Monday, December 10, 2012

Well, That Didn't Go Smoothly

We started the Google Apps part of our grade two Inuit culture research project today and it was anything but smooth. However, it was not a disaster - which I attribute to a few things I think are worthwhile pointing out:

  1. My class followed an established routine and expectation during computer time (and really, any class time). 
  2. I had a solid understanding of how Google Apps work and how they are shared that allowed me to problem solve.
  3. I had booked an hour block of time with the net books, which gave me the breathing room to problem solve.
  4. I had an exemplar ready to go.

So What Happened?

I had created a Google presentation template I wanted my students to use. I had set the share settings to Public on the web - Anyone on the Internet can find and edit. Then I had created a homework assignment in SchoolZone and I attached the Google presentation to that homework post.

The students clicked on the link. The goal was for them to make a copy. However it did not give them that option (it was grayed out). 

So What Did I Do?

  1. I checked the original document and its share settings. It was correct but in the meantime I noticed my students' names were under Who has access. 
  2. I also noticed it said 50 people were viewing the document and that many of them were "anonymous". That was unusual.
  3. I had my students close the tab with the presentation.
  4. I directed them to their Google Drive. My goal was to make sure that Google/Share was having them logged in correctly. 
  5. Then, since I had seen that the share had happened, I had them select "Shared With Me" and sure enough, there was the presentation. 

So What Happened Next?

I had them open the presentation again and it opened the presentation but this time it gave them a message that the document is very popular and they should try again or dismiss. This was a bandwidth issue I thought. I explained to them it is like lining up for music. We cannot all get through the door at the same time. However after a number of minutes we were still encountering the same issue with only 17 students. I had my students close the tab with the presentation and try opening again. No luck.

So What Did I Do?

    1. I had them all put their monitors at 45 degrees and decided to go straight to the teacher demonstration of what they would be doing for the first few steps. I used the template as an exemplar on the Smartboard of what I wanted them to do once the issue was resolved.
    2. After my demo, about 10 minutes later, I had students open the Inuit presentation from their Shared With Me folder and we had success.
    3. Students then got access and made a copy and were able to work on their project.

    Why Share This Misadventure?

    I am sharing this adventure not to discourage people. Rather I am hoping that it shows that even "tech savvy" teachers encounter problems. As well, to spotlight the value in spending time in understanding how the new tools of our trade work so that we can not only problem solve on our own but demonstrate to our students how to problem solve when encountering technical problems.

    Oh and to get helpful feedback - thanks Terry for the helpful comment!

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Grade Two Bloggers

    I decided to use Blogger with my students this year. We will have a class blog  only, not individual blogs. I have blogged with student before but I have never used Blogger with grade twos. 

    If you have never used Blogger before, give yourself some time to set up your Blogger account and your blog.

    You will need to add each student as an author. There may be a more expedient way to do it than I did. I am the type of person who fiddles rather than reads instructions! :)

    Under settings, you will see "permissions".  Add each of your students. They will need to accept the invitation by going to their Share mail account during your first lesson. 

    I also have decided to keep this blog private. However, I added our school's administrative team as readers. I plan to find a buddy class either in or out of the school to add as readers. If you do not select an option, your blog is open to all readers by default.
    My final step of preparation was to create a post for the students to do their writing about

    I found the image I used on Writing A Writing by searching Google images with the search terms: writing picture prompts. 

    As my focus was on them posting for the first time, I did not want to complicate matters by making the writing assignment too complicated. On the day before we started blogging I showed them the picture prompt.
    Students did a think-pair-share about the image. Then we did a class write using a descriptive paragraph organizer (here is a paragraph organizer similar to what I used) on the Smartboard. I gave them the first part of the first 3 sentences and I gave them the last sentence. 

    I looked up and saw .... They were .... It sounded ...I felt ... I wonder if I will ever see them again?

    We brainstormed possible endings to each sentences which I recorded as jot notes on the Smartboard.

    I booked the netbooks for an hour for this first round of blogging. 
    Once students got set up to blog, I pulled up the Smartboard brainstorm again. We reviewed the ideas. Students did one line at a time on the netbooks. 

    After most students were finished one line, I had them all put their netbooks at a 45 degree angle and reviewed the next line. For those students who needed a challenge, I had them extend their "I felt" sentence to include "because" or encouraged them to add a sentence of their own.

