Wednesday, May 13, 2009

iPods Pilot Project with ELL Students - SUCCESS!!

Back in January, I posted about an iPod pilot project that we conducted with a small group of ELL students at one of our elementary schools. Overall, ELL students in our district have not tested well in math on our state's standardized test called the CRCT. Vocabulary has been an issue for them as well as understanding concepts such as fractions and decimals. We needed to try an "out of the box" approach to supporting their learning, and after becoming aware of other iPod projects in existence, we chose to move forward with our own pilot.

Our model consisted of the students w0rking with the iPods both in school and taking them home on a rotating basis for further remediation and acceleration. Kristi Johnson, the Literacy (Technology) Coach at the school, worked diligently to find and/or create media as well as associated activities for the iPods.

Unfortunately, we got a rather late start on the project, not beginning to use the iPods with the students until November. I wasn't sure how much using the iPods might help them given the fact that they would be tested in early April. Based on her observations, Kristi had told me how much the students enjoyed using them and that she had seen progress in their learning. Early benchmark tests also showed the students performing much better than they had in the past. The true test, however, would be the results from the CRCT.

I am very excited to report that 100% of the students passed the Math portion of the CRCT!! Last year, as 4th graders, only 20% of this same group passed. We haven't had a chance to dig into the data yet, but on the surface there appears to be a correlation between the iPod use and their achievement. We know that from August through the end of October the students did not use the iPods, so we're wondering how well they performed on content taught during that time versus content taught with iPod support. As soon as we have more data, I'll report back.

As for now, current budget restraints will most likely prevent us from expanding this project. However, we will continue to use the iPods with ELL students at this school next year. I, for one, am extremely excited about the test results for these kids who have struggled in the past! It's a great accomplishment for them, their teachers, and (hopefully) demonstrates how the effective use of technology can impact student achievement.

Image by Sagolla on Flickr

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two sites to share...

The following two sites were ones that came via my Google Reader from the website. They post quite often, and these were two that caught my eye.


Keyboardr is a search engine of a different breed. I know, I know....not another search engine, right? I've looked at a lot of engines, but this is the first that I've found that actually displays the search results as you type them. No need to hit enter or click on search. Simply begin typing your keywords and the results appear in the window.

Pretty cool. But Keyboard doesn't stop there. Not only does it give you search results as you type, but it also offers Wikipedia, You Tube, and Google blogs, and Google Image search results as well. I typed in "educ" and these were the results I received even before finishing the word "education".

I'm always a sucker for sites that are geared for photos (even if I don't use them very often), but every once in a while I need to create a panorama picture, but I don't have software that will do that for me. Now, I don't need any thanks to Clevr, an online panorama creator. It allows you to stitch a series of photos together into one picture. Below are some of their other offered features as well as some sample panorama pictures created with their service.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blogging with students - Summary of responses

Last week I asked for assistance regarding blogging with students for the first time. Since I'm not a classroom teacher, I don't feel qualified to offer guidelines for the teacher in my district who is interested in blogging with her 5th grade students. However, there are members of my PLN who are experienced, and this is a summary of the advice they offered.

  • Talk to administration first - This isn't something that I had thought of myself, so I was very grateful that Jim Gates brought up this suggestion. Without the administration on board, the whole project could fall flat. Their support and understanding is essential when embarking on a new project such as this.
  • Talk to parents BEFORE you start- I had already planned on recommending this, but I didn't think about this aspect of it: "Let them know what a blog is." (Jim Gates) We certainly cannot assume that every parent automatically knows what a blog is, what it's for and the value of its use in the classroom.

  • Commenting on others' blogs is important - Grace Kat echoed Kymberli Mulford's sentiment that commenting is an important element of student blogging and not necessarily a skill that comes naturally. Commenting both appropriately and meaningfully has to be modeled and learned.

    Steve Kirkpatrick (MrKp on Twitter) encouraged commenting on others' blogs (not in the classroom). "Get a conversation going." J Allen reminded that "just like regular bloggers, kids need to realize that blogging is a conversation." Amen to both pieces of advice.

