Friday, January 31, 2014

Star Academy Student Bloggers

Back in December I shared that the Star Academy teachers had started their own classroom blogs. If you haven't visited their sites in a while, you should check them out. Nearly every teacher's blog has developed in to a collaborative project with students publishing their own stories for a global audience.

For instance, Bodie (1st grade) shared how his class recently participated in a Mystery Skype session and Abhi (2nd grade) described some of his recent art projects. Akshaj (3rd grade) wrote a piece about sharing the book he recently published. Even Kindergartners are contributing to their class blog.

When I've shared these posts with other teachers I am often asked about the process. Are students posting on their own? Do students have their own blog? The answer to both question is, "no." The exact process varies from class to class, however students often create their posts on a sheet of paper or in their writer's notebook with the help of peers for editing and feedback. Once created many of the students work with their parents or teacher to type up the post in a Google Doc or email. After being reviewed the teacher adds the post to the blog.

Take a moment to check out each classroom's blog. Some blogs have more kid posts than others depending on what has been happening in the classroom and a few blogs even have posts collaboratively written by the class.  Remember, regardless of the format comments keep bloggers going, so these kids would love for you to leave them some feedback about their writing.

Speaking of comments...many students at Star Academy are using a commenting format we learned from Linda Yollis' class in Southern California (check out their student-produced video). You might try this strategy as well.
"A two-point comment adds something to the comment conversation. A commenter might compliment the writer in a specific way or add new information. Another idea is to make a connection. Maybe the post reminds you of an experience that you've had. Share that connection!  Try to end your comment with a relevant question. That way, an interesting conversation can develop."
If you have any questions about creating your own classroom blog please let me know. I'd be happy to help you and your students get your site all set up.


1st Grade

2nd Grade

3rd Grade

Friday, January 10, 2014

Digital Learning Day 2014

Digital Learning Day is right around the corner on February 5, 2014. This third annual event is sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education with many partners including the National Writing Project, Library of Congress, and Edutopia. The day itself is simply a national day to celebrate innovative teachers and students and share creative ways to use technology for learning.

Digital Learning Day is a perfect opportunity to try on a new tool or strategy...or showcase the brilliant work your students have been doing over the past year. Below are just a few ideas for what you might do on Digital Learning Day and any of them could tie in nicely with the lessons you already have planned for that day.
  • Explore the use of a new digital resource with your students. Some interesting ones I recently discovered include Perfect Pitch and Instagrok.
  • Check out the iPad cart and have your students create a movie (iMovie), digital poster (Comic Life), or screencast lesson (Educreations).
  • Sign up for the Chromebooks or Media Center and have your students create an infographic for an upcoming unit.
  • Try using Socrative or NearPod with your student's personal devices as part of a lesson.
  • Have your class Skype or Google Hangout with an expert, author, or another classroom
  • Analyze texts or music lyrics using Wordle or Word It Out (Chromebook-friendly).
  • Analyze a TED Talk or other video using Video or image with comments in Google Drive.
  • Collaboratively compose a story, non-fiction text, or analytical piece using Google Docs or your classroom blog.
  • Challenge your students to expand their literacy skills by using programming challenges on
Regardless of what you choose to do on Digital Learning Day, share it with the world using the #DLDay hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or Facebook. This year too we are also going to create our own Natomas Charter hashtag for the day #NCSDLDay, so feel free to add that one as well. It is a great way to share the innovative and inspirational learning you and your students are doing. Have any other ideas for how to celebrate Digital Learning Day, post them in the comments section below.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 EdTech Opportunities

Happy New Year and welcome back to school! I know that all of you are constantly refining your instructional practices and many have set professional goals around the use of instructional technology.

Fortunately, 2014 is going to an amazing year chock full of opportunities right here in our community to learn from other educators how they are using technology to support their students.  Below are a list of free, or very low cost, professional development opportunities right here in our region.  Regardless of which event(s) you chose to attend remember these two key points:
  • Make Just One Change - When we're learning new strategies, tools, or approaches it can feel completely overwhelming. I suggest making just one change this year. Perhaps this is the year you're going to start blogging, using iPads in the classroom, or engaging students in online discussions through Schoology. Just find the one tool or strategy you think will most benefit your students and focus on that for this year.
  • Join the Community - The true benefit of attending any of the events listed below is the opportunity to join a community of educators who a leaders and learners just like you. Take a moment to introduce yourself, ask questions, share resources, and even exchange contact information or Twitter handles (seriously).
EdCamp Sacramento - January 11th
This Saturday (January 11th) is EdCamp Sacramento, a free, full-day edtech conference with teachers sharing ideas and resources in a highly engaging and interactive format.

A3WP Super Saturday - Blogging for Common Core - January 11th
This Saturday is also an Area 3 Writing Project Super Saturday. The technology and digital literacy session is being lead by our own Jennifer Kloczko who will share her expertise for using blogs to meet the literacy demands of Common Core.

A3WP Super Saturday - Presentations, Movies, and Polls - February 8th
The February's Super Saturday digital literacy session will be facilitated by Elise Wallace and is focused on using Animoto, Prezi, and Socrative as tools to create engaging lessons and build media literacy.

ETC! 2014 - February 22nd
If anyone is interested driving to Modesto with us, Joe Cook and I will be presenting at ETC! 2014 at Gregori High School. This full-day technology conference is a great opportunity to learn from other educators across the region. Usually about 600-700 people attend. Last year Kirsten Spall, Jeanne Feeney, and Joshua Senge all attended and thought it was well worth the roadtrip. If you're interested please let me know.

A3WP Super Saturday - Digital Tools to Prep for SBAC - March 8th
At the March Super Saturday digital literacy workshop Cary Zierenberg and Elise Wallace will be sharing the work they have been doing in their classrooms using digital tools to help students prepare to take the Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Field Test this spring. The workshop will be a nice opportunity to learn more about using tools, such as Google Docs, Subtext, and Padlet to help build close reading, annotation, collaborative revision, and text analysis strategies.

Summer 2014
RockStar Lake Tahoe - June 23rd-25th
Interested in attending a three-day summer tech camp for teachers? Consider signing up for RockStar Lake Tahoe. All of the workshops are hands-on, highly collaborative, and lead by edtech leaders throughout California. Click here to take a look at the sessions from last summer (use the Tahoe Day 1, Tahoe Day 2, and Tahoe Day 3 links).

CapCUE Tech Fest - September 27th
The 2nd Annual CapCUE Tech Fest will be at Natomas Charter School next fall, so pencil in Saturday, September 27th on your calendar. This conference is a perfect chance to learn from other teachers in the region, as well as share your own expertise (yes you can!).

All Year Long
#CAEdChat - California Ed Chat
All these events look great, but you would like to attend something more often or less formal? Then consider joining the California EdChat conversation any Sunday night from 8-9pm. You can do it in your PJs with an adult beverage in hand. :-) During this one hour virtual meet up educators from all over the state discuss topics and share resources using Twitter. The best part is that you can even just lurk for a few weeks if you don't feel like chatting and glean tons of ideas. Not sure how to use Twitter? Let me know and I can get you up and running in 10 minutes or less.

These are just a few edtech professional learning opportunities occurring around the region. Throughout the year I will forward you other ones that pop up. Additionally, we always have our weekly workshops and self-directed resources on the NCS Professional Development Portal.