Loving Google Docs

Today has been a great day at cohort21. I loved breaking into small groups and brainstorming with the Knowledge and Collaboration group! You can check out our action plans and thoughts on our wallwisher page. It was interesting hearing about the common road blocks between high school and elementary students, such as set up, and scaffolding using the technology!

What I’m taking from today is viewing google docs in a new light! My group has recommended using google docs with my Grade 3’s as another means of online collaboration. I’ve been greatly resistant to this because my students don’t have email addresses.

Today I actually had the opportunity to generate my own google document! I’m going to use this as a way to exhibit the student’s novel study videos to parents at our upcoming student led conference day. I learned how to upload a video to youtube, transfer it to quietube to get rid of advertisements, then link to google docs. I think having a couple of laptops around the room during the conference open to the google docs page will allow students to easily find their name/video from the list, and show their parents.

My next steps include checking out kidblog, finding new uses for google docs in the classroom, and checking out new forums that promote digital collaboration amongst students!


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I am classically trained in Knowledge Forum

I am classically trained in Knowledge Forum. Throughout my university studies at ICS, the online collaborative technology known as Knowledge Forum, was heavily preached and practiced all around me! It was admired for both its simple, low tech aesthetic, and its messy tangled web of intertwined ideas.

Knowledge Forum Database

Ahhh Knowledge Forum…. I remember watching children in junior grades log onto their laptops, and post new ideas about their understanding of light or ancient civilizations, and ask new questions! Then, when I was working as a Special Education teacher I used this technology to facilitate a DIEP (Dynamic Individual Education Plan) and build information about a student with special needs with parents, classroom teachers, OTs, and SLPs. When I taught my first Grade Two class at the Mabin School I knew that without a doubt, like the many greats that came before me, I too would use Knowledge Forum in my classroom! We raised salmon that year and during “choosing time” I would pull students aside one by one and help them type out a note, or comment on a friend’s note because that was the only way I could manage it with twenty-two seven year olds! I always projected the database on the smartboard so we could collectively read and write notes together, but it was certainly overwhelming to introduce this technology to my young students.

How do fish breathe

Stepping Back

Last year was the first year I took a step back from the big KF and did not use it in my classroom. It was beginning to feel inauthentic, and perhaps more work then it was worth.  Also, my students were just learning how to type, and navigate their way around a computer. Moving into teaching Grade 3, I didn’t have the flexibility of “choosing time” in our schedule, which meant less opportunities to pull children aside and scribe one-on-one to other children’s notes…and how effective was that anyways?

Still there was a void to be filled. This year through joining the Cohort21 community I sought to discover current, Grade 3 friendly alternatives to Knowledge Forum.

What else is out there?

After a fantastic tip from Marci I discovered edistorm! This is my new favourite tool! http://Edistorm.com/ is a password protected collaborative online learning environment to build shared knowledge, all through sticky notes!!

So far I have used edistorm in two ways. In our unit researching flight we created a “KWL” (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart on edistorm.

edistorm laptop          Want to Know

The children added electronic sticky notes to each of the categories. I specifically wanted to focus on the “Want to Know” section and take a look at how we ask questions. Using a helpful “q-chart” (thank you again Marci!) the children learned to ask different types of questions: knowledge, analytical, summary, and prediction questions. I found that at first many of our questions were knowledge based ex. “When did the first person fly?” These types of questions are interesting, but you can open a book or go online and find the answer. We talked about “juicier” questions, the ones that you really need to use your brain to answer. For example, an analytical question such as “How did the first World War change flight history?” Using the q-chart the children have the language right in front of them to ask these interesting questions. The sticky notes on edistorm were colour coded by question type. If you are asking “Why would someone want to fly,” then your synthesis question is typed on a green sticky note.

Edistorm and q-chart

Novel Study

We also used edistorm to collaborate on our novel study, Flight From Big Tangle. The children inserted their vocabulary words, text-to-self connections, and I wonder questions into an edistorm webpage with three background panels.  Each sticky note was colour coated to match their hand written homework stickies, completed as they were reading the novel.

