While attending the recent CEESA Conference here in Prague, I was inspired by several presentations and during discussions about using iPads as book logs and for reading reflections. My class has access to 12 iPads once or twice a week with use of my own iPad throughout the day. I decided to introduce 3 iPad apps to my readers that they can use to reflect on books read and for a prewriting activity.
Morfo was used to take a photo of a character and then record your voice speaking as that character telling others about him/herself. When using books without a useful illustration, the reader can draw their own portrait of the character to use. Other applications would be for the reader to share that character’s point of view regarding an event or another character.
We used PicCollage to insert book images and text telling about the book. Like with Morfo, if illustrations are not available original drawings or images could be used. Here is a sample by Philip:
Finally, my writers used Popplet to create a story web before beginning their original realistic fiction stories. These web files were emailed to me when completed and I saved and dropped them into their Google folders so they could refer to them when writing their first drafts. Below is one example:
- Ongoing sharing and reflecting on the quality of book and character reflections to improve communication and thoughtful reflection
- Where to post reflections so the readers and writers have an audience for sharing their ideas and original work?
- Create a class list of ideas to apply these apps to other areas of learning and sharing
So my learners log each book they read, and we reflect on the genres and levels of their book choices in conference. I can also select a book from the list and ask what they thought of the book and we can discuss opinions, what they found surprising, etc about that story or nonfiction text. I like the book logs, but not all children like keeping them (grade 3) and some still aren’t doing it independently.
A friend in my school who visited a 1:1 iPad primary school recently told me how they used an app that allowed the readers to photo the recently read book cover, record an audio reflection of the book and post it to a class site holding all these books reviews. There was not only a record of their reading and comprehension/views but it served as a place for other readers to listen to reviews to see it they would enjoy reading it. These grade one readers did this easily and independently. Not remembering the app(s) used, this friend said that StoryKit would work nicely for the photo/recording, but how to create a place to share the reviews that is accessible by all?
I like this idea because it’s quicker and less boring than a written list. More importantly, I believe it would prompt the readers to think more deeply during and after reading because they will share with a wider audience than the teacher, their classroom community. If I want to tell a friend about a book, I think about how to communicate my thoughts and feelings about it. I am prepared to explain or elaborate on my opinions.
So here’s what I want:
- an app that allows students to photo and audio record their thinking and questions about a book
- the place to store all the reflections so other readers can go there and scroll through the photos of book covers
- each photo tagged with the reader’s name so I can search that tag and see their digital book log
On Wednesday we connected with Mr. Carpenter’s class from the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. This was our first class-to-class global connection and we shared a bit about Prague and our school and learned about our friends’ school and Jacksonville. Aside from learning about another place in the world, we learned how to:
- organize a “meeting” by choosing and assigning jobs
- how to research and share information and data about Prague and ISP
- organize and record information on a GoogleDoc
- how to speak clearly, listen to others and respond to their comments; how to converse
- how to name 7-digit and larger numbers
- responsibly carry out our individual parts of the group conference
- realize that these calls are conversations and don’t always cover everything we plan
To improve future calls we will:
- Allow students who were not able to participate enough this time to assume more active jobs on the next call
- Allow the researchers to follow their own interests sparked from the conversation, not just as the group requests
- Change 1 of the 2 photographer jobs to a videographer
- Have more than one GoogleDoc recorder- it’s a big job!
We still need to create and add placemarks to our Skype call map and continue to share information with Mr Carpenter’s class on our Google Doc.
Coming in a few weeks, our first Mystery Skype call!
Last year my students compared their thinking about various cultures with students around the world while participating in a project, Read Across the Globe. Part of the project was sharing with other students how our lives in Prague compared with others through Skype video chats.
This week we will connect with a class in the US to compare and contrast our communities. We have been preparing for this connection by practicing listening and speaking skills while reading aloud and commenting on original stories. My students also practiced and then audio recorded their descriptions of a family tradition following a group discussion of ways to make an oral presentation engaging and interesting. This week we will practice proper etiquette when meeting and sharing with a new friend.
