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Posts by Jessie
Winter is tough for me here around the tech lab. We have a pretty awesome winter sports program here at Billings, but that takes away from some of my classroom time. Additionally, we seem to have a lot of days off here and there, for holidays, conferences, prep days, and so I feel like I haven’t seen my kids enough to write anything about what we’re doing. Now that we have Fridays back, and I’ve gained some momentum with my classes, I can spend some time here.
Both the 7th and 8th grade have been spending time thinking, writing, and researching about Cyberbullying and Cyber-rights. In line with their work in American History, 7th Graders are working on presentations on Cyber-rights and the constitution. Primarily, they are focusing their work on a court case that involves a student and a perceived violation of rights. 8th graders are using their knowledge of cyberbullying to create presentations for younger students on different types of cyberbullying and harassment. Central to their presentations is how to prevent harassment from occurring and how to stand up for others who are experiencing harassment.
Last night the Parents Association hosted a Parent Education night called “Parenting Digital Communication”. Ted Kalmus (Head of School) and I spoke about all things adolescent and digital, including gaming, texting, screen time limits and social networking. Here is a link to our presentation (made with Haiku Deck)
We had about 40 parents attend and we had some great conversations about digital communication and teenagers. These parents are enthusiastic and ready to learn. I left feeling energized!
8th graders spent a few class periods discussing body image and digital identity. First, we watched a video clip from ABC News detailing a now defunct page on Facebook called “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager”.
This led us to a discussion of how popular culture portrays the “ideal” male and female figure. Students had many ideas about what characteristics the media deems beautiful for both men and women including having a “fit” body, having tan skin, and blond hair. We got into more detail describing specific physical features of men and women, but also what personality traits are portrayed as positive by popular culture.
Billings recently purchased 30 Google Chromebooks for a pilot program across all three grade levels (6,7, & 8). We were looking for an easy and fast way for students to access web-based resources and since we’re a Google Apps for Ed school, Chromebooks made sense for us. So far the Chromebooks have been a rousing success. The kids have been using them in a variety of different classes; from science to geography to language arts to math.
Catherine, our 7th grade Geography teacher has been using the Chromebooks a lot in her classes. She comments, “the Chromebooks have put geography tools at my students’ fingertips and allow them to work simultaneously, but at their own speed. Doing so means kids can form a deeper understanding. For instance, while taking a Google Maps “tour” of Washington State, kids were able to develop the important navigating skills at their own pace, insuring the mastery of those skills. As I moved around the room, I could show more advanced tools to those who had already achieved the objectives of the lessons.”
Linda, 6th and 8th grade Language Arts teachers is excited about the mobility the Chromebooks provide. This allows students to work in comfortable spaces. The Chromebooks also allow for quick and easy research or other online activity (they log on in seconds).
But, in the interest of being fair, we have had some (minor) challenges with the Chromebooks. The touch pads are a little finicky at times and some kids have difficulty navigating sites like Google Maps. We’ve also found that at times the kids are tempted to play around online more with the Chromebooks because of their mobility (maybe they feel like no one is watching them work?) Now, these are not problems that don’t have relatively easy solutions. USB or Bluetooth mice are pretty inexpensive these days, and classroom management and boundaries are a reality with any tool.
Overall, it seems like the Chromebooks are a great tool for many classes so far. We’ll see how things go, but hopefully, we’ll continue to move forward. I’ll check in again as the school year continues.
In tech this week students have been reflecting on their digital lives. We had a good conversation about what the differences are between “media” and “digital media”. Based on these reflections, students created an illustrated simile that represents their digital media lives. Below are examples from two 6th grade students.
It has been an exciting first month at school! 6th grade has been introduced to the lab and designed a code of conduct for the lab. 8th grade has been learning about the basics of digital identity in preparation to design a survey for the school community.
There has been real excitement in 7th grade where students have a “flipped” classroom model this term. For a quick overview of the “flipped’ classroom, please see http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-flipped-class-conversation-689.php. Students are working on different projects, using Scratch, Gimp, Pivot Stickfigure, Code Academy and TypingWeb.
For the past two weeks, 6th Graders have been experimenting with a program called Paint.NET. For their introduction, they were given an image of the Space Needle to manipulate in any way they chose. Here are two examples of their work.
While we had a ton of fun playing with these images, we used our new knowledge of the program to transition into a discussion of copyright and the Advanced Image Search in Google. We learned that there are no images of “Katniss Everdeen” from The Hunger Games that can be used, shared or modified but if we searched a more general term like “elephant” there were more than 4000.
Seventh Graders have spent the past two weeks using their knowledge of the US Constitution to discuss what rights they have when it comes to digital media. We read two articles to give us an idea of the current state of rights and social media today.
First, we read about a student who was suspended from school after she posted about another student on Facebook. Next, we read about the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives preventing companies from requiring employees to give up their social media passwords. Students used information from their American History class, as well as the knowledge they gained from playing “Do I Have a Right?” at icivics.org to support their own views.
7th graders returned from mid-winter break this week and began working on their online research skills. They started by playing with the online puzzle challenge game called “A Google A Day“.
After discovering that Rachel, Nevada draws science fiction enthusiasts, that the half-life of cesium-137 is shorter (30 years) than uranium-238 (4.5 billion years), and how to say good morning in Romanian (bună dimineaţa) the students came together and discussed how to conduct a Google search that provides you with the information you need.
Wow, sorry it’s been so long between posts. Between the Winter program, snow days, and Christmas break, we’ve been extremely busy!
The 6th graders have been working hard on learning the program Scratch, developed by MIT Media Lab. This is their first classroom experience with programming, and many of them are taking off and really enjoying it! So far, they have completed two of the four sets of challenges, and by the end of the unit, they will be able to use the program to create video games, animations and more!
7th grade has been working to develop their skills with spreadsheets, and are currently making their own “battleship” game with Microsoft Excel. This week we worked on using the “if” function with numbers and text. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to match up and play our games.
8th Grade has taken a little bit of a hiatus from the tech lab since they snowshoe on their day of tech class, but pretty soon we will be working to develop a survey for the entire school on uses of different technologies both in and out of the classroom. They started by thinking about how they effectively use technology at school and the different ways teachers at Billings use tech in the classroom to enhance learning.