a start, and my students are labelling the parts, but I think it will be a big hit. The students were working on task for 15 minutes, quiet as church mice. This is always a good sign. I will follow up with a post of the voice thread when I finish.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pitching ideas to colleages

Mobile post sent by jagill using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Selling ideas to others...

Right now I am in the middle of working with iMovie on my mac at home. It all began a couple of weeks ago with a suggestion I made at a meeting. I had made a video to teach a lesson on guitar, as I had a substitute teacher coming in for a lesson. I sat in front of my web cam, taught the lesson, saved it , burned it onto a DVD with our schools external burner, and voila! Lesson is ready. In the meeting with the primary teachers, we were talking about the 6 traits of effective writing, and how we wished we could get a literacy support teacher in our school. I thought it would be cool to videotape a well known teacher modelling these writing techniques in a lesson. Then we could have it on DVD, look back on it when we wanted to, etc. So, I got a little time out of the class, Shirley Ann Rubis came to teach a lesson (thank you Shirley Ann), and within 1.5 hrs we filmed a great writing lesson aimed at primary students. Now what is the next important part?

Music. I have to pick some good music, and insert some thoughtful, possibly clever or funny sub-titles. Why? Because I believe that if my colleagues see a nicely put together presentation, they will be more impressed than if they just saw the raw footage. Is this a really terrible thing to think?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

changing the world costs between $400 to $900 dollars

A projector costs about $500 on craigslist. A refurbished dell computer running XP costs about $350. I already have a computer on my desk. Let me say a little bit more about web 2.o and the use of a projector. I have no wish to disrespect anyone with a smartboard, but I can do a lot with just the projector for my computer. For instance: - with this website I can teach students how to plan their writing projects with bubble diagrams / key visuals. This is a free service, I can embed it into my virtual classroom website so parents can help along at home, I can save it from year to year, I can email it to someone, etc. I just need a projector. - one of the few for-pay services I give my rubber stamp, sign-your-name, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is endorsements. It is good for many subjects. It is growing. A very brave man in my district said "let's get a district license", but I don't think he enough people said "yes lets put the necessary money into it". I can bring incredible meaningful content to my students throughout the day. My school subscribes to a 3 login/unlimited play brainpop license. I am proud of my school for doing this. But, I must be in the lab to play the movie. I just need a projector.

Youtube, TeacherTube, Vimeo - say what you will of YouTube, but despite all the non-educational, detrimental to education stuff, there is an awful lot of good stuff on there. Vimeo holds incredible promise as an education resource.

Video Skype - who wouldn't want their kids in their class to learn what life is like in another country, like say Isreal or Kenya, or Turkey, from their peers! The software is free, the other classrooms are out there waiting. I just need a projector.

A student teacher in a middle school was asking herself how she could get a projector for her classroom. She already bought a laptop, but wants to do a lot of the things that I am talking about and perhaps more that I never dreamed of.

The question is: do I shell out the bucks out of my own pocket to get a projector for my classroom. I don't think I can today. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Must be nice to have all that time....

Sometimes people say to me "where the heck do you get all the time to learn how to do this computer stuff?" I ask them, have they seen what is on tv these days? What with the writer's strike and all, when the kids go to bed, I poke around the Internet and see what's going on. What I don't get is when people say to me "Must be nice to have all that time to play around with computers?" Where to begin:

1.) I am playing in a sense, but it's more like expermenting to see what new skills I can acquire. It is gratifying, but I am not fooling around here. This is part of my job.

2.) I have the same 24 hr day as you.

3.) I let other people do the learning for me.

Its like professional reading. So few people have time to do all the professional reading they would like. I do some professional reading every day. I read from blogs I subscribe to. I skim the titles and lines in my google reader, and read the articles that I feel would be the best use of my time. If I continue to read on my lunch hour or prep period, or with a coffee in the morning 3o minutes a day, I figure I am going to be a changed teacher at the end of the year. I already feel like I have gotten so much this year, and it's not over yet.

I also let other peope pick the good stuff, and then I pick their picks on This is a website where people share their bookmarks. Beside each website that is bookmarked, you can see how many people have bookmarked it. You can also click on one of those people's names and search the bookmarks they wish to share. I search for a "tag" or keyword that someone has put on a bookmark of something I want. I might look for "St. Patrick's Day" and "lesson." Then I read what other people have bookmarked. If I find someone who has a few bookmarks like mine, I take no more than 5 minutes to look at the titles of their bookmarks. If I like it, I save it in my bookmarks. Now I am sharing it.

It is a mistake to re-invent the wheel. See farther. Stand on the shoulders of giants.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Death of a Dinosaur

Sad news today. A dinosaur died. It was the old school projector that I had made portable by putting it on an overhead cart, and connecting it in my classroom. We replaced it with a newer projector a few years ago when we discovered the projector didn't have very good colour anymore, it was getting dimmer, and text was hard to read. I tried to get it to work in my classroom, and with a few scavenged cables from other sources, it did. But today, my students couldn't read text that I magnified to 150%, at a distance of 8 feet from the screen. I think that's the ball game, folks. It still sort of works for pictures and video, but I needed a way to project my notes.

I type up notes, and change them when students make comments and suggestions. I prepare notes ahead of time and blank out the words for kids who can't keep up in note taking. That way they only have to write down a few words. I post them on my website so that parents can look at them, and kids can share with their parents what they learned that day. They can download them if they forgot their copies at home, and print off a copy if they like. I save these notes, and turn them into worksheets and tests. I re-use them and tweak them for the next year.

Now I am back to writing on the overhead, and writing on the chalkboard.


I guess the question is: How do I keep moving forward? I will think of something.