Thursday, March 31, 2011

Creating Positive Digital Footprints through Class Blogging Challenge

Our second challenge in the Edublogs Student Challenge is about creating online identities and leaving quality comments on other blogs.

Avatars and comments go together because when the avatar is uploaded to the user's name, it shows when the making comments.

Activity 1: Create our Class Avatar Slideshow

Part 1: Make an Avatar

Each individual will create an avatar using the options I have listed below. Avatars are digital representations of yourself. Decide what you like the best, and what represents your personality or traits.

wildselfAvatarBuild Your Wild Self

This site is from the New York Zoos and Aquarium, which allows you to become a person and animal hybrid.

This is the "Wild Self" my 5 year old daughter created for me. She did not like the spider leg or scorpion option, but it was fun to try.

You'll need to print screen to capture your picture for this site.

picasso jpegPicasso Head
This was a fun site to build a Picasso-like head. No sign up is needed, just create and save or email it. I used the print screen method to save it.

These avatars are a little more artsy because they are cubist in Picasso's style.

Picture 2
This one is based off of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Again, no log in is needed. It gives you a link to what you've created. However, I still used the print screen to save it.

This one is quick to make. If my daughter made it her way, my eyes would be hearts.

Picture 1Doppel Me

You actually don't need to create an account to use Doppel Me, however if you do it gives more options. We won't be doing that in class.

Just click "create" and get started. At the end, you'll need to use the print screen method to save it.

Picture 4
For this site, you have to "picture yourself in plastic." In other words, what would you look like if you were a Lego person?

I saved it through a print screen.

Picture 3Reasonably Clever - Blockhead

Again, what type of blockhead could represent you? This was the closest "me" that I came up with. Print screen was how I saved it.

Watanabe2My Avatar Editor

This one was like creating my Wii avatar. When I was done, I chose the "export" option. I remembered to resize it as smaller, and zoomed it to fit, then saved it as a jpeg to my computer.

avatar-2Harry Potter Doll Maker

If you like Harry Potter, then now's your chance to create your own variation of a Harry Potter character. After creating my "Harry Potter" avatar, I saved it as a GIF image. I then had to reformat to a jpeg.

Management of this task:

If our students want to save anything they create, it must be in "the cloud" (Google Apps). Therefore, this takes a little more time. I gave the kids 5 - 10 minutes of free time to explore which avatar they wanted to create.

By the end of 10 minutes, we saved their avatar by clicking print screen, then we reshaped it and saved it as a jpeg. We emailed it to me to save. If there was extra time, the student also saved it in Google Apps.

Part 2: Class Avatar Slideshow
After we create our avatars, we'll create a slideshow. Based on student recommendations from Mrs. Martinez's class, you should view this example from Global SPUDS placed in Animoto.

Management Tip:
Throughout the day, I'd grab the jpegs from my email, resize when needed, and save it to my hard drive. Then, I'd upload them into the Animoto.

Here's our final product:

 This post is inspired by the Edublog Student Challenge.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Students are Challenged to Blog

One of my highlights this past week was the day I spent team teaching in Mrs. Martinez's 4th grade class. We have entered the Class Blog Student Challenge: A global blogging challenge for students of all ages.

During the past few weeks, we have focused on setting up our blog (posting guidelines), Internet safety, and how to leave a comment for others. We are now ready to start on the actual challenge.

Group 1: What should we blog about?
  • What can we write about that others will find interesting?
  • What will readers learn from our blog?
  • What can we contribute that could help others?
Group 1 Blog Prompt: Why should students and classes visit our blog?

Group 2: Compare and Contrast "About" pages
  • You are a detective looking for similarities and differences between the "About" pages on the blogs in our Blogroll?
  • What is similar and different with our "About" page and theirs?
  • Use our graphic organizer, and take notes as you find answers.
Group 2 Blog Prompt: Write a post comparing the "About" pages. Remember to include links back to those class blogs, and remember we are digital citizens.

Group 3: Introduce our Class to the World in a Slideshow
  • If there were only 10 pictures you could take to introduce our class, what pictures would we use to show our best qualities?
  • Create a plan of what pictures (indoors and outdoors) best depicts us. Be ready to defend why.
  • Use the graphic organizer to complete the task.
  • There is one more step, but you will be given the specific directions in class. In order to receive the directions, you will need to complete the above graphic organizer with superb quality.
Group 3 Blog Prompt: Write a brief introduction of our class based on our graphic organizer. You will then create an animoto with images of your classroom or school to embed in your post.

