Saturday, December 6, 2008

IWB Challenge #7 - Finally

Wow - I finished the great IWB Challenge Set just in time for Christmas! Sure hope Santa finds it in his heart to leave a cool techie toy at my house this year. Santa, I promise not to light the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

In this, my 20th year of teaching 3rd graders, I've learned more this semester than I have in any other year. Each year brings new challenges and successes, as well as a sprinkle of regrets. However, I've not regretted completing the set of 7 challenges. Analyzing my SMART Board use and technique, reflecting on best practices, and taking a risk with new ideas have been a few rewards of this endurance test.

An iwb lends itself well to group discussion, collaboration, social learning, and modeling best practices. On the other hand, it doesn't work well for individual expression and polishing the skill sets. Informal assessments at the Board are great, but formal assessments must be done by the individual student. There is still a place for student desks in the classrooms. My kids call it their office. Sometimes they enjoy working in their office after being in the theater (gathering as a group at the iwb). After all, I have an office desk.

To give you a little background before you read my observations, I've been using a SMART Board for almost 5 years, using it every opportunity I can. I've written over 400 Notebook lessons covering most everything I'm expected to teach. My Board is mounted on the wall in my classroom. I'm not a SMART Master's Certified Trainer yet, but I've attended the SMART Teacher Conference in Calgary, presented with SMART at South Padre Island, been a SMART trade show teacher at NECC in San Diego, NSBA in San Francisco, TCEA in Austin, and done presentations in San Antonio and other points around Texas. In other words, I love using my Board to teach and showing others the power of SMART. So it is with a measure of experience I offer my opinions on when to use and not to use the Board.
Introducing the concept of multiplication vs. memorizing the facts.
Practicing reading strategies vs. independent strategy practice.
Background science information vs. hands-on labs. Nothing beats wearing safety goggles while creating a chemical reaction in a test tube!
Reading stories together online vs. writing your own stories.
Computation demonstrations and practice vs. computation comprehension.
Informal assessment vs. formal assessment.

In my district, the policy has always been if you want some piece of hardware or software, it will be bought for you if you'll use it. Most of the time, the funds are available. However, mandatory technology use is not forced. Whether that's good or not is not my call. I believe that day is coming as teachers are held more accountable to state standards. As teachers realize how engaging and motivating iwbs are, more teachers are open to trying it out. So many of our students have to power down when they come to school. Teachers must be trained to harness that energy for learning. Repeated training is necessary for successful technology integration. We didn't become great teachers after one college class.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Catching Up on RSS Feeds

At this time my Google Reader has 142 unread posts. Sometimes I have time to read and other times I let it slide. Google Reader rolled out a new update with the ability to allow you to hide your unread posts. I think I'm going to like that. However, I might not read regularly if my Number wasn't at the top to prod me to read....
Unfortunately, I let my favorite blog go unread for awhile. Last night as I was playing catch up, I read the November 14 post naming my Molly's Pilgrim Notebook activity as one of the Best Classroom Applications for that week's challenge. He's included a link to download the file if you'd like it. "Sharing is Caring"
Thanks, Jim.

Monday, December 1, 2008

iwb challenge 6 - Capturing Reflections

Thanksgiving. Pilgrims. Mayflower. Indians. Food. Freedom.

Third graders studied the book Molly's Pilgrim prior to the Thanksgiving holiday last week. There were fun, interactive activities on the SMART Board, games at their computers, and much reading aloud as the book was shared and discussed. Themes of fairness, freedom, acceptance, and racial prejudice were brought to light as my students shared their thoughts and feelings last week.

Today in Reading class we began a study of story elements: setting, characters, feelings, and problem. Molly's Pilgrim was used as an example and the discussion began again about fairness and acceptance. To build upon the teachable moment, I quickly opened Audacity and recorded each student's reflections about the story. As each audio track was laid down, excitement built as it became time for the next student to reflect. When the class left for P.E., I used Notebook to build their class file, and then attached each mp3 file to their picture. When they returned, I showed it on the SMART Board and they really enjoyed the presentation. Some remarked they wished they'd added this or that thought, or giggled when they heard their voice. Typical reactions from an 8 year old. (For privacy reasons, I will not be posting the Notebook page with their photos.) The activity was so engaging, the students have asked to learn how to use Audacity on their own. They already know SMART Recorder, so this program should be an easy learning challenge.

From this challenge I was reminded to take a risk with technology during class time. I've used both SMART recorder and Audacity many times after hours, but never during actual class time. It went so well, I'm considering using this Reflection Activity during my annual appraisal .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

21st Century Hallways

Have I said today I love my PLN? For those of you not familiar with the twitter-lingo, PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. My PLN has roots in a SMART Teacher Conference held in Calgary 3 summers ago and a Discovery Education National Institute held aboard a cruise ship to the Bahamas summer before last. It was at these major events I began to experience the vast educator network that was mine for the joining. Most PLNs begin with emails among teachers, and then branch out to other educators with similar areas of expertise. Twitter, Plurk, SMART Exchange, Discovery Educator Network, Classroom 2.0, and my Google Reader feeds comprise the largest chunk of my PLN. Begin your collaboration with other educators and join the global conversation today.
Today a feature article was posted online in the SMART EdCompass newsletter. On page 3 is an article titled 21st Century Hallways. Being interviewed for an article such as this is an humbling, exciting experience. As I reflected on what social networking has meant to my career, I discovered that my network connects me to people smarter than I am who help me do my job better. Reading others' Twitter and Plurk posts remind me of how much I still don't know. That's okay. I am free to dip into that river any time and dip out what I need at that time. When I find jewels, I pass along those to my PLN. Through it, I am also connected to a flowing stream of useful SMART Board links, Web 2.0 applications, inspiration, and comic relief. But don't get me wrong, I'm not a sponge. I don't sip, soak, and sour. It is in the sharing of these ideas with my local district that I am able to pass on the gems I've found in my PLN.
If you'd like to read the article, follow this link.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lots to Love with Links

Last week's SMART Board challenge involved creating button links from a home page that helped younger students navigate the maze of activities we teachers use to create learning activities that appeal to a wide range of learning styles. At first thought, I considered it busy work on my part, but after working with my Molly's Pilgrim Notebook activity, I reconsidered. Allowing students to choose which activity to do next puts more of the lesson in their control. Increased ownership brings increased motivation and learning. What's not to love?
I encourage you to try it with an existing 4 or 5 page Notebook lesson. Create some buttons, or use some from the LAT, to speed your process. Then link each named button to its matching page. On that page, include all the linked buttons again so that pages may be easily moved between for review or reteach. My lesson focused on reading skills - fact/opinion, sequence, vocabulary, questions, and a match game. Therefore, the buttons at the bottom of each page were the same as the ones on the home page screenshot.
Molly's Pilgrim is one of our book studies prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Students will be making pilgrim dolls at home next weekend for show and share the next Monday. I'm looking forward to their creations once again this year. If you have suggestions or links for additional Molly's Pilgrim activities, kindly post a comment. Thank you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Word Clouds

Classroom uses will abound with this site. Shown here are my delicious tags. If you haven't experimented yet, give it a twirl.
My third graders will use this site again next week to put together a collection of action verbs. If only wordle could be programmed to make the nouns flash. Now that would be awesome!
Another Thursday evening, reflecting on the successes of the week. Makes me tired just thinking about them all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Can't Teach Without IT

Someone quoted me yesterday as having said I can't teach without my social network/PLN. My first reaction was to say no, but that I can't teach without my SMART Board. I can teach without my PLN, but having an active one makes my job so much easier. It's great to be able to connect to fellow educators who are there to offer support, help, and much-needed wit and wisdom to each other. My PLN keeps me on the cutting edge of my field, and in turn, I keep the kids on the edge of their seat.

Honestly, I really can't teach without my SMART Board. I tried unplugging one day last week. Not good. Although, when I have a substitute teacher, the same thing happens. Once I asked the class which they missed more - the SMART Board or me. Without hesitation, they replied the Board. And then they said, no, we miss you more. haha.

To turn back the clock 5 years transports me to an era of being the sage on the stage, trying to keep my students' focus with a dry erase board, overhead projector, and handmade centers. I've undergone a transformation since the day My First SMART Board arrived. I'm now the guide on the side, with the kids at the Board actively constructing their learning. I'm on the sidelines as their coach and cheerleader spotting their moves with my SMART Slate.

If you were a fly on the wall in my class, you'd see the Board at work when the kids arrive. SMART Notebook and SMART Ideas software are used in 90% of daily lessons. Ahhh, the power of Notebook. Whether you wish to create flashing text, disappearing ghosts, spinners, shrink and grow activities - the possiblities are endless. And that didn't include embedding flash files, You Tube videos, or Discovery Streaming segments to enhance the learning. Some days the Board goes home tired from overuse. Like today. Like me.

