Join our 40-day blogging challenge

My 8th grade students are participating in a 40-day blog challenge.  Each day two different students post an idea on our Tread Lightly blog of how to be a good steward of the environment by recycling,  reducing emissions, using less packaging, planting trees, etc.  Our blog project was inspired by “Tread Lightly” a 40-day challenge sponsored by Taking It Global.  Go to:  http://treadlightly.me/challenge.html and read about their challenge.

From October 24 to December 2, we will join others around the world in blogging about our commitments and encouraging others to do the same on our class blog located at:  http://ccassinelli.edublogs.org

tread_lightly
http://ccassinelli.edublogs.org

Since I only see the 8th graders twice a week I needed them to work on this project outside of class.  I divided the students into teams of four.  Each member has a specific job to assist their teammates with their blog posts.  Here are the roles:

  • Production editor – Your job will be to make sure your teammates post their entries on the correct date.  You will also be in charge of moderating any blog comments on your posts and assign someone to respond to the comment.
  • Technical editor – Your job is to help your teammates with how to post their blog entry.  You should be pretty good with computers and willing to spend some time learning about Edublogs.
  • Creative editor – Your job will be to assist your teammates in selecting images, media or creative entries to go along with their blog post.
  • Communications editor – Your job will be to check the spelling and grammar of your teammates blog posts and maintain communication between group members.

Each teammate drafts their blog post in a shared Google Document and we maintain the 40 day schedule on a shared spreadsheet.  Writing on a shared document allowed the students to write and edit their post and see what their teammates were planning.  I wasn’t too concerned about duplicate ideas – I just encouraged the students to put their spin on their idea or support it with different facts.

Students are required to support their writing with facts and citations and give credit for images used.  Some students are planning on making motivational posts using Big Huge Labs and comics with ToonDoo to post along their writing. Towards the end of the 40 days each team will add an embedded Google Form to survey their readers or check their knowledge.

One of the ways to be successful whenever you start a blogging project is to make sure someone is reading the blog and students are receiving comments.  I signed up our class with Comments4Kids http://comments4kids.wikispaces.com/.  Teachers list their class blogs on this wiki and I direct my student to visit those student blogs and leave comments and have them invite those students to follow our 40day challenge.

We’ve received comments from a variety of classes – like students from Gary Bertoia’s 9th grade class at Saigon South International School in Vietnam and Russ Goerend’s 6th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies classes.  Having other students read and comment on their blog post have motivated our class and raised the quality of writing.  Students are teaching each other and moving forward with this project with little teacher intervention though I do moderate all incoming comments.

Please consider joining our 40-day challenge and tell us your idea for reducing your carbon footprint on the environment at http://ccassinelli.edublogs.org

Thematic units in Tech class

I still teach a basic computer application course (as opposed to working with HS teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum) and my goal is to make sure students have the tech skills necessary to be successful in class.  I don’t, however, want to just teach “computer skills” – and teach technology just for the sake of  learning technology.  The past few years I have redesign my computer application course around themes, such as career exploration, teen issues, nutrition/recycling, and CSI (computer scene investigation!)

holland_code.jpgThrough out each theme. we use the tools of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Web 2.0 tools to investigate our topic.  For example, during the career unit we took a personality tests based on Dr. John Holland’s theory that people and work environments can be classified into six different groups:  Social, Artistic, Investigative, Enterprising, Realistic and Conventional.  We created tables in Word to describe the attributes of these personality traits and listed careers for each group.  We collected data about annual earnings, percent of growth and number of annual openings and analyzed the data in Excel and created graphs to display the information.  We made online slide shows, cartoons, and magazine covers using favorite Web 2.o tools like toondoo, polldaddy, photo show and flickr toys.  For a final culminating project, we are designing kiosks (using science board type displays) to display all of our information.  We will host a career fair to help other classmates discover their strongest personality trait and which career options are best for them.

While I feel that the students are much more engaged in the thematic units, it does require careful planning on my part to make sure that all the required skills are introduced, reviewed and mastered throughout the term.

OETC professional development cadre

Today I participated in the OETC professional development cadre. We spent the afternoon discovering some Web 2.0 technologies. Yes, most of these tools are online, free and can be embedded in websites – but only a handful would actually be useful in the classroom. The others are just for fun – or another scheme to get you to register and capture your email address. Here is a list of some of them that were shared:

Voki – create your own talking avatar. I’m not quite sure how to use this in education or how it qualifies as a Web 2.0 tool – but it’s fun thing to have on your blog or website.

PhotoShowonline free version of Photoshow5 software. Upload photos from your computer, any MySpace account, or photo URL. After uploading photos, you can customize your music, captions and transition styles.

VoicethreadUpload photos and record narration for a photo story. Allows viewers to record their comment to show. Very easy to use and allows multiple user to comment on each account. Of the list here, probably the most useful in the classroom. Updated version coming October 10th.

PollDaddyCreate free polls for your website. Easy to make and easy to embed.

Toondoo – Cartoon strip creator. Fun and easy to make. Better for younger kids.

Slide.com – Slide widgets — including Slideshows, Guestbooks, SkinFlix and FunPix — are popular on top social networking and blog platforms.

Sitekreator You can build your own professional site with page and navigation management, add an unlimited number of pages, and maintain a unified appearance and consistent navigation structure. The folks that evaluated it were not that impressed.

OurStory Save stories, photos, and videos on a collaborative timeline. Has potential – need to check it out more.

Bubbl.usBubbl.us is a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online. you can create mind maps online, share and work with friends, and embed your mind map in your blog or website.

kSolo – Online karaoke!

I loved the networking and sharing of the professional development cadre and they modeled some great techniques for presenting professional devleopment with technology, but I was concerned about their choice of Web 2.0 tools. Since over 1/2 of the members of the cadre were new – why weren’t tools like del.icio.us, blogs, wikis, podcasting, Google docs, Moodle, flickr, etc reviewed (or at least introduced to the newbies!). I’m concerned about the explosion of “free” online tools that can be embedded on websites tooted as the latest Web 2.0 tools. Most of them are geared towards the Myspace crowd and don’t have a place in the classroom.

I am glad we watched the new Did you know? video and visited the ShiftHappens wiki at: http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/Suggestions+for+Using+the+Presentation

Other tools that were shared that I didn’t get a chance to check out yet: