jump to navigation

Catching Up! September 15, 2011

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
add a comment

I haven’t blogged in a while, so this post will attempt to fill in the blanks of the last seven months…

  • The 7th and 8th grade students produced some nice work in the 3rd quarter of last year in their project about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All materials and student work can be accessed here.
  • The 4th quarter 7th/8th grade project was entitled: “Individuals Who Stood Up to Power: A Biography Study.” All materials and student work can be accessed here.
  • Late last year some middle school students produced Animoto videos, creating public service announcements about various issues of importance to teens with information found mostly in Teen Health & Wellness. This project demonstrates the potential of Animoto.com to convey information in a format that students enjoy creating and viewing. All materials and student work can be accessed here.
  • The Inter-American School Library was awarded the double matching grant administered by the CPS Department of Libraries late in the spring. By spending $5,000.00 and receiving a grant for $10,000 more, a total of 15 new desktop computers were purchased along with a good number of new books. The new computers run on Windows 7 and have Microsoft Office Suite 2010.

  • Inter-American has hired a new tech teacher/coordinator. He is smart, charismatic, and energetic, and I predict we are going to create some great programming together.
  • The Inter-American Middle School program was completely restructured over the summer. One result is that 7th and 8th graders will be engaged in a 2-year social sciences cycle and will be taught the same content at the same time. This is great news for my program, as it will allow me to integrate content into the projects I create for my mixed-age 7th/8th grade library classes.
  • The iPads FINALLY CAME! The set of 32 iPads, a MacBook, and a synching cart were delivered very late in the summer. I was provided two days of training in their use at the Apple offices in Chicago. I have teamed up with a handful of other Chicago Public School librarians who also have a set of iPads. This learning committee will meet regularly in person and digitally to exchange ideas to support our own programs and to establish best practices for our colleagues near and far.
  • This blog will continue to be dedicated to the use of educational technology, but will focus mostly on the use of iPads in schools.
  • The Chicago Public Schools Department of Libraries is leading the charge in developing best practices for mobile devices in schools. Click here to to access the wiki page dedicated to the “Mobilary Project.”

The iPad Grant!!!! February 3, 2011

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
2 comments

My library program was awarded an iPad Grant! This means that my school library will be provided 32 iPads, covers for the units, a Mac laptop to support updates, and a secure case for storage and charging. This competitive grant was awarded to a number of individual classrooms in schools around the city and to five school library programs. The funding for this investment is being provided primarily by the State of Illinois. Training and oversight of the program are being provided by the Chicago Public Schools Technology Education Department and the Department of Libraries and Information Services.

I am very excited about this development, and my school community is, too. Current winners of the grant represent the second wave of schools in CPS to initiate instruction with the use of iPads. I am looking forward to this opportunity to be an early adoptor of this innovation in the schools. I am also looking forward to being part of a new learning community in the next year and a half. All winners will attend required training sessions and participate in other activities that will involve the exchange of ideas and resources to maximize the use of iPad technology in instruction. Can’t wait!

Last winter around this time I submitted a bold proposal for a presentation at the annual conference of the Illinois School Library Media Association in October 2010. I say “bold” because at the time I wrote it I had not yet mastered the tools I would need to master to make that presentation a reality. Today I wrote a proposal for next fall’s conference. Here is the text:

iPads: Lessons From an Early Adoptor
3rd-8th grade
This session features successful curriculum projects executed using iPads, iPad applications, and other online tools and resources with student work products across multiple grade-levels. Also offered are ideas for iPad use to facilitate differentiated instruction and tips for efficient sharing and circulation of units inside and outside the school library.

I am finding it powerful to write a proposal first and then do whatever it takes later to deliver what I promise. By promising these skills by the fall I have established three areas to focus on in the coming months regarding the iPad use: curriculum projects, differentiated instruction, and circulation. The proposal is vague enough (as usual) that I have lots of wiggle room regarding what I actually do. The details will be filled in later. Meanwhile by putting my goals in writing I have taken the first step!

The end of the 2nd quarter was just as harrowing as the end of the 1st quarter. However, I am happy to say that the kids completed their projects. The work quality was better. The grades were better. I am pleased with most of the work posted on the page dedicated to this project, which can be accessed here. We “specials teachers” saw our 2nd quarter students on the first two days of the 3rd quarter to give them time to provide feedback to each other. So, unlike last quarter, the students had the time view and listen to each others’ voicethreads and to provide systematic feedback to each other by completing a Google-generated survey about each voicethread.

