Friday, November 17, 2017

3rd Graders Research, Write and Share With MyOn & Thinglink!


Recently Mrs. McCollough came to me for digital suggestions to support a unit her students were studying on Ancient Egypt. In addition, she wanted to be able to address a 3rd grade writing standard W.3.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly. (including an introduction/conclusion sentence, illustrations, supporting facts and the use of linking words) After mentally thumbing through the available digital options, I suggested she ask students to do their research using the MyOn eBook series on Ancient Egypt, and their writing on the web/iPad tool Thinglink

Students began their research with MyOn, where they found an excellent series on Ancient Egypt! Using eBooks for research is perfect for supporting the variety of reading levels in one class. As students gather their facts they can choose to have the book read to them or read it themselves.



As the students researched their topic, they wrote paragraphs on the facts they found. Mrs. McCollough had students handwrite their paragraphs rather than type them. Once they were done, we introduced the Thinglink web app. Students chose an image and added their paragraphs to create hot links for their facts. Along the way, student also learned a few valuable digital skills as well. One skill they learned was to press the Alt key before clicking on an image to pull up a window for cutting and pasting the picture's URL. 

Most of all, the skills that student discover as they create with a variety of digital tools helps them become confident digital natives. Thinglink gave students a chance to prove and share their learning in a unique and engaging way. 






Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thankful for Digital Tools! Ideas To Inspire Digital Integration

3rd Graders Use Google Slides & FlipSnack.com To Make A Class eBook!



Recently one of our 3rd grade teachers, Mrs. McCollough, asked for my help giving students an opportunity to digitally share their learning about Planets. We decided to have students share their learning using the cooperative learning jigsaw approach. (This is when each student specializes by learning one topic to teach the class. Once everyone is done teaching, they all know the information about all of the topics.) We gave every student the responsibility of finding four - six facts about their assigned planet/moon/sun. Based on the size of the class, two students would get the same planet but would begin by working independently. Students used our newest paid digital tool, Scholastic's Trueflix eBooks, though any resource on the solar system could be used.


Once students were done with their research, they found the classmate with the same topic and shared their facts. I created a Google Slideshow and shared it with the students. I had already created a slide for each planet. Students worked in pairs to add their facts to their slide. They learned how to add images and give credit (with a URL) when using a photo. Once students were done, I downloaded the slideshow as a PDF, and uploaded the PDF to the FlipSnack website to create a class eBook. (I also use Anyflip.com to create ebooks. Both are free, but the embed code from Flipsnack works a little better with my blog.)

The final product made this project especially a fun collaboration for students. I really like this lesson because it blended individual and collaborative efforts of students. It provided an opportunity to learn about fair use, work in Google Slide and the solar system!

Here We Go...3D Printing Comes To OHE!

  
Thanks to our OHE PTO, the best PTO ever, I returned to school this year to a huge box from MakerBot. In the rush of the beginning of the school year, I pushed the huge box aside with the intent of opening it once everything calmed down. This week, our OHE STEM teacher, Leah Yoemans, and I finally opened that huge box and out came a shiny new 3-D printer - the MakerBot Replicator+

Our goal for this printer is simple. We would like each of our 5th grade students to have the opportunity to create a simple design & print it. Easy right? Before beginning with students, we needed to learn how to use it ourselves!  Leah and I sat down with our district's resident expert, Mike Heitzig, to soak up as much as we could about how to connect, design and create with our new 3-D printer. We learned about Thingiverse and Tinkercad. We learned a few "dos and don'ts" and "how tos". I came out of our session with my head spinning, realizing how ambitious this really is, but also how valuable.

Stay tuned for more on our 3-D printing project and wish us luck!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hacking Library Redesign on a Budget!


Over the last few years, I've been trying to rethink our school media center in an attempt to update and create a more flexible space for our students. I've written about this a few times. As I have been rethinking, repurposing and redesigning, a major consideration was that I needed to do it on a skeleton budget. Redesigning on a tight budget has required a great deal of creativity! Although it feels like it has been a painfully slow process, little by little, I am starting to see the positive changes.

Before going any further, I have to say that making low budget changes does have it's advantages. As I change things, and because I don't invested too much money, if it turns out to be a flop, I can always put it back the way it was!

Thank You Shout Outs!  I have to thank several people for their help. My principal, Wade Labatte, is very supportive. Even though he may feel like it, he doesn't roll his eyes every time I come with a new idea. He listens and ask questions...cognitive coaching me, for those who know what that is :). He is supportive of my efforts. Our building custodial staff, brothers Mike and Tim Gallagher, have put in extra time and energy, doing the heavy work to help me realize my vision for the space. My library clerk, Jennifer Burkle, is so upbeat and even though my ideas mean more work for her, she makes a great library cheerleader! Finally, library volunteer Sheila, who's son has moved on to middle school, still comes to help us with our major book moving and shelving. Now that's dedication!

