Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gifted Education 2.0 Check It Out!

This is a relatively new option for interacting with other gifted ed teachers and parents. Click on the icon and you'll end up on my page, but you can easily get to the home page from there. This and Classroom 2.0 developed at Ning.

(from Ning)

What is Ning?
Ning is a platform for creating your own social networks. Our passion is putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea. With Ning, your social network can be anything and for anyone.
You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it's public or private, add your brand logo if you have one, and enable the people on your network to create their own custom personal profile pages.

I Don't Like the Classics

This is an entry I posted at Gifted Education 2.0 in response to a discussion on books for novel studies. I really do like the classics---I just have a hard time slogging though them. I'm a contemporary kinda gal, I stick to contemporary themes in my adult reading, too.

I don't like the classics. Even though I'm smart, creative and an excellent teacher :) I'm not a scholar!! I've taught gifted for 22 years and got bored with curriculum available for gifted kids about three years ago. I decided to write all my own curriculum and added a literature component to my program. When I search for books I have two criteria in mind---1. none of my gifted readers have read the book and 2. the books get a "wow, this is the best book I've ever read" reaction from the kids. I've had good luck so far.

Here are some of the books we've used---some will be too young for your kids (middle school/high school) and I'll point that out.We started with Eragon by Christopher Paolini. The book isn't great but was written by a 15 year old ( my point was that if a 15 year old could write a best seller, you could too) --kids loved it and the sequel Eldest. We went as a group to see the movie last December.

We then read Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett. These are too young for your kids, but have a historical connection. I love the "daVinci Code" type books for kids---books with clues, intrigue and historical connection. I wrote curriculum for both these books and you can see a blog article about them here. Kids love Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. It's in the Steampunk genre, according to one of my sons. There is at least one sequel.

This spring we read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick which has the historical connection to invention of movies. It is a brilliant book, half of the 580 pages are illustrations but not in a typical format. The illustrations tell the story---like a graphic novel. The problem with this book is that everybody has to have a book---not a good read a loud. I did not write a curriculum for it but easily could have.I have several others I haven't used yet.

Endymoin Spring by Matthew Skelton has the history of books as it's back plot. The end is a little weak, but I'm going to use it eventually. I haven't read Valley of Secrets by Charmain Hussey yet--but plan to. It is wrapped up in the rain forest fauna and flora.

Another option is Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass. The movie is coming out in December. I've read the book but only used it in a small group. I did read an article by a concerned Catholic parent about the religious (or lack of religion) overtones in the second and third books. Any time I use a book I read it first and contact parents. I tell them to read it and if we have online discussions I ask them to join in on the discussion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another Fun Beginning of the Year Activity

Another activity I've used at the beginning of school uses the Elmer books. Elmer is a "different" elephant. I teach gifted kids, we talk about how everybody is different and I read the book to them. I traced Elmer and put a template on a shared drive. They d/l the template and open it in Paint. They design their own Elmers. It makes a great bulletin board.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wacky Summer Camp Brochure

I ran into a post at Pat's Blog about a beginning of school activity which reminded me of an activity we do every couple of years--the kids love it. It is called Wacky Summer Camp and students make a trifold brochure (Click on the activities link) for a camp that does not exist. I give them the following instructions and show them some "real" brochures that I print off the Internet. We've gotten some great brochures for camps that include: Picky Eaters Camp, Space Camp (in space), Obedience Camp (for kids), Whiners Camp, IM Camp, etc

You may copy and paste the following info into Word and print a document for the kids. Enjoy!!

Wacky and Unusual Summer Camp

Your assignment is to design a brochure for an unusual summer camp. The camp needs to be for someone (thing) under the age of 18. It can"t be a “real” camp, but needs to be a very special camp that you invent. It can be as wacky or unusual as you like but is must contain the following:

What is the name of the camp?
Does the camp have a slogan or nickname?
Does the camp have a logo?
Where is the camp located?
What kind of facilities does the camp have?
Who is eligible to go? Do you have to have special skills to go?
What kinds of activities can be done there?
How much does it cost? And how long are the sessions?
Are there testimonials from parents or kids who know about the camp?

Be sure to include clipart, photos or original artwork in your brochure. You can find copyright free clipart and photos at the following sites.

