Mrs. Harrison's VSTE/Instructional Technology Blog

Notes from my attendance at the 2007 VSTE Conference in Virginia Beach, VA

Web 2.0 Applications I want to remember:

iSketch shown to me by my son, Matt. It's a better version of Pictionary online. Play with strangers or meet your friends.  Lots of fun.


Newspaper Headline Generator

Sunday Sessions Attended:

  • "Macromizing" the Effectiveness of PowerPoint Presentations

  • "Primary Access: Creating Digital Documentaries in the Social Studies Classroom"

  • Keynote address: "Engage Me or Enrage Me": Educating Today's "Digital Native" Learners

Macromizing the Effectiveness of Power Point Presentations was presented by technology administrators from Norfolk Public Schools. They showed us how they used macros, visual basic within PowerPoint, to create interactive slideshows, such as quizzes.

I'm not sure if this is worth the time it takes to learn to write macros, but I will create one such activity so that I can better evaluate it's effectiveness.

The macros they use personalize the responses to the child, count the number right, create a score, and react positively or negatively to the child's answer.

Primary Access: Creating Digital Documentaries in the Social Studies Classroom was presented by a team from Old Dominion Univ., Granby High School, and the University of VA. Students use free online software, primary sources from the Library of Congress, and their own "script" to create movies that they can then share with fellow students, family and friends online. 

This is something we must try at Indian Lakes. I immediately thought of fifth grade writing, about the struggles of the Jamestown settlers, that I have already heard, being turned into movies.

The Keynote Speaker was Marc Prensky, author of "Digital Game-Based Learning." I had heard of him through Bruce previously as the fellow who talks about today's children being among the Digital Natives while we "old folks" are Digital Immigrants. He didn't coin the phrase, but I think he's making it popular. This blog is my attempt to lessen my own "accent."

Monday Sessions Attended:

  • Quick and Easy Computer Activities for Kids

  • Give Them 21st Century Tools

  • 2-D to 3-D: Instill Creativity

  • Make Your Social Studies & Science Come Alive with SOL Technology Multimedia

I can't really blog from the cybercafe but I've been to two sessions so far today, both good, each very different. I look forward to coming back later and sharing.

I have a dozen sites to check out that I just got a brief introduction to. I think I'll have a lot to share.

Quick and Easy Computer Activities for Kids
This was a fast paced session by Tammy Worcester, an author of four How To books. It was the sort of thing that classroom teachers are starving for and CRSs usually find redundant, but I found myself hungry for it. I immediately saw ideas I could use, particularly with fourth grade, that are quick projects that I think will really engage the children when I return.

I fully expect to purchase one of this woman's books with my own money and probably the other three with my school budget as soon as possible. 

Specific Ideas I hope to hold onto:
1.  Fact Flippers -12 PPT slides, 1st is a title slide, 2-6 are Questions about the topic, 7 is about the author (student), and 9-12 are answers to questions 2-6. The students create the questions and answers as well. Print 6 slides per page. Cut three sides of each slide on the first page, folding to help get to the edges, and fix it over the second page. Do it on colored paper for added interest.

2.  Calculating Mass/Weight on planets
Have students create a spreadsheet that uses formulas to calculate the weight on each planet when you enter the weight on earth.

3.  Magic Square
Have students create a spreadsheet and fill in the formulas to create a magic square. They learn to resize columns and rows, add borders, enter formulas, color code  cells, and format font. Each row, column and the diagonal should add up to 15. Use each digit 1-9 once.

4.  ABC Biography
Slide Show, one letter per page, group project. To make it more interesting, the events must also be in chronological order. Example was Ben Franklin.

5.  Choose Your Own Ending - Short Story on PPT with choices to make. One level deep, could go a little further but not much. Teaches kids to use action buttons.

6. Tall Tale - Kids write their Tall Tales in Word or Appleworks and then change the page to three columns, print, cut out the columns and connect them in a long TALL tale.

7. Acrostic - Forces student to think. They can't just copy and past from a webpage. Use PPT, word art for the verticle word. Create one text box for the rest of the first sentence and then right click: set auto shape defaults, to set the font for the rest of the presentation. Make new text boxes and write the rest of the sentences.

8. Zip Up Display - great for science displays. Type in the third quarter of a page, print, fold, and staple to the top of a baggie.

9. Postcard Home - Include a graphic, at least three facts, and a stamp. Use PPT and print slide as a handout (2 slides per page). If the student duplicates the slide you get one to display and one to take home.

10.  Bookmarks- Use rulers in PPT. Use Ctrl Move All Grab the picture to move.

Give Them 21st Century Tools was another session by the keynote speaker. It turned into a lively discussion about how you manage and teach, and be responsible for, kids while letting them use their tools and toys. About all I can take from this is the acknowledgement that kids want to learn in a gaming environment, and that can be used to my advantage.

I got Mr. Prensky to send me his presentation from Sunday so I could investigate further some of the Web2 ideas, social networking, etc. There were so many ideas I had not heard of like P2P. Wikepedia keeps coming up as a source of reliable information. This is a shift for me!

2-D to 3-D: Instill Creativity
We saw a demonstration of Google Sketchup, a 3-D application available free online. The presenters were mother, college professor,  and adult son, teacher, who have a website at . They also recommended reading at This software was amazing, allowing students to create three dimensional objects. We spent most time on a house. Possible curriculum connections: art, buildings from Greece, Rome, Mali; draw hemispheres and other math solids, create a virtual diorama, and practicing measurement and geometry skills. Protractor and tape measures are part of the program.

Make Your Social Studies & Science Come Alive with SOL Technology Multimedia
Obe Hostetter from Rockingham Public Schools has done an amazing job of collecting resources in one place for Virginia teachers. His site is at He has 300 Kidspiration templates he's found on the web and imported into computers at schools. To download them right click and "save target as." If you just click there will be an error because your browser doesn't know what to do with a Kidspiration document.

He also showed us QuizShow, free software that works with ExamView - software that comes with a lot of text books. We may well have it and not know it because teachers don't know what it is.

He recommends getting one Quia license per school for the CRS to use to collect and create games appropriate for his/her school.


 Tuesday Sessions Attended

  • Take a Field Trip without Leaving the Classroom: Museums, Zoos, and Distance Learning

  • Is This Really Power Point?

  • Who Wants to Wiki? MOving Students to Web 2.0 through Online COllaboration

  • Math and Science with Vernier's GO! Links

  • I Can Do It, Too! Using Photo Story with K-2

Take a Field Trip without Leaving the Classroom: Museums, Zoos, and Distance Learning

Presented by a gal from The Mariner's Museum

Types of Online Field Trips:
Interactive Video Conferencing (Mariners' Museum)
Virtual Tours
One Sided Live Video without Interactivity (a ballet)

Advantages of online trips:
Less expensive (About $130 per event)
Can bring experiences to the child that are otherwise inaccessible  because of distance
Time saving, no bus ride

The Mariner's Museum has an "Age of Exploration" program made for the Va third grade SOL on explorers, a second grade program for Jamestown and the Powhatans called "Riding in a Log Canoe" and one called "Clash of Americans" about the Monitor and the Merrimack battle. They also have "Pirates" and "144 Days of Sea," also about Jamestown.

There is some Free Programming available from some organizations: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian National Air and Space Center, the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, and the Library of Congress, to name a few.

Highly Rated Video Conferencing Organizations:
Mariner's Museum (See above)
Mote Marine Lab (Sharks, Coral Reefs)
Indianapolis Zoo (Amazing Amazon)
Cleveland Musuem of Art (Greece and Rome)

The maximum number of kids served is usually 35-40 in one video conference, but the Mariners Museum has done assemblies of more. Most schools get funding from the school or the PTA. Document cameras are used at the site to show close ups of artifacts shared. Sometimes items are sent to the school for the students to handle. The quality of video and audio is determined by the school's hardware and network situation. There is some delay.

Is This Really Power Point?

This was a second session by Tammy Worcester. I immediately purchased two of her books at the conclusion of her session and will try to get school funding to buy the others for the computer lab or teachers' reference area of the library. She gave 10 more ideas that I could walk away and use, but because they are in her book I won't rewrite them here. She's amazing! If you get a chance to see her, you should.

Who Wants to Wiki? Moving Students to Web 2.0 through Online COllaboration

I attended this session because I have agreed to teach an APPLE class in October to fifth grade teachers in using Class SharePoint sites. Even though this didn't apply directly I knew the flavor was going to be the same - get the kids excited about online collaboration in a controlled, safe environment. WOW! I was blown away. This teacher has a gifted sixth grade class that does all their writing, peer editting, and discussing via a closed Wiki. I learned a lot.

"Wikiwiki" is Hawaiian for "Quick."
Kids make up names for themselves. This teacher limited them to color words. With over 40 students this got creative.
Because of the Wiki, a child who moved to another state was able to stay in touch.
Shy kids opened up on the Wiki sometimes. The students most vocal in person were not necessarily the most verbal online.
The teacher could put her assignments and discussion starters online easily. She usually opened Word files she'd used in planning or from previous years, and simply cut and paste into the Wiki.
One discussion question yielded 151 comments from students in 30 minutes, and yes, they were responding to each other.
The teacher has a rubric for participation in online discussions: 2 points for a question, 3 for a comment that evokes a responce from fellow students, etc.
The Wiki this teacher pays for to keep it secure is $9.95 a month. She has a single "guest" account with one password for all parents. I will adapt parts of this to Class SharePoint sites rather than create a Wiki.

Math and Science with Vernier's GO! Links

The fellow who presented at this session is a teacher at a juvenile detention center in another county. His copresenter, who was to share the science side of the presentation, was not able to come. I was hoping to get some practical ideas to use the probes we have, but that wasn't how it was structured. In the juvenile detention center there are fewer students in a class, they are older than my students, and this teacher has less structure to his plans than I have to have with my classes.

I did find out from other CRSs in Virginia Beach who were there that we should have six more sets of probes and the book in our school by now. I will hunt ours down ASAP.

I Can Do It, Too! Using Photo Story with K-2

This was the last session of the conference and I wanted it to be a feel good session, even if it was about something I'd seen before. This one sounded like it would have examples of kids' work and that was what I wanted my parting thought to be about. I was not disappointed.
Everything I saw was created by kindergarten students. They did all the work themselves except saving. They had help with recording their voices as well. They did the photo selection, typing text, manipulating text, adding transitions, and choosing music! They could do some of that in October. They did it all in May. Whatever they typed and said was accepted and assessed. In this way the experience was differentiated for all students. When work was shared, all the kids cared about was whose it was, not how strong or weak the text or verbalizations were.

Projects generally took two class periods, one for photos and text, one for transitions and music. Teacher did the saving and pulled students one at a time for recording at another time. The teaching method was to pull the kids close on the floor around a screen to show them what to do and then to let them go to their computers and try it. Some could take off from there, others needed more assistance, and some needed someone to show them and encourage them through every step. They all completed their photo stories.

Capture the memory of a field trip

PhotoStory 3
Windows Media Player 10


Things I learned about on the side:
a place to upload your photos to share with others who are looking for digital images to use in projects. Undoubtedly blocked at school, it could help teachers looking for images while at home.

Screenhunter is a free application to use when you want to capture your screen or a part of it and save it in a variety of graphic formats.

Noodletrip is a Virtual Field Trip search engine. 

New Web 2.0 Ideas since VSTE