    Once the first three or four students were finished and ready to publish, I reviewed how to use the spell check function. Up until this point I had been teaching it individually as it was appropriate. Students had to address their red squiggly lines and then put their hand up before they could publish. I read their posts and then gave them permission to publish.

    Once a number of the students had published, I again asked students to put their monitors at a 45 degree angle. I then demonstrated how they could comment on other students' work. I modeled reading a post and then selecting reply and typed "good job". 

    The energy in the room changed when they started to see other people posting on their work! It was motivating to me to see how excited they were. 

    For the last part of the writing period students completed their posts (some required my assistance to complete it) or commented on posts.

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    iPads in Kindergarten

    At Dunluce Elementary, Shanon, Dana, and Raelene along with their Principal, Bryan Evans, are excitedly preparing to introduce iPads to their Kindergarten classes. They have all had their own iPads for a few weeks to get comfortable with them and now they are getting ready to roll the cart out to their students. Wisely, they bought five for each Kindergarten class first, with the potential to expand to other grades when the need/demand presents itself.

    When asked how they hoped to use the iPads, they were mostly saw it as a consumption device in Division I, or in UDL terms, to be used for multiple means of representation. After we went app hunting and playing, we discovered that the most of the content apps were either expensive, limited in scope, or not very good. However, we did find a lot of cool content creation apps that we thought had a lot of potential applications and began to realize how powerful iPads can be for multiple means of expression and engagement.

    Here is our discussion guide and the advice sent to us from Lisa Henderson at Pollard Meadows:

    What I came away with from our discussions:

    Have Configurator installed before starting the conversation and looking at the apps. It would be best if the lead teacher(s) had a working knowledge of Configurator (and the Volume Purchasing Program) before iPads are introduced to the teachers. It would have helped me a great deal if I knew and understood Configurator.

    One idea that we came across was to set the lock screen with a picture of the class iPad rules. Originally, we used an image of rules we found on the internet. It wouldn't be hard to make a graphic set of rules that would be closer to our context once we see the iPads in action.

    Please share any advice you can share with us about your experience using iPads in Kindergarten.

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Explorations in Art

    I started a new assignment in an International Baccalaureate and Arts Focus school this year.  Having come with experience in several district art core programs, I have been excited to share arts based websites and uses of technology in art that keep my 23 inquisitive and creative Grade 1 learners engaged.  They are definitely of the "Yes, Let's" approach to technology and creativity which I find most inspiring for me as an educator!

    There have been several really helpful posts in the Div1 Edtech in EPSB blog which outlines processes to get young children "up and running" with basic skills using the technology itself.  Most of the students in my class had quite a bit of experience in their Kindergarten class with Netbooks so quite quickly I was able to determine who might be "tech leaders" and I have been able to enlist their help with students who still struggle with signing on.  Building independence is key, but having support from peers is a great way for students to begin the collaborative opportunities that abound in using technology as a vehicle to facilitate inquiry and conversation during a creative process.

    A Playful Download

    Skipping ahead from the beginning wanderings and wonderings students had about how they might use technology this year to support their inquiry and creativity, I was aware of a free starter download of an art program called "Art Rage 2".  There is a free, unlimited demo version of the program which is what I downloaded to my desktop for students to investigate on the SmartBoard during Arts centres. (if you would like more information about Arts Centres, I can elaborate in a future post).  You can access the site here.  While it is always best to access software that sits in the "cloud", especially when using Netbooks and Chromebooks, once in awhile, a playful program pops up with advantages for download.  When the download is free.... bonus!  The version has a scaled down tool set but there are enough tools available, particularly the paint brush capabilities, to make the download worth the time.  You do have the ability to load previous paintings and to save and print paintings/pictures created.  System requirements include Windows 7, Vista, or XP, with 256 MB of RAM and there is also a Mac download available.

    As an art teacher, using ArtRage 2 allows students to practice skills they have learned on paper to see how they work on a computer/SmartBoard.  Creativity is the focus as they further develop techniques and experiment with the medium.  I also love that the type of paper used can be selected such as watercolor and various textured papers.

    ArtRage for the IPad

    ArtRage is also available as an IPad App, though at $4.99 plus GST it may not be an option for all IPads in your school.  I do have it on my personal device and I am presently experimenting with it to see how it might be used in the classroom.  During the "experimentation" phase of determining whether or not an App is "classroom worthy", I do bring it to school and let the students use it during Arts centre time. Many an App has been crossed off the "need to get" list based on student exploration and feedback from them.

    How to Introduce the Program

    Just like any centre time activity, I briefly share with students a few of the main features so that much of their time can be spent exploring the program rather than me showing them all the ins and outs.  I had a principal once remind me that letting them "play" with the new technology, to discover what it can do, is all part of the creative process.  After the brief explanation, they are off to centres, with ArtRage being one of their options.  We always allow two students at the SmartBoard centre to allow for collaboration, conversation and exploration and we make sure that there are several "switches" during centre time as well.  Because this is a popular centre, we keep track of who has visited the SmartBoard to allow for everyone to have an opportunity to create.  Here are few of their collaborative efforts with the program:

    As you can see, the paint still looks wet and it is this property that makes the program exciting for students to experiment with.  There is even a little cup that students "wash" their brush finger in and I have often observed students wiping their paint finger on their clothing, one action I don't have to apologize to parents for at the end of an art class! 

    Sharing Process and Products

    At the end of Arts centre time, students participate in a group sharing time where they reflect on their experiences and share products and processes of their activities.  This is one of their favorite "show and share" opportunities and I have to be mindful that we save enough time to allow for as many to share as possible.  This is a critical component of Arts centre time where I assist students in providing specific feedback to their peers using arts terminology.

    What's Next?

    We have used this program for a whole class collaborative painting which I will share in a future post.  For those of you who have used ArtRage 2 or ArtRage 3, please share your ideas as a comment below!  If you have any questions or comments, I invite your feedback as well!

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    This is the blog post that doesn't end. Yes, it goes on and on my friend.

    One of the problems I have doing summative posts at the end of a project is that I often forget some of the small details that go into it. While these details are small, they are often part of what made the activity a success.

    So I am going to try a blog post that I will update all year. This is going to be a record of the technology activities my students engage in, with the hope that by the end there will be a clear record of how I got from A to Z.

    1. Technology Helper
    The first thing we did in my class this year that involved technology was using the Smartboard. In the second week of school I introduce my classroom helpers. One of the jobs is a technology helper. This student is in charge of turning on and off the Smartboard. They learn how to reset the Smartboard if it stops being interactive. They are the ones that can tap it if it goes to sleep. As the year goes on, I add more tasks. For example, I teach them how to use extended desktop, so that when visiting teachers are in the room who are unfamiliar/uncomfortable with extended desktop, there are many students who know how to help.

    2. Smartboard Whole Class Work 
    Early in the year I begin having students come up to interact with the Smartboard. This allows me to teach the whole class how to do full screen, move to the next page, close, and push rather than hit the Smartboard.  We use wands in our class on the Smartboard. This allows smaller students to reach all parts of the Smartboard. It is also easier to clean the wands than the entire Smartboard regularly to control the spread of germs. 

    3. Smartboard Centre Work
    Once students are comfortable using the Smartboard in my class, I introduce it as a reading centre. We start off with practicing the centre as a whole class. I review how the turn taking works on the Smartboard. I also review during centre work that they need to get the technology helper, not me, to help solve Smartboard problems. 

    Example of Smartboard Centre Work- This is an example of a centre I use. After the class has done a Making Words lesson and the subsequent Sort and Transfer lesson, I assign a review centre. This one is after we made the word autumn. During any centre work in my class, there is always a leader.

    4. Introduction to Netbooks
    Usually by the end of September I introduce netbooks to my grade twos. There is a bit of preparation work that I do before I put the netbooks in front of them. I've outlined the previous post HELP! How do I get my class logged onto the computer for the very first time?
    Once I have all the prep work done and I feel my class management is under control, I introduce the netbooks to the whole class. I have gone into detail about how I did this this year in the post Introducing Grade Twos to Netbooks.

    5. Introducing Centre Work Activities to the Whole Class
    Throughout the year I have reading centres and math centres. One of the centres I frequently use for both is a "netbook" centre. For reading centres that typically involves having the students use RAZ kids to read an online book and then take an online quiz. For math centres that typically involves having the students use Mathletics to an assigned activity and then "live math" where they practice their basic facts. 

