Thursday, October 29, 2015

Collaborating with Other Schools

We do our best to link up our curriculum horizontally across subjects and vertically across grades, but when it comes to linking it up with other schools, it can sometimes be a bit tricky.

Recently, we've been working on a collaborative project with two wonderful schools, one in the USA in Missouri and the other in Brazil.  Our 6th grade students along with the 6s from the other two schools have been sharing a typical day in their lives with each other, using Google Presentations.

Leap back in time:
This was was not the first time we had done this project. My friend and colleague Lisette Casey, from Colorado first approached me about it six years ago, and we ran a similar project with our then 6th grade, current 12th grade students. It was as simple yet magical a project then as it is now.

Back to 2015: 
Along the way our students have worked on their initial understanding of primary research, Creative Commons licensing and presentation construction. They have created avatars, word clouds, searched for images that represent something important in their lives and even created word searches based on the reflections they have done. Here is a link to all of these resources just in case you are interested in learning more about the process and tools they used.

Yesterday, we held our long awaited web conference with St. Justin Martyr School, in Missouri.  Students prepared for this by submitting questions and ideas  to share with their partner school, using a Google Form.  They also volunteered, if interested, to speak at the conference and prepared their topic prior to the meeting.

One of the things to watch out for when planning a web conference is tech troubles, which may include firewalls and more. We knew this going into it, having participated in quite a few web conferences in the past. We tested, retested and even triple tested and all systems were go, until we had the Performing Arts Centre full of 6th grades (the entire grade) and the partner class was awaiting us in the United States.  We had video but no audio.

Our partner teacher Cindy Lane was wonderful. While I messed around with the techs at our school, she took the reins at her end and had the kids participate in a brief hands up activity. We had video, and audio from her end and her class had video from ours. During the activity, kids responded to a series of questions by using their hands to indicate the answers to her questions.

All that Planning:
Luckily when you work with technology on a daily basis, things like this don't throw you easily. You have a plan B, C and sometimes D up your sleeve and when those don't work, you sometimes cycle back around to plan A. Long story short, we cycled through all of our plans and about 25 minutes later, plan A actually worked. We had video and audio.


That was when the fun really began. It is difficult to describe the joy and level of engagement that students experience when participating in a web conference. You really have to be there and live it, but if you can imagine a large room full of smiles,  and electricity zapping every which way, you will have a better idea of what it is like.

This was an unforgettable sharing and learning experience  for our students, one which I am sure they will remember the rest of their lives.

It is vital that the current generation of children  learn to actively engage with the world in a positive manner and practice good netiquette in doing so. Experiences such as this one help students build their understanding of global citizenship and embrace its values and practices.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Our New Animation Stations Part 2

We have just finished up our first carousel with the 7s using the new animation stations.

The painting wasn't quite done when we began, so we didn't maximise their complete potential this time around. That said the new tripods provided more versatility and much needed stability, while the green surface gave the kids a chance to experiment with using DoInk's Chromakey tools  when applying different images to their animations.

For more on the tripods and the apps we used, checkout our previous post on the new animation stations.

During the next carousel,  we will be able to make full use of all of the chromakey options, thereby eliminating the need for printed backdrops.

Here are two examples of finished videos from this first carousel, in which the students used printed backdrops, combined with the images  they added using DoInk's GreenScreen app for iPads.

3Doodler Pens

We have used our new 3Doodler Pens with our 8th grade in 3 lessons so far and have already learnt so much.

The pens, which can be purchased for under $100 are very student friendly, effective 3d printing devices. 

During the different lessons when the kids were introduced to them through a couple of short videos (I have embedded one just above this.), some models we had made and a brief talk about expectations the electricity in the air became  almost overwhelming. 

The last time I saw kids so excited about a new tool was when I introduced my 8th graders, 8 years ago to then, Google SketchUp(now Trimble SketchUp).  

The videos and explanations were punctuated by enthusiastic outbursts of "How cool!" "I want one!" and a variety of interesting interjections.

In practice the kids took to them right away. We gave them printed templates, and a few tasks written up in a Google Document, which also contains space for reflections, notes and images documenting their work.

These pens have proven to be a fantastic investment which will be used throughout the year, both in lessons and in our new Makerspace.

We will add updates and more images documenting the work, as the year progresses.