Why Use Tech: Composition Considerations

In a few weeksl, I am heading to Nashville for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and I am taking part in a workshop about writing in the digital age. (Here is my slide presentation using SlideShare — a new favorite) I will discuss a Digital Math Picture Book Project that I did with my sixth graders last year that used Powerpoint as the platform.

But the question is: Why use the computers to compose a picture book? Why not just stick to paper and pen?

Here are my thoughts:

One guiding question that I went into this math picture book project with was, how will the composing process change for my sixth graders as they create picture books using technology (Powerpoint) as opposed to previous years when it was all paper and pen? They had to write a story that taught a math theme to an audience of younger students.

First of all, the planning did not change much at all. We still did all of the brainstorming work and storyboarding on paper before the computers were even turned on. But early in the process, some students began to think about the various aspects of PP (images that can move in and off the screen and transitions and the integration of audio) as possible ideas for complementing their writing. (They had been introduced to PP earlier in the year). They also had to integrate their own art into the picture books — they could scan in images they drew or they could use Paint and then import. (Most of them used Paint, although that was a struggle for some).

The result was an interesting combination of old and new for my students.

Some composed “shows” that allowed the reader to listen for clues to math problems embedded within the story. Once the reader has some ideas of an answer to the question, they could use the mouse click to “remove” a picture and reveal the answer. Sometimes, the audio file was merely a word of encouragement and sometimes the audio was a narration of the story. We invited younger grades (mostly k-3) to our classrooms and set up computer stations. My students then not only shared their work but they also explained to the younger ones how they made their books on the computer and how the tricks were accomplished (such as moving images). Some made changes to the books after getting a reaction from one round of readers. Unlike paper, they could make changes immediately and in a few minutes time.

We did not go into hyperlinking to other pages in the book or outside of the books but that is something that might provide an even more powerful platform for extending their knowledge base (and the reader’s base of understanding) from the local (their book) to the global (the world).

The final step was publication. We actually printed out two paper copies of every book (one for the student and one for the school) and then I converted the books to PDF and posted to our Weblog site for families to view. (There were too many and they were just too large to post as PP shows but that would be have been ideal). What happened, of course, is that I had to flatten everything out to two-dimensional space, which meant that the audio files were deleted and any hidden answers had to be revealed or else they would be missing from the printed page, which led to an interesting discussion about the differences between composition on paper and composition on powerpoint. Many of the writers were disappointed but I encouraged them to bring in a blank disc or flashdrive to save their shows as originals, and some did just that.


Peace,
Kevin

Peace Posters: A Student Audiocast

This was originally posted to a new project I am starting called Youth Radio that seeks to connect upper elementary/middle school students via audiocasts.

The Peace Poster Project: Celebrating Peace in the World
Listen to the Audiocast

peaceposter1.JPG

Students in Southampton, Massachusetts, have been working on creating Peace Posters. The project is supported by the local Lion’s Club as a way to foster understanding of peace in the world through artistic expression.
Sixth Grader Kathryn takes you on an audio tour of the art classroom, asking these young people to explain the themes and symbols in their posters. Listen in as the students think about the meaning of a peaceful world.

Peace (really),
Kevin

Action! Adventure! Illustrations!

My sixth grade students just completed a short story project using the adventure story genre to put some characters through a typical plot arc (intro-risingaction-climax-fallingaction-resolution) and we pulled out the laptops the other day to create some illustration in Paint. I wanted them to get more comfortable with the program, as we will use it later this year. Then, I moved them to Flickr for a slideshow so that parents and family members at home could see what we were doing in class that day.

View the slideshow of illustrations b1

Peace,
Kevin

NetDay SpeakUp

I am continuing to find ways to not only introduce technology and writing to my sixth grade students, but also to engage them in some critical thinking. For example, the other day, I showed them a funny mashed-up photo circulating the ‘net, and then we discussed Photoshop and how nothing is quite what it seems in the wired world.

So I am interested in this project called NetDay, which seeks to gauge student understanding and knowledge of the digital world as a collective research project in the month of November. Here is an overview of guiding questions the group hopes the data can help us answer:

  • WHO are today’s students?
  • HOW are your schools supporting the teaching and learning of 21st century skills?
  • WHERE are students and teachers accessing technology and learning technology skills?
  • HOW are teachers using technology for professional activities, both for teaching and for their own learning?
  • WHAT are students’ ideas and concerns about technology use for their education?
  • WHAT are teacher’s ideas and concerns about technology use and their professional goals?
  • WHAT are parent’s ideas and concerns about technology use and their children’s education?

from http://www.netday.org/speakup/

There is also an invite to have parents participante in the surveys. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare data from parents to data from students?

Speak Up logo

Peace,
Kevin

Culture Projects

Each year, my homeroom class works in small groups to create a new culture or civilization as a way to learn about teamwork and ways that people can come together.
The students invent a language, some sports or games, and brainstorm ways their culture could be defended. They create posters and PowerPoint slide shows to present their information to the class.
Follow the links below (or click on the posters) to view the slide shows.


The Cagbmimins

The Hotheads


Purple Dragon Warlords

Purple People Eaters

The Skitzfizzlians

Soccer! Rockers

Peace,
Kevin

Considering Elgg

Last week, I joined an online conversation with folks through Teachers Teaching Teachers that explores the convergence of technology and teaching in its many varied forms. I have been curious about the concept of Elgg communities and jumped into the conversation with some questions (for my own benefit and for my wife, who is a high school teacher). As far as I can tell, Elgg offers the possibility of a safe online community that links members together through shared interested and through related “tags” that they create in their profile. It mirrors Facebook and MySpace, but without the advertising and mess of those sites. Dave Tosh provides a good overview of Elgg at his site.
You can listen to the podcast of that conference through the Teachers Teaching Teachers site. Or you can find that link here:

microphone Listen to the podcast

Meanwhile, I notice that the authors of one of my favorite blog sites — Bud the Teacher — is posing his own inquiries into Elgg, so I hope to follow along that conversation, too. And I have joined a teacher Elgg, too, just to tour around and get familiar with the tools that are there.

Peace,
Kevin

Student Biopoems: Creating a Class Community

The first writing project for my sixth grade this year is a BioPoem in which our young writers create an 11-line poem about themselves based on a series of prompts that explore emotions, fears and family.
To move beyond the personal and more towards a community of writers, we created Class Audio Biopoems in which each student contributed one line from their poem.
Take a listen:

Peace,
Kevin

Touring the Museum of Museums

Some days, you just stumble across a very neat idea and have to share it with other people, you know? Someone fed me this link to the Museum of Museums through a Delicious account and I was hooked.

This Museum of Museums collects links to the sites of any variety of museums from around the world, with the very ambitious idea of linking every single museum together for one mass site of collective knowledge. (It’s nice to have reasonable goals, I suppose). Art galleries, dinosaurs, music and any other topic that you can think of is someone’s museum obsession and can be found within the categories of this site. You can even view the Museum of Bad Art, if that is more to your taste.

And then, there are those virtual museums — the places that don’t exist in the real world and yet, are repositories of information. For example, there is a museum for toaster ovens, if that is your thing. And the Museum of Talking Boards (meaning: Ouiji) that can raise some goosebumps on people.

I can envision some neat virtual field trips from my classroom, with links and reactions and descriptions right from the class Weblog site.

Peace,
Kevin

The Power of Voice: Student Narratives

The connections between writing and voice is an interesting one, particularly in this age of podcasts and audiocasts across distance and time, and I know that my NWP colleague Chris S. in Utah has been very much into capturing the voices of his students and researching the ways that voice can influence and enhance writing.

Last year, my students were part of a Cyberpal exchange with some students at Jefferson Junior High School in Washington DC (through another NWP partnership with Maria) and they shared some of their own personal narrative writing via an audiocast.

Students wrote a short personal narrative piece that focused on an object that represented some memories. Take a listen:

Peace,
Kevin

Student Voices: A Falling Leaf

Listen to sixth graders read their stories.

Today in my Sixth Grade Writing Workshop, students learned a bit about point of view narrative techniques in writing.

  • First Person Narrative: stories told from the view of a character.
  • Third Person Narrative: stories told from a perspective outside of a particular character
  • Second Person Narrative: stories that insert the reader into the story.

Students then wrote in a First Person Narrative style that captured a leaf falling from a tree in Autumn. Some of those young writers, after sharing their writing with the class, agreed to help create this audiocast.

Peace,
Kevin