Freefoto.com http://www.freefoto.com/
Pics4Learning http://www.pics4learning.com/
Animal Image Collection http://netvet.wustl.edu/pix.htm
Pictures for Projects http://www.indianchild.com/pictures_4_projects.htm
The Amazing Picture Machine http://www.ncrtec.org/picture.htm
Oswago City School District Photo Archives http://www.oswego.org/staff/cchamber/photoa/
Awesome Clipart for Kids http://www.awesomeclipartforkids.com/
Kid’s Domain Clipart http://www.kidsdomain.com/clip/
Clipart for Kids http://www.thekidzpage.com/freeclipart.htm

Before you go to the computer lab you must have a “mock-up or prototype” of your brochure. You can use computer paper folded in thirds. Be sure to include a space for all artwork, also use the bottom back to put in a special designer logo and your name and class.

Your teacher will give you instructions on how to make a trifold brochure. Have fun!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Where Is All Your Stuff?

I've been asked for the URLs of projects/curriculum units etc over the last few weeks. I also sometimes want to share the sites with others, so I decided to list them all here so I can c/p them for a quick send. Here goes:

A Different Place This is a personal site, not affiliated with my school district. I started publishing it so I didn't have to worry about posting my workshops/curriculum units to the district site---intellectual property and all that.
Curriculum Links: Topic links related to curriculum and other skills
Primary Links: Good sites for K-3
Choose It!: Appropriate technology related activites for students to do after they are finished with grade level work or have technology, problem solving, or creativity as an IEP goal. (this page is under construction)

Broken Arrow Enhanced Learning Center official classroom site with student pics and work

A Really Different Place student/classroom blog
A Not So Different Place "gifted" blog
A Very Old Place primary source blog
Kids Review Books kid book review blog (coming soon)

Online Book Discussions Guest login username and password: baguest
Philosopher's Club (same Moodle username and password)

Titanic in the Classroom (see Biographical Sketches)

Curriculum Unit Websites
Inventors, Inventions, and Robotics (Fall 2008)
Titanic in the Classroom (spring 2008)
CSI:Cemetery Scene Investigation (winter/spring 2007)
Guardians of Freedom (2000-2001)
NE Kansas City Walking Tour (October 2007)

Classroom Curriculum
What Rhymes with Squirrel
Chasing Vermeer
The Wright Three
Exploring Leonardo DaVinci
Greek Mythology Virtual Fieldtrip
Mystery and Detection
Virtual Worlds
So You're Gifted---Now What?

The Wright 3 Wiki
Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
CSI Wiki
Weathering Wiki
Pirate Wiki

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

NECC 2007 Didn't Go!

I attended NECC for 7 years and presented at 5 of them. I was an excellent presenter and received "Best of NECC" several times. The people in my workshops always went home with tons of ideas to use in the classroom. I loved to go to sessions where people would show me stuff and I'd go "WOW". I got burned out with presenting and have not been to NECC for several years, even though I use all kinds of technology applications in the classroom. I always like to look at the NECC handouts to see what I've missed--I think I missed Web 2.0 all together in the last 2 years!!

I decided to take a look at blogs and wikis last fall and started using them in the classroom right away. I'm lucky--I teach in a full day gifted program so I don't have to worry about "teaching to the test" and other classroom distractions like kiddos who don't speak English. Along with using blogs and wikis I've started reading tons of blogs over the last 6 months and spent several hours in the last few days reading the follow up NECC 2007 blogs. That's the point of this rant.

All of the "famous" and not so famous educational technology bloggers raved about NECC 2007 and were thrilled with "Twitter", "Blogger Cafe", EdBloggerCon (?), etc. Several said they attended NO sessions and didn't visit the Exhibit Hall (what??). They raved about sitting around blogging f2f--it was oh so stimulating. I'm sure I would have been right there in the midst of all this chatting---but...

Isn't this preaching to the choir? It seems a lot of the educational/ technology blogging is all the same--discussing the same issues but not talking too much about kids and stuff to engage kids in learning. Web 2.0 is cool and has great gadgets and great potential but GET REAL. So much of it is fluff---and many of the gadgets will 1.) be gone in 6 months 2.) start charging a fee or 3.) will be blocked by your district.

We need to teach kids how to read well and do hard math and do real work in a real work environment. I retire in 3 years---somebody needs to figure this whole technology thing out and give teachers real ideas of how to do stuff and what works. Finished ranting.