In the 3rd quarter the students will be studying and analyzing the International Declaration of Human Rights (adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948). Working in pairs, they will select one of the thirty articles in the declaration; analyze its meaning; identify and report about a current day example of where the right embodied in the article is being honored and an example of where it is not being honored; identify action being taken to improve the situation where the right is not being honored; and identify action that can be taken by ordinary citizens to expand the realization of this right in today’s world. More to come on that!

Creative Commons License
Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Presentations January 5, 2011

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

So far this school year I have given professional presentations about my use of educational technology to colleagues four times:
1. at the Chicago Public Schools Department of Libraries Back to School Conference in September
2. at the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) Conference in October [http://feeleyislma.wikispaces.com/]
3. at a Technology in Education class for library students at National Louis University in November [http://nlutobyrajputclass.wikispaces.com/]4
4. and at “Tech Talk 2010” in December hosted by the Chicago Public Schools Information and Technology Services Department [http://techtalkiams.wikispaces.com/].

I have submitted a proposal to present at the annual national conference of the American Association of School Libraries (a division of the American Library Association) in October 2011.

I have enjoyed these experiences, and I learned a lot at each of the conferences.

Tech Talk was excellent. I became aware of an incredible range of educational audio and video podcasts available for free through iTunes. I also became aware of the fact that all schools in CPS now have access to a service the streams online educational videos. I was able to put that to use right away with my middle school researchers that Monday. I also became aware that very soon videoconferencing will become available to all teachers in the CPS, who will be able to create their own videoconferencing “sessions.” This is really exciting. We will be able to communicate and share work with anybody around the world with a computer with Internet access, a camera, and a microphone.

Middle School Projects January 5, 2011

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

The race to the first quarter finishing line was a bit harrowing. Several student teams waited until the very last minute to create their voicethreads. This limited the time the students had to view each others’ work and provide systematic feedback. Despite the pressure at the last minute there was some really nice work. It was very clear what we had to do to make the next project more successful.

Our new project is called “Power and Protest in America.” Students viewed the film Viva La Causa: The Story of César Chávez and a Great Moment for Social Justice (distributed by Teaching Tolerance Magazine), taking notes using a structured form about basic elements of that protest movement (e.g. goals, leadership, allies, actions, and outcomes). A period was devoted to a discussion of the film with the students referring to their notes. The students were then provided a listing of protest movements in U.S. history and were asked to select their top three choices. They were also able to suggest their own protest movements to study. The students are researching their topics; using research wikis to save images, information findings, citations, and voicethread scripts; creating PowerPoints; and importing their presentation slides into Voicethread and adding audio commentary to the slides. All information regarding this project as well as a listing of the protest movements the students chose to study can be accessed here.

In this project the two classes of students working on this progress four days a week are again sharing their information with the class working in the library or computer lab twice per week. That class with less instruction time will create glogs using GlogsterEdu.com. This quarter’s middle school art students are again seeking inspiration for artwork and then sharing that artwork with the researchers who will incorporate and analyze that artwork in their wikis and voicethreads (and maybe in the glogs, too). One of the “ten elements” of this project requires the students to compare and contrast their own protest movement with another movement, identifying at least one similarity and one difference. This adds an additional layer of information sharing by the students.

Here are a few things we did to improve on lessons learned in quarter 1:

1. We sent home all information about the project (including a link to the project page) to parents at the very outset of the project. We required the students to return a signed form from their parents indicating that they received the information about the project. We included the prompt return of this signed form to the assessment rubric. Last quarter we sent home this information along with the mid-quarter progress report. This time the parents will receive this information twice – once at the beginning and once at the midpoint with a progress report. The requirement to return both signed forms from parents amounts to 8% of the grade on the assessment rubric!

2. In the first quarter the computer teacher and I saw each of the two class sections twice per week, sometimes less as a result of holidays and other irregularities in the school schedule. This time we are each seeing only one of the sections four days per week. It is much easier for us to take full ownership of guiding eight student groups. Last quarter a few groups who the computer teacher and I thought were on the ball slipped through the cracks.

3. We created a more detailed timeline with more concrete deadlines.

4. We provided more structure to the final products. This time we decided to establish “ten elements” as required content. This content must be represented in the research wikis and in the final products (voicethreads). Most of these ten elements were part of the structured form the students used to take notes about the film Viva la causa, so they already had practice with these concepts before they began researching their own protest movements.

