Monday, October 27, 2008

Flip Video-Maria Mallon & Cheryl Dillard

Dear Fellow Geeks,

The Flip Video is easy, convienent, and fast. It allows you to video from 30-60 minutes depending on the memory size. It runs on 2 AA batteries and fits in the palm of your hand. The best part of the the Flip Video Camera is the ease of use. To record, you press the red button, to review what was recorded you press play and if you want to delete the video you simply press the delete button. Like we said, "It is so easy even a caveman can do it." We have used it to video songs, skills block activities, writing conferences, and Readers' Theater. After recording the video, you can download it to the computer using the attached USB port or use the AV cords to view your video on the TV. If you choose to add a video to your blog or the Ning, you will need to upload the video to TeacherTube or Google Video. Other features include the ability to make a custom video with music or capture photos from your videos. We suggest you try the Flip Video Camera for yourself by checking one out from the Media Center.

Monday, October 20, 2008

So Many Websites, So Little Time - KK Cherney

Hello fellow Geeks!
That sounds so funny to say out loud. I never really thought about the fact that I am a tech geek until we started this cool tradition at Chets, but I guess I am one in every since of the word. Looking back at how it happened was a totally natural thing. Picture, 3 to 4 years old squatting down beside my dad as he was using the screwdriver or taking something a part. I think I sat for hours. That training evolved into a hunger to learn about how things work or don't work and finding solutions to make it work. Little did I know that my daddy was training me as a Santa's assistant. You wouldn't believe the stuff I have put together as he(Daddy Santa) slept in his bed dreaming of sugarplums dancing.

Now I think of how that laid the foundation of seeking out the latest and greatest tech tools and inspired me to seek out sites to make life easy. Speaking of websites, I probably find an average of 10-15 new cool sites a week. Sometimes I share so many in one sitting, everyone walks away on overload. I just can't help it. Today, however I will only share a few, just to get the creative juices flowing.
Finding the perfect website for students becomes a real challenge when there is so much out there to choose from. I have been a web site sleuth for a while now and I think I can share sites that are educational, challenging and at the same time exciting. A good starting point is to read the ALA suggestions of how to determine great sites for kids. The ALA has criteria that really will help you find the perfect site for your students. There are more in depth points listed that you may want to quickly review , I just wanted to hit the highlights. ALA Great Website for Kids Criteria

A. Authorship/Sponsorship: Who Put up the Site?
The name of the individual or group creating the site should be clearly stated.

B. Purpose: Every Site Has a Reason for Being There.
A site’s purpose should be clear and its content should reflect its purpose, be it to entertain, persuade, educate, or sell.

C. Design and Stability: A Great Site Has Personality and Strength of Character.
The information on the site should be easy to find and easy to use.

D. Content: A Great Site Shares Meaningful and Useful Content that Educates, Informs, or Entertains.

The title of a site should be appropriate to its purpose.
A way I determine if the students are hooked on a site is by allowing them to have 10 minutes of free time after the media mini-lesson and the checking out of books . If the site is re-visited I know that I have accomplished the mission of finding a site that they love to explore and they don't even realize they are building a great foundation of knowledge. Many times the site isn't just a game site, it just has the look. You know the look. Lots of graphics, not a lot of text, colorful, easy accessibility, great labeling for interactive play and just throw in terrific sound effects and you have a winner.

For instance, my students love this one. It is produced by the Library of Congress and it has 5 divisions that the student can visit and learn about amazing Americans, jump back in time and have a overview of history, explore the states, join America at Play and finally see, hear and sing from our American past. I can't keep them off of the Animation site. Totally interactive for that curious hungry mind.

The one thing that I can't afford when site surfing with my kids is to have a lot of advertisements on the perimeter of the homepage of the site. I try to stay away from those sites. They are such a nuisance and in some cases they lure my kids to locations that I would rather have them avoid. If I do share one of those type of sites I use the ads as a catalyst for the teachable moment and instruct them about cookies and other problems those icons may cause. It's just better to avoid those.

A great site that really shares stuff kids want to know about is the KIDSKNOWIT site. It meets all the criteria of a wonderful site for students, making education fun and its totally free. I could spend all day sharing the sites that I have surfed into and shared with CCE students.

