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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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

sullivan_u03a1 Synthesizing Project for Second Graders

My Classroom Strategy: Using Digital Resources Help Students Synthesize

This past winter I put together a Google presentation for my students to use as an independent learning contract.  The objective of this presentation is to guide students through activities that will enhance their understanding of the geography, culture and symbols of a European country.  It allows them to do this by offering digital websites, games and activities to help them conduct research and record information.  It has some required activities and some choice activities.  Finally, it leads them to produce a presentation to display and express the learning they have acquired about the culture, geography and symbols of that country.  Finally it gives them practice using a variety of digital resources that are new to my second graders.    
This spring the second graders began studying Europe.  We started by looking at the world map to describe where the continent of Europe is located in the world in relation to the other six continents and the oceans.  Then we used two websites called Can You Name the Countries of the World? on and Geography Genius: Flags of the World. on  The students explored some books and images online and chose one country to study.  Daily we have been visiting a different European country via Google Maps and/or Google Earth to explore Europe.   Soon after the students were introduced to the independent learning contract and they began to use it almost daily with great enthusiasm.  

The students started with games I created on Quia that helped them learn necessary vocabulary and a Geo Spy Game that helped them learn the location of European countries on the map.  Then they used websites such as Ducksters, National Geographic for Kids, FX Top,  and World of Tales to do some research and gather information.  They used Google Docs to create a spreadsheet to record facts and information and Google Presentation to demonstrate the information.  They also used the Jigsaw Planet website to create a puzzle of their country map and Smart Notebook and Google Drawing to draw their country’s flag.

Using this independent learning contract has synthesized information for my students because they are using different topics about their country to explore in multiple ways and multiple times.  The culture, the geography, and the symbols are all being explored and explained in various ways and with excitement and enjoyment.  The combination of having choices, using various digital resources and putting all of the elements together in a final presentation format is creating a synthesis of understanding about the country they are studying.  Gardner states in chapter  2, “The Synthesizing Mind” of Five Minds For the Future, that “The ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today.”  This has been a driving force to me for giving students opportunities to explore topics of study with choices and technology integration.  The knowledge of managing the technology they are using is also being synthesized in projects such as these.  

Below is a link to my European Country Independent Learning Contract that I developed as a course requirement in the EDIM503 Course:  Differentiation Supported By Technology.  The final format fulfilled the course requirements and included some elements that I have since changed for my second graders such as the points and scoring criteria and the times and dates posted for the assignments. I hope you enjoy viewing it.

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

(u02a1) Blog on Digital Media

The next math unit I will teach in Second Grade is Geometry.  On the Discovery Education home page I used the Curriculum Standards Search to locate a Common Core standard for Geometry to begin with.  This is the first standard for Second Grade under the Geometry category and I will use it as my goal for this geometry unit:
Vermont » Common Core State Standards » College- and Career-Readiness Standards and K-12 Mathematics » Grade 2 » 2010
2.G.1 - Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.|01&seldocument=Common%20Core%20State%20Standards&selgrade=2&selcopyright=2010&StandardID=1c4d20ea-7053-11df-8ebf-be719dff4b22&blnSearchStandardsInit=true

When I searched under this standard, two hundred eighty-eight results came up.  I like to begin math units with a video and there are plenty here to choose from.  Right away I noticed there was a  “Math Monsters Geometry” video.  This is a series that I am familiar with and I like it a lot; so do my students.  I like how the monster characters incorporate math skills into solving every day problems that are realistic to the children.  The kids like the animation, the songs and the stories in these videos.  I also like that there is a Teacher’s Resource Guide that is accessible and it gives pre-viewing activities, video pause points with posed questions for the students to answer and discuss during the video and post-viewing activities.  

I viewed the video to see if the standard above is covered in the video content.  The segments of the video include these topics: perspective, triangles, rectangles, triangular prisms, rectangular prisms, cubes, cylinders, octagonal prisms, shapes and sizes of buildings.  They discuss faces as sides so I will need to use both terms interchangeably when discussing the 3-dimensional shapes.  

