Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Help Desk Experts

I implemented a new concept in my classroom this year... it is called the Help Desk Experts. I have 3 identifiers that I made from a doll rod, a foam hand, and a small wooded circle. When the students first came into the classroom at the beginning of the year, they wanted so badly to know what they were for. I waited a few classes to fill them in and now they look for them and know when they belong at their work station!

So, what is this Help Desk Expert? Well, I find myself doing a lot of my own research and reading in all the free time that I have (hahaha!) I wish that I had some of the articles I read to provide links to, but I don't always keep all of my sporadic reading materials. Anyway, I realized that I am trying to foster a culture of accountability, professionalism, good communication and solid work in my Technology Classroom and I believe that a lot (most) students want the teacher (or adult, or parent, etc) to answer all their questions and "fix" everything for them. I don't agree with this with my own children and this has carried over into my teaching. Therefore, these Experts are students that I have identified as those that have quickly "mastered" a skill and have proven they can effectively assist other students. As we start a new project and get working I observe the students and find 2-3 students that I think will do a good job at being the expert. I move the identifiers to their station. (The students really take ownership of this and are so proud when they are selected.)

The other students... well, when they have a question, they need to first ask the Experts. If they are all stumped, I am always wondering around watching and am there to help them problem solve and no I won't just give them the answer. The older students are expected to work collaboratively with the other Experts, tinker, and research online before coming to me. The great thing about this is that you can customize how you use it in a way appropriate for your audience.

Is this all working?  Yes, this has really been working on getting the students to be more accountable. They are getting better at formulating questions when they need help. I also like that I can tie this in with their future and possible Computer Science jobs. BUT, what I am most happy about is that they are no longer immediately raising their hands to have somebody else do it for them- they are stopping and thinking, trying, and reaching out to their peers for help. I am so glad that I have implemented this into my classroom.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!

This is a very short week for us here at school, only Monday and Tuesday. As a result, I only have a few classes since my early week is lighter with classes. I wanted to find something to do with the students that was a little different and having to do with Christmas. I had 5th graders today and decided to do a Binary Code ornament.

Last week, we participated in Hour of Code school-wide so I thought Binary Code would be a great follow-up for the 5th graders (and 6th grade tomorrow.) We didn't go too deep into Binary Code, but we did define what it is and why it is important. I asked the students to create an ornament with the word, "Joy" which they did and many asked if they could create other words and make more. The students really enjoyed making these and we made some extras to take to the School Office to put on the school tree.

The instructions were simple... Red=1, Green=0, and White is a space between letters.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Stop Motion!

One of my favorite projects with 5th grade is their Stop Motion Project. It is one of the few projects that I have done more than one year in a row. It is such a great project that I can incorporate so many skills into--- Research, Storyboards & Google Docs, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, and of course Technology!

This is an overview of the project:

  1. Research Stop Motion- What it is? How long has it been around? How does it work? 
  2. Learn the app, Lego Stop Motion- We broke it down into pieces where we looked at the app and then we introduced a block and created short videos to understand how it worked.
  3. Assignment of the "Mystery Bag"- Each student gets a mysterious bag of something that they must use in their video (such as blocks, sequins, yarn, cups, beads, etc)
  4. Storyboards- Students had to create a storyboard in Google Docs, using numbering. 
  5. Practice- This is when they practice, work out the kinks. revise storyboards, and run through at least once from beginning to end. 
  6. Action! They record their turn-in Stop Motion video. 
  7. Viewing Party- We watched all videos and students had to provide peer feedback (both pro and cons) and what would a viewing party be without popcorn???

I love watching the students work on this. It gives all students a little something they like-whether, creative or analytical. This is usually one of the projects they say at the end of the year was one of their favorites and I always get requests for this type of project in the following grades.

(I love this picture with them all lined up in the hall working on their projects!)

(Viewing Party, complete with popcorn!)



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Election 2016

The 3rd grade teachers were discussing a class election and I asked if I could help out. It sounded like a lot of fun. The students prepared posters and speeches at home and in their classrooms for President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. I was trying to figure out a way to incorporate some technology into the events. I decided to create an electronic ballot for them to use on our new Chromebooks. This was a great way to get them using some technology AND it would give us some data in a spreadsheet to play with as well! I also made certificates for the "winners" to take home. (Oh.... I made sugar cookies for the two classes as well, yummy!)

