It’s been a long time…

This year has been terribly busy, so far, with the many hats that I wear. Before I knew it, September and nearly all of October slipped away without so much as a single blog post from me. But, looking at the number of projects that I have on the go, it isn’t much of a surprise that my personal contributions to the Commons have been put on the back burner.

Here is what I have been up to since the school year started:

Teaching

My first experiences teaching outside of the FSL classroom have been rewarding and positively enriching to my well-being.  Who would have guessed that my initial decision to teach in the intermediate French classroom would lead me to teaching (and loving!) Grade 3 Literacy?  Mobility is one of the hallmarks of a career in Education.  Just as our learning branches out, allowing us to think laterally, our skills and practices can diversify, carrying us to new and exciting places.  The first time I set foot in a classroom, in the fall of 2005 in a village school in the South of France, I thought I had everything figured out.  My students at Beverly Central teach me every morning that my journey in learning, just like theirs, is destined to change and grow if I am willing.

Every morning at Beverly Central, my students post on Twitter.  This was no natural instinct at work during this important blended era of communication.  In part, I wanted the students to build stamina in writing, the very same way we try to accomplish this in reading.  Focusing on pre-writing — in other words, providing the inspiration, and letting the students do the rest – has greatly reduced anxiety in preparing open responses to media texts of all sorts.  The class is gradually building a more heightened awareness of the many texts that they encounter in their lives, just around every corner, and that these texts have purposes that are tied tightly to their construction.

In order to facilitate the transition from writing on paper to posting online, my students Tweeted on paper for a month.  They wrote on cut-out blue birds, sparked by a variety of prompts.  The result:  they can’t get enough of it!  They want to express themselves faster than I can even manage the mechanics of having every student type 140 characters in the post box.  We have a newly set-up publishing station that I am phasing in to use, complete with document camera for written and illustrated work, third-party software for posting on the commons (we have yet to use it), posting to Twitter, and to follow our favourite members of the Twitterverse.  And they ask me all the time to tell them more about Jared and Aviva and the other teachers we are starting to follow, and they are ecstatic when someone retweets one of their posts.  Building a solid foundation that built purpose and method in to their media literacy schemas is paying off.

My afternoons at Balaclava have been very exciting. First, I love doing kindergarten prep-coverage.  This is my chance to interact with and get to know students at that young, impressionable age when mutual trust and respect can be built with such ease, and I love that this bond remains as the students grow and mature.  Plus, I just love to sing and dance and do all the fun things we used to do at that age.  I have a weakness for playing with Lego, for walking like different animals, and for singing songs with the kids at the top of our lungs!

Finishing my afternoon with two amazing Grade 4 French classes really makes my day.  They never cease to amaze me!  After less than 2 months, every student can count in to the hundreds, and most can count up to a million — no exaggeration!  They respond to fully French instruction, and speak fluently with a vocabulary that is expanding at a staggering pace.  For every grammar expectation of the Grade 4 curriculum, they are picking up on structures and concepts that stretch in to much later grades, and use them without fear or inaccuracy.  Incredible!

Learning

I have started a Master’s degree at McMaster University in Communications Management, through the DeGroote School of Business and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Relations.  The emphasis is, as the two colleges imply, on public relations for use in business, but I  — along with 24 of the most brilliant communications experts I have ever met – am being taken on a journey that is designed to train me for a future that depends on human interaction.  The workload is heavy, but the rewards of the readings, lectures and assignments are like nothing I have ever experienced.  Public relations strategies are, in my opinion, the future of how complex organizations will need to plan and assess their structures and processes in order to achieve balance.

What’s next?

Only time will tell!  This has only been part of the story.  I am still dabbling in hardware and software development, freelancing between work and school, building strange and wonderful contraptions, and of course reading my usual (at best estimate) 100,000 words a day.  I hope to find the time to pull out some of my experiments with technology that are becoming relevant today, more so than they were a few years ago.  Back when the earth was old, last decade, I used to use my iPad instead of a smartboard, and before that my TabletPC, got students hooked on eBooks, used all sorts of discarded electronics to make classroom audio systems, buzzers, blinkers, mashed together websites and video and other tech that is now surfacing in classrooms.  Should have thought about blogging it back then!  SO, I’m looking forward to sharing what I have to offer in this domain in the very near future.

 

 

 

Happy New (School) Year

So many geekly things going on, on top of all the amazing new experiences teaching Grade 3 Language.  Have you ever wanted to build your own cloud server?  Have you ever had the urge to do some blacksmithing or etch your own metals?  Not sure which of those new 7 inch tablets to go for?  Stay tuned for all sorts of geekery @ Geek Chic.

What I’m Testing Now: LibriVox

LibriVox is quite a bit more than a WordPress site that makes its content easily searchable and provides podcast and RSS links: it is a massive collection of public domain readalouds.  In the dark, fall evenings, after too much screen-time and not enough water in the day, I like to relax to a good readaloud.  Some call them audiobooks, but I can get in to the mindset and comfort zone of my J/Ks last year and really develop my listening and language skills at the same time.  Recently I have been relying on MoonReader for Android (which also works another product I am testing, CodexCloud) and a commercial Text-To-Speech voice from SVOX, or the built in TTS (text-to-speech) on my Kindle 3.  Neither provides an inflectionless experience, but the tone and pitch variations do seem repetetive after a couple hours of George R.R. Martin. 

