Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can you think of a "L" Wordle

Some of you may recall that our oldest son was in speech a couple years ago and I posted about how I used podcasts to support his speech development (See Digital Audio to the rescue). Now our youngest child is in speech. I really think he developed his articulation issues because he was developing his language skills during the same time that our oldest son was struggling with speech.

Of course, we are running into similar issues with practice sessions so recently I decided to try an interesting tool known as Wordle. Wordle reminds me of the things we used to draw in junior high when we were bored in class. You know, adjectives about your favorite boy, the names of all your friends or whatever was most important at the time.

I like it for children because it gives them another opportunity to play with words. My son had to say each "L" word and then I typed it for him. Then, he loved to change the colors and fonts and, of course, each time we did he said the words over again.

I could see Moms using this with children who are reluctant to practice vocabulary or spelling, in studying for a test on synonyms, antonyms or parts of speech or just to pass time in a quiet, directed fashion.

As far as I can tell the tool is not that robust but it seems to be reliable and very easy to use. Here are the Wordles that Drew created:

L Sounds

Initial L Sounds

As always, it is fun to hear from others who have used these tools and/or ideas for other tools.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Glogster: A new twist on the poster

My first grader had his first poster assignment this weekend. The class is studying famous Black Americans (I still wonder about this; shouldn't we study these people year round?). I know the teacher is following the school curriculum and I know this happens in schools around the country so I suppose people with more knowledge than me feel it is the right thing to do.

Danny was assigned to research Willie Mays but unfortunately the books we found were at a pretty high reading level. Thus, we went to the Internet. We found some interesting images, videos and statistics. Then, we created a Glog using Glogster. The Glogster slogan is "Poster Yourself" and a Glog is essentially an online multimedia poster. You can embed images, videos, sounds, links and text. I am honestly not sure what Glog stands for; possibly "Glamour Log."

It is very easy to use and even has an EDU section where teachers can set up private accounts for each of their students. I think primary teachers may have difficulties managing a whole-class Glog project without extra hands, however, I think most Moms could easily support their children as they complete poster assignments. I seem to remember poster assignments throughout my K-12 education and I remember they got more boring the older I got. Glogster may be the answer. Youngsters can learn some computer skills, gain 21st century skills including creativity and digital ethics and possibly really enjoy an age-old school assignment.

You can see Danny's glog on Willie Mays. But, more importantly check out Glogster. It may just save you some headaches the next time your child brings home that poster assignment. Or, maybe you can save yourself some headaches on a rainy or snowy day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Custom Searches With Google

My 1st grader is about to embark on his first "research" project. He has chosen to explore the skeletal system. We picked out some library books and tonight I went online to see what he would find using a basic Internet search. The answer: too much with too much text. I decided to try one of Google's new features, a customized search engine. I selected 9 sites with appropriate reading levels and/or plenty of pictures. You can view the search engine here. While it unreasonable to expect a teacher to create individual search engines for each child, it is reasonable for parents to do this for their children. It is a straightforward process, a simple way to become involved in your child's schoolwork and a way to have some peace of mind as your child begins to learn about Internet-based research.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Photoshow-ing a road trip

We just spent 2 weeks visiting family and friends. We drove and, despite the price of gas, our total bill (food, gas and all) was less than it would have cost the four of us to fly anywhere in the USA. Even better, our 12-year old SUV averaged 21 miles per gallon and worked flawlessly except for a minor inconvenience with the wheel alignment traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Very good news since we are not interested in buying a new car anytime soon!

Best of all, we were able to see many different people and places in a relatively short amount of time. In addition to catching up with old friends and seeing our kids with their grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, the trip motivated me to attempt a blog revival. I tend to assume that everyone knows what I know but I realized on this trip that there are a lot of really cool resources Moms should know about but don't have time to find. I have reviewed several tools in previous postings but I thought I would test out some other tools as I mourn the end of vacation and the beginning of another school year.

I started out tonight using PhotoShow because it is incredibly easy. I simply uploaded some pictures, selected a few aesthetics and an online show was ready to go. This tool reminded me of a less flashy, more calming version of Animoto. I loved the fact that I could create my whole show and preview it BEFORE I had to set up an account. Not surprisingly, I had to set up an account to share the show but it was a painless process and it seamlessly allowed me to post the show to this blog (or Facebook or MySpace or just about any other online tool).

Despite the ease of use, the free version of this tool is limited. There are 6 stickers to spice up your photo and 5 relatively blah music selections from which to choose. More choices (including video upload options) are available for $39.99 per year. Given the vast number of digital storytelling tools available and the fact that new ones are coming out everyday, I think the price is pretty steep. The site also provides an option to buy a DVD of the show. I suppose this is an okay option in some cases, however, iDVD provides much more flexibility and customization in true Apple-easy fashion. I would encourage anyone wanting a DVD of pictures to explore it before buying from a site like this.

As far as I can tell there are no narrative options with this tool which was disappointing since I had our kids tell about their vacation via Audacity throughout the trip. Despite some clear shortcomings, the free service provided by PhotoShow is easy to use and definitely worth a Mom's time to explore especially if you have friends or relatives living far away; just be careful about getting sucked into paying for additional services unless you have explored other options first.

Stay tuned for more tool testing and enjoy the PhotoShow........

