Thursday, October 30, 2008

Confessions of a Digital Film-Maker

cross posted at~

I have been making films with my students for over three years. Last year, six films were submitted to the film fest (check them out on my class website). I've developed a process to use with the students that connects making films with the writing process and draws on their love of film and their background knowledge. I have the students learn how to use Photo Story 3 for windows and Windows Movie Maker. We use the Smart board to make a film with each of the programs before students are given the freedom to plan and make their own films.

Some confessions:
1. I enjoy making films as much as my students do (or more)
2. Film making is easy for students to learn how to do (even third graders)
3. I always have students make a plan for their film first (they don't like that part very much)
4. I'd like to focus more on digital storytelling (versus film making)
5. I'd like to know how other teachers are using digital film making and storytelling with their students (I need more ideas)
6. Sometimes I have technical difficulties (like taping over parts of a student's film before it has been downloaded...oops!)
7. I haven't started making films with my students yet this year (so there is a small tear in my heart slowly growing larger)

How have you used digital film making with your students? Who is making films for the film fest this year? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monday, October 27, 2008

What I'm up to

Well, it's been a while since my first post. I'm one of the ones Joe keeps targeting in his email about keeping up with blog posts once a month. During the last skype conversation, I mentioned how rough my year has been going. Between classroom management and learning a new reading curriculum, there has been no time for anything else. But I have been able to use the Smartboard several times a day, so I'm finally blogging about it.
I admit that sometimes I use the Smartboard as a glorified overhead. But, as Sara mentioned, I also use some of the activities in Notebook. Notebook 10 has a folder called Lesson Activity Toolkit 1.0. (I think it is also downloadable from the website.) In it there are some great activities and tools (go figure.) The interactivity is already set up, we, as teachers, just have to "edit" and put in our words or sentences or pictures or customize it to our content. Lots of potential. Too often, however, I think of great ideas or lessons to put together and simply don't have time to create them. I would love to have some time off just dedicated to creating Smartboard lessons that relate directly to our math and reading programs. (Maybe if the teaching thing doesn't work out...)
Collaborating with Sara has been great and I do hope we establish an online place to share actitivities and lessons we have created as well as the reading fluency exemplars and other exemplars we have digitally documented (as we discussed in the last skype conversation.)
One of the few other tools that I regularly use is Diigo. In searching for Smartboard lessons, I have collected many sites about Web 2.0 and Smartboards as well as looked at the lists of other Diigo users.

ESL Podcasting

I have decided to use podcasting in a new way in my classroom. I've been struggling with how to get students to explain their ideas in writing. They are good as using verbal cues to 'say' what they mean, but it doesn't seem to translate in their writing. So I will be using podcasting to help me. Students will first respond to a prompt (the kind they see on tests) in writing. Then they will explain what they mean in words, on a podcast. Then they will compare the two and decide where their written answer lacks sufficient evidence compared to their verbal answer.

Has anyone tried this with writing and responding to literature? Any tips or suggestions? I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Glets and the Smartboard

I continue to constantly look for ways to incorporate the Glets and the Smartboard.
My students love the Smartboard and never get bored of it. Thanks to Lisa Kellogg,
I am now using new activities with my class AND they follow the GLETS! One activity that I use is called Vortex. I used it this week when I taught proper nouns. The students loved it, and learned what a proper noun was! Another activity I do is very similar to Hangman. I use this with our High Frequency Words. Students are responsible for recognizing and spelling these HFW. This is a great activity because it really helps with spelling. I have students stop and pair/share each time we get a letter. Students are working together to recognize the HFW and spell it.
Both of these activities are fun and hit a GLET. Thanks Lisa!

Google Docs are, well.... great!

I was wondering what the big deal was about Google docs so I decided to check it out on You Tube. I found a great video aimed at educators and decided to try it out with my reading groups as a guided lesson for writing book reviews for our blog. I checked out some laptops and then sat down with my group to write our first blog entries. I was able to do some of the typing, which really sped things up, but yet the students were able to add the most important details and thus feel ownership in the project. They were so excited to see their first post on the blog... and so was I.
One thing I would change is to have the students have another window open so that when it is not their turn to type (or if they are not helping someone type) they will not have too much down time. This could be a little tricky, as I don't want it to interfere with the discussions and collaboration, but I'm thinking something that is easy to start and stop would work just fine.
If you haven't already tried it, I would recommend giving google docs a try!

Digital Storytelling in Fourth Grade

Our "Planet Film Fest" was on Friday. Dave and Emily were there in addition to 8 of my students' family members, my principal and learning coordinator. I posted plans and resources that I used to help my students through the process of creating Powerpoints and Photostories on the Global Learner wiki.

This is the second year that I have taught this unit and used digital storytelling as the culminating project. Some thoughts:
  • Last year I had movies, using Moviemaker, as a choice and I found it to be too hard for me to manage so I just didn't make it an option this year. Any suggestions for integrating Moviemaker? It is so difficult to manage multiple groups using two (or more) different pieces of software.
  • I found last year's movies to be a little "thin" on information so I really tried to organize myself better to make expectations clearer. This group's is better, but there are some groups that clearly worked harder than others.
  • I would still like to make the process more streamlined so that projects could be completed quicker. They took about 3 weeks to finish, which seems too long to me. Is it possible for them to do this faster, and still produce quality products? Do I move on to my next unit earlier and do the filmmaking process at a different time in my day, like writing?
  • This is the first time I did a Film Fest and invited teachers and parents. I really enjoyed it and I think that it really put students on the spot (in a good way). They focused better and seemed very proud of the work they had done. Next time, I would like students to run the entire Film Fest on their own, but this time around I didn't feel like I had enough time to prepare them, and this group of students requires more "coaching" (shall we say...) to stay on task.
You can see the final projects here on our class blog. Students would be thrilled to hear your feedback.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So, how is the student blogging thing going?...

Today I was asked this by a fellow teacher and my quick response was “OK. Up and down. Good start I think…”

So how is it going? Well as my students learn so do I.

Here are a few thoughts of what is working for me now and perhaps for the future. Some of this is obvious but perhaps some is not.

Post to a blog and then have students comment to the post. This self-organizes the blog and I think keeps it less cluttered. Also allows for students to compare comments when they are placed below each other and is a separate list from all the posts.

With 9th graders, keep comment moderation ALWAYS on except when using library time to blog . This cuts down on the inappropriate comments and language creeping in at all times. However, having comment moderation off during blogging time allows students the opportunity to “see” their post for immediate reinforcement. When done, review all posts, delete the inappropriate posts and then turn comment moderation back on.

With upper level students, assigning a prompt with a writing structure (ex 11 sentence paragraph) generates a higher quality / more thoughtful response. I’l be using the 11 sentence paragraph with the 9th graders soon but it will probably require two sessions for each blog assignment, one for the writing and one for the blog (write-rewrite).

I believe that beginning 9th grade bloggers should be encouraged to post thoughts or comments without being constrained by punctuation, spelling, grammar etc. However, I also recognize the power of blogging as a literacy tool and will be focusing on student created literate blog posts / comments as we move through this year. A blogging rubric will be implemented with the 9th graders soon.

Blogger requires a google account such as gmail and doesn’t recognize our or email accounts. With 9th graders this is a problem (ie hard to remember more than one email user account /password) so commenting anonymously but signing it with first name and initial is a good work-around.

Cutting and pasting from word to blogger often creates html errors. However, cutting and pasting to gmail and then re-cutting and pasting to blogger appears to take care of formatting errors etc.

Follow up with your comment(s) to their comments and then follow up in class so the blog becomes a tie-in to other classroom activities. This creates a “flow” and allows the blog to be more than an activity used from time to time.

Cultivate other readers and (hopefully) posters. Having a wider audience than classmates reinforces the idea that their world view should be larger than C-town.

So, how is it going?

OK, I guess. Still learning. Doug

Monday, October 20, 2008

Planet Film Fest

As a culminating project for an IB unit on the Solar System, my students created a Photostory (and one PowerPoint) about a planet. We are just finishing publishing to our class blog and are holding a "Planet Film Fest" on Friday. I realize you all are working (duh), but I invite you and your students to take a look at the videos and comment. I feel the need to do a better job of connecting family members into this process, since most of my students don't have computers at home, so I am sending home invitations today (screenshot is on the right). I am hoping I get a good showing of parents, grandparents etc. on Friday. I am also planning on creating DVDs for students to take home (any suggestions on the best way to do that?) In a future post, I will reflect a little and post some resources I used to facilitate the process.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nifty Resource

My son's friend told me about ReadWriteThink from NCTE that is full of nifty resources, including things like interactive Venn Diagrams. Since my students are getting ready to write a compare/contrast essay, things like this will be awesome and super great to use on a SmartBoard. Since it's from NCTE, it's English/Language Arts oriented, but there are still some tools that anyone can use, like the aforementioned Venn Diagram, and a Compare/Contrast Guide and Map, etc. Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Roof -- The Roof -- The Roof is on FIRE

I just posted a blog entry about some of the tools I want to use to develop collaboration while designing the S&T academy at ACHS

Better living through micropharmacology

FYI: I am 63.23% nerd

Not a geek, not a dork, but nerd! I have taken a test and am certifiable. This is why I enjoy science and am slowly gearing up for my term 2 Science Fiction class, oh yeah, I know you are jealous...

Check out this sweet article on how humans and technology are evolving, who knows we may even become cyborgs in the future, how tragically cool!!

