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Digital Media in the Classroom

This page is for blog postings created during my “Digital Media in the Classroom” class through Wilkes University.

Books Meet Technology: and they get along beautifully together!

(written 28 Oct 2008)

  I chose the title theme for my blog page based on the fact that I am a “seasoned” librarian looking to enhance my curriculum (and my life) with as much technology as possible. I have been teaching elementary library skills in Otto-Eldred School District for 24 years now. Otto-Eldred is a very rural district in northwestern Pennsylvania, about 2 hours east of Erie, PA. I am working on my Master’s degree in Instructional Media because I am also responsible for much of the technology education at the elementary level. At present, I am teaching a voluntary after-school course to 3rd through 6th graders on the use of Alice, a very cool 3-dimensional animation program. This course has proven to be extremely popular on it’s debut so I may have to offer it again in the Spring to deal with all the students who now want to take it but couldn’t this time around. The amazing thing about this is the fact that Alice is a rather complicated program to use. I am finding that as long as the students can read and are willing to experiment, they are very happy and successful with the program. Our culminating activity will take place Nov 5. The parents are invited to participate that night with their children. The children will show off their creations and then teach their parents how to create something. The administration has expressed their interest in what I have been able to accomplish with this group, so it has been a very satisfying experience.

  Among my hobbies lie tap dancing (it’s a recital year!), computer work, reading, geocaching, and volunteering at the Erie Zoo. My training at the Zoo includes tours, creating and maintaining the zoo library, and animal handling. I have taken my animal handling training as far as possible. This past weekend I worked with Klaus the 5 month old baby alligator, Ozzie the ball python, Paco the new black chinchilla, Hercules the bearded dragon, Isabella the white rat, a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, and an emperor scorpion (not the female that stung me last year because she was pregnant!). The reptiles are by far my most favorite. Geocaching is one of my family’s new obsessions. We do it wherever we go. It is a fantastic family activity and great exercise, too! The scenery in some of the places we’ve been is amazing!

  With this new class, Digital Media in the Classroom, I am hoping to gain more insight into how to use technology in my own classroom. Multiple intelligences are included which will help me better understand the needs of my students. In reading the discussion postings of my fellow classmates, I am realizing that there are many media tools out there that I had never given much thought to, like iPods and Wii. Cell phones were also mentioned, but our schools have all banned them for a good reason: students are making and receiving calls during classes instead of attending to instruction. Students need to be taught respect and discipline for these technologies before turning them lose with such freedoms. This blog page is a new experience for me as well. With any luck, this will be a useful addition to my experiences!

– Denise

Digital Media: Research Skills

(written 3 Nov 2008)

  I have one lesson that I teach that could use some “sprucing up”. That is the unit I chose for this assignment: Introduction to research skills, encyclopedias in particular. I make the kids start with regular, bound encyclopedias so they are proficient with keywording first, and then we hit other references, and lastly the internet. My main goals for this unit are concerned with my students undertanding that while the internet is more fun, it is not always the fastest resource – unless you know how to use your keywords! I start with bound encyclopedias so I can more easily track their understanding of keywords and how to use captions, fact boxes, tracings, arrangement, and subheads. If they have a full understanding of these things, they will have the necessary base for internet research.

  While looking through the vast wealth of video material available on Discovery Education, I located a video clip entitled, “The Animated Reference Library: the animated encyclopedia” found at http://player.discoveryeducation.com/index.cfm?guidAssetId=C72A6002-59AE-4B92-8E74-433DF5EC716A&blnFromSearch=1&productcode=US. This clip is a cute mix of live action and claymation. It gives an overview starting with what an encyclopedia actually is. In my lesson, we begin with keyword identification and use, and move into coverage and Main Heads/Subheads.  The video clip, along with the lesson, would provide a good basis for several related activities. I have more than the needed 5 for our assignment because a couple are similar, but I wanted to follow the process through to a logical end.

Activity #1 – The video begins with a girl trying unsuccessfully to do research. This is a great way to introduce the frustrations involved with trying to doing research without knowing the process. After viewing this segment of the clip, I would have an open discussion with the class: Why is this girl frustrated? Will she complete the report at her present rate? What needs to change before she can be successful?

Activity #2 – The video clip then goes into a definition for encyclopedias. Prior to the segment of the clip with the definition, brainstorm with the class what an encyclopedia actually is. Have a couple students look it up in the encyclopedia and have a couple check the dictionary. Compare the definitions and then continue with the clip.

