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A Coming-of-Digital-Age Story

13 Mar

A Coming-of-Digital Age Story
By Nancye Blair Black
Performed by Laney Blair

Used to be, learning at school was a bore.
Textbooks and textbooks and textbooks. Snore!
In class, teachers would talk, students would hear.
It was the same old story year after year.

Until one day, our principal suddenly appeared
With a class set of computers. The students all cheered!
Our teacher showed us what these new tools could do.
We played fraction games. We Skyped with the zoo!

And then it was our turn. She turned us all loose
To research and learn about a topic we choose.
I tried simulations. Collected data, too.
I emailed an expert. Read cutting-edge news.

Next, it was time to share what we’d learned,
To demonstrate knowledge and mastery earned.
In front of my classmates, I started to doubt,
But then all of a sudden, the words just poured out.

I showed them my slideshow with media galore.
My friends clapped and asked questions and begged me for more!
My teacher joined with them. Could this really be?
That along with my teacher, now a teacher was me?

It was hard to believe, but the message seemed clear;
My work mattered enough to see, read and hear.
And if sharing my ideas could matter to you,
All this work would actually be worth it to do!

So, I darted online to blog on my day.
Would the rest of the world really care what I say?
I posted my project as my global debut.
Other teachers and students were soon commenting, too!

And now, I can’t count all things I can share;
I’m an author, filmmaker and scientist extraordinaire.
My voice makes a difference. I now know it’s true….
And technology helped me to share it with you.

Digital Storytelling with Animated Powerpoint – 100,000 Youtube Views and Counting!

4 Mar

In 2011, some of you were there with me when I gave my first conference presentations to standing room only crowds at both FETC in Orlando, FL and in Philadelphia at the ISTE Conference.  The presentation was titled “Elementary Media Projects You Have to See to Believe!” and it never failed to live up to the hype.  With innovative project ideas and inspirational student work samples, student-created media was (and is) one of my favorite things to speak on.  It’s truly incredible what even our youngest students can do!

Click to view student-created example!

One of the most popular projects from that presentation was the use of animations in PowerPoint to create digital storybooks that played like an animated movie.  This type of project supports reading, writing, fluency and editing.  It helps students to think and write with all of their senses and to experiment with various concepts of spatial thinking.  Plus, it actually serves as a great precursor to computer programming through the use of strategic design thinking in executing both linear and parallel animation sequences to accomplish different visual effects.  And the kids just love it!

To support my own students, as well as the other students and teachers who started experimenting with this type of project, I created a set of tutorial videos that walk through each step of the process.  I then hosted them on YouTube so that teachers could embed the tutorial videos into their own school and class websites to share with their students.  Since then, countless numbers of student created projects have followed…. along with this week’s 100,000 viewer milestone for the full tutorial on YouTube!

I wanted to share this momentous milestone with each of you who have used and shared these resources.  Your efforts to give your students voice and purpose are commendable… and it has brought me great pleasure to provide this and other resources to the incredible ed-tech community over the last few years!

And if you are new to this idea, below you can find the video and some information about using it in class.  You can also learn more about innovative ways to use PowerPoint and other student media creation tools in the Interactive Student-Created Digital Media Portal in the site’s Resources.

Happy creating, learning, and teaching!
-Nancye

Creating with Animated PowerPoints

Kids love illustrating their stories. Using clip art in PowerPoint is a great way to allow our young students to create complex illustrations for their writing and stories without depending on their ability to draw them. And the best part? When they’re all done, these animated storybooks actually play like a movie.

The Concept:
Illustrate and animate a narrative using custom animations and timers in PowerPoint or comparable presentation software

The Applications:
Creative Writing – Identifying Setting & Characters, Plot, Sequencing, Character Development, Dialogue, Voice
Math – Real World Problem Solving, Geometric Transformations, Equivalent Fractions
Demonstrate Scientific Concepts – Virtual Experiments, Revolution of the Planets, Water Cycle
Social Studies Concepts – Election Process, Teeth Care/Dentist, People in my Neighborhood
*Students can complete a whole story or documentary on their own or each student make one slide to combine into a class “video.”

