Monday, August 30, 2010

Have a SMART Open House!

For last year's open house our SMARTboards were up, but unfortunately not running. I thought I would list a few ideas for teachers if they want to show theirs off. Many parents haven't yet seen the boards in action.
  • Have each student's name typed in a text box in Notebook. They could move it from a "Not Here Yet" list to an "I Was Here" side of the board (I am borrowing this idea from Mrs. McLean. Thanks!)
  • Use a Jeopardy template or some other quiz set up. Have questions about your class and when someone taps it, the answer reveals.
  • Have an interactive web site up to try. Some ideas might be Starfall for lower elementary or Magnetic Poetry for upper elementary.
  • If you already have a slideshow with rules, expectations, pictures, specials schedule, etc. set it up to go automatically.
  • If you don't have time for much, just open your Notebook software. Let everyone sign in and maybe try the different tools.
Remember, the "pens" only work one at a time. If you think there may be a lot of younger siblings visiting your room, you may want to remove all but one pen. Just put a sticky note over the sensors for the other colors. The board will show whichever color is uncovered.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is RSS?

RSS is something that will save you time. Let's say you each day you wanted to know if this blog had a new post. You also may want to see any new posts from Mrs. Culver's Media Center blog, not to mention the Elementary News feed and the District News feed. With an RSS reader instead of checking all of these pages, you would just go to your reader.

I had first heard about RSS (Real Simple Syndication) at a conference a few years back. Basically, it checks blogs and web sites for new posts, gathers them up, and puts them all on one page for you to see. It sounded like a great idea, but I never got around to checking it out. I wasn't even sure where to start until I took a class this summer. The text we read recommended Google Reader.

Log into Google Reader if you have a Google account, or go ahead and create an account. You may want to add the page to your Favorites or Bookmarks list. Open another tab or window and go to a web site you want to keep track of. Select and copy the address (it usually starts with http). Back on the Google Reader page, click the Add a Subscription box, paste the address, and click the Add button. It works for all blogs and news feeds, and should work for most web sites. Have fun!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Go Stargazing

With the sun setting earlier and school not yet begun, it is the perfect time for the app Star Walk. With newer devices, you just hold it up and the app tells you what you are looking at: stars, planets, compass direction, and even constellations. You can still use it with older devices, too, just take a compass out with you. For a good part of the summer, I thought that bright planet after sunset was Venus. Thanks to Star Walk I discovered it was Saturn! So often we use technology inside by ourselves. I love it when I find something that can be shared outside.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Google Calendar

Teachers, have you tried the calendar link at the top of your email webpage? I have tried to organize my life through a few calendars on different computers. The problem was I couldn't access them at home and at school. Since we switched to our Gmail based school email I have been using the calendar and actually sticking with it! I can check it on any computer that has an Internet connection, and it is only an additional click after checking my email.

You can set up different calendars within the calendar so there can be one color for school things, one for family, and another for personal. The task list has worked well for me and, well, kept me on task. There are buttons to change the view from day to week to month, and in Calendar setting you can change the Default view to what you prefer. You can even set a Custom view. Here I chose 4 weeks.

Try it if you get the chance before the craziness of school starts. I like to right click the Calendar link and have it open in another tab, that way my mail and calendar are accessible in the same window.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Type to Learn (and Have Fun)

Looking back, my typing class was one of the most valuable classes I took in high school. Being able to touch type is an important skill when it comes to effectively using a computer. Students at Charlevoix Elementary start to get to know the keyboard in kindergarten. They become familiar with the Enter key and spacebar, as well as the numbers and letters. First grade students use the Shift key and start to use both hands in the fall. By February they have learned the letters on the Home Row and are starting to type some other letters with their hands in the proper positions. Second grade students spend 10 to 15 minutes each week on the web site Dance Mat Typing. The classes spend at least two weeks on each of the 12 stages. Third and fourth grade students spend 15 minutes each week in the self paced application Type to Learn.

Although these things all help the students on their way to being good typists, the best in class are usually those students who practice at home. There are many software choices such as Typing Instructor for Kids for newer computers or Jump Start Typing for older ones. Households with Internet access can practice on the Dance Mat Typing web site mentioned above. Other sorces include TypingWeb, GoodTyping, and Learn2Type. Good keyboarding skills don't just come from typing. Students who play the piano are practicing the same eye-hand coordination "keyboard" skills.

Teacher Tech Check

With the first day of school three weeks away and the open house in less than two weeks, I want to remind teachers to check your technology equipment before you need it.

  • Turn on your projector and see if it lines up with your SMARTboard. The focus handle is right behind the lens.
  • I also recommend aligning your board, since things may have been bumped during the summer cleaning. Hold down the two buttons by the eraser. Use a "marker" or your finger to touch the screen and "draw" to the middle of the plus signs. Let go when you get to each sign.
  • Scott asked everyone to store microphones out of the chargers for the summer. When you plug them back in, please charge them for at least 10 hours before use.
  • Directions were given to turn off and unplug your printer and document camera. Please plug them back in and test them before school starts.
Thanks for checking these things now, before any problems would be emergencies. Let me know if you need any help or have any problems.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Facebook and Kids

Just this past year I have had kids in class mention that they have a Facebook account. I am not sure if parents know the Facebook Privacy Policy states: "If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible." If you would like your child's account taken off Facebook, click here for the form.

Charlevoix third and fourth grade students sign an Acceptable Use Policy before they can go on the Internet. Safety and appropriate behavior are emphasized throughout the year. In third grade students comment on blog posts and in fourth grade they get their own email addresses and get to "chat" with each other. I hope to add more "Web 2.0" activities to the curriculum this year. The plan is that all of this will help them be ready someday for the social parts of the Internet, like Facebook.

Once your child reaches age 13 and if they join Facebook, I highly recommend becoming "Friends." It will let you see their profile and keep track of what they are sharing online. Facebook has more information in their Help Center.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Welcome to my blog! I am a K-4 computer teacher. This blog is to communicate what I am doing with parents, get feedback from students, and share helpful resources and tips with colleagues. Thank you for coming by!