Activity #3 – Before viewing the next segment of the clip, discuss with the students what they know about how books are created and published, from previous classes. In small groups, using this as a guide, have the students create a “storyboard” of the process needed for an encyclopedia to “happen”. View the clip and have them compare their process to what actually happens: research, editing, writing, etc. Is it more complicated, or easier than you thought? If possible, the “storyboarding” could be done using PowerPoint and photographs taken with the digital cameras. They could also use drawings which are scanned into the presentation.

Activity #4 – Arrangement is a difficult concept for some students to grasp. Use this clip as an introduction to encyclopedia arrangement. It discusses single letter volumes, split letter volumes, and multi-letter volumes. Have the students brainstorm topics that may be included in each type of volume. Alphabetization is part of the arrangement. I am always awestruck with the number of students who can’t alphabetize by 5th grade. After this segment, I would provide pairs of students with notecard packs with topics which would all be in the same volume of the encyclopedia. They need to correctly alphabetize them. Some of the cards would have words which need to be ordered by the 2nd or 3rd letter in the word.

Activity #5 – The next segment deals with guide words. I would play a sorting game with the class. I would have a pocketed chart with several guide word sets at the top. Each student would receive a card with another topic on it which could be found within the range of one of the guide words sets on the chart. They each would take their turn by placing the card in the appropriate category. Finish by discussing or explaining as needed.

Activity #6 – This area has to do with my annoyance with the voicing used for the index, which I feel is distracting. To ensure understanding, after viewing the part on the index volume, the students would be permitted to play briefly with my microphone and sound editor (Audacity). While viewing I would have them take notes on the purpose of the index for the encyclopedia. Then I would have them script a new section to do a voice over (just for us). They will be able to play it while the video clip plays to see if they can get the same message across in a more invigorating format.

Activity #7 – Though it does not name “Main Heads” and “Subheads”, they are discussed. It notes that they are like an outline for the encyclopedia article. Give the students an encyclopedia article on a famous person. Have them use a word processor to create an outline of the article using the bolded headings. Have them compare their finished outlines with their “neighbor”.

Activity #8 – In the end, the girl is able to understand the use of the encyclopedia successfully by following a logical process. Use this as an introduction to the actual research project: “Encyclopedia Search”. Following the completion of the application worksheet, there should be a culminating activity prior to continuing. One final activity which would be enlightening for the students would be to stage a debate. Using what they learned about encyclopedia use and what they already know about the internet, have them list debate topics: one set for encyclopedia use, one set for internet use. They need to consider the amounts of time and skill involved in using both research tools and the pros and cons for both. Stage the debate and discuss what they have learned.

This animated overview video clip opens up several possibilities for activities for students which would help to enrich their knowledge of encyclopedia use. The clip itself is one tool. Others could include PowerPoint, Word, audio editing, as well as more traditional activities like brainstorming, games, notetaking, and debating. This would make the entire experience of beginning research much more fun and engaging for the whole class.

Interdisciplinary Approach to the Synthesizing Mind

(written 8 Nov 2008)

  Howard Gardner’s “synthesized mind” differs from his “disciplined mind” in that synthesized deals more with multidisciplinary work. As a “specialized” class, the students don’t always understand the value of my class until it affects another – then they panic. Scheduling tends to be a challenge because we all have our own curriculum to address on a schedule that makes sense for us – not the other guy. When we can make it work it is good for the students to see teachers from different curricula working together. Most of my multidisciplinary projects involve the other specialized classes, but incorporating Social Studies, Science, and Math can be just as rewarding. For myself, I prefer project-based assessments which incorporate literature enrichment because I feel I can get more out of my students this way. I have used rubrics in the past, and as a student myself I appreciate knowing specifically what I must do to get my grades. However, I feel as a student that makes me different from my students because many of them just want to do the bare minimum and slide by with a passing grade. I have moved away from rubrics myself because I expect the most out of every student – no bare minimums accepted.
  Project-based assessments give us a good opportunity to let the students show off what they have learned using the tools they love and are most comfortable with. One such multidisciplinary project combines Research (traditional and “new wave”), Social Studies, Technology Education and a little Art: creating a travel brochure. The goals for each discipline would be different, but the end result would display a variety of knowledge all rolled up into one package. The Social Studies goal would be to prove knowledge about a particular state or country (depending on the grade level). They would have specific information to find regarding tourism and sightseeing, government and history, and cool trivia. In Library Skills class I would be concerned with their ability to successfully do research using books, encyclopedias, and the internet. Can they use appropriate sources to find their needed information? Can they find graphics which will illustrate their information? An Art goal which would be met would include layout and design of the brochure itself. What would the cover design look like to grab the client’s attention? How much space should be given to text and how much to illustrations? Technology Education would be covered with their actual brochure creation using MS Word initially. They would display their knowledge of columns and importing graphics found during their research. Can they successfully use Spellcheck? Can they change their fonts? As the students’ abilities improve, they could create their brochures using PowerPoint instead of Word. At that point they could show knowledge of sound imports (downloaded and self-recorded) as well as graphics, perhaps using scanned images also. This could also lead into the use of digital cameras and camcorders to provide their own graphic images.