Super Spinners

If you're like me, when it's time to locate a spinner for class use, your spinner stash has been misplaced. But then again, the spinner you needed wasn't the spinner you had. Sound familiar? Or maybe you have every students' names on a separate folded index card in a pail and when you wish to randomize selection, you draw out a name? Or have you used the Excel sheet you enter your students' names on and then click the button for a random selection.

No matter your previous method for random name selection, I'd like to present the SMART solution for spinners. The spinner has been so captivating for them, I'm thinking of sending it to their student computers for their own use. No doubt they could design their own lesson activity and then record their thoughts using SMART Recorder. I'll have to try that idea soon and report back on its success.

You can make your own customized spinner using the object animation features in Notebook 10. Have you ever wished for a fraction spinner, or maybe a shape spinner? Better yet, a Wheel of Fortune number wheel. (Can't wait to try that one!) No matter what kind of spinner you need, it's fairly simple to create your own. Begin your search in the Gallery and locate fraction pieces. Then drag a completed circle of fraction pieces to your Notebook page. Change colors if desired. If you wish to add numbers, enter your number and group the two together. If you wish to add pictures or names, do the same thing until you have edited all the fraction pieces. Then arrange in a circle and group all objects together. Under the object animation tab, choose spin, clockwise, slow, when the object is clicked, and until the object is clicked. Add an arrow for a pointer, or use a finger from the sign language alphabet. Be sure to save your completed spinner in the My Content folder for easy access.

A word of warning: Due to a bug in Notebook 10, "until the object is clicked" will not retain its setting. So prior to each use, you must reset that animation feature.

My first spinner was 4 colors with the numbers 1-4 on it. The next spinner was with my students' names. At the conclusion of math each day, we have time for a few Board races. Instead of calling on volunteers, now I drag the spinner and the finger onto the Notebook page and just Click and Spin. Instant hit, until the bell rang. The students are already looking forward to Math again tomorrow.

Thanks, Jim, for another useful challenge from Teachers Love SMARTBoards.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Teacher Loves SMART Boards, Too

Another week, another challenge. The learning continues despite time constraints. Six preps a day, meetings, family, and homework compete for my time. No doubt, you experience similar competition for your time and energy. Teachers must learn to be great time managers in order to survive.
Last week's challenge from Teachers Love SMART Boards was to use a Touch and Scroll technique created using animations within Notebook 10. The idea is to create a rolling set of questions and/or answers that are accessed by touching a rectangle and having it roll down to the next box. My third graders are reviewing the rules for placing a comma in numbers with 6 and 7 digits. Capitalizing on the Halloween theme, I used a pumpkin template from the gallery and included a howling pumpkin at the bottom of the page at the conclusion of the activity. Since I created the page, I knew where to click to make the box scroll, so I had no problems making the animation work. In retrospect, I should have made the rectangles wider so that the numbers hidden from view wouldn't interfere. Officially, this challenge wasn't completed as required. However, I'm declaring it a success because my students had no problem with the animation. They just wished I'd created more than one page of the scroll and touch so everyone had a turn. That's an easy fix. Once again, a highly engaging activity was created that left learners asking for more. SMART Board wins again!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Touch and Reveal Challenge

Week after the week the challenges keep coming from Teachers Love SMART Boards. Last week's challenge was to create a SMART Notebook page/file that used the touch and reveal technique. When a shape or object is touched, it disappears, revealing the information underneath. I chose to create a world map activity that was used for identifying the 7 continents. As an extension, when the continent is clicked, a link takes the students to another page that includes pictures, links to learning activities, and a map game. The file proved so popular at the SMART Board with my students that I sent it to their workstations in the classroom so they could enjoy it in their free time.
My Notebook activity, Explore the Continents: A World Class Adventure, tied for first place in the weekly Best Classroom Application category. To download the file for your classroom, click here. To learn how to create this type of file, visit Teachers Love SMARTBoards.

