Archive for November, 2010

A Cool Tool for me

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about some of the web 2.o tools I like best. One of them is Symbaloo.


This tool allows you to organize links to websites. You can use it as a PLE or a way to organize your favorite bookmarked sites. I started using it last year after listening to Wendy Drexler talk about it in a webinar. She showed how middle school students were using it both to collect research links on a topic and to link to the final online artifacts (glogs, etc).


Since I teach 5th grade, having students search for readable content is sometimes more time-consuming than is reasonable. So, I thought I would start out using it as a way to gather preselected links about a social studies topic. Then, I could share them all with my students. Here’s a picture of what a “webmix” or “desktop” I made.

I assign a link to teach tile and pick the color and little icon that go with it. Not hard, not fancy, so helpful.

This webmix above was from last year. We were just moving on to studying classical Greece after studying Crete and the Minoan civilization. So, I did some searching of pictures and text in advance. I arranged the tiles so that the pictures were at the top and then as you move down the links are more and more text-heavy. Using the “share this webmix” option, I emailed the link to my students. Then in class they could follow the link and see the same webmix you see above. Students had some time to explore the links at their own pace. Those who like to see a visual first, could start at the top. Those who wanted more words, could head to the middle or bottom rows. Great for differentiating.

Also, you’ll see on the bottom right, two tiles with pencil icons. These are links to wallwisher bulletin boards for students to leave questions or interesting facts.

I have continued this pattern of using Symbaloo this year as well. So far, I have made a webmix for links about Mesopotamia. Again, I organized more pictures and bite-sized information towards the top and more far-reaching text at the bottom. And, again I linked to bulletin boards (this time Stixy) to collect questions and fun facts.

I have found that this allows students to gather some background knowledge that works for them. Then, we come together again, each student has already begun to build that background knowledge and has a place for new information.

Other ways I use Symbaloo:

  • I made a webmix that is just links to all my students’ edublogs on one side and in one color and all their eportfolio wikis on the other side in a different color. (I borrowed this idea from Ann Leaness @aleaness on Twitter.)
  • I have started a webmix of tools and resources that my class uses so that we have a 1-stop shopping place to find all our the tools and sites we use a lot.

I love this tool. I have shared it at several unconferences (EdCampPhilly and NTCamp) and offered a short session on it during an inservice day at my own school. Those who came to my session at school were not all classroom teachers, but all were enthusiastic about how they were going to use it in their everyday lives.

Anyone else using Symbaloo in a great way?


iPads Appear in my Closet, Update

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about iPads. As my regular readers, all 3 of them, know, I am now the proud teacher of a class with 1 iPad per student. This post is a little overdue, but with all the excitement and then all the holiday cooking and eating, I got behind on a number of things.

The first day I got them out them out of the closet, it was near the end of the day. The kids could barely contain themselves. Actually they really couldn’t. We got as far as using the DoodleBuddy app to make a home screen pictures with a number on it so the kids could recognize their iPad. I had a plan for a real lesson, but that was clearly not going to happen.

New plan: play with something, figure it out, and be ready to tell the rest of the class something about it next time. Much better plan.

Here’s what I saw:

  • A bunch of students playing with a tangrams app.
  • A bunch of students trying to play the Game of Ur app.
  • Only 1 of them actually read the directions and had any idea what she was doing.
  • Some students drawing with the chalkboard app.
  • Everyone being excited.

Here’s what else I noticed:

  • Students were asking each other questions about how to do things.
  • Students were eager to share what they had discovered.
  • The fact that I could only be at 1 place at a time was fine.
  • There are going to have to be a lot of experts in the room, and not all of them are going to be named Ms. Eiteljorg.

Since then we have used the iPads for real stuff, not just play.
In our first week, here’s what we’ve worked on using the iPads:

  • Used the chalkboard app to have everyone respond to questions in class (I know this is just an expensive white board without the smelly markers and paper towels)
  • Searched for information for individual blog posts using sweetsearch
  • Some students used ithoughts app to make an outline for their post
  • 1 student found the myscratchwork app, started using it and discovered that it lets you see a web page and take notes at the same time by giving you a split screen
  • Used twiducate’s mobile version to have both a face to face and virtual chat conversation simultaneously.
  • Used smart weather to find the weather in a number of cities in Iraq (we are studying Mesopotamia)
  • Written blog posts using pages
  • Pasted posts into edublogs
  • Bookmarked sites we’ll be using frequently (sweetsearch, twiducate, our class blog, edublog’s sign-in page)
  • Copied a comment (students’s choice) from our blog, pasted it into pages, edited it to be an example of “best work” to be assessed and then posted on our blog again
  • Investigated Iraq’s geography using google earth


Next up, what does it all mean? Are they just cool, or are they a real teaching and learning tool, in my opinion.

Is anyone else trying out a new device or strategy in his or her classroom?

My Happy Closet

Posted: November 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

So, here’s what I found in my classroom closet yesterday morning.

16 iPads all in rows

So, here’s October’s round-up of things I overheard in 5E this past month.

(Name) was on fire! Yeah, she was!

[After looking at another student’s vocab strip that shows students use of weekly vocab words in speaking], I need to start saying the words.

I like using the computer more than writing stuff down.

I like when we have a choice [of assignment] because I’m always different.

I liked having a choice because personally I don’t like inspiration [mind-mapping program]. I prefer to write it down because I feel that’s easier for me.

