Digital citizenship presentation for middle schoolers

This is week 2 of my 5-week placement at a middle school.  So far, I’ve been doing vastly different things than when I was at the elementary school.  Enjoyable, but different.  For one, I haven’t had a chance to really interact with the students, except for yesterday, when I went into a 7th grade health class and co-taught a digital citizenship seminar with the health/PE teacher.

It was good practice for the five 6th-grade classes I will be teaching this Thursday.  While I think I did okay on Monday, I think Thursday will be better because I will be teaching from material I put together myself.  (Talking off someone else’s slides was not ideal because I didn’t know the little anecdotes the teacher had to go with his points.  He had to interrupt me a few times to tell his stories…which made me feel/seem unprepared, even if I knew the topic well!)  Anyway, here’s a link to my presentation.  I am hoping that whoever sees it will give me some feedback of what to add, what to take out, etc.  I will have these 6th-graders for about an hour (I believe), and I don’t want to lose their attention or run out of things to say before the hour is up.  Thanks in advance for your feedback!

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1VeWo0rtqadRAzrPdKNPpJCZSshARvYppIgoyUSTHoD0/edit?usp=sharing

 

STEM Collection for K-5: Non-Print Resources

Here’s an annotated bibliography for some great non-print resources that one can add to their school’s STEM collection, along with some seeds for teachers/media specialists.

set game sequence sumoku snap circuits minecraft legos equate game GoldieBlox 1 GoldieBlox 2

LEGO Education Brick Set (884 Pieces)

This set includes bricks in 9 colors and 11 sizes and supports a group of five students. Hands-on, curriculum-based resource that encourages creativity and real-life problem solving; engages learners through play. $55 (Amazon) UPC: 858160448466

 

Seeds:

  • School librarian can have LEGOs as a free play station – maybe as something that students have to “earn” in order to play. Otherwise, have a rotation system.
  • After-school LEGO club – librarian can provide instructions (see LEGO Ideas Book), have themed building days, or encourage free play. Display creations for a week or before the next club meeting.
  • Classroom teachers can check out the set to enrich lesson plans. Scholastics have many ideas and templates on how LEGOs can be used in math to teach part/whole concepts, arrays, fractions, etc. (See http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2013/12/using-lego-build-math-concepts.) LEGOs can be used to supplement science lessons as well (e.g. students can use LEGOs to model human body system, animal life cycle, food chain, ecosystem, planets, etc.).
  • LEGO robotics (would require additional purchases – such as the Minestorms kits)

 

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 by Elenco

Students learn how to create 101 different working electronic circuits and devices. Each kit contains 30 color-coded, real circuit components that snap together easily, as well as an easy-to-follow instruction book. Encourages hands-on learning, critical thinking skills, and connection to real-life situations; fosters persistence/resilience. Grades 3-5. $80 for 4 sets (Amazon) ASIN: B00CIXVITO

Seeds:

  • School librarian can have Snap Circuits as a free play station – maybe as something that students have to “earn” in order to play. Otherwise, have a rotation system.
  • After-school science and tech club where students learn how to build circuits and various projects.
  • Classroom teachers can check out the sets to use in the classroom as a supplement to their lesson on circuits and electricity. Reinforce concepts such as parallel and series circuits, current, resistance, and various forms of electricity (e.g. in sound, in light, etc.). Discuss real life applications of circuits.
  • Have students design their own circuits on paper and hypothesis what it might do/how it might work. Once they built it on the board according to their design, test to see if it works accordingly or not. If not, try to figure out why not and make adjustments as necessary.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval
  • Toy 100 Best Children’s Products
  • Toy 100 Best Educational Products

 

MinecraftEdu by Mojang

The makers of Minecraft, with the help of educators, created a classroom version of the popular game that supports every subject area, from STEM to language, history, digital citizenship, music, and art. It has a growing collection of peer-reviewed “lesson worlds” and activities created by teachers to enrich their classroom teaching. Fosters creativity, spatial skills, collaboration/communication skills; builds a community of learners; teaches digital citizenship; reinforces curriculum and learned concepts in engaging way. Grades K-5. Educational Server, $41; Licenses for 25 workstations, $350 (Mojang.com)

 

Seeds:

  • Afterschool Minecraft Club – provide students with a safe, social environment in which they can engage in creative play, build/explore worlds, collaborate on projects, etc.
  • Due to open-ended nature of Minecraft environment, the game can be used to enrich lessons in almost any subject area. For example, for math, students can be asked to create pens to hold their animals. The pens must have a fixed area of, say, 36m2. How many different lengths and widths can the pens have and what are the different corresponding perimeters? The students must work out the solutions on paper before building them virtually in Minecraft. Similarly, students can practice basic multiplication or divisions in Minecraft. Task them to build 9 pens, each with 4 pigs in it. How many pigs will you have? What if I want only 3 pigs per pen. How many extra pens will I need? Are there other ways to arrange the pigs?
  • For science/social studies, students may be asked to build a community or world that have certain natural resources or commodities. Or, students may be asked to work on map skills by building a world that embodies a variety of elevations, landmarks, roads, rivers, etc. Students can show what they know about food nutrition by building a food pyramid, with labels.
  • More lesson plans/worlds and tutorials can be found at http://services.minecraftedu.com/worlds/ and http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Main_Page.
  • YouTube also has many MinecraftEdu lessons/tutorials

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Game of the Year, PC Gamer UK, 2010
  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Independent Games Festival, 2011
  • Multiple awards at the Game Developers Choice Awards, 2011

Goldie Blox Kits by Goldie Blox

Created by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Stanford University, these Goldie Blox sets (which come with construction pieces and accompanying books and templates) aim to grow spatial, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and teach basic engineering principles. Design and color schemes appeal to young girls, the company’s target audience. Grades K-3. $55 for 3 sets (Amazon) ASIN: varies

 MATH GAMES

These math games can be used in the media center as a free time station, or be checked out by classroom teachers to provide fun ways for students to increase math fluency.

 

Equate: The Equation Thinking Game by Conceptual Math Media

Students practice creating equations crossword/Scrabble-style. Engaging way to practice using basic math operations, improve fluency, etc. Grades 2-5. $20 (Amazon) ASIN B00004U1RA

Sequence Numbers by Jax

Kids try to get 5 game chips in a row by matching their card – which has an addition or subtraction question – to an answer square on the board. Reinforce addition/subtraction facts and fluency in engaging/fun way. Grades 2-5. $18 (Amazon) ASIN: B001UEMQLQ

 

Set by SET Enterprises

Each card in Set contains one of three symbols, in varying numbers (up to three), colors, and degrees of shading. Players are dealt 12 cards each and quickly make sets of three cards that are connected in some way. Improves perception, pattern recognition, shapes/colors. Winner of over 20 “best game” awards. Grades 3-5. $10 (Amazon) ASIN B00000IV34

 

Sumoku by BlueOrangeGames

A cross between a numbers crossword and Sudoku, Sumoku is where players arrange their numbered tiles so they add up to be a multiple of a rolled “key” number. Students practice addition/multiplication and fluency; subtraction is also used in scorekeeping. Grades 3-5. $15 (Amazon) ASIN: B0037OQDYS

 

Classic Tangoes by Tangoes

Students are challenged to reproduce 1 of 54 tangram puzzles; package comes with two sets of Tangoes so two players can challenge each other. Encourages creative play and problem-solving; fosters persistence/resilience; increases familiarity with geometric shapes and geometry understanding; improves spatial skills. Grades K-5. $10 (Amazon) ASIN B00000K3BU

STEM Collection for K-5: Science/Technology Resources (Print)

Here’s an annotated bibliography for some great science/technology resources that one can add to their school’s STEM collection, along with some seeds for teachers/media specialists.

science mysteries tesla livesofscientists rosierevere ohno 101 science

Barnett, M. (2010). Oh no! Or, how my science project destroyed the world. New York, NY: Hyperion.

