All posts by Julie N

Podcast Game Reviews

Not all kids like to write. This isn’t news to anyone, and it’s a skill they have to develop whether they like it or not. I can usually get kids to write their game reviews, and often because they are so interested in the topic, I get some good writing even from indifferent authors. I’ve been thinking a lot about those few kids who, for whatever reason, can’t get it down on paper without a lot of angst and persuasion. What about having them record their voice?

Our kids here love to talk–almost without exception. The Stage III kids were really excited about doing a podcast of their game reviews in Computer Toolkit, instead of writing them down. They had to include specific information, and there was a form to help them remember their points, but their scripts could be written out or just points they needed to remember to include. Once they had practiced, I showed them Audacity (which is free! and a simple download!) and they started recording. The process included editing, importing music to begin and end the podcast, time shifting, fading the music in and out, and finally exporting to a WAV file.

There were times when I thought I was crazy to try this, but I was pleased and surprised at how quickly they picked up the techniques. I think it helps that Audacity presents the sound files visually for editing purposes, which really made it clear to the kids who were using the program. All in all, it was really successful, and I’m happy to present their finished work.

Aiden          Alyssa          Amelia          Ava W          Ben PS        Carter

Chris          Conor         Ivana           Justice           Miguel          AlexT

Nick            Sam              Wes               Zach           AlexM           Lucas B

Luke V       Matthew       Parker          Lennon


Photo Sandwich–First Project

So far in Photo Sandwich the students have practiced their skills on combining layers. While I was gone at the MACUL Conference, they created an original image with at least two layers, and in some cases several more! All images were taken from Pics4Learning, a website that offers educators photos from the public domain. No attributions are necessary. Click on the thumbnail to see a separate post (where you can leave individual comments!), then in that post click that thumbnail to see a bigger version of their photos. Next, they add photos of their friends.

Minecraft 4 Romans at Stage III Family Night

The biggest motivator for the Minecraft 4 Romans class was Stage III Family Night. This evening event is the culmination of the big unit study of the year. This year was  Ancient Rome. The homerooms each focused on different aspects of Rome and put together a display of the student work for the families to tour.

We started the evening with Sandy’s Dance Performance students, who had used Ancient Rome as their theme inspiration. The kids chose music and choreographed their own group dances, complete with costumes. As always, it was completely charming and child-centered, and it was wonderful to see their beaming faces as they took their bows.

Then came the Minecraft 4 Romans video. Most of the 48 students who took the class were able to use Screencast-O-Matic to record a tour of the individual houses and apartment buildings they designed and built in MinecraftEdu. Some of the videos were more than five minutes long! My job was to edit them down under 15 minutes total. The math was undeniable–that meant an average of under 15 seconds each.

The first rough cut was over 30 minutes long.

I won’t bore you with the angst I went through when I realized what had to happen. Or the number of hours I spent on it. And honestly? The editing process created a video that was far more watchable. I was able to introduce the video as a “teaser,” and then invited the families to stop by the computer lab during the Stage Tour and let their children give them a live walk-through. It was busy all night, so I think it worked.

I wish I had been able to walk around and see the homerooms do their presentations. The creativity and investment of the kids is always worth seeing and celebrating. But by all accounts it was a successful evening.

After all of that, here is the video. I’m so proud of what they were able to accomplish–but more about that in a future post.

Image Blender Makeup

I’m getting ready to take down the display of pictures in the hallway outside my room. If you haven’t seen them, they are from a project the second years did a while back. We used Image Blender to find a background picture and then insert each of the kids into that photo by using layers and erase tools. We learned a bit about how to resize and to use the softening tool with the eraser. While the expertise is not always perfect (nor should it be! They are just learning!) the creativity is, as usual, off the charts. Just between you and me, this is one of my favorite projects to do with Stage III. Click on the thumbnails below to see a bigger image.

Not all projects are displayed. Some students forgot to save their work after printing. Others do not have a photo release permission form turned in to the school, so I could not include them. Don’t worry though, all the printed pictures will be coming home at the end of the week.

abby IB alexi IB alexm IB alext IB alyssa IB ava IB bennm IB carter IB Christopher IB cosey IB elizabeth IB elyse IB griffin IB Lennon IB lily IB lucasb IB luke IB marin IB miguel IB noah IB oscar IB sandra IB sean IB stephen IB teddy IB

Popcorn projects

The second year students in Computer Salad 2 just finished up their spreadsheets for our Popcorn Comparison. We brought in three boxes of microwave popcorn from three different companies, filled out a data sheet with prices, number of packages per box and ounces in each bag. Then we popped one bag of each, measured the amount of popped corn in cups, and worked out how to calculate how much each brand cost per ounce of popped popcorn. Whew! It takes a lot of thinking, problem solving and patience to input all the data and the formulas, but then the spreadsheet does all the calculating for us. Once that was done, we had fun making our spreadsheets look awesome–and even included a graph of the results.

