Friday, February 25, 2011

Blogging with Students: Internet Safety & Digital Citizenship

We have entered the Edublogs Challenge, and set up a class blog. I am so excited to be part of this 4th grade team-teaching experience!

Today, we are focusing on introducing the students to why we are setting up a class blog, digital citizenship, and Internet safety.

The purpose of this blog is to learn the art of writing and lessons of language arts through a real world experience with a real audience. Blogging is more than just reading and writing, it’s about respectfully conversing with others. Through this project, students will practice the responsibilities of digital citizenship and Internet safety.
We then discussed Cyber Citizenship and Internet Safety:
We are part of our physical community and our cyber community. What do we mean by that?

First, let's define "community." It's where we live, places we go, and people we interact with. It's also the group of people who participate in similar activities, play on teams, are members of clubs, or students at a school.

We also interact with people on the Internet that are interested in similar things.
In our physical community, we have written rules and expectations. Can you think of some of those?

In our cyber community, there are also written rules and expectations. What are some of those?

Rules keep us safe in our physical community as well as our cyber community. When we do a good job of following those rules, we are being good citizens.

Let's brainstorm a list of rules that would make us good citizens and keep us safe when in our community.

Did your brainstorm include these ideas?:
  • Ask permission to go somewhere first.
  • Don't talk to strangers.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Be polite and use good manners.
Do those same rules apply to our cyber community? Yes, they do.

If we follow those rules, does that make us good cyber citizens? As members of our cyber community, we are expected to be good cyber citizens, which is shown through our online behavior.

Let's create our own rules that reflect good cyber citizenship.

Directions: In small groups, create a list that reflects good cyber citizenship. Each group member should choose one of these roles:
  • Live Spokesperson: Shares back to the physical class your 5 most important rules for online behavior that would reflect good cyber citizenship.
  • Digital Spokesperson: Shares back to our cyber community your 5 most important rules for online behavior that would reflect good cyber citizenship.
  • Secretary: Writes down your brainstorm of ideas for important rules for online behavior that would reflect good cyber citizenship and safety.
  • Task Master: Help keep your group on task. A great task master will paraphrase (or restate) what someone else said, and then ask a question to continue thinking about what was said. (We'll go over examples of this in class.)
Lessons Learned
I realized that I needed a procedure for having the "Digital Spokesperson" place a comment. So, I created a "Comments" page.
After going through the procedures, I realized that I need to take the option to comment off the Comments Page because some students were commenting on the blog, while some were commenting on the page. After that was taken care of, everyone knew where to write their comments.
Insight Gained
The students worked diligently to edit and revise their comments. I heard dialogue about word choice as well as punctuation rules. It gave me a chance to teach using the space bar after punctuation, which is something that they hadn't learned before.
Of course, they learned extremely important Internet safety rules and expectations of digital citizenship. Today was a successful start!

This blog was inspired by iSafe Inc. and Edublogs Challenge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Remove the Navigation Bar from Blogger

I always thought of the "Next Blog" button more like a "Life is a Box of Chocolates" button, because if you click on it, you never know what blog you might get next!

I honestly didn't think anything of it until students started going to my blog, then it glared at me.

Thanks to the help of Linda Yollis, I learned how to exorcise it.

  1. From the Dashboard, edit the design. 
  2. Click "Edit HTML".
  3. Scroll 4/5 down towards the bottom of the template HTML code. Look for ]]></b:skin>
  4. Add this line of HTML:  
#navbar-iframe {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none} <== Add this line,
]]></b:skin> <== immediately above
</head> <== these 3 lines,
<body> <== that are already there. 

  • It's recommended that you backup your template before and after you make changes.
  • Tracy's shortcut is to copy all (CTRL A) the HTML and paste it into a document before making any changes.
  • Another shortcut is to take a screenshot before making changes, that way you know how to fix it.



Thank you, Mrs. Yollis, for teaching me how to do this!  I also thank my hubby for teaching me how to resize the pictures so it fits the screen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Touring TitanPad

The TitanPad wiki was introduced to me back in September by Nick Sauers during our One-to-One training. What I liked was the immediate setup with no accounts needed, the way it color-coded who wrote what, the easy viewing of the revision history, the options to place passwords on it, and the built in "back channel."

TitanPad Wiki used in our Reinventing PBL book study class
Process of Introducing

During our 4th class, we divided chapter 5 into sections (jigsawed it), and wrote down what what struck us about the section.

After modeling it as a class, we were able to divide and conquer the remaining chapters for our next class.

