mikeromard on May 13th, 2008

Imagine if students from each city created informational movies of their home cities to be shared withGo to fullsize image other children from all over the world. Impressive. You bet. I was stoked when the elementary librarian, Tara Etheridge, shared this idea with me. We quickly found a fellow enthusiast in Jeanine Merrill and her fourth grade students. Using Photostory 3 for Windows, we gathered photos from Google and even a class field trip to the Bund. Later the students created scripts to be read over the various photos. These four movies are true gems – not super polished – but the real deal. See what the students find intriguing about their home city.

Facts about Shanghai
Everyday Life in Shanghai
History of Shanghai
Modern Shanghai Life

Below is the Photostory movie I created to inspire the students before they started their task. I hope other educators can gather information from it to create movies for their own cities. And please, let us know where we can go to view them – maybe leave a comment here for the global community to see. Thank you!

Introductory Shanghai movie lesson for 4th grade students

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mikeromard on May 12th, 2008

I found another gem of a video through a Twitter buddy – Rich White – from this website http://roots.greenbush.us/?p=478 Great dig Rich!

The title of this video struck a deep cord hold on me. I found myself asking – what can I do to help change? What got me started in this path was I’ve been asked to change the way technology is taught at our international school. Currently, students are dropped off for their weekly forty-minute computer class. Yes, it’s old school, but change will commence next year. I do integrate because I ask classroom teachers about their curriculum, read their newsletters and talk to teachers at lunch; but true collaboration and deeper integration requires everyone moving forward in using technology. It’s not enough to do old things in new ways, but we need to open the path to do new things in new ways. Education will be no longer be restricted to the classroom, but the entire global community. Our task as educators is to create global and independent learners. Fortunately for me, my administrators are on board. They are mandating yet warmly supporting a more full and interactive technology model next year on this campus.

Education ranked #55 – the lowest in IT intensiveness of all industries examined in the United States.

excerpt from Keith Krueger

The coin of the realm is not memorizing the facts that you need to know for rest of our lives. The coin of the realm is do you know how to find information, do you know how to validate it, do you know how to synthesize it, do you know how to leverage it, do you know how to communicate it, do you know how to collaborate with it, do you know how to problem solve with it. That’s the new 21st century set of literacies.

excerpt from Ken Kay

I always enjoy finding a great new video or blog. If you send one my way to view [mike (dot) romard (at) saschina (dot) org] – I’ll give you full credit in my review. Cheers!
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mikeromard on May 12th, 2008

After reminding the students that I’m their technology teacher and not their computer teacher, theyGo to fullsize image accepted last week’s TV Turnoff activity I had planned (I read one short story and then record their thoughts to some higher order thinking questions)

In the end, I selected one to two classes from each grade level. Given I teach thirty elementary classes each week, I was unable to find the time to edit that many conversations and be ready for the next week. I apologize to the students for not using everyone’s comments. Also, some poor recordings led to some classes and grade levels not being used.

Grade 1 TV Turnoff Podcast

Grade 2 TV Turnoff Podcast

Grade 3 TV Turnoff Podcast

Grade 4 TV Turnoff Podcast

Grade 5 TV Turnoff Podcast

mikeromard on April 17th, 2008

Next week is “No Screens Week” (aka ‘TV turn off week‘ or ‘Pause for Play‘) – it’s an ingenious dedication of a whole week (few last that long) to the healthier old days of physical play and interaction. Children are encouraged to avoid using theirCelebrate TV turnoff week TV and computer monitors for one week. Adults are encouraged to use these devices when the kids are asleep. Our school has been involved in this for several years. It’s a great opportunity to remember there is more to life than TV and computers.

In recognition of this, I’ll be reading short stories to my thirty elementary classes next week. After I read to them, I’ll be asking them 2-4 deep thinking questions and recording their responses in podcasts which I hope to share soon afterwards. Credit to Jeff Utecht for suggesting this lesson variation for this week. So, here are the eight books I’ve selected and the questions I have chosen for each one to encourage some higher order thinking.

PK3-PK4 classes

It’s my turn

“It’s my turn” by David Bedford is a must-buy for any early childhood educator and parent of a young child. It’s message of taking turns is very clever and gentle. The illustrations by Elaine Field are captivating as well. I use the word ‘book’ instead of ‘author’ because I want to ensure most students understand my first question. After reading this story to my three and four year old students, I will record their answers to four questions:

  1. What do you think the book is telling us?
  2. What do you think will happen next time Oscar and Tilly go to the playground?
  3. Tell me how you take turns on the playground.
  4. What could be another name for the title of this book?


