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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Alternative Energy Kits in the Science Classroom

The fourth grade has been exploring alternative energy sources as part of their Chemistry/Environment unit in science. Through a LAUNCH grant, I purchased 5 kits to pilot with this year's class so I could determine which educational kit would be the easiest for students to understand and be successful with. The kits we are working on include: Thames and Kosmos' Wind Power, Hydro Power and Fuel Cell Car Kits, along with Horizon Technology's Renewable Energy Kit, and Elenco's Snap Circuits' Green Kit. The students took on the challenge, and despite difficult directions (mostly geared toward adult readers), the fourth graders have problem solved, and teams have successfully constructed a working mill and a fuel cell car. Students are beginning to understand that there are sources of energy other than fossil fuels that we could be tapping and exploring in efforts to be more environmentally friendly! Our goal is to finish exploring the kits by the end of this month and have teams present their challenges and successes along with their recommendations so we can purchase the kits that support the best learning of the concepts presented in this unit.

-Maria Elena Derrien
LS Science

eReaders in Education

Once you’ve negotiated the Gordian knots of getting accounts through the school, iPad, Nook and Kindle perform exactly what their advertising promises, so...


Which is my favorite? iPad; no contest. I can build and organize an extensive library (much of which is free), bookmark several books at several points, enlarge print (or change style of font), even have the ‘read aloud’ function on (though with fiction this is more annoying than I can stand). In short, I’m carting around a virtual wheel-barrow full of books that doesn’t spill or get out of order.

Danger danger: This is soooo addictive.

The Big Picture: Illustrations are happening. The Earnest Shepherd ones for Pooh, for instance, have colors very close to the original. I expect more and more picture books by the day.

Dictionaries, highlighting and note taking functions make this seem like a great teaching tool.

Oh, and email and all my favorite sites are right there too, including Netflix and any games I might want plus the iPad functions as an iPod and can be my photo album etc.

Nook and Kindle do the electronic reader thing adequately. All 3 make great one on one learning tools. Ask me for my list.

Problems: Kindle has hampered itself in that it cannot accept materials from anywhere but Amazon. Nook likes Barnes & Noble. The advantage: no distractions like sample games or surfing.

Conclusion: It’s a rapidly evolving technology… so new models arrive in the Spring.

Next moves: Using these with students, and researching group rates.

Recommendation: School could make setting up an account simpler.

-Heather Lee
Lower School Librarian

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Search for Useful Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom

As early childhood educators we are constantly trying to solve the riddle of how we as teachers can invite technology into our child-centered classrooms. We want technology that expands on the children’s ideas about the world, not have their ideas confined by teacher direction. Children at this age explore the world around them through communication and manipulation. They learn through controlling movement and interactions between objects in their environment.

This year the BSR classroom was thankful for the permission to purchase a Smart Table through BB&N’s LAUNCH Grant Program. The Smart Table is a multi-touch, collaborative technology instrument for students at the primary and elementary grade levels. Teachers can customize activities so groups of students can create, explore, and problem solve together by manipulating icons on the table with hand gestures. We feel that the Smart Table shows great potential as an integrated technology piece in the early childhood classroom. It allows groups of students to observe videos, view themselves in classroom photos and short clips, and to use one of the many ready-to-go lesson activities found online in the Smart Exchange. Stay tuned for further updates on the Smart Table in our classroom.

Shera and Anthony
Beginners Teachers

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Update on LEGO WeDo at the Lower School

4th grade students just completed their second LEGO WeDo creation and are beginning their third model. Students built and programmed a mechanical lion that makes sounds and is motorized to lift and lower its front legs as if it is sitting up and lying down. They “trained” their lions to sit up and roar, then lie down and snore when they threw it a “bone” made with a tilt sensor. Now the students are in the process of building a mechanical bird that makes sounds which are activated by manually tilting the bird up and down to lift and lower its head and flap its wings.
(The looks of surprise captured on the children's faces in the photograph above are due to the lion's head popping off as the students were trying to figure out the correct motor power and number of rotations required to make the lion sit up properly.)

-Megan Haddadi

4th Graders Create Solar Powered Vehicles

Prior to introducing my students to the Renewable Energy Kits purchased through my LAUNCH grant, I decided the fourth graders needed a background on how renewable energy works. I had them design and build solar powered vehicles out of Radio Shack solar cells and motors, as well as spare parts from LEGO MindStorms kits. A few days ago we had some sun, and we and tested our vehicles outside. We realized we need a more intense sun to create enough current to power the motor and will wait until the spring to try again! As we move forward, fourth graders will be working with other alternative energy sources (hydro power, wind power and fuel cell technology) while exploring the educational kits purchased through the LAUNCH grant. Check back shortly for an update on how the kits are going!