Enter audiobooks.  They deliver a true-to-the-ear experience of a readaloud, and, in the case of LibriVox, are completely free.  No pictures, unfortunately.  Not like the Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears ebooks from Oceanhouse Media for iPad.  But those were just ‘books on tape’ synchronized to a filmstrip with a beep, or with a collection of slides in the ingenious invention called the Caramate. 

Want a readaloud for your iPod right now?  Search for a public domain book, click to view its details and download links, and click the iTunes link.  For most of you using iTunes, it will download it as a podcast, and you can choose to synchronize it almost immediately.  Or use DoggCatcher on your Android phone.  Or download the OGG format files and listen from your favourite terminal based player in the latest stable Arch Linux.  But whatever you do, treat yourself to a readaloud right away!

E.M. Forster, here I come!

What I’m Testing Now: Three apps to send media from Android to AppleTV

Unfortunately, none of them worked.  DoubleTwist, Twonky Mobile and iMediaShare all promise to send video, audio and pictures from Android devices to Airplay devices such as the AppleTV.  My not-as-yet-overloaded 15 device wifi network usually has no problem sending video from my iPad to the AppleTV, or streaming 1080p to my GoogleTV (Logitech Revue) from phone or desktop, but this time it just didn’t work.  It is probably related to phone hardware or firmware.  Time to flash a new rom.
Anyone care to try? All three apps are available in the Android Market. All three are free for slightly limited trial use. 

What I’m Testing Now: mysms

mysms is a great app/webservice that uses cloud storage to let you text from Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), Windows, Mac OS, and even through the website.  I opted for the Chrome extension that is really just a bookmark with a nice button, but all versions provide a unified experience.  Install one copy on your phone, and log in from any other and you’re in business texting from your new iPad or from a browser on a borrowed computer.  The only catch is that your phone needs to be on, and connected to the Internet.  For someone worried about carrying their brand new iPhone 4S to school, but who wants to get that important SMS, this is the service.

Free, as are most of the services I use:  mysms

Centres – Grade 5 – C’est moi – An example of publishing to Commons from Word


October 2010 – First HYS week.
Time requirements: Approx. 40 minutes per centre.

Centre 1: Le parler
Objective: Practice presenting some of the sample students. Create drawings or posters as visual aids. Use actions to communicate effectively.

  • use visual and verbal cues to understand and convey the meaning of familiar material
  • use some conventions of oral language (e.g., pronunciation, intonation) to speak in familiar contexts;
  • give an oral presentation of five to ten sentences in length

 

Materials: paper (chart, lined, blank), pencil, markers, pencil crayons, copies of student profiles 

 

Centre 2: L’écriture
Objective: Practise spelling. Practise writing modeled sentences. Extend writing by making compound sentences. Extend structures by talking about people using their name as subject.

  • write simple phrases, short sentences, and questions, using learned vocabulary and simple language structures;
  • write, using a model, a first draft and corrected version in guided and cooperative writing tasks (e.g., greeting cards);
  • use and spell the vocabulary appropriate for this grade level (les matières)

Materials: paper, pencil, modeled sentence sheet

Centre 3
: L’orthographe

Objective: Practise spelling vocabulary and modeled sentences

  • use of resources (e.g., classroom-displayed vocabulary, text, visual dictionary) to confirm spelling 

 

Materials: paper, pencil, graphic organizer, resources (vocabulary list, verb charts, classroom anchors)

Centre 4: Guided activity
Objective: Discuss next steps for presentations and writing. Students reflect on viewing their presentations and reading their written copies. Record this on the back page of the student’s notebook. Ask them to work through the checklist and generate two stars and two wishes (ideally) from the group for each student. Teacher records on a class list.

Centre 1: Le parler (SPEAKING)
Materials :
Partenaire 1:            Partenaire 2:        Les deux partenaires:

 

Directions:

  1. Partenaire 1 and Partenaire 2 take turns reading their parts, presenting the ‘friends’ from TEXT A and TEXT B. For familiar words and expressions, use actions. Read at a loud volume so you can be heard clearly. Try using facial expressions. Are you pronouncing all words correctly? Use the checklist and when you have finished, switch roles. Communicate with your partner!

     

2. Each partenaire draws a poster on chart paper as a visual aid for presenting their ‘friend’ from TEXT A or TEXT B. See the sample on the board for how it should look. Now, present your ‘friend’ from TEXT A or TEXT B, but without reading from the text. Try to use the poster to guide you. Keep trying until you can present without looking. You should then use the checklist and the actions list to enhance the presentation.

NEXT STEP : Create a poster that can be used for presenting your friend. Use the model sentences and vocabulary in your notebook and in class to talk about them.

