Tag Archives: Mac

5th graders are updating their #GoogleSites digital portfolios in preparation for parent conferences


All students in grades 3-8 at The School at Columbia University are keeping a personal digital portfolio created with GoogleSites. I wrote an earlier post here about how we are using a really simple Announcements template to organize their New Posts.

Today, I worked with 5th graders in Dena Rothstein‘s class to gather some of their work and archive it digitally. We talked about labeling their posts with the subject so that they align alphabetically and clustered by subject in the sidebar. Kids wrote about their Spanish calacas, Spanish altars, Math locker problem, Math Handshake problem, and more.

Kids either took pictures using PhotoBooth on their MacBooks or with an external point-and-shoot camera. Dena provided them with a short list of writing prompts: Describe the process, Describe any challenges, Describe what you makes you proud…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Eighth graders formed small reading groups on our in-house Elgg social network to discuss *To Kill a Mockingbird*

Eve Becker, 8th Grade English, is one of the most interesting people, gifted writers, and talented teachers I’ve had the pleasure to know. She actually gets kids to love reading and she inspires them to dig into the words, text, tenor of each piece like a surgeon. Every time I enter her classroom, I learn something new.

She (and I) are reading To Kill A Mockingbird with the 8th graders. This is the 50th Anniversary of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic. TKAM ranks as one of my favorite books ever, and while the last time I read it was over 10 years ago, I’m excited to read it along with the kids and participate in their online discussions.

After briefly discussing the best platform for the students to collaborate online (wiki, Google Site, Drupal, WordPress…), Eve chose to use our in-house Elgg social network. As a school, we try to reinforce how to use technology academically, respectfully, and responsibly, and we have a variety of tools at our disposal including The Social Network, where we show students how to behave in our protected spaces and hope that they continue to make good choices online when left to their own devices.

She divided the 8th graders into small reading groups of 3-4 people, and each member of the group helped populate their group’s space on The Social Network to include:

1. A bookmark from the full-class group to their small reading group

2. An avatar/icon to represent their group

3. A Group Discussion space where the students address teacher-led discussion questions like:

Chapter Nine: Why doesn’t Scout tell anyone but Uncle Jack the real reason she beat up Francis? What does this demonstrate about Scout?

4. A Group Blog section where students post their own questions/thoughts about the book and respond to each other’s posts.

Chapter 8: Do you think it was racists for Jem and Scout to build a black snowman?

5. A Page for Vocabulary terms where students follow a follow 5-step format.

NOTE: the page itself consists of the guidelines for adding vocabulary terms (see below), while students actually contribute to the page via the Comments section. Thus there exists a timestamp with their name each time they add a word to the page. This is great for individual accountability even as they working as a group.

1. Word

2. Make an educated guess (using context clues)

3. Look it up

4. Part of Speech

5. Make up your own sentence 

please specify the page/chapter where you located the word

6. A Page for Quotations where students write a quote, why they chose it, and page number.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How to train your Dragon Dictate

A child came to me a couple of weeks ago asking how to get the computer to talk the text to her. I showed her how to go to “Universal Access” in System Preferences. “Alex” was designed to sound the most like a human, with pauses for breaths at commas and periods. [Years ago, I worked with “Arlo Klinger” at The Dalton School, and I had a field day using SimpleText to speak his name in the various voices. Bubbles was my favorite.]

So, after we set up her keyboard shortcut for Text-to-Speech, I received an email from her mom about her daughter also needing something to transcribe Speech-to-Text. The kid has a definite disconnect between being able to verbally support a thesis and putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I told my student to bring in her iPod Touch, installed the free Dragon Dictate app, and provided her with a crazy small external microphone about the same size and shape of a horse pill. [The new iPod Touches have built-in microphones.] Though she could now dictate whenever and wherever using her iPod, she had to email every transcription to herself or upload them via iTunes.

Serendipitously, my boss, Don Buckley (@donbuckley), ordered Dragon Dictate 2.0 for Mac OSX. I installed it on the kid’s laptop today, and we sat together for the minorly tedious process of training Dragon Dictate to recognize her voice patterns. She was able to open Firefox simply by speaking, “Open Firefox.” I reminded her that she had two working hands and didn’t need to get all lazy suddenly. 🙂 Then we opened up a Google Doc, and she started speaking. It was relatively accurate, though it did pick up my voice and type those words as well as her words when I asked her a couple of questions. That could be a huge problem in a roomful of kids. Probably, she’ll have to adjust the mic’s sensitivity each time she plugs in the headset. I kept prompting her with questions to see how well and how fast Dragon could type her dictations. One thing worth mentioning is that when she talked about a book she read recently, it spelled out “toilet” instead of “Twilight.” Considering the quality of that particular piece of literature, I’ll side with Dragon on this one.

Note: Under Dragon’s Help Menu is an option to further customize the dictation accuracy with additional training. It’s worth the time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized