Giving Students Political Voice

I teach writing to 11 year olds but that doesn’t stop me from injecting some political current events into our activities. I remind them that they need to pay attention to the world, as it is their world that is being developed right now. The political season in the US provides us teachers with an opportunity to talk about leadership and the ways of our government and I sure hope that teachers are using this opportunity.

Yesterday, our state held its primary election (Hillary Clinton won). Last week, I had a long discussion with all of my students about the differences of a primary and a caucus, and what those results mean.

I decided that I wanted to give my students some voice and so we held a modified “Mock Election” using Survey Monkey to allow my 80 students to cast a vote for major candidates in both parties and to answer some questions about the state of our country and the priorities facing our nation.

First of all, the voting:

They are really struck by the youthfulness of Barack Obama and that appeals to them. It also is a surprise to them that we have never had a woman run for president. Or maybe it is shock. The girls, in particular, seem to connect with the concept of Clinton and it makes me wonder, regardless of her politics and chances of winning, if she isn’t making a substantial impact on young women right now just by being in the race and having a powerful voice.

McCain has appeal because of his time in the military and they know that he was a POW and they believe that gives him some fortitude in leadership.

I then asked them to consider which issues are most important to them:

I thought for sure that the environment was going to win but the war continues to be a focus. We live near an Air Force Base and there are a number of families with relatives in Iraq, so the war and its impact is very close to home for many of my students.

Then, I wondered if they thought they should have the right to vote.

I guess the graph says it all.

Peace (in politics),
Kevin

PowerPoint as Movie

In the spring, my students will once again be creating digital picture books, using Powerpoint as a platform for creation. In the past, I have grappled with how best to present the final products in multiple forms — as a slideshow, as a PDF and on paper. I wanted to make them into videos, too, but couldn’t quite figure it out.

I took the plunge this weekend and purchased some software from Wondershare that does take Powerpoint and converts it into a video, complete with animation and voice left in. It’s not so bad and I am thinking of how I can try to experiment with this in my classroom before the picture book unit rolls around.

Here is a book that I made last year:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8690927707479293668" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Here are a few of the stories from students from last year:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=6898363634712354140" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-1300180233155542124" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

I wish the audio were better quality but PP does a terrible job with audio, I have found.

Peace (in PP),
Kevin

CyberSurvey 2008, part two

 

Yesterday, I shared out some of the results of a survey that I gave to my sixth graders. Today, I am sharing out some of the comments they added for two questions:

First, if they said that schools should teach them how to use technology to connect with other students, then I asked them to write why that is important to them.

Here are some of their comments:

  • Yes and only if the teachers teach you to be very careful on how and what your saying to interact with friends online, and if someone you don’t recognize thats trying to communicate with you,you should just tell a parent or teacher you trust. Also never, ever give out personal information!
  • Yes, because it good to know how to communicate with each and other. It is also become very common and it would be helpful if you were taught about it.
  • I would like it because,when you grow up to get a job.The owner would see ask you if you know alot about technology.That is why teachers should teach kids how to type and read!
  • I think that because we should now properly how to communicate with others so that if there was ever an emergency and you did not have a phone you would have to be able to get in touch with somebody fast and I don’t really now how to do that and I’m sure that most other people do not now how to get in touch in other people. Like my grandparents. They have a phone but if they did not and one of them had a heart attack the other would not now what to do.
  • I think yes because teachers can teach us how to start IMing and emailing and teach us not to trust or talk to people you do not know.
  • sometimes kids don’t have computers and need to learn how to write to others. they also might not have the best handwriting. That’s why I think schools should teach how to write on computers.
  • Yes, it would give kids more introduction to what happens on the internet.
  • If the teacher teached us how to use technology for communicating we could what to do and it would help with social skills. I also think we should learn other technology also because technology can be very important. Me myself would like to have a class that could learn about things like video making and editing because it is important to me.

Second, I asked them envision a classroom of the future (Always an interesting question to pose to students).

Here are some of their thoughts:

  • There should belarge computers with a 300 gb hardrive and memor
  • I think they’ll have a tiny computer that teaches them everything. Everything will be used in technology.
  • Robots as techers and mini laptops
  • I think that they will have laptops on every desk, and high tech stuff to use because later 30 years from now if people now are good with technology they should be wicked good with using it 30 years from now.
  • Mind reading pencils
  • I think that they will be using computers that wrote down what they wanted to write. It would a be voice activated computer. I know that they have them now but, they have not reached the schools quite yet. Also they would have these robots that do the homework for the kids.
  • No keyboards, faster use, no lag, more information, and easier to learn
  • High powered scooters — 2 min school with thinking helmets — and better food
  • Super-high tech computers, with almost immediate signal. I also think that Apple(Macintosh computers) will be more advanced and more popular.

