Friday, August 14, 2009

A Sweet Place to Settle...

Beyond my dreams...

Today I received another answer from my posting at epals. It is from a teacher in Beirut, Lebanon. She teaches English as a foreign language to first and second graders. They have a blog at where they record their contacts with students from around the world and we have been invited to participate. I was moved to tears as I watched the videos on the blog... Children from vastly different countries coming together to share. I can not wait to show my students and to enter their project!

How ironic that they call themselves the youngclovers! My bees were buzzing, but found a sweet place to settle!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sweet Success!

We now have a class of first graders in New Hampshire to epal with! I can't wait to tell my students! The first task, of course, will be to locate our new friends on the map and explore their town with Google Earth. Although I have had class keypals in the past, this will be the first time we have used 2.0 tools like Skype for communication. It should be great.

With that first step out of the way, I'm thinking of other things I can do with my class. I have created a wiki for the students to use for posting their work as we explore various themes and units. ( ) We begin the year with the miracle of the monarch butterfly, observing a caterpillar as it forms a chrysalis and emerges as a beautiful winged creature which we carefully release. In addition, I order Painted Lady caterpillars and we repeat the process with them. I've created a Caterpillars and Butterflies page on the wiki for student work. The plan is to have the students use our Flip Video camera to record the stages of the life cycle to add to the wiki along with their narration. We create butterfly life cycles out of art supplies and write about the cycle as well. I'm thinking that this year I may introduce poetry very early and have the kids write some about their observations. All of those assignments can be posted on the wiki to share with families and friends.

Another passion of mine is digital storytelling. Staying with the wiki for now, I've created a page for the students' stories to be uploaded. Although I experimented with this last year, I would like to expand student time spent creating digital stories this year. One goal is to involve families more as we request photos and objects from home that will personalize the students' creations. I think the wiki will be much more accessible to families at a distance than the site where I posted things last year. My plan is to begin on the first day of school by having each child create a picture of something that tells about them. I will photograph each child with their picture (no names, of course) and make a slide show using Animoto to post on our wiki.
It can be shown for Open House as well!

This is all still just the tip of the iceberg, but as my students' reading and writing skills develop, we will expand our journey into the 21st century classroom. I'm feeling more confident everyday as I sort it all out...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Making honey...

With only a few weeks left before school starts, I've decided not to waste any time planning how to put all of these wonderful new Web 2.0 tools to work! There are so many ideas jumping around in my head that it only makes sense to use my new blogging skills to record them for future reference and use! Where to begin...
It is always easier when trying something new to begin with the old. By adding and tweaking, a new product results! In years past I have developed keypal relationships for my students. One of the most successful was a relationship with a teacher in Australia that lasted for four or five years. She ultimately was transferred to a new school and older students so it came to an end. I did not pursue finding a replacement. There is no time like now to remedy that! Students are so engaged and motivated by writing to keypals. We exchanged gifts, traveling stuffed animals, and letters.
Web 2.0 skills for the 21st century are about communication. I can easily add some new tools to revitalize an old idea:

1. Locate a partner class using: (or another similar site)
2. Plan possible activities with our keypals:
Write an ongoing story (we start the story, they add to it, back and forth until it is finished) using a blog
Share information and ideas verbally
Create digital stories and podcasts to share from our class wiki
3. Teach our buddies about our home and learn about theirs:
Locate each on Google Earth
Create an online presentation about our classroom, school, and the place we live:

I'm sure the list will grow and the partner teacher will have even more ideas! For now, I'll
begin trying to locate a keypal class for the year. And so the process begins... sorting it all out...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A nest of yellowjackets...

Once while hunting on the Northern California coast I stepped on a log and disturbed a nest of yellowjackets. Suddenly the air around me was filled with the hum and movement of hundreds of black and yellow flying insects... with STINGERS! I've never run so fast! They were landing all over me trying to sting and some were quite successful! I threw my rifle (which later I later realized could have resulted in injury to me or my hunting partner) and began stripping off clothing with bees attached as I ran. When the danger had passed, the bees had settled, and I was safe again, I was left feeling a little ill from the many stings and rather foolish as my partner pointed out that we had walked right past the nest earlier in the day and he had warned me not to go near it. The bees had been there all along. If I had just recognized the log and walked around it I could have spared myself the agony. But a few lessons were learned and I would forever be a more observant hunter.
It has been many years since that day. I have not stepped on a yellowjacket nest since... until I went to a recent technology training session about 21st Century learning and web 2.0.  As the instructor began revealing tool after tool that were not new, but new to me, I began to hear the hum and feel the stings as I tried to take it all in. Blogging... wikis... social bookmarking... this website and that. Now I love technology, but felt overwhelmed as to where to begin to make sense of all this information. It was after the training that I began to sort it all out. I had spent the summer on Facebook and had a great handle on that, but now I experimented with Twitter and created a title on a wiki page... Doable, I thought. That is until I stepped right squarely on another nest of bees and began exploring the 101 web sites on the handout from the training. Then there were the links from a friend's wiki and the links from another's delicious site. Now I'm once again surrounded by bees. They've come in the form of Animoto, Gliffy, Plinky, and Voxopop, just to name a few. 
I spend a lot of time on the web, but had walked right past all of the new tools for quite some time. Now that I've stirred them up, I'm not sure where to go with it all. As with the bees, the experience has left me with a bit of a headache, but the bees are again settling. I'm realizing that clicking on the links to the sites is a lot like opening Christmas gifts as a child. Right now I'm tearing off the paper and exclaiming how fun each will be to play with as I toss it aside to open another. Soon I will move past the discovery and begin to reflect on how I can put all of this to work to help me motivate and teach my students. I can't wait!