  Another multidisciplinary approach I like to use whenever possible involves providing challenges to the students. I had the wonderful opportunity to teach an after school class using “Alice”. Alice is a 3-dimensional animation program which can also imported sound files. The students were not receiving a grade for their work with me, but I still needed to make sure they were understanding the content and wanting to return. After working with them on all the technical aspects of the program, they started working on story lines for a literature tie-in. I left the story content up to them at that point, but this met any literature-based goals I had. Then I started providing them with a “challenge”. This “challenge” met my needs for assessment in a way that they didn’t see as anything but fun. Each class period for the last 2-1/2 weeks I gave them a specific goal to meet. During fire safety week I wanted them to incorporate a rescue into their story. They had to have a fire truck rescue a person from a burning building. Another challenge had them using 2 snowman who had to ride on a sled, have a snowball fight, and then melt after drinking hot chocolate. Part of the difficulty for them was in locating the graphics they wanted, or to build them using shapes. Everyone got what they wanted from the assignment: they had fun, I knew they could effectively use Alice, they illustrated a storyline using guidelines I provided, and they kept coming back for more! In the end, the student’s invited their parents for a “show-and-tell”. After showing their parents what they had accomplished over the 6 week course, they had to teach them how to create their own animations, and they had to meet one final challenge together. Hence, another goal was met: parents working with their children combining technology, literature, and family participation – yeah!
  Technology is one of the easiest venues to incorporate into multidisciplinary efforts. Digital media makes possible so many dreams for students by allowing them to show their creative talents in ways that are fun for us as educators. There is the added bonus of knowing that they will take those experiences with them and hopefully better the world we will share together in old age!

Fostering a Creative Mind

(written 17 Nov 2008)

  Providing opportunities to enrich a creative mind involves more than just the actual creativity factor. It also involves problem solving and decision making. This is probably the single-most important cognitive abiltity where our students’ personal concerns would lie. They would be more inclined to participate if we tailored more of our activities in the creative direction.

  One activity that I like to use with my fourth graders involves “flip-side” stories. Flip-side stories are classic stories which have another version of the story attached. In some cases it may be just an alternative ending; in others it involves the whole story told from a different perspective. Now that we are focusing more on technology, I see an interesting application here using an “old friend”: PowerPoint. As a presentation tool, PowerPoint easily lends itself to storytelling. If the project is to be to provide another story in it’s entirety from “the bad guy’s” point of view, the students also have several problems to work out. Working from the bad guy’s side of the story, there may be moral issues to deal with in an appropriate manner. For example, the story of Goldilocks involves blatent “breaking and entering”, not to mention “destruction of property”. How will the student/storyteller choose to handle this when they tell Goldilocks’ side of the story? Goldilocks will obviously not admit she committed these crimes. Were they misunderstandings? Were they events that were really just totally blown out of proportion? What were the bears like in the eyes of Goldilocks? Were they totally innocent, or were they to blame for some of the damage? The students would create a story based on these decisions. They could use the digital camera to stage stills to illustrate the story or draw their own graphics. Moviemaker could be used in much the same way, only using staged scenes instead of only stills. Would their version of the story be a more modern version, or would it take place in the same time period? This leaves open a whole new realm for creativity. How was electricity handled? What would the furniture and clothing be like? How would the setting change? This obviously is heading in the direction appropriate for the synthesizing mind as well.

