Friday, September 19, 2014

What Do You Do With An Idea? My Journey To Personalized Learning, Genius Hour and Query Books!

This week, I began to ask students to think about their own ideas!!  Following Isaac Newton's example, they are starting digital Query Books to gather their ideas, ponderings, and questions - both big and little! 

The Backstory - This lesson, like many of my lessons, took a while to develop.  There were so many contributing forces nudging me toward an "idea" lesson with students.  I suppose it began with a Twitter chat, #mnlead, that I participated in last year.  The subject was Personalized Learning, a current trend among educators.  This chat deepened my understanding of Personalized Learning, which at its core is about giving students choices about how and what they learn - putting the students in the proverbial driver's seat for their learning. From Personalized Learning, I learned about Genius Hour, another educational trend adopted from developers at Google who are given 20% of their time to develop their own "passion projects".  If you are curious to learn more, check out this great video explaining Genius Hour by Chris Kesler!  What is Genius Hour?  

These interactions sparked my interest in Personalized Learning and Genius Hour.  I began to change the way I worked with students, creating opportunities for them to choose the way that they demonstate their learning, providing choices for collaboration and focusing on creating and sharing in their own voice.

There was one obstacle that I noticed right away as I began to give students choices about their own learning.  Many of our students don't know where to begin when given choices to pursue their own interests and ideas! They haven't been asked to consider their own ideas as valuable. Many struggle with the act of being curious and pondering their own questions. They just haven't given it much thought. Partly because they are still young, 4th and 5th graders, but in part because it is rare for them to be asked to pursue their own ideas and interests in an educational setting. 

Right around the time that I began noticing students struggling to find their own ideas, I discovered a book and video, Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson that gave me insights into how ideas are born!!

This summer I read a wonderful picture book by Kobi Yamada entitled What Do You Do With An Idea?  In his beautifully illustrated book, Mr. Yamada described the growth of an idea in terms that students can understand.  Just like Steven Johnson, he described ideas as beginning small and growing with attention and time.  I couldn't wait to share this great picture book with students!

The final step in my journey to this lesson occurred when I told my husband about my musings.  He is a physicist and so as I told him about my desire to help my students develop their own interests, ideas and ponderings, he told me about Isaac Newton.  Isaac Newton kept Query Books for his scientific ideas.  Some of his Query books launched new branches of science!

So I determined that I wanted my students to begin their own Query Books! They started their Query Books this week, but just like ideas, they will take time for them to develop.  Look for a future post as students begin to share their Query Books and their great ideas!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

3rd Graders Discover They Can Be Whatever They Want To Be With the Help Of The Book, This Is Moose!

This week, 3rd graders giggled and laughed as I read them a new book by Richard Morris and Tom Lichtenheld, This Is Moose!  This clever book is beautifully illustrated and students were able to easily grasp the underlying message revealed in the humor!  People, like the animals in the book, can be whatever they want to be, even when other are telling them they can't!  This is Moose is an absolutely wonderful read aloud!!

Using the example of moose and his friends, students began using the iPad app Scribble Press to add their own digital pages to the story! Using the style from the book, students created a digital story page sharing what they dream of being when they grow up!  

Scribble Press is a great app for students to create digital books and drawings! They can draw, type, stamp, import images and write in speech bubbles to create their own story pages! 

We only just started when our class time was over, but we will finish our pages in an upcoming class. Look for our digital story pages in a future blog post!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Picture Day Perfection & The PixlrExpress App!

This week we used Dan Santat's new hilarious book, Picture Day Perfection to continue our lesson theme - Images of a New Year!  Dan Santat's book celebrates picture day! The main character wants the perfect school picture, but his idea of the perfect picture is very different from what most people consider perfect!  Like most elementary schools across America, we are also preparing for our OHE picture day, so the timing was perfect!!

Here is a quick book trailer to wet your appetite! 

Picture Day Perfection was the perfect book to kick off our discussion about image editing and effects! We used the free iPad app PixlrExpress to learn about the many options for image editing!  I reviewed with students some things to consider when taking selfies, and then sent them off to strike four "perfectly" silly poses, just like the character from Picture Day Perfection.

Students imported their four images into the PixlrExpress app and then we began looking at the options for editing their images!  Effects, overlays, borders, stickers and text could be added to their images to enhance their pictures.  For our images, students where trying to make them look like silly school pictures so they experimented with effects!  The results were hilarious and really fun!  My students have such a great sense of humor!!

Hooray For Hat Selfies With The YouDoodle App!!

This week, students loved the fun new book by Brian Won, Hooray For Hat! Check out the book trailer!

Students celebrated this new book by creating their own digital hats with the iPad app YouDoodle

We began by reviewing the important tips to remember about taking selfies.  My younger students really struggle with selfies. They find it difficult to look at the tiny iPad camera instead of looking at themselves as they take the picture.  They also tend to try to take the picture from their lap rather than holding up the iPad.  Practice makes perfect!!
Once they had all taken a selfie, leaving enough room in the picture to draw a hat, they imported it into YouDoodle and learned about the great options available in this app!  One reason I like this app is that it gives students so many options!  Students explored all of the YouDoodle options to create original designs!!

Hooray for Hat!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kindergarteners! 1st Trip To The OHE Library!!

Is there anything more beautiful than introducing our library collection to our bright shiny new readers!!  So many new books, so little time!

Kindergarteners - 1st Trip To The Library!! by Slidely Slideshow

Images Of A New Year! Let's Celebrate With The Cycloramic App &

This year, I welcomed back our students with a theme - Images of a New Year!!  For a while now, I have been looking for an opportunity for students to learn more about the images that fill the world around us! (file formats and styles!!) Last school year we took the time to learn about taking selfies, stop motion animation and creating and editing videos, but I wanted them to have a chance to bring it all together!  So I welcomed our students back with a fun new iPhone app that I discovered at the ISTE conference in Atlanta in is called Cycloramic.   I am always looking for ways to introduce new apps to students!  This one fit into our discussion on images perfectly!  Some of my students had seen the app when it was originally presented on the TV show Shark Tank!! The app vibrates the iPhone so that it spins 360 degrees and records either images or videos!  Students were amazed! After recording, it "stitched" together images for a panoramic view!

Next, we used to continue the discussion of how images can be put together to make primitive movies, similar to the flip books that people draw in the corner of books! (Funny how many students had seen these!)  .gifs are images that are compressed, making it easier to transfer them. Students had a great time creating our Gifs!!  Just a quick caution about all of the .gif making websites! It is a good idea to preload the site and get it set up before sharing with students.  Sometimes the sites can have inappropriate material, so I launch the site to the place I want them begin and then invite students to "strike a pose"!  Try not to get dizzy with one of our examples!!!

Our next lesson will give students the opportunity to have some fun with image effects and collages! 

Celebrate Beginnings!!

Welcome Back Everyone!!!  We began a new school year on September 2nd and it has been a whirlwind!!  I am finally settling down to write about the wonderful excitement of our 2014-15 school year!  It is always so heartwarming to see our school and library come alive with our school family!  I recently read a beautiful blog post about this very thing from Jennifer Reed, a librarian blogger who writes - Reederama.  I thought she described coming back for a new school year so eloquently!