Trying to finish up Coetail 4, begin a new school year and think about Coetail 5, things have been a bit overwhelming lately. In the spring/summer I was unable to finish my Coetail 4 because of a family emergency back in the States. I’ve been trying to finish up and today is the day I plan to finish my blog postings and project. It is interesting that Week 6 is about Learning with Laptops. I have been reading, thinking and trying to figure out various apps and uses of the laptops with my class. We have about 6-8 Netbooks, my “old” laptop and a projector in the classroom. We also have access to a laptop cart and 5 iPads. I have my own MacBook Pro and iPad. Before school began I purchased 2 new digital cameras for the classroom. We had 2 digital cameras that were more than 5 years old in the classroom. The old cameras work, but the one has to have the date and time put in each time the camera is turned on or it dates the photos as Jan. 1, 1980 when uploading to the computer. I feel blessed to have so much technology available but there are several questions. Where do I start with the students? How do I learn what is the best use of each device? When do I introduce which device and various apps?
I am very glad to have Grace Yamato as our Elementary Technology Facilitator who was able to input/create usernames and passwords for the various programs that we subscribe to. She was also willing to change some of the usernames and passwords so that students can use the same username and password with several of the programs and then she created a card for each of the students with all of the usernames and passwords. This was not just for my class but for all of the elementary classrooms. Our students have a login for the laptop computers, Typing Pal, Spelling City, Math IXL, Storybird, TumbleBooks and Oddizzi. Fortunately TumbleBooks and Oddizzi have a school wide username and login for the students. Typing Pal, Spelling City and Math IXL were able to use the same username and login but a problem came up when I tried to use the same username and login for Storybird. We didn’t want to use last names in the username although that is part of the username for the other sites and the passwords that IXL had generated weren’t always long enough for Storybird. Storybird passwords needed to be 6 or more characters and some were only 5. Grace went through and changed the ones that were only 5 to 6 characters. We used a shortened version of the student username and so there are less passwords and simpler usernames. I am always amazed at how easily most of the students remember their usernames and passwords. Last year they were not so simplified but most of the students eventually remembered them.
Even before the students had their logins for the computers we were able to begin using the Netbooks. Our school is basically a Mac school. Several years ago we purchased about 30 Netbooks, which were less expensive. They have been a thorn as well as a bright spot. One major frustration has been they will not connect to our server. Connecting to the wireless server has also been a frustration at times, but they will connect to one wireless server that we have in the elementary hallways. Unfortunately they disconnect at times and then try to reconnect to a different server that won’t work for them. When they are connected they are a great tool for any web based learning, for listening to reading, doing math IXL, internet research and Typing Pal. For the younger students especially Typing Pal works well since the keyboard is smaller and their fingers can more easily reach the keys. For word processing it becomes more complicated because they use a different program. But we are trying to be good stewards and use them in the classrooms for online programs. So we have a few in each classroom K-4. My class has been using them for IXL and listening to reading for about 2 weeks.
Last week I introduced the laptop cart computers to the students. We discussed computer use and began discussing computer safety. I used Common Sense Media. Having my “old” computer in the classroom with a special login for the 2nd grade class has been a great help. When I login to demonstrate on the projector, the students see the same screen they would see on their computer. When I used my computer, it was different since I have a different computer. After a brief introduction I had the students get a computer, login and go to Oddizzi where they could play a game. The computers were set up so the CAJ student pagecomes up and they could easily click on the Elementary web links to get to Oddizzi, so no url had to be typed in. It went very smoothly and all 21 students were able to login and play the game. From previous years experience I wanted to keep it simple so if there were glitches in logins were could solve those problems before attempting another goal.
This week, Grace came in as I was introducing Spelling City. It should have been easy to get to the link since the students had gone to Oddizzi last week, however, in the past week the tech team had upgraded the laptops to Lion and had not set the CAJ student page as the homepage. In fact, an explanation of how to scroll with Lion popped up that had to be closed before the the Apple homepage appeared. I was very pleased that most of the students were able to type in caj.or.jp and get to the home page. They were able to sign in to Spelling City and try various activities. I now have to spend some time figuring out the various activities and how to create and manage assignments. We have purchased a premium subscription which gives us a lot of options.
Back to my original questions: When do I introduce each device? The Netbooks, laptops and cameras have all been introduced and we are finishing our third full week of school. The cameras were introduced a week ago. Students have been setting up photos in groups to show our Student Objectives. I printed off most of the photos and asked the students to write a “script” about the photo. The photos and scripts have been combined to create a Voicethread. This is actually the 2nd voicethread we have been working on this year.
What is the best use and how do I introduce the apps? How do I best use the apps to increase student learning? These will be questions for future blog postings. We’re off and running. I was pleased to hear that when Grace was in the 3rd grade working with the laptops and the students had the same problem with not coming to the CAJ homepage they were able to type in ixl.com and go directly to the site. They used what they had learned last year to solve a problem.
Just for your information: Our laptops each have a name, our tech department gives them names instead of numbers so that they are easier to replace. When one needs to be replaced it gets a new name that begins with the same letter as the one it is replacing. I don’t really understand all the reasoning behind it, but I know the tech department likes it and says it makes it easier for them. So my “old” computer was JaeHung and my new one is JaeSuk. The computers are multicultural just like our student body. Each slot in the computer cart has a name tag and they are in alphabetical order so students can easily return them.