Monday, September 26, 2011 and Elementary Writing

Simple Tech Integration: Using for constructed response questions

Not every technology integration in your classroom needs to be an elaborate project that takes weeks. Sometimes the best uses are the simple, everyday occurrances in your classroom. During a training session, one of my 5th grade teachers discussed how he used during his language arts block.

Each week, students are answering a constructed response question on a reading story or book. Normally, students would respond on paper and get some feedback from the teacher. This year, these students are answering these questions on in small groups. The students visit the link provided by the teacher and work on their responses together. When everyone is done, the students then look at how the others answered the same question or a different one. From there, the teacher has options about how to proceed.

They could:
a. bring up the site on the IWB and discuss the pros and cons for each answer.
b. have the students critique the other groups' work.
c. have the students read over the other answers and then make improvements to their own.

There are several reasons I love this technology integration strategy.
1. It is simple. The teacher creates a new document on and adds the link to their website for students to access.
2. Students are learning from each other. makes it simple for students to see each other's work and then use that as a learning experience. Students are providing authentic feedback for each other, while the teacher can guide these conversations.
3. is free and does not require a log in!

This may not be the newest resource out there. It may not be the flashiest or most groundbreaking...

but it is technology that actually works!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Utilizing TED Talks at the Elementary Level

Utilizing TED Talks at the Elementary Level

In preparation for an upcoming staff development session, I was looking for an inspirational video to show at the beginning. Without hesitating, I searched the TED Talks website for some inspiration. While browsing through some of the videos, I came across a video that made me step back and reflect.

"What Adults Can Learn From Kids" by Adora Svitak made me think about how this concept could be applied in the elementary classroom. Many times, we in the education field are so focused on teaching the prescribed curriculum, that we do not tap into the resource that is our students. Students are passionate about many different topics that may or may not fit into district curriculum as prescribed in the curriculum documents. Just because a topic of interest is not dictated from curriculum documents and the teacher's manuals, doesn't mean it is not worthy of our classroom time. In fact, we need to embrace these interests and utilize them to deliver our curriculum.

Do you want to tap into your student's passions and cover curriculum at the same time? Try this idea.

1. Show your students Adora Svitak's TED talk and probe your students about the following items:

  • What is their area of expertise?
  • What is their passion?
  • How could their passion help others?
2. Use the students' passions as a topic for an upcoming research project. This can be individualized or students with similar passions could work in small groups.

3. While doing this research project in your room, incorporate the following curricular topics:

  • Work in various writing objectives from your curriculum
  • Work on various research skills from your curriculum
4. Give students choice on how they wish to present their finding or what they will be doing with their research.
  • work on oral and written communication objectives from your curriculum
In this example project, students are learning about areas of interest and the teacher is covering their communication arts curriculum.

Students want to learn about items and ideas of interest. Greater student passion leads to higher levels of commitment, work, and hopefully learning. Any time that educators can tap into student interests and cover curriculum at the same time, that is a win-win.

This is technology that actually works!

Friday, September 9, 2011

QR Codes in the Elementary Library

No matter where you look, it seems that QR codes are popping up everywhere. Shopping for real estate, looking at store ads, or reading a magazine, you are bound to find these interesting codes. Whether QR codes are fad or here to stay, their presence right now is strong. 

With this in mind, our elementary Instructional Technology Specialists were brainstorming ways to use QR codes in the elementary school...the library seemed like the perfect spot. All of our librarians had just received web cameras to use for Skype, so why not find another use for them and get more bang for our buck. Now that we had a focus, the question was: How could QR codes be an asset to the library?

In Missouri, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students have the opportunity to read the Mark Twain Award books. With that in mind, we recruited some librarians to make a book trailer for each book. Most of the librarians used Photostory to create the book trailers. The book trailers were loaded to Schooltube and a QR code was created for each schooltube video. With these codes affixed to the books with some book tape, students can now get access to their book's trailer. Students can come up to the web camera, open the QR Reader software, and hold the code up to the camera. The camera takes a picture and students get to view the book trailer. Hopefully it makes them want to read the book!

Our goals for this project are bigger than just 12 book trailers. We hope students get energized by this and want to create book trailers for their favorite books. Maybe it is an incentive for reluctant readers to read more books and create a book trailer. This does not have to end with book trailers either. Students could create physical projects (posters, art, etc.) that can be photographed and uploaded to the web (and linked to a QR code). That is one of the great advantages to QR just need something with a URL.

We hope teachers see this as an authentic product and encourage their students to do this instead of the dreaded book report. Over time, more and more books in the library could have their own book trailers, Prezi presentations, glogs, etc.  Students would feel pride to know that their work is serving a purpose.

So bottom line: If any project is put on the web, its URL can be turned into a QR code!

Here is a list of the items and programs we used for this project:
web camera - Lifecam VX-2000
Note: For the QR Reader, you must also download Adobe Air.

Authentic products for an authentic audience create meaningful learning experiences. 

This is technology that actually works!