The Hows:
Prerequisite skills: Decent spelling ability (clip art searches must be spelled correctly), Familiarity with the basics of PowerPoint (text boxes, clip art, transitions)

  • The Storyboard – Before beginning to create the animated illustrations, students should either write their rough/final drafts of their story or voice overs… or at least have a decent flow map story board or what happens in each scene.
  • Create slides using the following tutorial video. You can also embed this video into your own teacher website to use with your students.
    • Have students save their work often. At least once every ten minutes.

This video and/or the step-by-step tutorials below can be linked/embedded into your class or school website.

TIPS:

  • Inserting clipart – All backgrounds and clipart should be inserted as movable objects. Objects that come in and out of the scene can be placed outside of the slide. Also, let students use creative problem solving to “crop” clip art to get one piece of a larger picture.
  • Custom Animations – When creating the animations, instead of using “after previous,” set all animations to happen at the same time and then use the time delay to make them happen over the span of the slide. If you don’t do this, the animations won’t run at the same time as the narration after they are recorded.

Visit our class website to see several more samples, like:
A Retelling of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” by a 4th Grader
Animated Commercial integrating Excel Graph by a 3rd Grader
Science Experiment Demo
And for some mind-blowing inspiration, check out some of the work at the PowerPoint Heaven website!

Video Tutorials – To use with your students or embed into your own site!
Full Video
Part 1: Intro & Samples
Part 2: Getting Started: Background and Clip Art
Part 3: Adding Custom Animations
Part 4: Adding Text
Part 5: Recording Narration
Part 6: Setting Automatic Timers

#FETC14 Countdown: Innovative Workshops Not to Miss!

20 Dec

2014 is right around the corner… Kick off the new year right by plugging into innovative sessions and workshops at upcoming conferences across the country!  Whether you can make it in person or join in virtually, this is a great time to get connected to the best that ed-tech has to offer.

FETC14 SpeakerI’ll be starting out the year at FETC in Orlando from January 28-31.  If you are planning to be there, I’d love for you to join me in one of my workshops as we explore the transformative potential of using technology in the classroom.  Here are three opportunities… and remember to pre-register for these workshops early while there are still spots available!

Tuesday, January 28 – 8:00-11:00 AM
Ed-Tech Transformation: More than Meets the Eye

Today’s interactive, relational and tech-savvy students are not the same 21st Century learners we had the first decade of the millennium and our technology curriculum and integration shouldn’t be either! Join us as we explore proven and emerging ways to revolutionize your class and school with a technology-infused curriculum that drives student discovery, problem solving, collaboration and creativity, all while meeting the demands for academic achievement.

Thursday, January 30 – 8:00-10:00 AM
Digital Village: Using Technology to Increase Parent Involvement

By using Web 2.0 collaboration tools, parents become an integral part of your classroom and their child’s learning! With interactive demonstrations, free resources, best practices, and testimonials, you’ll move forward inspired to turn your classroom into its own digital village. In this interactive session, attendees will engage live demonstrations of collaborative web environments, explore best practices for implementation, view diverse examples, and delve into free, effective collaboration tools like blogs, wikis, Voicethread, video-conferencing, writing apps, online whiteboards – and more!

Thursday, January 30 – 1:00-3:00PM
It’s a Small World: Elementary Global Collaboration

Discover powerful web resources and best practices perfect for connecting young learners around the globe. Gain ideas for tools like Google Docs, Storybird, Voicethread, ePals, Skype, Flockdraw, Quadblogging and more. In no time, your students will be sharing videos, images, knowledge and skills; blogging; storytelling; and even creating websites with other students across the classroom or around the world.

Growing School Gardens: An Eco-lutionary Move

10 Sep

Something “eco-lutionary” is cropping up at schools across the country.  While some students might be experiencing the start of the new academic year from behind a desk, others are embracing an expansive sense of classroom that reaches far beyond the schoolhouse walls and into the green.

