Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Direct Teaching of Technology Skills and Vocabulary

Teaching Technology Skills
I think sometimes it easy to use technology to teach but sometimes teachers forget to teach specific technology skills. Spending time upfront teaching specific technology skills is important and it is often overlooked or rushed. Sometimes, I find teachers come up with a wonderful activity to do with Google Docs or Web 2.0 skills but end up frustrated because they are trying to teach subject area skills AND technology skills at the same time.

Last week I was in a grade two class demo-teaching an introduction to netbooks lesson. I chose a simple activity, going onto Spelling City, as the platform for teaching the basic technology skills to use netbooks. I purposely used technology vocabulary. As a technology lead teacher, I come by this “naturally” but it may not be something that all people consider. We know that using precise vocabulary is important in science, social studies and mathematics; technology is no different.

Teach Kids to Speak Geek
Thinking about this topic led me to read a post on Elementary Tech Teachers,  A Place for Elementary Tech Teachers to Share where a teacher said: “I love vocabulary because it makes believers of students. They’re excited when they ‘speak geek’ so I spend time every year on it. I have 3 lists for each grade - one for each trimester - and a list for a presentation activity I used called Speak Like A Geek (each student picks a word and teaches it to the class).”  She said that she does this with grades 3 to 5 and each presentation takes about three minutes.

Kindergarten and Grade One
On the same Ning, I read what a kindergarten teacher does to introduce technology vocabulary.  She said: “To help learn the parts of the computer I sing a song to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”.  --- The buttons on the mouse go click click click, click click click, click click click... the buttons on the mouse go click click click in the computer lab. On the monitor we see our work... The CPU it thinks thinks thinks... With the headphones we hear it talk, hear it talk, hear it talk... on the keyboard we type gently, type gently, type gently.”

Grade Two
I think it is important that teachers use the right word and encourage students to use the correct vocabulary and to have a basic understanding of the components of technology used in the classroom. Depending on the number of ELL students in the class, you may want to do more formal lessons. Including words that are new for the majority of the class as spelling or challenge words may be worthwhile.

Grade Three
The technology vocabulary, if built up in K-2, is more integrated in grade 3 and requires less direct teaching.  When using new tools, such as Web 2.0 tools, new vocabulary will pop up that may be specific to that tool and will need to be taught directly.

Resources I Came Across
Mouse Skills and Vocabulary Activities
ABCya! ABC & 123 Magnets - this would be good to use to teach mouse skills and related vocabulary of click, drag and drop.

Keyboarding Skills and Vocabulary Activities
ABCya!Keyboard Zoo -  Recommended for Grades: K, 1
ABCya! Keyboard Challenge - put a keyboard back together; Recommended for Grades 2,3
Keyboarding Skills from ELearning for Kids - This is a game that has activities for teaching the components of the computer, mouse skills as well as keyboarding skills. Recommended for Grades: 2,3,4,5, 6

General Technology Vocabulary Skills and Activities
Technology Vocabulary Slider Puzzle - Recommended for Grades: 3,4,5, 6
Wordia - help students learn subject vocabulary through free learning games and video
Elementary Tech Teachers - A place for elementary tech teachers to share

Click-N-Learn by Kids Online - Learn the parts of the computer; Recommended for Grades: 3,4,5, 6

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A One Stop Shop! The Benefits of a Class Website

Years ago, when I first started using the Internet with younger students, I quickly grew frustrated with the amount of class time was spent dealing with typing errors as students tried to get to websites. Back then I used a Word document for each lesson. I would prepare the links ahead of time and then the students would just have to open the hyperlinks from the document. It made life so much easier! This eventually evolved into a class website. 

Benefits of a Class Website
Here are my top 3 reasons I maintain a class website:

  1. Students can navigate the web faster. At the beginning of the year they learn they type  Ms Mondor into Google and my website is the first link. Once there, all they have to do is click on the links related to the lesson at hand.

  1. Students can use the class website at home to review concepts and share what they have learned with their families. I often do a "summary of the week" to support this.

  1. It is an automatic “bookmark” site. By the end of the year, I have a great collection of websites that I can use over and over again, year after year.

Here are my top 3 things you should think about before starting a class website:

  1. Time. Setting up an effective class website takes time. I believe it is worth it, however.  

  1. Skills. Creating and maintaining a website involves using an online program (I’ll discuss some options below). You may have to invest some time into learning the skills required.

  1. Keep It Simple! It is easy to look at other websites and get overwhelmed at how amazing they are. Start small and remember your ultimate purpose is to create a tool that will simplify your students’ experiences online.

Option One: Website or Blog
There are many free options out there if you want to create a website. I like and I know that Blogger is another popular site. Please post a comment if you use another site and what you like about it.

There are three elements that I have focussed on (
  1. I use Wordpress’ “blog roll” to store regularly used websites. My students use Mathletics, SchoolZone, Raz Kids and Tumblebooks regularly. So I have these permanently stored at the top of the page for easy access.

  1. I use Wordpress’ pages to create a page for each subject area. This is where I store websites that we have already used as a class. I add to these pages throughout the year.

  1. I use Wordpress’ “blog post” function to create posts for specific lessons or centre work. I often delete or modify blog posts after the relevant lesson is over.

Option Two: Google Sites
Google sites are easy to create and offer a variety of templates to build from. I had no experience with building a website when I created the “Great Grade 1 Websites” site and in an afternoon I had curricular pages with at least one link on each. One of my main objectives was to create a site the students could navigate independently. I followed the apps model and used pictures as links to websites we have used.

It is easy to embed movie clips and other links to curricular content that will support student learning and involve the parents. This gives students the opportunity to review movies that have been watched in class, to reinforce concepts or enrich their learning by having a conversation about these topics with parents.

Even though the site is a work in progress it is included as a resource link on SchoolZone for my class. The students enjoy going to see what is new as well as playing the games! Including it on SchoolZone also provides easy access so students can find it independently.

Option Three: SchoolZone (Edmonton Public Schools)
If your school uses SchoolZone, you may want to use your class’ SchoolZone page as a class website. You could create an ‘event’ for a lesson that includes hyperlinks. The resources page can be used to store websites students have used in past lessons.

Option Four: Use Someone Else’s Website
There are many excellent class websites out there. If you are not ready to tackle developing and maintaining your own yet, then use someone elses! I will try to collect/add sites that you may find useful as a portal.

Division One General

Grade One

Grade Two

Grade Three

I would love to hear your stories about class websites. What have you learned? What to avoid? What works great.