A little girl’s winning science fair project – a robot – causes unexpected problems. Book’s humor and illustrations will appeal to readers; connect science to literature. Grades K-3. $13 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-9678020-3-9

Seeds:

  • This would be a good book to read as an introduction to the school’s annual science fair or classroom science projects. Brainstorm other science fair/project ideas, and discuss some of the issues that might arise from these endeavors.
  • With younger students, can discuss why they might want a personal robot. What would they like their robot to be able to do? Have students sketch out a design for their robot, label parts, and write a short paragraph about what it can do.
  • Incorporate other robot activities – start collecting recyclables a couple of weeks in advance, then have students design/build their own robots from the recyclables. Have them write a short paragraph describing what their robot does. Other ideas can be found on Pinterest and around the Internet.
  • Can lead to other resources about robots and scientists’ attempts to design them to perform basic, everyday tasks. With older students, can discuss some challenges scientists face when designing robots.
  • Other books/movies about robots or science experiments gone awry – what are some underlying messages the writers of these books/movies are trying to tell us about science, technology, innovations, etc.:
    • Books:
      • The Robot Book by Heather Brown (2013)
      • Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen (2012)
      • DK Eyewitness Books: Robots by Roger Bridgman (2004)
      • Hello, Robots by Bob Staake (2004)
      • Sleepy Time Olie by William Joyce (2001)
      • Cosmo and the Robot by Brian Pinkney (2000)
      • etc.
    • Movies
      • Big Hero 6 (2014)
      • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 1 & 2 (2009, 2013)
      • E (2008)
      • Robots (2005)
      • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
      • etc.

Honors/Awards:

  • Kirkus Book Review Stars, 2010
  • New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, 2010
  • Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction Literature, 2011
  • Society of Illustrators Original Art Award, 2010

Beaty, A. (2013) Rosie Revere, engineer. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers.

A budding inventor, Rosie dreams of becoming a engineer despite some challenges and her fear of failure. Celebrates girls in the sciences, creativity, critical thinking skills, persistence/resilience (AASL 21st-century learner disposition), etc. Connects curriculum to real-life problem solving skills; National science standards and Common Core aligned. Grades K-5. $9 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-1419708459

Seeds:

  • The endpapers of this book are done in graph paper. Give out graph paper to students and have them invent their own contraption. Brainstorm different problems they might be able to solve with their invention, or other reasons they might have for inventing something (e.g. to solve a problem, to improve a process, for entertainment, etc.). Label parts and write a paragraph about what their invention does.
  • Collect recyclables a couple of weeks before the unit. After reading this book, have students build something out of the recyclables and write a paragraph about what it is, what it does, etc. Students can then present their creations to the class. (Might want to set some guidelines about what these contraptions can or cannot be. e.g. cannot be a weapon, can be built using household products, etc.)
  • Discussion: Do you think girls make good scientists/mathematicians/engineers? Why or why not? Why do you think girls historically have been discouraged to go into these types of study/careers? Older students can research a well-known woman in history (could extend outside of science and engineering) and write about her contributions and why they are important to our world today.
  • More resources can be found at Titlewave: http://www.titlewave.com/ccssresource?SID=15e04be911b6cc70665c01fa6e025b94&resourceid=2413

Honors/Awards:

  • Parents’ Choice Award, 2013
  • Amelia Bloomer Project List, 2014

Becker, H. (2008). Science on the loose: Amazing activities and science facts you’ll never believe.

This book contains fun, sometimes messy, experiments that students can carry out using ordinary household items, along with the scientific principles behind them. Covers concepts such as chemical reactions, genetics, senses, as well as an overview of the science inquiry process. Grades 3-5. $10 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1-897349-19-9

Honors/Awards:

  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens, 2009
  • Cybil Award finalist, 2008

Burns, L. G. (2012) Citizen scientists: Be a part of a scientific discovery from your own backyard. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Students learn about citizen science and how they can conduct in actual scientific studies such as the Audubon Bird Count and FrogWatch USA. Includes suggestions for 4 projects (one for each season). Connects learning in science classrooms to the real world; encourages inquiry-based learning and critical thinking skills. Grades 3-5. $9 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-8050-9517-3

Seeds:

  • Discuss “citizen science”: what is it, who can participate, qualifications, etc. Why might this movement be important? What role can our class, you, or your family play in this?
  • Research some citizen science projects that your classroom can easily be involved with. Discuss each and choose one to participate as a class. Similarly, have students research different citizen science projects that they and their families can get involved with. Students and their families can sign on to a project and have students write a report on the experience (what they chose, what they did, was it a success, why or why not, etc.). Talk about some of the things we might need to consider before choosing a project – is the project seasonal, is it restricted by location/geography, does it require special equipment, etc. (Some ideas can be found on the National Wildlife Federation web page: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Conservation/Citizen-Science.aspx)
  • Discuss the scientific inquiry process and what it means to really “observe” something. What are some of the tools a citizen scientist might need/use (e.g. magnifying glass, binoculars, field notebooks, pencils, etc.)? What is data collection and why is it important?

