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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Web Browsers: Further Exploration

While downloading Google Chrome (a web browser like Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox), I came across a good beginners guide to web browsers and the internet. If anyone is interested in the basics of web browsers and internet usage, then this link: has a handy starting guide.

From the charming format that imitates a book to helpful information regarding cloud computing and a thorough explanation of cookies this handy guide of "20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web" is a good primer to understanding more about the internet and browsers.

One of the chapters of the book that might be especially helpful for projects is the "Using Web Addresses to Stay Safe" section. (Found here: Although not directly related to school projects the chapter addresses discerning how to tell what sites are legitimate and which are not.

Hopefully, starting with the site "20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web" will lead to learning more than 20 things about the internet and web browsers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

6th Grade ACTion Project at the MFA

This past Sunday, April 19th, at the annual BB&N at the Museum of Fine Arts day, all 6th grade students had their impressionistic artwork on display. In addition, there were laptops available at the MFA for visitors to view the students' recent technology projects incorporating their art pieces with French and Spanish recordings about their painters. This project has been called the MFA ACTion project for Arts, Culture, and Technology.

All 6th graders completed a master study in their art classes with Sharen Bowden then researched their painters and paintings in their Spanish and French classes with Senora Cristina Carrion Murphy and Madame Soizick Munir. In technology class the students then scanned their artwork and recorded their Spanish and French scripts. All elements of the project were pulled together by the students using MIT's scratch programming environment where some students also chose to animate their paintings. All projects have been posted online in a gallery.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poetry Project in the English Classroom

For the last two weeks, eight graders were working on composing a series of creative interpretations of the selected poet’s work. Today in class they were presenting and explaining their multimedia piece to the entire class. There were 4 required components to the project:
  1. Create a Visual Interpretation of a poem into a comic strip
  2. Create a Multimedia interpretation of a single poem: compose the film so that the images enrich the tone, sound and meaning of the poem
  3. Write a Biographical Poem that pays tribute to the poet by imagining, in detail, a key event from the poet’s life, using real facts and details garnered from the research.
  4. Write an Explication describing the process and the choices that helped make the comic/video/poem.

The videos are made private on our 8th grade youtube Poetry Channel. You must be signed in to view the videos. Please ask Svetlana, Paige, Betsy, Ethan or an 8th grader for a password.

Here are a few examples of student's creative intepretations:

Dr. Rosario Sánchez Gómez Comments on Her Smartboard

Dr. Rosario Sánchez Gómez (Upper School Spanish) commenting on her experience with SmartBoard technology in the classroom says that she admires the quality of the screen and speakers, and that it makes watching movies and videos more enjoyable. The tactile experience and projector enable “a far more interactive experience by opening any program with the tap of a finger and knowing that I still have the students full attention.” She says the experience has enhanced classroom learning, to the point where the class often works on literature review on the spot in the classroom, but she would like more time to explore some of the unique functions of the SmartBoard, such as the Notebook software.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong

In a moving and madly viral video last year, composer Eric Whitacre led a virtual choir of singers from around the world. He talks through the creative challenges of making music powered by YouTube, and unveils the first 2 minutes of his new work, "Sleep," with a video choir of 2,052. The full piece premieres April 7 (yes, on YouTube!).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reflecting on B-12 English Department Meeting

At our recent B-12 cross-divisional faculty meeting the English Department shared a variety of technology-related projects. From the Lower School we heard about Dibels reading assessment software, Lexia software for students' self-paced reading instruction, and Scratch programming projects for developing facility with oral and multimedia expression. From the middle school we watched several student-produced videos that demonstrated a high level of engagement with their novel study and great use of video-editing as a publishing format. From the upper school we heard about the advantages of class blogs and FirstClass conferences for communication and passing of electronic documents.

We also heard about Ms. Kornet's "ning" project for her class's study of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. [A ning is a social media platform on which participants have a profile page, blog, and discussion threads, as well as a feed of all activity on the site, not unlike Facebook.] In Ms. Kornet's project each student assumes the role of one of the characters from the novel and participates on the ning in the manner of that character. Students don't learn the assumed identities of their classmates until the end of the project. Here is a screenshot from the ning site (click on it to enlarge and read the content.) What a wonderful way to build engagement with this novel!

What struck me about this meeting of the English Department was not only the great number of innovative "tech" projects going on (and great teachers!), but also that our basic curricula around reading, writing, and oral expression has in many respects adopted digital tools that we take for granted. For instance, the use of word-processing, keyboarding, and reading online didn't come up as a topic at this particular meeting. I think this is because these tools are embedded on a daily basis we don't necessarily think of them as "tech," and certainly not as innovative. Part of my role is to articulate our vision of what we ask ourselves and our students to do with technology, and I think we are well-positioned to consider next steps in our basic expectations for routine use of digital tools for all students. For example, all students should learn to produce compelling written text published digitally that has embedded hyperlinks and multimedia elements that model current best practices of publishing on the web. Students should gain fluency and independence communicating and writing collaboratively using free tools like Google Docs and personal blogs. Students should routinely use digital tools for brainstorming, bookmarking, and citing sources. Students should gain experience and support with non-linear but focused patterns (and habits of mind) of reading online. I think we have several shining examples of these technologies in our classrooms, but I'd encourage us to move from conceptualizing them as "tech" and move towards the day when these will be the tools we take for granted, embedded across the curriculum. 

Lastly, in relation to our English curriculum I'd echo nearly every library mission statement I've ever read which is encouraging a lifelong love of reading. We want our students to truly enjoy reading and writing in all its forms. This is a good topic for a future meeting, and when we work together, teachers, librarians, and technologists we are the better for it. I welcome your comments and reactions, and encourage your participation in this digital text forum by use of the "comments" feature below.