Within our current math curriculum we are practicing adding and subtracting multi-digit numbers, and measuring area and perimeter. This has prepared us to understand and compare the land areas and populations of our two cities.
I am grateful to Linda Yollis for sharing her recent experience during a call between her class and Mr Carpenter’s class in Florida, the students we will meet with this week. Also, talking with Silvia and reading her related blog posts is helping me add greater depth to our upcoming conversation. Based on what I’m learning from Linda, Silvia and Seth, I am establishing student Skype jobs. One job will be to record the data from our two schools on a Google Doc so we can compare and contrast the information after the call. Looking ahead, this experience will allow us to communicate and learn more effectively during our Mystery Skype call in December and calls we make throughout the school year.
QuadBlogging is a 4-week experience with 3 other classes around the world. During each of the four weeks, one class blog is designated for viewing and feedback. I used this video to introduce QuadBloging to my students,
First, the audience for the students’ work that is provided is motivating. We occasionally open our blog and read\view and comment on each other’s work. My students have always put a little more effort into something they are creating if they know it will appear on our blog, but it still remains an exchange within our classroom population. We are now writing and creating for other students in Singapore, Japan and Switzerland. Communicating effectively in writing to friends far away is of greater importance when you can’t clarify your thinking face to face. I believe this motivation will linger after our QuadBlogging exchange.
Second, reading the work of others with a purpose of offering constructive feedback later demands that the students read more thoroughly and thoughtfully. We were lucky to be the first class viewed because, from the beginning, students experienced how it felt to receive a great comment. In preparation, we viewed Linda Yollis’s video made by her students showing how to write a quality comment. We made a list on chart paper of things to keep in mind when writing comments and we now review this poster before beginning to write comments. During the second week my students were re-reading their comments to check for the basics of punctuation, spelling and clarity and I no longer have to ask, “Did you proofread?”
Third, making connections and participating with other students adds greater depth to the collaboration. My students read and enjoyed the feedback they received but they also responded to questions posed in the comments to them. I look forward to seeing this unfold through the four weeks and I wonder if friendships between students with common interests will evolve with the continued communication. I knew we were on to something when one student asked during the second week, “Can we check our comments to the kids in Japan to see if they had questions back to us?” Here are a few sample comments to and from my students:
“I have a dog to! HE is named George! He bites a lot! He likes to nibble on my ear!”
“I also like riding horses. I actually fell off a horse and it was scary.”
“When I saw your dot I thought how bright and colorful it is. Your dot makes me feel Cheerful! What colors would you use if you were to make another dot?”
“I liked your story because I have been to Italy but have not been to the Colosseum. It made me laugh when you said that the horses smell. I love to eat spaghetti too but I don’t like cheese.”
“I think your story is great I like the way you describe things in your story. I also like the noises leafs make on the trees. How big was the snake?”
Fourth, You do need to have a class blog to begin, but QuadBlogging is uncomplicated, lasts just 4 weeks and is highly effective. There is little planning and class time needed in relation to the quality and depth of learning for the students.
Fifth, collaboration with the participating teachers is invaluable. This collaboration began with my contact to the Technology Director from one school and I joined as the fourth teacher. In viewing the other class blogs and during our planning to develop this project, I am inspired and gaining new ideas. I have plans to participate in a second QuadBlogging experience beginning in late February with classes in Switzerland, Bangkok and Florida. This collaboration will also be an Action Research led by Silvia Tolisano, focused on increasing student learning and quality of reading/writing in our blogs and collaboration.
I am looking forward to continuing with QuadBlogging for many other reasons, some I have yet to discover. It is a broad and relevant learning opportunity for myself and my students that offers us a view of and voice in the world.
By definition, comment can be defined as “A statement of fact or opinion, especially a remark that expresses a personal reaction or attitude.”
