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The Home Stretch May 30, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.

The Technology Elite Program is winding down. The second week of June we are having a culminating event at which each participant will provide a 5-minute presentation of their best student work.

I am engaged in a fast and furious race to meet the multiple requirements by this deadline. We are required to engage at least one class of students in projects utilizing Voicethread.com, Glogster.com, Wikispaces.com, and Animoto.com. I am working with whole grade levels using specific tools, so I expect to have some quality work to share with my Project Elite colleagues, the school faculty, and the broader school community (on my library website).

My 6th graders are working on a Voicethread project involving biographies of famous women in history. This project is a collaborative curriculum project that has experienced a few bumps in the road. I provided the instruction and support regarding the research and the tech tools. The teacher dedicated quite a bit of class time to guide the content and support the writing process. Hard to believe this, but the teacher had a significant requirement that I didn’t know about – that the students give a live presentation. So the kids put all their effort into the live presentations, and once that was over, they wanted to put this project behind them. The result was the worst possible outcome for a “collaborative” project – MY requirements became the annoying “add on” instead of the primary information product. To make matters worse, the teacher immediately started a new and highly demanding writing project. So day after day the 6th graders were showing up in droves to the library during their recess period – but NOT to work on their Voicethreads. And during our weekly class meetings they acted like I had two heads when I attempted to redirect their attention back to the Voicethread project. So I spoke to the teacher. It was our first collaboration, and I am really glad to be working with her. Misunderstandings are not uncommon the first time out with a colleague. Her response to my concern was the best I could hope for! This coming week she is turning all of her attention to seeing this project through to the end. Exactly ONE student has provided me with a perfect Voicethread to inspire his 6th grade classmates.  Hope springs eternal.

The 7th graders are working in pairs using Wikispaces.com to deconstruct their most recent research project. They had worked in groups of three or four to create and giver PowerPoint presentations about Chicago History (starting with Native Americans and Early Settlement running all the way up to Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Democratic National Convention of 1968). It was just too late in the year to start a new research project, so they are “deconstructing” their recent projects, working in pairs to create wikis featuring six pages containing the following: 1. the basic questions unique to their project and the answers to them; 2. the impact of their topic on Chicago and/or the world today; 3.  links to all their sources; 4. images; 5. APA-style citations for all sources; and 6. Three reflections on the Big6 in which they describe three moments that occurred during the research project using Big6 terminology. Some of the kids were lacking some of these required items the first time around, so they have to fill in some gaps this time. But mostly they are drawing from existing work to load content on their wikis. I am emphasizing that the point of this exercise is to get comfortable with Wikispaces, as we will be using it next year from the outset of projects as an organizational and communication tool.
The 8th graders are working on glogs. These kids have serious senioritis, and I have been in this job long enough to know that a great deal of their “specials” time is used for graduation rehearsal the last few weeks. So from the start I knew that this project should be about self-expression with only minimal if any research. I directed the students to make glogs about something about which they are passionate. I suggested that they consider a topic of importance to teens using the subscription database Teen Health and Wellness. Some of them are doing that. I try to highlight the availability and functionality of that database a few times a year to the middle school students, as it provides accurate and no nonsense information (as well as contact information for local support agencies) about a lot of topics that students might not be ready to talk about with anybody. Topics of glogs in progress include rock groups, professional athletes, artists, The Simpsons, instructions on how to dance the salsa, favorite books (including Green Eggs and Ham), and a debate about which of two gaming systems is superior (I would name them but I have no idea about that universe!).

I originally intended to engage the 6th graders in making book trailers using Animoto.com, but given the unexpected delay in the completion of the Voicethread project, it’s unreasonable to expect them all to make Animoto videos. So I have provided both 6th and 7th graders the opportunity to complete Animoto book trailers as an extra credit project to bring up their library grades by one letter. There are MANY 6th and 7th graders whose library grade could use a lift, so I expect to receive a decent batch of Animoto videos. The kids in both of those grades have been very impressed with the Animoto tool, and that won’t hurt! I have made it very clear in presenting Animoto that there is a BIG payoff for only a little work. I am requiring them to complete their other projects (Voicethread for 6th and Wikispaces for 7th) before I will accept extra credit work.

I am so hooked on Animoto! I made another Animoto video this week of the Battle of the Books day which I shared with my Battle team at our Battle of the Books pizza party this week. They loved it AND the  book trailer video of Savvy by Ingrid Law (which they had all read in the Battle program). I also gave them all the materials related to the book trailer project and urged them to make book trailers and send me the links. Here are the links to the those videos:

Savvy video

Battle of the Books video

I am going to send the 8th grade teachers links to a few Animoto videos and suggest that they engage the 8th graders in making a video montage for the graduation ceremony.



1. Lisa Perez - June 1, 2010

Fran – As you say, you’re in the home stretch now. I’m sure everything will come together well for you. The Battle of the Books video looked great. For some reason, the link to the Savvy video didn’t work.

I’ll look forward to seeing all of your students’ great work!

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