Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remember what timelines used to be?

We all know the typical method of timeline creation in schools. "Draw a line, add some dates and document events in chronological order".  Students will typically use poster boards, markers and possibly cut out images. The students in Mr. Papa's grade 8 social studies class in our district are putting a new spin on the age old practice of timeline creation! They are utilizing a website called Capzles( . Capzles is a web 2.0 site built around a social networking framework. Users are provided with the ability to tell a story using pictures, video clips, audio tracks and text. Capzles refers to these items as "moments". The 'moments" are able to be placed together chronologically to develop an interactive timeline. The end result is what is referred to as a "Capzle".  

Capzles can be viewed online using a computer or on an Apple mobile device such as an Iphone or Ipad using their free app. Capzles replaces the age old practice of organizing timeline's on paper. It provides an interactive and engaging opportunity for students to organize content. Each multimedia file supplies an area for students to provide descriptions and further information. Information can be organized in a manner which delivers a truly interactive story.

Classroom Implementation

The ability to add audio provides an opportunity for students to put a voice to their presentation. This may be a useful feature in classrooms. By having students record their narration it eliminates the need to use valuable class time having students orally present their Capzles to the  entire class.

A teacher may want to provide an opportunity for peer review. Small groups of students may be supplied a rubric or questions to answer. They may be charged with reviewing a specific student made Capzle and then scoring the rubric or answering the questions. This type of peer review opportunity may spark a rich dialogue in your classrooms. It also does not require every student to have a computer to take part in this. Students may use their cell phone or ipod touch to view the capzles in the group using the free web app.

World Language classes may use Capzles to develop an intersciplinary project. Students may design a "moment" that represents a particular topic in science, social studies, current events or even mathematics. The audio narration my be recorded in the language the students are studying.

In language arts, students may design a Capzle that offers a review or insight into a novel, specific chapter or short story. The Capzle may also show the development of a character, events or story plot. Capzles may also be used to make a connection between a particular reading and events whether personal or current events in the world.

Although Capzles is free, it does require an email address to create an account. In Mr. Papa's class the students designed Capzles in groups. One member of each group used their email address to create the account.  The students were provided a rubric and a document that outlined the components that must be included in their Capzle.

Below are some links to some of our student work.



Monday, November 21, 2011

Skype with an Author

On November 8, 2011 two of our grade 5 classes hosted a Skype session with Jeanne DuPrau.  Mrs. DuPrau is known for the series of books that she has authored called "The Books of Ember". Within that series are The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet and Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold.

The City of Ember was made into a major motion picture. You can read more about that here. This is the novel that our classes read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Mrs. DuPrau lives in California. The logistics of having her visit were not within our budget and time constraints. However, Skype was able to fill this need. We organized a Skype session with Mr. DuPrau and the students in Mr. Argondizzo's and Miss Daly's grade 5 classes.

We used our classroom smartboard, a logitech webcam and a free download of Skype for the event. Each of our students in the session had a job/role. We followed the framework that I have made available on my wiki of resources.  Some sample jobs included:  recorder, time keeper, videographer, photographer, greeter, closing and of course question asking.

The event was a success. Mrs. Duprau shared her writing process as well as details about her novels. The students made an authentic connection to their classroom learning.  Mrs. DuPrau mentioned that our students provided some of the best questions she has had asked of her!

The students are working on a reflection assignment. The assignment consists of a two paragraph essay in which they will reflect upon what they have learned. Our teachers provided a guiding questions for this assignment.  We are looking forward to planning our next Skype session.  If  you are reading this posting and would like to connect with us, please respond int he comment section. We have many classes in grades k-12 that are interested.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oral Assessments With Phones

A majority of technology infused lessons involve students consuming or creating content. Typically content creation with technology is text or image based. In world language courses we need students to speak. Writing is less of an instructional concern.  Exploring technologies that allow for speaking and listening are a priority for teachers of world language.

Our world language department has been experimenting with alternative tools to assess student oral proficiency. One tool that has stood out is Google Voice. Google Voice is a free phone service. Google allows for two options.

Option one allows you to keep your existing cell phone number. All calls to this number are forwarded to  your Google Voice mailbox. Google voice provides an online voice mailbox. Your voice mails are available online in the form of emails. Google uses its voice recognition technology to transcribe the message into text. From the online screen you can view the transcript of the message or listen to the message by clicking play. Google Voice also provides a mobile phone application that can access your account.

Option number two will provide you with your own personal Google phone number. This phone number can be set to forward to any other phone number that you have. A phone call to your Google number can be forwarded to your home, work or cell phone. Calls that go to voice mail are available in the same way as option one.

Our world language teachers are using option number 2. The teachers have established their own Google phone number. The teachers turn off the call forwarding features so that the calls do not ring on their cell phones. Students dial the number and provide their oral assignments/assessments on the Google Voice voice mail of the teacher. The teacher can then open up the Google Voice website and listen to each child's recording.

The use of Google Voice has simplified the process of oral assessment. It is no longer necessary to spend class time assessing individual students. Students do not require access to computers to take part in this activity. All of our students have access to telephones at home or personal cell phones.  The use of Google Voice has had a positive impact in our world language courses.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grade 5 Author Visit

We are fortunate to have access to interactive white boards, projectors and video cameras in most of our elementary classrooms. This is a resource that we take full advantage of. One of our favorite events is to use Skype to connect with authors, subject area experts and classrooms around the world. These videoconferencing sessions are not only engaging for our students, but they provide authentic learning experiences.

All of our video conference sessions are very well structured. There are pre and post activities that provide each student with an opportunity to interact with the event. More information regarding our structure for these events can be found on this wiki page.

On October 11, 2011 we held a Skype video conferencing session with children's author Mrs. Pat Brisson. It was an amazing experience for our students. Mrs. Brisson was successful in connecting her own writing process to that which is covered in our curriculum. Our students got a first-hand account of the professional life of an accomplished author.

About Mrs. Brisson

Pat Brisson has been writing children's picture books and easy-to-read chapter books for twenty years.  Prior to writing, she was an elementary school teacher, school librarian, and reference librarian in a public library.  Pat lives in Phillipsburg, NJ with her husband.  She has four grown sons.

Books and Publications

The following list of books are written by Pat Brisson.  The titles with a star (*) after them are our class's favorites.

Sometimes We Were Brave

I Remember Miss Perry

Melissa Parkington's Beautiful, Beautiful Hair *

Tap-Dance Fever

Mama Loves Me From Away

Beach is to Fun *

Star Blanket

Hobbledy-Clop *

Bertie's Picture Day

Sky Memories

Little Sister, Big Sister

Hot Fudge Hero

The Summer My Father Was Ten *

Wanda's Roses *

Benny's Pennies

Magic Carpet

Your Best Friend, Kate

Kate Heads West

Kate on the Coast

Pat Brisson has also written one young adult (YA) book entitled The Best and Hardest Thing.  Currently, she is writing a collection of poems.

Video Clip From the Conference