High School Teacher Tours TitanPad

After seeing how easy it was it implement, AJHS teacher, Sandy Rollefstad, chose to do this with her AP Biology kids. Her students had a great experience with this.

Here's the example of our "Chat" or built-in "Back Channel".
She said the first day there was discussion on the chat, but nothing more than what we as teachers have in our classes, and they still completed their assignment. On the second day, there was less discussion on the chat, and the same fabulous results.


I recommend creating an account with an easy name to type in. Otherwise, you are limited to 15 people typing at once and there is a maximum number of saves. With the account, you get more people, more saves, and more options.

Tots Tour TitanPad

Back in December, I had the wonderful pleasure of working with 2nd grade tots on their first tour of the TitanPad wiki.

The SMES 2nd grade team, Marcy Saggio, Meredith Hopaczylo, and Denise Cook, brainstormed ideas to help their students learn same sounds but different spellings, such as n in new, gn in gnat, or kn in know. They wanted to have students engaged in words and working together to help generate more ideas and examples.

Naturally, they wanted to use a wiki to do so, but wanted it open for families to work on when they were at home. Therefore, the team decided to use the TitanPad to do this because it was instantaneous collaboration without having to sign up ahead of time.

Since this was the students first time working on such a space, they enjoyed the task but also became upset if someone moved their work. So, we had a little learning curve because each time someone hit enter, it moved their work down a space... but the students thought their labor was erased because what was on "line 21" turned into a blank line instead of looking to "line 22".

I was glad we decided to introduce it in small groups. Once those lessons were learned, they were golden and loved being able to collaborate on the exact same assignment as the kids in the room next door.

This blog was inspired by the fabulous educators in AJUSD who continue to try new things to create learning-centered classrooms. Thank you for making a difference in our kiddos lives!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Powerful Rubrics for the 21st Century Learner

How do we make our rubrics less 20th Century and more 21st Century? 
Focus on the evidence of learning and less on the product or the performance. Easily said, difficult to do. In fact, building a powerful 21st Century rubric to assess learning is an art. If made improperly, it could hinder the learner.

Benefits of the Rubric
Rubrics define expectations, which should be introduced to the students (and parents) before learners start working on their projects.

20th Century Rubric Flaws
I will be the first to admit, I didn't know my rubrics were flawed. Here is an example of one of mine that I used for the "book report project" that was not PBL (if this seems out of context, you may want to visit "Projects are Not PBL").

Flaw #1:  Don't record grades as percentages by converting the number correct out of the total number of points. 

I'd take this rubric and would habitually convert
it straight over to a percentage grade. For example, if a student scored 3 out of 4 on all areas on our  Book Report Grading Rubric, I would convert  12 out of 16 points over to a 75%. 

Why is converting the score on the rubric straight over to a traditional percentage grade a flaw?
The flaw is there are 2 failing grades as options (boxes 1 and 2), a barely passing grade (3), then one great grade. So, mathematically speaking, the student is doomed unless he or she gets a perfect score on everything. 

Typically, there is only a 30% acceptable grade range (from 100% to 70%). This does not leave a margin for error. 

How can you fix the conversion flaw?
On a rubric, the acceptable grade range should be greater than 30%, and more like a bell curve with a 50% average. This can be done by setting the "1" as 50%; the "2" closer to 70%; the "3" closer to the "B" range; and the "4" closer to the "A" range. Does it sound familiar? It should, because it is comparable to the equivalents of a 4 point scale like that on a GPA (Arter, 2009).

Having a greater acceptable range, benefits the students rather than penalizes them during the learning process. Students gain feedback from their scores by quickly seeing their strengths and areas for improvement. 

Recommendation: Place this conversion on your rubric as the scoring key.

Flaw #2: The criteria doesn't match the conversion scale of learning. Instead, the criteria must have measurable descriptions aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy

Using Bloom's Taxonomy to Create Criteria
The best rubrics are those who have degrees of understanding and climb up the Bloom’s Taxonomy. One way to stagger the matrix using Bloom’s Taxonomy is to set the “4” section with a higher level on Bloom’s Taxonomy (creating, evaluating, and analyzing); a “3” set closer to the applying level; a “2” is closer to the understanding level; while a “1” is more at a remembering level. 

The key to defining those degrees of criteria is describing clearly in measurable ways the evidence of learning. 

Bottom LineA strong rubric will stagger the degrees of criteria based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and it will represent student learning more accurately with the 4.0 conversion scale

This post was inspired by the quote "Managing a Project requires a 21st-century set of skills…” (Reinventing PBL Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, p 75); the fabulous AJUSD teachers enrolled in our current Prospector University class; and Patrick Ledesma's articles on Choice 2.0

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Conversations of Collaboration Coaching

Collaboration Coaching is individualizing and adapting to the readiness of the person you are working with. There is a predictable progression of technology integration, and understanding this development of growth can help with creating short term and long term goals--which ultimately leads to the learning-centered classroom.