The ability to comment well, whether face to face or in writing is a basic, daily communication skill we can always reflect on and improve. During our literacy practice we work to communicate well through explicit lessons and modeling and in student-to-student reading and writing conferences. As in any classroom, there is a need for ongoing discussion to resolve hurt feelings and slights and to stop and talk about what led up to an incident and how each party contributed to events. In the words of Cool Hand Luke, the problem is usually “failure to communicate.”
During our upcoming global collaboration, Read Across the Globe, we will go outside our classroom and campus to strengthen our literacy and communication skills. Using Edmodo to communicate, students from the US, China, Canada and Prague will work in groups to discuss a self-selected topic and share what they learn about how our geography, climate, religion and customs shape our daily lives. I plan to open the discussion of online, collaborative commenting with an awesome video made by Linda Yollis’ students in California on how to compose quality comments. Actually, the tips in Mrs Yollis’ video are applicable to any written or oral communication.
In two weeks we will greet our new friends using Edmodo and students will be ready to do this based on their experiences in literacy, through interaction during the school day, and from commenting on each other’s writing on our class blog. As I’ve seen in past global class collaborations, sharing with others outside our classroom increases my students’ motivation and efforts to listen and comment more clearly. This experience is an important piece of our literacy and interpersonal daily practice as well as providing an added, relevant opportunity to explore topics related to content area study.
Tags: Collaboration, Global Collaboration
I’ll start with my inspiration for this post, a comment about From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg from one of my grade 3 students:
“Hi Peter.it’s Cole.My favorite character is also Claudia but my favorite part is when they go to the Egyptian exhibit because James asks the tour guide how much did it cost to be a mummy.And after the tour guide tells him her answer Claudia scolds him for drawing attention to himself and she wants to go away but then she sees the next exhibit with all that golden jewelery that also had jewels.I liked the part when Jamie described his sister “as still as the statue of the cat that she was standing next to.”That made me laugh a tiny bit but I still did laugh.I also liked the part when Jamie was trying to make Claudia bored so they could go back to their house so he chose the Italian Renaissance because it sounded important and boring but going their just made his chances of going back home even worse by a lot because his sister saw a statue of such beauty that she wouldn’t leave without knowing who made it but that was something that even baffled the experts.It was something nobody knew but it was also something that lots and lots and lots and lots of people were trying to find out!Any way I think I’m like Claudia because I like mysteries and she likes mysteries.”
And another comment about Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle:
“What I really like is the boy is treating the mouse in a nice way and he lets the mouse out of the trash can and lets him ride the motor bike and he goes really fast as fast as I can ride my bike at full speed and the boy tells the mouse to hold his tale so it does not get stuck in the wheel because it got to hurt if your tale gets stuck in a wheel.”
There were many other comments that showed my students’ thinking and writing about the books they were reading at a higher level than I had seen all year. Here is the story behind one of my best Fridays ever in school- and it was Friday the 13th as well!
Matt McGuire, a teacher in Fredericton, NB, Canada, and I have been collaborating on and off this year. We talked on skype last month throwing around ideas for a simple, end of year collaborative activity and the idea of book group discussions came up. I had used Edmodo last fall for participation in the A Week in the Life elementary pilot Flat Classroom Project and we thought that would be a good place for our students to discuss books together. Edmodo is a closed environment for students to have discussions and submit assignments assigned by the teacher. It’s free, students can be placed in groups and students don’t need an email address to establish an account.
We then compared book titles we had multiple copies of and found a few matching titles and put students into groups based on the book they would be reading. During the first week I shared the idea with Heather in Beijing, a colleague from A Week in the Life and our current online Flat Classroom certified teacher course. She was ready to jump in and found a few copies of each book for her students. We now had “reading groups” of students in Beijing, Canada and Prague.
Starting a little before Matt and Heather, I tried out the assignment feature in Edmodo and gave my students reading assignments based on the first few chapters while also meeting face to face in groups in the classroom. But on Friday morning I announced that they had students from Mr McGuire’s class in Canada and Ms Davis’s class in Beijing and a new discussion prompt to respond to in their group in Edmodo. The room was silent as they read and responded to the prompt. A few students also added comments welcoming the other students to their Edmodo group. At the end of our reading time I started to read their comments and was grinning from ear to ear. Nearly every student wrote reflections from the heart that showed deeper thinking than I had previously seen.
Matt and Heather said they were seeing the same thing in their classrooms. I also shared with our Principal and she was impressed with their comments as well. When she asked one student about the experience later that day, asking how this experience is helping her learning, Nicole replied that she shares ideas with other kids not just in our class and that will give her more ideas. I also told my students after reading many posts how impressed I was with what they shared and asked why sharing in this environment promoted deeper reflection and more thoughtful writing. They said that they liked writing on the laptops more than on stickies and on paper and that having other kids read what they wrote made them more careful and want to share more. There was also an appreciation for Spellcheck expressed.
This is not a grand project or idea. The online sharing environment provides students with a larger audience and more opportunity to share- there is simply not enough time in the school day for everyone to share every day with their book group, and then they are limited to me and the other students in their group as an audience. I also love it because I’m building friendships with Matt and Heather- they inspire me and I can see our collaboration growing in the future as well. Matt and Heather have also added groups to the mix based on other books their students are interested in- books my students are already interested in. I can see this evolving to a more fluid, book-sharing environment that we can start on the first day of school next year based on what we are doing right now.
I would like to reflect on my experience contributing to A Week in the Life, the Flat Classroom elementary pilot project. My students and I found the experience engaging and rewarding as seen in their comments on a previous post. My conclusions about our experience are mainly based on my students’ comments, but I have also reflected on my role as educator related to organization and implementation. Comments below in quotations are from my students.
We don’t often take time for self-reflection regarding the day-to-day aspects of our lives and there were many discussions that arose during guided reading and our Personal Cultures unit of inquiry in order to define and share the daily characteristics of our lives and school day. There was a good deal of brainstorming and organizing thoughts before sharing to prepare for the final project. “We had to choose what to share about what we have in Prague…”
The value of group work, within class and with global partners, was greater due to the need to communicate in order to collaborate on a final project. For example, students learned to attentively read and appropriately respond to team members’ comments and inquiries in the Edmodo chats. Learning that online communication is a productive means to work with others and share ideas, not just for daily chit-chat, was valuable as well.
Through Skype video chats with 2 classes in the US, students learned firsthand about our similarities and differences and time zones. It was also valuable to see the face of a team member who lives across the world. “That I can know how another country is like and I can picture it in my mind (is valuable).”
A relevant need to focus on the history of our host country arose, “We have different holidays, like in the USA you get a day off for Thanksgiving, not in Prague.” When discussing why this was true, students became aware of the differing histories of various countries and they then became more interested in the history of the Czech Republic.
Clearly, students learned valuable online tools to use to communicate by experience. “We could Skype, Edmodo, email, things like that. Oh yeah, and write of course, send pictures, videos.” Communicating in Edmodo was a great opportunity for my students to communicate with others through chat. Many are eager to engage in online social networking and it was a great chance for them to develop positive digital citizenship behaviors.
Personally, I enjoyed connecting with other educators as well as the strategies and tools I learned to use. One of the most valuable lessons was a reminder that learning is messy, particularly when trying new ways of learning for students and teachers alike. As one student wrote, “We are all still learning” and I can only conclude that she is including me in that comment. It was messy at times, but well worth rolling up my sleeves to participate in!
As a pilot project, we were very open-minded, shared ideas and experiences and adjusted the project as we proceeded. In following projects, a stricter adherence to and definition of steps in the process and final project would help me with planning and organization within my regular curriculum. I don’t mean that students should be restricted, but that each final project will contain certain characteristics in order to be successful. I realize it is restrictive to choose one tool for communication and one for presentation and one for file storage, but on the other hand it can become confusing and over-whelming when many tools are shared and examined and considered.
