Tag Archives: technology

Sticky Notes Bonanza

I love using video to share ideas with students. I also love sticky notes. This week I combined both to teach a lesson on the importance of planning before writing.

First I showed this video:

Then we talked about the message, about what happened in the clip. Was the presentation effective? How long do you think it took to make? Do you think they knew what picture came next or did they make it up as they went along?

Then I show the making of video:

Imagine…6000+ stickies each with a little round of tape on them. The second video shows a lot of what the artists did to plan. Since all the kids (really, all of them) like the first video, I can make the point that good things take time to create. When they write, they need to take the time to work out a plan, to decide what it is they want to say before they start saying it. I think these videos helped get that message across. Beats just nagging them to write a web.


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The Right Tool for the Blog

I want to start blogging with my students and I’m trying to find a good tool too use. This year, I’ll only be blogging with around 20 students, but next year I want to expand it to all 90 students.


  • Teach focus and elaboration by having student gear their blog around a specific subject/audience and making each entry interesting (as opposed to my latest blog entries).
  • Encourage voice by having students make editorial and content decision (within reason).
  • Show writing growth.
  • Teach how to respond to writing through polite and appropriate comments.


  • Must be completely monitored-both student posts and comments.
  • Must be able to be made private.
  • Must be able to make separate student accounts without using student email address.
  • Must be easy for students to use.
  • Must be easy for me to grade.



  • Pros: No personal info required, free, looks easy to use, all users able to see all new posts on sign-in screen.
  • Cons: Called Kidblog – M.S. kids hate being called kids, immature template look, no individuality.

22 Classes

  • Pros: Can individualize blogs, creates easy hub for class blogs and information.
  • Cons: Limited to only ten free blogs, costs (8.95/month) for additional blogs, students need to give email address.


  • Gaggle offers no easy free solution any more, but gives a phone number for their ad-based one. Not sure if I want ads on student blogs if there is another solution.


  • Pros: Offers helpful videos on YouTube,
  • Cons: Hard to navigate, small text makes it hard to read, school pass code required (but easy to get once you figure it out), address for students is long and complicated, not easy to use at all.


  • Pros: Student blogs can be individualized, teacher has complete control over blogs, most like a “real” blog.
  • Cons: Fee for class accounts (from 3.33 per month), no central hub for class.

At the moment, I think I’m between Kidblog and Edublogs.


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Dirty Little Secret

 I have a confession. I may keep a blog, but I don’t have a computer.

Well, I have a computer..a couple of them actually. I have three broken laptops and a broken desktop. The only one I have that works is an old HP that periodically stops for no reason. Sometimes it starts again. Sometimes I give up.

My husband says it needs to be restarted…but I don’t know how to do that. So I wait until he gets around to it. He doesn’t have a blog to keep up with, though.

I do have an I-pod. A nano that was a hand-me-down. It works, but there are no apps to get, no nifty functions that make my life easier. No, there is one thing it does…plays Elmo and Laurie Berkner over and over again for my kids in the car. That, at least, makes the drive to school easier.

What’s worse is I don’t even sit at a desk to work on my computer. We have a desk in our office (really the formal living room, but who uses a formal living room any more?). However, the builders didn’t think that we would need cable in the office (formal living room) and the wireless set up on the old computer is also broken. So I sit on the floor of my bedroom, staring up at the monitor on the night stand. Apparently bedrooms do require cable.

Seriously, if my kids knew this, would they even trust me to teach them?

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Differentiating with Delicious

 If you have ever taken a group of middle schoolers to the computer lab, you know it is bright and shiny central. Too many things to distract them from the task at hand ranging from repeated attempts to enter in a misspelled password, to clicking on the wrong link on the webpage, to seeing if MySpace is really blocked like the teacher said it was. Asking them to type in six different web addresses (even if you show a Power Point slide of them in the front of the room) is asking for tons of wasted time. But to only allow one or two sites in the lesson limits the exposure kids have to the web. This is but one of the problems with teaching internet literacy…at least from a Language Arts teacher’s perspective.

I am in the middle of a project on identifying reliable sources on the internet. For one activity I wanted students to look at a group of website to determine if they were reliable and justify their conclusion. Then they were to repeat the activity with a second group of websites. The first group were reliable; the second not so much. This is where the fear of six websites in one lesson came up.

Delicious solved the problem for me. I created a new account just for class. The user name is Ms.Mason (there’s a period and no space, as I repeated many times) if you care to take a look. Rather than tag the sites with descriptive terms, I used “group 1” and “group 2” as tags.

During class, I put the web address and my username/password up and had students log in that way.  Then to direct the activity, I instructed them to click on the tags along the side. The tags gave no clue to the reliability ahead of time, and I didn’t have to worry about students telling me the internet wasn’t working when they mistyped the address. Students were quickly able to navigate to where I wanted them to be, thus moving the lesson along smoothy. Tech wasn’t taught; it was used.

