Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Our Daily Apples....

Hi all...

Just wanted to blog and say how much, like others before me, I enjoyed seeing all the digital stories last night. It was a bit like "raiding the apple barrel"! I got to take a small bite out of each, or rather I got a small glimpse into the hearts and minds of each of my cohorts.

I was touched, moved, excited, scared, entranced, enthralled, enjoyed, and all that jazz that all of us felt as a collective whole seeing each others stories. I felt like I got to know many of you better seeing them and have a whole new understanding and appreciation for each of you. I feel a lot closer to the group now. So, thanks for sharing! There wasn't one I didn't enjoy watching...they were all so unique and insightful into each of you. Believe me, some of you really took aim and hit the mark!

Let me see if I can recall each apple in the barrel: Stacy with her Inauguration adventure, Susan with her account of her mother, imagery of gardens and peaceful places and how her mother impacted her growth and the growth of her children (loved the picture of the sky and the tree), Lillian and her steps on her life's journey (Wow! powerful imagery), Penny and her son's yearning for his father's return to sword fight (sooooon! pretty red dress, Penny!), Becca's beautiful account of her great grandmother, the farm, and her beautiful singing in the background (want my CD!), Patience and her poignant account of her two brothers - how brave and inspiring (brothers are great!), Maryann and her puppy love of Sam's little life (aahh, to be a puppy and nap), Tracy and her wonderful and inspirational family (they're keepers :-), Toni and her journey through life's passages inspired by Kenny her brother and her husband (Toni, you rock!), Chrisann's passages from Arkansas to DHS to marriage and carriage (soon! - loved the music!), Aisha's witty and lovely homage to Pakistan (food - yummm), Glenn and his elementary school and his powder puff girl! (you will teach the world, Glen!), Jenifer's inspiring connections to her "home by the sea" and beautiful grandmother! (you ARE a DIVA), Rachel and her wonderful story of her grandfather (cute baby photos and I can't believe he never missed a birthday! :-), Wendy's fabulous sports montage of her kids and their narration (how many photos? It was truly awesome - your kids will always have that), Melissa's jazzy and clever African dream vacation (great idea for the classroom! Great idea!), and I seemed to have missed Nicole's and Amy's (how did that happen? ). I am missing someone....oh, yes, me!
See! I have a memory like an elephant :) Even when I forget!

I can definitely see how to make some interesting activities and lessons using the digital stories now, after seeing all of yours! But, I'm really glad that Amie let us do anything we wanted to get used to the process of making them. I will try and list some ideas for teaching digital stories on the Wiki this week.

BTW - I think Amie Rocks! What a great teacher!

So, the digital story was really a highlight assignment of this semester...I wish we could make another...maybe we will for the Social Studies tech class next Fall.

See you in the Apple Barrel!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Taking Aim for Fantasy

I've enjoyed this class a lot over the past several weeks. Learning about blogs, Wikis, and digital stories gives so much to think about with regard to the classroom of elementary students I'll be teaching in the near future.

Personally, I hope so much to have an upper level elementary grade, because I enjoy literature so much. I love reading and writing -- always did. There are so many genres to read and relish. I can't wait to teach them!

I have this idea about the genres, stories, and books that I will enjoy sharing with my students. But, after observing students during the course of the past year in my field classrooms, I realize that they share a different knowledge about books. The books students are enjoying now have often replaced the ones I would have thought to find. I see some of the ones that are, of course, Caldecott and Newberry prize winners, but overall, the majority of books are new territory. With time, I'll read them and acquire them, according to the grade level I end up teaching.

The good news, is that so many good ones survive the test of time, especially ones from the genre of Fantasy. Take C.S. Lewis for example. His Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian have been made into movies. Now, this reading is tough for even the oldest and best of readers. What intrigues me is the story content. Most of the children now love these stories within his writings, and they want to read the books after seeing the movie. But, the text style and vocabulary is so complex that elementary level students would have to have a different version, most probably - one more simply written.

Now, another author that I love is J.R. Tolkien who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (see image of the character Legolas played by Orlando Bloom, above). Many of you have seen one of two of the recent movies, at least if not all. Two things, the content is complex and so is the reading...but, my instinct tells me that once again, children LOVE these stories! Why? Because they are filled with wonder and excitement and adventure! It was my cup of tea when I was younger reading the books from cover to cover, and I just smile from ear to ear getting to see them so wonderfully made into moving pictures that capture the imagery of the author's thoughts. I am able to really see what was in both Tolkien and Lewis' minds when I see both the Narnia and Lord of the Rings movies. I have to ask if there will ever be such great imaginings between two contemporaries as these? Can someone please tell me? I'd love to indulge my appetite further, but I've read all they've written and I'm now at a loss, and sigh....