Monday, October 13, 2008

SMART Board Flashing Text Challenge

Wow! Teachers Love SMART Boards, Jim Hollis, has done it again! Where does he get these great ideas? By capitalizing on the new features of SMART Notebook 10, Jim keeps designing challenges that features the amazing capabilities of Notebook software. Last week's challenge was to create a lesson activity that gave immediate feedback to the student by flashing text if the answer was correct. Watch the challenge and solution here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

IWB Challenge #5 - Sort and Classify

Coming up with a theme for this week’s IWB challenge to incorporate sorting and classifying using containers in a lesson was not the problem. The problem was choosing which one to do since there are so many subjects and topics applicable to that skill. I finally settled on creating a noun and verb sort because that is a current topic in grammar. Using the Vortex Sort activity in the SMART Lesson Activity Toolkit enabled me to design the activity quickly. To the right is a table with some additional ideas for your own sort and classify activity.

The students always enjoy having their lessons on the SMART Board because it’s engaging, entertaining, and memorable. They thought the Vortex Sort/Noun and Verb activity was fun and wanted to do it again. Of course we did it again. One smart student remarked during the lesson, “Oh, I remember doing this in second grade. We did odd and even (numbers).” I rest my case.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SMART Notebook Tables Activity Challenge

Keeping up with both iwb challenges and the third grade curriculum keeps me hopping! I do heart a challenge, though. Last week's challenge from Teachers Love SMART Boards involved using the table function from Notebook Software. Okay, I'll admit it, I had to get a hint from Jim, but I'd like to think it was because it was Monday all day long. (It really was Monday.)
I created a 2 x 4 table from the insert menu in Notebook to use with a plural nouns lesson. In the first column are the singular nouns. Around the edges are the plural nouns grouped with matching clip art. They are ready to be dragged and dropped into the second column once the student correctly spells the plural form of the noun. Witches is shown as an example. Since this challenge entry, I've expanded this activity to include other nouns and the third rule about changing the y to i before adding es. The students enjoyed spelling the correct plural so much, they begged to do it again the next day. There's just no pleasing students these days!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

IWB Challenge 4

Voice Thread Challenge 4

Awesome, terrifying, amazing, challenging, and frustrating: All are words that could describe the completion of this challenge. Having participated in several Voice Threads through my DEN network, I was familiar with the process. Setting up the VT was easy, once I figured out that my SMART recorder .wmv files were not going to load. So it was back to square one using SnagIt screen capture software. I also added an identity for my students which was easier than I thought. All the background work was completed at home due to T1 line construction at school the past 2 days. Today the internet was back and the students were able to record their responses during the math lesson. Not all students were willing to participate. They're very talkative during class but didn't allow themselves to take a risk and record. Go figure. Above is the link to my voice thread. Enjoy :)
After all the hurdles, this challenge is one I will use again with my students. Learning goes so much deeper when students think out loud.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hall of Fame

Last week another whiteboard challenge launched on the Teachers Love SMART Board blog. I love a challenge! Who would have known I would win? But then, I have a pretty good track record of winning when it comes to SMART things. Who knows - that might be another blog post.
Allow me to encourage you join the Challenge. Jim has just posted a new challenge for week #2. See you in the Hall of Fame!

Monday, September 22, 2008

IWB Challenge #3 - Transparency

Before I begin this latest post, I thought I'd give an update on how well my students have remembered how to create fact families after doing the lesson using the infinite cloning technique. Unlike last year, not even one student has forgotten how to make them when it's paper and pencil time. I think that's amazing!
I've always been a fan of cool SMART Board tips and tricks, so using transparency to make the lesson come to life was no exception. As the protractor was introduced last week, I thought it would be a good example of transparency. Here's how I did it. First, I found a picture that had obvious angles. I chose a red stop sign to insert on my Notebook page. Next, I pulled in the interactive protractor found in the Gallery. After the student found the angle with the protractor, I then instructed him/her to make the background image transparent, so that the remainder of the class could easily see. They thought that was a great trick! "Let's do that again, Mrs. Reed!" was the common echo within the class. As you can see by the two pictures included here, this boy had no trouble making the stop sign totally disappear! No doubt he wishes he could do the same to those real life stop signs in his driving future!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Classroom Cloning Challenge #2

