Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Our trip to Philadelphia

Recently, we went on an extended field trip to Philadelphia. My husband had a conference to attend, and the kids and I tagged along to go sightseeing. It was the perfect opportunity to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Betsy Ross house. We have not reached this period in history yet, but we had the opportunity and took advantage of it.

On the first day of our trip, we drove out to Kennett Square in the historic Brandywine Valley, about 45 outside of Philly. Kennett is the home of Longwood Gardens. Pierre duPont, of the duPont chemical company, purchased the land in 1906 from Quaker farmers to preserve an arboretum. He added classical gardens, water fountains, a conservatory, an outdoor theater meadows, and ponds to create the foremost horticultural showplace and educational center in the United States.

When I first told my children we would be visiting Longwood Gardens, they rolled their eyes and groaned, but boy, were they in for a surprise! With its tree houses, fountain show, indoor childrens' garden, model train garden, giant lily pads, banana trees, topiary garden, and carillon tower, Longwood Gardens won them over. We visited for over four hours, and left only because my children could walk no farther. Below is a photo story, created by my daughter, of our day in the gardens. Unfortunately, the batteries in her camera died, and she was unable to get pictures of the tree houses which were spectacular.

Photo Story 3 is a free microsoft product which you can download to your computer. Upload and alter your photos, add text, narration, and sound, and ta da!!! You have a video. Its very easy to use and a great way to record a field trip, the steps in a science project, or tell a story.

My daughter is currently working on a photo story of Valley Forge and Philadelphia. When it is complete, I will upload it so you all can see the wonderful places we visited in Philadephia.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Report on Captain John Smith

My daughter just completed a biography of Captain John Smith on Glogster! Be sure to click on the blue play button to listen to her narrative.

To view a copy of the assignment, including the grading rubric, visit whitneyswikiways.

Edu.glogster.com is a Web 2.0 application that enables you and your students to create posters that include images, graphics, text, sound recordings, and videos (either your own or something uploaded from schooltube). Students can create posters to illustrate their stories, poetry, book reports, biographies, geographical studies... the possibilities are limited by only their imaginations.

The service is free, and you can enroll up to 200 students in one classroom. As the teacher, you control the account and privacy settings, determine what gets published, flag anything that's inappropriate, moderate comments, etc. Here is a tutorial that will help you get started.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Internet Safety

Having posted about some online tools (Voicethread, Voki) and discussed the important role of technology in education, I thought it was about time to discuss Internet Safety for children. In some ways, the Internet is the like the wild, wild west--there's a lot going on out there, few rules, and the U.S. Marshall is no where in sight!

Several online protection tools are available. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide parent control options. Your anti-virus and spyware software may also enable you to set some limits on what can be accessed and sent on your computer. Inexpensive filtering software is available. These filters can block sites, prevent personal information from being sent, and monitor and track online activity. Warning: None of these methods are perfect!!! Some inappropriate content may still get through, and many valuable, educational sites may be inadvertantly blocked. If you think you want to go this route, take a look at TopTenReviews for more information.

I'm sure you have seen these before, but they are all worth repeating:
  • Become computer literate: the more you know, the better position you will be in to guide your children's online experience and monitor their online behavior.
  • Keep the computer in a common room (we keep ours in the kitchen, the place I'm most likely to be).
  • Set-up your child's e-mailbox through your account, so you can monitor email if necessary.
  • Spend time online with your children teaching them appropriate behavior.
  • Bookmark the children's favorite websites or your approved websites so your children don't have to search the web. For a list of great websites for kids, see below!
  • Set rules and enforce them (Ours are: No more than 30 minutes computer time/day; Permission must be obtained before going online).
  • Encourage your child to talk to you about anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or threatened.
  • Report any obscene, threatening, or pornographic content to your ISP, the police, and the FBI.
Teach Your Children
  • Never provide personal information online. OK, this seems obvious to us, but believe me, its not to children. Teach them that personal information includes: the name of the school, the neighborhood, town and state in which they live, the names of their teams and other activities (e.g, " I go to Westside Ballet"), the names of family members, the names of friends, where they go to summer camp....
  • Personal information includes pictures of themselves and their friends! Many children, especially teenagers do not realize this!
  • Create an online identity and use it in chatrooms and social networking sites. For instance, I might call myself "booklover" instead of my real name.
  • Never agree to meet in person someone you meet in a chat room or a social networking site. Aslo, if they give you a phone number, don't call!
  • Never respond to a threatening, scary, inappropriate, or pornagraphic message or email.
  • Always talk to your parent about anything online that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
Especially for Teens
  • Do not share anything online that you do not want everyone to know or which you might regret. Once something is on the Internet, you no longer have any control of it or how it is used or to whom it sent. You can't take it back.
  • Remember: college admissions committees and employers are now doing online searches on applicants, which includes looking at Facebook and MySpace accounts!
Warning Signs
If you notice any of the following changes in behavior, check it out. Your child may be having online difficulty.
  • Reluctance to talk about online activities.
  • Your child turns off the computer or closes a window whenever you enter the room or walk behind them. Find out why.
  • Your child withdraws from the family or becomes uncommunicative.
  • Your child spends long hours online, especially at night.
  • Your child starts receiving phone calls from people you don't know.
For more information about onlnine safety, go to ConnectSafely.

Social Networking
Social networking is a big part of being a teenager. If your child expresses and interest, check out yoursphere.com,
a site created by a mother of five children. The site goes to extraordinary lengths to protect children. Also see yoursphere for parents for more information about internet and social networking safety.

Terrific Websites for Kids

KNOWITALL.ORG- ETV’s site provides links to many interactive websites for children K-12, as well as sites for teachers and parents.
Awesome Library - kids can find information and activities by grade level or subject. Includes down-loadable worksheets and lessons. Teachers and parents can find lesson plans as well.

International Children's Digital Library - the world's biggest online multicultural repository of children's literature.
ALA's Great Websites for Kids - provides websites chosen by librarians specifically for children. Can be searched by topic; however, a reference desk is also provided.
FirstGov for Kids - Provides links to government websites (e.g., Smithsonian, Library of Congress) by topic and grade level.
KidsClick - Owned by the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State, this site is a huge database of websites selected by librarians.
Federal Resources for Education Excellence provides more than 1,500 free learning tools and websites for kids and teachers from federal agencies.

Factmonster - a product of Pearson Education, this site provides access to a dictionary, encyclopedia, and almanac, as well as facts about any topic imaginable.

ask for kids - Similar to the site Ask.com for adults, kids can search on a subject in which they are interested and find information.

yahoo for kids - Similar to Yahoo.com for adults, kids can search information here.

Primary search - Contains more than 70 popular full text magazines for kids. Also has a children's encyclopedia and a dictionary.