I’ll never forget about six weeks ago when three girls came running up to me, telling me about their next genius hour adventure. “We are going to send chocolates to people around the world, so they can taste our chocolate. Then we are going to ask them to send us some chocolate from their country. We can compare the tastes and packages.” So, they were off!
Thanks to some of the students’ friends and relatives, plus members of my awesome PLN, the students have received packages from SouthKorea, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, France, and, the latest, from Australia.
I met Lyn Howlin last year when we completed the teacher’s blogging challenge together. Later my seventh graders hosted her third graders’ Flat Stanleys. Now we’ve been Flickr photo friends and email penpals. She’s now retired, but she’s still a teacher. Look at the beautiful letter she wrote, engaging my students in learning about the world.
Thank you, Lyn!
(Students are still working on their comparison and taste test.)
The Virtual Classroom is loads of fun. It was new last year, and I learned how to use it with the help of good tutorials and plenty of NaNoMailing with the always helpful staff of the YWP. The how-to instructions for using the virtual classroom can be found here on the YWP NaNoWriMo site. The step-by-step explanations with screenshots are better than any I would give, so go with those. Questions? Ask me or Chris Angotti and staff.
Anyway, once I successfully set up my virtual classroom, I like to start out with a scavenger hunt late in October to get the students figuring out what’s available in our virtual classroom.
I send them to explore, where I have hidden a few items (in plain sight) using features I want them to practice.
In the Forum:
Begin your first thread something like this…”Welcome to the Forum. We can have discussions here and reply to each other. Reply to this thread and tell something you are good at. Then see Mrs. Krebs for________.” (A sticker, extra credit on an assignment, a free-time pass, a sucker, or whatever suits your fancy.)
Make a two-part post: Ask students to respond to a thread (favorite sport or favorite food or anything), and then, Part 2, reply to a reply of a friend. The goal for this is just to get them experimenting with the features of the Virtual Classroom.
Ask students to upload an avatar to their author info for another prize or points good for something. Or add novel info or set their goal or whatever else in their profile you want them to complete.
Send a NaNoMail with something like this: “Send Mrs. Krebs a NaNoMail telling about one character who might be in your novel. When she reads it she’ll put a coupon for _______ in your mailbox.”
Here’s another one: “When you read this NaNoMail, tell Mrs. Krebs your favorite color and she’ll give you a piece of gum.”
My goal in using this scavenger hunt is to get students familiar with the virtual classroom, to add their author and novel information and practice with NaNoMail and the Forums. When a student comes up and receives a stick of gum from me, others inevitably say, “Hey, how come s/he gets gum?” Then they quickly begin to dig a little deeper.
The virtual classroom also has a section where you can add links for students to help them with their novel. Good ones I put in this section:
Name Generator Who is Yanko Nedelcho Borisov? A potential character in my novel thanks to the “Behind the Name” Random Name Generator. What a thesaurus does for adjectives, the Random Name Generator does for characters. I told the name generator that I wanted a Bulgarian man’s name–first, middle and last. They gave me Yanko Nedelcho Borisov. His wife is Zaharina, and his two children are Gardza and Marta. If I decide I don’t want Bulgarian characters, I can generate Frisian or French, Japanese or Jewish, Roman or rapper, hillbilly or hippy, and so many more! Great fun, especially when I need a lot of characters and get tired of using all the names of my friends and acquaintances.
Music I do not like to listen to music while I work or write. That may be a generational preference or that I just don’t regularly listen to music anytime. However, I appreciate that NaNoWriMo encourages us to consider what novel writing music we listen to, so I actually tried it a few times. Depending on what scene I wanted to write, I listened to some triumphant classical pieces or some sad and mellow ballads. I think it added a few hundred to my word count (especially during Beethoven’s 5th) and perhaps some inspiration, as well. I have links for AOL Radio and Pandora in my Virtual Classroom, so students can easily access music (even though Pandora is blocked at our school). They are allowed to bring headphones and mp3 players in November.