  • Don't feel that you must grade the blogs - Again, I never would have thought to offer this piece of advice, which I did receive from several people. Jim Gates made the point that the blog is there for the kids to feel free enough to speak without worrying about being graded. I can definitely see that if the students attempt to blog knowing that their every word will be critiqued how that could inhibit their writing process.

    Coming from another angle regarding grading, Kimberli Mulford (aka @kmulford on Plurk) offered her perspective. She doesn't post grades on individual blog posts, but due to the nature of her class, she does have to grade the students. Instead of assessing posts, she provides students with a standard "bar" to meet in order to get an "A", which for her students is to have five quality approved posts in the final five weeks, and they must support their fellow bloggers by commenting regularly on others' posts.

    Kimberli went on to explain that she does have a quantity and quality standard which all posts must meet before she approves them, which is made clear to students through modeling and talking through the process.

  • Maintain moderation rights on posts and comments - I happen to agree with this completely and had already offered this advice. As much as we'd love to give our students free reign, it's important to moderate both posts and comments to ensure quality, substantive content, as well as appropriateness.

  • Blogging Platforms - I received a mixed bag of comments regarding various platforms available for student blogging. Edublogs, which I had mentioned in my post that the teacher was considering, has advertisements unless you pay. Of those who offered advice, here are the platforms they are currently using: Wordpress, VLE, ePals, and Edublogs. Which she will end up using is up in the air as of right now. I, personally, have mixed feelings regarding advertisements. Regardless that they are "suitable" for the content of the blog, I'm not a fan of them. I had considered ePals, but Kymberli indicated that they have grown faster than their service can support. We do not have an internal option to offer, so I'm wondering what might be the best path to take for a first-time blogging teacher?
Thank you for the advice! From my perspective, I feel much better being armed with first-hand information to offer her. I'll keep you posted regarding her project.

Added information 2-27-09

I thought I would add a couple of lists of blogging resources that I have compiled in Diigo.

Blogging Examples: Student and Classroom

Permission Letters - Forms for blogging/wiki use

Advice Photo: Wurzle on Flickr

A grade Photo: Futureofmath on Flickr

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blogging with Students - Where do you start?

I have an elementary teacher who is interested in having her students blog. She's new to blogging herself, but is enthusiastic about getting her kids (5th graders) started and will be using Edublogs are her platform. Although I am extremely excited that she wants to do this, and I plan on doing whatever I can to assist her, I do not have any first-hand experience with student blogging. I can (and have) provided her with a few links related to student blogging, but I have a few questions about how she should progress.

1) For elementary students, what is a good "permission" form to send home? Does anyone have a sample?

2) How should she begin? Should she start with one blog where her students can be "authors" or should she set up a blog for each student?

3) If she sets up a blog for each student, does she have moderation control over approving new posts first?

These were just a few questions that popped into my head, but I'm sure there will be others. I want this to be as smooth of an experience for her as possible, so I'm asking for helpful advice from those of you who have been there. How should she begin? What hiccups might she expect? What problems have you run into and how were they handled? Thank you in advance for your help and I will compile the advice given in a new blog post.

Photo credit: DavidGilmour on Flickr
Photo credit : BJMCCRAY on Flicker

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A few "finds" to share...

I realized that I stumble across some great links, whether from Plurk, Twitter, or my Google Reader, but I'm not very consistent about sharing them. So, with that in mind, I'm going to try and be a bit better about that and here are a few that I've become aware of in the past two weeks.

My Brochure Maker
@kjarrett on Twitter mentioned this Flash-based brochure and flyer maker for making brochures as Publisher isn't exactly "friendly" for younger students. I have to agree with his assessment, too. I checked out this Web 2.0 application and it's very simple to use. There isn't a lot of room for customization, which I liked. Why? Because it will force them to focus more on the content and less on design.