Franklin helps out
This is one of my daughter’s favorite reading series and by one of Canada’s brightest writers – Paulette Bourgeois. The Franklin series teach many great skills to young children. In this book, Franklin is ‘overhelpful’ and he discovers a solution to that with his friend snail. After reading this story to my kindergarten students, I will record their answers to four questions:

  1. Was snail happy Franklin was always helping him?
  2. What did Franklin learn about helping snail?
  3. What can we learn from this story when we help others?
  4. How do you help your teacher in the classroom?

Grade 1 classes

D.W. thinks big

The first grade students studied Marc Brown’s Arthur books in detail this year, so for this special week, I wanted to have one for them to remember. This is another world-class series with thoughtful twists and great lessons for young and old. In this story, Arthur’s sister, D.W., wants to participate in the wedding but all the jobs are taken. The final sentence is a powerful one which is worth exploring with the students.

  1. How was D.W. a big help at the wedding?
  2. You guys are little. How have you been a big help at home or at school?
  3. What new things could we start doing to be a big help?

Grade 2 classes

Skating with the bears“Skating with the Bears” is a heart warming book by Andrew Breakspeare. In the old tradition of Santa Claus stories, he leaves just enough confusion that are you not quite certain of the truth, too. Summed up in one word – “believe”. It’s a wonderful book to have in any library that sees snow in the winter. I plan to record the answers to these three questions when I meet with my second graders:

  1. How did Tim learn to skate?
  2. Explain why you think the snow bears real or unreal?
  3. Why does Tim thank the snow mounds?

Grade 3 classes

I’m a little teapotOf the eight books I’m reading, this one is the most likely to be replaced. I was really reaching deep into my daughter’s book shelf to find a suitable read that enabled some deep thinking afterwards. This version of “I’m a little teapot” by Iza Trapani is a good one though and can work for this age group. Plus, given I teach in China, I plan address that component of the story as well – given my listeners are all third-culture kids listening. The lead I’m going to build on will be the sharing of dreams and adventures.

  1. What are some dreams or adventures that you have that we can share with teapot?
  2. Let’s re-read the section on China. Since we live in China, what else can we add to this part of the story? Can we think of three other words that rhyme to keep with the story’s rhyming pattern?

Grade 4 classes

Yertle the TurtleI was considering reading some short mystery books for fourth grade, but Dr. Seuss was the King of including a profound message hidden in clever rhyme. These short stories are just long enough to share a tale that will pull them. I plan to read “Gertrude McFuzz” from this collection – its about a little creature who wants a fancier tail feather, but in the end, is back where she started, only smarter.

  1. How is Gertrude smarter?
  2. Why do you think the author wrote this story?
  3. What message is he telling the world?

Grade 5 classes

SneetchesSimilar to fourth grade, I wanted a thought provoking book or poem (I almost went with “The Cremation of Sam McGee” – one of my favorite poems) but you can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss when you want to instill a profound message within a clever rhyme. I plan to read “Sneetches” from this collection. I won’t go into its story or deeper meaning because I have several of my fifth graders who follow my blog and I don’t want to pull from their fun. And for you students who are reading this, keep it to yourself until next week. I plan to sign out all the copies of this book from the library! *Ha!*

  1. How did the sneetches ‘get smarter’?
  2. Why do you think the author wrote this story?
  3. What message is he telling the world?
  4. Why do you think the author hides his deep message in a cartoon story?
  5. Describe what the next Sneetch party might look like?

Break free of TVI wish everyone the best of luck during this challenging week. During my summer months, I can go a few days without the computer, but during a work week it’s tough. Obviously, you have to keep doing your work and usually using the computer is a must. Moderation becomes the word of the week – using face to face interaction where possible. Else, using it at night when your children are not around.

I found all my book cover images at amazon.com – my favorite book store given I live in Shanghai.

Turbo Tagger

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Mike Romard on March 28th, 2008

Attending a workshop by Jeff Utecht who mentions our students are already computer-native social butterflies. Social ButterflyOur goal is to build on this natural desire to create. Students understand the social connections, it’s vital we utilize this interest.