Group 4: Visit your Buddy Classes
  • Visit two sites from our Blogroll (you will be assigned which sites to visit).
  • Find a post to leave a comment on.
  • You must follow our comment guidelines and procedures.
  • Use the graphic organizer to take notes what you found interesting.
Group 4 Blog Prompt: Write a post about visiting other class blogs. Tell what you found interesting. Remember to include links back to those class blogs, and remember we are digital citizens.
Blog Challenge 1 Graphic Organizers
Classroom Management
In order to maximize time and get everyone involved, we approached this challenge jigsaw style. It was very important to have the graphic organizers ready for each group.

After introducing the challenge activities, we broke the class into groups. It was best to get Groups 3 and 1 on task first because Groups 2 and 4 would require my assistance on the computers since this was our first time everyone was going to the blog, and procedures are still being established for this.

Group 3 Management -- Photos for Animoto

With one digital camera available, we only had four students in Group 3 working on the photos for creating an Animoto. I waited until they were in a small group to explain they were actually going to take pictures around the school, but they had to have their plan mapped out first (see graphic organizer for Group 3).

I brought up what to do if there were differences of opinions in the group and allowed them to brainstorm what to do to resolve it. When it was clear they understood the task and they were prepared for collaboration, I let them get to work. I knew this would take some time to map out, which allowed me to focus on the other groups.

I checked in on them periodically. Before giving them the digital camera, we made sure the photo resolution was set to the lowest setting for ease in uploading them to the blog. When it was time to give them the equipment, we discussed the following key expectations:
  • Properly using the camera 
  • Handling the equipment appropriately, with the wrist strap on at all times
  • Walking throughout the campus
  • Quiet voices
  • Staying together as a group
  • Not photographing students' faces
  • Organizing the order of locations to go to for the quickest route, and only giving them permission to go to those locations
  • There was a 10 minute limit they could be out of the classroom (which would be tight, but they could manage it)
  • Last of all, I told them I trust them to complete this task following all my expectations, and I know they will which will mean they get to do something like this in the future
When they returned, they worked with Mrs. Martinez on creating the Animoto.  If I were the only teacher in the classroom, I'd do that part the following day during small group rotations/centers as our center.

Group 1 Management -- What will our blog be about and why should others visit it?

We got Group 1 started. It helped to have copies of the task and discussion questions. They discussed what they thought and brainstormed together verbally. Then they each wrote a paragraph expressing their ideas about the blog.

When their paragraph was ready, which was towards the end of class, they went to the open computers to type it as a post or a comment.

The timing for this worked nicely because Groups 2 and 4 were finishing up on the computers, which allowed them access to complete this task. For those who didn't get to type, they can finish it next week.

Management with Groups 2 and 4 -- About Pages and Visiting Buddy Classes

The hardware in the room determined how many students were in Groups 2 and 4. We have six thin clients in Mrs. Martinez room; therefore, we partnered them up, assigned them the classes to visit, and helped them log onto the computer.

I had to teach them how to find Mrs. Martinez's class blog as the starting point, and then how to navigate from there. Naturally, each group reviewed the commenting procedures with me.

For Group 2 -- About Pages, it worked best to have them read our About Page first, then look at another About page. Once they read through both, it was easy to compare and contrast.

The graphic organizer was extremely important to focus on their task, remember which blogs they were assigned, and take notes for their writing prompt at their seats. (I marked on their graphic organizer with a big green dot which ones they were assigned for clarity).

Group 4 finished their commenting task first, so they returned to their seats to write what they found interesting about the blogs they visited. Group 1 students were able to rotate to the computers to type their post/comments.

Group 2 kids also returned to their seats to write paragraphs comparing and contrasting the About pages. When they were done with their draft, they went back to an open computer to type, or turned it in.


It was a success having students write with an authentic purpose and real audience. The discussions they had about composing and editing, along with the process of how to navigate throughout the blogs were fabulous.

It was a joy to watch the gamut of kids gain from this experience.

What's the Next Step?

Mrs. Martinez and I discussed how she can use blogging as their writing prompts and daily journals. We explored how to record grades for measuring growth while focusing on the standards. 

Our next step is to complete all of Challenge 1, have students follow up with the discussions they've started as comments, and looking ahead to how we'll get parent involvement with the blog.

This blog was inspired by the Edublogs Student Challenge. I want to thank Miss W for all she does to inspire bloggers around the globe. I wrapped my head around how to approach this in the classroom when I visited her class blog and saw how she did it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Class Blogging and Family Participation

As part of the Edublogs Challenge, I am learning how to start a class blog. It's very important to include the families in this process. I used Kathleen Morris' fabulous example to guide me in creating my letter to introduce the class blog. Here is the first letter that I'm sending home with the students in the class:

Dear Families,

I am proud to announce Mrs. Martinez’s class blog. This blog is for both of her language arts classes.