Real World Math with Google Earth
I'll be honest with you...I hate math. However, had Google Earth been around when I was learning math, I can honestly say that I would have enjoyed it far more. This great site offers a variety of lessons broken down into four categories: Concepts, Project based learning, Measurement, and Exploratory. Within each category you'll find at least one lesson along with a Google Eart kmz file to use. What I also liked was the fact that both NCTM and NETS*S standards are listed along with other lesson information.

Educational Blogs You Should Be Investigating
This blog post is courtesy of mrssmoke of Plurk. There are other lists out there of educational bloggers, but sometimes going through them takes forever. She offers a nice, concise list of educational bloggers and has categorized them by field of discipline and grade level, which I find particularly useful.

Life Magazine Photo Archive - Hosted by Google

Search millions of photos from the Life magazine photo archive from the 1750's to today. Many of the images have not been previously published.
You can apply a filter to a Google image search by adding "source:life" to any search.

For example: computer source:life

50 Tools and Tricks to Revolutionize Your Notetaking
This blog entry by Holly McCarthy features 50 tools that "that let you share ideas, store your thoughts directly on a web page and more". Holly has sorted the tools into eight categories, which is helpful if you're looking for one particular function.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Picasa 3 Collage Feature

I love it when I drop in to quickly check out my Plurk PLN and end up getting distracted by a few great finds! Jamielpeters shared a Youtube video introducing Picasa 3. I have used Picasa in the past, but never really got into it since I already have Photoshop, and for quick fixes I use Irfanview. After watching just a small portion of the video, I decided to update my Picasa. Why? For the photo collage feature!

In my district, I am hosting a web-based 23 Things class and I try to find Creative Commons licensed pictures to use for each "Thing". Creative Commons and Flickr are two topic that we'll cover, but I also want the participants to explore some of the creative things they can also do with what they find. The image that I created above is via Picasa and a group of photos that I found on Flickr, most of which I used in a recent GaETC presentation that I did on building a Professional Learning Community (PLN). I LOVE the way it turned out!

Some of the past photo "collage" features in Picasa didn't allow for a lot of customization. I'm very happy to report that has changed in this version! I was able to customize the background color, tilt and resize photos, go back and grab additional photos from other folders and provide frames for the photos (white or polaroidesque). Just another great, FREE tool from Google!!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 16, 2009

iPod, therefore iLearn - How we're piloting them

About this time last year, I first became acquainted with the concept of using iPods in the classroom, and the idea appealed to me very much. With the pressures from NCLB to meet AYP (don't you love those acronyms), we are always looking for methods to ensure student success. And how can success be defined? For some schools, even in my own district, that means pouring your efforts into those one or two sub-groups, which sometimes by one student failing, can cause the entire school to not meet AYP. Using iPods to support learning for the "bubble" students made sense. Technology engages kids, the technology itself is not terribly expensive, and the content can be readily available and easily adapted if you know where to look.

Although iPods are a less expensive investment compared to a laptop computer, with limited funds, I was only able to purchase five 80 gig video iPods for use in a pilot program. The question that remained was which group should be the focus of the pilot. Since I work in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at our Board of Education, finding that sub-group was thankfully easy, as well as choosing which subject area to target.

iPod Classic
Image by Yum9me on Flickr

Our school system is growing. In fact, we have consistently been one of the fastest growing counties not only in Georgia, but in the United States as well. And with that growth, we've seen our ELL (English Language Learner) population follow suit. As ELL students are held to the same accountability standards for AYP as the rest of our student population, we chose this group to target for a pilot, especially since funding for these students is so limited.

This year, one of our elementary schools developed a Literacy/Technology Coach position using Title 1 funds. This is also the same school that has a significant ELL population, which made it a natural choice for the pilot. Given past performance on standardized tests, we chose to focus on math concepts and vocabulary acquisition for 5th grade students. Although other subject areas will be incorporated into the pilot, we are most interested in seeing how the use of the iPods may affect student performance in math.

Before beginning the pilot itself, I worked closely with the L-T Coach to determine the type of content available, how to make it work on the iPods, and how the students would use the iPods. It was always my intent to have the students take the iPods home for one night at a time along with some form of assignment that would correlate with what they watched. By having a structured pencil and paper activity that parallels a video or other activity, we would be able to determine which types of content reached students the best.

