Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mystery Skype with Spain

Today 5th hour Integrated Technology students had a different type of Mystery Skype experience.  They were able to meet a class outside of North America.  These students were from Cuenca, Spain.  Our students were even more shocked to discover that while it was 12:00 here, it was 7:00 in Cuenca, and their students were still in school!

Since this was our first Mystery Skype with anyone outside of North America, it took the students a bit of time before they were able to narrow the location to Europe and then Spain.  Guessing the city was more of a challenge.  Students asked questions such as "Does your city border a major body of water?" or "Is your city south of Madrid?" to ultimately figure out that they lived in Cuenca.  Students in Cuenca were finally able to guess our state after learning that we were east of the Mississippi River and north of Arkansas.

At the end, my students expressed excitement in knowing that they were talking with students from the other side of the world.  Even though I have done countless Skype sessions with other schools and experts, I am still amazed at its power to get kids excited about learning and show them that even though someone else may be living on the other side of the world, ultimately we have more in common than we would initially believe.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Retelling Scary Stories with iMovie

Sixth graders in Mrs. Dachelet's READ 180 class just wrapped up a unit reading scary stories.  To share one story that they read, students created trailers using iMovie.  Each group read one particular story of its choice and then mapped out the main events of the story.  Students brainstormed words and phrases that revealed the important plot elements, but did not give too much of the story away.  Then, they used iMovie's trailer templates to create the videos featured below.  Play their story trailers to find out more about what they have been reading.  Are you interested in reading these stories yourself?  Come into the library and we can help you find them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Author Kashmira Sheth Visits NLMS!

You may have heard the giddy rumblings coming from the 7th grade wing of the school early this morning.  Our students (and teachers) were eagerly awaiting a visit from author Kashmira Sheth.  Students were especially excited about this visit since many of them had already read her books Boys Without Names and Keeping Corner during their Read Around the World unit.  In fact, one of our students was so inspired by her writing that his additional research of this author helped him discover that she lived soooooooooo close....Madison, WI!  After a few email exchanges between Kashmira and Mrs. Wilson, she graciously agreed to drive to New London and share her stories with our students.

During her very inspiring presentation, Kashmira shared a bit about her background.  She was born in India and moved to Ames, Iowa to attend the University of Iowa.  She spoke of her experiences moving to a new country and the culture shock that she faced.

Her background and past experiences helped her develop the stories that she shares in her novels.  During her presentation, Kashmira explained how she was inspired to write each of her novels.

Next, she discussed the writing process.  She explained to students the importance of drafting, editing, and revising.  Students were able to see her actual drafts and edited copies.  The time it takes to revise each book varies, but regardless of that fact, revising is an essential and significant part of the writing process.

Then, Kashmira shared an important piece of Indian culture.  She asked a student volunteer to model a traditional sari.  Most saris are six yards long, but some can be as long as nine yards.

Students were absolutely fascinated with her presentation!  It was awesome to be able to connect what they were reading in class to the real stories behind the fiction.  To wrap up the presentation, Kashmira posed for pictures with students and signed copies of their books.  

A very special thank you to Kashmira Sheth for sharing her stories and visiting students in New London.  It was a fantastic day.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Using Images and Copyright

When it comes to using digital images, copyright law can sometimes be confusing.  Which images can I legally use in my web-based projects?  When do I need to cite my images?  This infographic posed on Edutech for Teachers really helps clarify when images need to be cited and what images are legal to use.

Remember, if the image is not yours, then you need to verify whether or not it is legal for you to reuse.  When reposting on the web or using in a web-based project, permission needs to be granted to use another's image.  Students should not be using images found through a general Google Image search.  Even if the image is cited, permission needs to be granted to reuse it.  Luckily there are some awesome copyright-free image sources available for students.  Please also remember to give proper credit for the image.