5. We moved the final deadline up to two weeks before the official end of the quarter. This way we hope to have some wiggle room at the end of the quarter and perhaps more time for students to view each others’ work online and provide feedback. Also, we won’t be competing for the students’ attention with the project deadlines and exams for other classes.

We are already heading into the home stretch of the second quarter. It might be another nail biter. Although we scheduled the project be finished in plenty of time, the heavy testing schedule in January is definitely going to reduce our class time, as both the computer lab and the library computers will be dedicated to testing for quite a number of days. I am really hoping that the students see these projects through to the end and produce the best work yet.

My First Presentation at a Professional Conference October 31, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Yesterday, on Friday, October 29, I presented at the Illinois School Library Association’s annual conference at Pheasant Run Resort in Saint Charles, IL. Here is the description of the presentation as it appeared in the conference program:

Web 2.0: Have No Fear!
Francis A. Feeley, School Librarian, Inter-American Magnet Elementary School
Successful curriculum projects using online tools will be showcased with student work products. Web 2.0 tools featured include VoiceThread (digital storytelling), Glogster (interactive digital posters), Wallwisher (online bulletin boards), Wikispaces (wikis), and online data collection (Google Forms). Connect these tools to your curriculum. Find out how easy it all is!                                        Room: Turquoise A                    Level: K-12

I submitted that description last spring before I had any real idea of what I would actually present. As the first quarter middle school project progressed I realized that if I covered the various tools utilized in the project and their  integration I would have plenty of material. And it worked out just fine. As a first-timer I didn’t really expect much of a crowd, but the ISLMA volunteer who served as a host at the presentation counted 70 attendees in total. I was stunned when I walked in the room to find it full already. I didn’t expect to be nervous, but I have to admit that I became a bit nervous when I saw a packed room. I am used to demonstrating technology tools in front of my students, but it was another thing to do it in front of colleagues.

The presentation consisted of overviews of the features and functions of Wikispaces.com, Voicethread.com, and Glogster.com. I demonstrated how to create wikis, voicethreads, and glogs and then showed samples of student work from last spring. I demonstrated how I am utilizing wikispaces to host a school library website. And I demonstrated how I am integrating the three featured tools in my current middle school project. I stated at the beginning that I didn’t have complete knowledge of all the functions and features of the demonstrated tools but that I would share how I have used them to support my projects and teaching goals. I received quite a few questions about details of the tools that were beyond my knowledge or experience at this point, but I felt comfortable enough in those moments to simply say that I didn’t know. I managed to  convey most of the major concepts I was hoping to get out there. Here is a link to the presentation handout.

In the afternoon I participated in a presentation about the Project Technology Elite (Empowering Librarians to Integrate Technology in Education) program given my Lisa Perez along with four other Project Elite grads. Lisa gave an excellent overview of the goals, rationale, and execution of Project Technology Elite. I had glanced through her excellent presentation (created using Prezi.com) before the presentation, but listening to her speak during the presentation I gained a better appreciation of the big picture of the program. The part that really struck me was that the selection of technology tools was driven by the following factors: safe, free, no downloads, uses available technologies (such as computer equipment that we already have in our schools), and supports teaching and learning. Those factors really put the E for Empowerment in the program. We were given tools that we could utilize with or without the involvement or support of other professionals. I was frankly amazed that we covered as much as we did in such little time. Lisa described the program as “technology boot camp,” and it really was!

Many thanks to Lisa Perez of the the Chicago Public School Department of Libraries and the Chicago Public Schools Professional Library for encouraging me to submit a proposal to present at the conference. I am suddenly very enthusiastic about presenting to other school librarians. At Lisa’s suggestion I am also drafting a proposal to present at the American Association of School Libraries’ annual conference in October 2011 in Minneapolis. The proposal submission due date is this Monday, so I will have to create the whole thing tomorrow. I started this school year by giving a presentation with my fellow Project Technology Elite grads at the CPS Department of Libraries conference. I gave presentations about online tech tools (including my library website and the new online library catalog) to my students’ parents at a recent family literacy night. I am presenting this Tuesday at a class taught by Toby Rajput at National Louis University (where I will give the same presentation I gave at ISLMA). I have also submitted a proposal to present along with the computer teacher at my school at an event called Tech Talk hosted by the Chicago Public Schools technology department on December 3.