Last year, I made a few changes. I put out iPad stands to get students used to using the library catalog on an iPad rather than a desktop computer.  I also purchased a rug and put some cushions around the rug to create a kid friendly reading space. (Of all the changes to the space, this one has been a kid favorite!)

    

Then I began weeding! I weeded our fiction section several years ago when I genrified that section. Then last year, I weeded our picture book section. Only our nonfiction section remained unweeded. It was in desperate need of weeding with 20 year old books that had copyright dates that were much older. As most librarians know, weeding breathes new life into a library collection. It cuts away the books that students don't want so they can more easily find what they do want. As I weeded, Jennifer and Sheila moved the books to several wall shelving units that were largely empty since I got rid of our magazines. I always considered these wall units too tall for our elementary students, so we rearranged shelves to put display shelves on the top, since those shelves were too high for many of our students.



Next, Mike got rid of the huge tables that used to hold our desktop computers. These computers were largely used to host the Destiny Library Catalog for student use.  Students had already begun to use the iPads for this purpose, so they weren't in use.


Repurposing   Next, with the newly emptied stacks of shelves in the middle of the library, I asked Mike and Tim to move it along an outside wall freed up by the now removed tables. They also removed one of four sections of the stack to make it shorter.  This made it fit snuggly into the wall space. Throughout all of the rearranging, I was having a hard time with the idea of getting rid of these library stacks. They were custom made for our space when we opened the building 18 years ago, and I just couldn't bring myself to throw them away, or pay for expensive new shelving. So once the stack was against the wall, I turned up the shelves on the wall side to create a new back for shelving on the front, thus making it a little less obvious that it is double sided.  


Finally, I took the shelves completely out of a second stack of shelves and created high top seating with eight inexpensive chairs that I bought from Amazon. This change gave our library space a variety of seating at different heights, while also opening up more space in the center of our library. 



What's next? As money allows, we are planning to put our tables on lockable wheels, making them more flexible. If money were no object, I would replace our round tables with square tables on wheels. The shape may not seem like a big deal, but it makes the furniture move together and apart more easily. Round tables don't push together to create collaborative seating quite as well as square tables. I would also love to update the chairs around the tables, but that is more of a desire to have an updated look as our chairs function well.  

I have always thought of our OHE library as a beautiful inviting space. These changes just make it more flexible for staff and students.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Climbing The Uphill Learning Curve...Are We At The Top Yet?


Typically, I try to focus my blog on digital lessons that the Oak Hills Elementary community and my PLN (professional learning community) will find helpful. It's probably obvious, but I am a believer in sharing my learning and ideas. I am grateful and inspired by colleagues, both near and far, who are willing to share their ideas. And this professional inspiration propels me forward! So I try to share in the hopes that I can "pay it forward".

This school year, however, I've been struggling to act on this core belief of mine. Like many bloggers, I always feel a little guilt, a little naggling voice reminding me that I haven't been writing or sharing!  With the exception of a few tweets here and there, I have spent the first two months of the school year climbing a few big learning curves (new 3D printer - need I say more, redesigning the library and learning how to record & manage our daily news announcements) along with the regular every day challenges. Each one of these challenges would be manageable by themselves, but together make a high peak to climb!(to keep the analogy going) I know the payoff for my students and school will be great, but I am a bit winded by the climb!

Stay tuned for more details on how it's going!

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Little September & October Fun at OHE!

We had a wonderful Book Fair!



Our OHE Walk-A-Thon Was A Huge Success!



We celebrated our successful Walk-A-Thon with a few hilarious rounds of teacher Hungry Hungry Hippo! 



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Launching A New Year Of Digital Devices,Tools & Learning!

In schools with digital devices, the first month of school is largely dedicated to getting everyone up and running with their devices and tools. Our district's first big influx of digital devices was delivered last school year in November, so this year was the first time I was supporting teachers and students who were ready to dive right in. I spent most of September and some of October helping our students get going. Reminding some and teaching others how to login and use Chromebooks, Google, Schoology, MyOn, SeeSaw, Typing.com and Newsela. It was such a whirlwind, I am probably forgetting a few! My calendar was packed, with a few teachers frustrated that there wasn't enough of me to go around!

Our 5th grade jumped into writing from the first week. With Mrs. Urban's class, I introduced writing and word processing basics right away with Google Docs. In addition to writing skills, we focused on spacing, word wrapping, centering. By jumping in right way, these students would be able to use these skills for their writing throughout the year.

Fourth Grade introduced students to Chromebooks using Schoology and MPCC (Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum).  Mr. Hemann began with a map reading lesson. 

 

 

Third Grade students jumped right in with MyOn and Newsela!


In Kindergarten, we used the Draw A House app along with a beautiful book called Home by Carson Ellis. It is our "go to" lesson for teaching iPad basics, so typically our first iPad lesson.

I had a chance to share tips and guidelines:
1.  Always carry any device with two hands!
2. Swipe down on the screen (in the middle away from an actual app) to get a search option!  This way students aren't left trying to figure out which page their iPad app is on.  They can type in the first two letters to the search window to find their app!
3.  Five finger close.  Students can spread their hand out on the iPad glass and draw their fingers into the middle to close out of an app.  This is great for saving wear and tear on the home button on the iPad.  (It is also a great option if the home button is being a bit glitchy!)
4.  Never touch another student's iPad. If you want to help a fellow classmate, you need to point, not touch to help them find their way.
That was enough for our first day in kindergarten! Students read the book, learned about different homes, created their own home, and learned how to use their iPad successfully!  All in all a good day in kindergarten!




Inline image 1 Inline image 1




This was a great beginning to our digital year! With a running leap, our OHE students were positioned to use their digital tools for even greater learning.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Oak Hills Students Kick Off Their Digital Learning With Padlet!


We are ending our first fabulous week of school. This week can often be exhausting for students and teachers as everyone adjusts to their new school family, getting to know one another and setting expectations for the year. Whew!

This year at Oak Hills Elementary we have decided to focus on building relationships with each other and with our students. With this in mind, our teachers employ "Back to School" activities to create a "responsive classroom" designed to help their students come together, validate each student and prepare a positive learning environment. Though these are traditional "first week of school" activities that provide a vital springboard for student success, there is no reason that they have to be delivered in a traditional way! That is where I come in :)



Again this year, many of our teachers invited me in to help guide their first digital activity. We used my favorite digital tool, Padlet to give students their first digital experience of the school year, share the details of their summer, jump start student writing skills and have some fun! Padlet presents a wonderful opportunity to talk about writing for an audience! Students spend extra time to do their very best because they realize that it will be shared outside the classroom as well. 



Digitizing back to school activities can also provide students with an opportunity to revisit principles of digital citizenship, establish device expectations, practice logging in with new passwords and help student get acquainted and share their voice.


It is getting a chance to read what students have on their minds, their best memories of the summer that I really enjoy! 


Monday, June 5, 2017

3rd Graders Create Cause & Effect Comic Strips With StoryboardThat.com


Recently 3rd grade teachers asked for my help as their students were focusing on identifying cause and effect relationships. Along with cause and effect, teachers wanted students to make the subsequent inferences about these cause and effect relationships. Third graders need to be able to recognize these relationships in their reading and in life! My challenge was to give students an opportunity to digitize this valuable lesson!

I found a solution in the web app StoryboardThat.com! Once teachers had introduced the topic, I introduced StoryboardThat.com. Students were asked to create their own cause and effect relationship and identify the inference in the form of a comic strip! 


Students learned how to add a backgrounds, add characters, speech bubbles and text boxes to their cause/effect comic strip! They were really quick at figuring out the "how tos" which made the lesson fun! StoryboardThat was the perfect web app to demonstrate cause and effect in pictures! 


Friday, June 2, 2017

4th Graders Use Glogster To Present Answers To Their Own Guiding Questions...

In April, our 4th grade teachers wanted to give students the opportunity to do research. Rather than decide for their students what they would research, traditionally it has been state reports, this year our 4th grade teachers wanted students to choose their own topic...to answer a guiding question based on their individual interests and passions. I applaud our 4th grade teachers, Mr. Hemann, Mrs. Osborn and Ms. Warfield for challenging themselves and their students to personalize their research. Having every student choose their own guiding question and research based on their own interest adds a level of complexity to their job as teachers. They wanted to encourage students to be curious and to learn that research isn't only something they do for school reports, but something they do for life! So our 4th grade teachers took a deep breath and plunged in. They asked for my help with selecting a digital tool for students to create a presentation. (They weren't quite ready to let each student choose their own digital tool. One step at a time 😉 ) Together we decided to try Glogster.

The first task was helping students turn their interests and passions into a guiding question. Many students knew what they wanted to research, but struggled to frame a question that would help them get to the answers they were seeking! I was amazed by the variety of their interests and depth of their curiosity!


Once students selected a topic and wrote a guiding question, they researched the answer. I was invited to show students how to use Glogster and support them as they created their Glogster to present their research findings. This gave me a chance to discuss online safety and copyright with students along the way. Students learned how to use Glogster by adding text features, speech bubbles, images and even embedding videos! These digital posters were visually engaging and gave students polished projects that they were proud to present to their class and families! Most importantly, students found answers to their own questions!