A parental agreement was drafted and approved by our board attorney, which outlined the guidelines of the program and expectations we had for the student and parents. This was presented to the parents at an evening meeting where we had two interpreters available, the ESOL teacher, the L-T coach, our Family Engagement Specialist (who is also a former ESOL teacher), and myself. The students were present as well and this was their first opportunity to actually use the iPods. For some students, they had never used one, but they quickly learned while the parents discussed the agreement. We had seven students in this pilot group and every parent signed the agreement allowing their child to participate. They were concerned about how they would reimburse the school system in case of damage or loss (which was part of the agreement), but we assured them that a plan could be worked out.

iPod video en la palma de mi mano
Image by Pedroaznar on Flickr

However, now that the pilot is underway, I honestly don't believe we'll need to worry about damage or loss. These students understand the responsibility of having the iPod when they take it home and guard it with their life. It's too early to make any assessments regarding student performance, but we can report that the students are very enthusiastic about using the iPods both at school and at home.

Our pilot program was recently featured in our county newspaper, which also talks a bit more about the type of content that is being used on the iPods. If you would like to read the entire article, it, along with pictures, is available here.

This type of technology can be applied in a variety of ways with many different children. What prompted me to write this post today was a link from Pat Hensley's (aka loonyhiker) Instructional iPods blog post where she offers some ideas for using iPods in the Special Education setting. In her post, she mentions Christine Southard's blog post Introducing Ipods into Special Education. As an aside, I love it when one blog post leads to another such as in this case. Christine featured the following video in her blog post, which really captures the power of this technology. In the near future, I will share this video with my own Special Education Director

(If you have any questions regarding the pilot, please feel free to post them in the comments. If I can't answer them, I will pass them on to Kristi Johnson and Sandra De Castro who are the two teachers implementing the program. )

Other Resources regarding iPods in Education:

Google Notebook Phasing Out? Say it ain't so!

I haven't had a lot of time in the past few days to catch up on Twitter or Plurk, but when I get the indicator on my Diigo tool bar that there is a new message available, even though I'm busy I will at least look at it. Today, I wish I had not because this is what I saw:
Align Center

Google notebook

Yes, Google is halting development on Google Notebook. Here is the official word.

Usually Maggie Tsai of Diigo is the bearer of good news, and in this case at least she's (Diigo) is moving to assist those of use who are Google Notebook users when we lose that service. For me, it's not just about the ability to grab pieces of text and URLs. If that is all I want, I use Diigo's highlight feature for that purpose. Notebook is where I store images and text together.

Maggie linked back to Richard Byrn's blog post Free Technology for Teachers: Choosing a Google Notebook Replacement where he not only gave a few more details, but also offered some possible replacements as well. One solution a commenter suggested was to use Evernote, which does have a Firefox plugin. I have an Evernote account, but haven't really needed it since I had Google Notebook. I suppose I will begin using it now in anticipation of the day that I lose Google Notebook. For now, I'm going to start importing my Google notebook exerpts into Google Docs unless I'm able to easily bring them into Evernote.

For even more options, this Lifehacker post, Where to Go When Google Notebook Goes Down, offers some solutions as well.

Yes, I'm going to move on, but right now I plan on sulking for a bit.

Death of Google Notebook

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

7 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Me

I've never been tagged for a meme before until one of my fellow Plurkers, Heidi chose me for the task. The purpose of this meme is to share with others seven things about me that you might not know. Here is Heidi's post about herself since she tagged me. The rules are simple: link back to the person that has tagged you and then tag seven other people. If you would put your name for others to see on this wiki then you can see all of the other social networking people that have done this so far :)

One: I love sci-fi movies and TV shows!! Right now I am anxiously awaiting January 16th when Battlestar Galactica will return for it's final shows. I hate that it's almost over. I remember watching the original series as a child, but this one is soooo much better. Luckily, my boys share my love for sci-fi or I would be the odd ball in the family.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2
Photo credit: scott.armitage on Flickr - click photo for link