-Maria Elena Derrien

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New "FAM" portal for parents

In early January the school launched a new website portal for parents to view report cards and the school directory of family information. This portal, named "FAM" for Family Access Module, is part of our student database system. Middle and Upper School report cards are already within this system and we hope to add Lower School reports to it next year. The online directory includes family address data. A benefit of this system is that parents can submit any changes (phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) right on the site. The link to the FAM portal is on the parents page of the BBN website under "Quick Links." There is also a PDF help file that describes the portal located online here.

Teachers have access to the student database through their "TAM" accounts, and can access the parent directory information there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Schools in the Digital Age

These videos feature reflections on education and the use of digital tools. After viewing the videos, please use the comments box on the bottom of this page to post your thoughts and reactions in the context of teaching and learning at BB&N.

Ken Robinson's "Do Schools Kill Creativity" is a must see video.

Alan November has been reflecting on educational technology for decades.

Larry Rosenstock's "High Tech High" describes a school based on the principles of project based learning.

Salman Khan's "Khan Academy" is a free online set of videos that teach elements of mathematics and other subjects bit by bit.

Michael Wesch's "The Machine is Using Us" shows how the nature of text and publishing has changed forever.

Teaching in the Digital Age

The videos below feature teachers reflecting on their craft. After viewing the videos, please use the comments box on the bottom of this page to post your thoughts and reactions in the context of teaching and learning at BB&N.

History teacher Diana Laufenberg shares 3 surprising things she has learned about teaching...

Math teacher Dan Meyer reflects on how a digital projector changed his teaching...

dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer from Dan Meyer on Vimeo

Instructional technologist Sam Morris takes a light-hearted look at teaching paperless in this "I Hate Paper" video...

Please post your thoughts, reactions, and comments to these videos.

Born Digital

Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser explores the implications of the digital environment in which our students grow up. Each of the videos below represents a chapter of the book. These videos were created by Berkman Center summer interns.

After viewing the videos, please use the comments box on the bottom of this page to post your thoughts on these videos in the context of BB&N.

Chapter 1: Identities

Chapter 2: Dossiers

Chapter 3: Privacy

Chapter 4: Safety

Chapter 5: Creators

Chapter 7: Quality

Chapter 8: Overload

Chapter 9: Aggressors

Chapter 10: Innovators

Chapter 11: Learners

Chapter 12: Activists

Please post your thoughts, reactions, and comments to these videos.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Online School for Girls offers "Blended Learning" course for any teachers

The Online School for Girls is an effort by independent girls schools to move into the digital delivery of courses. In addition to offering courses to high school students this organization also offers 6 week online seminars to teachers [for any middle or upper school teachers]. The seminars teach you how to use a "blended learning" approach to enable you to add an online component to your face-to-face courses. They use the same online learning platform as the school, which is a system named "Haiku." I have heard great things about this professional development offering!. A course website can support student learning by offering organized access to course content/resources, calendars, & grades, as well as instructional activities like discussion boards, online quizzes, small group activities, and the use of "web 2.0" tools. You can read more about the OSG professional development opportunity on this announcement (from last year) by their director or this blog post by a participant, or you can go to their site to register (click on "Register for Professional Development" on the right side of page. Please register soon. There are only 25 spots in their course. It may already be full, but if you register now you can get on the waiting list for the next round. If anyone has any questions, please let me know. This is one of the best opportunities for teachers interested in teaching online that I am aware of.
~ Demetri

Friday, January 7, 2011

ATS Picks 01/06/11

1. Web-Design Competition Sparks Collaboration

Discussion Questions
1. How does the ThinkQuest competition benefit students of the Digital Generation?
2. What did you think of the solutions that the team came up with for the eDivide project?
3. How does ThinkQuest facilitate communication and collaboration skills? How can you provide similar experiences for your kids?

2. Scratch as an Animation Tool

Next time you ask your students to make a presentation, consider having them use Scratch to create simple animations. Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web. BB&N students are being introduced to this tool throughout the school. It is offered as an after-school activity in the Lower School by Colm, is taught to the 6th graders by Megan and has been introduced to the 7th graders by Svetlana. If you are interested in creating a Scratch project, please contact your ATS. We are more than happy to work with you and your students. Check out these two scratch projects that were featured on MIT's scratch website:

3. Digital Youth Portrait: Jalen

Discussion Questions
1. Is Jalen typical of kids in your community? Why, or why not?
2. How is Remix World facilitating collaboration and reflection? What are some publicly available online tools that could accomplished the same goals?
3. How does digital media complement Jalen's interest in graphic design?
4. How would you describe the attitude of Jalen's parents about their son's passion for digital media?
5. What skills does Jalen practice or learn through his movie and animation projects? How can projects like this impact the lives of kids?

4. Send us your own pick!!!
If you give us a tool you have been using in your classroom, we would love to feature you in a future ATS Picks blog entry. Please leave a link in the comments box below if you have a technology you would like to share with your colleagues. Thanks!