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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reflections on Habitats Virtual Field Trip

Habitats Virtual Field Trip

My Google Earth Habitat Virtual Field Trip is now complete.  When planning this field trip I had a few goals in mind.  One was to create a trip that would bring my students to interesting places and have plenty of information to accompany their placemarks.  Another goal was for the trip to be simple for two reasons.  One is that it was my first attempt at making a virtual field trip and the second is that it would most likely be the first time my second graders would take a virtual field trip.  For these reasons, simple seems better for now.  A third goal of mine was to create a field trip that I could use next year to tie into a theme of study that would fit our state standards and my plan for next year’s themes.  So that is how habitats was chosen.  The final goal that I had was to incorporate Howard Gardner’s wisdom of creating an activity that would encourage my students to use their respectful and ethical minds.  Here are my thoughts on how they might be able to do this.

Howard Gardner defines the respectful mind as, “Responding sympathetically and constructively to differences among individuals and among groups;  seeking to understand and work with those who are different;  extending beyond mere tolerance and political correctness.”  (Ch. 7, Five Minds of the Future).  He defines the ethical mind as, “Abstracting crucial features of one’s role at work and one’s role as a citizen and acting consistently with those conceptualizaions;  striving toward good work and good citizenship.” (Ch. 7)

So here is how I connect his ideas of the respectful and ethical mind to the study of habitats.  If students are to be able to be sympathetic towards members of the various habitats on earth, and understand that their lives are dependent on the success of the natural symbiotic relationships of plants and animals and their environment, then the students must understand what these different environments are and the characteristics of them that make them suitable homes for their inhabitants.  Furthermore, if students are to become citizens, who strive to do what is right, to help keep animals and plants in existence and out of danger of extinction, then they must understand which plants and animals live in the different habitats and what human and natural dangers are threatening such plants and animals.

This virtual field trip offers students information that will show them where these habitats are in the United States, the conditions and characteristics of each, and the types of life forms that are both thriving in them and are endangered in them.  This trip is a starting point for the study of habitats.  It will be used to introduce the students to habitats and it will be revised with additions and deletions as needed after it is initially used.  My goal is for my students to begin their study of habitats with this trip and to develop the respectful and ethical minds needed to protect the lifeforms on our planet.  

Gardner, Howard. (2007 kindle edition). Five minds for the future. Harvard Business Press, Boston, MA.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

u06a1 Respectful and Ethical Minds

After reading Julene Reed’s article “Global Collaboration and Learning” here are my thoughts  for using digital media to develop students’ respectful and ethical minds.  

Julene Reed states right off at the beginning that “Today’s students face a future where boundaries are abstract and global learning is critical.  Tomorrow’s citizens must be global communicators, must be able to participate successfully in project-based activities, and must have collaborative skills.”  So as a teacher of young second grade students I am carefully considering how to increase these types of learning experiences for them.  

Similarly,  Howard Gardner says in his fifth chapter of Five Minds for the Future, called “The Respectful Mind”:

“ is necessary to confront directly the value of respect, the costs of respect, and the infinitely greater costs of desrespect...During the early years of school, such issues are best approached through experiences in which members of different groups work together on common projects, come to know one another first-hand, deal with differences in an amicable manner, and discover that a perspective may be different without being deficient.”
Both of these authors are advising to give students opportunities to learn by working together on group projects.  To help develop respectful and ethical minds these groups I would include different members for each time new projects are done.  Such flexible grouping will allow all students to work with each other and experience the differences everyone possesses.  The students should also be given different roles for different projects to understand the responsibilties and challenges everyone must incur at different times.  

To further enhance the respectful and ethical minds of my students I would use some of the technology that Julene Reed lists at the end of her article.  One way to do this is to choose a topic that we are studying that would have some type of impact or connection to a class in another region.  Our latest science topic is rivers, lakes and marshes.  We could contact other schools from other states or countries via email and invite them to study similar bodies of water in their region with the understanding that we want to share our information with them and have them share theirs with us by creating digital stories, digital storybooks, by using digital photos or digital video.  Then we would work collaboratively collecting information and meet live occassionally, using instant messaging, Skype, or web cam and video conferencing.  Then we would create a blog or forum for both classes to post our progress and add new information to it.  We would set up a wiki that both classes would use to store our documents on and to share with each other so we can all access all of the documents.  We could create podcasts by recording sounds of birds, frogs, or any other such animals that we might be able to encounter near our bodies of water.  Perhaps we could just record ourselves reporting on information we have gathered or discovered.  The podcasts can also be stored on the wiki to share.  

This type of global collaboration would allow us to learn and experience the differences and similarities in our physical regions, in our classrooms, in the ways we think and share.  This could be done with many different topics of study.  When planning out the themes of study for the year, teachers should evaluate the topics to determine which would be useful for collaborating outside of the local community.  Then the teacher should try to find other teachers around the globe or country who would like to participate on this.  These digital resources are very effective tools for helping to develop respectful and ethical minds of students.

