Monday, November 3, 2014

Paper Blogging: Take Two!

Now launching - year two of the 4x blogs!  

Last year's experiment went really well - 4x published over 500 blogs posts!  Over 500 pieces of writing, artistic projects, personal experiences, and you tube videos about raining tacos were shared amongst a growing community of writers and communicators.  I couldn't have been prouder.  I learned a lot (which I mean to write about in a separate post) and I am really excited to see what this class of students does with the opportunity. 

This year's students really took the paper blogging challenge on with gusto (click here for a post on last year's lesson).  First we watched a really great video from BrainPop on exactly what blogs are and discussed the purpose of a blog: to share ideas and connect with other people.  I explained that paper blogging would let us practice the three roles of blogging (writers, readers, and commenters) offline before we moved online to our KidBlogs.  Then students got to work writing their first blog posts on something that they loved.  

It was really fun learning more about my kids and the things in their lives that they like and love to do.  I think they enjoyed learning more about each other too - an added community building bonus!  They added an artistic design and submitted it for "publishing".  This year we "published" the paper blogs on lockers.  We used post-its for "comments" and everyone was encouraged to make sure they continued the conversation.  They actually are going back to read each other's comments, ask questions, answer questions and generally make their paper blogs a really vibrant place for discussion.   Some students took the opportunity to redesign their blogs or added updated posts - all really cool ideas that they will be be able to do with their online blogs.  The next steps are to transfer these skills online, get used to KidBlog as an app/website, and start sharing, documenting, and reflecting on our work! 




Monday, June 23, 2014

Why and Try - A Reflection

Last week, I went to iPadpalooza in Austin, TX.  While there, I learned some new things and participated in “The App-mazing Race” – a contest among participants where we had to complete various challenges and make a two-minute video.  We didn’t win anything, but it was a lot of fun!

Denise Coffin and I presented a session called “Why and Try”.  We talked about the importance of helping kids name different types of thinking and then document their progress, emphasizing that the process is more important than the product.  

In the spirit of trying new things from the conference, I have created a “Smore” – an online poster – of our session below.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blogging about Blogging

It's been awhile (6 months - yikes!) since I've posted.  I have several drafts saved, but nothing published yet. Where did all the time go? I need to figure out how to maintain my blog entries while teaching at the same time.  Here's to a summer filled with time to complete a few reflective entries!

This school year was my first adventure with personal blogging, but also blogging with kids.  The whole experience has been wonderful and I highly encourage other educators to dip their toes into the blogosphere.  I have learned a whole lot and am excited about doing a second year in the fall with my students.

Working with our Idea Lab Coordinator, I set up a class account on KidBlog.
 I like KidBlog for many reasons:
1) They have a great app for the iPad which is wonderful in a 1-1 iPad setting
2) The kids don't have to have an email address to use this site or provide any personal information
3) Teachers have administrative control over all the student blogs allowing them to invite parents and others if and when needed.
4) The blogs are private, unless the teacher makes them public.
5) The site allows students to create video or text entries - LOVE!

Check it out:

Prior to launching into writing entries we had discussions about our digital footprints.  These discussions were powerful and I intend to "beef" them up next school year.  We talked a lot about the lasting impression of our words online.  I wanted the kids to be thoughtful about what they wrote and how they presented themselves to their classmates and any others that might see their blog. We talked about how the presentation of their content was important and would leave readers with a lasting impression on who they were as a learner.  What lasting impression did they want to leave?

Stealing an idea from my colleagues, we started our blogs - on paper. Yep. Paper.  Baby Steps!
The beauty of the paper blog is that everyone could see all the blogs around the room at one time.  It was also a wonderful way to discuss commenting.    What was a productive comment?  What would be considered helpful or hurtful?

Our paper blogs had a border around the outside that the students decorated at home as an expression of themselves.  Then, the students wrote an entry about a small moment in their lives.  We brainstormed suggestions about what to draft and since we did this right around Halloween, many of the entries were about favorite costumes or trick-or-treating.  Once all the entries were complete it was time to read each other's work and comment.  We used post its to write our comments and off we went.

The kids loved this process but the best part was the reflection at the end. All of the students took the time to read their classmates' comments and then we came together.  I asked them, "What did you think about the comments?" We ended up with this chart:
This lesson is a keeper! When we went on to online blogging, the kids were aware of how their comments would impact the author.  One suggestion for myself for next year is to do this lesson again after they have had experience posting and commenting. I think that would elevate the comments even farther.

Getting up and running with KidBlog was super easy and the kids took to blogging like champs!  I invited the parents to join our blogging community by creating an Explain Everything movie with step by step instructions about how to sign in and comment.  To be honest, very few parents checked the blog, but when they did  leave comments, the kids were ecstatic!

