Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Balanced Classroom + Twitter Challenge!

My friend Mrs. Bishop and I had an awesome opportunity to visit my Twitter pal Nikki Vradenburg in her K-1 classroom today.  She teaches at LaMotte School in Bozeman, which is a really lovely little school in a beautiful mountain setting.  They even have an ice skating rink, you guys!  So cool!
It was terrific to be able to spend the day with Mrs. V and her kiddos, watching how she seamlessly integrates technology into her teaching with a balance of no-tech and tech-rich activities.  I really love this particular example:
She is using Lucy Calkins' writing units, and the students are currently writing opinion pieces using collections of items they each brought from home.  Today, Mrs. V modeled how to line up their collections in order of how much they like each item, then use their iPads to take a picture and import to Explain Everything to make a screencast recording of which was their favorite and why (this could also be done using the drawing tool in Seesaw, if you're using Seesaw).  They then uploaded the Explain Everything videos to their Easy Blogs.

The students had writing portfolios where they had begun writing about the favorite piece of their collection, telling why.  After their draft was written, they typed their words into Easy Blog to accompany their videos.  A wonderful blend of digital and analog learning, creating and sharing!
A question I am asked OFTEN is whether or not my kindergartners still wrote on paper, in journals, notebooks, etc, or if they did all of their writing digitally.  The answer to that is ... OF COURSE they still wrote with traditional pen and paper.  I truly feel that it is a balance of activities that make a truly rich learning environment.  I really love this article from the Technology in Early Childhood blog. She speaks to the importance of utilizing developmentally appropriate practices and tools with young students.  I also love this blog post by Erin Flanagan about ways to use iPads in collaborative, creative ways that limit that "just sitting in front of a screen and swiping" time.

One last thing from Mrs. Vradenburg's room that I thought was so super cool!  She partnered with Jessica Anderson's class from Powell County High School, and one of Ms. Anderson's students created and built this sound booth for Mrs. V's students!  When they were ready to record their Explain Everything screencasts, they had the option of using the soundbooth to limit background noise and make their recordings easier to hear.
Mrs. Vradenburg had obviously set some good expectations for use of the room, taking turns, what to do while you're waiting, etc, and I didn't see any problems at all as they used it today.  Because each student was working independently on their writing project, they were all working at their own pace. This meant that not all of them were ready to record at the exact same time, and limited to the number of students trying to use it at once.  Super cool idea and what a great collaborative project with Ms. Anderson's class!

I met Nikki through #MTEdChat and have learned so much from her!  We also loved letting our students connect through Twitter and Kidblog last year.  The BPS Twitter Challenge is starting soon - this is an awesome time to learn about using Twitter as a professional learning tool, and develop a professional learning network of your own!  I absolutely LOVE using Twitter for classroom ideas and inspiration.  I hope you'll give the Twitter Challenge a try!  Sign up using the form below.  And remember, you can get OPI renewal units and step-up, if you fill out the proper paperwork.  Wahoo!

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