Basically, the opposite of what (name) said.

If she [book character] was married to him [other book character], he’d be doing all the work.

If I did a glog [for a choice assignment], I’d do all the fanciness and never be done.

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for stuff on the computer.

[After some snarky comments about the fact that someone has to go to “dancing class”] He’s going to be a better dancer than you, and he’s gonna get all the girls.

People, forget about the sticky notes and focus on what we’re supposed to do.

It was all of us; we’re a team.

They looked like a group. [In response to watching a video clip of different groups working on a project.]

That’s leadership. [Again in response to watching another group on video]

That’s my star sentence.

We have a pretty good dialog, how about you?

He’s in the zone. [About a student on our simulated archaeological dig]

I can do minimum, maximum and range, but I always forget mode and median.

A lot of times I scan over the directions and miss something.

Oh, I’m actually getting this.

Oh this is awesome. I love my blog.

That definitely goes together. Who agrees? [During work reconstructing artifacts from our dig]

Ok, ok, (name) you and me can work over here at your desk. [to a student who is not always easy to work with]

(Name), do y ou need some help, buddy? Well I’m here for you.

Hey, I want a personal assistant. [after some students got personal assistants during math time]

Hey (name) if you hung around Ms. Eiteljorg more you would have really understood.

In  the second paragraph, is it supposed to be just facts or can I infer too?

I love Blogger’s cafe!

Is the Blogger’s cafe open?

You have to follow the archaeology code of conduct.

Those are the October highlights. I could have put in many about the Blogger’s cafe. It’s a huge hit. (Read about it here.) What have you overheard lately?


So, I’ve been thinking and thinking about iPads recently. Someone I know, maybe her name is Ms. Eiteljorg, is getting a set of iPads for her classroom. I’m super excited; my students are giddy.

And, I’m also a little nervous. I want this to be a good experiment. You know the kind where everyone learns a lot, the money has been well-spent, and everyone is happy.

Here’s how it all happened. I went in over the summer to meet with my new (to us) division head. I wanted to tell her about some of my big ideas. (At that point, she didn’t maybe realize that she would get to hear so much about them.) I’d been talking with our former division head all last year about a couple of my grand schemes and we’d really hammered out some good plans, I thought. But, of course that was then. So, we meet, we discussed the plans. Good, good. Then, she asks how is all this going to work with the 2 computers in my room. Well, I’d talked about that too last year. I told her about my plans to use lots of creative scheduling with Library and Computer class to do some 1/2 groups, etc.

I swear it was her idea to see if she could get some other computers in my room. I of course said I would love that.

So, the year began and I got an email meeting invitation (don’t you wish they were invites to parties or lunch or vacation get-aways?) for a meeting with me, my division head, and 2 technology directors. Before you know it one of them is saying what about trying some iPads, I’ll pay for them out of my budget. Let me get you one to try out, he says. I, once again, say I would be fine with that. I am nothing if not agreeable.

I have to admit, I have gone back and forth about whether this is the right tool for me and my classroom projects. I’ve spent a lot of time weighing this and that. There are parts of my big plans that don’t work with the iPad. And, I’m really excited to give it a try. They can’t do everything I want to do, but I can’t do everything I want to do either, so welcome to the club my new iPads.

This whole thing is definitely a case of making your own good luck, I think.

I think luck and excitement is contagious. Here’s to passing it on.

EPortfolios Update 1

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about the digital portfolio project I wanted to add to my classroom this year. (Read about my plans here and here.)

I ‘ve made 17 ePortfolio wikis on wikispaces: one for each student and one for me. Each student has added pages for three subject so far (language arts, math, and social studies). And a few weeks ago we updated both the language arts and math pages.

Here’s What I Did

First up, language arts. We started by looking at 2 inspiration webs we had worked on in class. I passed back the first assignment and asked students to look at the feedback I gave them. Next, I passed back the second web and asked them to look over it with my comments in mind and evaluate their own work. Then, I passed back other work and a reflection guide that allowed them to rate both the quality of their work and their work habits. Each person chose one piece of work that would represent their best work on their wiki.

The next day, we hit the wikis. Using the reflection guide students wrote about their work and work habits during this unit, inserted their best work, and explained that.

Next up, math.

We have finished the first 2 units and assessments in our math curriculum. So, I put a list on the board of the skills that were assessed. I also made an outline with the following headings:

  • things I can teach someone else
  • things I can do in class (or that I feel ok about)
  • things I still need to work on
  • directions and neatness

Then, I handed back both assessments (the first they had already seen) corrected. Their task was to use the assessments as a guide to put the skills in the appropriate category on their math page.

Here’s What Happened

Students really thought about their comments on their webs. Most of them were right on.

One student wrote, “this was my best assignment because I was really prepared and I had fun doing it.”

Another said, “I see progress in my packet [reading comprehension questions]. My examples got better.”

“After we practiced [making inferences], I got better at it.”

Students spent a lot of time thinking about where to put each math skill. One student asked if he could divide the skill into 2 parts since he felt it belonged in different categories for him. Wow! I mean, WOW!

What Next?

Well, I think this is a success already. We have plenty of room for improvement, but I feel like the time we’re spending on this is worth it. My ultimate goal is to have student write quality discussions and make complete reviews of their work on the way to self-discovery and nirvana. Too much?

Next week, we review our next unit’s worth of language arts work.