Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Post 5

TrackStar

This is a WONDERFUL site for teachers. It allows you to put a bunch of different websites with a common theme together with your personal notes for your students all on one website. There is also a database of "tracks" already made by other teachers that you can use for your class. I have included the homepage and a track I have made about archaeology. My students LOVED TrackStar.








YouTube

YouTube is great for teachers because there are so many educational videos in the YouTube database. Anyone can upload a video to YouTube, so as a teacher, I always watch the entire video clip for content before showing it to my class. My colleagues and I have also discovered that it is fun for us to get together to watch stupid clips after a stressful day. It is great if you are showing your students the Diet Coke and Mentos fountain experiment when teaching about chemical reactions or if you are de-stressing by watching a bunch of foolish guys from Alabama try to surf on surfboards tied to trucks in ditches full of water. I have included the YouTube homepage. You will have to search for the experiment (which is coolest if you watch the whole thing) and the Alabama surfing on your own. :)





My Canvas


OH, I thought of another one! MyCanvas lets you create books for FREE! I made a book of all of our photos from the year at the end of the year this past year. It is really neat because the parents have the option of copying the book to an account they create so they can add/delete pages and pictures (which changes the price). It is more personal than a yearbook. I would post my example, but two of the kids in the book do not have parent permission to be seen on the Internet by anyone but parents from our class.

Post 4

PowerPoint is one of my favorite multimedia options for my 4th grade classroom, and I use it for research projects.

Day One: I teach my students how to:

· Type

· Insert extra textboxes (they often delete them prematurely)

· Select a textbox or object

· Change font style, size, and color

· Insert clipart

· Insert word art

· Change slide transition

· Insert animations in PowerPoint

Day Two: I teach students about using the Internet, PowerPoint, and Word together.

1. I direct the students to open Google Images and ask them to type in the word "tiger." This word is not as effective for my point as it used to be, but it still proves my point. It used to bring up a picture of Tiger Woods, a tiger shark, a ship, and a picture of an actual tiger all on the first page. Pictures of all kinds of random things come up in the progression (CAUTION: One of the higher numbers does have pictures of an escort service. I try not to let them get that far!). My point is: Just because you type in a word does not mean that all the pictures will be of the word you typed in. Be careful. Go to the website that the picture comes from and read to make sure that your picture matches what you are want to find.


2. I teach them how to switch between windows (several of my 4th graders even though I am in a high socioeconomic school have absolutely no idea how to do this!) We learn that if we can't see PowerPoint anymore, we can just click on it at the bottom of the computer screen (and vice versa for the Internet).


3. I teach them how to copy and paste so they can add pictures to their presentation. We practice several times.


4. I teach them how to open a Word document that has a list of websites that are 4th grade friendly for research. We practice switching between the Word document and other windows, too. Then, we practice holding down the CNTRL button while clicking a website to open it.

Day 3-6: I let them "play" to learn. I usually give them about three days to research and to make a presentation slide that reflects their research and creativity. They get extra points for their team for extra photos and interesting facts (The team with the most points wins a prize which is usually a snack that they end up sharing with everyone else anyway.).

Day 7: I copy and paste all of their slides into one presentation, and we enjoy them together.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Post 3: For the Love of Websites :)

I love fun, educational websites! I use them extensively in my classroom. Here are some of my favorites by type:

Drill and Practice: Fun4thebrain is a free website that has long lists of games for each of the four math basics, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, for drill and practice. This is a link to the multiplication games list, http://www.fun4thebrain.com/mult.html. Some of the games are simpler than others. Some of them drill the students for a while, and if the student correctly answers enough of the problems, he/she is rewarded with an old-school Nintendo-like game. My favorite one is http://www.fun4thebrain.com/SuperStars/superStars_division.html, which is a division game but is also available as a multiplication game. Sometimes I let the kids play these games on the Smart Board as we wait for the bell to ring at the end of the day or if we are waiting to go to an assembly. Students may choose to play these in the computer lab on “website days” also.

Spelling City is another favorite of mine. You can upload your own spelling lists for student access for free. Students can take spelling tests, or they can click the “Play a Game” button to play games with their spelling words. Hangmouse is my favorite; we often play it on the Smart Board as we wait for the bell to ring at the end of the day. This website is an example using one of my spelling lists, http://www.spellingcity.com/view-spelling-list.html?listId=2548052.

Tutorial: This website coaches students through different science “experiments” in an interactive fashion for free. This website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/ks2bitesize/science/, lists them all. I use these on the Smart Board to start a lot of my science lessons.

Simulation: This website, http://www.iknowthat.com/, has a lot of kid-friendly interactive science simulations. This particular one, http://www.iknowthat.com/com/L2?GradeLevel=-1:6&Subject=Science , was one of my students’ favorites last year. You can adjust temperatures, polar and tropical air, and humidity to discover what kind of weather those conditions would make. I usually let students independently explore one of these that are relevant to what we are studying in the computer lab because they enjoy it more and get more out of it that way. When I am pressed for time, however, I use these on the Smart Board.

Instructional Games: PBS kids is completely free. They have a wide variety of topics for all elementary ages. Some of the younger elementary games are even appropriate for older elementary. One of the Caillou games allows students to dig dinosaur bones with paleontology tools and put them together. Here is the list of all the games by topic, http://pbskids.org/games/alltopics.html . My favorite games are the ones that use Fetch, the dog. This one, http://pbskids.org/fetch/games/water/game.html , uses the states of matter to help Fetch.

