In this first week of school, I try to get my students on the laptops at our school and introduce them to some simple programs: MS Paint and MS Publisher. These are two applications we will use more in the school year. We work on a writing prompt in which they design a vehicle of the future, and the move to the computer to use Paint to draw it and then Publisher to create an advertising flier. I grabbed some of their illustrations this year for a short movie:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=415531743774331741" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]
You can also view two of the ads:
Peace (in exploration),
I came upon an interesting article in Wired Magazine about something called Creative Crowdwriting and it involves writing a novel by opening up the publication to the entire world to add to, edit and alter. The platform is often a wiki and the response to such endeavors is mixed — some see it as nothing more than unstructured mayhem while others tout it as an ideal product of collaboration.
Here are two of the “novels” that the article cites:
This concept is similar to the one I have used with wikis and collaborative storywriting, in which I invite a set audience (usually my students but sometimes my teaching/professional colleagues) to add to a developing story via a wiki. The results have always been interesting but the product is less the goal than the collaboration, I think. I am not sure more brains have made the stories any better.
Here are two of my collaborative wiki stories:
But here is an application of this concept that I would like to try with students with wikis and collaboration — creating Make Your Own Ending Stories via a wiki site and I might try that this year.
Peace (in wikis),
I’ve been busy getting myself and my students situated in Week Two but that hasn’t stopped us from creating a podcast for our class Weblog site. The podcast emerged from a writing prompt on Sept. 11, in which we talked about the impact of change on the world from a negative standpoint and a positive standpoint. We brainstormed ways in which the world needs some help and then they wrote briefly about how they would change the world, if they could.
They did a fantastic job and enjoyed hearing their podcasts the next day (and parents have remarked on the wonder of listening in to the work of the classroom)
You can listen, too:
Peace (with the power to change),
Although we, as teachers, were back in school last week, today is the first day for our students to return and I am antsy and nervous/excited as always. I already know some of my students from my role as Student Council advisor and through a claymation summer camp that some of them took with me in July. But still …
I have a few goals for this year:
- Continue with Youth Radio podcast site (I was interviewed by a writer from The Reading Teacher journal about the project this weekend, so that is pretty exciting to get some recognition on that level)
- I want to try to use a Wiki for kids to create a Make Your Own Ending story, allowing them to map out and craft a story that jumps from wiki page. Still working on the thinking of that one.
- Since I have moved blogging platforms (from Manila to Edublogs) for my classroom site, I want to try to use the blog even more with my students as writers. I think I will miss the ability to thread discussion but will enjoy the ease of use. We’ll see how the students react to blogging. I intend to try a simple activity this week after an introduction to what a blog is and how you use it, and what responsibilities students have as bloggers.
- We are being required to pump more math into the heads of our students this year and I would like to find some ways to use technology for projects that support the math curriculum at our school.
Peace (with prospects),
I think my transformation from the old Manila blog platform to Edublogs (wordpress) is complete now that I have set up a classroom blog for my incoming sixth graders. I even added a cute little fishbowl widget to the site. In my annual letter of welcome, I have encouraged my students to post a quick hello message to our writing community (and asked parents to visit, too), and this morning, I moderated the first three student posts.
It’s nice to have everything on one platform and I continue to love Edublogs for all of its options and security and simplicity. I have written before about my move away from Manila for all of our sites at the Western Mass Writing Project, but I still had my classroom site out there. This makes the transformation complete.
Peace (with new platforms),
I have written before about a book I am co-editing that profiles teachers from k-college as they begin to study, think about and explain how technology is slowly changing the way they teach writing and the way their students are writing. We are focusing in on how teachers are assessing such tech-flavored writing in light of state and national standards, too.
And I need to write my chapter on the digital science book project that my students worked on this past spring, so this weekend — thanks to Western Mass Writing Project and National Writing Project — I am heading to the beaches of Connecticut for a writing retreat for other teachers in our network who want to write for professional publication and I hope to get much of my chapter written. Ambitious? Yes, but much of the chapter is unfolding in my head during the days when I am not writing. I just need to capture it.