    Before I introduce these as centres, however, I introduce each program as a whole class activity. Not only is this a prep for centre work, but it is a great chance to review how to log on to the netbooks. 

    For more information on different subscriptions available for the division one classroom, you may want to read the post Subscriptions and Sign Ups

    6. Centre Work
    Once students seem comfortable knowing how to log on to a netbook independently, I introduce them as a centre. It is important to have slightly longer centres when using netbooks as student need time to log in to the programs they are going to use. What I typically do is teach the first group to not log off but simply shut the browser. That way the subsequent group using the netbooks does not need to log-in to the wifi but just needs to log-in to the program they will be using. The last group is in charge of shutting down and putting the netbooks away. 

    7. Google Account Authentication with Buddies
    The majority 95% of my grade twos have never used Google Apps before. This means they need to accept the terms and conditions that Google has and type in that funny little code given when you accept and continue.

    I like to break this step apart from the first actual lesson. This year our grade 6 buddies came in and helped. It was just a 25 minute lesson that I modeled on the Smartboard as they followed along. They went to SchoolZone. They went to the Google Apps tab. They selected Docs. They were directed the page that requires them to accept Google's terms and conditions. They scrolled down to the bottom. Their older buddies helped them decipher the word they had to type to activate their account.

    When they finished, they went to Tumblebooks until buddy time was over.

    8. First Simple Google Apps Assignment
    I keep my first lesson with Google Docs simple. The main goal is to introduce them to the steps I will be using fro the rest of the year for using Google Docs. The actual product is not the goal during this first lesson.

    For this first lesson, I actually had them do a 30 minute math lesson online first. They did 3 online math activities and then logged on to Mathletics. The first Google Docs assignment can be a bit stressful, so I like starting kids off with something they can do successfully. It also allows me to deal with any technology or logging in problems before we get to the Google Docs assignment.

    Here is a basic overview of the lesson:

    • review logging in to the netbooks
    • model getting to Google Apps via SchoolZone
    • model opening the document (I had shared it with them earlier)
    • model "make a copy"
    • model naming document
    • students filled in the blanks (was not concerned if they didn't finish or did not do it correctly for this activity)
    • model sharing the document with me

    9. Laptops for Halloween
    I used Halloween as a time to introduce my students to the other technology in the school this week - laptops. The laptops have a different routine for handing out and logging in. It can be time consuming and frustrating. So I booked the laptops for the last hour for our Halloween celebration. It's great as a teacher because it is low key. It's great for the kids, as they love the activities. I put the links on my class website (but you could put them on SchoolZone). I also like it because there are many Halloween activities that have real curriculum connections (reading, spelling, math and art activities for instance). I've collected a number of activities to use with students over the years that I keep on my sundayideas blog.

    By having a fun activity as the goal AND a full hour to work, it made using laptops for the first time successful.

    10. Repeat
    I plan on having my students repeat a variation of their first Google Docs assignment 3 times so that they learn the steps and routines for working with Google Docs.

    **NOTE This was harder to keep up with then I anticipated. I apologize!****

    11. Blogging
    In November I attempted blogging with my students for the first time. You can read about my first lesson in the post Grade Two Bloggers. Since then we have done more blogging, not a lot. Here is a list of the things we have done with blogging.

    • Replying to a post (as discussed in Grade Two Bloggers)
    • Using it to publish a final copy of a persuasive writing based on the book The Little Snowgirl. Students did this by replying to my initial post.
    • Using it to publish a final copy of an acrostic. Students learned how to create their own posts. Students also learned how to comment on other student's posts/acrostics.
    • On Hundred Day, students had to use jot notes to plan what they would buy for $100. Then students composed their paragraphs as a blog post. They also commented on other students' posts. We had technical difficulties this day, so not everyone had a chance to comment.
    • In March we posted a class write on our blog about what gum looks, smells, sounds, feels and tastes like. I encouraged students to log in at home to comment on the class write.

    12. Culture Presentations
    I decided to have my students do their final copies of their culture research projects on Google Docs this year. They still did the research using books in class and jot notes on paper. We did one day of guided research using the Internet. I blogged about the first project, Inuit culture. For that project, I just had them share their knowledge using jot notes. The second project was about Acadian culture (template) and students were expected to write in sentences. The third project is about Ukrainian culture.I blogged about all the culture presentations in the post Putting Presentation Into Presentation.