  I know I keep mentioning my after school “Alice” class with every new posting, but it seems to meet the needs of each cognitive ability so well. For the creative mind, allowing the students to create their own stories using animation was awesome to watch. Problem solving was heavy when they wanted to make their characters do something that was not in the methods for that object. Sometimes they created new characters capable of performing the desired tasks. Sometimes they taught the character a new method to accomplish the task at hand. By me providing them with a challenge toward the end of the course, they had to really use their brains to come up with a way to meet the challenge. Will this work for a sled? Can I combine these two objects to work as my mug? If I make my snowman do this, does it look like he is melting? Well, of course it does! They were able to look at shapes and see objects which could help them “win”. I accepted every creative solution they found. Some of them found what I had in mind, while others found much more creative ways to do the same thing. That is what I love! This application would also apply with my previous example regarding flipside stories. Have the students create their version of the story using the animation cabilities of “Alice”.

  “HyperStudio” is another technology tool worth checking out. All of these applications could be performed with it, as well. The only disadvantage to HyperStudio is the fact that it is not free, and it is not as well-known (I don’t believe) so it might be difficult to obtain. HyperStudio is a multimedia tool that allows hyperlinking. It is easy to learn and can be another powerful tool for literature enrichment activities. It allows podcasting and web-cam support. Pretty cool stuff!

  It is clear that when engaging the creative mind, technology has the ability to make everyone’s life much more interesting and fun. There are so many tools available to foster these abilities that the possibilities are almost limitless. There are the old favorites, like PowerPoint and MovieMaker, and there are newer, more powerful (and more task oriented) tools such as HyperStudio and Alice. If we have the time to learn them the first time through, the picks are potent!

Creativity Outside the Classroom

(written 25 Nov 2008)

One avenue that can be used to promote creativity and healthy media use which will enable multiple forms of communication amongst our students is Blended Schools. Though Blended Schools (BSN) is horrifically expensive (in my opinion), the capabilities are amazing. You can create self-contained lessons on it, similar to what is possible with Moodle. I have heard rumor recently that Blended Schools and Moodle are forming a partnership. This should be interesting to see considering both tools have very similar capabilties. One big difference (from what I see) between Moodle and Blended Schools is that BSN allows multimedia inclusion – of course, maybe Moodle does and I just haven’t worked with it that way to know. BSN allows for the use of Wikis, Portfolios, Email, etc, etc, etc. It allows you to create tons of different kinds of tests, discussion forums, blogs, sharing projects and assignments, you name it! You can track your users, have assignments turned in online, and it even has a feature called “safe assignment” that checks submissions for plagiarism!

BSN gives you the capability to have content displayed when you choose. So if you aren’t ready for your kids to see something you’ve created, you just make it unavailable until you are ready. When you create evaluations, you have tons of choices from all kinds of formats: true/false, multiple choice, matching, short answer, essay, etc. You can choose to display your test all on one page or only one question at a time. You can allow more than one attempt if you wish. You can tell it to send the grades to your gradebook for you. If you set up discussion forums, students are able to respond to each other similarly to the way we do in Moodle. There are a lot of opportunities to exhibit creativity through the postings and testing capabilities. The beauty of this is that it can be done from anywhere: in class, at home, anywhere they have internet access.

For any Digital Media students interested, I have a “playing around” page that I set up when I first learned about Blended Schools and one course that I created and use in 5th grade that you may peruse. It is available for anyone in class who wants to check it out. Go to this link http://blendedschools.blackboard.com. You can log in temporarily as “oe99.general”. The password is in the Q&A section of Unit 5 (sorry, I was going to post it here but thought better of it as I only want my classmates to have access – not the world, literally!). I have enrolled you in two of my courses: “5th Grade Library Skills” and “LS Learning Module Only”. The LS Learning Module was my first creation and is basically just for seeing some capabilities in evaluations (I disabled the rest as I feel my Library Skills class has better examples). Click on “Course Link: Assignments/Mythology PreTest” and then click on the “Mythology PreTest”. Go ahead and take the test; it is only set up for playing right now. When you go back and into the “5th Grade Library Skills” course, you will find more to play around with. The “Course Information” part just has descriptions, but the “Assignments” part has other more interesting stuff on it. I have several components that you may browse through, but these are seriously only a small fraction of what is available. Feel free to take any tests you find – there is nothing you can hurt. I will leave your login active until Dec 5. Then it will disappear forever! You can always contact me by email if you would like to check this out again later.

