Voicethread Video and Freerice.com

While I’m waiting for parents to come to the second night of parent teacher conferences I thought I would get some blogging done. Today I thought I would give a challenge to some of my intermediate students while they gave something back to others. I sent them to freerice.

For those who are not aware of freerice it is a program that donates grains of rice to the United Nations based on the number of vocabulary words people get the correct definition to the word. A unique feature of the service is that as you get words correct or incorrect the level of difficulty adjusts. This feature was well received with my students today. I set the classes up with the idea that children are not as fortunate in other parts of the world and that by answering these questions we’re able to help others out. My students went to task and my fourth graders (16 of them) donated 20710 grains in less than 25 minutes! My third graders (15 of them) donated 17300 in about the same time. I’m charting the results and the kids are motivated. Some of my students asked if they can do this at home and scurried for paper and pencil so they could jot down the address. I’m hoping that my other students this week are just as motivated.

Another great thing that I had a little time to check out this morning was the newly announced video feature within Voicethread! This is awesomely sweet. Your webcam can be your source in leaving narration or comment. The interface is easy to use and you have the added feature of doodles to accentuate the presentation. The video narration/comment portion adds a brand new dimension to the presentation. I just wish they could have an offline version available, maybe someday.

Here is an example of a Voicethread with the video portion…

[kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=5852/" width="480" height="360" wmode="transparent" /]

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Online Safety Needs to be Addressed at an Early Age

I don’t normally share stories about my home life but this one connects to my professional life and it got me thinking.

I would like to think that I’m a capable and caring parent.  I’m always looking out for the best interests when it comes to my children.  I sacrifice personal needs/wants at times for those of my children.  My wife and I feel like we’re instilling a strong sense of values and morals to carry them throughout their life.  Our oldest daughter seems to have a good head on her shoulders, a sense of personal responsibility, and knows the difference between right and wrong.  Sometimes you take things for granted because they’re still young and think they wouldn’t encounter dangerous situations before you could prepare them for it.  Tonight that changed for me as my oldest daughter (who is the primary grades) told me about how she gave her webkinz password to a friend so he would add something to her account.

She didn’t think it was a problem giving a classmate her password, dad on the other hand was going ballistic inside.  I calmly sat her down and we talked about private information versus public information and what is okay to share with friends and what is not and other things around being safe when one is on the Internet.  She quickly picked up my vibe and asked good questions, in between sobbing stretches (she is a sensitive one).  In the end we came to an understanding about being safe online but still have fun, change the password, and how to handle the questions she might get from her friend at school. I tried to use this as a learning experience for her but it also became a learning experience for me.

This has made me think about online safety through a new lens, not through my teacher’s lens but through my parent one.  Should basic online safety be taught in conjunction with personal safety (don’t talk to strangers, 911 in an emergency, etc.)?  If you want your child to be part of the global society then yes!  There are so many good resources out there to help those who might not know where to start.  Personally I would like to see resources available for parents at pediatrician offices right next to other parenting resources.  Unfortunately (as a society) we need to do this kind of work to protect the innocence of youth.

More and more social networking opportunities are being pushed down to children at younger ages like club penguin and webkinz.  Even Disney has gotten into the fray.  As more and more opportunities are being presented to children, the time to lay down the foundation of safety and security while online is necessary.  The lesson that I’ve learned is the very first time you create an online persona for your child, no matter the age or the type of exposure, your role as a parent should be to have the conversation about online safety and keep reminding your child about it as new things come down the pipeline.  This small act of prevention now can save you a lot when you child is older facing similar situations when the potential dangers are greater and more dangerous.

Something a friend of mine told me that I recalled after talking to my daughter, “It is better to make mistakes early on in life and learn from them than it is later on in life.”  This is so true in this case.  The same kind of mistake 10 years from now for my daughter might result in a bigger, messier situation for our family.  I’m just glad my daughter has the ability to learn from her mistakes.

Looking at the situation through the teacher’s lens I’ll be approaching this grade level a little differently.  I’ll start my online safety unit a little younger than I had done in the past to help keep our children safe but still find value and fun to their Internet experiences.

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It’s good to be back…

There has been a lot going on for me professionally and I just haven’t had a lot of time to blog.  Let me share with you some of the things I’ve been working on.

  • I’ve helped our school implement and use the NWEA assessment program.  It was a lot of work as all of the roles fell onto my shoulders but the results have spoken for themselves.  I’ve got teachers talking about data and how we should change our curriculum to reflect the shifts in data results.
  • Our school’s art teacher spent almost 3 weeks in Japan on a Japanese Fulbright Memorial Foundation Scholarship.  She had a great time.  We used Skype to have her converse with our students.  She kept a blog, okay she emailed me her entries and I uploaded them to her blog, of her journey.  Our school’s homepage shows the flickr slideshow that we created.
  • I presented at our state’s technology conference.  I was very humbled and excited about the experience.  I hope I have another opportunity next year.
  • I’ve tried to keep up with the K12 Online Conference but there is only 24 hours in a day. Thank goodness my iPod is working.  I’ve got to admit I’ve wanted to watch Jeff, when I’m invited over for dinner!
  • Creating opportunities for teachers to get involved in technologies and experiences that have made a difference in their classroom.  My school’s staff is facing some major changes in the coming months but I feel like we’re more unified and willing to take risks which will make a huge difference down the road.

There are so many other things that I’ve been working on that I’m proud of but I don’t want to bore people.  I’ve made it a priority now that things are starting to “slow down” to get back into blogging.  I’ve missed the chance to share things that have come across my desk and reflect about those things I’m reading from people I have a great deal of respect for in my professional life.  I’m back…

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