Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Google: The Collaborative Tool

So I'm sure my students already know this, but Google Apps are one of my favorite things to use in the classroom!  We've used them to take notes before, do presentations, store files, communicate with each other, and now, most recently we've used Google Docs as a peer editing tool.

For our last essay, examining John Gast's 1872 painting called American Progress, students had to get at least 2 of their peers to edit their rough drafts before I would edit it.  When you edit on paper it can be really hard to tell who's writing what, who's comments are who's, and so on.  With Google Docs it becomes so remarkably simple to "edit" and collaborate on an essay (or any document!).  All that needs to happens is this:
  1. Students create a new doc to type their essay on
  2. After typing their rough draft, students "share" (blue box, upper right corner) their doc with as many people as they want to view/edit it
  3. Other students then open the docs that were shared with them and they can now "edit" directly on the doc.  They do this by highlight words or sentences and then selecting "insert --> comment" and adding a "sticky note" comment that will highlight the word/sentence and appear on the right hand side of the screen.  Students can comment on misspellings, sentence structure, ideas, anything!  And (best part), it time and name stamps the comment!  There can be as many comments as is shared out; others can comment on the same word/sentence or other ones.  There's no limit!
  4. The original student's document that now has been "commented" on (i.e. edited), that student can go make changes and "check" (approve) the comments once they've made the change to that document so they know that "issue" has been addressed.
Overall I am so happy and in love with this process.  I have never seen my students more engaged and wanting to edit each others' work than with this process.  I encourage you to give it a try in your classroom!  It can work for major essays or simple, short writing assignments!  Plus, Google Docs is also a great collaborative tool for group work where multiple people can be working on the same assignment in one place--one Google Doc.

Below are some screenshots from my students recent collaboration with their essays and Google Docs.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Facebook Profiles

Who doesn't love social networking, or, especially Facebook?!  Social networking is something that should be embraced in schools and used as a tool to enhance learning.  There really are so many benefits and positives to using social networking to your advantage in your classroom it's really silly not to embrace it and use it for student learning.

Recently we've been studying about our 7th president Andrew Jackson.  For the students to really get a clear picture of who Andrew Jackson really was and his make-up, they were given the task to create a Facebook profile for Andrew Jackson.

Now, there are some great online "Facebook" resources out there for students: Classtools has a Fakebook profile generator, and myfakewall.com gives you the ability to create fake Facebook status updates.  These both are great tools that I've used before, but I wanted something that the students could easily create on their own computers without an Internet connection as well as the ability to share it out with myself and their peers.

In Pages I created a Facebook profile template for the students to use.  It included everything from a current status to basic information to who their friends are.  I then had my students use this template to create a Facebook profile for Andrew Jackson.  Wow, once again I was amazed by the creativity these students possess!  It was great to see them including all of the essential facts, but also being creative with what books he'd have liked and his current status.  Check out the examples below to see what the students came up with...and feel free to contact me if you'd like the template to use in your own classroom.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rev. Billy Kyles

On Thursday, February 2nd, we were so fortunate to play host to Rev. Billy Kyles and hear him speak.  He had some inspirational words for the students, especially around the theme of never letting your dreams die.

What I liked most about his speech is that it spoke to everyone--regardless of your race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or background--he encouraged us all to always strive for our dreams and never let them die out.

The Patch did a great article about the event.  However, what I liked the most was how it showcased the appropriate use of social networking via twitter by both the staff and students.  Most of the time we hear about the negatives of social networking and schools; however, it's really nice to see that there are positives with social networking and it does have a place in schools.  Here's to Rev. Kyles' message of keeping our dreams alive, and using social media to get that message out there!

February Dog Club

For our first Dog Club day of 2012, we decided to challenge the students with the task of teaching a dog a new trick. We spent time watching some "how to" clips that gave some tips and tricks for dog training, then we shared out some ideas about what "works" with dogs (in regards to training) and what doesn't. Then, after some planning and distributing of training treats, the students were unleashed in small groups to try and "train" their dog and teach them a new trick.

Wow, we were so impressed with how poised the students were and how patient and calm they were with the dogs!! Although not all of the dogs picked up a new trick, it was great to see all of the students involved in Dog Club jumping in and giving it a try. That's a great lesson there: never give up, keep trying, and keep going. I'm so glad these students exhibited this during February's Dog Club and I hope to see this same audacity and effort spill over into their classes!

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