Thursday, June 1, 2017

Students Share Their Learning & Their Voice With The iMovie App!

I always LOVE finding new digital tools. Finding a new tool is like finding a shiny new pebble on the beach. These gems keep us, students and educators alike, energized with new ways of creating, collaborating and sharing our learning! They're fun! Recently, however, I was reminded that even with the constant pursuit for new and better digital tools, an old favorite (5 years :) has never stopped shining. The iMovie app gives students the opportunity to share their voice and their learning with an intuitive interface and polished final product. (I only wish Apple would update the background music options!! PLEASE! 😏 )

1st Grade Mealworm Life Cycle

Our first graders just completed several projects using iMovie. In Mrs. Johnson's class, students took pictures to document their mealworm over a period of days as it transitioned from a larvae to a beetle. They studied their mealworms and learned about it's life cycle. Once their mealworm transitioned through it's phases, they created iMovies to share what they had learned! They learned how to create their iMovies by adding their mealworm photos, background music, text and voice recordings. Students uploaded their iMovies to SeeSaw so their parents could see their learning!





1st Grade "Me On The Map" iMovies

1st graders also used iMovie to share their "Me On The Map" projects. Students shared their house, city, state, country, continent and world using pictures of maps!


Mrs. Khanhkeo shared her student's iMovies with families using a Padlet!


Fifth Grade Famous Hero Projects

Like our first graders, fifth graders used iMovie to demonstrate and share their learning in greater depth. The project goal was the share their learning about their choice of famous American.


Following their research, students created their iMovie by adding images, text, music, and voice recordings about their famous person. They learned about pacing, how to rearrange images and match their voice recordings to the images by editing the length of each image. They learned how to edit the display of each image using the "Ken Burns Effect". They personalized their iMovies with interesting facts that would keep their audience interested! Their final movies were uploaded to Google Drive, shared with their teacher and viewed by the entire class.



Can You Spot the Giant Loon? 3rd Graders Share Their Loon Research Using Google Slides!

Nothing creates more buzz around a 3rd grade loon research project than a giant loon, complete with a "Lunch To Go" bag full of fish! Mr. Labatte, our OHE principal, stole the show for our 3rd graders who were studying loons, our Minnesota State Bird! 

Our 3rd grade teachers, Mrs. Lorenson, Mrs. McCollough, and Mrs. Ryan, pulled out all the stops to help students learn about loons! They invited a guest speaker from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to share insights, and they gave students a chance to create their own paper mache loons!



Finally, our teachers asked students to create and share their learning digitally using Google Slides. This was the first time our 3rd graders created a digital slideshow, so we had to begin with the a few basics. As part of their research, students gathered facts about the loon habitat, food, appearance, calls and fun facts. Once they had their facts, they began their slides. I shared with students a few "how to" tips along the way, like adding a theme, images and text, along with formatting "dos & don'ts".


Once students created their Google Slides, they digitally shared their finished slideshow with their teacher via Google's sharing options. They also had a special day to share their slideshows with our OHE 1st Graders! This project wove together so many elements (creative, digital, & research) for students, and their finished projects were wonderful reflections of their learning!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

A First Grade Maker Fair! Check Out These Student Makers!


A few weeks ago, our 1st grade teachers ask me to plan a 1st Grade Maker Fair. They wanted a day dedicated to student making! This would be a trial run for the new MakerSpace tools I have been gathering in the media center. It would also give teachers an idea of how it would look if they began to integrate maker opportunities more frequently into their year of academics! I need to give a huge shout out to our 1st grade teachers who are always challenging their students and themselves! 

So what were the goals of our Maker Fair? We wanted students to have an opportunity to try multiple maker tools. We wanted students to collaborate with each other to build, design, engineer and code. We wanted our students to figure things out for themselves, so for the most part we gave them tools and let them go! (Except Ozobots & Robot Mouse which did require some explanation before students began!) We did suggest challenges to make sure each maker activity provided deeper thinking for our students.  

We learned some things along the way.  
1. Maker Fairs, like MakerSpaces, require lots of space!
2. We need more of certain maker tools. We need more Gears, which turned out to be a great engineering tool! 
3. We provided 25 minutes for each maker tool...not nearly enough time for students! 
4. Finally, we learned what may seem obvious, first graders (and teachers) began to wear out after their first few maker challenges. This is another reason that maker activities should be an ongoing challenge for students rather than a one day marathon.  

Despite our lessons learned, it was a huge success! Students were engaged and seemed to be having a blast! For me the greatest take away is that maker opportunities give our students the much needed chance to problem solve things for themselves. It was a blast to listen in on their conversations as they reasoned through their challenges! I can't wait to do it again!