Honors/Awards:

  • NYPL Children’s Books 2012
  • School Library Journal Book Review Stars, 2012
  • NSTA’s Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2013
  • Green Earth Book Award, 2013

Cate, A. L. (2013) Look Up!: Bird watching in your own backyard. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

A humorous introduction to bird-watching goes beyond being a guidebook to encouraging students to head into their own backyard to observe and sketch what they might find. Connects science curriculum to real-world learning; encourages life-long learning. Grades 3-5. $12 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0763645618

Seeds:

  • Discuss the scientific inquiry process and what it means to really “observe” something. What are some of the tools a citizen scientist might need/use (e.g. binoculars, sketch books, pencils, camera, field guides, etc.)? What is data collection and why is it important? What kind of questions might we ask about when it comes to birds and bird watching?
  • Discuss “citizen science”: what is it, who can participate, qualifications, etc. Why might this movement be important? What role can our class, you, or your family play in this?
  • Research some citizen science projects that your classroom can easily be involved with. Discuss each and choose one to participate as a class. Similarly, have students research different citizen science projects that they and their families can get involved with. Students and their families can sign on to a project and have students write a report on the experience (what they chose, what they did, was it a success, why or why not, etc.). Talk about some of the things we might need to consider before choosing a project – is the project seasonal, is it restricted by location/geography, does it require special equipment, etc. (Some ideas can be found on the National Wildlife Federation web page: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Conservation/Citizen-Science.aspx)

Honors/Awards:

  • ALSC Notable Children’s Books, 2014
  • Cybil Award, 2013 winner
  • Sibert Informational Book Medal, 2014 honor
  • Other best lists

Fleming, C. (2013) Papa’s Mechanical Fish. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips, this story tells of Papa, who, after many failed inventions, builds a submarine and takes his family on a fishing trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan in 1851. Connects science curriculum to real life people. Grades K-3. $13 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0374399085

Seeds:

  • Collect recyclables a couple of weeks. After reading this book, have students build something out of the recyclables and write a paragraph about what it is, what it does, etc. Students can then present their creations to the class. (Might want to set some guidelines about what these contraptions can or cannot be. e.g. cannot be a weapon, can be built using household products, etc.) What is the purpose behind their creation – does it solve a problem, make something easier to do, etc.?
  • Discuss what it means to be persistent/resilient even when you face challenges (a AASL 21st-century disposition). Why should we persevere rather than quit? Have students write a paragraph about a time when they ran into a difficulty or faced failure and persisted anyway.

Honors/Awards:

  • Best Picture Books, 2013
  • Children’s Books of the Year, 2014 Ages 5-9
  • NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2014

Kamkwamba, W. (2012) The boy who harnessed the wind.

A fourteen-year-old Malawi boy saved his village from drought by figuring out a way to use wind to harness electricity. Connects science to real-world problem solving; teaches persistence/resilience in midst of adversity; biographies/autobiographies. Grades K-5 $13 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0803735118

 

Seeds:

  • Discuss how William Kamkwamba was able to identify a problem in his community and how he went about solving it. Was he able to solve the problem overnight? (No, it took him several years to figure out how to harness the wind.) What if he quit the first time he failed or the first time someone told him no? Have students write or talk about an instance where they persevered and what they were able to accomplish.
  • Discuss windmills and other ways we generate electricity/energy. Is one form better than another? Why or why not? Older students can research on green/clean energy.
  • Brainstorm some problems the world is facing today. Assign each issue to a small group of students and have them discuss ways they would go about solving the problem. Have students present their ideas to the class. Identify solutions that are doable and encourage students to do it!
  • Older students: Teacher can do a class read-aloud of the full-length memoir (same title) written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Amazon Editors’ Picks for Best Books of the Year, 2012
  • NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2013

