Looking for Some Good Reading?

Things are beginning to hop on our student blogs. It takes a while to learn (and in some cases, relearn) digital citizenship, commenting process and etiquette, how to work with widgets, theme customization, how to plan, write, and revise posts, how to add Creative Commons images, how to tag, categorize, and make links…It’s a tall digital order!

So now it’s time to take a look at the fruits of our labours. Students have done a few assigned posts and now they are blogging about their own interests. Follow the links, read the posts, and why not leave a supportive comment? Please leave your blog url so students can return the favour.Grape divinity

Amy and Will tell you about their sailing experiences.
Faith has two cute, unique pets.
Boone knows about the biggest stuff on Earth!Tools
Gillian likes to dance. Here’s why.
Brayden has learned about Pugs.
Find out what Lauren collects.
Luke can wants to know if you prefer cats or dogs.
Maya has adventures at the lunchtime zoo.
Renée shares a delicious recipe.
Sara has changed her mind about being in Band.
Cameron plays Canada’s favourite game.
Curious about longboarding? Read Ethan V.‘s post.
Josh I likes a sport you can play inside while Mike likes one you play outside.
Kenzie shares her creativity.
Liam writes about pets, not once but twice and video games, not once but twice! Bonus, one more!
Logan is putting dinner on the table.
Scott is looking forward to winter weather.
Alana has re-read this great book many times.
Tengis tells you about robots.
Andrew, Eric, and Ethan P. share their favourite video games. Cade too. Ok, and Josh J. too.
Teyia has won six medals!
Trevor is flying high and enjoying life in the water.

Do you have some great posts for us to read? Why not leave a link. Thanks for stopping by!

Photo Credit: See1,Do1,Teach1 via Compfight

Beth’s Blog is Brilliant!

I so admire Beth Donofrio. Her blog Hey Kids! is as good as it gets and deserves to be read and emulated. I would love to see her blog be recognized with an Eddie for Best Class Blog.2014-11-23 10_51_34-ATKOSD2

Beth blogs with her grade 6, 7 and 8 Language Arts students in Venice, Florida. She has been at it for about two and a half years, but she really blogs like someone who has been doing it much longer. Beth admits to being a tech newby, but you’d never know it because in a short time she has become a master. Beth gets the essentials and her blog banner shows it: Reading+writing+learning+sharing=Blogging. Doesn’t she sum it all up perfectly?

My students love to comment on Beth’s blog because she always responds. Often she visits their blogs and leaves encouraging, insightful comments. She models good blogging practice on her blog and her students emulate her on theirs. They are total pros–I really love getting comments from Hey Kids! kids because they are thoughtful and carefully crafted. The students are obviously reading deeply and thinking about what they write.

Being a blogging teacher is hard work. There are lots of fiddly bits that can go wrong. Beth is not afraid to ask for help, and I know the good folks at Edublogs have helped her a few times. I also had the privilege of Skyping with Beth to get her over the learning curve on a few things. She is a real treat. The voice your hear on her blog is as genuine as she is in person.

Beth uses her blog to get her kids thinking and caring. I see her blog is her faith in action. She is involved in charity work with her students and she uses her blog to reflect and highlight that work. I would love to be a student in her class–what she does is meaningful and fun.

I am grateful that Beth is a blogging neighbour and friend–right across the continent, but really just next door. I invite you to go visit her.

We Need a (Pumpkin) Hero!

Just before Halloween, I presented my students with our first Destination Imagination instant challenge of the year:

Challenge:    Carve a pumpkin and use it as a character in a performance.

Scenario: Your team will come up with a pumpkin design that represents a new super hero—a hero that helps people in our school community with a pressing issue.

During a DI challenge we use and develop the following core skills:

   Critical Thinking
  • Identify and clarify problems.
  • Ask questions.
  • Plan and manage time and responsibilities.
  • Explore a variety of solutions.
  • Analyze, synthesize, interpret, and evaluate information.
   Communication
  • Use various media and technologies in different ways.
  • Share ideas and information to solve problems.
  • Listen carefully and respectfully to the ideas of others.
  • Follow directions.
  • Encourage others to expand their ideas.
   Creativity
  • Use strategies, such as brainstorming, to generate ideas with the group.
  • Apply prior knowledge to develop new ideas.
  • Experiment with different solutions.
   Collaboration
  • Take an active part in the challenge.
  • Be flexible and willing to compromise.
  • Share responsibility for completing the task.
  • Learn from other group members.