At our public charter school, Lakeland Montessori Middle School, teachers and administration plan the year with explorations into green space in mind.  P.E. sometimes takes place running around a lake, field trips include environmental clean-ups and snorkeling, and studying biology means much more than just looking at pictures in textbooks.  In fact, during the last school year, the students at LMMS struck up an interesting partnership with one local restaurant, the Red Door Wine Market.  Synthesizing their learning of biology, weather, collaborative design, math, business and even presentation skills, the students designed, proposed and executed the implementation of a “farm-to-table” concept on the restaurant’s grounds.

The result of this entrepreneurial project is a flourishing garden that provides organic lettuces, peppers, herbs and other produce to be served to patrons at the Red Door.  Students were extremely proud to see the literal fruits of their labor… and ecstatic when they first saw “Montessori grown greens” appear on the menu.  Several of the students happened to be on site the last time I ate on the outdoor patio at Red Door.  When asked about the garden, they were eager to share about their project, detailing the various plants sprouting up around the grounds.  In addition to their pride, the depth of learning and retention from the project was also clearly evident.

According to Angeline Stoll Lillard’s book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, working with plants, nature and environmental elements is an integral part of the Montessori educational model.  Maria Montessori went as far as suggesting that elementary classrooms should include ornamental plants, which the children could tend… and that middle grades education should include running both a farm and a local store at which to sell their produce.   Instead of preparing students for the “real world,” this type of project-based Montessori education provides students the present-day opportunity to be valuable contributors to their local community and economy.

Yet the school gardening movement is not limited simply to Montessori schools or even high school agriculture classes.  In fact, many communities and schools across the country are discovering the benefits of empowering students to plant and grow foods.  In his TED Talk, “A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx,” educator Stephen Ritz passionately talks about how growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers has transformed his community, starting inside the classroom and spreading throughout the city.  School gardening in the Bronx is improving both academic achievement and their standard of living.  The students in Ritz’ first cohort of classroom farmers were previously struggling in school with only a 40% attendance rate; with the impact of this program, attendance increased to 93% and all of those students are now in college and earning a living wage.  Ritz says he’s “growing organic citizens, engaged kids.”

Other TED Talkers also see student gardening as a means to economic prosperity.  Ron Finley, A Guerilla Gardner in South Central LA, says that “growing your own food is like printing your own money.”  With little exposure to green space and whole foods, inner city students in South Central LA suffer physically and economically.  A movement to garden in public spaces is changing this for kids in Finley’s neighborhood.  Finley continues, “You’d be surprised how kids are affected by this.  Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city.  Plus, you get strawberries… If kids grow kale, they eat kale.  When kids grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.  But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever the hell you put in front of them… I see young people and they want to work, but they’re in this thing where they’re caught up – I see kids of color and they’re just on this track that’s designed for them, that leads to nowhere.  So with gardening, I see an opportunity where we can train these kids to take over their communities, to have a sustainable life.  And when we do this, who knows?  We might produce the next George Washington Carver.”

School gardening combines learning from all curricular areas into a real world application with multi-faceted benefits to students.  I have personally seen these academic and affective benefits first-hand in the students at Lakeland Montessori Middle.

So, how do you get started with gardening in your school?  Fortunately, there are several ways to learn more – starting today!

The School Gardens Community on edWeb.net is an active group of educators sharing free resources and discussions on growing school gardens.  You can join this community edweb.net/schoolgardens and gain access to their upcoming webinars on growing schools gardening, such as:

–  Inquiry in the Garden: Facilitating Student-Led Investigations for Grades K-8 in an Outdoor, Living Laboratory     Tuesday, September 10, 2013- 4pm / Eastern Time
Presenter: Whitney Cohen, Education Director at Life Lab

–   From School Garden to Cafeteria Table: How to Plan, Grow, and Use Garden Produce in a School Cafeteria Lunch Program    Tuesday, October 1, 2013- 4pm / Eastern Time
Presenter: Matthew Doris, Food Service Director & Chef, Tuckahoe Common School District, Southampton, NY.

The School Gardens Community also shares an e-guide about school garden planning and lesson integration by New Jersey educator, Dorothy Mullen, which definitely deserves a look.