Here are the "voting booths" that I created for the 3rd graders and some of the other things that I set up:

We still have to analyze the data in our spreadsheets, but I need to find some time to change some names around so that the students don't see the actual percentages of specific candidates- I guess there were some hurt feelings after the election :( 

Friday, October 28, 2016

It's Fairy Nice to See You...

Today is "Halloween" at our school. I always try to come up with a over the top costume. This year, I decided to do a costume that went along with a project I was doing with the 1st graders.

The first graders have been really busy working on all kinds of Fairy Projects in the Tech Lab. They have really been getting into it and I love every minute of it. When my daughter was younger, we built her a fairy house (doll house) on top of a tree trunk in our yard. I will always remember how she would run to the house after school to see if the fairies visited that day or if they possibly left a treat. She was even in our local paper and we found her article all over the internet as the Associated Press picked it up! So in the Tech Lab, the students in first grade have been doing:

  • Research on Fairies which included Google Images, books from my personal library, and books from the local library.
  • Students did a nature hunt and collected branches, leaves, acorns, etc and we went over to the school garden and they built fairy houses in collaborative groups. (fits in nicely with our STEM Initiative)
  • We went back to school garden and they took pictures with the iPads of their fairy houses. They needed to remember 3 things when taking the pictures: Be still, center their object on the iPad and be close enough to see some details. They were little detectives too... the fairies came to visit because we found lots of fairy dust and they left a few notes for the class thanking them for the wonderful houses!
  • Students created an online drawing, that was inspired by the fairy house they built. They created these drawings at www.abcya.com (Paint Go!)
  • The students are going to finish their project as a class by creating PowerPoint Presentations. This will be their first experience using this software. 
  • I will create a video that provides an overview of all the pieces and parts!

Oh, that's me... I am an Autumn Fairy. Their teacher said that I was the talk of the room this morning and they thought that I had turned into a real fairy! I told them Mrs. Wyszynski would probably return on Monday. Halloween is such a fun day to be a teacher!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Geography Fun in 4th Grade!

I found out that the 4th graders were doing a Geography Unit in class and I wanted to piggy back this unit in the Technology Lab. The main reasons for this was because a few weeks ago there were all these globes in the teachers lounge with a free sign on them... I was so excited! I waited a week or so to make sure that none of the classroom teachers wanted them and when they were still there I grabbed them!

Aren't they great? I was "throwing" them at the students and asking for them to find things like North America, Australia, Equator, Longitude, Latitude, Indian Ocean, as well as many others. They loved this and were begging to be the next one!

Now, on the computers... I thought it would be great to have their first project be fairly easy and a review from last year, but still be relevant to what they were doing in their class. I decided to have them do a labeled drawing in Google Drawings. I shared with them the image and they had to do the following:

  • Label (with text boxes) at least 8 items (from specified pages in their books, I didn't want them making stuff up!) Notice the "at least" part. I am really trying to get them to give every assignment their all and not to do just the bare minimum. 
  • Resize image, if necessary. We worked a lot on this last year. I can hear it in my sleep, "use the corners to resize objects!"
  • Add bells and whistles (arrows, colors, font changes, font sizes, etc)

The last part of this unit in the Technology Lab was a word cloud. I love word clouds! I think they are a great way for students to practice brainstorming (I love brainstorming.) Also, this is a great way to get the students to think about different words and work on vocabulary. The students needed to create a word cloud at www.tagul.com  with at least 20 words that they think of when they hear Saint Sebastian. It could be words about school, church, activities they participate in, or whatever came to mind. The only requirement was the longitude and latitude of our school and the name of our school be in their clouds. (Of course spelling was a factor as well.) We have done word clouds before, but this was a new site for them and they enjoyed it. Tagul is great because there are lots of options for cloud layouts and colors as well as different shapes which was a class favorite. There are also options to save and email your cloud which helps with assessing and keeping their clouds for later retrieval. 

(We are the Terrier, hence the dogs and paw!)

Thursday, September 22, 2016


The school purchased 75 Chromebooks that go in 3 carts... This is fantastic news for our students and I am sure the learning curve will be short. A cart will go to the Junior High wing, one on the 4th-6th grade floor and the other will be a floater for grades 3-8. We still have 5 carts of iPads as well so our students have plenty of technology opportunities during the school day.

This was a new process for me to learn as well. This was my first attempt at setting up this kind of device and enrolling them. I will say it wasn't too bad. Now, just need to find the time to play around in the Management Console to see what kinds of great and innovate things we can do!