To get started finding images that are legal to use, try these sources:
  •  Image Quest- This subscription database contains over 3 million rights-cleared images. Remember to include the image citation as well.
  • Google Advanced Image Search- At the bottom of the search screen, make sure that you change the  usage rights to "free to use or share" or one of the other following options.
  • Morguefile- These images are uploaded by other users, but all are free to reuse.
  • Wikimedia Commons- has many images in the public domain.  Usage rights are labeled under each image.  Please be sure to check how credit should be given to the owner as it varies.
  • Pics4Learning- copyright-friendly photos for education
If you are unsure whether or not you are able to reuse an image, check with your Library Media Specialist.  A great alternative to using others' images is to be creative and take your own images.

Friday, April 4, 2014

National Library Week 2014

April 13-19 begins the official celebration of National Library Week.  Unfortunately that is the same week as our Easter break.  Since our NLMSIS students and staff are such great supporters of the library, we are moving our celebration to begin on Thursday, April 10 and ending on Wednesday, April 16.  We have some fun activities planned and lots of prizes to give away.  Visit the library beginning April 10 to enter our "life changing" book raffle or our trivia contest.  We are also asking our readers to submit library selfies.  Share a photo of yourself reading your favorite library book.  Selfies can be shared by bringing them into the library  or by emailing them to  Each student who submits a selfie will receive a prize.  Back by popular demand is also our Lucky Reader contest.

See our flyer below for more details.  We look forward to all of the fun beginning on Thursday!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Learning how to code with Tynker

Students in my Bulldog Time group have been having fun learning how to create games and other animated products by learning the basics of computer coding.  They have been following pre-designed lessons from Tynker and viewing project examples from Scratch to learn coding language.

Tynker is a site created specifically to teach children programming language.  Teachers can sign up for a free account and assign different lessons to students that walk them through the basics of programming language.  While working through the lessons, students create their own products using the coding language discussed. After completing all of the lessons, students are free to explore and modify other student products or create something uniquely their own.

Scratch has a similar philosophy.  Created by the great minds at MIT, Scratch is a free site whose purpose is to enable students to think creatively by designing their own games and animations through computer programming.  They provide great resources for educators just getting started, including Scratch cards which walk students through the different codes required to create products that demonstrate different functions.

My students began their coding journey by viewing the different lessons in Tynker.  They were able to view videos and examples that applied the code being discussed in each lesson.

Once they completed the lessons, students began their own projects or modified an existing one.  The great thing about both Tynker and Scratch is that it doesn't require kids (or teachers!) to be experts in computer programming.  Students are able to "see inside" the code of any of the examples that have been published to either site.  They are free to use the codes created or modify the code to make the product their own.

Check out some of our students' products by visiting our Tynker Showcase.  Bulldog Time students used some basic coding principles to create some cool animations.  In the Wizard example, you will need to use the up and down arrow to make the animation work.  The panda game is controlled with the spacebar and the mouse.

This is just the beginning for our student coders!  More products will follow in our showcase as our students continue to create.

Why has teaching coding become so relevant and important to education?  In a world that continues to become more and more digital, learning code gives students another essential literacy.  It teaches them the logic behind the technology that they are using and gives them the power to be innovators and creators. Having this knowledge opens up new doors for their futures as 21st century jobs demand these skills and people who can think outside of the box.

I personally had very little to no background knowledge on how to apply computer programming before deciding to teach these concepts to students.  Both Tynker and Scratch have done the hard work for me and developed easy-to-follow lessons for the students.  Once engaged, students realized that learning code is relatively simple, and it can be used to make everything from simple animations to complicated apps and games.  I was able to follow along with the lessons and learn right along with the kids.

Students are so excited about what they are learning that a couple of them have asked if they could use Tynker to create a project for another class.  Using Tynker or Scratch to create a product using code would also be a perfect enrichment activity or a great tool for creating a review activity.  The ideas are really endless and cross any subject.  Check out the large libraries of projects already created using Tynker and Scratch by visiting their sites.