Tuesday, May 28, 2013

5th Graders Enjoy Interactive Writing on KidBlog

For the second year, fifth grade students in Mrs. Sue Hooge's classes at Independence Elementary School have had the opportunity to share their writing projects online using the free website KidBlog. Mrs. Hooge setup three different KidBlog sites for the 5th grade writing students she taught last year in her homeroom, Mrs. Cromwell's class, and Mrs. Burgess' class. Here are some of the comments 5th graders wrote at the end of the year about their experiences with interactive writing and KidBlog.

This year, I thought it was exciting to use Kidblog. I thought it helped me a little because it helped me learn to blog if someday I wanted to blog on something else. It also helped me because it has spell check and it helped me learn how to spell and remember the words that I type. It was also a little fun because I could blog at home about what I did during the weekend or during spring break. Also, at the beginning of the year, we got to do our first blog about the book that we read from the library so it was kind of new to me when it first introduced to me. I really liked Kidblog and I thought it was very fun to experience it.
To access their class' Kidblog website from home, in the school computer lab, in the classroom, or anywhere else, students learned to visit www.yukonps.com and click the top tab for OUR STAFF. Then students (and other web visitors) can click INTERACTIVE TEACHER SITES in the right sidebar of the page. That page lists links to individual teacher KidBlog sites and other interactive media sites, like YouTube and AudioBoo channels.

In reflecting about her experiences with KidBlog, Ashlee wrote:
I think kid blog is like Facebook but much safer and better for kids! It is really fun to type stories, advice, or just because you want to tell kids about something you did. I also like to comment on people’s post to tell them what I liked about it or tell them if they misspelled a word or something like that. It is great to see what other people are doing or to see how their stories are different from yours! I had a fantastic experience with kid blog and I hope you did too!
It is not only important for our students to learn to practice good digital citizenship and the responsibility which comes with access to digital resources online, it's also required by the new Common Core State Standards. Students are required to both read and write with different kinds media, and using digital text on a classroom site like KidBlog is an excellent way to practice these skills.

Not all the 5th grade students were excited to use a public, interactive website for writing, however. Landon wrote:
I don’t really like Kid Blog that much but it was kind of fun. I’m not really in to the websites where you type things and people comment on your opinion.
It's true not all students are fond of writing or enthusiastic about writing in a public forum where other people can see their work. Since we live in a world increasingly filled with digital information, however, it's more important than ever that we help students learn to wisely and responsibly navigate the choices which face them when it comes to writing and sharing ideas online. It's important to note Mrs. Hooge MODERATED all the posts and comments which students and others submitted to their Kidblog sites during the year. This ability for the teacher to filter and approve posts before they are seen by other students as well as the public is critical, and helped Mrs. Hooge facilitate positive writing experiences for her students online this year.

While blogging in class wasn't the highlight of the year for every student, it definitely was for some in YPS. Natalie, a student at Lakeview Elementary School, joined the after-school club "Storychasers" last semester. In a recent post on the LES Storychasers site, she wrote:
My half year in story chasers has been the best thing of the whole year. It was great if you are in 4th grade and you are not in story chasers you sure try as hard as you possibly can no matter if you don’t want to be a journalist. My favorite thing in story chasers was when we first started and the things we learned. We learned how to do audio boo, articles, and how to do a lot of things.
 It's wonderful to see teachers and students in YPS embracing digital writing and the opportunities it affords for students to both develop their literacy skills as well as meet Common Core State Standards. Check out more YPS student work on the Interactive Teacher Websites page.

Poems with Prezi

Seventh grade students of Mrs. Ricki Robertson at Yukon Middle School used the website Prezi last semester to create interactive presentations for poems they created for class. Here are five examples Way to go Mrs. Robertson and 7th (now 8th) grade YMS students!