Friday, October 17, 2008
Computing with RNA
Devices that self-assemble from biological molecules could represent the future of drug delivery.
By Duncan Graham-Rowe

"Scientists in California have created molecular computers that are able to self-assemble out of strips of RNA within living cells. Eventually, such computers could be programmed to manipulate biological functions within the cell, executing different tasks under different conditions.
That opens up the possibility of computing devices that can respond to specific conditions within the cell, he says. For example, it may be possible to develop drug delivery systems that target cancer cells from within by sensing genes used to regulate cell growth and death.
The input sensors are made from aptamers, RNA molecules that behave a bit like antibodies, binding tightly to specific targets. Similarly, the output components, or actuators, are made of ribozymes, complex RNA molecules that have catalytic properties similar to those of enzymes. These two components are joined by yet another RNA molecule that serves as a transmitter, which is activated when a sensor molecule recognizes an input chemical and, in turn, triggers an actuator molecule.
By combining the RNA components in certain ways, the researchers showed that they can get them to behave like different types of logic gates--circuit elements common to any computer. For example, an AND gate produces an output only when its inputs detect the presence of both drugs, while a NOR gate produces an output only when neither drug is detected."


Hi Everyone,

If any of you are looking for safe email for your students, I have found very useful and successful. Here's some useful information for using Gaggle. Hope it helps!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Digital Equity for Spanish speaking students

Equity and diversity in education are important themes in education today. Paul Gorski, in defining multicultural education mentions that, “Every student must have an equal opportunity to achieve to her or his full potential” (EdChange Multicultural Pavilion). Linguistic minority students do not have the same internet resources available as English speaking students and may struggle with the technology to locate them. One of my goals with regard to multicultural education is to help close the digital equity gap. lists the five dimensions of digital equity as: Technology resources, quality content, culturally responsive content, effective use of resources and content creation (, 2003).

With that in mind, I've added a page to my website for Spanish language elementary web resources ( The resources presented on my webpage are intended for students, parents, and teachers of students who speak Spanish. Teachers are constantly searching for quality web resources for their Spanish speaking students and parents frequently ask me for web resources they can access at home to further their children’s learning. The purpose is to consolidate on one page some of the best Spanish language web resources for primary age students. I'd like to solicit your feedback on additional web resources available in Spanish that I could add to this.

Gorski, P. C. (2003). : The Challenge of Defining “Multicultural Education”. EdChange Multicultural Pavilion. Retrieved October 11, 2008 from

Crossposted at

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Poverty: Problems and Solutions?

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is on October 17th. IB PYP and MYP around the world are looking at this as a global issue and a classroom lesson to be taught.

Sometimes stepping back from a narrow focus allows you to see the whole picture more clearly.

In my science classes my 9th grade students are learning about the periodic table of elements and how atoms combine to form compounds.

However, my MYP students are beginning to consider how science can be used to better the human condition and to solve some of the global issues facing us in the 21st C. Accordingly, we are looking at poverty and hunger.

We gathered background information and made some suggestions as to solutions. We will follow this up with informal discussions in class as well as another global learner / internet / blog assignment later.

Global issues will be a central theme as I teach these students over the next two years.

Please check their comments to my post located at You will also find links to IBO which will direct you to PYP and MYP / TOK suggested lesson plans and activities.

My students are still becoming comfortable posting comments to blogs etc. Over time we will work on our posts as “literacy writing assignments” and will incorporate the 11 sentence paragraph format (and others).

These strategies will improve our students communication skills as global learners!

Thanks for your time and consideration. Doug

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Re virtual manipulatives

Thanks for sharing your lesson on virtual manipulatives. I especially liked the blair witch project humor. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

First Grade Virtual Manipulatives on the Smart Board

This evening we just had a great skype chat on Using the SmartBoard in the standards-based classroom. The focus was on what was working well and we talked about engagement, math, and literacy. The consensus was that there was a need for more training or refresher courses. Some ideas where bandied about regarding students teaching other students or creating short training sessions in peer to peer learning. I like the idea and I'm going to share some screen capture tips in one of my subsequent postings. Much of the focus was on math and so I'd like to show a short clip of some place value work we did this week using the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives at

Specifically we are using base blocks to represent place value. This address the Grade Level Essential Target of 1.2C: c) Uses objects to show meanings of = ,<, >, from 0 to 100. e) Uses multiple models to develop initial understanding of place value of ones and tens (base ten blocks, abacus, computer, manips). This is a great place to differentiate because while all first graders need to represent up to 100, many of my students can use blocks to show numbers in the thousands. (Please note this website is available in Spanish as well) What I like about the base blocks virtual manipulatives is that they are easy to move around, you get immediate corrective feedback from the number counter, and it is a fast way to demonstrate mastery of a difficult concept.
Here is a short video of my class doing some base block exercises. In the first two segments I am filming but for most of the class work my students film everything and do all the documenting with the digital cameras. Each week I assign a class photographer who take all the pictures and videos. They are filming the third segment. As you can see, it is a bit shaky (Note to self "Get tripod"). Mildly reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project.