When we first started blogging I had a lot of controls up. For instance, I made it so that I read every comment before it was posted.  I told the students that putting on those controls was similar to training wheels. I just wanted to make sure we were all in the same mindset.  One of my more witty students wrote the following comment:  "This is very fun but I hope you let go of the bike later and let us make decisions on our own."  

Hmmm.  Good point - thanks Nan.  So, I took off the controls and off they went.  I spot checked all the comments, but there was never a problem.  Sometimes a student would leave an inadequate comment, but the kids would call each other out and state that the comment needed more development.  Parents were even chiming in to their own child's blogs - which the kids LOVED.

The Aha! Moment 
What I quickly realized is that KidBlog wasn't for me to assess work or to see how well they were writing. Kidblog was about the kids.  It became an online extension of our classroom community where the students could share ideas, comment on work - have a conversation.  It is a beautiful thing.

Some of the posts we all did:
Reading Fluency
The kids used the video capture to record themselves reading their current read aloud.  After listening to their reading, the wrote a reflection on what they noticed and set a goal for the next trimester.  We did this twice in the year.  I would definitely do it more often.

Book Sharing and Reflections
After finishing each independent reading book, they posted a summary/book intro and a short reflection about the story.  It was a great way to track their independent reading but also a huge resource for the class to discover new selections.

Digital Portfolio
I'm still messing around with the best way to collect and share student work so we used KidBlog as part of this process creating a digital record of some of their work.  We posted pictures and/or videos of the projects kids shared with their classmates.  So, during the presentations the kids took notes and wrote down questions for their classmates. I made sure to take a picture of them and then airdropped it to their iPads.  Afterwards they uploaded their picture (and sometimes their presentation if it was a video) creating a new post.  Then the whole class added their comments for each of their classmates.  This kept their presentations alive long after the actual presentation.

Blog Mentors
One of our favorite blogging activities was helping a 1st grade class get acquainted with KidBlog.  The 4th grade students mentored a first grader and helped them log in for the first time.  The mentors helped the 1st graders create a video post as well as add their picture and change the background to personalize their blog.  Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!  We definitely plan to do it again next year!

So, there is my year of blogging with kids.  I'm super pumped about the next year and know that we will continue to explore KidBlog and how it can enhance our 4Z learning community! One idea I'm working on is connecting with another classroom and allowing online buddies to share blogs.  I have a friend that teaches in Hong Kong so this would also create a global aspect that is intriguing.

The sky is the limit!

Carrie Strine
Twitter: @carreenstrine

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ansel Adams Through a PK Lens

One of the many things we did during our five senses curriculum in prekindergarten was examine artist, M.C. Escher and photographer, Ansel Adams' use of black and white imagery.  Students had an opportunity to look at several close-up and distant images photographed by Ansel Adams during their leisure time a week prior to studying Ansel Adams' work in our class.  The following week, students were shown various photographs from Portfolios of Ansel Adams and Ansel Adams.  We utilized the “see, think, wonder” teaching strategy to assist students in making their thinking visible.  We showcased each photograph for 45 seconds (a long time for a prekindergartener) and encouraged them to look thoughtfully at the photograph before we posed the first question.

What do you see?

"I see wood."
"I see scratches in wood."
"I see leaves."

Once students exhausted answers to the first inquiry, we followed up with the next question.

What do you think?

"I think it's wood."
"I think it's a old piece of wood."
"I think it's a tree."

Once students exhausted answers to the second inquiry, we followed up with the final inquiry . . . "What do you wonder?"   Often times, the prekindergarteners confused what they thought and wondered.  

What do you wonder?

"I wonder if it's a tree."
"I wonder if it's wood."

Initially, the prekindergarteners shared thoughts that were more concrete and visible, however, as the process progressed over the span of a week, students' responses became more attuned to the details of the photographs.  

After analyzing Ansel Adams' close up and far away images, we discussed how one's vantage point impacts perspective (in a PK friendly way).  

Integration of iPads into the PK Curriculum

The following week, our class learned how to use the iPads to take pictures.  We highly suggest using iPads with the “Grabbit” handle.   iPads with the Grabbit handle accessory enables students to photograph images independently and without teacher support.  The Grabbit handle frees up one hand to hold the iPad and the other hand to photograph images.  Consequently, students do not have to focus all of their energy on holding the iPad with two hands in addition to pushing the button on the screen.  Students were taken outside individually to photograph something close up and something from a distance.  Afterwards, students used their iPad to convert both of their images to black and white by clicking on edit, filters, mono, apply, and save.  Our prekindergarteners were extremely proud of their photographs and their ability to convert their work into black and white masterpieces.