Anyway, I think it would be a wonderful fifth and sixth unit to have the students take such fantasy works as these and to create a reader's theater and writers workshop which would cover a myriad of VA SOLS in both reading and writing. This genre of fantasy would really be something I could sink my teeth into -- or my arrows! Wouldn't it be something for Hollywood to come out with a cutting edge movie about William Tell, and the kids go wild over it, -- dude! BTW - did you see the recent movie King Arthur starring Clive Owen and the character/"archeress", Guinevere? Wow! Yes, it might be a bit unsuitable for younger audiences where violence is concerned - war is never pretty...but I remember my parents taking me to WWII and Clint Eastwood western films all the time. I saw a lot of classic films during the sixties, and later went on to read the books.

Now, these old books turned into movies are the resurrected classics made state of the art with new and fabulous digital technologies, and I hope to see many, many more take my breath away like these have done in theaters recently....and even then, there are many new books, such as Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux that has capturing the hearts of young readers. And, other examples are The Bridge To Teribithea, Harry Potter Series, Spiderwick, Inkheart, etc... The genre of fantasy is wonderful, and if a child's (or an adult's) love of reading is to be "sparked" -- I think that this is the one genre not to miss when taking aim.

I will put these books in my classroom, even if they are abridged. Hopefully, my readers will find them challenging but will possess the skills to master the reading of them as written and intended and will enjoy them -- if I'm lucky enough to have 10-12 year old students to teach. I want to set them on fire with my aim to teach them how wonderful it is to read, and learn.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Targeting Literacy Skills with Digital Storytelling, and More!

The article by Robin, The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, seeks to inform us about what it is, the types, effective uses for teachers and students, types of student literacy, literacy skills gained from the creation and presentation of digital stories, challenges, considerations, and impact research.

While I found the article useful to begin understanding the nature of digital stories, it caused me to begin a deeper search into the impact on our classrooms, with their facilitation as teachers, and into the educational system as a whole. I am just beginning to realize the current situation or revolutionary transformation that I think all new and old teachers need to be aware of with regard to technology and teaching literacy skills; and that is that if we are going to really (and I mean REALLY) target the cutting edge, essential art of teaching literacy at present, we need to become technologically "literate" and understand why it is not only inevitable, but critical. There's no more room for "old school" strategies and technologies.

"Our students' brains have physically changed - and are different from ours - as a result of how they grew up", states Marc Prensky in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Just to grab your attention a bit more, he quotes Dr. Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine, "Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures." To read the article in its entirety, and it is WELL worth the 6 pages, click here. He is, well -- right on. I haven't read anything so precisely salient, and true like this, that has ever given me this kind of pause to stop and think while attending GMU and learning to become a teacher. This is absolutely blind-siding truth coming at me like a tsunami of Titanic proportion. Children think and learn differently than we did, and we need to rise to the occasion to meet their needs. Problem is, it's hard for us to do this. Our own schemas need to be rearranged and overhauled drastically, and in the process, it will be them teaching us. Our students are faster and better these days.

It's more than this. They're bored with the same old strategies that don't fit within their new advanced schemas of learning. Their new learning styles are different -- as Prensky points out, they're "foreign" to us. But, it is we as older, advanced learners, thinkers, and teachers that are the "immigrants" in a land that in which they are "native".

Prensky continues to assert that the new students of today are called "Digital Natives" and that those of us having to relearn new technologies to keep up and to implement in our classrooms are called "Digital Immigrants" because we still have our feet "in the past". He claims that "our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language ( that of pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language."

Prensky continues to talk about methodology, content instruction in terms of "legacy" and "future". He presents an example to do with CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs. I am quite familiar with this because I was once a CAD operator while working as an architect in a variety of architectural firms. My skills are virtually obsolete now as I have not used CAD for some 10 years now, and the software has transformed at least through 2-3 newer versions. The point is that software makers realized )with people such as myself) that they would have to invent the tutorials as "edugames" or "edutainment" in order to teach the "older dogs" the "new tricks"...and this is much how it is with our present day education system and teaching students. It is cutting edge. Technologies advance much more rapidly than us, as teachers, can keep up with them. The article even ventures to inform us that it will be our students teaching us, in the end, how to best teach them. Shouldn't we be listening to how things are changing in how to teach this new generation of digital learners?