Steve Jobs by Judy

Lincoln Poem by Brandon

Jesus Christ by Summer

Martin Luther King Jr by Joey

Abraham Lincoln by Austin

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why Your School Needs a Scratch Club [VIDEO]

This past year, fourth and fifth grade students at Independence Elementary School in Yukon, Oklahoma, have had the opportunity to participate in an after-school Scratch Club led by STEM teacher Chris Simon. Scratch is a free program from the MIT Media Lab, which permits learners of any age to create games, tell stories, make animations, and much more. In its new 2.0 version, Scratch is entirely web-based, so it can even run on a Chromebook! Yesterday was the final day of "Scratch Club" for students at Independence Elementary this year, and several students shared the reasons why they enjoy Scratch and have loved the Scratch Club. In this five minute video compilation of their ideas, pay attention to how several students mention the importance of "agency" and choice. Many report how they love the opportunity to be self-directed in their learning and to have opportunities to use their imaginations to create. Also notice the way one student references the "hard fun" of programming, which is something Gary Stager talks about often in the context of students learning to code.


Many thanks to Chris Simon as well as Cecil Bowles, the principal of Independence Elementary, for supporting this Scratch Club experience for fourth and fifth grade students. All students at IES were introduced to the Scratch program in the fall, and many chose to attend the Spring Break "Scratch Camp" Chris Simon helped facilitate in March. Scratch Club, however, has provided weekly opportunities for students to not only "go deeper" with their knowledge of programming in Scratch. Perhaps more importantly, Scratch Club has provided a space for students to be encouraged and recognized for their "geek skills" in creating programs, making videos and telling stories with computers. It will be exciting to see where these students choose to apply these skills in the years ahead!

Check out Code.org for more information about getting an after-school computer programming club like the IES Scratch Club going at your school!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Using Student Videos on YouTube to Demonstrate Proper School Procedures

Jennie Wilmes, the K-3 librarian at Shedeck Elementary School, has been working with teachers this semester on a new "digital way" to help students learn proper procedures at school. Using some very talented student actors, Mrs. Wilmes created and published six short videos to her Library YouTube channel which showcase proper procedures for using the bathroom, walking in the hallway, attending the morning "sunrise" assembly, eating in the cafeteria, staying safe on the playground, and checking out books from the library. Mrs. Wilmes collected all six videos in a single YouTube playlist, so teachers at Shedeck (as well as parents and students, with assistance) can access these terrific videos. They range in duration from 37 seconds to 1 minute and 57 seconds each. Mrs. Wilmes recorded, edited and published these videos to YouTube using an iPad and the iPad app, iMovie. Gayla Pounds, the literacy coach at Shedeck, also assisted with the video recording. Check out these super videos featuring Shedeck students!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Developing Communication Skills With YouTube & iPad Videos

Ginger Gregory is the Gifted Resource Teacher at Lakeview Elementary School in Yukon, and currently has 117 videos on her classroom YouTube channel. Ginger has used the six iPads in her classroom and her free, district-provided YouTube channel (since our district participates in the Google Apps for Education program) to help her students develop oral communication skills, oral fluency, as well as digital literacy skills this semester. In the following six minute video, Mrs. Gregory and eight of her students explain what they have learned as a result of their assignments this year using iPad videos and YouTube.


It's exciting to hear about these positive ways Lakeview students and teachers are not only meeting the new Common Core State Standards, which include requirements for students to both use and create information in multimedia formats, but also how students are having opportunities to discuss and practice the responsible use of digital media tools like YouTube. Mrs. Gregory is doing a great job finding ways to not only engage students through technology, but also prepare students to make good choices with technology tools. This "digital literacy" training and practice is more important than ever in our hyper-connected world. Way to go, Mrs. Gregory and Lakeview Elementary students!

While Yukon Schools also participates in the free "YouTube for Schools" filtering program which limits student access at school to only "approved" YouTube videos, it's very important to prepare students to make good digital choices when they access the Internet OFF the school network. This happens regularly when students use cell phones with data plans or go online at home or other places where Internet content is not filtered.

As of April 30, 2013, teachers and staff in Yukon Public Schools had created 24 different YouTube channels. YPS has over 500 certified teachers, but most do not yet have YouTube channels. YPS teachers were first able to create district-administered YouTube channels a year ago, in the spring of 2012. Teachers like Mrs. Gregory who are exploring the use of YouTube for educational purposes are blazing an important trail as digital learning pioneers for other educators around our district, throughout Oklahoma, and around the world.

If you're interested in seeing other creative ways Yukon teachers are using YouTube to share student work and "flip their classrooms," check out the channels of high school trigonometry teacher Jim Drummond (25 videos, math problem tutorials), 7th grade geography teacher Phillip Ward (42 videos, student "paper-slide video" reports about Africa), 6th grade social studies teacher Kayleen Browning (6 videos, student skits about ancient Rome), and professional development coordinator Adam Zodrow (7 videos: screencasts about Common Core, TLE and more). If you're interested in creating a free YouTube channel, check out these instructions on the YPS Instructional FAQs site.