Krull, K. (2013). Lives of the scientists: experiments, explosions (and what the neighbors thought). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A fun look at well-known scientists and their often-eccentric personalities and anything-but-dull lives. Quirky stories will appeal to reluctant readers and budding scientists alike. Can serve as introduction to biography genre. Offers real-world connections. Grades 3-5. $14 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0152059095

 

Seeds:

  • This can be an introduction to a unit on biographies/autobiographies (discuss the difference). Students can be asked to write their own autobiography, or research a scientist (or president, artist, historical figure, mathematician, etc., depending on the subject) and write a short biographical paper on the person. Brainstorm types of things to include in the paper that the readers will find interesting.
  • Discuss fiction vs. non-fiction, truths vs. myths. How might you go about verifying that these stories of famous scientists are, in fact, true?
  • Can also talk about how to select appropriate resources – if students are asked to do a research paper on a scientist’s particular contribution to the world, would this be a good source of information or not? Why or why not? Talk about other resources that might be more appropriate.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2014
  • Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2014

Lipkowitz, D. (2011) The LEGO ideas book: Unlock your imagination. New York, NY: DK Children.

The book provides numerous ideas for LEGO creations beyond the box instructions, including six themes: transportation, building, space, kingdoms, adventure, and useful makes. Encourages creative play; engineering. Grades K-5. $15 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0756686062

 

Seeds:

  • Can be used in conjunction with LEGO bricks at a station in the library media center to be used during free play time.
  • Can also be used for guided builds. For example, students can be asked to build a biome or habitat that they have learned about in their science class. Or, build a picture frame using dimensions and units students learned in math.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • IRA & CBC Children’s Choices Selection, 2012

 

Pflugfelder, B. Nick and Tesla 5-item series. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books.

In this illustrated series (with 24-32 pages of blueprints/instructions for gadgets readers can build themselves), twins Nick and Tesla solve neighborhood mysteries by doing some detective work and building gadgets with common household objects. Appeals to students who like reading novels and who also enjoy science/technology and inventions. Encourages lifelong learning and reading for pleasure; connects science to real-world critical thinking and problem solving skills. Grades 3-5. $55 (Titlewave)

Romanek, T. (2001) The technology book for girls and other advanced beings. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press.

Targeted to girls, this book shows how much technology is embedded in our daily lives, and how items like the TV remote and automatic doors actually work. Sidebars discuss interesting careers in technology, and there are many ideas for activities and science fair projects. Connects science/technology to the real world; encourages girls in STEM. Grades 3-5. $10 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-1550746198

 

Honors/Awards:

  • NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, 2002
  • Parents’ Choice Award, 2001
  • Children’s Books Canada Science in Society Book Award, 2001

Rusch, E. (2013) Electrical wizard: How Nikola Tesla lit up the world. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

The story of how Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla used his childhood fascination with electricity to invent alternating current and many common household devices that use electric power in our homes. Encourages lifelong learning and inquiry-based problem solving; also an introduction to biographies. Grades 3-5. $15 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-7636-5855-7

 

Seeds:

  • Discuss some of Nikola Tesla’s ideas/inventions and how our everyday lives might be different without them.
  • Introduce unit on electric circuits. Use with Snap Circuits kits.
  • This can be an introduction to a unit on biographies/autobiographies (discuss the difference). Students can be asked to write their own autobiography, or research a scientist (or president, artist, historical figure, mathematician, etc., depending on the subject) and write a short biographical paper on the person. Brainstorm types of things to include in the paper that the readers will find interesting.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Children’s Books of the Year, 2014
  • NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2014

 

Swanson, D. (2009) Nibbling on Einstein’s brain: The good, the bad & the bogus in science. Toronto, ON: Annick Press.