Creative Commons License
Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Quarter 1 Ending Soon October 24, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

My 7th and 8th students have two more weeks to complete their current projects. The effort and progress of individual groups has varied widely to date. A couple of weeks ago I became particularly concerned about whether or not most or all students would produce something respectable. At one point it looked like “Benchmark testing” (one of SEVERAL series of tests that interrupt instruction throughout the year at my school) would result in the loss of a whole week of 7th and 8th grade “specials” class meetings. However, I appealed to the principal and vice principal to schedule the testing sessions in such a way to allow those classes to meet, and they did it!

About ten days ago I provided each student a paper “progress report” to take home to their parents. The kids signed on the dotted line to commit to taking it home and returning a tear-off portion signed by their parents in which their parents indicate that they are aware of the project and will support the completion of it. Here is that document: 1 Parent Progress report letter. I also attached print copies of the detailed assignment and the assessment rubic, both of which can be accessed here: http://iamslibrary.wikispaces.com/7%C2%BA++8%C2%BA+grados-7th+8th+grades .

I conducted individual interviews with the small groups from the computer/library classes over several days. We reviewed the content requirements for the research wikis and the voicethreads. We applied the portions of the rubric related to the wikis to their research wikis as of the dates of those interviews. We established the effort level and the progress level (minimal, adquate, or outstanding) for each student’s progress report. We identified elements of the project that were incomplete and assigned primary responsibility for those elements to specific students.

The result of the interviews was good. The students apparently were awakened to the fact that the clock is ticking and that they will graded according to whatever they complete – no more and no less. I immediately heard from the computer teacher (who is supporting the same project in her program) that the groups were working more diligently in the computer lab. More students began working in a more focused and purposeful manner in my classes as well. The process also seemed to help smooth over some of the personality conflicts among students in the assigned groups.

The art students have begun to access information from their classmates’ research wikis. Last week many of the art students visited the library computer lab to consult with my students. Several of those students have acquired the information and inspiration for their final art projects of the quarter, many of which will be photographed and integrated into the final products (voicethreads) of the library/computer class students. For me this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of utilizing technology tools to support collaboration and communication.

I am confident at this point that there is going to be some great student work at the end of this process. I anticipate a mad dash to the finish line for several groups. I want them all to be successful!

I was really impressed with the outcome of the interviews and the issuing of progress reports. In the coming quarter I will send home all the information about the project (assignment, resources, and assessment rubric) on the first day of the project! Although I conducted interviews at the outset of the project with many groups to discuss task definition, I will do so in a more systematic way with all groups in the second quarter. I will issue progress reports again, but by then the parents will already be well informed of the project (as opposed to receiving the information at the mid-point of the quarter).

I am going to nudge a few specific groups to the finish line this week so that I have finished student projects to show at my presentation this Friday, October 29, 2010, at the Annual Conference of the Illinois School Library Media Association. Here is the description of that presentation as it will be listed in the conference program:

Web 2.0: Have No Fear!
Francis A. Feeley, School Librarian, Inter-American Magnet Elementary School
Successful curriculum projects using online tools will be showcased with student work
products. Web 2.0 tools featured include VoiceThread (digital storytelling), Glogster
(interactive digital posters), Wallwisher (online bulletin boards), Wikispaces (wikis), and
online data collection (Google Forms). Connect these tools to your curriculum. Find out
how easy it all is!       Room: Turquoise A        Level: K-12

Creative Commons License
Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

If America Were a Village… September 21, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

The current 7th/8th grade project is coming along.

We have five classes of 7th and 8th graders combined. Two of them attend library class twice, computer class twice, and gym once per week. One class attends art class four days and gym once per week. One class attends music class four days and gym once per week. And the fifth class attends ALL five specials (library, computer, art, music, and gym) once per week. That last group has become known as the “on demand” class.

The two classes who attend library twice and computer twice (let’s call them the “library/computer classes”) have begun the project. They listened to the book while taking notes, selected topics in their small groups (8 in each class/16 in total), and have begun to draft key questions to be researched.

While planning this unit with my colleagues and mapping it out on the calendar it became clear that the goal for these two classes to create both voicethreads and glogs was unrealistic. So now the library/computer groups will research the topics using wikispaces and create voicethreads of their findings, and the “on demand” class will work in pairs to make glogs. The “on demand” group will borrow the research from the library/computer groups that has been “pushed down” to them via the student research wikis. They will add their own research as well as their own opinions to their glogs.

The art class will explore information about the 16 research topics via the wikis of the library/computer classes. They will then create artworks inspired by this research (in various formats, including “shadow boxes”) and then provide digital images of their artwork to the other classes for use in the voicethreads of the library/computer classes and the glogs of the “on demand” class.

