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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!


– 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!

“It’s a Small World: Elementary Global Collaboration Tools” @ #GlobalEd12

13 Nov

Day 2 of the Global Education Conference has begun!  Yesterday was filled with inspirational speakers and practical tips.  I especially enjoyed Tony Wagner‘s ideas about fostering innovation in our students and Rita Oates’ practical tips for connecting with guest speakers who have International perspectives, yet live within our local communities. (If you missed them, I will be posting a link to the #GlobalEd12 session recordings later this week.)

As promised, tonight (or tomorrow morning depending on where in the world you live) at 11:00 PM Eastern Time, U.S, I will be presenting as well.  Here’s the scoop!

It’s a Small World: Elementary Global Collaboration
Nancye Blair, Education Innovation Specialist & ISTE Emerging Leader

Direct Link to the Session:

Session Description: With mountains of resources available for Global Collaboration, elementary teachers often spend hours sifting through tools and practices to find the select few that will be successful for young learners. In this high-energy session, attendees learn about powerful web resources and best practices that are perfect for our youngest learners. With ideas for tools like Google Docs, Storybird, Voicethread, ePals, Skype, Flockdraw and more, participants will learn how to find other teachers and classes who are interested in collaborating, how to set-up 21st century learning activities that promote global awareness and real world problem solving, and easily implement these new tools in their classroom. In no time, elementary students can be blogging; digital storytelling; sharing videos, images, knowledge or skills; and even creating websites with other students across the classroom and around the world.

Today guarantees to be another wonderful day of connecting and learning.  Once again, the full GlobalEdCon schedule can be found  here.  And remember, you can follow #GlobalEd12 or me (@EngagingEdu) on Twitter for ongoing updates, tips and highlights as well!

Empowering Students with Digital Media Creation

25 Aug

The new school year is getting underway.  We are filling drawers with math manipulatives, cabinets with supplies for science experiments, shelves with books… and lesson plans with inspired ideas for teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.

Yet, while we make plans to teach these tangible standards, let’s not forget to plan lessons that teach the intangibles, too — Dignity, compassion, identity.  Let’s commit to intentionally making plans that provide our students with opportunities to discover their greatest potential, to making plans to share that potential with the world.

One way to start is to give power to their unique voice though digital media creation.  Technology tools provide opportunities for students to create diverse and engaging media that can be showcased for live audiences around the world.

Throughout this year, I will be posting innovative technology tools, lesson applications and even opportunities for you to share about the amazing digital media created by your students.  Interactive Student-Created Digital Media PortalIn addition, this summer at ISTE 2012 was the official launch of the Engaging Education Interactive Student-Created Digital Media Portal.  This portal provides ideas and tutorials for integrating Movie-making and Animations, Digital Storytelling, Audio and Podcasting, 3D Media, and Web 2.0 Apps. Plus, the Resource section can direct you to free, copyright-friendly photos and screen/video capture apps.  This Interactive Portal is the perfect place to get that first idea to kick off the school year.

So, what are you waiting for?  Empower your students this school year through student-created digital media projects…  And be sure to share their amazing creations with a world who sincerely needs to hear their inspiring voices!

Cool Web 2.0 Tools for Digital Storytelling

13 Oct

Writing is a lot more fun when you can create illustrations, storybooks, or movies to go with it!

Here are several “MUST TRY” Web 2.0 tools
that help you do just that!
(Plus, our fifth graders have ranked and evaluated them for you!)
What it is: Digital Storybook Tool
Student Rank: 8.2/10.0
Pros: You can print your book! Has lots of characters and facial expressions. Can upload your own images.
Cons: None.
What it is: Digital Storybook Tool
Student Rank: 8.0/10.0
Pros: This has cool and creepy pictures, backgrounds and moving animations. You can record your voice or sounds effects. Plus, there are great stories to read on here, too!
Cons: Can’t print it out
What it is: Animated Movie Tool
Student Rank: 7.9/10.0
Pros: The students found this easy to use, saying, “It lets you be creative and make your own movie with cool background sounds and avatars.”
Cons: Can’t print it.
What it is: Digital Pop-up Storybook Tool
Student Rank: 7.5/10.0
Pros: Uses cool Pop-Up illustrations to create a book. You can add your own ideas and upload your own images.
Cons: You can’t print without the premium version. While some of the 5th graders loved it, some thought the pictures and concept would be better for younger kids. (PS: Our 3rd graders would use it all day!)
What it is: Non-linear Presentation App
Student Rank: 7.6/10.0
Pros: You can share what you know in any format; objects can be rotated, flipped, or re-sized; you can add images, sounds, or videos
Cons: Many students felt Prezi was hard to get the hang of; there are no images or video in the program (you have to upload them yourself).
What it is: Digital Storybook Tool
Student Rank: 8.9/10.0
Pros: Storybird lets you make your own book and story. They said it was inspiring to write based on a picture prompt and use professional illustrations/artwork. They liked adding funny text to the pictures. Plus, you can write the story with someone else!
Cons: the pictures are limited and you can’t edit them, you can’t print it without paying
(More tips for Storybird in the Student Created Media Resources)

Others to check out:

3D Doc Cam Work Featured at CoolTECH 2011

24 Jun

CoolTECH 2011 took place at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, FL on June 10th. It was a great event showcasing emerging technologies from throughout the bay area. I was there debuting the 3D Ladibug Document Camera and sharing the work we’ve been doing with our students using the prototype at McKeel Elementary Academy (MEA) in Lakeland, FL.

The best part? We made the news! Check out the story about MEA here:

Or you can view the full report below: