Kidblog.org

For some time now I have been searching for a kid-friendly blogging website to use with my 4th-8th grade students.  In previous years I had students reply to writing prompts in a “computer journal” which was essentially a Microsoft Word document that the students edited weekly. The process of reading and responding in the computer journals was time consuming and the students were rather bored with the activity to begin with, therefore it was necessary to find an alternative journaling resource. After research and testing I decided to go with www.kidblog.org and I could not be happier with my selection.

Kidblog is created specifically for the purpose of student blogging and is structured in such a way that it allows teachers to have as little or as much control over the process as they desire. Students have the ability to read an d post comments to their classmates’ blogs and moderators have the option to require approval for all posts and  student comments. The feedback I have received from my students tells me that they greatly prefer using kidblog to writing in a computer journal because of the ability to read and comment on their classmates’ entries. They look forward to continuing to use kidblog over the summer in their free-time and also next year in computer class. Using this website has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend reading entries and has inspired me to extend its use to my lower grades next year.

Advertisements

Early Childhood Sites

Over the last 2 years I have researched and tested many websites for my youngest students and as a result I have compiled a list of my favorite early childhood websites. All of the sites have been tested by my pre-k and kindergarten classes, and also a few younger family members and friends in the 3-5 age group.

The link to my pre-k (ages 3-5) links page is: 

http://www.wix.com/salliemichalsky/computer-lab#!__prek 

and my kindergarten (ages 5-7) links page can be found here:  http://www.wix.com/salliemichalsky/computer-lab#!__k 

I would like to take a moment to highlight my all-time favorite early childhood website: www.starfall.com 

Starfall started off as a phonics based website for early learners but has in recent months expanded to include mathematics as well. This site can be easily navigated by children as young as 3 years old and is relevant for children all the way up to 7 and 8 years of age. Children who cannot read yet are cued to click on things by looking for the objects that “sparkle” and when children do not click on something within a reasonable amount of time a large green arrow appears to point to what needs to be clicked on. This is a favorite for all my prek-2nd grade students.

Save the Words

I stumbled across this fantastic website this afternoon called SaveTheWords.org

It’s not  a game or activity, but more of  a resource for lexophiles (lovers of words)

Thousands of “lost” or no longer commonly used words are arranged in no particular order on an endless webpage just waiting to be rediscovered.

This website could easily be used as a classroom word-of-the-day activity or as part of an ILA homework assignment.

Check it out:

Project-Based Learning: Restaurants

This amazing video inspired me to start a collaborative restaurant project with my 7th grades. This year I was able to coordinate with our art teacher to work with students on seating charts, logos and color themes. The project was SO successful that next year I intend to coordinate with the science teacher on nutrition and menu planning, as well as math teachers for help with creating budgets. I hope this video can be an inspiration for you as well.  

Bubbl.Us

Digital brainstorming and mind-mapping are relatively new concepts in the world of graphic organizers. One of my favorite new tools for creating these digital organizers is www.bubbl.us

There are a multitude of uses for this free website as demonstrated by my basic example below:

Bubbl.us can be used at the elementary level to create a basic concept map, visual brainstorm cloud or even as a project demonstrating knowledge of a topic.

It can also be used on a larger scale as an assignment for secondary students or as part of business presentation or proposal.

The website’s interface is both easy to use and navigate. It gives users the ability to control bubble color, font color and the organization of the map itself.

I have personally used this website with my students, and also myself in graduate school as a way to organize notes on a given topic. I would recommend this to anyone that is looking to digitize their graphic organizers.

iTalc Lab Management Software

In previous years, my day consisted mainly of demonstrating a website, activity or assignment and then walking around my lab attending to student’s problems or concerns, getting students back on task when they wander to another website and dealing with behavior management issues. THIS year, everything changed. The single greatest thing I have ever done (teaching-related) was to install and configure the iTalc Computer Lab Management System.

I researched many different computer lab management software programs; however since I didn’t have $1500.00 to spend on this venture I was limited to choosing a free program. It was immediately evident that there was only one legitimate choice: iTalc – Intelligent Learning and Teacher with Computers.  http://italc.sourceforge.net/

Now I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it was easy to install and configure, because it wasn’t. It took several tries, any many hours to get the system working the way it was supposed to. In the end, it was MORE than worth the time and effort it took to setup, this program changed everything for me.

Using iTalc, I now have the following abilities:

  • Turn on/off student computers simultaneously from my desk with only a couple clicks
  • Log on/off student accounts with a specific username
  • Lock one or all the student computers
  • Display my screen on student computers (demo mode)
  • Display a student’s screen on all other student screens (student demo mode)
  • Take snapshots of student screens
  • Monitor in real-time all student screens simultaneously
  • Take over a student’s computer from my desk
  • Send individual or group messages to students
  • Execute commands on student computers

All of these tasks are done from a single relatively easy to use management teacher console.

 

 When I am unable to gain the students’ attention, a quick lock on all screens will give me their undivided attention. If students are not staying on task or are performing particularly well, a quick individual message can work as a warning or positive reinforcement.  A snapshot of a student screen showing inappropriate material can be used in determining appropriate disciplinary measures. The ability to log on to the computers is invaluable to me for pre-k and kindergarten classes since the students cannot yet login to the computers themselves.  When I need to demonstrate something, instead of having the students strain to see the smart-board from their seats, I can easily project my screen onto their individual computers where they can easily see and follow along. If a student’s work is particularly good I can quickly display it for their classmates to see.

 I would definitely recommend this program for any computer lab or classroom teacher that has no budget and wishes to drastically improve their control over student computer use. 

Wordle

One of my all-time favorite activities to do with my students are Wordles. www.wordle.net See the below example

Students type up a set of words pertaining to a specific topic and paste them into a box on the wordle website. The program generates a word cloud using the words and gives users the ability to edit the color schemes, fonts and layouts. More advanced users have the option of weighting words to give them more emphasis (like on the example above) or applying font colors to specific words.

I have successfully used this activity with grades 2-8 but many of my first graders had problems navigating and using the site efficiently due to literacy issues.

This website can be used in a variety of contexts ranging from a social studies assignment such as listing all the countries found in Europe…

…to making a math textbook cover

…or a religion project where students make a wordle out of a Hail Mary

Or perhaps even an ILA activity where students list the characters, themes, settings and vocabulary from a novel they read. There are truly an endless number of topics that could be used in conjunction with Wordle.

I have even on occasion caught  my students making Wordles in their free-time 😀

Some of my Favorite Quotes

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur Clarke

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” – John Dewey

“Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed” – Jospeh Addison

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” – Albert Einstein

“The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance” – Benjamin Franklin

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives” – Robert Hutchins

Introduction

I am a young, energetic full-time computer and technology teacher at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia, PA. I have a BA in International Studies from Drexel University and I am currently working on my MS in Education at St. Joe’s University.

My mission is to provide my students a supportive environment that promotes discovery, exploration, discipline, motivation, and excellence in learning.

My goal is to have my students develop an enjoyment for learning and technology as well as respect for themselves and others and to motive in them an understanding and appreciation for technology, a confidence in their basic technological skills and a desire to constantly further their knowledge of new technologies.

My hope is that this blog shall be a valuable resource for educators and technology-minded individuals alike.

The purpose of my blog shall be to:

  • Share with you my experiences as an Elementary Tech Teacher in urban North Philadelphia
  • Explore new educational technologies and their applications in the computer lab and classroom
  • Post and discuss interesting and relevant articles concerning technology and education
*My hope is that this blog shall be a valuable resource for educators and technology-minded individuals alike.