    13. Brochures of Places Studied
    Each year I have students make four brochures: Edmonton in the past, Iqaluit, Meteghan and Saskatoon. I have always found it a challenge to find enough images and research material for students when they do Meteghan. So I decided to turn to the Internet this year. In the blog post Making a Brochure with Presentation Lesson Plan, I explain the steps and include a rubric. It was so successful that I plan on doing all four brochures with Google Docs next year!

    14. A Story
    In March, after planning a story on a paper graphic organizer, I had students compose their story on a Google Document.

    15. Using Technology In Art
    Before my students did their first pointillism painting, I had them view paintings of Seurat up close using Google Art Project. I blogged about how to zoom into paintings and other ideas in the post Google Art Project Reflections.

    16. World Education Days
    Each year I have my class participate in World Education Days/Games. I give them one practice session at school for each topic (literacy and math) where I teach them how to log in and encourage them to practice at home. I give them 20 minutes to participate on each "game day" and again I encourage them to try again at home.

    17. Continued Use of Centre Work
    Throughout the year I regularly use centres in: reading, math and social. I don't teach science, otherwise I'd use it in science as well. :) I've blogged about a few ideas:
    18. Using Google Presentation To Learn
    My students created a Google Presentation about working in Meteghan, Nova Scotia. I detail what I did in the post Another Grade Two Presentation Activity.   

    19. Blogging and Using the Webcam
    While I don't teach science, I used something my students did with their science teacher in a writing activity. The students had to write a draft (on paper) of how to make a Plasticine boat. They had to use strong sequence words and used a posted organizer to help them. The next day they started a blog post and learned how to use the webcam to take a picture of their boat for the post. On the third day they did their typing and published.

    20. Synergize! 
    We are a Leader In Me school. Our current habit is Synergize. So it was time to learn how to work on a shared Google Doc! For four Wednesdays in a row I had my students work on their spelling sentences as a shared Google Doc. The goal was simply to give them experience working on a shared document. I assigned one student to create the document, name it and share it with their three other group members. Those group members were to help spell their name and help the creator select the correct users to share with. Then the leader pressed enter a bunch of times to create space on the document. Each student was assigned a word to write a sentence for. Early finishers were to choose another word.

    21. Smartboard Centre
    Every six weeks my students have a spelling review test. During that week one of the reading centres is a spelling review activity. I choose 20 out of the 25 words for them to review. I used a template I got from SmartExchange and modified it for spelling. Students have to write on a small whiteboard (or small chalkboard) what they think the answer is. Then, once everyone in the group has an answer, they check to see if they are correct.

    22. Science Reports!
    My students put their science research notes about an animal into a Google Presentation.

    23. Commenting on Blog Posts
    My students were eager to comment on each others' blog posts but their comments were "asom" (awesome) and "nic sintincs" (nice sentences). So I decided I needed to tap into that interest and we discussed what made a good comment. I tied this into health and students wrote "friendly grams" - which had to be specific compliments that had a greeting and had to include who wrote it.  As well, I added awesome and sentences to the spelling challenge words.

    24. Father's Day Poems
    Using a simple worksheet, I had my students plan a Father's Day acrostic. I edited them. Then they created a Google Doc to type their good copies. We used laptops so that they could print them to take home.

    25. Filing Away Our Grade Two Work
    As my students were taking home their paper duotangs and organizing their paper/binder portfolios, I also had them pack up digitally. I showed them how to make a folder. They named it Grade Two. Then they moved all their grade two work into that folder.

    Wow! It was a busy year!

    Friday, October 5, 2012

    Introducing Grade Twos to Netbooks

    I used netbooks for the first time last week. I thought I’d share the steps I go for that first lesson. This is based on using netbooks but can be applied to using most technology for the first time in a division one setting.

    There are many things you need to do BEFORE you teach that first lesson. Check out last year’s post Help! How do I get my class logged on to the computer for the very first time? for some ideas.  

    I always give the instructions orally as I demonstrate what I want them to do. Then I review them and write a simplified version of the steps on the board. I’ve included pictures of what I write on the board for each step.

    Step One- Solicit Adult Help

    Using technology for the first time in a division one class can be an extremely challenging experience for many teachers, but it does not have to be! Having as many adult hands as possible to help students type their usernames for the first few times and do some basic problem solving is invaluable. This is especially true if you are using technology that is new for many or all of your students. I usually send home a note in students’ agendas asking for help.

