(A Balanced Reading Approach for Canadians Designed to Achieve Best Results for All)
ABRA contains 32 alphabetic, fluency, comprehension and writing activities linked to 17 interactive stories and stories written by children. It is part of the Learning Toolkit that includes ePearl, the software we are using for digital portfolios. For more information you can visit the ABRA website http://grover.concordia.ca/abracadabra These activities can be used in a whole group, in centers, and by individuals. The characters and activities make learning a game. This year we started using this program with our 1st graders.They really enjoyed it and requested it often. We will expand the use next year into 2nd grade and with struggling 3rd grade readers. The writings and recordings are automatically saved to the student's ePearl digital portfolio. We plan to have students record themselves reading at least once each grading period. They will be able compare how their reading has changed over time.
At Woodsdale the software is installed on an in-school server with no outside access. Eventually we would like to give our students access to Abracadabra at home. They could practice reading and writing on their own time. Parents could also log in and check their child's progress and leave feedback. This software works very well in combination with the direct reading instruction students receive during their reading block.
(Inquiry Strategies for the Information Society in the Twenty-First Century)
Isis introduces late elementary/early secondary students (and their teachers) to the information literacy process by guiding students through the inquiry process. Topics covered are Planning, Searching and Using Information. Some of the specific skills include, developing the big question, identifying information sources, introduction to search strategies , evaluating the quality of the information found, and note taking. For more information visit the ISIS-21 website http://grover.concordia.ca/isis/.
ISIS will mostly be used with students in the library media center and it will only be used with major research projects because it is quite extensive. It is one of the best tools I've seen to help students through the research process. The work done in ISIS can be saved directly to the student's digital portfolio.
ClassChatter offers free blogging and web tools for teachers at all levels. It provides a private place for students and taechers to collaborate online. It is the only blogging site that I've found that doesn't require students to have an email address to have access. They do have a unique username and password assigned by the teacher. It is free and has no advertising. There are 3 types of blogs available. The first is a personal blog where kids log in and write their thoughts. They can be private or available for the class to read. In Topic blogs, the teacher posts a topic and students respond to it and each other. All students can see every posting. The teacher has the option of scrambling the student names so the children don't know who made which posting. The final type is an assignment blog. Students enter their response to the question or prompt and only the teacher can see it. The teacher can grade the assignment online and provide feedback to the student privately. ClassChatter also provides an email system that allows the teacher and student to communite with each other. Students cannot email each other.
Student can log into this site from any computer with internet access. I often use it to extend discussions that we have started in class.
Brainhoney is a free platform used to build an online classroom. Teachers can put their PowerPoints, documents, assignments, notes, quizzes, and links in one place for students to login and use from anywhere. Student could review material they had trouble with in class, keep up with assignments when they are absent or have materials to work on during snow days. They can submit assignments online and the teacher can grade and give feedback within the course. Brainhoney allows you to drag-and-drop the content standards into the course so you can keep track of what you have covered and which students have mastered the concepts.
In January, Bodie Fulford came to Woodsdale a provided a wonderful workshop on what Blended Learning is and gave the staff some time to work with BrainHoney. They were very excited about the possibilities and some teachers have put some simple activities together for their students to use. In the coming school year, we hope to provide a review on how to use BrainHoney and encourage more usage. I have not built a BrainHoney course myself. The first thing I hope to do is create a collection of activities on genres for the 3rd graders to work on.