The Global Appreciation Challenge

(written 2 Dec 2008)

     Julene Reed’s article “Global Collaboration and Learning” very clearly states that we must find ways to connect our students with others around the world so they may survive in a technologically overwhelming world. When we were growing up, how many ages ago, we had “pen pals” from other countries. This was easy and fun to do because many foreign countries require English as a second language. We waited weeks or even months for our snail mail letters to span the continents. Julene Reed suggests that, in a world of technological possibilities, we can take a simple project like pen pals and turn it into something spectacular for the 21st century – postage not necessary!

     Reed also suggests a treasure trove of ways in which to accomplish multicultural collaboration: email, digital storytelling, blogs, websites, and more. A project that I would find interesting to produce with my students is one that incorporates email and digital storytelling. Through research with Global SchoolNet Foundation or ePals, I would guide my 6th graders in locating students from a country being studied in their history classes. They would develop email friendships as a base, learning what they can about the culture and values. Using MovieMaker, the students on each end would create a digital photojourney. This photojourney would highlight their own country’s popular landmarks, historical highlights, cultural backgrounds, as well as music, art and literature specific to our country. After exchanging photojournals for perusal, the students would continue email communication to clarify any unclear information. Finally, using the background information provided by the exchange groups, the students would create another presentation. But – this presentation is about their new friends’ country, not their own. This step would involve a lot of instructor guidance to ensure no one causes unintentional insult. They would engage in another exchange of projects for evaluation by the students. I might also suggest using one of our popular children’s stories (or fairy tales) to create a new version sensitive to the issues of their collaborating country. I believe both parties would benefit in closure by producing a piece showing their personal stories. It would also be enlightening to involve them in a collaborative report project about endangered animals or another global challenge which would effect both cultures.

     A project of this magnitude would be better served by beginning in 5th grade using ePals from another state being studied. The presentation guidelines would be very similar in each step, only using information specific to your state rather than country. Because the cultures would not vary as much, perhaps the photojournals should involve personal backgrounds, family history, and local landmarks. For the culminating project, I would love to see the students create a story by collaborating via email much the same way they would in class.

     Julene Reed’s article poses some excellent “food for thought” in multicultural awareness, something I feel is all too often overlooked. She states that the world our students live in now is not the world they will be living and working in as adults. They will need to develop tolerance and acceptance for differences among the people they will need to work with. Countries’ borders are opening literally and figuratively through digital media capbilities; we need to expand our own horizons so we may flourish as a society.

Blogging For Meaning

(written 9 Dec 2008)

Using blogs in the classroom can be a fun and educational forum to expose our students to. While I was researching using Google Earth, I came across a blog that I have returned to several times: The Jane Goodall Institute’s Gombe Chimpanzee Blog. It is located at http://www.janegoodall.org/Gombe-Chimp-Blog/. I think her site has stuck out so much for me because she is all about research. Research is what I focus on specifically in 5th grade, but at various levels in other grades as well. The very first thing at the top of her blog page is a Google Earth link; it opens her own virtual tour. This is where I learned that video capabilities were possible in Google Earth. She uses GE to briefly explain research efforts in monitoring food sources for the chimpanzees she studies. It would be truly awesome to begin a research unit by following her example. Granted, it is a different type of research, but doesn’t that make it all the more valuable as a learning tool? Research in any form must be organized. Following Jane Goodall’s research processes would be an excellent example of this. Her GE tour also includes a “flyover tour” of the Gombe region to better visualize the terrain of her research. As you follow down through the blog postings by the Institute, you can follow the research path. I was surprised to find that there were no comment postings; the site covers research beginning in August 2006 with the most recent one about 3 weeks ago. The site links to other research based blogs whose focus is also chimpanzees.

Upon resuming my research to locate an appropriate blog to use for this assignment, I found one dedicated to “library learners” located at http://blogs.glnd.k12.va.us/teachers/svaughan/. This is a school sponsored blog for Randolph Elementary School library. I like the way this is set up; it can be used as a model for transforming my own blog page into a neat resource for promoting books and reading. It is well organized to include lesson plans and several discussion topics. There is a section which discusses books being made into movies, the most recent of which is, of course, The Tale of Despereaux. Another section reviews the book they are currently reading together, in this case the new mystery The 39 Clues. At the top there is a link to a page which provides several interesting web links for incorporating 21st Century Skills into the classroom, specifically through the library. Oh, the possibilities!


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