Q1: How can you use Youtube to enhance your classroom?

A1: Get the students to find the videos – go find it or create one on YouTube on say a Shakespeare parody. They are going there anyway. The students are authentic learners and creators.

Q2: What are copyright issues with YouTube?

A2: High School students spent two in-depth classes seeking this out and found – 30 seconds or less of a song could be used for educational use (from the Fair Right act) – hence the students were using several chained 28-second copies of songs.

TeacherTube is a great site to visit for appropriate videos to share with students.

Web 3.0 – semantic searches finding and tracking – your search engines will know your searching tastes and provide options in your search engine that are more and more tailored to your interests and more likely to be of future interest of you. It’ll be the “TiVo of search engines”.

Web 4.0 – It will be the operating system on the Internet – applications will run from the Internet

iTunes mp3s are DRM (Digital Rights Management) encoded and can only be played on an ipod. Amazon mp3s are 89 cents instead of 99 cents for iTunes and are non-DRM encoded, meaning you can play them on any audio player.

Social Presence and Networking

Ratemyteacher.com – Ireland government could not make it illegal, but it is possible anonymous defamation of character

Teenagers log into Facebook before their regular email. Often sending messages out from it.

Habbo.com for older students

There are 1400 members of the International School of Bangkok Alumni site. The actual school does not run it’s own independent alumni site, but uses the technology out there – Facebook.com to run it all for them. You can control it and it’s where the folks are anyway. It’s critical to get in there early, else someone else may misrepresent your school (as Jeff showed one international school was not in charge of a key school alumni site)

ClubPenguin – a virtual world for elementary students – where students can talk to each other. It’s important that we speak to young children chatting and cyberbullying. It’s where they are. Children are being invited by their friends and yet, it’s our responsibility to share our wider experiences and concerns with this activity.

Students have online profiles. Get an your online profile before someone else does. People could show a negative image of you so get in early.

What to do now…

  • Do regular internet searches of yourself. Know what is said about you.
  • Protect yourself. Try to get your own URL.
  • Get on Skype.com – teachers are getting hired via Skype instead of teaching fairs. It can allow you to expand your learning audience.
  • Create screencasts of your lessons.
  • Go to wikipedia.com and use the discussion tabs to have authentic discussions around the world on a key topic normally discussed in our classrooms – expand the field, include more voices.. go online.
  • Discover Wikibooks – write a book, create textbooks for any and every discipline. Cover many languages – great source for secondary languages in overseas schools.
  • Find more information on this workshop (with handouts) at http://thinkingstick.wikispaces.com

~Excellent job as usual Jeff!

Mike Romard on March 17th, 2008

I offered to overhaul a webquest on the Silk Road for the fourth grade team. My original effort was four years old and some of my fun camel cartoons were in an old WMF format and would not display anymore. So after a few minutes of searching the Internet, I found this fun graphic tool called XnView. It’s another free must-have graphic program that I enjoy using. I was able to quickly open the old file, convert it to one that is broadly used and I was done. My other favorite is the Microsoft PowerToy Photo-resizer.

Mike Romard on March 17th, 2008

The following is a compilation of ideas, concerns and suggestions for improving the blogging of our fifth grade students. Jeff Utecht joined the fifth grade team for the discussion.

What is blogging? Why do we want students to use it?

  • the writing is current – it’s where they are at
  • they are writing to an authentic audience
  • allows students to communicate in a real medium
  • the audience is ideally other students
  • a higher level of accessibility and engagement
  • practice of writing
  • more reflective learning
  • linking to sources to validate points

How can blogging be used more effectively? What does successful blogging look like?

  • Modeling what good blogging looks like has helped one class
  • Giving clear blogging guidelines
  • Understandable blogging rubric (label their categories, exciting titles)
  • They need more focus – specific to the blog – what are examples of good blogging – ask the kids
  • Look within our school system, the links in the post (sourcing) – become content producers
  • comments vs compliments – comments should be intelligent not single utterances or smiles
  • don’t start too big – slowly add more to it (especially the visual aspects and widgets)
  • blog on science facts, link to pictures, websites. And some will continue as they evolve
  • looking at other blogs (higher grade students, outside the school), have students come up with three words that describe them
  • Does the widget bring folks to your site? ‘The Pacman game is fun but not needed at your place – save for private Netvibes account’
  • Write a How-to written entry
  • Have a teaching moment on comments – finding a good blog entry, as a class look together asking for what you think and what would you add? What question would you ask?
  • Introduce a video, but don’t play it all, informing the students to view the teacher’s blog to watch the remainder and to leave a comment.
  • For next year, begin with the writing and introduce the bells and whistles later (embedding video, widgets)
Mike Romard on January 30th, 2008