    Once you have used the netbooks a few times, you will discover you have some technology leaders among your students who can help their peers log on in subsequent lessons. You may want to encourage students helpers to "not to do it for them" but show their peers how to do it.

    Step Two-  Handing Out the Netbooks

    I like having my students be responsible for taking out and replacing their own technology. I also like to reduce the spread of germs by using hand washing. Some classes clean the keyboards with disinfectant cloths.

    So for my first step I have students wash their hands and get their headphones onto their desks. Then they use two hands to pull out and carry their netbooks to their desks. I stand by the cart to monitor proper carrying. I ask students to wait at the end of each step until everyone is ready.

    I mainly have students get their headphones out during my first lesson because I want to find out who still needs them. I also find it motivates those students who do not have any to bring them in the next day (I also usually write a quick reminder in agendas). If you know all your students have them,  you may want to consider not introducing headphones until later.

    Step Three - Computer Code Cards

    To make logging in time quick for the whole class it is useful to plan for a way for students to be independent. In the past I have solely used a Computer Code Card (template available). I provide each student with two copies - one to go home and be kept there and one to be kept at school (I laminate this one). I keep a master copy of all cards for supply teachers and myself.

    I put on this code card all the usernames/passwords that I anticipate that my students will need in the year. It also includes my website address, which I use as a portal for almost everything they will do on the Internet.  

    This year I have decided to try something new to support my students’ independence and to support their ability to help their peers. I have put their usernames on their nametags. I also made learning their username a part of their first spelling test. 

    I do not believe it is in the best interest of modeling Internet safety by putting their passwords in a visible location. While at this age I do not believe it is a security issue I think it is important to model the idea that a password is private.

    As they are waiting for the machine to power up, I remind them which username and password on their card will be needed to log in on the netbook.

    Step Four - Logging In and the 45 Degree Angle

    I recommend that you check each netbooks to see if the children are really logged on. You are looking for the icon that looks like steps in the bottom right hand corner. It should not have a gold star if they logged in successfully.

    After I have given the demonstration of how to log in, I ask students to put their screens at a 45 degree angle to indicate that they are ready for the next step. This is a strategy that I use throughout the year. I stole this idea from another teacher after I observed how well it worked in one of her lessons.

    Step Five-  Simple Task

    Sometimes we try to pack too much into a first lesson on the netbooks. Plan your lesson around the technology itself. I usually have students go to my website where I have links to some sort of fun and simple math or spelling game.

    Alternatively, having students go to Starfall is another great option. It is a simple word to type and the activities are great for division one. If students simply type “starfall” in the address locator bar*, the first link they will be provided is for  For grade three students, you may want to direct them to log into SchoolZone and have a few links there for them to follow.

    The teaching goal of the first lesson should be solely getting students onto the netbooks and having them learn the steps and the expectations of netbook use.

    *if you students have had no or very little experience with technology, this step may be challenging for some of them.

    Step Six -  Time to Work

    Make sure you leave enough time for all students to work on whatever the assigned task is for at least 10 minutes. This will allow them to feel successful. 

    Step Seven - Plan a Follow Up Sooner Than Later

    Many young students will need practice time to be confident and capable of typing in their username and password. Try to plan 2 or 3 follow up lessons on the netbooks that are close together so that students are more likely to remember the steps. You may want to do the next few lessons on keyboarding skills. For more ideas check out our post Direct Teaching of Technology Skills.

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    Subscriptions and Sign Ups

    What Subscriptions and Memberships Are Worth The Time and Money?

    As always, this blog post is aimed at, but not limited to, the EPSB K-3 educator. This blog post is a work in progress. I would love feedback as to what educators recommend and I will incorporate any feedback into the post.

    Your Feedback

    I would like to get feedback about the websites listed below. In your comments please rate any site you discuss out of 5. Once we have enough feedback I will add stars to each link to indicate the overall rating.

    TIME - Free Websites That Require A Username

    The Internet is a time saver and a time waster. I am hoping with the help of our greater PLN that we can save you some time. The Div I Edtech bloggers have created a Top 5 section to help get you started on narrowing down websites to check regularly. What I am hoping to do with this post is focus on those websites that require you to have a username. Are they worth the time it takes to sign up?

