Monday, July 9, 2012

Using Google+ Hangouts in the Gifted Ed Classroom

Summer is my time to relax, recharge, and reflect. Lately, though I've been doing a lot of learning informally and with the help of my PLN on Twitter. I have come across several of my Tweeps, who also happen to be fantastic Tweechers (teachers that tweet), mention Google+ Hangouts and their applications in the elementary classroom. Two posts that stood out to me and actually inspired this post were written by @ncarroll24. She begins by mentioning her first experiences with Hangouts and then offers 10 ways to use them in the elementary classroom. I recommend you check out these posts if you plan on using Google+ Hangouts. What followed after reading her posts was some experimenting of my own (with the help of @amusone & @mrbadura) and lots of ideas.

Here are some ways I plan to use Google Hangouts:

  1. Nancy mentioned some collaborative writing activities in her post and I really like this approach. One app worth mentioning for the pre-writing stages is Scoot & Doodle. Students can use this tool to draw their own webs, characters, or illustrations for stories or poems. Another variation would be to have classes draw Rebus Puzzles and solve each other's puzzles.
  2. Another excellent app for visual learners is Cacoo. This would work well for illustrating an array of concepts because it provides several templates for mind maps and flowcharts. These would work well for collaborative research projects.
  3. Google Docs is also integrated into the Hangouts, which would make it easier for smaller groups of students to take notes or collect information during a Hangout. I am wondering though if it would be possible and perhaps easier to have a couple students take notes live on other computers on that shared Google Doc in real-time so those in front of the hot seat (or webcam) are talking instead of typing.
  1. I plan to continue our Novel Study Units and hope to utilize Google+ Hangouts to talk with all our participating classes at the same time and play Vocabulary and Character Trait Games. We also plan on incorporating Readers' Theater using Google Effects. This should be fun!
  2. I also stumbled on A Story Before Bed. Although I did not get a chance to fully explore book title options, it looks like great app to use with younger learners, especially those who are learning English or to read. Wouldn't it be great for my students to start a virtual Buddy Reading Program with a younger class? We'll see what the future holds for this app.

One awesome app that @amusone and I played with was Panoramio. With this app, the person who starts the game selects from a group of pictures. A timer then starts while other players pin point the exact location of the picture on a Google Map. Once the timer stops, each player gets an estimate of how far their guess was to the actual location in kilometers. This game is a great way to expose students to different landmarks and use conversion in measurement of distances. After each turn, there is a new game master (and this is indicated by a top hat or some kind of effect), and that game master gets a red pin that indicates the exact location, which means they can give real-time clues to the players if he/she chooses to. I think this game would be a great introduction and/or variation to Mystery Calls.

Extra Bonus

Finally, my favorite feature is the fact that I can record our Google+ Hangouts! This recording is very easy to do and automatically uploads and streams on your YouTube Channel. It is important to note that the person starting the hangout must enable live recording by going to the YouTube App once others join.

So here are my plans for this nifty tool. What ways have/would you integrate them in your gifted curriculum or class? Please feel free to leave a comment or let me know if you would like to join us in this journey!

Monday, July 2, 2012

What's on your Dream List?

This summer I scheduled Dream Big Talks via Skype for our enrichment program. My goal was to expose my students to several successful people who have made their dreams come true in hopes of inspiring them to do the same. Along the way, these guest expert speakers got me thinking about my own dreams, particularly Abdul's talk. He encouraged us to dream big but also make plans on how to go about achieving our dreams. I think this last part is very important when talking to students, especially gifted students, about dreams or future plans. It takes organization, planning, action, reflection, trials, and triumphs to make dreams a reality. That's the message I got from not only our Dream Big Talks but in reading, watching, and even talking to successful folks. As a result, I wanted to share my Dream List.

Elle's Dream List

1. Travel to a new country every 2-3 years
2. Visit a different U.S. city every year
3. Teach abroad for about 3-5 years
4. Secure a career path that involves technology & education or gifted education (or both!)
5. Become a homeowner
6. Run a 10K race

So what's on your Dream List?

To conclude this post, have a look at what my students included on their Dream Lists.

Reflections of a Wanna Be Tech Teacher

This summer I had the privilege of being the tech teacher for an enrichment program in my district. I was super thrilled by the opportunity and decided to focus on Cybersafety and Digital Storytelling. I saw my students for 30 minutes, twice a week, which was not nearly enough time to devote to making videos. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. Here is what I learned throughout the process:

1. I felt a need to start the course discussing Cybersafety and how to stay safe online. It came to no surprise that a majority of my students were already using Facebook and Twitter. I reiterated this topic during our Parent Appreciation Event with families to further equip and encourage them to monitor their children's use of the internet and other tools.

2. The programs I used to create movies were developmentally appropriate. I chose to use Microsoft Story 3 with my 3rd and 4th graders and iMovie and iPhoto with my 5th-7th graders.

3. Classroom management was an area that I need to work on next year. This was most evident with classes that created movies in larger groups. I let each group plan everything out on their own. Since our students are very new to the movie making process, I will consider assigning specific jobs within each group to keep all members engaged.

4. On a similar note, our students needed more guidance in how they can portray their message or story. While I included footage and recordings of students' authentic (and mostly unedited) work, the quality of the message can always be improved. The best way to do this is probably to dedicate a little more time to viewing and analyzing some quality student final products and different elements within those products. I understand that this will not happen in one summer, but rather is a work in progress.

5. Lastly, I see a need to show our students how to use macbooks. Being a newbie macbook user myself, I wasn't ready to take this plunge this year. Over the course of the next few summers, I hope to start by introducing the basics and eventually transition into giving students more autonomy in the editing process in iMovie. The trailers were a perfect way to introduce iMovie thanks to their easy to use templates.

Overall, I was very proud of our students' hard work in planning and executing their projects. Below are a few examples of some final products.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mariachi High: Gifted Latino Youth Keeping the Tradition Alive

On Friday, June 29th PBS premiered its Summer Arts Festival with the special, Mariachi High. This documentary featured a year in the life of gifted Latino students from South Texas and their journey in competing and winning a Mariachi competition. As a Mexican American, I was so proud to see their story and accomplishments showcased. I was also captivated by their musical talent and how these young people captured the soul of Mariachi music. I can only imagine what their teacher, parents, and families felt.

When I was a girl, I remember my mother shedding a tear when she would see images of her beloved Mexican flag wave in El Zocalo and not understanding her reasoning for those tears. But after watching these young Latinos keeping the tradition alive and excel in their personal and academic lives, the tears hit me. Mine came from the feeling of nostalgia that mariachi music brings as well as pride for our next generation.

My Favorite Skype Moment

Talking to my Abue (short for Abuelita) for the first time on Skype has been my absolute favorite and most heart felt Skype moment. Her reaction to the fact that she could see and talk to me: Priceless.