Sunday, January 13, 2008

When kids create digital content

I spent some of my weekend at a meeting hosted by the Bureau of Instruction and Innovation within the Florida Department of Education. I always love going to these meetings because I get to connect with others who are passionate about students using technology and because I get to keep my pulse on where technology is going in the State.

Of course, there is also the Mommy Guilt of not being with my boys for part of the weekend and the messy house phenomenon to deal with when I get home. (Yep, you Moms know!!)

Nonetheless, a major topic of the meeting was the importance of getting students to create their own digital content (sometimes also called media assets). In fact, the DOE is currently processing grant proposals designed to support such creations and has some very forward thinking plans to help teachers support the process.

As I was listening to all the talk about the power of having students create digital content I kept thinking about how many Moms would interpret the phrase "student created digital content." It sounds a bit daunting. In fact, I bet it is daunting to more than a few professional educators too!!

Yet, it doesn't have to be complex and it can be FUN. So, I have decided to devote the next couple posts to examples of digital content created by my boys using free, simple web tools. (Of course, if you have looked at dates on my postings this may take me until summer to get done :)

But, Drew (4) and I created one this evening before he went to bed. We used a program called VoiceThread which is amazingly simple to use. It is basically a combination of a very simple online presentation tool and an audio discussion forum minus the threads.

Drew selected some pictures he wanted to tell a story about and then talked into the internal microphone of our computer to tell the story. Drew practiced his story once and then we recorded. Older children could write simple (or elaborate) scripts to narrate a story. They could even illustrate their story.

Interestingly, before every story I reminded Drew to start with "Danny and I" rather than "Me and Danny" but he got so excited to start talking that he forgot every time :) However, this is a still a great opportunity for Moms to talk with their children about proper grammar, story structure and elaboration. I didn't do much of this with Drew because of his age but the opportunities are there.

It is also a great opportunity for relatives and friends to communicate with a child. It is simple to create an account and comment. Go ahead, give it a try!! Drew would love to hear from you!! (If you want to comment you will need to access the presentation directly so you can create your account)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Flowers are Red - How adults "map" their frame of reference on kids

A colleague recently shared this video with me and it really made me think about how adults often "force" their frame of reference on children. Many schools and teachers are clearly guilty of this but I suspect many of us Moms are too; especially when our children's frame of reference causes additional mess and chaos in our lives (or our houses!!). As you watch this video and the read the transcript copied below, think about how you can support your children's growth and "free spirit" while maintaining your sanity. For me I guess this means the rocks, sticks and other assorted nature items must stay on the windowsill in the kitchen, the art box must remain within arm's reach even though a mess ensues daily, the Christmas tree must have most of the ornaments below 3 feet, and the chalk drawings must continue to greet our visitors on the front porch. I suppose playing in mud during construction is also okay; they had sooo much fun and used their imaginations to the fullest (see picture above). Of course, it means much more as I carefully respond to their daily questions and conversation starters. Being a Mom is certainly an overwhelming job but simple reminders such as those provided in this song can take us a long way.

Of course, I also think technology can take us a long way by allowing children to create, communicate and collaborate in new and exciting ways. In fact, check out the 21st century skills our children will need to be successful in the world we cannot even predict.

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin' young man
I'm paintin' flowers he said
She said... It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There's a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You're sassy
There's ways that things should be
And you'll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me.....

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It's for your own good..
And you won't come out 'til you get it right
And all responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin'
She said...Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let's use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Butterflies, Photography and Kindergarteners

I had the opportunity to chaperone my son’s field trip to the Butterfly Rainforest today. I brought the new Kidizoom camera my other son recently received for his birthday. Most of the children were interested in it but certain children were enthralled. I would have never allowed Kindergarteners to walk off with our $350 digital camera but risking a $60 investment is more than worth what transpired today.

It was fascinating to watch the children try to figure out how to best capture the butterflies, plants, birds, fish and turtles they were viewing. There were a lot of subtle lessons in those moments; lessons that are difficult to capture in whole group instruction and that will most likely never show up on a standardized test. How should I angle the camera to capture the part of my environment I want others to see? What happens when I point the camera skyward toward the sun or other light source? How can I position my body to take a picture of a fish through the bridge? How close is too close when attempting to capture images of wildlife? I could go and on but you probably get the point. Lessons abound in every day living; we just have to take the time to notice them in our adult lives (which seem to get more chaotic as the kids get older).

As I watched these kids engage with nature, with their school curriculum and with a digital camera I thought about how accurate Ricki Goldman-Segall really is when she suggests that we do a great disservice to kids by always taking pictures of them rather than allowing them to document their own thinking through photographs and other forms of multimedia.

There are a lot of things that could happen with these pictures but, given the time constraints of typical elementary classrooms, I simply brought the pictures home and tested out a beta Web 2.0 application called Animoto which creates professional looking slideshows on the fly. It is an interesting operation run by some young, hip video professionals. Videos of 30 seconds or less (approximately 12-15 images) are free while longer videos costs $3/video or $30/year. It is really quite simple: (1) upload your images, (2) pick some music and (3) click finalize.

So, check out the great fun we had on our trip today and keep in mind that the majority of these photos were taken by Kindergarteners. You will notice that the kids figured out how to set backgrounds on the Kidizoom (something that I didn’t even know was possible until today ☺).

I hope you will think of ways to peek into your child’s thoughts through multimedia. After all, we are raising 21st century children and who will prepare them for their digital future if we don’t?