I think that it was very fun working on these pictures. Because it was fun having the experience of going to paint! I think that paint is awesome because you get to use the different materials and you get to choose the background you want to!!!!
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.
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.
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.
Stage 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:
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.