Another example of coolness is the KBears site. It is extraordinary as it takes on the personality of a space ship called K Ship One and sails into the world of knowledge. Once you open the home page check out the Geo World link. It is great as it ramps even the older students. You will love it.
Finally, a site for you to check out for yourself .

What is the Infinite Thinking Machine?
The Infinite Thinking Machine (ITM) is designed to help teachers and students thrive in the 21st century. Through an active blog, an Internet TV show, and other media resources, the ITM shares a "bazillion practical ideas" for turning the infinite universe of information into knowledge. They showcase examples of innovative instructional methods, talk with leading experts, and share real stories from the classroom to improve how we think, learn, teach, and live.
The shows and website are an important way to spark dialogue and help educators explore a wide range of innovative ideas. They rely on the collective wisdom of many experienced educators to select interesting ideas to share, but they cannot validate these practices beyond that. Also, please keep in mind that any mention of products, ideas, websites, and organizations does not represent an endorsement by the producers or sponsors.

Don't hesitate to check back periodically on our site for all of the cool websites that I find to make your job the coolest ever.
Now, where is that screwdriver?

Written by: KK Cherney

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Windows Movie Maker - Rachel Bridges

Dear Fellow Geeks,

I would like to introduce you to a program that you may or may not already be familiar with. You may have thought, what is that for? Or you may have already used Windows Movie Maker to showcase the work that you do in your classroom.

Windows Movie Maker, a new look at a program that we can all use to jazz up the pictures of our Learning Adventures. Windows Movie Maker is available to Windows users (the program I used was included with Windows Vista). This program will allow you to piece together pictures, audio, and video to share with your audience. Piecing together is truly the best way to put it. You simply import pictures, video, and/or audio from your computer, flash drive, etc., and edit it on a storyboard. Save it as a movie file there you have it, your very own movie! I used Window Movie Maker to allow my parents to take a look into our daily learning as they attended our Kindergarten Open House. You will see pictures from each of our four main workshops, Skills Block, Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop, and Math Workshop. Below is a link to this movie. It was uploaded to Teacher Tube in order to share it.

Below is a flowgram that highlights a Windows XP website that will walk you through creating a movie with Windows Movie Maker. Be sure to watch the movies of how others have used this program!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Student Blogs - Cheryl Chascin & Cynthia Rice

Why do I have all of my students blogging this year? I think this answers it all:

After reading Jeff Utecht’s (Have you noticed that the word “tech” is in the middle of his name?) post on his Skype with us on the first day of pre-planning, I posted the following comment: “I feel as if I am standing on the threshhold of something BIG. The possibilities and potential of what we can do this year are endless. Can you imagine a student approaching academic subjects with the same engagement and excitement they have for video games and texting? Can you imagine students with special needs using such a familiar technology to learn? In this age of leaving no child behind, how can we turn our backs on such a resource as this?”

Jeff replied:

“When you talk about students with special needs I thought I would share this
with you. I'm dyslexic and I know just how powerful this platform can be for
someone who struggles with reading and writing. I'm not saying it works for
everyone and you don't have to have special learning needs to use technology but
I've seen it transform some amazing kids. I talked about this on my blog way
back when
it might be of interest to you on a couple different levels.
1. We all start with one person reading our blog
2. The power of a real live audience and the freedom to write about what you love and what you want is a sure way into every students heart.
3. I still can't believe people care about what I write...not only care but care enough to put my blog in the top 10 of educational blogs out there (by some crazy person's standards)

My spelling is horrible, my writing and mechanics are horrible. It took me two
hours to write that post about Chets Creek and I know there are still errors all over it. But you know....I don't care. Before my blog I didn't write. When I started I was writing (according to Word) at a 4th grade level and reading at about a 6th grade level. Some 700 blog posts later I consistently write at a 9th grade level
and have read more books in the past three years then I have the rest of my
life. But the really interesting thing to me is, not once has someone commented
on my bad spelling, my grammer errors, or my run on sentences. Not only that, I
now write for two magazines, just finished a chapter for an Education and Web
2.0 book, and am being asking to write more and more. I just keep telling myself
"If they only knew......."Anyway...thought I would share. I've seen students
blossom when we allow them to write their way, write for their niche, and just
learn to love writing. We can only truly learn when we learn to love what we
do.” Nothing we could write says it better.

Check out my students' blogs in the sidebar of my blog. They'd love to hear from
Written by: Cheryl Chascin (and Jeff Utecht)