One other way to introduce gardening to your students is with a new book by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is a beautiful picture book telling the biography of a former basketball star turned gardener turned MacArthur Foundation Fellow.  In her review of the book, Elizabeth Bird praises Martin for masterfully portraying the connection between economic stratification and access to healthy foods “without getting anywhere near a soapbox.”  More than that, students learn how, with dedication and hard work, someone can turn a big idea into a meaningful reality.  The best part?  The book officially releases today.  And if one book isn’t enough, look for other books that with potential to introduce your deep classroom conversations about gardening, food, health, and economics on the International Reading Association’s list of leveled reading books on the subject.

By making gardening an integral part of project- and inquiry-based learning, we have a unique opportunity to provide our students with more than just academic knowledge.  Instead, we can empower them by developing practical skills for success, not only in math and science, but also in collaboration, problem solving and iterative design; we can raise them with a profound sense of capacity to create, to grow, and to succeed.  Plus, as Ron Finley would say, “you get strawberries.”

 

Nancye Black

Nancye Blair Black is an award-winning educator, author and educational consultant.  She also proudly serves on the Board of Directors for Lakeland Montessori Middle School, a free public charter school in Lakeland, FL.

More information about the LMMS gardening project can be found on The Ledger and WFLA News.

Filling the Mindtool-Box: Google Spreadsheets

25 Mar

The robust and diverse features of Google Docs (and now Drive) have been increasingly entering our K-12 classrooms.  By working in the cloud, students have lost less homework, used less paper and been more engaged in learning.  Yet, the greatest benefits of Google Docs may not  be so much in what can be done in to construct knowledge independently by our students, but in what can be done to construct knowledge collaboratively.

In particular, collaborative use of the Google Spreadsheet has great potential for creating impactful and thought-provoking learning experiences with our students.  These types of activities go a long way to meet the requirements set by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S).  Through collaborative work and discussion, students work on several of the standards and goals pertaining to problem solving, speaking and listening, presenting ideas, recognizing patterns and developing communication skills.  Plus, they develop creative and critical thinking through technology by using “models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues” (NETS 1c), “identify trends and forecast possibilities” (1d), “identify authentic problems for investigation” (4a), and to “collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions” (4c).

Here’s an example of how this can work:

– The teacher creates a Google Spreadsheet, formats and labels a table/chart, and shares it to the students in the class.  (As students become more comfortable with this tool, having them decide how to organize their information or data themselves can be a great part of the thinking/learning process!)

– The students research and collect data on a topic independently or in small groups and enter it into the spreadsheet.  For example, in PE, students could record the rate at which they can perform jumping jacks in order to set a goal for an upcoming fundraiser.  In science, the students might record weather data over time, comparing and observing weather patterns.  In social studies, students might collect population data, the cost of various goods, or information about elections.  In math, students can survey students about their favorite video games and tally results.  The possibilities are endless… and can easily be used in all grade levels and curriculum areas!

GoogleSS

– Next, students use the spreadsheet tools to work with the data.  In the Google Spreadsheet, students can create graphs to model and compare the shared data, use formulas to find averages, and make predictions based on patterns recognized in the collected data.  Students can even sort and categorize lists and information as well.  As the teacher, you can monitor the students’ progress in real time by viewing the document and use your observations as formative assessment.  This catalyzes an opportunity to provide just-in-time support for struggling learners and enrichment for those achieving mastery.

– Finally… well, there is no final instruction. Why?  The collection and modeling of data is a great jumping off point for further learning, research and inquiry on any topic!  Use this collaborative knowledge base in your students’ spreadsheet to prompt class discussions, presentations, group work or even digital media creation.  In my third grade classes, students used the data they collected to inform persuasive data-driven writing and animated commercials like the one featured on this page.  In fact, cross-curricular integration possibilities abound when working with visual representations of data and information.

Best of all?  The kids love it!  The interaction between students, the camaraderie of building a knowledge base together (even in younger grades!), promotes a desire to learn and a love of the inquiry process.  It’s time to bring some excitement to the use of data in the classroom… and Google Spreadsheets are a great way to do it!