Many thanks to Jake Heister, who taught a wonderful professional development workshop earlier this semester at Canadian Valley Technology Center about instructional uses of YouTube, which Mrs. Gregory attended.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

3rd Graders Research Animals with 4 iPads, AudioBoo and PebbleGo

This spring semester, 3rd grade students at Shedeck Elementary School in Yukon, Oklahoma, worked with their librarian, Jeannie Wilmes, to conduct "blended research" about different kinds of animals. Their research was "blended" because students used both library books as well as electronic resources like the PebbleGo website and database. Mrs. Wilmes worked with students twice a week for two weeks in this project, which culminated in students audio recording their research using the free iPad app AudioBoo. Students were then able to share their recordings with classmates and with parents online. In this five minute interview video, Mrs. Wilmes and some of the Shedeck third graders describe their project, what they enjoyed and some of their lessons learned.


Check out more of the students' recordings on the AudioBoo channels for Mrs. Doran's class, Mrs. Filyukova's class, and Mrs. Forga's class. It's wonderful to see and hear the great work that Mrs. Wilmes is able to do with students as a full-time library media specialist. Way to go Shedeck students and educators!


Do you know about mudpuppies, which are sometimes called water dogs? If not, you better check out Cynthia's report!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 Yukon Teacher of the Year Videos

The Teacher of the Year Program in Yukon Public Schools highlights outstanding teachers on each of our eleven campuses. In advance of last week's Teacher of the Year banquet, when Shannon Dutton was awarded the 2013 YPS District Teacher of the Year award, students as well as teachers across the district were interviewed about their campus teacher of the year. These videos were shared during the Teacher of the Year banquet, and are now available publicly on our YPS Storychasers YouTube channel. Please take some time to watch these videos and hear from our students and staff about many of the reasons these YPS teachers are outstanding! These eleven videos are also available in a YouTube playlist.

Direct links to the videos are:

  1. Shannon Dutton: 2013 Myers Elementary Teacher of the Year
  2. Stephanie Aitken: 2013 Yukon Middle School Teacher of the Year
  3. Amy Walters: 2013 Skyview Elementary School Teacher of the Year
  4. Suni Williamson: 2013 Yukon High School Teacher of the Year
  5. Megan Smith: 2013 Parkland Elementary Teacher of the Year
  6. Barbi York: 2013 Lakeview Elementary Teacher of the Year
  7. Renae McGregor: 2013 Ranchwood Elementary Teacher of the Year
  8. Marty Long: 2013 Shedeck Elementary Teacher of the Year
  9. Jennifer Burgess: 2013 Independence Elementary Teacher of the Year
  10. Tracy Rogers: 2013 Central Elementary Teacher of the Year
  11. Blake Lower: 2013 Surrey Hills Elementary Teacher of the Year

Monday, February 25, 2013

5th Graders Create eBooks on Idioms

5th graders in Sue Hooge's writing classes at Independence Elementary School were recently inspired by students in Indonesia to create their own "enhanced eBooks." Students read and discussed the eBook "Our Batak House," created and published in January 2013 by elementary students taught by Jane Ross in Indonesia as part of her classroom "Digital Backpack" project.

In addition to text and photos, an "enhanced eBook" can include recorded audio. After completing a language arts study on idioms, Mrs. Hooge and YPS instructional coach Wes Fryer taught IES 5th grade students how to use the iPad app "Book Creator" to include both photos and recorded audio in an eBook. Students decided to create their own "class eBooks" about idioms, and used "Our Batak House" as an inspirational model. Each class included "About the Author" or "Behind the Scenes" pages at the end of their book, to provided more information and context for readers who might be anywhere in the world!

If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, click the links below to download the "enhanced ePUB" eBooks created by Mrs. Hooge's writing students and enjoy their digital creations!