 While I was giving this lesson, it dawned on me that this would be an awesome way to differentiate reading. I hate printing and making copies never knowing how many I may need of a certain type of text. And if I put a student in the wrong group, I then have to move them around, get them caught up, find the right copy to give them, etc. I could use this account (with regular updating, of course) to set up all kinds of grouping. I could have groups be low/middle/high or fiction/nonfiction or short/long or text/video and then break the class up however I wish. Student A is breezing through his reading, send him to “group 2” with a click of the mouse. While students maybe curious, if you give each group enough to look at, they tend not to wander away. And so what if they do wander…the internet is all about wandering anyway.

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WallWisher: Digital Sticky Notes

I’m not really a tech junkie. I am more like a tech snacker. Our school, while still better equiped than some, requires a little bit of effort to get students to use technology rather than just watch me use it. However, since we are doing a double unit on research, and I’ll be in the computer lab anyway, I though I would try out a few sites to see how they worked with students.

Today I used WallWisher, a site that allows users to create a virtual wall and allow guests (invited or otherwise) to post sticky notes to it. I came across this site on Twitter, I think thanks to @TeachAKidd. If it wasn’t her, feel free to correct me. She created a board and asked users to post how they would use it. Admittedly, what I posted had nothing to do with how I used it and the link to that board has been lost in time (or at least to new Twitter posts).

For my lesson, I posted a discussion question at the top. Since I wanted kids to actually look at websites, I didn’t want too much discussion time, but wanted everyone to participate in answering the question. Students posted their answers and we reviewed them as a class. Here is an example of one the one I posted to Twitter for practice.

What I liked: The site was easy to set up. Once I did the first one, the other walls (one for each period) took about two or three minutes to create. Students didn’t need to give any personal information other than what I asked of them. Nor did I for that matter. Just go to the site and post. The site was also easy to teach. Just double click where you want the note and type. No extra prep and teaching time needed just to use the tool.

As a tool for classroom use, it was perfect for today’s purpose. Every student responded to the discussion question, and I could pull out the answers I wanted to explore further. Since it was one of the rare instances when “I don’t know” was an acceptable answer, many students were comforted when they weren’t the only one who put it. I like things that get the quiet students “talking” and those who tune out to tune in.

The kids really liked it too.

What I didn’t like: When you refresh after letting students post, the notes are all over the place. Many are on top of other ones. Not too big a deal since you just click and move, but for my class of 26 it was a little annoying. The time stamp at the bottom of each sticky was also incorrect. In every class, there was one student whose stamp said “January 1, 1970.” Not an issue for my activity, but if it were used as a discussion board with a deadline for posting, that would be an issue.

Conclusion: This isn’t a site for everyday use or for anything that would be considered “important” in the sense of grading or assessment. But as a discussion tool, or a motivation tool for that matter, it was certainly useful. Definitely one I’ll use again.

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Plus Cool

I just bought a new phone. Yesterday morning when I put my phone in my purse, it was in one piece. When I took it out that afternoon, it was in two. I am not sure what happened but my daughters were looking a little guilty. Since I have no home phone,  I bought a new phone against my will.

The man said this phone was an upgrade. Since my daughters use the phone to call grandma, my main concerns when purchasing one are cost and durability. But the upgrade cost the same as my old phone, so I was intrigued. When I opened it up, it looked pretty cool: sleek new cover, keypad, speakers you can actually see.

You know what my new phone does? The same things my old phone does. The keypad is nice since I text my husband a lot and the speakers are easier for the kids to use for speaker phone, but neither was a problem with my old phone. Neither makes my life any easier or more efficient now.

My phone reminds me of how schools think of technology. Some teachers are so excited to get something new, something better, that they don’t realize that they are doing the same old things. Teachers who flip on the doc cam only to use it like an overhead. Teachers who take kids to the computer lab only to limit what they see and read, treating the internet like a textbook. Yet they feel, honestly feel, they are using technology in a new way. The gizmo is, after all, new.

I teach writing. I know that there are a lot of programs that I can use to teach writing, but many of them aren’t any better than pencil and paper. Sure the kids might like to use them, but we run into the issues of how to save it so they can continue to work on it after we leave the lab, how hard is it to teach kids to use the program, what to do if a kid is absent on the day we are in the lab, etc. In order for a new program to be worth it to me, it needs to do what I can do in class better, not just differently. It has to provide an opportunity to do something that I can’t do in class. It has to show students something that I can’t demonstrate in class. It has to engage the students beyond the means that I can without it. It’s  too much hassle to take them to the lab just for something cool.

By the way, I do know of some programs that are more than cool. Those I am willing to try, use and teach to others. Those are worth the time. Those are plus cool. Edmodo. Open Office (not new, but easier). Google Wonder Wheel. Plus cool.

And my husband loves the new phone.

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