It is imperative and essential that we learn to do all the things that Amie and George Mason University Department of Education and .....are striving to expose us to. It's our obligation to be good teachers to learn how to not only do blogs, wikis, and digital stories, but to do them well, and then learn other strategies, like using cellphones, ipods, podcasting, etc...Here's a really neat video on YouTube that I think is worth the 7.5 minutes. (As it states, just ignore the dramatic music, and watch it for the text...) I found the Prensky article and others from watching it. Click here.

Finally, with regard to multiple intelligences and styles of learning that Robin refers to in his article, I was most struck by his assertion (like others that have commented in their blogs) that the "use of multimedia in teaching helps students retain new information as well as aids in the comprehension of difficult material". I have often thought that as my young 3-4 year old daughter "took-off" as a rumbling 747 jumbo jet-liner into the skies of using the computer and mastering each new computer program, and as I sat back in "shock and awe", that perhaps this would damage her abilities when she entered a mainstream classroom. Now, after reading Robin, Prensky, re-thinking the old school theorist, Gardner, and after learning how to blog and wiki (not to mention i-tunes and learning to download music into my daughter's ipod and my new nano), I think, "why are we still resisting new methodologies with current technologies and teaching our youngsters like dinosaurs???? Why are we not abandoning the old strategies for the new?" We need to step into their world to teach them the way they are motivated and engaged in learning. No wonder we have such a high number of ADD children that can't learn traditionally, but CAN learn with cutting edge technologies such as blogs, wikis, and digital stories. Perhaps research suggests that new teaching strategies with newer technologies will eradicate problems associated with learning disabilities and language differences in the classroom.

Finally, Bernajean Porter author of DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories (http://www.digitales.com/), in her article Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum: Finding Content's Deeper Meaning lists the following under "Building 21st-Century Skills" (in contrast to Robin's skill set):

1. Creativity and inventive thinking
2. Multiple intelligences
3. Higher-order thinking (lessons learned)
4. Information literacy
5. Visual literacy
6. Sound literacy
7. Technical literacy
8. Effective communication (oral, written, and digital)
9. Teamwork and collaboration
10. Project management
11. Enduring understandings

Click here -- if you want to read her article. It's a worthwhile read as well, and she quotes Roger Shanks (brain researcher) saying, "storytelling provides a memory structure and depth of context that engages learners in a sense-making of facts." Porter lists four ideas for types of communication that connect storytelling with curriculum:

1. Myths, legends, and tall tales
2. Docudramas
3. Describe and conclude
4. Advertising or Public Service Announcements

Of course, these are just a few headings, but the ideas within these headings are really cool!

So, to conclude, I think it might be really worthwhile in our class Wiki, or in our own Teachers' notebooks from Dr. Malloy's class to take more seriously the ideas that we generate in following SOLs and in coming up with ways to use the technologies in the classroom.

Digital stories shouldn't be used as just as a hook or anticipatory set. We will fall short if we think only this far. The stories should also be seen as part of the process; as the steps, perhaps in the unit or as the unit, to arrive at the attainment of the achievement goals and frameworks set forth for the overall development of skill sets.

Thanks for reading! - Jill

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wikiteers - All For One and One For All!

Hi Wikiteers,

I really enjoyed reading the article on Wikis, and as I read I began to think about the concept of the Wiki not being for just one person, but for all. I admit the image of the Three Musketeers with raised swords came to mind. Such is the world of a Wiki where all can write and all can edit. And, one can learn much, don't forget.

The part I liked the best was the use of the term collaborative. But, when knowledge is spoken of, and I agree with Maryann that using the word truth is a bit of a stretch (who can arbitrate the definition of "truth?), it is the term "collective spirit" that the author missed. So let me introduce or resurrect the term here. Perhaps, it is the "spirit" of the enterprise of critiquing, writing, publishing, and re-critiquing as a collective of wikiteers that defines the essence of a wiki. Now, I wonder, can wikis be archived for 500 years for future generations to ponder and learn from, and what will the Library of Congress do? I ask this as one with a drawn and publicized artifact sitting in the dusty archives of the Library of Congress. It is (my created artifact) is tangible, but this Wiki stuff, is not.

What I'm trying to say is that things are moving so fast that the notion of
authorship with Wikis is eroding. As stated, there's no claim to its journalism or credit for its participants. It advocates the lack of a need for authenticated publication, and I wonder what this is going to do to our library system? It's a first step in truly "doing away" with books with the notion of "open source" curriculums and texts... We're moving forward in the process towards the actual elimination of the tactile, dimensional, paper or cloth book.
Sigh...It's not the lack of authorship, it's the moving away from what you can hold in your hand.
This was something we all speculated about with the creation of the internet and the satellite age. I do see the "collective spirit" transforming, shifting, mutating. Yes, it's a living organism, still. It's always been that. The way we manipulate content is changing; it's form is changing. But with it, is a moving away from the sanctity of individual authorship, and the "pride" of it, so to speak. Now we have less space to be ourselves, and must accept how to work in an "open" context. I wonder if this is how my parents felt watching the first Apollo rockets transform and revolutionize into the first Space Shuttle? (Aaahh..It's just the cassette tape becoming the CD or DVD).) The book becomes a Wiki.....or a blog.