Problem Solving: My all-time favorite is Poptropica, http://www.poptropica.com/ ! I’m sure most of you have heard of it. I know that some schools have banned it from their computer labs because it just looks like a video game. Personally, I think that if they have banned it, they haven’t played it. It takes a lot of problem solving and strategy to complete the Poptropica Islands. Several of them allow you to learn a great deal of content knowledge, also, like the Time Tangled Island. My favorite part is that it is free!

Cyberchase from PBS kids offers some simple games that involve problem-solving, and it also offers some Poptropica-like games also. The complete listing is listed on the Cyberchase webpage, http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/games.html . I use Poptropica and Cyberchase as classroom rewards. My students learn a lot from them but only think of them as the fun websites.

Integrated Learning Systems: Compass Learning Odyssey, http://www.compasslearningodyssey.com/, is not a free website. It is, however, a wonderful interactive website that all of my students enjoy. It allows the teacher to assign tutorials, instructional games, quizzes, and more to students. The students can work at their own pace, and any data gained from their work and quizzes are stored in the teacher’s account. I really enjoy this website a lot more than a new alternative (I will not mention the name of the new program that I do not enjoy because that probably isn’t fair to the program). I actually use this as my usual computer lab curriculum.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Post 2

Technology is improving the effectiveness of instruction in so many ways, and it seems to be a student favorite. Funding is becoming an issue, though. I know in my own school our technology budget is zero. We have SMART boards in every class, and the bulbs for the SMART boards are $299. The bulbs last about two years. A lot of our SMART board bulbs went out on us this year. We are so used to teaching by SMART board that we teachers felt out of our element when we could not use our SMART boards. What is worse is that the students felt out of their elements, too! Our wonderful PTO stepped up and was able to purchase the bulbs for us. If they had not purchased them for us, the wonderful SMART boards we use so frequently would have just been the "elephant" in the room gathering dust. It is so sad that so many school systems have to decide between technology and teacher salaries or technology and things as simple as toilet paper and soap because we know how imperative it is that students use technology for the global, technology-based society in which we live.



Student privacy and safety is another issue. Teachers want privacy and safety for their students, and most take the measures they feel are necessary for protecting students in the Internet realm. Parents, however, often have different, stricter preferences for student safety. I know in my classroom, I had several students whose parents did not want their child’s faces to appear in any school website photos. I either had to cut those students out of our photos or place something over their faces before posting their pictures onto the Internet. On another note, student privacy is violated via Internet at home, sometimes, and students bring those issues to school with them. For example, a friend of mine had a student in her class who called another child a name on Facebook. The girls used Facebook on their own time at home, but the effects showed at school. One of the girls cried almost all day the next day at school, and many of the other students took sides – creating an even bigger, uglier situation. I do not know what my friend did in the end, but she considered calling the girls’ parents and suggesting that they not use Facebook anymore or that they have new rules for the technology in their homes. She did not want to encroach on the parents’ privacy, though.



We have learned from the history of technology that the emphasis no longer has to be about how we present information to students anymore. Technology is no longer only the means by which information is delivered (overhead projectors, film, etc.), and it is no longer something that only the teacher uses. Today we have the wonderful privilege of putting the emphasis on teaching students how to find information on their own, and the students are using the technology as well. We can teach students how to properly and appropriately use search engines such as Google to answer their questions. If we teach students how to identify reliable websites, we are empowering them to independently learn on their own!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Introduction



My name is Amber. I am 25 years old. I have a chubby little, honey-colored, Cairn terrier named Buddy who rules the household, and he, unfortunately, knows he is in charge. With the exception of college, I have lived in Athens, AL all my life. I love my hometown. It is beautiful and has historic, small-town charm but has the convenience of Huntsville just next door. Our area happens to be a hub for all kinds of interesting careers. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood of rocket scientists, ministers, army officers, nuclear physicists, businessmen, doctors, and more. I graduated from Athens High School in 2004 and went to Troy University, Troy, on scholarship. I interned at Harrand Creek Elementary School in Enterprise, AL and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education in 2007. I plan to finish my Masters in Elementary Education sometime in the spring of next year.

I have taught 4th grade at Creekside Elementary in Harvest, Alabama for two years. I taught three leaves of absence at the same school the year before I started teaching full time. Unfortunately, since I am not tenured, I am currently the victim of the economy. All first-year and many second-year teachers in our school system received pink-slips last week. There is a possibility that I will be hired back within the next few weeks, but nothing is certain. I really love teaching 4th grade, and I love the people with whom I work. I miss them, and I am praying about what God would want me to do next year. I know that as a human, I have no idea what will make me happy. God does know, though, so I am trusting Him.

I became a teacher because I have the gift of teaching and because I wanted to teach in the way that my favorite teachers taught me. As a teacher, I like to have fun as often as I can! I like to teach using manipulatives, primary sources, games, technology, cooking activities, experiments, read-alouds, and picture books whenever I can. I get bored when teaching from textbooks from time to time, so I know my students are bored when textbooks are overused. My favorite piece of technology has to be my AirLiner for my SMARTboard. I can teach anywhere in my classroom with it (I usually sit on my small group table so all of the kids can see me and so I can be close to all of my materials.), and I can see all of my students at the same time. I do not have to teach with my back turned! Meaningful games saved me this past year. The value of meaningful, cheap, easy games is almost priceless. Game work gives students that oh-so-very-needed brain-and-body break and real reasons to learn material – especially in math. What 4th grader really wants to understand fractions? When my 4th graders needed to understand fractions in order to win one of our daily games, they wanted to understand!