The video only includes some of the content of the standard but it will be helpful and engaging to the students.  It will be a good way to begin.  I will use other digital resources to cover the concepts of quadrilaterals, hexagons, and pentagons.  

This is the description given about the Math Monsters:Geometry video given on the DE web page:
The Monsters decide to create a model of their town and call it Mini-Monster Land. But in order to make an accurate model they need to take a good look at the different shapes and sizes of neighborhood buildings. At first they go to the roof of their castle to get an overview and wonder why buildings so far away are so tiny. “My thumb is bigger than Aunt Two Lips's Flower Shop,” says Multiplex. The Monsters explore concepts of perspective and then visit the town to see buildings up close. They encounter a triangular prism, cube, cylinder, and octagonal prism and discover information about the characteristics of these shapes. An architect shows his process for drawing and modeling new constructions and explains reasons for using different shapes.

This video will be very engaging as a kick off activity for the unit because it is showing students a purpose for understanding and using geometry concepts.  The characters have a project that they are working on “building a mini-monster town” that will incorporate geometry.  It begins with the concept of perspective, (i.e. objects look smaller when far away and look bigger when close) with is important for students to understand before they begin drawing and working with geometric shapes and designs.   

Another type of media that I found that I will include is  a brain game called “The Whaddya Know Quiz Show: Basic Geometry”.  I have used these games with my class before and they are so fun.  The questions are challenging and they keep the kids focused and engaged.  I would use this quiz show as an informat pre-assesment at the beginning of the unit, probably right after the Math Monsters video, and then use the quiz show game again at the end as an informal  post-assessment to show the students how much information they have learned.  Here is the description of the quiz show game, given on the DE web page:
It's all about basic geometry in this quiz show! Choose one of fifteen comical characters and be a contestant. Play against the computer or with your friends. See if you can get the highest score!.
Copyright: 2005©    |   Publisher:

The quiz show covers these topic:  octagons, faces, angles, squares, sides, polygons, cubes, pyramids and cyinders.  I  can use the quiz show questions to teach and explain these geometric concepts.

A third type of digital media that I found is a song called “Science With Mar: Going on a Shape Hunt” and here is the DE description.  
Mar and students sing and describe different shapes, including circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles.

This is a fun song.  I could envision my students using this song to incorporate into a digital story by creating images to match the words to the song.  They could take pictures with the digital camera, draw pictures or find images online.  This could be a culminating activity.  They could even write more verses to this song to include the terms  hexagon, quadrilateral and cube shapes that are in the Common Core standard.  The shapes that are mentioned in the song are:  square, circle, triangle, rectangle, star, oval, octagon and pentagon.  

All of these digital resources will motivate and interest my students in the topic of geometry.  One reason is that they they incorporate the element of story (the video), visual imagery (video and brain game), audio (video, brain game and song),  creating/building/movement (video and song) and a challenge or goal to accomplish (video, brain game and song).  They tap into multiple intelligences and learning styles which will allow differentiation.  This is why it is so useful to use digital media when teaching. They offer engaging content for all styles of learners. (Publisher). (2005).  Whaddaya Know Quiz Show: Basic Geometry. [Brain Game].  Available from

(2012). Science with Mar: Going on a Shape Hunt. [Song].  Available from

Slim Goodbody (Producer).  (2003). Math Monsters: Geometry. [Full Video].  Available from

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Introductory Blog

Hello to all visiting this blog.  My name is Alison Sullivan and I teach second grade at
The Dover School in East Dover, Vermont.

My primary goal for taking the Digital Media course is to learn how to use digital media
with my students in the best ways possible.

My philosophy of education is that we all learn through experiences.  The more we 
experience, the more we learn.

The greatest benefit to using technology and media in the classroom is that it sparks 
excitement about learning because it creates stimulating experiences.

My biggest challenge with using technology is keeping on task with my teaching 
objectives and using it productively to meet my students' learning goals.

One example of how I use digital media in my classroom is displaying daily activities 
on our Smartboard with links to all the media we use.

My classroom today differs from when I was in school because it has a Smartboard, 
1:1 netbooks, video used content learning, and lessons created and organized with