    I am going to skip the free worksheet focused websites. I am going to list the ones that I commonly stumble upon when I search the web for classroom activities and ideas.

    Glogster is a great Web 2.0 tool. It is relatively simple to use. I have used it as a teacher to make interesting content to share on my class blog. I did not like that I would have to create an account for all my students for them to use it. I did not think in grade two that we would use it enough to warrant the effort.

    Lesson Plans 
    I am looking for anyone who has used this site?

    SMART Exchange
    I recommend getting a username for this website. Creating Notebook files can be time consuming. Downloading a file that someone has made on a topic you are working on can be a great jumping off point. 

    Teachers' Domain
    I really like this site but often forget about it. It it is digital media for the classroom. It provides content for many subject areas but I find it is most useful for science. I used it more as a division II teacher. 

    MONEY - Subscription Based Websites

    Now there are many great websites that are subscription based. Unless your school or district has deep pockets, it is not possible to have a membership to every great site. I am hoping to compile a list of recommended (by me and others) subscriptions that include some comments to help you decide. Some of these websites have a free component. Many memberships/ subscriptions have whole school options. 

    ABC Teach
    ABC Teach offers limited access for free. I have never signed up for their membership package. I like that they provide interactive content.

    BrainPop offers limited access for free. The content they have for free is engaging and effective. Our school is currently looking into purchasing a membership this year. I'll provide a more thorough review if we do.

    Learning A-Z Products
    Learning A-Z provides a variety of different products:
    I have been using Raz Kids for the last four years. I find it is a great support to the home reading program. It is also a great reading centre that you can individualize. The quizzes are challenging for weaker readers but in general provide a good accountability check for students.

    Mathletics and Spellodrome
    Our school has been using Mathletics for three years. As a grade two teacher, I use it for centre work. I like that I can differentiate for each student (if I so wish) so that when they are at the Mathletics centre they are getting what they need.

    We just started using Spellodrome at the end of last year as part of a promotion by 3PLearning. Again, I like it for centre work but find it is less functional currently for individualization.

    Spelling City
    I highly recommend signing up for the free membership. It is an easy to use site. I have never used any of the subscription only activities. 

    Our school has had TumbleBooks for a number of years and the staff really like it. We provide the username and password to families to support the home reading program.  BookFlix, provided by LearnAlberta is an equally great program but has more steps involved in accessing it. TumbleBooks is a little easier to get to for the younger student.

    Quia is a great place to create your own interactive content that you want to make available on the Internet. I had a membership for years and found it very useful with grade 3s and higher. I stopped renewing my Quia membership as I started using Spelling City, Google Docs and Notebook (Smartboard). 

    Website Log

    A time saving tip is to have a place where you have your log in information for all your memberships in one place. I use a website log. I created it as a Google Doc so that I can access it from anywhere. I have created a Google Doc that you can use as template - Website Log.

    Sunday, May 27, 2012

    Introduction Lesson on how to use Presentation

    This is a lesson I have taught in two grade four classes and one grade two class.  It is expected that students have been on the netbooks/laptops before and have logged onto SchoolZone for this lesson. 

    As well, like many lessons, this could be taught in one or two class periods depending on how much time you have or the skill and/or age of the class. I was able to teach this to a grade four class using laptops in 90 minutes. The same lesson was done over two days with a grade two class using netbooks (one hour each day).


    To start, I let them know that the main purpose of the lesson is to learn the technology skills they need to do a Presentation for science. I inform them that they will be doing their own presentation after they have learned the skills needed. I believe it is important to teach these skills prior to integrating other curriculum. 

    I put up my Presentation Steps poster. As you will see, this is very low tech! :) As I do this lesson as a demonstration lesson in other classrooms, I leave this behind for the teacher. I also usually write on it as I go some reminders. 

    Depending on the age and technology skill level of the class, I set a "finish" line for each chunk of activity. For example, in grade four I told them that once they had their laptop, they needed to get to step 4 right away. The grade two class I taught this in had limited technology experience, so we went more step-by-step.

    Once everyone is at step 4, I have them put their netbooks/aptops at a 45 degree angle to indicate they are done. At this point I show a short 5 minute video about the science topic the class is currently studying. For example I showed Teachers' Domain: Beavers to the grade twos. This five minutes allowed me and the classroom teacher to problem solve any outstanding technical issues while the video was playing so that everyone was ready to go by the end of it.


