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I’ve decided to move to Edublogs. You can find my new blog at Tech Tips for Elementary Teachers.

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Username Challenge

Our first graders visited the lab for the first time today. What a fun group but, wow, they keep us moving! In kindergarten, a student’s username was his/her first name. In 1st grade, this changes to “last name + first initial.” Oh, what chaos this causes! I carefully explained what their usernames were, how they were different from last year, and that all they had to do was to look on the back of their name cards to see what the new username was. Suddenly several hands went up. “You didn’t spell my last name right. There’s no a at the end!” For some it took quite a bit of convincing that, “Yes, everything really is okay. That letter at the end of your last name is the first letter in your first name.” Very confusing for a young first grader! But everyone was able to log on and have time to do some math activities. In a couple of weeks, they’ll be little experts!

Blogging pt. 2

Today 2nd graders had another lesson on blogging. This time we focused on creating a quality post. I really want to avoid the “social” blogging that the students did last year; where a post might be, “I’m bored. Who is on the blog?” We discussed some guidelines dealing with netiquette, safety, proofreading but we also talked about how we want the use the blog to help students AND teachers grow in their learning. Some of the children were truly surprised that teachers could learn from what they post so that led to a lively discussion! It is so important that students see their teachers as learners; just like they are.

This age is fun to work with. They are very excited about sharing their knowledge and the teachers are finding all kinds of ways to incorporate blogging into their curriculum.

Blogging with 2nd Graders

I work with some terrific teachers who are eager and willing to try anything. This morning I introduced making “quality comments” to our 2nd graders.

We’re using KidBlog which is a simple blogging platform for younger students. Although KidBlog doesn’t have the capabilities of other blogs, it’s very easy for students (and teachers) to use. The teachers are excited about using the blogs in their classroom to encourage writing as well as to share what’s happening at school with parents.

Although our 1st – 4th graders blogged last year, I didn’t do a good job of guiding students to create quality posts and comments and I was determined to do better this year. I discovered some excellent blog resources from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Langwitches blog. Silvia has created a fabulous “Guide to Blogging in K-8.”

First, the students watched a video about quality comments created by third graders in Mrs. Yollis’ class. What makes this so effective is that the students are giving tips on leaving better comments – teachers can say the same thing but kids listen to their peers! The 5 tips were:

  1. Compliment the writer in a specific way.
  2. Add new information.
  3. Make a connection.
  4. End with a question.
  5. Proofread your comment.

Then we talked about some sample comments to determine which ones would be appropriate. Finally, we let the students give comments on a post about some stories they had read in class. For a first try, and with not a lot of time to write, we felt like the children did a good job. One of the teachers even went back and responded to each comment! Feel free to read Mrs. Cooper’s blog.

Everything worked well for 2 classes. However, by the time the 3rd class came in, the internet was not cooperating! A few of the students in this class were able to submit comments but with an unreliable connection, too many didn’t have time to do anything. I must say, though, this was a very patient group of students! Hopefully, we’ll be more successful next week.

For the past three years I’ve started the year with our fourth graders working through the “Welcome to the Web” webquest. The webquest is designed by Mark Warner who has done a phenomenal job creating an interactive tool for students to learn about navigating the World Wide Web in a safe manner.

Mark has divided the information into 7 sections. In addition, he has worksheets for students to fill in as they work through the various parts. What makes this so much fun for the students is that they are earning secret codes as they navigate through each step. The codes are vital in “The Challenge” as the students try to catch the culprit who is trying to infect the town’s computers with a nasty virus.

The webquest takes about 5 days to complete (I see the students for 40 minutes every day). But the kids don’t care – no one has ever complained about it. They are ALL eagerly engaged in the activity. In fact, I always have at least a couple of students who work on this during recess or complete it at home!

This year, as the students finished the webquest, I had them blog about what they had learned and also had them complete a survey. Here’s a sample comment: (We’re still working on spelling, capitalization, etc!)

This webquest is a fabulous way to start the year – a great introduction to several aspects of web navigation in a very engaging way!

Still no word on a ship date. I’m now having major doubts as to whether or not we’ll get one. Of course you can’t reach anyone at HP now. Oh well . . .

HP Touchpad Fire Sale

Somehow I was pulled into the frenzy of trying to become the proud owner of a no longer supported $99 HP Touchpad. My youngest son was able to order one from the HP website yesterday afternoon without much trouble. After he announced his good fortune, I decided I needed one too! We found some on ebay but they were gone by the time we were able to get logged into to their site. By this time, my other son said he wanted one too. After spending many hours of being on the verge of the order going through on the HP site (one of the most frustrating experiences ever!), I finally gave up and went to bed.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up to discover a text from my youngest son, saying he had been able to order 3 from HP and had a confirmation from them! They are supposed to be shipped at the end of the week. We’ll see . . . Do I need this? No. But, how can you pass up a bargain like that??