Technology Integration Progression: 
Key: 1 Beginning - 5 You've Arrived
  1. How much will you pay me to attend the training? 
  2. I might take a class, and I might use it to teach.
  3. I might let my kids use the technology in class, but I need to guide every step of the way, and I really need to know the program before I can. I will use it to teach.
  4. I will use technology for teaching and learning. I will allow the students to create products for learning, but I still limit what technologies they can use.
  5. I will use technology for teaching and learning. Students will learn through creating products or project-based learning with whatever technology is accessible to them. I am comfortable learning with and from the students.
Figuring out their Readiness Level for Technology Integration
It's coaching skills 101. Listen to them. Paraphrase what they are saying to make sure you understand, and to show you are listening. Then, ask questions to think about what the next step(s) could be. Finally, set up a plan for what to do next time you meet.

Here's an example of a collaboration coaching conversation:

This post was inspired by Peer Ed; Laurie Dias' article, “Integrating Technology: Some Things You Should Know” (Learning and Leading with Technology); and current discussions in the ISTE Community Ning.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Projects are not Project-Based Learning

A project may look appealing, but is it project-based learning? My answer to that without hesitation is no.

The focus of a project is the product, while the focus of project-based learning is the learning that occurs through the development of the project.

If that just sounds like pitter-patter, then let's just focus on the quality of the project or project-based learning.  How do I evaluate the project's caliber?

PhotoPainter with Bloom's Taxonomy
Here are the three questions I use to scrutinize the quality of the project:
  1. Does it qualify as one of the top three levels of Bloom's Taxonomy?
  2. Is there variety in project outcome due to student choice and critical reasoning?
  3. Does the assessment measure the learning?

It's rigorous when it is focused on higher level thinking from Bloom's Taxonomy. How do you know? There is diversity in the product, and it's not something that can be looked up online or read in a book.

A project that takes a long time to complete does not make it rigorous. Creating a model of a castle is a beautiful thing, but models typically fall between the understanding and applying lower-levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

If that's the case, the time shouldn't be spent making it. Instead, teach it through direct instruction, look it up online or in a book, and then move on. Or, restructure it at a higher level of Bloom's Taxonomy.


PBL should be open ended with more than one type of product. However, having a choice board of different projects is not what I'm referring to here. That might be good differentiated instruction, but that does not make it PBL.

Even if there are a lot of steps and instructions written down, the final products the students create should be diverse.

Variety with Technology

Having students create presentations does not make it PBL. Taking the traditional research report and adding in technology to create a digital presentation does not change what it is -- it's just a fancy research report.

Note: I create lessons that are described above, where we engage in a web activity and then students create presentations. I create these as a bridge from traditional teaching to student centered learning. It should not be mistaken for PBL, because it is a traditional lesson with technology layered on top.

The goal when using technology in PBL is to connect beyond the four classroom walls, which wouldn't have been possible otherwise (such as connecting with primary sources, video conferencing, wikis, podcasts, blogs, etc.). It's also important to provide students with the freedom to choose the product and the tools to create it. 


The assessment should be made ahead of time, and should focus on  measuring the learning outcomes rather than the product fanciness or the presentation itself. I will comment on this point more in another post.

Common Misunderstanding with Thematic Units and PBL

iDoodle2lite art
Sometimes PBL and thematic instruction get confused. There are quality thematic units which promote learning connections that normally wouldn't be made unless taught thematically; but thematic learning is not the same as project-based learning, nor vice versa.

Having hearts on everything in February is cute, but it's not project-based learning. It's just a Valentine's theme, even if they create art work with hearts and write Valentine's stories. Some thematic units are extremely thought provoking, such as caring, generosity, fairness, or equality, and could easily be turned into PBL.


Quality project-based learning focuses on higher levels of thinking from Bloom's Taxonomy; problem solving and/or critical thinking; quality learning outcomes, and assessment that matches the learning objective. Through reflection and planning, you can always improve the project, thematic unit, or techy traditional lesson, and transform it into quality project-based learning. So grab a colleague or a group of learners to bounce ideas around, and rework those old lessons/projects/themes into quality PBL.

This post was inspired by Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age (pages 60-62); Patrick Ledesma's articles on Choice 2.0; a conversation with FPES Principal, Brenda Farris; and the educators in AJUSD who are learning more about PBL.