In addition to photographing images outdoors, each student had an opportunity to photograph a classmate and convert the portrait to black and white as well.  Photographing each other provided our class with an opportunity to practice digital citizenship.  Each student either consented to the photograph taken of them or requested that their picture be retaken for our “Black and White Perspective” bulletin board.  Our photographs are currently on display outside of the PK class and will be showcased at our Upper School at the end of March.

Our prekindergarten class (teachers included) enjoyed this learning experience immensely.  Our seasoned photographers love viewing their photos on the bulletin board!  In the future, we will showcase similar photographs in clusters during group discussion in hopes of sparking conversation about item(s) photographed by multiple students from different vantage points.  This showed varying perspectives of these photographs thus strengthening our students’ personal connections and understanding of perspectives.  For example, three students photographed the water fountain on the playground, however, each photograph tells a different story.  Why do these photographs tell a different story?  What factors impacted the outcome?  We look forward to more discussions sparked by our students’ view through the iPad lens.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Baby Steps with Thinglink

ThingLink hit my radar at the EdTech Conference in Boston (11/2013).  The whole conference was quite an educational experience.  EVERY session I attended made my mind spin - in the best possible way.  Since the conference I have made a huge effort to try out some of the iPad uses shared at the presentations.  Exploring, however, takes time.  Time is not a teacher's friend. Worry not - I have been exploring and working and failing.....and succeeding!

Before I get started with my experience - I must give credit where it is due.  Lisa Johnson, also known as TechChef, was the presenter for Thinglink.  She was VERY enthusiastic. I sat at the edge of my seat, trying to keep up with all the information she threw out to the audience. THANKFULLY she left us with her contact information and links to her presentation. This proved extremely useful as I started in on my own adventure.

I thought long and hard about how I could use Thinglink in my classroom. I decided my first effort would be to use it to jazz up our classroom weekly newsletter.

Here is my process:
Step 1: Create an image
I do not consider myself creative, so this part was quite challenging for me.  I used shapes and banners in Microsoft Word.  In each of the shapes, I designated one part of our weekly activities: Independent Book Project, Endangered Animals, Holiday Concert, Math and Service Learning. Once I had the image composed, I used the "snipping tool" to cut and save the image to my desktop.  It was then quite easy to upload that image to Thinglink.

Step 2: Create Content for icons
Here is a picture of my image with the icons:
Don't judge the image - it was a first effort!!  The icons were easy to add - just click on edit then touch the picture where you want to add the icon.  Once the icon is placed you can add text or even a video.  Being able to add video was something that really appealed to me.  So, for two of the icons I used text, but for the other 4 I used videos of my students sharing what had happened that week.

I asked several students to help me out with this project.  Each of them took a few notes, practiced with a partner and then when they were ready I filmed them using the camera on my iPad.  This process - for all four students took only about 10 minutes!

Step 3: Get videos from iPad into Thinglink.
I used our school Youtube account to upload the videos.  Once in Youtube I copied the link and attached to an icon on the image.

Step 4: Publish to our school webpage (Haiku Learning).
On the left side of your image, there is a small share icon:

Once you click on the share option you are given both a link and an embed code. Thankfully Haiku Learning works really well with embed codes so that is what I used.

Blogger is not as kind with Embed Code. But I did a quick search on how to do that.  When you are in the  I did have to figure out how to put the embed code into Blogger though.  In Thinglink make sure to check the box "iframe embed".  Alter the size by clicking on the down arrows. I had to change the size to about half the original in order to fit it nicely onto Blogger.  Click "copy code to clipboard".  Then go back to Blogger and click on the HTML button on the left.  Put the cursor where you want the image and do a paste.  Make sure to save before going back to "Compose".  Voila!

Here is the final ThingLink:

There you have it! My first Thinglink!  I'm a little embarrassed by juvenile image, but it works. Since we had a snow day today I decided to fool around and create more sophisticated image.  I used Canva, another recommendation from TechChef.  MAN - I LOVE Canva.  It's easy and FUN!
Here's the image I settled on:

Much better, right?  None of the links are active yet - as I have to finish out the week and film the kids. But I'm excited about the direction in which I'm heading!

Now I have to come up with some ideas for how to use Thinglink to support the curriculum.  Have any ideas? Please share!

Thanks for reading!

Carrie Strine

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


It’s been two weeks since I've returned from the EdTech iPad Summit in Boston.  The two professional days were extremely intense - but in the best possible way.  Weeks later, and I still find myself processing all that I saw and heard.  I’m amazed and in awe of what some teachers are doing in their classrooms. It’s all so exciting and stimulating - it’s hard to even know where to begin.