Imagine a world without fractions…

“Can I have zero point five of that pizza?”
“The time is zero decimal two five to ten.”
“Set the alarm for 6.75 please.”
“Can you cut off zero point zero six two five inches off the end there?” (that’s 1/16 inch)

Sound silly? It could happen. We no longer teach Roman numerals in school. True it’s a wasted skill to know that MCMXCII at the end of a movie means it was produced in 1992. But, fractions may be about to be reduced from the math program as well. Some folks even think we might do calculus before fractions?!

Read here for the latest on what the math leaders of the world think of reducing fractions.

I can just see the legions of cheering students. If we cut decimal five of our fraction teaching load, elementary teachers would have several weeks to spend on other areas of math over several years. We’ll just have to wait and see.

As I was looking for a cute fraction sign off with fractions, I found this worthy fraction math site to explore.

Finally, this cartoon always cracked me up and it’s from the Everyday Math series 4th grade home links section. It hints at lines of symmetry and fractions.

Fraction Cartoon

Mike Romard on January 27th, 2008

When I was a kid, we made a poster or a written report to show we had learned something. It was usually a time we worked hard, while our teacher did his/her tax forms or summer travel plans. But, with today’s Teacher 2.0 types walking around, they won’t settle for those backdated things anymore. No, sir.

Today’s students create videos to show their learning and there are two great free choices to use in your classroom.

I use MovieMaker for my PreK3 to Grade 2 classes. My best results have been to start recording with Audacity, getting the child’s initial reaction (sometimes they are golden) and then prompting them along with what they see in the photo. Later I can edit out what I don’t want and keep all the great audio moments. At first, I was using the live microphone with Photostory and I had to go back and forth with live recordings and I was missing some great moments as a result. Using the Lame software with Audacity, you can convert your sound file to an mp3 file so it’s easier to use. Later, inserting the mp3 file into the moviemaker project.

I use PhotoStory for my Grades 3 to 5 students. Yes, it’s an easier program, but they are doing it independently now.

Comparing MovieMaker and PhotoStory

Now, if the class is doing something special like our fourth graders in Mrs. Merrill’s class. They will create many WMV files using Photostory and I will put them all together in one large movie using MovieMaker. Transition fades can be used to blend the various student WMV files together seamlessly, too. This even allows me the luxury of using an edited Audacity mp3 file in a spot they wanted a recorded audio clip from around Shanghai. Further, I can make quick opening and closing credits using MovieMaker.

Finally, if you want to make a dynamic movie in a few minutes, try animoto.com

Mike Romard on October 17th, 2007

On Monday, one of my fifth grade students wanted to include sound so her readers could listen to music while they read her blogs. Several other students were interested as well. So, I offered a small prize for anyone who could work it out in the remaining 30 minutes of class and actually thought my 10 RMB was safe. But, one clever lad worked it out.

This challenge is compounded by the fact that the Audio program could not use any folders on our school server as we run a multi-user blog system and are unable to store individual user settings on our school blog site (we have hundreds of young writers from both campuses). The audio program had to run as a stand alone or embedded audio player.

Lucky for me, two twin sisters (Ashley and Emily) spent Tuesday evening figuring it out and they managed to discover a fantastic site for young bloggers – www.lissaexplains.com – which is full of great ideas for bringing your blog to life. One such tip was adding music to adding music to your website. Visit this link to learn how to add music to your blog. I can’t wait to explore this site in greater detail – thanks girls for a true treasure.

Warning: You can only play royalty-free music (public domain) or audio files that you create! Unless the folks representing Green Day say it’s fine for you to play their stuff, we should not be hearing it on your site. Otherwise, you are performing an illegal action – sharing music against the wishes of the person who made it. NBA Star Dennis Rodman allegedly played popular music at his Californian restaurant and had to settle (or pay) the music companies who sponsor those musicians!

As Emily has indicated, you have to be a bit patient as it can take awhile to load at times.

Click here to listen to Mr. Romard