I wonder         text-to-self connections

The great thing about edistorm is that you can comment on other people’s sticky notes. In the example posted you can see that one of the unfamiliar vocabulary words was “pontoon.” With a lesson on using wordcentral.com a student was able to define the word pontoon, and link a photo of a pontoon to his comment. Also, check out the photo of students responding to the question, “Why does the character use a walking stick?”

edistorm-novel study-pontoon                     walking stick

Online vs Face2Face

I feel that any technology I introduce to Grade 3’s needs to be taught in a careful, and structured way that includes quite a bit of reflection and classroom discussion. I always begin and end any edistorm session by projecting our work on the smart board. We talk about “edistorm etiquette,” how to answer a question, and explain your thinking in an appropriate and articulate way that builds knowledge and furthers our thinking.

My Action Plan

Focus: My question now is what else is out there? What online or digital forums exist to build collective knowledge in an elementary classroom setting? 

Research: I would like to get out there, both in person or over the web, and see what other teachers are up to. I would like to try at least one new medium in my own classroom. This research will have a case-study feel to it. I am particularly curious what road blocks or strategies other teachers have developed to ensure the technology is accessible to younger students.

Feedback Loop: I’d like to work with other Cohort 21 colleagues, speak with colleagues within my school, and hopefully be linked up with other colleagues from the Cohort21 network. I am also curious about Diigo research groups.

Publishing and Sharing my Exploration: I will update my blog when I come across a new finding, or reflect about the events occurring in my own classroom. I will share this information with my staff during a pd session. I would like to write an article and share with other teachers through another online medium – any help or advice in this area would be appreciated!

Looking forward to learning more!


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Pigeons and Knowledge Forum

In my last blog post I questioned more ways primary teachers can incorporate technology into their lessons, I found one! For Halloween I was a pigoen. Not your average street pigeon, but a particular pigeon from Mo Willem’s amazing children’s … Continue reading

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Technology and 29

Yesterday I celebrated my 29th birthday and I was thinking about technology (amongst thoughts of chocolate and cake of course). But seriously, I really was thinking about how I am now at an age where it can really go either way for my relationship with new technological advancements. And…when I say advancements I’m not even talking about things that are super recent, but rather things that I have avoided!

Take twitter for example. For years I have avoided this form of social media associating its primary use with Kardashian updates and my 19 year old cousin posting crazy pictures with “#yolo” next to them (yes, I am proud of myself that I know what this stands for, but only because my 14 year old cousin told me).

As I secretly and shamefully googled “What is a hashtag?” in the privacy of my bedroom the night before the cohort 21 seminar I really was feeling old. I know that for some people 29 is not old, but as my 8 year old student said to me yesterday as I revealed the magic b-day number, “Wow, you look so good for your age!” To which my colleague remarked, “Get used to that one.” (I will never get used to that one)

So, birthday musings of this year are really about looking at technology without resistance and embracing how it can support my professional practice and bring more life, energy, and “connectedness” to my classroom.

Being a part of this community is a huge opportunity for me to push and challenge misconceptions I have about using technology in the classroom (and in life).

My favourite tool so far is diigo. http://www.diigo.com I have raved about this to my colleagues (most responded with – isn’t that just like pintrest?) I already have a list of math resources going and hope to compile more on flight, our theme at the moment.

Another question in my mind is how does all of this technology apply to elementary education? My grade 3’s are too young for phones and we practice typing on Mavis Beacon weekly. I have a smart board (that I love and use all of the time) and incorporate youtube videos into my lesson, but what else is out there?

Can’t wait to learn more!


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My first post…

Testing..this is my first post on the blog..still trying to figure out how to change the title

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Hello world!

Welcome to Cohort 21 The Cohort 21 Network. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Cohort 21 is a unique professional development opportunity open to teachers and school leaders who are seeking to build a learning network amongst CIS Ontario member schools. The Cohort 21 community will be built on a foundation of collaboration and innovation and together, will investigate and refine 21st century teaching and learning best practices through the rich experience of “learning by doing”.

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