Monday, May 26, 2008

Distraction Free Writing or a Blast From the Past...

I had a colleague in one of my graduate classes recommend a product for Mac called “WrightRoom” and I downloaded it to give it a try. Wow did it take me back. It was very old school even the font looked like something out of the move “War Games.” I am not sure I am ready to go backwards. I like the bells and whistles and upgrades that have happened to word processing in the past 30 years… why would I want to go back? The entire time I was thinking... what would Will Richardson think?

Actually, I can see some benefits, if you want students to simply write what they think without the red underlines or the green underlines of word processors it would be fine. To prepare them for standardized tests that have just them and the blank screen, it may be a good idea. But I am glad I just did a free 30-day trial because I don’t think this is something I would use enough on a regular basis to buy. Besides, I like the crispness of black text on a white page, green on black or any of the other combinations provided just seem strange to my eye which is used to black and white. But I do like the fact that once you close the screen, your text is right there in a simple black and white text file so you can copy and past it into a word processor and edit, or can save it as simple text. So, if you want to see what your students can do without all the bells and whistles of word processors or you want to give them a good chuckle and tell them this is the way all computers used to write, by all means try “WrightRoom.” My colleague says it was a "huge" success with his students, "because it allowed the kids to concentrate on their ideas and the writing process." I want to at least show it to my students and see what they think.
And to my colleague Scott, I did this Jing Screencast about my first experience.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Duh... Use Google Docs...

So, I learned something from a digital native today. My group in my graduate class had all kinds of problems with a PowerPoint we were doing together. Every time I sent it or posted it, some slides would go blank. Some of us were using Macs, others PC's but we never could figure out the problem. A digital native suggested Google Docs. I am not sure this will solve the problem because I still would have to post it to Google Docs but I love that she gave me a Common Craft show video to show how it works! I have used Google Docs for my own stuff but never thought of collaborating with it.

She even gave me a link to a tutorial specifically for PowerPoint right from Google:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Make 'em better researchers and writers...

So, I am taking yet another technology class. This time it is Instructional Application for the Classroom. I am reading studies about word processing software. The text book (Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching, Forth Edition by M. D. Robler) says “when students write with computers, they engage in the revision of their work throughout the writing process” (Robler p. 123). It goes on to say that their writing skills are thus more developed than their fellow students who use paper. I am going out on a limb here and say that electronic note cards would do the same thing for the research process. I am a librarian and I respect the research process but I still think note cards should be done away with. Give the students PowerPoint if you must insist on note cards. Let them write note cards in PowerPoint. To me PowerPoint is much easier to organize than note cards. PowerPoint can also be used as a storyboard in slide-sorter view. I am not saying they should make a PowerPoint instead of writing a research paper. I am saying they should use PowerPoint instead of the note cards they put their notes on for their research paper.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Star Spangled Poem Project...

I have been working on poetry with my students in the library this year. I have been trying to show them the joy of found poetry. In computer terms I guess found poetry could be compared to a mash-up. I want them to write a poem from their research projects now. I want them to take their research and put some of the words together to make a poem. I guess it is a little bit of a stretch for elementary school students but I know they can do it.
I tried this activity with marginal success when the music teacher was working on “The Star Spangled Banner.” Each year as part of The Star Spangled Banner Project she teaches the history behind our national anthem. I read a book to the students as part of that unit and then I have students write a found poem from all the stanzas of the original poem. Most times the students have never heard the entire poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. Below is the example I wrote to give them an idea of what I want. I wrote it to add to the project for next year because they are not getting the idea of what I want and they tend to stay with the part of the poem that they know.

By the dawn’s early light can you see the land of the free?
In full glory reflected the home of the brave?
Blest with victory and peace, a home and a country?
Does that star spangled banner yet wave?
Thus be it ever where freemen shall stand.
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.