Two: I'm a total sucker for reality shows. Not all of them mind you, but I do get caught up in them. American Idol, So you think you can dance (amazing talent!), The Amazing Race. There are more, but I think I've embarrassed myself enough.
American Idol (16/366)
Photo credit: 427 on Flick - click photo

Three: I scrapbook, make cards and occasionally other items. Right now I'm making cards more than scrapbooking because it's faster and I really need hours if I plan on scrapbooking. Why? Because I LOVE to spread all of my paper, pictures, and tools out everywhere. If I have glitter on my face or my fingers are stained from ink, then you know what I've been doing. I hate to admit this, but I'm something of a "paper whore(der)". That would be a person who collects paper with the intent to use in a project, but then falls in love with it and can't bring themselves to cut it. It's a disease that I need to get over. These are a sampling of a few things I've made, all of which are older items. I really need to take some newer pictures.

Four: I've been to France four times, although I can hardly count my first trip as having "been" there. I got to walk on a beach for all of five minutes and entered France via Calais on a crossing from England. The other three trips were much more significant compared to that. In college, I lived in Tours, France for two months while working on my BSED in Education with a concentration in French. I absolutely LOVED every day I spent there and was fortunate enough to be able to travel around a bit. I took a small group of students to France with me (again going back to Tours) after my first year of teaching in 1994. That was followed by two more trips with students in 1997 and my last trip being in 2000. After that, I left teaching French behind along with the free trips I earned for bringing the kids with me. It was great while it lasted though! Again, here are a few pictures from those various trips.

Five : I was a cheerleader in middle school in a tiny little town called Burlington, KS. I think the fact that I was the only girl who could do a front walk over was reason why I made cheerleader in the first place. That and I can shout really loud. Not exactly being athletically inclined, except for gymnastics, cheerleading was a great outlet for me. Sorry, no personal pictures for this one.

suessian megaphone
Photo by Suessian on Flickr on Flickr

Six: I suffered from temporary insanity back in 2000 and coached a high school cheerleading squad. I have the utmost respect for cheerleading coaches as a result. Dealing with all of that estrogen made me very glad that I did not give birth to girls. Trying to "coach" these girls how to toss each other was a hoot considering I had no personal experience myself. I did learn a great deal about basketball though.

Bowling Green vs. Montgomery County, Montgomery Co. Tourney

Picture by Eagle102 on Flickr

Seven: When I moved from Oklahoma to Washington in the middle of the third grade, I had a persian cat named "Snowy". He stuck around for all of two days in Washington and then deserted us. I didn't get another pet until my mom saw me "playing" with the fishing worms we kept in the refrigerator and that's when she took me to K-Mart and bought me a parakeet. His name was Daniel (after my first crush) and he lived for five years, surviving a move to both Kansas and then to Texas. Daniel was an incredible bird who had a healthy vocabulary of over 50 words! He even knew my name and yelled it whenever I brushed him off of my cup of sweet tea. The little devil would land on our dining room table where we had puzzle pieces spread out, pick one up, walk to the edge, drop it and then laugh. However, we were hardly amused. This pic below is close to what he looked like, but his head was yellow instead of white. I miss that bird!

The Bad Boy

Photo by Pliabletrade on Flickr.

Well, this ends my meme. Unfortunately, I think most everyone has already done a meme such as this or I would tag you myself. However, if you haven't done one, please let me know. I'll edit this post to tag you and then you can carry it on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Plurk Inspired 365 Random Pictures Flickr Challenge

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to challenges, I tend to fall flat. However, this one might be doable for me. How hard can it be to take pictures daily anyway? Yes, that statement might come back to bite me in the posterior later, but I'd like to give this a go.

I created a blog to feature my daily pictures along with a bit of text, but I have a photostream of the pictures embedded into the sidebar of my blog as well. By using my Blackberry Storm to take and upload many of my pictures, I hope that will enable me to be more successful .

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Oh, and in case you're counting...I started a few days late.