    After the video, I display a Notebook file that has my beaver research jot notes (for grade four it was about plants). This contains facts from the video. I briefly touch on the fact that we usually don't write sentences when doing research. I let them know we'll be using these jot notes to do our Presentation.

    At this point I lead students through steps 5 - 8 on my poster. I have a star between step 5 and 6 because if a student has never used Google Apps before, they will have to agree to the terms of their Google Account. 

    I also do not deal with theme in the first lesson, so that is why I have them just select OK when asked to choose a theme in step 8.

    When it is time to input the information, put up another poster. The one below was used in my grade four lesson where we worked on plants.

    Each time that I teach them a new skill, I ask them to have their netbooks/laptops at a 45 degree angle. I demonstrate it once. Then I have them put their screens back up and walk them through it.

    The first thing I have them do is create a title for their presentation. I use a worksheet as an analogy. When you do an assignment, everyone's worksheet has the same title. That way it is easy for the teacher and students to go back and find the activity. I usually show them my Google Drive at this time to illustrate how many documents they may end up having.

    If using netbooks, you may find it useful to introduce the F11 function of full screen

    When you open up a new Google Presentation, it provides a default first slide. I have the students use that first slide and have them input a title and use the subtitle box to put who it is by. At this time I review the use of the "shift" button to make a capital letter. This is a skill most student in grade two are not very familiar with. As well, I introduce the "undo" button. However in  all three lessons I have taught with this format, someone has needed the undo button almost right around the time I am about to bring it up, so it happens naturally.

    Before moving onto step three, I pull up the jot notes again and review what we're doing a presentation about. I identify one of the subtopics that we will be making our first slide from. I inform them we'll be doing a list for the purposes of today's activity but that their teacher may be asking them to write in proper sentences for their actual individual Presentation.

    For step three, I teach them how to add a new slide by using the arrow beside the plus sign. I ask them to choose "title and body". They type a title that we decide on as a class and they choose 3 facts from the jot notes to write down (those who finish early can do more). I show them the bullet function at this time. In the grade two class I modified this slightly. They chose "title only". 

    Once everyone has two slides, I put up another poster.
    At this point I go back to my analogy of the worksheet. If they had a worksheet, they'd put their name on it and hand it in. How are they going to hand this in? How will they share it with their teacher?  Again, with their netbooks/laptops at a 45 degree angle, I show the students how to share their Presentation with me. I have them type my last name and have them then look for my full name. I remind them that it must have @share in it. They then press "Share and Save" and then "done".  I switch to my "Shared with me" folder on the Smartboard so that they (and I) can see their file arrive.

    Now you may want to wrap the lesson up at this point. I do have one more step that I have taught as a part of this lesson. No poster for this part... yet.

    The last part of the lesson is to teach the students how to insert a picture. With their screens at a 45 degree angle, I walk them through the steps. First, they are to select the image icon. This will open up a box. I direct them to the bottom "search" portion. With the grade fours I told them about the Life and Stock Images option. I ask them to leave it at Google. We discuss using keywords. I demonstration a search. I show them how not all the images will fit and that they need to think before selecting. After an image is selected, it will open very large in the slide. So I demonstrate how to size and move it. I walk them through the steps again and let them insert a few images that fit the topic. With the older grades, this allowed me to go into my Shared With Me folder and open all their Presentations and leave them a comment - "great sharing". With the grade twos I was needed to help problem solve. 


     At the end of the lesson I try to ask some follow up questions, such as:
    • how do you undo a mistake
    • how do you share
    • how do you make a capital
    • which icon will allow you to insert an image
    With the grade fours, I told them I had left them a comment. Before they shut down, they were to read my comment and write a 3-4 word reply.

    With all classes I let them know that I'd work with them again on the technology skills they'd be needing to do a Presentation. I also encouraged them to share what they had done with their parents at home.


    I initially thought that using the netbooks would be the best option with division one students who had limited experience with technology. Even with using the F11 function, the screen was quite small. I would not use netbooks to introduce Presentation in the future.

    Additional Thoughts

    I try to weave into my lessons proper technology vocabulary. Sometimes I point things out specifically. So while not necessarily noted above I discuss the use of the words icon, tabs and browser.