Monthly Archives: May 2014

From 0 to 840 Blogs

I began my journey last summer to blog about my encounters with technology as a new technology teacher of 1150 elementary aged students.  Today as I was helping a third grader look up her classmates’ blogs so that she could comment on them, I saw a number that has been flashing in my mind ever since:  840.  “840 what?” you may ask.  This child was narrowing her search down from 840 student blogs at my school to the 20 kids who are in her class.  So the 840 stands for 840 Kid Bloggers.  I have exposed 840 students to the world of blogging where they comment on articles they’ve read, embed a Timeline from http://www.readwritethink.org, a 30 Hands app presentation about the Edenton Tea Party in N.C., a Tellagami presentation on Ecosystems, and comment on each others’ blogs using the acronym TAG.  TAG stands for Tell Something, Ask A Question and Give a Suggestion.  Prior to this year, none of the students at my school had a school blog.  The excitement that exists when my third, fourth and fifth graders blog and are able to share their ideas then comment on others’ blogs is phenomenal.  I love how their blogs are now becoming a place to reflect on the school year and examine their favorite parts of their year.  

I know that miracles happen in the world.  Blogging is not technically miracle material, however, when students view themselves as writers to a wide audience, the walls of the school have come down, thus offering a miraculous transformation of students.  They see themselves as writers who have a voice that other people care about.  They can blog outside of school too which creates for some of my students a world of possibilities that previously had not been made available to them.  The act of writing and expressing ourselves allows us to think about our world and to consider points of view that may differ from our own.  So to me, writing makes miracles. It opens our eyes allowing scales to fall from our eyes and causes us to view possibilities with wonder.  

My mind wandered this week back to the first week of school when a first grader entered my newly decorated computer lab and exclaimed, “It’s like a miracle happened in here!”  I had rearranged the computer tables, created a word wall with technology related words and spent hours making a three dimensional keyboard for my large bulletin board.  He noticed these changes.  I hope that my students have been able to see that they create products with technology and write words that ring out to the world in our computer lab.  It is a place for me to fan the flames of learning and watch as they grow more confident and courageous as writers.  “Mrs. Maples, look what I wrote!” is my favorite request in the computer lab.  I heard it today as one of my students shared her Google Presentation slides with me.  She loved the Sockket soccer ball that I had told the class about as a way to create clean energy and then plug into to power lights and computers.  She had included it as a solution to fixing climate change due to global warming.  I felt her excitement over creating a meaningful digital presentation after researching causes of climate change using the steps of The Big 6 Research process.  

As this year of school is winding down, I would like to think that my students know that I believe in them and their capacity to communicate as writers, collaborate on digital products, critically think about design decisions and content of presentations and create using their imaginations.  The world lost a precious soul this week when Maya Angelou passed away.  I can only aspire to inspire as she did and will continue to do from her writings. One of my friends wrote a story about an encounter she had as a child when Maya Angelou visited her school 30 years ago.  With my friend’s permission, I am sharing her story here and hope that I have made a positive, lasting impression on children by the words I’ve spoken to them this year as their Technology Teacher.  I know that my students are born with an innate curiosity, a spark, to investigate their world.  In our 21st Century World, I plan to continue to fan the flames and ignite more interest and confidence in my students to create as digital citizens.  Here’s the incredible story from my friend, Jennifer Love Faulkner:

“As a child, I had the pleasure of personally meeting and sitting at the feet of Maya Angelou at the Billingsville Elementary Library.  She spent time with me one on one for about 30 minutes.  She read something I’d written and encouraged me to continue to use the gifts God gave me despite some of my learning disabilities.  She asked me, “Who are you?” And I told her.  “I am loud and my words bring bright and shiny to my day.  I am different because my dad is in a wheelchair.  I’m awkward because I don’t want to play with dolls.  I’m goofy and distracted.  I don’t learn the same as ‘them’ so some think I’m lazy or dumb.  I don’t dress the way they do and my family doesn’t have the money to get my hair cut where the other girls go.  “. (This is who I saw myself to be.). Ms. Angelou related to me her struggles that day, her lack of a college degree, her lack of a high school degree, her incredibly challenging family issues and what she’d overcome to at the time be known as one of the most celebrated American poets, thinkers and writers of our time.  She, in her deeply rich and musical voice, poured into my my spirit that day.  She propped me up with wisdom.  She soothed my injured view of myself with experience and empathy and encouragement and with *Maya*.  She took my face into her hands and brought me close to her and told me, “Child, I see in you sparks of things that will be fanned into flames.  Don’t you let them render ash to anyone or anything.  I believe in you.”

from a Keynote Speech delivered for JenOnJobs by Jennifer Love Faulkner

From no blogs, to 840 blogs… During the 2013-2014 school year using Gaggle as our blog platform I have launched into a whole, new miraculous digital world using computers and iPads.  During my twenty year teaching career as a third and fourth grade teacher before this school year, I had taught 500 students.  In one school year, I have taught 840 third through fifth graders how to become bloggers.  I believe in my students and am inspired by their writing!

 

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Fanning Not Filling

 

Keepers of the Flame from FableVision on Vimeo.

I just finished accompanying my elementary school chorus tonight for their Spring Concert.  I love to hear them sing and then see magnificent smiles come across their faces as the audience claps wildly.  Upon arriving home, I checked my email and discovered a lovely Vimeo video from Paul and Peter Reynolds called “Keepers of the Flame”.  In some small way, I helped fan the flame inside a child tonight.  It is the flame of singing and making music.  What a great thought to know that by doing my part, I kindled an inner passion of children.  Those children standing on those risers tonight at school weren’t just fourth and fifth graders who are about to embark on End of Grade testing.  They are wonderfully made human beings built with the capacity to wonder, to explore, to dive deep into music among other subjects at school.  I heard them sing an African American spiritual, a religious memorial song in honor of those who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombings, and to absorb the feeling of collaborating as a choir as they joyfully belted out favorite tunes from a medley from “The Little Mermaid”.  I kept the beat going at the piano, my colleague and friend, Traci, directed, and the audience enjoyed.  No, we weren’t at Carnegie Hall, but we may as well have been.  Our hearts and minds embraced music which lifted spirits.  The first graders also performed music about caring for the Earth.  One of the lines in a song they sung was “We are stewards of the Earth” which inspired me. Of course I can do my part to reduce, reuse and recycle, but being a steward of the Earth means to also fan the innate curiosity that exists in children.  It is such a privilege to be able to share music together.

I am not filling buckets, I am fanning flames.  The Vimeo Video amplified this thought to me.  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Publishing Mother’s Day Writing at ABCya.com

Common Core State Standards state that children as young as Kindergarten will explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing.  This week, my Kindergarten students brought their Mother’s Day books which they made in their class to the Computer Lab where I teach.   They had used ABCya.com’s Paint Tool before to write speech bubbles above character’s heads so I thought they were ready to transfer their Mother’s Day writing to ABCya.com.

CCSS W.K.6: With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

I have included in this post some pictures that I took of their screens while they worked.  I was impressed with the vocabulary that their teacher had encouraged them to use.  Although the words are not all written in standard American English, the spellings of the words are developmentally appropriate.  After the kids created their digital pieces, I had them press “Print”.  They eagerly raced to the printer to see their work on paper.  The joy,  the smiles, the excitement that were brought about from printing made my day!  ABCya.com’s Paint tool is the specific resource we used.  I have a link to it at my school website under the Kindergarten tab.  My school website is found at bit.ly/elonpark.   I hope you will explore the ABCya Paint tool to see the power and ease of use in allowing five and six year olds to publish and print within 45 minutes.

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