LEVEL 4 IDEAS:

  • Turn the presentation in to a story. Illustrate each sentence separately so that it is like a story-book. Present it as though you are doing a read-aloud, but memorize it.
  • Change the order and join sentences using ET
  • repeat some of the sentences to describe more about your partner

Centre 2: L’Écriture (WRITING)

Directions (individually):

  1. Practice writing using the models. For every example, rewrite the whole sentence then replace the blank with a vocabulary word. Exemple:

J’aime ___________. »
J’aime les mathématiques.

 

  1. J’aime _______________.
  2. J’adore _______________.
  3. Je déteste _______________.
  4. Je préfère _________. (prefer)
  5. Je regarde _________. (look at)
  6. Je n’aime pas ________. (don’t like)
  7. Je n’adore pas _________.
  8. Je ne déteste pas __________.

     

For EACH sentence above, rewrite it using IL or ELLE. You are just replacing Je with IL or ELLE

J’aime les mathématiques.
»
Il aime les mathématiques.

  1. Write a paragraph using models in your dossier and on the bulletin board in the classroom. Replace each clue below with a full sentence. Don’t forget to make the information about YOURSELF!

Exemple:

(A way to say hello). »

Bonjour.

(A way to say hello). (Share your name). (Ask your audience their name). (Share your age). (Share how you are feeling). (Share animals that you like, love and dislike). (Say goodbye).

REWRITE the paragraph so you are describing a friend.

 

LEVEL 4 IDEAS:
Use et between subjects to make your sentences longer.
J’aime les chiens et les chats.
Use NOUS to talk about yourself AND your partner. Use your ER verb chart as a reference. Eg.

Il aime les mathématiques Nous aimons les mathématiques

Centre 3: L’ORTHOGRAPHE (SPELLING)

Directions (individually):

  1. Printing:
    Print a full line of each of the following:
Ça va il s’appelle éàçôë
elle déteste il préfère les études sociales

What do you need to improve? Which letters do you need to work on? Repeat a line of each that needs improvement.

  1. Copy the following paragraph in to your notebook using the Writing process JE PENSE (I think about what I am going to write) JE REGARDE (I look at what I am going to write and point at it) J’ÉCRIS (I write the word). Think out loud
    to a partner as you do this.


    Bonjour. Voici mon ami. Il s’appelle Steve. Il a huit ans. Il va magnifique ! Il aime les mathématiques. Il adore les études sociales. Il déteste l’éducation physique. Il préfère le drame. Il étudie les langues. Merci, et au revoir Steve!


    What do you need to improve? Did you make any spelling errors? If you did make an error, did you correct it? Were you thinking out loud? With your partner, practice re-writing sentences from your notebook using the process.

     

  1. Check your entire notebook for spelling mistakes. Think out loud as you check every word. At the top of every page write “NO SPELLING MISTAKES” and “I CORRECTED # MISTAKES” for example “I CORRECTED 5 MISTAKES”

     

CENTRE 1 TEXT A

Voici Samantha. Elle a dix ans. Elle va fantastique! Elle aime les mathématiques. Elle adore les études sociales. Elle déteste l’éducation physique. Elle préfère le drame. Elle étudie les langues. Merci, et au revoir Samantha!

 

 

CENTRE 1 TEXT B

Voici Roger. Il a onze ans. Il va formidable! Il aime la géographie. Il adore l’art visuel. Il déteste l’anglais. Il préfère le français. Il étudie l’histoire. À bientôt, Roger!

Free yourself from the browser when posting to the Commons, Part 1: ScribeFire

ScribeFire is a one-click-access app that gives me a quick and easy way to post to my commons blog.  It installs as an extension for Firefox, Chrome (and Chromium, Linux lovers), Opera and Safari.

UPDATE:
I did just what I said, and came back to add some images through Commons. Enjoy!

UPDATE #2:

BEFORE you do any of this, go to your Blog dashboard, then change the writing settings so that XML-RPC publishing is enabled.  If you also enable Atom publishing, you can even post from Word.  I’ll cover that in another post.

Enter "commons.hwdsb.on.ca" and click "Next"

I configured it by clicking “Add a New Blog”, then added commons.hwdsb.on.ca as the URL, and my commons credentials that I use to log in through the web portal.  After clicking Next, Scribefire detected the Woredpress installation, retrieved my list of blogs (just one, for now!), and let me save it to my list of blogs I write outside of commons.

The left panel gives me quick access to the blog where I would like to post, the choice of post or page entries to edit — along with a Start a New Post link – anf my categories and tags.  These are all easily maintained and edited through the one panel, so I no longer need to wait for page reloads when working in Commons.

Configured automatically! Just enter your username and password and click "Finish"

The righthand pane fills the remaining space, and is a slick, streamlined version of what I see on a new post page.  The Post Content toolbar is lacking the “Kitchen Sink” panel available through WordPress, but I have just about everything I need to write a formatted post, insert a few images, and insert YouTube videos.  Unfortunately, there is no access to my Commons media library, but when inspiration hits, I am only a few clicks away from getting my content online.  Below the text box, the option to Save Progress as a draft or to Publish gives me the flexibility to make some changes and insert content from my library.

One click access from the browser toolbar.

Screenshots are on their way.