What would Alexandre Dumas think about the wiki? What if he wrote The Three Musketeers as a Wiki and someone changed the second chapter or the ending, and he could do nothing about it? This is a little sad to think about, that's all...but, I guess the glass is half empty or half full. So, let's raise our glasses...or, our swords "so to speak" and get busy wikiteers! All for one and one for all!

Check this out: cliki here !

Hope you enjoyed it!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Blogging Permission Slip


In case some of you didn't check out the cool 5th grade blogging strategy from the article on my last blog "Thinking It Through", entitled:

Learning to Bog: The Elementary Way,


check out the nifty parental permission slip, at least!


And, check out this other blogging website for student accounts that she uses.


Take care,


Friday, March 6, 2009

Thinking It Through...

Hi all,

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of blogging. Not just about "computer literacy" skills which affect blogging, but the typology and context of literacy in which elementary level students will use these computer literacy skills to blog or vice versa (children which will learn to read and write by blogging).

A lot of us keep going back to safety issues. Should young children blog, should the format be structured or unstructured (how much should children be supervised or prompted by teachers, or not), and then the most fundamental questions that beg for answers are, "Are our children safe to experiment with learning literacy in the cyberworld or blogosphere?", and "Can our children really learn to read and write using blogging as a tool?"

I ask, "Is it really necessary to expose our young children to this, and if so, is it because of competitive globalization?"

I found an interesting internet article entitled "Hole in the Wall - Can kids learn computer literacy by themselves?" This is an ongoing project in New Delhi, India where a man named Dr. Sugata Mitra defined the term "MIE" which stands for "Minimally Invasive Education". MIE is defined as a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment to generate an adequate level of motivation to induce learning in groups of children, with minimal, or no, intervention by a teacher...

It seems that what the article is saying in a nutshell is that kids are innately computer savvy and can really undergo a process, when given access to a computer, that allows them to teach themselves!

Get this. "This experiment began in 1999 with a single computer literally placed in a hole in a wall between the New Delhi office of NIIT (A computer training school) and the slum outside. The computer was accessible to children and became an instant hit. Local children, many of whom did not attend school regularly, quickly picked up how to use the computer tools, including word processing software and graphics programs and learned to surf the Internet. Some progressed to more complex skills. All of this without understanding a word of English or being able to read at all, even though all the programs and interfaces were in English."

"Wowzy Wow Wow!!," says Jill. This is just as I suspected, my dear Watson. Children are whizzes when it comes to computers, just as children learning a second, third, or fourth language by the ages of 6-10. So, the language of computers or "computer literacy" comes naturally to the little ones like learning a language.

Now, with regard to safety issues, this article stated that Dr. Mitra (the researcher and definer of MIE in India) says that "in five years, across all locations, Hole-in-the-Wall computers have experienced "less than 0.5 percent pornographic access," and that computers "are clearly visible to passing adults." Dr. Mitra states that the fact that both girls and boys have access "completely eliminates pornographic or other undesirable access", he says.

Well, this is interesting. But, one might argue "but we live in the United States", and things are different here. Much different than impoverished, and illiterate children in New Delhi. Or is it really that different? Does culture and society impact the level of threat to a child when using the internet openly? I think young kids, though curious, probably would like to escape from websites exhibiting porn, etc...pretty quickly. I think they would "surf away" as fast as they could. They would think, "Ick-E! Get me back to Disney.com, and hurry!" For the most part, little ones don't want to see this stuff or even think about it.

Now, I also think about children with regard to what age they really begin "typing", so that they can engage in a "chat". According to this website from Ability Net, entitled Keyboarding and Touch Typing for Children, located at

http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/content/factsheets/pdfs/Keyboarding%20and%20Touch%20Typing%20for%20Children.pdf ,

children need to have the literacy skill in spelling of that of a seven year old and up to begin learning to touch type. So, a child really can become engaged in a dialogue with an "unsafe online source" at the age that they can begin to communicate through the keyboard and reveal information about themselves.

Now, I'll depart from talking about "computer literacy" and the age in which a child can begin to blog - to "touch type" or write for themselves, which is about at our 2nd grade level.

What can children accomplish or learn using the tool of blogging?

