Summer Challenges are Back!

For students visiting my blog this summer, you will find the challenges on a separate page.  At the top of the blog, click on the Summer Challenges page.  I will post challenges periodically when I come across something interesting. Post a comment to answer the challenge. Remember to use only your FIRST NAME and the name of the teacher you had last year.  The first person to post the correct answer will receive a raquetball when we return to school in August. Good luck and have a GREAT SUMMER!

If You Teach Them, They Will Learn

Social Media.
That is what has been running through my mind the last week or so.  I’ve been contemplating whether Intermediate students (ages 8 to 11 year olds) are ready for social media.  I have recently had some of my students want to “friend” me on Facebook, so it is obvious that at least some of the parents of these students believe they are ready.   My hesitation comes from seeing their behavior when allowed to participate on a social media network like Edmodo or in a chat room like Todays Meet.  It is like they really do not know how to have a conversation using the computer as a tool.  When I had my 5th graders sign up for Edmodo, I had to set some ground rules to keep them from typing incoherent junk.  When we used Todays Meet to run a back channel, I had several opportunities to stop and explain the effects of cyberbullying and the importance of thinking twice before posting anything. Several unkind sentences were posted.  I know they were meant in a joking way, but social media is at least to some extent a public forum, and some people who read the post may not understand the intent.  I know from the many blogs I read, there is a controversy over whether students should have access to these kinds of opportunities and challenges.  My question is, how else are they going to learn proper social etiquette and the consequences of improper social etiquette unless they are given opportunities in a “controlled environment”?  I see a hunger in my students to have these opportunities.  They constantly ask me if they have access to this at home. They have a desire to participate in this type of communication.  I believe it is my responsibility to teach them what proper use of social media looks like.  On a final note, I ran across this post called “10Things Your Grandmother Can Teach You About Social Media“, by Eric Fulwiler.  I have copied it here:

Social media isn’t something we have to learn. We just have to apply what we already know to a new social environment. The same personal qualities and social skills that you (hopefully) learned growing up are what will make you successful at social media. Here are 10 things an older relative probably told you at some point that you can apply to social media.

  1. Mind your manners. Social media is still social. Even though we are interacting in a virtual space, the same traditional social rules, laws, and faux pas still apply. If you act like a jerk, don’t expect many friends.
  2. Tuck in your shirt. How you present yourself is just as important in the virtual world as it is in the real world. Make sure you are always aware of how you appear to others.
  3. Send a thank you card. People still appreciate being appreciated. It really doesn’t take much to convert an acquaintance to a friend, which will offer exponentially more value. A simple thank you, or any genuinely human interaction of gratitude goes a long way towards this goal.
  4. Keep your elbows off the table. Acting respectfully in front of others proves that you value them, which will usually make them value you more. And in social media, it’s all about value.
  5. Turn your music down. Don’t contribute to the noise. Listen to whatever you want in your own personal space, but when your personal preferences start to become a distraction to others, people will tune you out.
  6. Finish what you started. Any way you look at it, engagement is a commitment. When you make an effort to become part of a community, it’s not only up to you when or how often you interact with other members. If you put yourself out there as a friend, be prepared to be there when people reach out to you.
  7. Finish your vegetables. There are some aspects of social media that aren’t sexy. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important to your growth and health. Make sure you are keeping up with the essentials, and not just chasing that buzz you get from a social sugar high.
  8. Whatever happened to a good old fashioned…? Sometimes all these new gadgets and thingamabobs aren’t as important or effective as we make them out to be. Sometimes a good old fashioned email, phone call, or even in person “get-together” can accomplish things that social media can’t.
  9. A man is only as good as his word. The currency of social media is trust (or social capital). And if people can’t trust you, you have no value to them.
  10. Think twice before you speak. You can always say something, but you can never take it back. Especially in social media where everything you say can be heard by anyone, forever, there are just too many “finites” to not reconsider everything you say before you say it.

Our AMAZING Planet!

Planet Earth

Planet Earth

This week will be a “testy” week. The 3rd and 4th graders are scheduled to take the Math and Reading TAKS test on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the 5th graders will be taking the Science TAKS test on Thursday. That means I will not have some classes in the computer lab this week. I have been trying to decide what I should do with the classes that come to me on Monday and Friday. I downloaded the Planet Earth video “Pole to Pole” for free last weekend in my iTunes account. I received information about the free download from the most useful blog I follow: FreeTech4Teachers. It is 48 minutes of unbelievable videography! I am going to have my students bring their laptops to the floor in front of the projector and let them make comments using Today’s Meet.  This will be similar to running a backchannel and will be a new experience for us.

Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day April 22nd, the fourth and fifth graders have been interacting with the activities at the Environmental Education for Kids (EEK!) website to challenge them to think about habits they can adopt to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Each of the ten classes posted their ideas on a wallwisher wall. Their walls are included on the glogster poster below. We would love to hear your ideas, too.

Famous People of Texas

The 4th grade classes have been researching people who contributed to Texas history. Each of the five classes drew one of twenty names to research. They searched the internet to find the date of birth, date of death, why the person was important to Texas history, and a graphic or two. Using Apple Keynote, they typed their information on individual slides and screen captured the slide. Using Animoto, they uploaded their screen captured information and chose from a variety of music. A representative sample of their animotos are included on the glogster poster below.

Making the Lab Interactive

An exciting change happened to the computer lab over spring break. Using a wii remote I brought from home, an infrared light pen I purchased off the internet, and free software I downloaded from Johnny Chung Lee’s website, I now have an interactive board to use with the students in the lab. I also purchased a pole and clamp from Penteractive to suspend the wii remote from the ceiling, although that is optional. You will need a computer with blue tooth capabilities and a projector. The fifth graders have been reviewing math vocabulary for two and three dimensional shapes by visiting the interactive websites hosted at The View (Virtual Intermediate Education at White Oak) which are our moodle lessons. You can preview the sites by logging in to our moodle environment by using the username: woteacher, password: woteacher. Watch the video below to see how easy it is to convert your board to be interactive.

See Our Doodles 4 Google!

Sixty-Seven!!! That is the number of doodles I received for the Doodle for Google contest that ended today. Each school that registered with Google was allowed to submit up to six doodles. The judges will name two winners from each age category (K-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th, 10th-12th) for each state. The expert judges will then determine one finalist from each category for each of ten regions. The doodles of the 40 regional finalists will be displayed on the website where the public will vote on the doodle in each category that best reflected the theme: “If I Could Do Anything, I Would…” The 40 finalists will also be invited to an awards ceremony in New York City at Google headquarters on May 26, 2010 where the four national finalists will be announced (one per age group). One grand prize winner will also be announced.

I am very proud of each student who chose to submit an entry for this contest. Your doodle is on display in the slideshow below and on the wall outside the computer lab. You will also be able to proudly display your doodle on your shirt or backpack, because I am making it in to a 3 inch button for you to wear or display.

You may be wondering which six doodles made their way to the desk of the judges at Google headquarters. Watch the slideshow and tell me in the comments (remember, no last name) below which six you would have chosen and why. In the meantime, I’m really hoping one of our students will be getting notified soon to make plans to head north to New York!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: