Archive for October, 2012

Visual Learning Tools: Capzle and Google Lit Trip

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Week Nine was tough for me.  I started the week feeling great about technology as last week’s mini-projects helped me gain confidence in my ability to use technology in the classroom.  Well, this week brought me back to the reality that I still have a lot to learn.  I chose to work on a Capzle timeline and a Google Lit Trip because I think these tools could be useful with early elementary students.  Both of these tools are great visual learning tools that will engage students and excite learners.

Originally I planned to make a Capzle timeline about the life of George Washington based on Standard 2.11.  After I had gathered my images and information, I found that Capzles can not be dated before 1753 (and Washington was born in 1732!).  I tried to work my way around this glitch by using the blog posting capability.  But I just was not happy with the result.  So, back to the drawing board.  For round two, I chose to create a timeline about Susan B. Anthony based on the same Standard.  In retrospect, it was probably a good thing that my George Washington timeline would not work.  Based on my experience as a parent, I think it is harder to get students excited about the women and minorities included in the Social Science Standards (Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson).  Many have never heard about these Americans and have no prior knowledge about them.  On the other hand, most have been hearing about George Washington since they were toddlers.  A visual representation of these Americans’ lives give students a better understanding of their lives and their important contributions.  Visual learning tools can also help the students to learn to think critically about content.  They can learn to decode “the effect the image was designed to produce, and they should analyze the extent and ways in which it successfully accomplishes the intended effect” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010).  I thought a lot about that statement as I found images from Anthony’s life.  I am happy with the end product and I think the images really add to the students’ understanding of Anthony’s life.  I think the students would enjoy viewing this program but I do not think young students could create their own timeline with this program.

For my second project this week I chose the Google Lit Trip.  There was sufficient warning about the complexity of this assignment, but I still underestimated the difficulty.  It took me several days to think of the story I wanted to use for a Lit Trip.  I finally decided upon The Race by Caroline Repchuk, a 2001 picture book based on the traditional Tortoise vs. Hare story.  The story begins in England.  While the tortoise hops on a cruise to New  York, the hare tries many forms of transportation which land him in various countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.  I found the Google Earth tutorials very helpful.  I would watch a minute or so, switch over to my project and complete that step, then switch back to the tutorial to watch the next step.  It was time-consuming but it was the best way for me to get the hang of Google Earth.  Although it was difficult to get the hang of, I like Google Earth and I think there are endless possibilities for this program in the classroom.  Although I plan to return to primary grades, I could not help but think of the many great journeys older students could explore with this tool.  It would be great for students to be able to see the route taken by explorers, literary characters, and historical figures.  Imagine students seeing the route taken my Harriet Tubman, Louis and Clark, Tom Sawyer.  Older students could also create simply Lit Trips on their own.


Solomon, G. & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0 how-to for educators. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Wordle and Voki

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

I chose to work on the Wordle and Voki this week.  I feel that both of these tools have many uses in early elementary classrooms.  I enjoyed Wordle and see great potential for this tool.  First I explored the word clouds created from the Inaugural Addresses. What a great tool to compare texts.  I like that the product is a visual representation of the text.  It conveys the message of what could be a long (and sometimes boring) text into a visual representation that students can easily connect with.  For my lesson using Wordle, I focused on kindergarten standard K.8.  This standard addresses the idea of being a good citizen, one of the first topics covered in kindergarten.  I would use this tool as a culminating activity at the end of the unit.  For my word cloud, I enlisted the help of my children and nieces.  Each provided me with a list of words or phrases to describe what it means to be a good citizen.  The kids really enjoyed seeing the resulting word cloud.  The possibilities for Wordle seem endless even for the primary grades.  A great thing about Wordle is that it allows students to publish their work.  Publishing student work gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment.  When students have an authentic audience, they are more engaged in their work and more committed to their creation (Solomon & Schrum, 2010).  If I completed this activity with a class, I would display the word cloud in the classroom.  The class could then compare it to the classroom rules, noting similarities and differences.

My second mini-project for this week was the Voki.  This tool would also be useful in the primary grades, when students may still have difficulty reading text.  A Voki on a webpage allows students to be more independent and will help them feel more confident when working with technology.  My idea was to create several Voki characters based on Standard 1.2.  This Standard states that students will learn about American leaders with emphasis on George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver and Eleanor Roosevelt.  A webpage with a Voki of each of these historical characters would be a great way for students to review concepts at the end of the unit, perhaps before a formal assessment.  Check out George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on my web portfolio.

I realized this week that we are halfway through the course.  I am amazed with all that I have learned already and am excited to see what the second half has to offer.  Although I have been frustrated with technology many times over the past 8 weeks, I have also been given numerous tools that will add great value to my classroom.


Solomon, G. & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0 how-to for educators. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

No Need for Post-Its Anymore

Sunday, October 14th, 2012


Wallwisher is an interesting program with a lot of potential.  I see it as a great way to share ideas among colleagues and friends.  I did have a hard time finding a place for it in the primary grades.  As young students do not have strong typing skills, I would use Washwisher carefully.  I thought about using it in the primary grades as an end of unit reflection board.  Students could post what they liked or did not like about a particular unit of study.  It would provide a time for reflection and also give the teacher good feedback on how the unit succeeded and how it could be improved.  For older students, the possibilities for Wallwisher seem endless.  Wallwisher would be a useful tool in group projects as it allow students to share resources with one another and collaborate easily.  It could also be used as a discussion board.  Teachers could give students a question to guide a discussion about a topic they are studying.  A teacher must provide opportunities for discussion, reflection and feedback in order to fully engage students (Coffman, 2009).  I believe Wallwisher could be used as a tool to facilitate all three of these areas.

Since I am not currently in the classroom I set up a wall that I could use in my personal life.  As a volunteer in Cub Scouts and the PTA, I am always looking for new fundraising ideas and fun activities and programs.  A tool like WallWisher would be a great way for volunteers to share ideas.  It could become a great resource.  My only reservation about Wallwisher is the public nature of the information.  In order to get the input from people, the wall must be public.  I know I must sound like a broken record by now but I am still uneasy about the public nature of many of these tools as I believe it makes your personal information vulnerable.



Abelman, S. (2006). Retrieved on October 14, 2012, from

Coffman, T. (2009). Engaging students through inquiry-oriented learning and technology.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.


Flipping the Classroom

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

I enjoyed learning about flipping classrooms and I am intrigued by the idea.  I can see many benefits to such an approach.  This approach allows for differentiated instruction as students can take as much or as little time needed to watch the lesson.  Students who are struggling have the opportunity to pause the lecture or rewind to review a topic.  This give students more time to digest the information.  When students show up in class, they will already have a good understanding of the topic.  This allows teachers to spend class time working on in depth problems, helping students to think critically and problem solve.  It appears that teachers in flipped classrooms act more as facilitators or guides.  The students themselves have the opportunity to take control of and responsibility for their own learning.  In certain disciplines, particularly science, a flipped classroom would give students more time to experiment and participate in authentic activities.

I do have a few concerns about this approach.  One problem, which was raised frequently on the websites I visited, is how do you implement this concept in schools whose students may not have the necessary technology at home.  Clintondale High School, which has successfully flipped classrooms, addresses that concern by allowing students to access school computers before school, during lunch and after school.  I am not sure this equalizes the playing field for those disadvantaged students. However, it is hard to argue with the results they have seen at Clintondale.  Another question I have about the approach is how different is it really from the “old” style?  Some critics say that “flipped classrooms still rely heavily on lectures by teachers, which they argue are not as effective as hands-on learning”(Mindshift, 2012).  A flipped classroom approach gives educators the time in the classroom to guide students through hands-on learning experiences.  But is that what is really happening?  Finally, what about those students who have different learning styles?  Teachers would need to be very careful when creating the lectures to make sure that all of their students’ needs are met.

While I see great potential in a flipped classroom, I think it should be used carefully in elementary school, especially the primary grades.  There could be occasions when flipping the classroom for younger students would be beneficial.  For example, my Animoto project was an introductory video for a first grade unit on American symbols.  Students could watch this video at home at the beginning of the unit.  When they came to class, they would already be excited and ready to start the unit.  This would allow more time for hands-on activities and real life experiences.  Also, I think that parents would appreciate more meaningful homework.   As a mother of three elementary students, I know I would like to see a change in the quality of homework assignments.


BES Photos. (2012).  Retrieved on October 4, 2012, from

Mindshift. (2012, June 18). Can the flipped classroom benefit low-income students? Retrieved from