Monday, August 13, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Last fall we had a debate in Stager's class about what to do with students who proclaim they are done. Are we really ever done?

Well this is my final post for my Action Research Project. The final report can be read at .

I have beginning my post OMET blog at Come join me there.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Engagement and the Power of CHOICE

The learning strategy that I have used this last term has been giving students opportunities to choose various aspects of their assignments. I have found that when students get to choose between two different ways to demonstrate their understanding, for example, creating a podcast or writing a letter, the student embraces the project and claims ownership of their work. Just the simple act of choosing empowers students and makes them feel like they have some control over how to best represent their learning.

The final project for the term will embrace choice and focus on the process of learning. Students will select available software and locate classmates and resources to help in learning a new software tool. Students will decide what they want to learn, locate print and online resources for instruction, keep a daily journal of their discoveries, capture screen shots or take photos of their process, and then finally share what they learned in class.

There is a lot of flexibility in choosing what to learn and students may learn the software with other classmates but ultimately it is the responsibility of each student to follow through and create this learning adventure for themselves. The documentation along the way is to demonstrate their understanding of the chosen software. Each student will be expected to SHARE one thing they learned about their chosen software during a class presentation.

Students are choosing to:
  • build and program in Lego robotics
  • edit music with Audacity
  • create original music in Acid Music
  • edit video in Adobe Premiere Elements
  • create animated movies in Macromedia Flash
  • edit photographs in Adobe Photoshop Elements

I have been pleased with the interactions of students during class. Students are experimenting, looking at books for ideas, asking questions, and learning by lots of trial and error. Who knew learning could be so fun?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Teaching skills with a purpose

This week I spent some time in direct instruction with my students on specific PowerPoint skills (Word outlines, slide master, action buttons, and animations). Teaching these skills without a real purpose for using them would have been a waste of time.

One of the things that I have come to realize during this research project is that there must be a real purposeful reason to learn the skills and then opportunities to use them. There are other skills in PowerPoint that I don't cover - such as how to convert a slideshow to a webpage. We aren't going to be posting them online and that's not really how most people use PowerPoint - so why teach it?

I am looking back at my former scope and sequence of skills and re-evaluating some of the skills I used to teach. Yes it is nice to learn how to do a pivot table in Excel, or hanging indents in Word or automatic slide advance in PowerPoint - but if there is no real reason to learn it and use it - how can I think that the students will ever really "learn" this skill and retain the information?

Wouldn't it be better to teach them how to learn than trying to cram "everything" they should know about using a piece of software - one that will eventually change anyway?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

PowerPoint slide master

Many students come to my class feeling "comfortable" with PowerPoint so my goal is to teach them some news skills to keep the focus on content or make formatting and animating quicker, easier and consistent.

One of the ways that I do this is to teach my students how to create their own original design template by using the slide master. The preformatted design templates are overused and not very interesting - plus they usually don't match the topic. I teach students how to go to View / Master / Slide Master and design a template from scratch. I encourage students to choose background colors, designs or images that match their topic.

For example, one of my students in presenting a PowerPoint all about surfing so she found a cool wave photograph that we lightened and place as the background of her slides. Then she chose complimentary colors and fonts for the titles and body paragraphs. She included a navigation bar on the left of the slide and a small image near the title. This slide was saved as a design template and then could be applied to the PowerPoint slides (the one that was written in Word).

The student is now more than half done since all the text and slide formatting is completed. The next steps include changing the slide layouts, transitions and adding images/sounds/movies.

Animations for titles and body paragraphs can be added to the slide master as well as "actions" to link the navigation bar to individual slides.

I asked students to give opinions about the use of the slide master:
  • It makes it easier to format all the slides at once.
  • You can match your design to your topic.
  • It makes the show more professional looking - but I still like change some of the background designs for some slides.
  • I probably won't go search for design templates online anymore - I'll just make my own.
  • I used to spend a lot of time animating all of the text. Completing the animations in the slide master saves TONS of time.
  • I like using the slide master and Word outline together - it's so much easier.
  • I never knew that you could add action buttons or hyperlinks in PowerPoint to make the projects more interactive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The "cool" factor of PowerPoint

Students always seem to get excited when a teacher explains that they are going to use PowerPoint for a project. There is something about PowerPoint that is creative, entertaining and appealing to kids.

My concern has always been that all of the focus on the "fluff" of PowerPoint will lead to PowerPointlessness. PowerPoint is a presentation tool so why is the content and message seem to be lost in the production?

I have come up with a solution that counteracts the focus on formatting and not on content. I teach students how to write out all of the content for their PowerPoint slides in a Word outline and focus on the information before I allow them to open up the PowerPoint program.

Today I taught the students how to change to outline view and place all slide titles on Level 1 of the outline and all body content on Level 2 of an outline. Students spent several days researching their topic and writing out the information on the outline. Resources were cited right on the outline and the focus was clearly what information was to be conveyed in the presentation.

When the students completed the outline, they opened PowerPoint and then opened the Word outline IN PowerPoint - and presto - all the text was placed on the appropriate slides. The students reaction is the best part - they loved it. They were amazed that these two software pieces work together seamlessly.

In class we discussed the value of what we just accomplished. Students commented:
  • You can focus on the writing and not get distracted by playing with animations.
  • Its easier to keep your train of thought when working in outline view.
  • You can write the outline at home and then come to school to work on PowerPoint
  • You must set up the outline correctly otherwise this process doesn't work.
  • It was cool to see all the text on the correct slides.
  • I never knew this could be done before.
  • I love learning new shortcuts!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Teacher recommedations for on and off-task behaviors

After observing and recording on-task behaviors, here are some of my initial adjustments or recommendations:

  • Group projects
    • Provide written instructions so all know expectations
    • Give each student to a role to fulfill
    • 1-1 or 1-2 computing is ideal for sharing work - more than that does not give adequate time for students to participate
    • Have alternative tasks for those who finish early
  • Direct Instruction
    • Remove all distractions: headphones, open websites
    • Consider purchasing lab management software so all can easily view screen
    • Find out prior knowledge and do not demo skills already known
    • Keep direct instruction short and provide written instructions
  • Individual tasks
    • Provide written instructions
    • Remove all distractions: headphones, open websites
    • Stop class work time and encourage interaction and sharing
    • Intervene early with students who are stuck or off task