Lots and Lots of Livescribe

We were lucky enough to start a livescribe pilot project here this year. Participating teachers were provided with two livescribe pens and we will be sharing what we find over the next year. One thing we hadn’t planned on was the move to using a class set of pens to capture student work. Actually, we’re using a half-class set. 15 pens. Students work in partners. So far we’ve done this to collect student work for teacher professional development (and used it to move students learning along). We’ve also had secondary classes create final exam reviews. They worked in pairs and created tutorials on various topics. We then posted these tutorials on a wiki or teacher web page for students to access from home while studying. Below is a quick pencast about some of the things we’ve learned about managing and using a class set.


Magical Moments in Blogging

Spending time in my favorite Grade 3 class is always magical, but yesterday it was taken to a whole new level by @mswift . Her class blogs all the time. They’ve taught me so much this year about how blogging can be used by students of this age (and any age) as a tool to support literacy, critical thinking, collaboration and reflection.

During my visit, the initial plan was to spend some time with the students while they finished up their blogging for the year and to document some of their thoughts on the process. As they often do in education, the plans changed. The grade 7 and grade 3 classes had been trying to co-ordinate for quite some time in order to do a shared blogging activity. All of a sudden their schedules worked. Rolling with the changes, the grade 7’s came in and the magic began.

Students were given the task of creating a blog post or commenting on other posts (on their own class blog or the site 1000awesomethings.com) in pairs (one grade 3 and one grade 7). As we watched the grade 3’s demonstrate to their grade 7 buddies how to post, how to comment, how to embed files and what the “rules” were (including digital citizenship rules and that a blog post needs to pose a question in order to generate discussion), I was memorized by how engaged the grade 7s were. Once the pairs decided what to post or comment on, the grade 7s became more confident and lead the grade 3’s to extend their thinking and writing to more closely match some of the abilities of the grade 7 students.

One group of three girls decided to join their three names together into one nonsensical but personalized name to sign off their post with. The whole experience lasted maybe 20 minutes, but I can’t think of a better way to spend the last 20 minutes of a week. Thanks @mswift!

Music in Math, Patterning

Last week I had the honor of working with a few teachers (Marci Duncan @marcedun and Michele McGuires @3kidzmum) on a math lesson. These two teachers work on opposite sides of the district and co-planned their lesson by adobe connect and skype and then co-taught their lesson using Polycom video conferencing equipment and an assortment of other tools.

In the past they’ve done really neat lessons including one where students studied the devastation in Haiti, then created 2-D plans for rebuilding 8 buildings for a new village in Haiti. The students did this in groups with students from the other class using Adobe Connect. After planning their buildings (sketches) collaboratively the grade 6 class created diagrams on isometric dot paper of the buildings and then created the layout (birds eye view) of the village. These drawings were shared with partners in the other class using Taking IT Global Education (TIGed.org). Team members in the grade 4/5 class then created the nets for the buildings and had to actually build the village based on the to scale drawings made by the grade 6s. At the end the groups shared their final products using the Polycom video conferencing equipment. Pretty fascinating!

Back to last week, the teachers decided to do a lesson involving math and music looking at patterns. After an introduction via Polycom the classes split off into Adobe Connect rooms where two students from the grade 4/5 class were working with two students from the grade 6 class. In their Adobe Connect rooms they determined the characteristics that their pattern music would have (number of beats per measure, tempo, if it was a growing, shrinking or repeating pattern). Then the groups went to create music using aviaryeducation.com on their own. So, one pair in each class was going to create music that would be different but have the same basic characteristics. After creating their music, students went to their partners music (shared via aviaryeducation.com), listened to it and looked at it then made a comment describing the pattern using math talk. An extension activity included a discussion forum where students compare their pattern to their partners and describe the similarities and differences.The classes were brought back together via Polycom at the end of the period to share some of the patterns and comments created and consolidate the math.

There were a whole host of adults in the room for this lesson and video cameras going, so we were all a bit nervous about potential things that could go wrong. In the end, the lesson went very smoothly. Below are some examples of the music students can create using aviaryeducation.com. There are also images of what the music creator looks like and how they created the patterns.

pattern music 1
pattern music 4
fun music



The one tiny glitch that happened was that as we were doing the activity, the beta version program was changing! All of a sudden new buttons were showing up, new layouts, new links, etc. Students would save their work one way, but then had the figure out how to save it again the next minute because it had changed. As this started happening we cringed and hoped that no one would notice. And guess what? No adults watching did…. (until we told them). This is because these particular students who have been participating in lessons like this all year have learned that sometimes technology works and sometimes you need to problem solve (a lot) when it doesn’t. During one lesson the Polycom wasn’t working and then the sound card on a laptop wouldn’t work to use Adobe Connect and so we ended up sharing a screen on Adobe Connect with no visual of each class and did the audio part of the lesson across two iPhones plugged into speakers and on a skype call. Students have watched and participated in enough problem solving over the year that they just rolled with the beta software changes (even with the stress of video cameras and strange adults in the room). The skills developed to respond this way when things don’t go as planned are almost as critical as the actual math (perhaps even more so???).