So, that’s about all I’ve done to get ready to use my virtual classroom in November. How about you?
Can you share additional items for a virtual classroom scavenger hunt?
Do you have any helpful links for student novelers to share?
Welcome to the blogging world! Some of my blogging teacher friends have been creating resources for new bloggers, so I thought I would contribute my ideas. My simple advice is to get in there and start blogging, find your own way, and enjoy the journey.
Although I’ve been blogging for about 18 months, it’s just been in the last six months that my journey has become more engaging and rewarding.
The second thing that happened on my blogging journey is I realized I was unclear on the purpose of my blog. Was it for personal or professional reflection? Was it to give assignments and write model blog posts for my students? Yes, it was all of those things, and it was a little bit crazy. Along the way it became clear to me that I needed two blogs: one for professional entries and the other for classroom work. You are reading my professional blog, and you can find my student blogs at http://krebs.edublogs.org.
So, my advice is to get started and find your way. Maybe you’ll choose to join a blogging challenge and define your purpose earlier than I did. You are unique and your blogging journey will be too, so have fun with it and good luck!
Sheri Edwards recently wrote a post called “Five Tips for New Bloggers”
She also started a Diigo group you can join intended for folks to share information that will help bloggers. It’s called ebchallenge
Finally, here is a Voicethread started by Nancy Carroll to gather blogging advice from others:
The more I learn about being part of the 21st century digital world we live in, the more I firmly believe it is about creating, contributing, connecting, collaborating and curating. It is so fun to learn something new and to join with others who are doing and sharing these things, as well.
This morning I learned about a resource that dedicated ELT educators are contributing to the world! Thanks to others who were willing to join the conversation, those of us involved in the June, July and August Project (Twitter hashtag #JJAProject) learned about eltpics today. I had never heard of the eltpics Flickr Photostream for teachers until I saw these tweets come by this morning:
Thank you to Sandy and Chiew for telling us about the wonderful photos available for educational use from eltpics.
I am having so much fun taking a photo a day. When I wake up in the morning, I’m full of wonder about what the day has in store for my camera and me. I have never done anything like this before, so it’s great fun! Another perk in this project: I am learning to use Flickr. What a great program! The slower pace of summer is allowing me to learn all the ins and outs, so I can be a better curator of my photos.
Over the past few months I have delighted in meeting so many excellent educators through their tweets and blogs. So many people contributing their genius out in the digital world! A few are amazing writers, but many of us are not. But you know what? I’ve found it doesn’t matter!
Is writing the most important contribution people make in their lives? No, of course not. Does it have to be the most important mark you leave on the Internet? No, it doesn’t. You don’t have to be a great writer to be effective.
Your contribution is not a polished five-paragraph essay or creative writing assignment. Your job when you join the digital conversation, should you choose to accept it, is to create, contribute, connect, collaborate and curate.
All those things can be done without Pulitzer prize-winning prose! Let me tell you about an example that happened in my class recently. Nicole, along with Leah and Kim, created a silly video as they tried out a new tool called Animoto. She wrote a quick paragraph explaining a contest related to the video. (And they painstakingly checked it for proper English conventions, I might add.) Here is her blog post.
Finally, we created a digital prize on Xtranormal. You can watch it here and at the beginning of this post.
Was Nicole’s greatest contribution her writing? No. She wrote, but she also did much more. Look at all the things she accomplished…
created–the initial video and digital prize
contributed–added her blog post and made it a contest for the world
connected–sent out the link to the world
collaborated–worked with Leah and Kim in the classroom, worked with me on Xtranormal
curated–this is an elusive one. Nicole and all of us need to not become overwhelmed with the wealth available to us online. Nicole didn’t just launch a random monkey blog post and leave it. She organized her online world. Even though she was busy, she approved the comments, read the stories, determined the winner, and followed-up to complete the task.
I am so proud of her and my other student bloggers. They are becoming 21st century learners and using technology to create, contribute, connect, collaborate, and curate.
Is there a benefit in doing those things online, as opposed to doing them in the regular classroom? Yes, there are many reasons that I am just learning about. One thing I have become convinced about is the fact that we have the chance to be accepted in a new way. The bullies and the bullied, the straight-As and the strugglers, the cool and the nerdy, the introverted and extroverted, the acne-ed and the brace-faced, the too thin and the too round. It doesn’t matter what we look like or how we are perceived on our campuses. Online we can all be on a level playing field. We can all make valuable contributions. Even the weakest writers can do the work of the 21st century when they share their own genius.
Don’t get me wrong. I know we need great literacy skills; we should not be lazy about literacy development in ourselves or our students. More than ever, in this digital age, we need to be strategic readers and effective writers. (At the least, everyone can proofread their own writing or ask a friend or teacher to help.) However, I believe blogging, joining the conversation, 21st century teaching and learning–whatever you want to call it–is about doing those five C’s: Create! Contribute! Connect! Collaborate! Curate!
Make your class blogs a place to showcase the creativity of your genius students. Post their work, so their audience is not limited to just one–the teacher. For years I have posted student work on our web page, but now I believe posting it on our blog makes our potential audience so much greater than just family and friends.
As Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Everyone has something important to contribute. Allowing the students to do so makes the world a better place.
Make a commitment to connect with others in the blogosphere. For one whole year, we “blogged” with a very small audience; it was just classmates, parents and me. I guess I was hoping someone else would read, but we never reached out. Now, I understand that it’s our responsibility to develop readership, so we have begun to make connections with the world by commenting, asking questions on our blog posts, and using Twitter.
As a result of new connections, we are hoping to find partners to collaborate with. This is new for us, and we are just in the baby steps of collaborating. Here is our first attempt.
A curator is a manager. Like in a museum, the person in charge of deciding what to display is a curator. According to the Smithsonian, less than two percent of their collection is on display at any given time. Teachers have a great opportunity to begin to manage for students the excessive information in the 21st century digital smorgasbord. I’m still figuring out what this looks like, but I do know it is imperative to help students learn to manage and organize. In blogging, we have a perfect opportunity to model for our students. I’ve learned that I need to have clear objectives and organized categories and tags. If I want to publish something on my blog, but it doesn’t fit, I might need to wait, or post it on a different blog, or add a new category, which was the case with this post. I added a category called Blogging with Students Challenge. I also learned, through last month’s challenge, that I needed both a professional blog and a class blog–two different ones. Kevin was a good example to me of how this looks. His professional blog is Kevin’s Meandering Mind and his class blog is the Electronic Pencil.
I love the words create, contribute, connect, collaborate, and curate to describe what we are doing in education in the 21st century. I am just beginning this journey. My classroom blog is just one month old, so I am open to suggestions! Do you have any additional ideas for what classroom blogs should be?
WHY do we do what we do in the classroom? WHY do we use the wonderful Web 2.0 apps and platforms? We need to remember to ask WHY, start with WHY.
Too often, we start with the WHAT. Smartboards, blogs, wikis, Glogster, Animoto, and on and on. Yippee, look at this new gadget! Let’s jump on board!
Secondly, we approach the HOW. OK, we’ve got this cool new app, how do we use it? We pore over help pages. Professional development time is spent learning how to use a new gadget or platform.
Angela Maiers has been challenging us these last three days at the digital literacy class #digitalliteracyiv at Prairie Lakes AEA, “Building Learning Communities: A Hands on Adventure,” to go beyond the WHAT and HOW.
Many of us, in effect, skip the WHY. According to Simon Sinek we need to Start with Why. Angela told us the WHY for everything in technology is to CREATE, CONTRIBUTE, CURATE, or CONNECT.
If the new gadget I’m considering doesn’t help me do one of those things, then I’ll find something that does.