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December 2, 2012 / tasha cowdy

A Kindergarten Collaboration

During a recent Skype meeting with our KinderPals in Canada, the two classes agreed to collaborate to write a fictional story. KinderPals tweeted some ideas to KC, and we discussed them and added our ideas. The KC children wondered how we could share our ideas with KinderPals as, “there are too many letters and they will go red and then we can’t send it” on Twitter, their usual communication tool. I introduced the children to Google docs. We created a document and I explained to the children how we could share the document with others and choose who could edit the document. As we recorded our ideas in the document, some children wondered how we would know which ideas were KC’s and which were KinderPals’. Trenton suggested using different colours. The KC children chose red. Nia suggested offering to swap colours if KinderPals wanted to be red.

kc collab fiction

The classes are taking turns to give feed-back on the ideas so far and to add their own ideas. They tweet each other when they have added some more ideas to the Google doc so that the other class can have a look at the updated version.

Today the KC children added some ideas to the introduction. They added some details to describe the castle so that KinderPals could imagine what the castle looked like. Then they drew pictures of the castle to share with KinderPals via the class blog so that they can get some feedback from their co-collaborators.

Click here for the link to Castles on PhotoPeach

Some of the children in KC have been asking if we can Skype with KinderPals again, “because it will be easier to decide when we can see them and ask them, otherwise we have to wait for ever, till the next day, to wait for a twitter.” Other children explain that it is difficult to Skype because KinderPals and KC are in different time zones, and when we are at school, KinderPals are at home. Someone wondered if we could Skype KinderPals during our sleepover. Hal suggested checking on the worldtime buddy app that we use to keep track of different time zones of our friends around the world. We found that skyping won’t work during our sleepover. We will have to find another way of communicating.

time zones

As the project unfolds, both groups of children are expanding their knowledge of 21st century communication tools and are learning that their learning environment expands far beyond their classroom.

December 2, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Communicating around the world

A few weeks ago, the children decided to tell KinderPals, their partner Kindergarten class in our Kindergarten Around the Worldglobal project, about YIS. We brainstormed to come up with a list of important things that the KinderPals might like to know.

The children discussed the best way to share this information with KinderPals. Their tool box contains an ever-growing range of tools for global communication. Children called out suggestions and other children agreed or pointed out limitations of a particular tool:

  • Twitter: not enough letters, it goes red and does minus.
  • Fotobabble: good because you can take a photograph and then talk about it, but you have to keep going to twitter to find all the photos
  • PhotoPeach: good because all the photographs are together and there is music to listen to while you look at the photographs
  • Skype: wont work because of time zones

Eventually someone suggested VoiceThread. After a little discussion, the children reached a consensus that VoiceThread would be the best tool because children from other classes could leave their ideas too. “And we might get a new idea from their ideas” explained one child.

The children have made quite a few VoiceThreads already this term and their development is evident in this most recent one. Many children were able to leave comments without any help, and the others could comment with a little help from another student.The comments show increasing sense of audience; the children are speaking loudly and clearly and they are including an increasing amount of detail in their comments. When we played back the comments, children were able to offer constructive feedback as “critical friends”.

Already, these five year olds and six year olds are learning to harness the power of flattened classrooms and are reaching out to the world in authentic ways. They are able to select appropriate communication tools, taking into account synchronous and asynchronous communication possibilities, considering purpose and audience and selecting a tool that enables dialogue.

October 20, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Using tablet computers with young children

As part of the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher course I am doing I had to write an assignment and make a video on an area of technology that interested me, focusing  on innovations in that particular area. Increasingly, tablet computers are being used to support teaching and learning with young children. I decided to make a video clip to explain the impact that tablet computers are having in Early Years classrooms from several different perspectives.

October 15, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Wiki assessment rubric

For Flat Classroom challenge #9, we had to assess three students on the wiki project we created for the previous challenge. The wiki assesment in the PD tool kit was not suitable for lower elementary students.

Wiki Assessment from PD Tool Kit:

I decided to make my own rubric. Although this was time consuming, I found it really useful to think carefully about what exactly I wanted my students to be able to do and how I would know that they were able to do this.

Teacher Assessment Rubric: Wiki

Once I had created the teacher assessment rubric, I felt that ideally, the students should have a self assessment rubric.

Student Self Assessment: Wiki

With hindsight, I think the student self assessment rubric would be sufficient; I don’t think it is necessary to have a separate teacher assessment rubric. However, I think a peer assessment rubric would be useful.

A note on rubrics:  I  find my self using rubrics less and less. I find that really detailed rubrics  can restrict student creativity. Rubrics should provide structure and make assessment transparents but should not constrain students or put a ceiling on achievement. Alfie Kohen’s article on The Trouble with Rubrics and Carol Broos’ article  No Rubrics For Me provide interesting perspectives.