The Idiom Book (Mrs. Hooge's Class)
Amazing Idioms (Mrs. Cromwell's Class)
Idioms (Mrs. Burgess' Class)

Wes Fryer recorded a five minute video for Alan Levine's project, "True Stories of Open Sharing," telling the story of how 5th graders in Sue Hooge's class came to be inspired by Indonesian student eBook authors. The title of that video is, "Open Sharing Leads to eBook Inspiration: Indonesia to Minnesota to Oklahoma."


Way to go Mrs. Hooge and 5th grade students at IES for creating these enhanced eBooks! It's exciting to see the wonderful ways our Yukon teachers are helping students develop their literacy skills! It's also very timely to see this great example of how positive open sharing and use of social media tools can be for student learning, since the international "Open Education Week" is coming up March 11-15, 2013!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Scratch Club?

This Spring 2013 semester, twenty-four 4th and 5th grade students are participating in "Scratch Club" after school at Independence Elementary. STEM teacher Chris Simon is sponsoring the club, which students were invited to apply for in December. See the previous post, "Yukon Students Learning Computer Programming with Scratch," for more information about FREE Scratch programming software, how Scratch complements the STEM program at Independence and in Yukon Public Schools, and how ALL students at IES were introduced to Scratch this past fall semester. Today Mr. Simon, four IES Scratch Club students, and principal Cecil Bowles spoke briefly about why the Scratch Club has been started and what they are each looking forward to with Scratch Club. The video of their ideas ("Why Scratch Club?") is 2.5 minutes long. Please check it out!


Learn more about the IES Scratch Club on scratchclub.yukonps.com. Check out Mason's Scratch project, "About Me" on the Scratch community website.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yukon Students Learning Computer Programming with Scratch

The December 12, 2012, issue of the Yukon Review featured an article on page 11 about students taking STEM classes with Chris Simon at Independence Elementary School. STEM is an acronym for "Science, Technology, Engineering and Math." The article was titled, "'Scratch' teaches students computer programming: Unique learning environment challenges Independence Elementary School fourth and fifth graders." Here's the text of the article.
Fourth and fifth grade students at Independence Elementary School recently got an introduction to computer game programming and animation. The class was co-taught by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teacher Chris Simon and Yukon Public Schools' Common Core instructional coach Wes Fryer using the Scratch programming platform.

"At the beginning of the year I asked the kids if they were interested in computer programming, and a few raised their hands," Simon said. "When I mentioned their video games were developed by computer programmers, they all raised their hands. This program is a fun way to foster that interest and not be overwhelmed by the actual complex language used in programming."

"For example, younger children can create projects very easily and then they're blown away when I tell them college students use Scratch in some introductory computer science classes, including Harvard's introductory computer class. Projects can be very basic, or highly complex. It's entirely dependent on their interest and imagination."

Scratch is a programming language learning environment enabling beginners to get results without having to learn syntactically correct writing first.

Created by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab, it is intended to motivate further learning through playfully experimenting and [the] creation of projects, such as interactive animations, games, etc. Scratch is used in many different settings: schools, museums, community centers, and homes.

Best of all, it is free to anyone who wants to use it. It runs on both Windows and Apple computers. You can download Scratch at: scratch.mit.edu.

Fryer was introduced to Scratch several years ago and led several "Scratch Camps" in Oklahoma City last summer for students as well as teachers.

"One of the creators of Scratch, Mitch Resnick," describes it as having a 'high bar, but low ceiling," Fryer said. "This means it's easy for even young kids to get started creating projects in Scratch, but the sky's the limit with what they can potentially make. It's really an awesome platform for creativity, building communication skills, and developing computational thinking. We know all of these skills are important for our students in the new era of Common Core."

"YPS is extremely fortunate to have a fulltime STEM program for fourth and fifth graders. My hat is off to Chris Simon for jumping in and introducing IES students to Scratch. Who can say the exciting places these skills will take our Yukon students in the months and years ahead? We're living in a digital world, and these kids are learning to think critically as well as communicate effectively in the digital landscape."

Chris Simon is starting an after-school "Scratch Club" for 4th and 5th graders at IES in Spring 2013, which will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school starting January 10th. The website scratchclub.yukonps.com showcases student Scratch projects and shares more information about the club. IES students were invited to apply for Scratch Club in December, and Mr. Simon is starting with 24 students. Both Mr. Simon and Dr. Fryer hope the enthusiasm for Scratch and computer programming will grow not only in Yukon but across the state of Oklahoma!