Students attacked the challenge with enthusiasm as you can see in the video below. We laughed a lot during the skits!

Huzzahnians, think back on this challenge and your group’s efforts. Describe the hero you created. Using the language of the four C’s, above, what were your strengths? Use specific examples from the challenge. What is a next step to work on to develop your skills. What suggestions do you have for me as a teacher to help you learn and grow at critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication?

Blog visitors, have you ever done a DI challenge? If so tell us about it. If not, what ways do you use creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication in your life and learning?

I look forward to hearing from you!

On the Dalai Lama, Shane Koyczan, and Back Channels

The Dalai Lama waved at us!

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

And then he bowed to welcome us!

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

Well, you may have figured out that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not in our classroom–though somehow his gentle smile and warm laugh made him feel very near. He was in Vancouver to meet with students and educators at the Youth Heart-Mind Summit. The theme was Be the Village. Through the wonders of technology, we joined classes from many locations to watch and listen to a conversation he had with high school students. The topic was about cultivating kindness, empathy, and compassion in all people.  I have to say, I was very impressed with the poise of the grade 12 MCs and panelists. How very thrilling that day must have been. 

Can you imagine being on that stage?

As well, Shane Koyczan, a fabulous spoken word artist (I think “poet” works for me) performed. More about that in another post.  And more about Heart-Mind learning later.

Back Channel

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

We tried something new while watching. We had our first Backchannel Chat, an online private virtual conversation room which each student accessed via our Netbook laptops. The chat gave us an opportunity to discuss our thoughts, observations, and questions among ourselves. I purchased a year-long access to the features of Backchannel Chat for about $16.00 to give me access to all the features of the program. 

I learned a lot from this experience. So did the students, as you’ll see. Not everything was positive, but it was not a complete failure either. If other teachers have tried or are considering using a back channel, I’d appreciate your feedback.

Here are a few screenshots of the archived chat (click thumbnails to enlarge). I sprayed out the names as I promised the students this analysis was not about embarrassing anyone, it was about finding solutions.

We broke into groups of four and wrote Plus – Minus – Solutions posters. Students talked about and recorded their thoughts, then shared with classmates.

Plus-Minus-Solutions

Plus-Minus-Solutions

I’ve summarized their feedback:

Pluses:

  • It’s a great way to show what you’re thinking and see what others are thinking.
  • You can see what others think of your ideas–they can respond to you.
  • You can respond to the entire class more easily.
  • It stays quiet while a presentation is on.
  • Someone is able to moderate the chat.
  • As the chat went on, people were more serious and on topic.
  • We become more tech savvy.

Minuses:

  • Because the sound quality of the webcast was poor and because we are not used to the Dalai Lama’s accent, we couldn’t hear very well and comment meaningfully.
  • Some people didn’t know what they could write about.
  • Some students got off topic fast and began talking about battery life, naming favourite actors, injecting hashtags, and making other random, pointless comments.
  • A conversation about the Dalai Lama’s nationality, appearance, and ethnicity lead to misunderstanding and maybe some hurt feelings. (We processed this after the fact.)
  • Some students used texting language.
  • Too many one word comments reduced the usefulness of the chat and made information flow too quickly.
  • Some students logged in and out to change their name and their avatar, wasting time.

Solutions:

  • Create criteria for comments that everyone follows.  (Yes, that came from the students!)
  • Think before you type!
  • Run two different chats so people can read and respond to the comments. This would slow the chat down.
  • We need to work on writing complete, thoughtful, on-topic sentences.
  • Have more than one person monitoring the chat.
  • People who are disrespectful or off topic would be warned and then would be kicked out of the chat.

Final Thoughts
I learned so much from the experience of this back channel about my student’s strengths and needs. I had no illusions that it would be a flawless event, but I sense that taking a risk with this technology will be rewarding for us.

The next time we use Backchannel Chat as a learning tool, we will share our results here.

Do you have suggestions? Are there other tools that can help encourage dialogue about big ideas? Does communicating in virtual space improve or inhibit dialogue when we are  face to face? Please share your thoughts in a comment.

 

 

A Little Outdoor Art

Take a fence, take some wool, add some creativity and you get… well, a woven fence.

Hands at work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symmetrical weaving.

Symmetrical weaving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a look at Huzzahnians at work:

It was a bit challenging at first to figure out how to work with the wire of the fence. I find it fascinating that students arrived at such different techniques in their weaving. Some incorporated natural elements, too.

Have you ever done any weaving? Would you try a project like this? Thank you for commenting!