This book introduces the idea that there can be good science and bad science, that some research – however “official” they might appear – can prove to be faulty, misinterpreted, biased, and unreliable. Encourages critical thinking and ability to evaluate and select appropriate/authentic resources. Grades 3-5. $10 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1-55451-186-0

Seeds:

  • This can be used in the science classroom to teach about the scientific inquiry process. Discuss the importance of forming the right questions, designing the right experiments, data collection and observations, etc. When reading an article or trying to choose a side in a scientific debate, how can factors like authorship and research methodology help us decide whether something is ultimately useful/authoritative or not?
  • Can also be used in the media center for lesson on authority/authenticity of information – the importance of verifying your sources, how to verify it, etc. Talk about bias and point of view, and how these can affect the resource you are using. Can incorporate a “Fact or Fiction” activity where students have to determine whether a statement is true or false by looking for evidence.
  • This could be used outside of science – in social studies, history, information literacy, etc.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Best Books for Children, 2002
  • ALA Booklist Top 10 Sci-Tech Books for Youth, 2002
  • Los Angeles’ 100 Best Books, 2001 IRA Children’s Literature and Reading SIG
  • Children’s Books Canada Science in Society Book Award, 2001 shortlist
  • White Ravens Award, 2002 winner

Wyatt, V. (2008). The science book for girls and other intelligent beings. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press.

Though this book can be great for all readers, its goal is to spark girls’ interest in science through experiments in zoology, botany, geology, chemistry, and physics. Readers learn about different science careers that use critical thinking skills, deductive reasoning, and inquisitive minds. Connects classroom learning to real-life situations and problem-solving strategies; encourages life-long learning. Grades 3-5. $18 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-1550741131

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Silver Birch Award nominee, 1994

 

Yoder, E. (2013). One minute mysteries: 65 short mysteries you solve with science! Washington, DC: Science, Naturally!

This collection of 65 short mysteries provide a fun way for students to develop critical thinking skills and will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Covers themes such as life science, earth and space, physics and chemistry, and connects science to real-life problem solving. Common Core aligned for using content knowledge, critical thinking skills, and constructing a response. Grades 3-5. $7 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1-938492-00-6

 

Seeds:

  • Teachers can use these as “Science Riddle of the Day” or as a warm-up activity before a science lesson. Can also be an activity choice for early finishers.
  • If using as a group activity, have students work individually or in pairs first to develop their solutions, then have them share their thinking with the rest of the class. Talk about how one person might approach a problem differently than another.

 

Honors/Awards:

  • Children’s Books of the Year, 2014 – ages 9 to 12

Tech Tool: Smore

smore screenshot

I read about Smore on AASL’s page for the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2013.  Smore, according to AASL, is a media sharing tool that supports two standards from the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner[1]:

  • 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use and assess.
  • 3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic, real-world context

In addition to those, I believe it could easily support the following standards as well:

  • 4.1.8 Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.
  • 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.
  • 2.1.2 Organize knowledge so that it is useful.
  • 2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.
  • 4.1.7 Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information.
  • 1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within a learning community

One of the reasons I chose this tool is that it allows users to beautiful, attention-grabbing products with little effort.  There are hundreds of virtual flyers one can use for inspiration[2], but Smore’s many templates, styles, pre-coordinated colors, and other design features mean even those who might not be the most artistic or computer-literate can create a professional-looking flyer within minutes.  (The website suggests this tool for 6th to 12th graders, but it is so simple my second grader was able to create her own flyer without much direction.)  In addition to text and pictures, one can add links, audio, video, and other components to the flyer.  The finished product can be shared via social media or email (to an individual or to a distribution list); viewers can post comments according to flyer settings.

I would recommend this tech tool for use in classrooms and school library media centers – it’s a fun way to communicate information as well as showcase student learning.  Due to concerns for privacy and appropriateness of ads/featured flyers, I would recommend an upgraded educator account ($59/year).  It offers unlimited flyers, education-themed and custom backgrounds, as well as enhanced privacy, no ads, 5,000 monthly emails (free version has a monthly allowance of 200), and analytics for the flyers.

Possible uses in classrooms/school library media centers:

  • Classroom newsletters: teachers can create these as way of communicating with parents/guardians (newsletters can be sent via email)
  • Book posters – these can be created by a librarian, teacher, or student to promote a favorite book and support reading/literacy; finished product can include a booktalk, booktrailer, book reviews (text or video), images (book jacket, perhaps), links to author interviews, etc.
  • Student research projects – rather than traditional research posters, students can make virtual ones to present their findings and reflect on their learning
  • History, geography, science posters; “mock business” posters for math/economic classes
  • Virtual “show and tell” – students can create a virtual “show and tell” about their activities/hobbies, heritage, vacations, etc. and share with their classmates
  • Event announcements: can be created by a librarian, teacher, school staff, or student to announcement upcoming events
  • Flyers for clubs, extracurricular activities, etc.