I am looking forward to a Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon writing-and-nothing-but-writing (except for some walks along the beach and a few beers at night) getaway.
On a related note, I was rummaging through my computer and stumbled upon this old PP show that I did in my Summer Institute for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project about the uses of picture books in the upper elementary classroom. This was a research question that I pursued that summer and then presented to the rest of the SI folks. Some of the information is still helpful as I think about my chapter.
So I uploaded it to Slideshare for more sharing.
Peace (in pictures),
Towards the end of the year — as part of my digital book project — I had my sixth grade students take a final survey and one of my questions: What do you think books will look like in the future?
Here are some of their answers:
- I think books in the future will have people popping out of the pages and talking like a mini-play. In the future, you will not even have to read the books, just listen to them.
- I think they will be little squares that will be digital and project visual images
- Books will be holographic.
- Books will be high-tech and cool, and a printed out copy will have special effects.
- I think books will still be on paper but they will have videos and sounds in them. They will be more high-tech. They will have clear, beautiful pictures and videos of what is actually happening at that moment. And they will have the feelings that people have (example: If the book says, she felt the cold wind on her face, then a chilly wind would come out of the book).
- In the future, you will read books from the computer. I think this because it would save paper and would add cool effects to the stories to make you want to read them.
- I think that in the future, there will still be paper but many books will be digital. I think that the digital book will be very interactive and voice-activated, with movie clips, sound effects, movement and even hyperlinks to different endings.
- In the future, I think books will become automatic. They will have a special speaker inside that will tell you the story.
What strikes me is that so many of these comments suggest a passive reader, and I would hope that a push towards technology integration would allow the reader a larger role into the storytelling (for example: rearrange the story, or add a character, or find a way to alter the shape of the story arc).
Peace (in pages of the book),
Last week marked the first of two claymation-animation summer camp programs that I am teaching (next week, with my wife) and I decided I needed to write down and record what I was doing each day for future reference. I will need to go back later and do some more details but I am sharing my overall plan for four days of working with middle school students.
Here is the summer camp plan
I created this document with Google Page Creator — a not-so-fancy but easy-to-use part of the Google Suite of Internet Dominance.
Peace (with clay),
I have been running a claymation animation summer camp this week for middle school students (mostly fifth and sixth graders) as a new experiment (and more next week). Kids have been using Pivot Stickman, MovieMaker, Stop-Motion Animator and other tools to create mini-movies. I am working on writing up my curriculum (for myself and for anyone else who is interested) and will share that later.
I have a blog up and running so that parents can view some of the daily work (the blog is at http://masswp.org/claycamp/) and the final movies (with a sci-fi theme) are being worked on right now and we are inviting parents in tomorrow to view the showcase premieres.
Also, I have used TeacherTube for sharing videos because it is quite easy to use and seems to be a safe way to share video without any qualms about kids wandering around to different, inappropriate links.
But here are a few of the creations so far:
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.
Peace (in the hot classroom),
June brought some really wonderful news to our school. My good friend and collaborator on claymation/movie projects — Mike Flynn — was awarded the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year designation for 2007. Mike is a wonderful second grade teacher whose emphasis on hands-on learning, project-based explorations and embedded mathematics certainly puts him in a top tier of teachers I know.
For the past three years, his second graders and my sixth graders have worked together on claymation movies and it has been a pleasure to develop the project with Mike. He is insightful, flexible and moves towards recognition of the abilities of all the children in his room. Last year, Mike also joined me in presenting a workshop on moviemaking in the classroom at our Technology, Teaching and Writing Conference at UMass (sponsored in part by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project).
He is also a talented musician and he and I have played together as part of an old band of his and he has brought his talents to the stage at our school when I have helped our Student Council organize concerts for Katrina victims and the Asian tsunami disaster. Like me, he finds creative refuge in writing songs.
Mike deserves all of the accolades and is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year (where do I cram the ballot boxes?).
Peace (in celebration),