Reed, Julene. (2007). Global collaboration and learning.  
(article). Ed Tech Magazine.  retrieved from:

Gardner, Howard. (2007).  Five minds for the future. Harvard Business School Press.  Boston, MA.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Week 5 Reflection of my Glog -" Bodies of Water"

The information in the Glog (videos, songs, website pages and games) will help students understand that bodies of water support animal and plant life that are dependent upon each other.  The living and nonliving material in these bodies of water are also resources that humans use.  As the students learn what the different types of bodies of water are, and the elements they contain, they will begin to connect those elements to their own life and the uses for them.

In the first paragraph of Chapter 4, “The Creating Mind”, of Five Minds of the Future, Howard Gardner describes how creativity is being “sought after” in a society that is so obsessed with automaticity and technology.  Educational experts certainly undertand the importance of nurturing and expanding the creative mind, but fear it is not easily done in our “wired society”.  After creating my first Glog, I see that I used technological skills and creative skills.  Therefore, this was a fun project.  It will be different from any others because I created it by making my own choices about the images, frames, graphics, background, types of assignments, videos and songs.  I also decided how to lay out my poster and what order to put the activites in.  It was a very creative process.  

After using this Glog to introduce the concept of different bodies of water, I will use it again to teach how to make a Glog.  The next step for my students will be to make their own Glog to demonstrate their understanding of the standards listed above.  I will ask them this essential question:  How are bodies of water useful to human beings?  They will be able to choose one or more bodies of water to give examples of how any living or nonliving elements of bodies of water are useful to humans.  The process of choosing the information to display and the way to display it will involve their creative minds.  

Gardner, Howard. (2007). Five minds for the future. Harvard Business School of Publishing. Boston, MA.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

u05a1 Content Creation

This morning, after explaining what creativity means and what the word role means, I posed this question to nine of my second graders: What role does creativity play in our classroom?  This is what they replied:

  • We do art projects like making birds and bunnies.  They are creative because we color them and add details to them like when someone added a worm hanging from the bird’s mouth.
  • We draw pictures with crayons in our writing journals before or after we write.
  • We color during inside recess.
  • We make puzzles on the computer and play with them on Jigsaw Planet.
  • We make up stories.
  • We do writing projects like narratives and reports and we write paragraphs for homework every night.

Next, I asked them:  What do you value about using technology to be creative in our classroom?
They replied:
  • We use the Smart Board by using the pens and drawing whatever we want, using our imagination.
  • We use Google Drawing because you can make up anything and save it.  It is always there so you can add something again to it later.
  • We use netbook computers to go on websites such as Jigsaw Planet, Paint, Google Docs, Jelly Cam to create stop motion videos, Photo Story 3 to create digital stories, GoAnimate! to create animated videos, Google Presentations to create a slideshow, and Prezi to make presentations.
  • We read ebooks which help us get ideas for our own creative projects.  They also help us get ideas for drawing pictures.

The last question I asked them was this:  What would you change about our classroom to allow you to be more creative using technology?
They replied:
  • I wish we had more time to go on the Smartboard to use it to play with the pens and tools and create pictures and designs.
  • I wish we had 25 minutes of computer time every day to create games and play games like the Monster Truck game where you can choose your truck and your racetrack and you are trying to get around the race track in a certain time.
  • We should have more time on the computer to play games because it might give us some ideas for how to create games of our own..  We would create similar games but make it different and create our own.
  • We should use a game on where you can design a plane and then play the game with the plane by solving multiplication facts.
  • We should use this website where you can create any game (forgot the name of it).
  • We should play Monster Truck Demolisher.  You can upgrade your truck and add people.
  • I wish we could bring in tablets and learn on them instead of a computer.
  • I wish we had little Smartboards on our desks to do research on.
  • We should use more audio books (on cd players) to give us ideas for projects.

As we ended they unanimously said that they think creativity plays a big part in our classroom. This made me feel good about our classroom activities.  It is really enlightening when you actually ask your students questions where they can express their opinions and offer some evaluation about the types of activities they are doing.  This was a very valuable use of our time.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

(u04a1) Blog on Creativity in the Classroom

After watching Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on the role of creativity in schools, I am self-reflecting and analyzing the opportunities that my students have to be creative during our school day.  We sometimes but not often.  They dance in their weekly music class and in our weekly All School Sing session; but rarely ever during their regular daily classtime.  They have art weekly and that tends to be the extent of their art experience; we occasionally do artistic projects to supplement a unit of study in science or in social studies.  When I take out math manipulatives for them to use such as the 3-D blocks, linker cubes, pattern blocks, or base-ten blocks for example, it is almost impossible to keep them from building and creating with them.  I do realize that they don’t get much time to play with these objects and so I give them time to play with them before I ask them to use them to facilitate them in learning a particular math concept.  I have to admit, they really don’t get much time to play and create with materials.  It could be very true that not allowing children to have more free time to be creative with such manipulatives or art materials is killing my children’s creativity.