This is a sample product that I created, as if I were a 4th grade student, about the state of Tennessee: https://smore.com/usqf

This is a flyer my 2nd grade daughter created, with minimal direction and help from me, about pumpkins, which she and her classmates are learning about right now: https://smore.com/seae


[2] I contacted a Smore customer representative concerning the possibility of students being exposed to age- or content-inappropriate flyers while using the site.  I assume that flyers featured on the free version are “ads” and are therefore absent on an upgraded educator account, but I have yet to hear back from the Smore team to confirm this.

Is Technology Killing Language???

Just read Feed by M. T. Anderson.  Here’s one of the questions our instructor raised about Anderson’s views on technology and how it has come to influenced language, followed by my response.  Coming from a linguistics background, this is fascinating stuff to me!

My library doesn’t own a copy of Feed. I still recommend the book to mature 8th graders and tell them that they can find a copy at the public library. Perhaps I am a wimp but I don’t want to see the headline “Book with 3,657 F-Bombs Found in RMS Media Center” in the local paper. Yet for me, Anderson’s use of language is his most brilliant vision of a dismal future. I have noticed that for some middle schoolers, the ability to distinguish between formal language (the type you need to write a paper or email a professor) and informal language (the type you text-message or write on Facebook) has all but disappeared for many of them. Think about the language—not only the abundant use of profanity but also the slang and the short phrases with simple words—and consider the implications of a future whereby language is largely reduced to monosyllabic phrases. Do you think Anderson is right about how technology is influencing language?

When I was a graduate student in Linguistics 12 years ago, I remember a sociolinguistic professor asking us this exact same question — how do we see technology influencing language?  At the time, the Internet was still in its toddler-hood — web pages are just coming out of their monochromatic and hyperlink-only phase and email and ICQ were the newest way to communicate.  Even then, our professor had noticed that his incoming undergraduates were turning in papers without punctuation and littered with abbreviated words.  Many sentences were run-on sentences or incomplete, reflecting the “new” way teens and young adults were “speaking” online.  This trend has continued to this day…except seemingly at a higher rate.  As Nicholas Carr’s Google article and NPR interview on The Shallows point out, the Internet has trained us to read and process short pieces of information, skim and scan, and to expect many distractions in the meantime.  It’s taught us that in order to retain the attention span of our audience, we need to keep things short and concise.  I think maybe this is how a lot of us, especially younger people who were born into the digital age — come to write like that.

Some linguists will call this language decay/deterioration, but others will say this is a natural part of language change (Old English scholars probably consider even the most proper of modern English an abomination).  In his Ted Talk, “Txtng is killing language. JK!!!”, John McWhorter calls this development of a whole new language a linguistics miracle.  His main points are that 1) writing and language (speech) are two very different things, and 2) whereas before we could “speak like we write” (for example, when we read from a prepared speech), modern technology today has allowed us to “write like we speak”, with the “writing” that emerges resembling the loose, unstructured patterns that linguists observe in natural, casual speech.  He adds that texting has come to develop its own set of rules too, so it, in fact, follows conventions and has complexities like any other language. On whether this is evidence that technology is causing the decline of the language, McWhorter shows several examples from scholars from as early as 63A.D. lamenting the fact that the language was in dire straits, since the youngsters at the time could neither spell nor punctuate.  These problems existed long before the emergence of technology!

What do you think!?!

Here’s Nicholas Carr’s Google article and NPR interview:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127370598

To see John McWhorter’s Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/john_mcwhorter_txtng_is_killing_language_jk.html

Kamishibai Man: Allen Say

 

Kamishibai Man

Author/Illustrator: Allen Say
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Year: 2005
Brief Summary: An elderly Japanese man recalls his career as a kamishibai man, a traditional street performer who tells stories through hand-painted picture cards.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: N/A

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • Discuss why the kamishibai man has not performed on the street in a while.  How did the introduction of television change his art?
  • How did the introduction of TV and other technology (iPad, etc.) change the way we live?  Older students can write an essay saying whether they think the changes are good or not, etc.  What are some advantages/disadvantages of technology?

Accessed at: Vancouver Public Library