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.