Conquering the bimonthly iwb challenges ignites the spark that contributes to more engaging lesson activities for my students.. The current challenge is to use the infinite cloner tool to create engaging learning opportunities. It does just that and more.
As I assemble my thoughts for this post, many lessons come to mind. One of the ways I've used it the past two weeks in my third grade class has been to have students illustrate equal groups story problems using gallery clipart. For example, on the Notebook page, I inserted text: 3 groups of 4 and made 3 large circles with the shape maker. I inserted the first group of 4 objects in the first circle. Next the student was directed to turn on the infinite cloner and drag a group to each of the other 2 circles to complete the picture. The next student came to the Board and wrote the matching number sentence: 3 x 4 = 12. More pages were set up with other multiplication facts so that each learner had an opportunity to participate. Using pictures helps the multiplication concept come to life in the students' mind. Of course, they'd love to be able to do the same type pictures to create their own equal groups back at their desks. They have to satisfied with drawing their own sticks, circles and squares to create their picture. I plan to have students make their own presentation using Notebook software with the computers in my classroom in the near future when the larger facts (6,7,8,9s) are introduced.
Another math lesson found us reviewing "some and some more" and "some and some went away" type story problems. What better way to add a little fun to the lesson than to drag out some clip art and use the infinite cloner to set up the picture for solving. Much collaboration and many suggestions came from the students themselves as they directed their classmate at the SMART Board. They wanted each other to succeed. Once the picture is made, the matching number sentence was written on the page. After a bit, instead of cloning one object at a time, I showed the students how to group several at a time and then use the infinite cloner to create sets of 2,3,4, etc. They loved to skip count as a group as the student at the Board does the work. Here's where knowledge of the skip counting songs came in handy as they actively constructed their learning.
Last week the math lesson covered fact families. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, it's simply creating 2 addition facts and 2 subtration facts from 3 different numbers. Before the lesson, I inserted a 3,4, and 7 and changed the font to 72 before turning on the infinite cloner. Students would then drag out each of the numbers and write in the proper signs on the Board. For example, they would have completed
3 + 4 = 7
4 + 3 = 7
7 - 3 = 4
7 - 4 = 3
Many other opportunities were provided using several different numbers so that several students could participate in the lesson either by themselves or with a partner. Using the infinite cloner in this manner reinforced the pattern by allowing them to use only the designated numbers. I plan to use the same strategy when we cover multiplication and division Fact Families after Thanksgiving.
When we created pictographs after this week's Math test, individual clip art was used to record responses. Students could then drag the correct number of pictures up to the table to record the responses. I used this same technique with creating a table activity in SMART's Back to School contest entry, Great Beginnings. Unfortunately, I didn't win the giveaway but I have the satisfaction of knowing my lesson activity has been downloaded nearly 3,000 times and hopefully has helped many teachers with the first day of school.
The infinite cloner was used over and over again and will continue to be a favorite of mine as math patterns are learned. I can't wait to figure out how to use it in the other subjects I teach each day. To everyone who is participating in the challenge, keep those ideas coming.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hearing Voices

School began Monday at my school. Excitement was high from both teachers and students. I'm going to like this class!

IWB Challenge #1.

During Math the first day, I introduced my Skip Counting Songs Notebook page during the course of the lesson. Students couldn't wait for their turn to move the magnifying lens over the number of the counting song they wanted to sing. By clicking on the corresponding number, the mp3 file would play and the sing-a-long would begin. They would've sang all period if I'd have let them. I promised there would be a song or two everyday and they could choose which ones it would be. They were happy and so was I.

Through the years, I've used music to help students remember important concepts. By teaching skip counting songs, my students succceed more quickly when it's time to recognize counting patterns and memorize their multiplication facts.

Here's the creation information. Last week I recorded myself singing the songs I've used in class for years while accompanying myself on the piano. The ditties came from various sources - a really old Melody House record album, workshop jewels, and original melodies from a former teacher. Playing by ear enabled me to pitch them in a comfortable singing range. My college voice professor told me I sang like a 9 year old. He was right, but little did he know I would be teaching 8 & 9 year olds someday and that skill would come in handy!

You should have seen my living room last Friday afternoon! Microphone on the piano, wires strung across to the footstool where my laptop sat with Audacity cued up and ready to record. After a little practice I was ready to save each file. Then it was a simple step (after downloading and installing the lame encoder file) to convert each one to an mp3. To make my Notebook page, I added a little clipart at the top and inserted the numbers in individual windows. I attached each "big number" to its corresponding sound file by clicking on the insert menu.

In past years, I would sing acapella and teach the students the songs by rote. Now it's a simple click on a number, the music begins, and students can sing along while I write the counting sequence on the Notebook page using my AirLiner wireless slate.

Inserting my voice into Notebook was a snap. I'm already planning my next project!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's About Time

Today begins a new chapter in my learning. Not only is this my first blog, today also begins my 20th year in the classroom. But that's another post.
Today I became an official challenger in the whiteboard challenge. I'll keep you posted on the results.