September 30, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Giving students a choice

Recently the children have been engaged in a student initiated inquiry into the moon, sparked by a host country cultural event. In order to support and extend the children’s spontaneous inquiry I gather up a collection of resources. I assume that not all children will be interested in the same things. They learn in different ways so I try to find resources that will cater for different learning styles.
A group of children go to the library to find fiction and non-fiction books on the moon. Another group email the high school science department to ask if we could borrow a model of the moon, and email the IT department to ask if they could put Google Earth’s Moon Globe on our iPads. I supply a range of other materials to cater for the range of learning styles and interests.

When we come to our inquiry time the children have opportunities to construct their understandings about the moon using clay, wire, paint, pen and pencil drawings, books, 3D models, touch screen reference apps and youtube video clips. The children collaborate and work together, switching between the iPad app, globes, clay, black line drawings, non-fiction books and youtube video clips.

As they work, the children share findings, dispute ideas, test theories and co-construct their understandings, revising their schemas in the light of new information. Although only one of the choices offered involves the use of digital technology, the children are engaged in questioning, building, inventing and connecting in their physical environment at level that is right for them. These children are laying strong foundations on which to develop their attitudes, skills and understandings with regard to digital learning, as they move up though the school.

September 20, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Editing Wikipedia

I was interested in attempting the bonus challenge of editing Wikipedia. I had spent some time previously exploring the contributing/ editing structure of wikipedia when I stumbled across a link to an article that had been removed. At the time, I had been sufficiently intrigued to follow the links and find out more.  Based on that earlier experience, I felt that the actual process of editing would not be too daunting. The bigger challenge seemed to be finding something to edit; I couldn’t think of any area of knowledge to which I could usefully contribute.  

I grew up in a small rural community in Ireland. It occurred to me that I possessed expert knowledge about the area that was probably not widely known or documented.  However, I wasn’t sure that the knowledge I had would be useful in any way. I went to Wikipedia and spent some time browsing. I came across a Wikipedia article about an ancient landmark, the Annadorn dolmen that was well known locally. I remembered it vividly from my childhood. I noticed that there was a banner saying that this article was an orphan.


I clicked on the link to learn more about orphaned articles and found that there were no links from other articles to this article, which meant that this article was apparently hard to find unless a searcher had very specific information.  I clicked on a few more links to learn what I could do about the article’s orphan status. After a little more research, I found another Wikipedia article dolmens with a section on dolmens in Europe. Within that section, there was a paragraph on dolmens in Ireland, with some examples.  The north of Ireland (where I am from) was mentioned, but there were no examples. So … I edited the dolmens article by adding a linked example of the Annadorn dolmen.  


I hope I’ve done it correctly! Before I did any actual editing, I read a Wikipedia article on how to edit Wikipedia and FAQs about editing.  I opened a Wikipedia account (as advised by the articles) and tested my edit in my sandbox. Despite testing and getting the desired results in the sandbox, I mucked up the link twice before I got it working in Wikipedia. I’m a little overwhelmed by the responsibility of editing Wikipedia and the global consequences of any mistakes I might have made.  I’ve checked the link, via several routes, and it seems okay. I’m still waiting for a scolding email from someone to tell me I’ve mucked up the whole system …

As I reflect on my own process, it occurs to me what a powerful thing it is for students to participate as global  collaborators and contributors.  I see strong connections to the previous module on digital citizenship;  as students contribute more, and more publicly, it becomes increasingly important that they have a deep understanding of the importance of on-line integrity.

September 17, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Aligning a digital project to standards

This week’s challenge is to revisit a project and align the project objective with a set of standards. For this challenge, I decided to reflect on our collaborative writing wiki project and to align the objectives with the ISTE NETS for students.

In our planning documents we had identified the purpose of the wiki as:

  • to provide students witn an authentic audience for their writing
  • to give students an opportunity to work collaboratively
  • to enable parent involvement
  • to provide opportunities for differentiation so that students can work at their own levels, scaffolded and extended at a level that is right for each child

When I cross-referenced these purposes with the NETS, I found that the purposes were closely aligned with Communication and Collaboration, 2a and 2b

As I read through the rest of the NETS I realized that we do coven many of the outcomes at a level that is appropriate for Kindergarten. However, currently we don’t have a structure for tracking or assessing technology outcomes. They are planned for and documented in the appropriate subject-specific planners, but we don’t have an overview. This can lead to gaps. It would be useful to have some way of getting a “whole picture” view. I find the ISTE NETS useful for my own personal record. I would like us, as a school, to put in place some structure to help us track and evaluate students’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding as they move through the school.

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