If I were to name ways that I think my students do use their creativity, they would be mostly through the use of digital media.  My students are able to create Google presentations.  They use their creativity by choosing images to put into their presentations; by choosing different transitions between slides; by making the text or objects animated; by choosing layouts, templates, fonts and colors of text.  Another tech tool they use to be creative is a tool called Jelly Cam.  This is a stop motion program that the students use to create movies, created by taking still pictures of objects that they manipulate.  When the pictures are played altogether, they create a video out of the still images.  Recently some of my students have learned how to use Photo Story 3 and they have been creating digital stories.  This allows them to be creative as they create or choose images and sounds, then record narrative to go with them.  As the students are shown more and more tech tools and programs they will expand their creativity by not only using the tools in a creative way, but also making decisions about which tools to use to create their projects.  

Another way that technology is bringing creativity into my classroom is with its capacity to show information to students in multiple ways.  My students are being exposed to more video, digital imagery and audio, which is broadening their experiences.  The exposure to examples of various digital projects, games, and information fosters their creativity by giving them inspirational ideas.  The more knowledge my students have, the more topics they will have the chance to be creative with.  They need some basic understanding first, then they can manipulate and be creative about the topic.  They are really good at asking what if questions and creating different scenarios for possible outcomes.  I notice their creativity when they use higher order thinking through inferencing, questioning and coming up with alternative outcomes.

So maybe my classroom isn’t so devoid of creativity afterall.  My students certainly show creativity with their spoken and written words.  They have very rich discussions about topics and they question, analyze and explore different scenarios out of the norm.  It seems like they have alternate ways to be creative, beyond the traditional, with the technology tools available to them.  However, one thing Sir Ken Robinson spoke about that keeps playing in my head, is that we don’t let our students dance every day and for some children this is important.  They need to dance and move in order to learn.  For others it could be singing, painting or drawing.  The point that I am taking with me, from him, is to allow my students to use creativity in its various forms and in the ways that they need to learn best.  Of course, I need to figure out how to do this in a way that is cohesive for everyone.  Change is good. One little step at a time.  Creativity shall flourish.

Robinson, Ken. (2007). Do schools kill creativity?  (video) . TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) website.   retrieved at:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

u03a2 Reflection on Media-infused Presentation

Geometry in Second Grade Prezi

Howard Gardner teaches us the importance of students developing a “disciplined mind” in chapter two of his book Five Minds for the Future, when he describes the difficulty students have in explaining something that is new to them by using previously studied theories or concepts.  He continues to describe their inability to deduce an explanation more credible than one from someone without background knowledge about the concept.  It is this ability to use previously learned data and theories to create thoughtful, plausible rationales that he terms a “disciplined mind”.

Having explored this topic, discussed by other authors, such as Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind, Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss in Reinventing Project-Based Learning and Grace E. Smith and Stephanie Throne in Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms, one common tenet about student learning is that true understanding is dependent upon and evolves from an experience that is attached to emotion.  

In a media presentation, such as the one I have created for my students on geometry, students’ emotions will be triggered.  The digital media I chose allows the students to see, hear and think about information in a story format as we can see in the Math Monsters video clips and the “Going on a Shape Hunt” song.  The stories will pull the students in through their emotions as they actively problem solve with the characters and empathize with character problems.  Another video clip chosen was from a video called “Animal Shapes and Colors”.  It is included because my students have great affection for animals and nature.  They will be able to connect the geometric concepts to the familiar shapes and patterns on the animals’ bodies.  The digital media selected will let the students make personal connections to the mathematical concepts.  In this way it will help foster the development of a disciplined mind.

Gardner also describes his idea of a “synthesizing mind”.  He describes it in chapter 3 when he says, “The ability to knit together inormation from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today.”  Referring again to my media-infused presentation on geometry, my students will be pulling together information from three different video clips, a song and images to form an overall understanding of the geometric terms listed in the second grade Common Core Mathematics Standards.  These media will present examples, explanations and information about these terms visually, orally and activiely which will engage their minds to synthesize all of it together.

Through this media presentation my students should be able to “knit together information” and use it to explain future geometric queries they come upon in their world.

Boss, Suzie and Krauss, Jane. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning. International society for technology in education. Washington, DC.

Discovery Education (Producer).  (2005). Animal Colors and Shapes. [Full Video].  Available from

Discovery education. (2012).  Curriculum standards.  Vermont common core state standards college and career readiness standards and k-12 mathematics, grade 2. (2010).  Available from

Gardner, Howard. (2007). Five minds for the future. Harvard business school press. USA. (Kindle edition)

Pink, Daniel. (2006). A whole new mind why right-brainers will rule the future. Penguin books (USA), inc. New York, New York.

Slim Goodbody (Producer).  (2003). Cube. [Video Segment].  Available from

Slim Goodbody (Producer).  (2003). Cylinder. [Video Segment].  Available from

Slim Goodbody (Producer).  (2003). Song: Shape and Size. [Video Segment].  Available from
(2012). Science with Mar: Going on a Shape Hunt. [Song].  Available from

Smith, Grace E. and Throne, Stephanie. (2007) Differentiating instruction with technology in k-5 classrooms. International society for technology in education. Eugene, Oregon.

Images retrieved through Google image search.