This is a favorite project with our kids over the years, and it isn’t just because they get to eat the data once we’re done collecting it! It’s real world math that stretches their minds and their math thinking while still teaching some rocking computer skills.

Here’s an example of their work. Enjoy!

andrew popcorn kaila popcorn

Scratch Stories are Here!

scratch clip for blogStage III kids are working their tails off in Scratch programming class! They have all completed a story, and I’ve published them to the Scratch website for others to enjoy. You can watch all of them, and you will add to their “views” total. If you want to comment, you must be a site member–but memberships are free. It would be a great idea to help your child get their own account! The site is safe, and moderated. Remember to choose a username that doesn’t identify your child or where they live.

Here are the stories:

Vaughn’s story          Taye’s story                   Parker’s story                   Miguel’s story

Marin’s story             Matthew S’s story        Ben NM’s story                Alex’s story

Aiden’s story             Teddy’s story                 Nick’s story                      Luke’s story

Lennon’s story          Jack P’s story                Isaac’s story                     Conor’s story

Clara Y’s story           Clara C’s story               Ben PS’s story                 Alyssa’s story



Colosseo Mariano Mantel via Compfight

It doesn’t happen very often that an idea for an elective class drops fully developed into your head like Athena springing from Zeus full grown and wearing armor, no less. When it does happen, of course you expect that such a precocious brainchild will flow smoothly and go well all the time. You know, raise itself. Just work, because it was such a great idea.


So, when I heard that my Stage III colleagues (2nd-3rd grade) were studying Ancient Rome starting in January, I caught my breath because I KNEW what elective I was going to offer. Here’s the course description, in all its glory:

Minecraft for Romans

Recreate a historically accurate ancient Roman town using MinecraftEdu. We will research the buildings and layout found in Roman towns, and collaborate to build it in Minecraft. Students will use screencasting to film guided tours of the town and buildings to share on Family Night. No previous Minecraft experience is needed to take this class.

Easy, I thought. I’ll make a wiki so all the sections can collaborate with ideas and information. (I’d never created a wiki before.) The kids will be so excited to have the opportunity to play Minecraft in school that they will be eager, focused and super cooperative.

The funny thing is, I run a Minecraft Club after school, so I should have known that when kids are excited, it’s because they think they are going to be able to do what they want to do, which I have now learned includes running off in a random direction until they can’t see you or anyone else anymore, digging holes just because, pretending to mine another player’s face, and casually destroying anything that someone else built because they have a better idea.

And I’m a tech teacher, which means I should know by now that when it comes to learning a new technology “just-in-time” to use it in an actual class, the learning curve is high and under a ton of time pressure because, well, it has to work tomorrow when the kids show up. So of course I launched into Wikispaces and made about a hundred pages I didn’t need because I hadn’t thought through the whole process and because I didn’t really know exactly what I did need until the kids showed up. (Okay, maybe I exaggerated. Probably only 15 or 20 pages. It just felt like a hundred.)

Kids approached this class like they would a playdate, and it took a lot of time and constant redirection to move their thinking into school mode. But I can say (looking back now) that they figured out how to collaborate by doing it. And by messing up. And by getting upset at a friend who messed up their house, who only did it because theirs got messed up. And by slowly seeing that as cool as doing your own thing is, it’s actually cooler to see what you can do together.

We are still in the midst of our growing pains, but I’m seeing progress. And isn’t that the point? I’m learning, the kids are learning, and together we are starting to make that idea look potentially pretty good after all.

Learning Out Loud

Like a lot of teachers, I close the door when I teach. A computer lab can be loud when kids are doing cooperative learning, or when they are trying out a simulation and it works (YAY!). Or even better, when they have free time and everyone is excitedly shouting across the room to find out what to do if  you meet a grizzly bear in Wolf Quest.

The nice eyes of CleopatraCreative Commons License Tambako The Jaguar via Compfight

So I try to be a good neighbor. I close the door and keep the excitement in. Sometimes another teacher or an administrator will wander in while I’m in the midst of it everything, and I never know what reaction I’ll get.   Sometimes it’s: “This looks like fun!”  Other times it’s more like: “Good grief, how do you stand it!” So yes, learning can be loud–at least in my room.

But is it “out loud?” Not really.

Learning out loud is a phrase that means you share the process, not just the product, of teaching and learning. You try something, reflect, adjust, and move on–and all of it in a public forum.  Then, hopefully, you have another educator, or a parent, or a student, who reads your adventures and shares their thoughts. And that sparks an idea, or a reflection, or better yet, a conversation.

Being a teacher of technology means I’m forced to learn new things all the time, and then show them to kids. They learn out loud for me, but something tells me that they might just feel a little more excited or motivated if they can learn out loud for you, too. So, I’m starting this blog, and I’m inviting you to read and share with me. And check out the sidebar for blogs from some of my classes. We’ll keep it safe, but I think I’m ready to learn out loud too.