Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

In the past I have mentioned that I use VoiceThread with my classes for digital storytelling. VoiceThread is a web-based service that allows you to upload images (a PowerPoint, photos, documents, or even video) to create a presentation. What makes VoiceThread different is that you can then comment on each slide, creating a narration or explanation that is either typed or recorded. Then, depending on the publishing options that you choose, you can share your VoiceThread either with only a few individuals or with the entire world. Anyone you share it with and who has a VoiceThread account can then add their own comments to your presentation.

One of the first projects I used VoiceThread for was a storytelling project with my Latin Studies classes. These students are mostly juniors and seniors in high school who have repeatedly failed in their studies of other foreign languages.
The goal of the project was to review a number of grammar concepts, particularly noun cases. Students wrote their own stories and demonstrated their understanding of the grammar through the Latin writing. They then chose or created images that best told their story. Finally, they recorded themselves reading their story using their best Latin pronunciation. Students viewed each others’ stories and left comments for each other. One example of this story is “The bear who cried ‘boy’” created by two boys in the class. Their story was created in PowerPoint and then uploaded to VoiceThread. In “Sabina’s Bad Day” the student who created it found images mostly from stock photo sources. She then inserted the text using SMART Notebook to create the basic slide show.

In our Latin 1 classes, we start the year by asking our students to find examples of Latin mottos or phrases that are still in use today. This year we used VoiceThread to again add the oral element to the presentation. Most of the presentations were created using either PowerPoint or SMART Notebook. Then the images were uploaded to VoiceThread and students recorded their comments there. Students selected mottos that all followed a certain theme, then chose images that best illustrated the motto. Some examples of this project are: Latin Love Mottos, and Philosophical Latin Mottos.

As these projects suggest, I teach Latin at a public high school just north of Boston. I expect my students to create their own presentations (for the most part) and then we use our language lab to record the comments. Occasionally I’ll use VoiceThread to create projects with my daughters (ages 3 and 5). This fall, on a particularly exhausting and rainy Friday afternoon, my girls were driving me crazy to play on my computer. Together we created Three Lonely Dinosaurs using SMART Notebook and VoiceThread. The girls chose all the images from the Gallery in Notebook and then Bridget recorded herself reading the story. This is when she first began to read, so we shared it with family and friends who might not otherwise get to hear her.

This year my older daughter is in kindergarten. She does well with letter recognition and writing, she is even reading short chapter books. Each week her class studies one or two letters and their homework is to find pictures or draw things that begin with the assigned letter. Bridget enjoyed it at first, but soon became bored looking for pictures in magazines. When I spoke with her teacher, she thought a VoiceThread sounded like a good option. Each week my daughter and I brainstorm some words with the key letter. I then help her search for appropriate images on the internet. We create the “book” using SMART Notebook, inserting the images and choosing the colors for the text and background. Using my laptop and a headset Bridget records the words and the letter of the week. What I’ve really enjoyed watching is her own developing sense of what will make a good presentation. At first, she didn’t care much about the color of the background. But when she saw that some pictures look good with light backgrounds and others look better with a matching background she started to get choosy about what she wants each slide to look like. This week she did all of her own recording and was really choosy about how the final recording should sound. Some slides required five or six takes for her to say it just that way she wanted it. Sometimes she spoke too slow or she stumbled over a word; it was easy to delete the bad recording and do it over. Our first effort was Pajama Party, with more recent projects being Bridget’s R Book and Bridget’s Y Book.

Although I write mostly to share things that I think can apply to educators, I can’t leave out one last VoiceThread we enjoyed making. When Bridget was recording her stories, my younger daughter was jealous of the fun she was having. Together Julie and I created Hiking at Lake Winni using pictures of a recent trip we had taken up to Lake Winnipesaukee. This was a wonderful way to share Julie’s personality with family that lives around the world.

VoiceThread, as with any form of presentation, works best when the project is well planned before the images are uploaded. The images themselves can’t be edited in VoiceThread, although there is a doodle function that allows you to add writing to your comments. If the original images or presentation isn’t very good, you probably won’t be able to make it better with VoiceThread. Having said that, VoiceThread is really easy to use – my 5 year old basically has learned how to do it herself. It is easy to share and it is easy to control who views your presentations. Their education accounts (both free and those with a fee) allow teachers to supervise the work their students are creating and sharing. If you are looking for further ideas for using VoiceThread, check out the VoiceThread for Educators Ning or VoiceThread for Education Wiki.


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This past Friday the town I live in celebrated an unusual event – Andover Day. This was not because of any particular historic event, but rather a celebration of our zip code. January 8, 2010 written in the American style is 01/8/10.  When I mentioned this to my students – in another town – they figured out that their town won’t celebrate this event for nearly 60 years!

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Welcome back to work, Mama

I’ve been back at school for over a week. We started off with teachers’ meetings and our students returned last Wednesday. My students have already taken their first quiz. This also means that my 2 daughters have gone back to daycare and school. On Thursday, my 5 year old started kindergarten; next week my 3 year old begins preschool. Last week we had a fairly smooth transition from summer fun back to a predictable daily routine. Last night we prepped the backpacks, packed the lunches, and picked out the girls’ clothes for the day.

But this morning didn’t go quite so smoothly.  My poor husband dealt (admirably) with two crying girls missing their Mama and not wanting to leave this morning (first e-mail came to me just before 10:00). This was followed by the first of many calls we will get from the school nurse (just before noon).  Our kindergartner was running in from recess and fell nose-first onto the sidewalk. There was no major injury, but she’ll probably have a bruised nose and sore lip for a few days.   At my first kindergarten pickup this afternoon I (inadvertently) cut off a row of minivans with cranky moms when I drove the wrong way on the assigned traffic route. (I really did think I had understood the map they sent home!)  As my daughter climbed into our station wagon, 2 of her friends tried to join her.  This led to confusion for the adults followed by tears from my daughter when she realized that their plans of a playdate weren’t going to happen today. By the time I picked her up, my 3 year old seemed to have recovered from her early morning hysterics (though apparently she built a wall around herself with blocks in the corner of the playroom and refused to talk to anyone for the first half hour of the day.) But as we headed out for an after-dinner walk with the dog, she repeated her sister’s playground move and now has a scraped cheek and will probably have her first black eye by morning.

Bedtime tonight meant band-aids for both girls with lots of hugs and kisses. Followed by two trips to the bathroom. And a call for another glass of water. And more hugs and kisses. Tonight I think I needed the hugs and kisses as much as they did.

The first day of kindergarten, 2009

The first day of kindergarten, 2009

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