I want to thank Mrs. Martinez for allowing me to team teach with her as we introduce blogging to her classes. For those of you who do not know me, I was a 5th grade teacher at your school before I became the Technology Integration Specialist for AJUSD. While my Master’s in Education focused on Curriculum and Instruction, my specialties include project-based learning and technology integration. Again, I want to thank Mrs. Martinez for allowing me the ongoing opportunity to team teach our blogging project.

About the Blog

Mrs. Martinez's Class Blog
If you are unfamiliar with blogs, they are a place to share your thoughts and writing online. So far, our blog has been a website for the administrators, Mrs. Martinez and Mrs. Watanabe, to post in chronological order. At the top are links to pages with more information. On the left are the blog posts, and on the right is the tool bar to help us use the blog.

Purpose of our Blog

The purpose of this blog is to learn the art of writing and lessons of language arts through a real world experience with a real audience. Blogging is more than just reading and writing, it’s about respectfully conversing with others. Through this project, students will practice the responsibilities of digital citizenship and Internet safety.

Internet Safety

Internet safety is extremely important to us. Through blogging, the students have the opportunity to learn Internet safety and appropriate online behavior in an authentic and supervised setting. When you visit our blog, you will find links to Internet safety on the “About” page, and you can read what the students have written about also.
The following guidelines have been established:
1.       Students, parents, and teachers will identify the students by their first names only. (If a parent comments, it should read “Tracy’s dad” instead of “Ken Watanabe”).
2.       Keep personal information private, such as your last name, phone number, and where you live.
3.       Respectful comments are allowed.
4.       Proof-read comments are allowed.
5.       Use complete sentences with appropriate grammar. (“Text talk” does not qualify).
6.       All comments submitted must have teacher approval first.
7.       Try to write comments that continue the conversation.
8.       Try to find comments you agree with or made an impact on you, then add to the discussion. 

We encourage you to participate in our blog by writing comments. We will send more information about this in our next blogging newsletter. If you have any questions about Mrs. Martinez’s blog, feel free to contact Mrs. Watanabe or Mrs. Martinez.

 I want to thank Edublogs ChallengesKathleen Morris, and Linda Yollis for your help in this journey.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

VoiceThread Your Riddles

I love this project because it takes their 1st grade science standards and marries them to the reading, writing, and fluency standards. Students had to research their animals, write riddles, work on fluency, and topped it off with digital illustrations and publishing.

Google Docs Drawing
Ms. James' students were introduced to the netbook cart and Google Apps Drawing during this project. They loved using the shapes, layering them, and adding color.


VoiceThread allows others to comment on the project. I was amazed at the comments left by an elementary grade student.

This added another dimension to the students' original project. It added a digital audience. Fabulous!

Click here to view Part 2 of their Riddles on VoiceThread.

Thank you Ms. James for allowing me to collaborate with you on this project. Thank you for allowing your students the opportunity to appropriately integrate technology for learning. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One-to-One Success Story Tip #1 about P.D.

Recently I read a post by Nick Sauers titled, "Common frustrations with one-to-one." He found that those who were frustrated with one-to-one had issues with lack of professional development, and weak infrastructure.

To his second point, I have to say kudos to our Tech Department because I don't know of any infrastructure issues because everything was exceptionally planned out.

To his first point, I have learned a lot about the professional development needed in a one-to-one environment.

Adjusting the Professional Development

I had been training them in one swoop -- so one training of this or one training of that. Those who were tech savvy, needed that one time of show me the basics and I'll figure the rest out on my own. Well, that was the minority.

There were several who would ask me some basic questions about technology integration, and it became clear to me what needed to happen. They needed small doses over a continued amount of time.

Ongoing, Small Doses of Training

Professional Learning Community at CCJH
I decided to come to their school every Monday for thirty minutes and work with those who wanted repetition and a slow pace with tons of review and repetition. Did I mention repetition?

We started by looking at Google Apps--Forms for assessing students and checking for understanding.

Professional Learning Community

I was grateful that I was with this group of educators the day I opened up my laptop and noticed that Google Apps had a "face lift." We unanimously decided to figure out where things were and how it changed our class procedures. I would have been frustrated if I was by myself at that moment, and was glad we all went shoulder-to-shoulder to learn together.


It was such a hit that there was a demand for another day a week of bite-sized trainings. Tina Jada, has taken the role of facilitating the second day of training for those who couldn't make the first.

That's evidence of a healthy learning community.

This post was inspired by Nick Sauers' article and counsel; the guidance of One-to-One Institute; the influence of Peer Ed; and mostly by the wonderful group of CCJH teachers -- you guys rock!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Composing Quality Comments

My experience of introducing one of our 4th grade classes to blogging, as part of the Edublogs Challenge, has offered new insight on starting a class blog for learning. Our focus today was introducing the concept of quality comments.

How do you get Discussions Started on your Blog?

A blog's success can be measured partially by the blog comments; therefore, it's important students, parents, teachers, and administrators, learn how to do this. I realized this is a lesson that must explicitly be taught in order to promote the type of blog discussions where readers respond to each other in continued conversations.

We used Edublogs Teacher Challenge -- Student Blogging Activity 3 -- Teaching Quality Commenting to start our class discussion.

Compare Websites to Blogs

We needed to start by connecting their prior knowledge, which was websites. What's the same and what's different between the 4th Grade Science Website and a Blog?


Our learning point was blogs are for discussions! So, it's important that we learned how to write quality comments to spark conversations.

Our Tips for writing Quality Comments

Based on what we learned from Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Yollis, we wrote our own tips for creating quality comments.
  • Look for blogs that you like or made an impact on you, then start a respectful conversation.
  • Start a conversation by complimenting them, asking a question, or adding more information. This is how you connect to the writer and begin a discussion.
  • Remember our cyber citizenship and Internet safety tips and rules, such as: keep personal information safe; know how to report someone if necessary; be respectful; and use good manners. Responding back to comments is a way to use good manners.
  • Edit and proof read your comments to make sure it sounds correct, uses correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Have someone else double check and provide feedback before you ask your teacher or parent if you can post your comment.
  • Use only one exclamation point when you are excited about something. Add more information to show your enthusiasm, instead of adding more exclamation points (Mrs. Yollis' students).
  • Write your comments like a friendly letter, with a greeting, the content, and then the closing (Mrs. Morris). Remember to use your first name only.
  • Stay on topic of the conversation or blog post, instead of talking about something unrelated (Mrs. Yollis' students).
  • Make sure someone else didn't write the same thing before you post your comment (Mrs. Yollis' students).
  • Let's remember our audience when choosing vocabulary and tone for comments.
Explore Quality Comments

Here are some of the classes we looked at:
Tip from Mrs. Yollis

Mrs. Yollis explained during the Tech Talk Tuesday Webinar, that she has her students evaluate the quality of comments by voting. I put her suggestion to practice. If the comment followed the tips our class made, then we gave it a 3; if it followed most of the tips then it rated a 2; if it was not a quality comment, then we gave it a 1.

It was such a simple way to have students evaluate and share back visually to check for understanding. It also provided us with an opportunity to discuss it's okay to have different opinions, which should be respected. I'd have students share why they voted the way they did, again continuing the discussion of quality comments.

Next Step?

Next week, we'll take some time to apply what we learned, and comment on other blogs.

This post was inspired by Edublogs Teacher Challenge. Special thanks goes to Kathleen Morris, for sharing your experience with us; and to Linda Yollis for inspiring others by sharing her expertise and passion about blogging.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Collaboration Coaching in AJUSD -- Partners In Learning

Principals and Coaches came together to discuss school-wide professional development and community.

We started by sharing what's been successful with collaboration coaching. One of my favorite quotes was from Gina Fraher:
My triumph in collaboration coaching is twofold.  I have made some valuable relationships and learned some tools to foster new relationships.  The second triumph for me is personal.  I have been given valuable tools, resources, and mentoring in technology that I never would have had if I had not done this coaching program.  I feel that this has been the single most valuable opportunity I have been given in a long time.

I loved the discussion that arose when we compared collaboration coaching to a day on the slopes. Some key points brought up were:
  • You can't start off on the black diamond runs, you need to start on the bunny slopes. Some people take longer on the bunny slopes than others, and that's okay.
  • It's a cycle that continues. You take a lift up, and hopefully shred on your way down.
  • It's important to know how to fall so you don't get hurt.
  • It's fabulous when you share the gondola with friends, and ski/board down together. You might all take the same run, but each of you carve it up differently. In the end, you all have stories to share and reflect on...

The action steps set for next year focus on continuing to open doors, celebrate successes, foster growth, and meeting teachers where their needs are.

Below is our photo collage that started at the beginning of the year, and includes today's training. 

I want to thank all of our principals and coaches for sharing the afternoon with me. Thanks to Jon Castelhano, Director of Technology, for partaking in today and for your support. Special thanks to Superintendent, Dr. Wilson, for coming by before your other speaking engagement, and for setting the vision and focus of AJUSD.

Last but not least, thank you Peer Ed and especially Shelee King George, for helping me think through tonight's training. I couldn't have done it without you!

Our Professional Development was based on Session 7A, Partners in Learning-Microsoft Peer Coach Training. During part of today's training, we looked at "DeforestACTION" PBL from the Partners in Learning Shout! Network.