Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Digital Flat Stanley 2008-09

Today we mailed home our four participating Flat Stanley's -- safe journey to you Flats! This fantastic project produced by Heather Weisse Walsh, sends each participating classroom of students to four different locations through-out the school year. What fun, learning, and excitement for communication this project brings to our students. We posted on the Digital Flat Stanley Wiki, too.

Outside the distance learning classroom, we posted a big US map and put small Flat Stanley's on each town we visited through-out the school year. That's 16 different cities, so our students learned a lot of geography. We shared weather, our communities, our state's, and favorite things. We took some cool pictures from our town, county, and state to share with the other locations that also gave some history, famous landmarks, and businesses and colleges located in their areas. We made large photos from our digital pics to share with our partner Flat Stanley classes. We shared poems, skits, favorite foods and favorite school subjects. We mainly learned that having Flat Stanley allowed us to learn a lot of different things in a fun way. We ended each of the sixteen journeys with a videoconference to see and talk to the students in the partner class.

Journey 1
Ms. Sisson's 1st grade traveled to Ms. Stelly's class in Houston, Texas.
Ms. Hollifield's 2nd grade traveled to Ms. Marino's class in West Orange, New Jersey.
Ms. Hicks' 3rd grade traveled to Ms. Koch's class in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Ms. Morefield's 3rd grade traveled to Ms. Hunter's class in Hopewell, Ohio.

Journey 2
Ms. Sisson's Flat Stanley traveled from Houston, Texas to Mr. Isselman's class in Birdsboro, PA.
Ms. Hollifield's Flat Stanley traveled from West Orange, NJ to Ms. Rowe's class in Douglasville, PA.
Ms. Hicks' Flat Stanley traveled from Nazareth, PA to Mr. Graham's class in Magnolia, Ohio.
Ms. Morefield's Flat Stanley traveled from Hopewell, Ohio to Ms. Eisenhard's class in Birdsboro, PA.

Journey 3
From Birdsboro, PA, Ms. Sisson's Flat Stanley traveled to Ms. Brown's class in Norristown, PA.
From Douglasville, PA, Ms. Hollifield's Flat Stanley traveled to Ms. George's class in Houston, TX.
From Magnolia, Ohio, Ms. Hicks' class traveled to Ms. Henderson's class in Irving, TX.
From Birdsboro, PA, Ms. Morefield's class traveled to Ms. Mueller's class in Houston, TX.

Journey 4
Leaving Norristown, PA, Ms. Sisson's Flat traveled to Ms. Graap's class in Fairfax, VA.
Leaving Houston, TX, Ms. Hollifield's Flat traveled to Ms. Haber's class in Waymart, PA.
Leaving Irving, TX, Ms. Hicks' Flat traveled to Ms. Cleveland's class in Steelton, PA.
Leaving Houston, TX, Ms. Morefield's Flat traveled to Ms. Pries' class in West Chester, PA.

Now all Flat Stanley's are going on the last journey, home to Rural Hall School. We have learned a lot and had a fantastic time sharing and meeting students around the US. Have a great summer, Flat Stanley and read a lot and be safe. We'll look for you next year! ;-)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Educational Technology and Common Sense

Ask someone to define common sense and you may get similar answers. Ask someone what actions constitute common sense and you get a whole range of activities and these do not all fit into a neat box of common sense. Some of this could be generational as we do form opinions, produce actions of acceptance, based on the code of our teachings by parents and teachers and friends. Take "manners" for example. Good manners we could probably all agree are important for students to learn as they make dealing with people in all age ranges and from all different cultures easier, but manners vary from cultural groups to social groups to economic groups.