Keep it simple is always a good rule. Adopting tools that are allowed in all countries and perhaps holding a week of “sandbox” exploration for teachers and students to play with and learn how to use the tools before the project begins will be beneficial.
I will also, within groups, assign roles to team members with leadership jobs given to the most experienced students on the team. For example, assigning the roles of taskmaster, recorder, researcher and so on. Roles would be dependent on the nature of the final project and if there were a taskmaster, recorder and researcher from each school within the team it may allow students to bond better across the globe. The organizers would communicate regularly to keep their in-school team members on task and recorders would share and record events from each city/country.
In retrospect, I would have integrated and implemented more IT tool sandbox activities with my students before starting. This will be easier if the project is later in the year and if tools are selected early on in the project. Allowing students to plan and capture images from the start next time will provide more time at the end for creating the final project on their own. I also predict that collecting images earlier will give shape and deeper discussion of the message they hope to communicate throughout the process.
At the start of the project, providing a team get-to-know-you activity for students to participate in, such as a scavenger hunt or experience-sharing grid on a team wiki-page may allow students to connect sooner. Team discussions in Edmodo would also benefit from a clear purpose each week- perhaps set by the team member in the lead role.
If selected to participate the next project this spring, it will be easier to integrate as we will be engaged in our Prague unit of inquiry during that time. One unit focus question is, ‘How do you get to know a place and why bother doing this?’ As we learn about our city and country, participation in the A Week in the Life project will enhance this unit because students will have greater motivation to take note of and share the unique and similar characteristics of Prague. While on field trips, students would keep their team subject and essential questions in mind and capture images that relate to their topic. As well, the team topics would become embedded into unit thinking and reflection throughout the unit.
Yesterday my third grade students and I reviewed our journey during the A Week in the Life project. I then asked them to answer a few questions in writing, and here are their responses:
What did you learn that surprised you?
- I was surprised that there are different things in other countries
- That we can Skype with people half-way around the world.
- That working in groups you get more ideas.
- That kids in the other countries call soccer, soccer.
- Learning to use edmodo
- That working in groups makes more thinking (ideas) than one person
- I didn’t know that we could chat through a website (Edmodo)
- That we actually made a movie and we really saw each other on Skype.
- There are many kinds of clothes and languages
- There are different and common things in each country
- The different homes and transportation
- That we have a lot of things in common
- I was surprised how much brainstorming and using laptops
- I did not know how to use Edmodo
- That we Skyped with some other schools and communicated with each other
- Communicating with partners in other countries
- What I liked best was the brainstorming.
- Skyping with kids in the USA and Edmodo.
- I enjoyed making the video and picking the pictures.
- I liked Skyping the other schools
- Writing all our ideas down
- I enjoyed working with my team and for the project and chatting through Edmodo
- I enjoyed that nobody felt left out
- I enjoyed doing Edmodo
- That I can know how another country is like and I can picture it in my mind
- Learning about different countries
- I enjoyed everything like Edmodo and the videos
- That we got to use laptops a lot
- I enjoyed doing Edmodo.com
- We learned about other kids and countries
What did you find challenging?
- It was a little bit hard to work together with my team because it was hard to decide something.
- Agreeing who gets to do what in my class group.
- When we were finding pictures
- Typing long and short words
- I found that when we had to make a video it had a lot of steps.
- To get pictures and lots of ideas
- We had to choose what to share about what we have in Prague and also we had to type a bunch of information.
- Working with the team
- It was hard to choose the pictures
- I found challenging how we were all going to agree on stuff (within class group)
- Putting similarities and differences in groups (on the wiki)
What do you have in common with students in other schools?
- Most games are the same. The library is a little bit different.
- We all go to schools where the language we speak at the school if English.
- We all have recess and we all wear clothes that look alike.
- We both celebrate birthdays and get presents.
- We learn the same world languages as the school in Maine
- We both have computers, art, music, library, reading, math, writing, and a lot of specials. Most of our specials are the same.
- Computers, no pets in schools, boys and girls, like sports
- We want to know each other and share about our countries with each other.
- Sometimes cars, apartments, trains, buses and many more
- The kids in China were in the Gathering performing like us (regular school assembly and Chinese New Year assembly performances)
- We are all still learning
How is our day to day life different from students in other schools?
- We have different holidays, like in the the USA you get a day off for Thanksgiving , not in Prague.
- The climate is different, the clothes, the houses and the foods.
- Prague doesn’t celebrate Halloween but the USA does.
- Because the environment around us and the students in other schools are different.
- The time zones because when we end, they start
- In our schools, example in China, when we are finishing school they are just starting school. The same with the school in the US.
- The seasons
- We have International Day and special days like Jersey Day and Pajama Day
- We have different times and we also have different schedules in school
- We have different times and different weather
- Kids in Maine and Illinois start school when we finish school
- Well when we are leaving school they are entering school
- We may have different things going on during the day
Do you have ideas for us to stay in touch with other kids in the project?
- Skype, email, facebook, video chat
- We can Skype, email, call, Edmodo, keep doing A Week in the Life, pictures, videos, and voicethread
- We can Skype each other
- We should Skype each other and use Edmodo
- We could Skype each other once in a while
- By chatting together on Edmodo. Call each other on Skype when they’re awake (in school.)
- Edmodo, Skype
- By Skype, Edmodo, gmail, Facebook
- We can often Skype at school and we can email each other. Also, we can use Edmodo more.
- Use Skype more often
- Skype more, use Edmodo
- We could Skype, Edmodo, email, things like that. Oh yeah, and write of course, send pictures, videos.
- To communicate on Skype or Edmodo or school’s email
I was grinning as I read and compiled their responses, pleased to see the diverse learning and enjoyment during the project. Clearly Edmodo and Skype communications were highlights and there is a desire to continue communications. One of my favorite comments was, “We are all still learning.” in the category of commonalities. There was so much learned and accomplished both by students and teachers and within classes and between classes. I plan to write my reflections in the coming week. We will also record comments for the project reflection Voicethread on the project wiki next week.
This happens to me so frequently that I want to write briefly about it. In our age of information overload and the ability to have a global network of friends and colleagues (many of whom I’ve never met) I find the glut of information and flattening world manageable due to my connections to friends and other individuals I follow.
For example, I recently read a friend’s listing of Nick Bilton’s book, I Live in the Future: & Here’s How It Works in GoodReads. Goodreads sends me an email when someone I’m connected to posts a new book listing. I downloaded the book to my iPad via Kindle and started reading (because I’m on vacation and have more time to read.) Mr. Bilton writes about managing information overload via his online network of friends who recommend books, articles, blog posts, etc via online networking and email. This hits home because the next day…
In Facebook, I checked in and found (again) several great blog posts recommended by my friend Silvia. More and more, Facebook is becoming a resource for more than personal status updates from friends as I follow schools, organizations and individuals who recommend informational media. For example I “follow” my school’s IT Department (at IT Dept. @ International School of Prague) and Seth Godin.
Last, through daily checkins with Twitter I find on just the first page of posts many great links, blog posts, articles, videos, etc. Twitter can lead to information overload if you are following the right people. I also use an aggregator that feeds me current posts on my favorite blogs.
All I’m saying is that I frequently see a thread flowing through my personal information feed and this time it flowed from Chris’s recommendation (which he didn’t have to personally send to me) to the text in Bilton’s book reflecting my experience, and the following morning reading via Silvia that I found inspiring and thought-provoking. Left alone with random searches and actual print resources, I would miss out on so much more than what is delivered to me daily.
PS: One challenge I do face is reciprocating, and here is a good podcast from Dean Shareski, “Sharing: The Moral Imperative” on that topic.