Interesting, eh?

Peace (says the robotic teacher),
Kevin

My own little CyberSurvey 2008, part one

Usually, once a year, I try to give an online survey (using Survey Monkey) to my sixth graders to get a sense of how they are using technology and how they perceive technology and education. The first seven questions that I posed to my students were itemized and the last two questions were short answers.

Tomorrow, I will share some of the short answer responses, but here are the results from the first seven questions:

I find it interesting that so many consider themselves “advanced” in using technology tools; that video and music are at the heart of how they are using technology (it must be at home); that a good majority of them enjoy writing (yeah!); that so many think the use of the computer as a tool allows them to be a better writer (although I did not define what I meant by “better” so it may be a bit unclear if I am talking about content or proofreading); and that so many want to learn more about interacting with others via technology.

Peace (in unofficial data),

Kevin

Wow! Two Weeks of Tech with Students

My sixth grade students and I have been totally immersed in technology these past two weeks but it hadn’t really dawned on me how much until I had a moment to reflect. So, here is a quick recap of the past two weeks:

  • We used our class weblog — The Electronic Pencil — to post their short stories that were inspired by the picture book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. We worked on the laptops for a few days, editing stories and using the computer for writing. The blog was our publishing venue and about 20 students sent their stories into a contest being sponsored by Van Allsburg in which students use Harris Burdick for inspiration.
  • We used the comic creating site (thanks, Bonnie) Make Beliefs Comics to create comic strips around the theme of the PeaceBuilder’s Pledge. Our school is part of the PeaceBuilder network, which is built around positive social interaction among students. We then took their comics and created a website (using Google Page Creator and Flickr) that we shared with the rest of our school. Incidentally, I used the Make Beliefs Comic site in a workshop that I gave around technology and writing across the curriculum, and the roomful of teachers were having the time of their lives.
  • We went to our Youth Radio site and tried to listen to some of the programs there, but our wireless network was being a bit funky so only a few students got to post comments. We need a return visit. Soon.
  • We began to create avatars that I hope they will use for a future project. We used two sites — Portrait Illustrator and Lego Mini-Mizer. The Lego site was easier to use but harder to save. The Portrait site was harder to use but easier to save. Go figure.
  • We used a wiki to build a collaborative dictionary of made-up words (we are studying the origins of the English Language) that now has invented words from the past four years. The Crazy Dictionary now has close to 300 words from my sixth graders and they use the wiki to add their own. That blows me away and gives them quite a thrill to know they are contributing to a “living” document in a virtual world. This is the site for just this year’s words.
  • We did podcasting, as they recorded their invented words and definitions. The audio files were then attached to the entries at the wiki, giving a new dimension to the dictionary. A couple of favorites:
    • Toxf – The act of growing a sixth toe on your left foot! Listen
    • Zwig– An orange ostrich, wearing a pink tutu and eating a frozen mash potato TV dinner. Listen
    • Jujuba— A giant piece of bacon used as a weapon. Listen
  • They were also creating their own music loop songs, with my Super Duper Music Looper program, and they loved it!
  • Next week: I want to begin to teach them how to build their own websites and I just need to find the right tool. (Anyone have suggestions?)

Peace (in the classroom),
Kevin

The Puppet Show Website

Yesterday, I wrote about my investigation into video, particularly as it pertains to sharing and showcasing student work with families via the Web. (In this most recent case, it is puppets. But later in the year, it will be claymation and animation and other projects). The following website is the result of that exploration. I would appreciate any feedback you may have, since I have only been able to view it from my home desktop computer.

Head to the Norris Puppet Show Website

Peace (in the world, please),
Kevin

My Long Journey into Video Streaming

Just over a year ago, I decided to try to move deeper into the convergence of video and the web (see the Collaborative ABC Project for one aspect of that investigation). When doing class projects with students, I have often burned the videos onto DVD (time-consuming when you have 80 students) and worked to share them via our class websites and weblogs (yes, we have a school website and two different blogs — one for daily homework assignments and one for showcasing work from my writing class). In doing so, I have relied on either YouTube (although almost never) and GoogleVideo (more commonly) or TeacherTube (sporadically). My concern is always the links that bring my students eyeballs to inappropriate places. (With TeacherTube, it is has been a frustration with the buffering time).

So, after filming 24 different puppet shows last week and wanting to share the videos with both students (they never get to see their own shows as they are behind the puppet theater) and their families, I decided that I wanted to find a way to host the videos and stream them myself. This way, I have complete control.

It hasn’t been easy, partly due to my own lack of knowledge about web hosting and video conversion, etc. But I think my perseverance has paid off.

Here is my journey:

First, I took videos of the 24 puppets shows on my digital camcorder, and then used MovieMaker to create small versions with titles. But the files are still huge and really not in any state to embed in websites. One thing you learn quickly about video is how huge the files are going to be if you want any sort of quality.

So, I posted a query to the Classroom 2.0 Ning Community, asking about advice, and some folks were very helpful. It was here that I began to realize that I needed to convert my movie files into a flash or Shockwave format. This makes for better streaming. I experimented with YouConvertIt and it worked but it was slow. So I bought a video conversion program called SoThink video encoder, which is very flexible and allows for converting videos to different kinds of formats. Thus began much experimenting about size of files to be created and formats. I went through a whole process of creating flash movies before I realized that shockwave is better for streaming (I am trying to cut back on the buffering as much as possible).

After converting all of the files to a SWF format (shockwave), I then thought about how to host the files. At Classroom 2.0, some folks suggested using my school server (not an option for me for both space reasons and for access reasons). I tinkered with using my Box.Net account, where I host my podcasts and store important files as a backup, and that worked but it ate up a lot of my alloted space. So I turned to a video hosting site called 4Shared Video and paid for a Silver account that allows you to embed video that you have in your account.

puppet1 (7)

So, after many hours of uploading the videos, I now had to figure out how to embed the files. I used Google Search and came upon a site called (ahem) Free Video Codes that will generate html code for embedding video files being hosted elsewhere. It was very handy and easy to use.

So now I had my videos stored somewhere, and I had the code to embed, and now what? I needed a way to showcase the movies. I tried out a variety of different things. I embedded some of the videos into my school homepage but found the buffering of multiple videos just too much. Someone at Classroom 2.0 suggested using my Wikispaces site, and I did try that but found it wasn’t what I wanted.

Once again, I turned to Google again. If you have a gmail account, you have access to something to Google Page Creator, which allows you to create websites under the Google umbrella. I realized that the site now allows you to set up multiple domains, which is nice since I could not establish a website just for the puppet shows. I then created a title page, with links to an individual page for each movie. So the entire site is now 25 pages.

puppet1 (3)

I know some students and families are going to want a copy of the puppet show videos, and I am in no mood to burn DVDs. So, what I did now was uploaded the video files into my Box.Net account, made a download link, and placed that link below each of the movies on the websites. Now kids and families can watch the movies on the web and download their own versions.

Tomorrow, I will share the actual Puppet Play Website.

I suppose that is enough informationfor now, but I hope it will help others who may be thinking along the same lines as me and want to know a path to showcasing student videos without the use of a hosting source. (Of course, you could just use YouTube or GoogleVid or TeacherTube and make things easier for yourself).

Peace (in puppets),
Kevin

Testing Video

I am going to write more about this later this week but I have been on a self-exploratory mission to learn more about embedding video without the use of Google or YouTube or TeacherTube, etc.

It has to do with showcasing puppet shows for families and not wanting to have any external links, and fast buffering (we have wireless in our school and if I have 20 students viewing puppet shows, I need a quick buffer).

So here is a test:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.box.net/shared/static/fs58j88g88.swf" width="350" height="300" wmode="transparent" /]

Kevin

A Podcasting Gift to Students

I normally don’t give out class presents. I figure that my presence and energy each and every day is enough (hopefully) of a gift to my students. They work hard, and I work hard, and we all have fun. This year, however, as I was sharing some of my podcast work with the sixth graders at this blog, a friend suggested that I burn the audio files onto a CD for families who might not have access to the classroom blog where the podcasts are shared.

What a great idea, and so I went ahead, and burned each of my homeroom students (20 of ’em) a copy of their voices, with a quick intro and outro from me, and then used some new CD package software to create CD covers for them.

It didn’t take much time and I believe it will be most appreciated by the parents and students.

Peace (in sharing voices),
Kevin

The Puppets! The Puppets!

Each December is puppet creation and theater writing for my sixth graders, and it is always a flurry of panic (we perform for younger kids this week!!) as time runs out, scripts are completed and puppets are constructed. I usually try to film the puppet shows for the web (and will try this week) but until then, I created this little video so that parents can get a glimpse of what we are doing.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-2300864688933673392" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

(I taught a group of my students how to use my Super Dooper Music Looper software and then I asked them to create the soundtrack for the video)

You can also access a few of the scripts as PDF files (all plays revolve around an invented holiday):

Peace (in puppets),
Kevin