Well, Kim Cofino, a literacy specialist, of the International School of Bankok located in Thailand has been implementing the practice of blogging in her Elementary School classrooms. She has written an internet article entitled "Learning to Blog: The Elementary Way". A former middle school teacher, Kim now runs a 5th grade classroom at ISB and has offered-up much to instruct us on as far as blogging is concerned. At the very least, she offers us a strategy.

Ms. Cofino did respond to one blogger on her site with this, "Internet use is very different in international schools than it would be in the US. We don't have any mandate to filter or block (like CIPA) and we can determine best use and best practice at the individual school level, rather than at a larger district or board level. It certainly makes things easier to customize for educational needs!"

See cross-referenced articles:

1) Learning to Blog the Elementary Way -


2) Blogging is Elementary -


In her article she offers strategies from two different years. Both articles are worth looking at to see her approach in integrating the tool of blogging. I'm not going to regurgitate all of this because..."I'm blogging!!!", and this is not a dissertation. I just wanted to blog it and share it with you all. Check out the articles for yourself! Note: She did advocate using one class blog site that all students can contribute to instead of setting up individual accounts...it makes things easier.

Now, what does Jill think she can do to teach literacy in her own classroom with regard to blogging? Does Jill want to implement blogging in her classroom as a strategy for teaching literacy? Well, I believe that blogging is a new form of "journaling"...

I can scarcely recall writing when I was in Elementary School, except for the 3-4 pages stories my mother saved from fourth grade about the adventures of my cat "James Frank Buffington III". She saved one in particular about "The Killer Cat Strikes Again" or something like that...which could have been a great book series (maybe its not too late!). Now they have one called "Warrior Cats"....

My point is that blogging would be wonderful for students to utilize in order to write creatively, JOURNAL, and share if they chose to. You can't get more creative or give much more choice than that. Should they be prompted? Perhaps, like a Montessori student if they were doing the same old thing over and over again, like writing about Pokemon, or Sponge Bob Square Pants, or the Jonas Brothers Band... I believe that students should absolutely have a choice about what they read and write, and what better format than a blog! However, I also believe that entrenched in a world of sensationalism, media, computers, and pop culture, its hard to get kids to distill their worlds back into reality! So, to give them a balance is critical. Let them have the Naked Brothers Band in Grades 1-3 to write about, or The Jonas Brothers Band in Grades 4-8...maybe it's High School Musical from then on...but, then, I remember all my past English Teachers. The ones that taught me about great works for authors such as Frost, Shakespeare, Thoreau, Cervantes, Wordsworth, Cummings, Angelou, and so on and so forth..

So, let them read and then, let them write. Write poetry! Let them write stories! Let them post and share. After they have had their fill of writing about pop culture, then teach them the classics. Never forget the classics and the ones that showed us how to see, feel, and think about their lives, the lives they created, and relate it to the very lives we live in the present - in the now. If they must blog as a tool of expression, don't forget the SOLs and the frameworks to expose them to genres and styles.

So, this is what I'd do. I'd give them choice, but I'd create a sneak attack and have them engage in "Creative Blogging" or "Bloggaling" with the content I feel will provide a solid skillset or foundation of learned literacy.

Finally, let me say, I'm not completely happy about all this blogging in the world. It's not that I'm stuck in my ways. It's just that they'll get exposed to a bunch of nerdy ideas and thoughts -kind of like Sponge Bob Square Pants TV series....Yes, it's clever and creative. But, did they have to put that on TV to teach them to be so irritating? Our poor childrens' little hard-wired minds...which brings me to competitive globalization. Let's push, push, push them to compete to be in there with the competition to get good jobs to make more money for our country and for our families...

I miss the days of no predators, going all around and throughout the Texas A&M University campus with my gang of friends on our bicycles all weekend and during the summer, without a care in the world...no supervision...had to be home at dark....sigh...I wish I could give this to back to students. But, those days are gone. Think: If they had that option, would they be out riding their bikes all over creation without supervision, or would they be immersed in a creative blog unsupervised. Hope this blog was worth your time.

The article entitled "Generation Yes Blog - Hole in the Wall - Can kids learn computer literacy by themselves?" can be found:


Happy Spring Break, all! - Jill

Friday, February 27, 2009

Italian Blog Site - "Transparent Language"

This is a really neat blog site about current events in Italy and written in

English called Transparent Language - Italian Blog...
Check it out! Click here.

You know Venice has been celebrating Carnevale. On the blog for Feb. 20th, there's a recipe for a traditional pastry served at this time called Chiacchieri de Carnevale which means literally, "carnival chats". Have a great weekend, everyone! Ciao for now...