My biggest takeaway from the conference though can be summed up in one word - Choice. 

The iPad is an amazing tool with so many possibilities - so many choices.  But here’s the thing - the choice isn't all mine.  The kids have choice as well.  I don’t have to decide ahead of time what app the kids will use. They can do that all on their own - and often in a WAY more effective way than I could have imagined.

My goal for the next few weeks is to explore:
  • Subtext  - Super excited about using this for small group work in our research unit.
  • App Smashing- Okay, I’ll admit, this session was mind-blowing! But I got home and tried to do it and was totally unsuccessful. I love this idea and I think the kids will take this and run with it.
  • ThingLink - LOVED this - but need more time to explore and make something.  I’m not sure this is super useful for our kids, because the app isn't as smooth as the online interface.
  • Flipped Classroom - I need to get on this.  I love this idea, but once again, need time to make it all work.
My exploration needs to include my students, because let’s face it. They are WAY more adept at picking up how to use the apps on the iPad.  AND - they love being able to help their classmates (and their teacher).  Tech Tuesdays, something I've been doing for several weeks, will feature these apps.  I know the kids will get it sorted out.

Here is example of how choice can work - 
Two girls in my class are reading partners and both have been drafting a literature reflection in Google Drive.  One of them noticed the comment button and figured that since they can share their documents with me, they could also share their documents with each other.  So, as part of the revising process, they started commenting on different sections of each other’s papers.  I just so happened to discover this while I was at the iPad conference. Between sessions I “looked in” on the literature reflections that they were working on in school while I was at the conference.  

Check out this comment:  
I almost cried when I saw it.  When I got back from the conference I asked them if they could share how they were revising each other’s papers.  They were excited and enthused, but alas, time kept getting in the way.  So, then they asked if instead of just presenting in front of the class, they could use Explain Everything to show their process. They thought it would be easy to document their comments on the camera, and then talk through the process on that app.  What? How do they know about App Smashing? They mentioned that I could put it on the class website so their classmates could watch it at home.  What?  How do they know about a flipped classroom??  

Choice.  It works.

Carrie Strine

Monday, November 18, 2013

Paradigm Shift

If we are to truly become 21st century educators, then we may need to surrender some of our archaic methods of instruction and meet today's 21st century student/learner in their experience.  For some, this will involve a paradigm shift not only in our thinking, but in our instructional practice as well.  I don't use the term archaic in a cutting or derogatory manner, but in its true sense of being historically outdated, not meeting the needs of today's experience.  I make that statement being an educator and citizen that has had a difficult time transitioning to the high technology lifestyle that is now our common experience.  I still carry a notepad and mechanical pencil in my handbag.  When a car rear ended me 5 years ago, I pulled out pencil and paper to start taking down the offender's information.  My then 11 year old suggested I take pictures with my phone.  This was a novel idea to me, but was perfectly normal and par for the course for my children growing up in this technologically advanced world.

It will take much effort on my part to fully embrace the meaning of and place of technology in today's classroom.  But I must be committed to this journey in order to ensure that I am truly providing a 21st century education to the wonderful children in my charge day after day.  I am ready.  iPads in our classrooms are just the beginning, and what an incredible resource they are.  Attending the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston this past week, enlightened my thinking and opened the floodgates to my better understanding why it is so important to see iPads as more than a sophisticated tool to use in place of pencils, papers and folders.  Yes, the iPad can be a valuable tool for teachers to gather information about our students and review and assess their progress.  We can create digital portfolios which children can carry with them always.  Students can master the numerous educational apps available, take photos and make iMovies.  But what has struck a chord with me is this idea that an iPad can take anyone, anywhere, global.  There is exposure to the greater world and connections are formed to our global family.  We have equal access to information as people around the world make their knowledge public via the World Wide Web.  Typing this phrase (www) just gave me a little chill as I finally grasp the magnitude of its meaning.  Where have I been all this time??

We have become a globally accessible community, and mobile devices have provided this accessibility at our very fingertips.  My students and I may never visit the first graders in a classroom in Peru, but we can read and write a book together using the apps Subtext and Book Creator.  When students are curious about something, instead of heading to the library to grab an encyclopedia, they are suggesting we "Google it."  Blogging and Twitter feeds reach thousands of people whose thoughts and ideas spark dialogues that lead to the sharing of even more thoughts and ideas.  We have access to people and information around the world!

The benefits from global sharing of ideas and knowledge are too numerous to list.  If our goal as educators is to help our 21st century students become thirsty learners, critical thinkers and globally connected citizens, why then would we not shift our curricula and instructional methods into the 21st century as well?  Just a thought...