Saturday, December 20, 2014

Think **CREATE** Collaborate and Share with Technology

Last year I had the opportunity to take a technology course for a portion of my continuing professional development.  One aspect of the course was to ensure that technology was being used in my classroom space for more than consumption---and to support my increasing focus on student CREATION with technology.  As 2014 winds down, I think it is appropriate to reflect on what technology looks like in the enrichment classroom so far this year with an eye towards student driven creation.

In first grade students are in the middle of creating their own claymation videos that show the life cycle of a plant of their choice.  You can read more of the details of this project in an earlier blog post:
Students are making this film from the beginning to the end.  Although I offer mini lessons and on the go support of technology questions, they are taking pictures, creating iMovie projects (with pictures, voice overs and editing) in small groups.  They  have ownership of the creation of this content and when the video is complete it will share their knowledge of the plant life cycle! Sometimes in this learning process I have found myself wanting to shift the camera before a group takes a picture that has their hand in it....but I realize that just as I would never edit a student's writing as they are writing, I need to allow students to truly experience the creative process.  This has been a powerful lesson for me as a teacher and I feel it improves  learning ownership and student empowerment (and if they want to edit out that hand later, they do!)

In second grade we have just celebrated a month of blogging success.  Students received 128 comments on blog posts that they wrote and published in the month of November (they can be found on this blog by selecting StudentBlogging from the labels menu).  Second graders see themselves as bloggers--and this skill will support their creation of future content in enrichment class, and hopefully beyond! Receiving comments from family members, RES staff, and people in other states really gave students a sense of importance for their creative work.

In third grade I recently had the opportunity to experience an Hour of Code with some classes.  The process of coding is mathematical and logical, and also highly creative!  Students had to use advanced problem solving skills and higher order thinking as they created code to solve a variety of challenges. 

In fourth grade we have been studying media literacy for the last few weeks.  Our goal with this work is to improve student's critical thinking skills and help them to be more careful consumers of content in all aspects of their learning.  One awesome way to support this skill development is by learning about advertising strategies.  As a culminating activity, students created video book trailers, or book radio advertisements.  Students worked on these in small groups or independently.  In two class periods, students were able to put together advertisements that made their classmates want to read the books they advertised, as well as had clear connections to the strategies we had been studying in class.  We provided students with outline sheets and feedback, but work was done by each group from props, to scene development, to filming and final editing!  The final projects can be found here:

Overall I think that students are getting opportunities to use technology to create in the enrichment classroom, and that this creation is allowing them to increase their understanding of content areas and technology skills as well as experience the creative process.  For me the next thing I feel that I need to develop more as an educator is to figure out how I can give students more freedom of choice with technology tools.  I find that I often default to creating lessons and plans that assume a specific technology tool. This makes it easier for me as the lead supporter of the tool use, but it can serve to limit the creative process.  As technology changes quickly, and the knowledge that students come to my class with varies, I am interested in thinking more long term about tool introduction across our school as a means to support students in being able to make a variety of choices when they want to create content.  I have also witnessed the powerful nature of content creation in both solidifying learning, engaging the collaborative process and increasing student interest.  I would like to share these ideas and collaborate across our school to increase the number of technology opportunities for our students.

What type of content creation would you like to see students participate in at RES? I would love to hear your ideas! Send me an email at, or comment below.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hour of Code

Last week all over the country, students were challenged to participate in an 'hour of code'.  According to the website, hour of code is a global movement encouraging students to learn about computer programming.  Currently the website lists 180 countries and seventy thousand coding events taking place this year!  In a well publicized video about the event, our U.S. president challenges students to not just play video games on their phone, but instead to create them! ( )

As we discussed coding with students in enrichment and enrichment/library class several analogies were discussed. One popular one was the idea of a baseball catcher and pitcher talking to each other in 'code'.  We used that idea to think about how we could learn to 'talk to' our computer via code! I was thrilled to have the chance to participate in Hour of Code with all of the fourth grade classes, and some second and third grade students.

Students impressed me with their willingness to try something new, and to persevere when it was challenging.  Every student in class was able to write multiple lines of code!

As an educator this sample of coding with students is encouraging me to think about how we can bring coding into the classroom to provide other means of sharing our learning! The creativity and student engagement demands that we consider this as a learning tool!  I am sure you will be as impressed as me as you watch these students proudly share the number of lines of code they created in just one hour in the below video!  You can also learn more about our fourth grade lesson and see some of the code in action at:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Technology and the Life Cycle of a Plant

In first grade enrichment we have been studying the life cycle of plants.  Students are familiar with the idea of cycles from their studies of the farm cycle and the butterfly life cycle, so it is a great opportunity for us to expand their methods of sharing this information by adding a creative technology component.  Students will be spending several enrichment classes creating stop motion claymation videos to describe the life cycle of a plant of their choice.  First students met as a group and made their plan. They selected a plant type and they created backdrops for their video.  Students spent time thinking about what should be included in a healthy plant background, including soil, sun, water, and more!

In our next class students used iPads and an iPad filming stand to take pictures.  Each picture shows a part of the plant life cycle, from seed to seed!  Students made the plants from colored clay.  Over the next week students will be adding words to their plant video.  Stay tuned for our finished films!

These pictures capture students working together and using technology! I love this project because students use clay, technology, teamwork and their knowledge to create!

Learning About Light and Making Geography Connections!

Students in second grade enrichment will be spending time studying the science of LIGHT.  We will explore essential questions:
How does light travel?
What happens when light STRIKES an object?
And we will use inquiry to develop our own additional questions and answers.

We are kicking off this unit of study in December by participating in a global holiday card exchange!  The theme of this years card exchange is LIGHT! Students will be making cards for other schools and in return we will receive cards from 86 other schools! As we receive our cards we will be tracking where they come from and we will also be discussing how the cards we receive make us think about light! This week we made our cards and got them ready to send. Because the holiday card exchange theme matched our science theme, I was excited to get students thinking about light as the introduction to this fun topic with a collaborative project beyond our school walls! The cards which we made used the theme of a star (one natural source of light we will discuss) AND we used a battery and an LED  to light up the card thus connecting to the idea of manmade light sources!  Students also had the opportunity to decorate their card with one of the types of materials we will be exploring--translucent tissue paper!  By playing with these materials at the beginning of the unit for an authentic purpose we will be able to transfer this knowledge to our scientific investigation as we continue with experiments and inquiry! 

The front of our holiday cards say "Shine like a star. Be proud of who you are!"  I am very proud of our second graders and all the great learning that is happening this year! We are a school full of stars!