This is just one example of how difficult it is to define activities as "good educational ideas." From my viewpoint in the world, it is simply my version of "common sense." When I was teaching math in 3rd grade, I had an after-school club two days a week that was voluntary for any of my students to attend. We used puzzles, games, measured and built bird houses, etc. We cooked at least twice a month in class measuring and discussing the fractions and measurement standards in the recipes. We copied the recipes, and for Thanksgiving, planned a whole meal with everyone participating in donating an item. This was an opportunity to think backwards and figure out what needed to be prepared first, etc. for all of the dishes to be ready to eat at the same time. There was also washing and clean-up as we discussed not using paper or plastic products to keep from adding to the landfills. I spent 15 years in a regular elementary classroom teaching 1st, 2nd, and then 3rd grade, trying to focus on what made sense to teach children basics and provide thinking and reflecting opportunities. In 1984 I used an Atari game machine hooked-up to a small TV to teach time. This game machine became educational with the additional of a tape-recorder that loaded the time/clock game. The students could choose hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, and minutes. Also in use was a cartridge for Logo. This was a simple version to teach children basic programming using a turtle. The turtle moved with the commands that you typed. We used a big green paper turtle shell to put over one student and the class could literally see the turtle move when we gave directions. (Remember to always begin with concrete activities with young children.) This easily transferred to task cards with pictures of the turtle making a box, triangle, other shapes. We were building steps in logical thinking. Some might call this "problem based learning," but it is just common sense to me.

Now I work with technology with the students and staff. My how technology has changed our lives and thankfully, the classroom, too. Our students have a daily, live, in-house TV news program to share simple information while learning about oral communication, some computer jobs, and producing the final broadcast. Our students also use a weather station to compile a weather report and forecast daily. We began with a GLOBE station and recorded this information for 4 years, earning a national award for quality data. We changed to a Davis Advantage Pro electronic weather station that collects data every hour. This data was used in our computer lab for teaching databases. Common sense. This broadcast combines many skills and is an excellent way to share with our students in a real world situation something that they often see at home on TV and have the connection to actual work.--Common sense to me.

Our school also uses interactive videoconferencing (for six years). WOW! This is a biggie! Step back and think about what this means for our children. Our students have access to experts at our state institutions and museums. These folks send boxes of materials to us and our only cost is the return shipping. Can you imagine being a first grader and actually handling a dinosaur fossil! We don't spend hours on the school bus traveling down the highways, we spend time on task in our safe school building. One year's worth of field trips easily paid for expensive equipment, but you can also videoconference with inexpensive equipment. We did this last year with a free camera and free polycom communicator and a laptop. We shared our news broadcast with a school in New Jersey and they shared their broadcast with us. We don't miss out on opportunities because we can videoconference with experts and with other students around our state (Carolina Connections), country (Digital Flat Stanley), and world (Megaconference Jr., Pittsburgh Megaconference, Read Around the Planet). Our students make contact with other classrooms in classroom to classroom activities and projects. They use the school wiki to collaborate on work with other classrooms in our school system and in the world. This is practical experience with writing, oral communication, technology (skills), and learning to work in groups. These are skills our students need to survive in our global world economy. Common sense to me.

Our county talks about "rethinking the possibilities" and I think our "common sense" approach has helped our students to do this by learning in new ways the standard curriculum we need our students to master. Who knows what is next in the technology world or the world where we live? We will continue to use common sense to bridge what we need to teach to the real world for our students.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


There is always something new to learn - I've seen this term around for awhile and never knew what it was or had the time to check it out. Meme - Pronounced "mem" by some and "meam" by some - whatever the pronunciation, it carries this type of meaning:
  • An idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve.
  • A unit of cultural information that represents a basic idea that can be transferred from one individual to another, and subjected to mutation, crossover and adaptation.
  • A cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation); "memes are the cultural counterpart of genes".

  • The ones I've seen are people with same interests "tagging" other people and making lists about that interest.

    So, here goes,
    My meme list for instructional tech:

    help others find effective ways to use tech
    continual updates and learning for myself
    trying new equipment and software
    taking classes
    wiki projects
    live in-house broadcasts

    What would you add to the list?

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Alaska SeaLife Center

    Our kindergarten students are enjoying a visit with the Alaska SeaLife Center as they learn about sea birds. For 55 minutes, the classes learn through various means, watching actual fish tanks of swimming sea lions and harbor seals, video of specific birds, parts of birds (wing size, webbed feet, beaks, placement of feet--further back on body than regular birds, which allows them to swim easier), worksheet of bird parts, and finally, making a clay tufted puffin. Wow!