The music teacher may also get into the game. The music glass is composing original music. If it works out that the music class also takes inspiration from this project’s student wikis, mp3 recordings of their original music compositions (with instrumental and/or voice) can be utilized in the glogs created by the “on demand” class.

The most exciting feature of this project is that the students will collaborate and contribute to each others’ success and learning using technology tools. This will occur despite a very tight schedule that places all students in their “specials” classes at the same time every day. All classes will be focused on the same range of topics related to various aspects of American life. The topics researched will certainly generate discovery and discussion of social justice issues, thereby supporting a vital element of our school’s mission. The final products will integrate skills in research, reading, writing, design, art, and music.

Creative Commons License
Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Back to School! September 14, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Well I made it through the Project Technology Elite program! I gave my final presentation to the class in June. Five of us newly minted “alumni” presented at the recent Chicago Public Schools Department of Library conference on September 3. We gave two presentations. Both were well attended. Our colleagues had lots of good questions. I will be cobbling something to present at the upcoming annual conference of the Illinois School Library Media Association in late October. I have also been invited to present the use of educational technology tools in research to a class of school library students at National Louis University in early November. For both of those presentations I expect to have new student work to show.

Today I began to co-plan a new unit for 7th and 8th graders with the new computer teacher at my school. We are crafting a research project in which the kids will analyze different aspects of American life drawn from the title, If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States by David J. Smith. The students are attending library class two days a week and computer class two days a week (for a total of four 40 minute periods). They will work on this project in both settings for the first quarter. This project will integrate several technology tools.

Here is what we have so far…

I will read the students the book, asking them to note in writing which statistical realities they find interesting and worth exploring further. I already have identified many facts in the book that represent good jumping off points for further research. As a class we will create a list of possible topics. I will provide each student grouping (groups of 3) to select their top three choices of research topics and then assign them accordingly. At that point the students (with teacher guidance) will identify key questions to be researched.

The student groups will utilize wikspaces.com to organize the research project. They will create five pages and populate them with the five following items: 1. links to relevant information; 2. relevant images; 3. bibliography citations from any and all sources of information, photos, etc.; 4. key questions and information which addresses them. Links to their wikispaces sites will be posted on a page of the school library website (along with all documents related to this assignment such as the instructions, the rubrics, recommended resources, etc.). The information that they compile on their wikispaces site will be used for their final products.

Students will utilize PowerPoint to create slides to be utilized in slideshows on Voicethread.com (in which they combine their PowerPoint slides with minimal text, other images, and recordings of their voices sharing information). Among the requirements of their Voicethread will be the inclusion of a graphic depiction of data (e.g. bar graph, pie chart, etc.) that they fully describe and analyze. They will be generating the graphs using EXCEL (click here for a lesson on using EXCEL to generate charts) or Create A Graph. The Voicethread products will be one of two main information products.

The second product will be something like a webquest. Utilizing the same research about the same topic, the students will state a position about their topic and then find links to online items that support their position. They will combine those links with images and brief audio clips of their own voices to create online interactive digital posters (glogs) using Glogster.com.

Once the students have their information products a few class periods will be provided for the students to view and listen to each others’ information products using headphones. They will be provided a standard format for providing feedback (perhaps a simple form that can be copied and pasted into an e-mail). This feedback will be sent by e-mail using First Class (the communication/collaboration tool provided by Chicago Public Schools) to the students who created the work and to the teachers. After students have viewed and listened to all the Voicethread and Glogster and provided feedback to each other they will be able to vote for the top three or four projects (from both classes engaged in this project) to include in a presentation to entire middle school in the auditorium.

Another layer to this project yet to be fully explored is integration with the art program, which this quarter has a single class of 7th/8th graders. I am going to propose that my students “push down” information about their topics (using their wikispaces sites and e-mail) to the art students to inspire artwork in a variety of forms. If this works out, photos of the student artwork can be integrated into the library/computer class students’ projects (i.e. wikispaces, voicethreads, and glogs).

I will blog more about this as it unfolds.

Creative Commons License
Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Slideshare. June 8, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Just a quick post tonight!

I took a crack at Slideshare.net tonight. Very cool and very easy! I saw that Slideshare included an easy option for uploading slide shows posted on Slideshare.net on WordPress. I couldn’t figure how to create a permanent widget, but it was easy as pie to get a slideshow loaded into a post. See below!

Creative Commons License
Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Home Stretch May 30, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

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.