Thursday, December 24, 2009

See the Front Page of Newspapers from Around the World

Here's a quick one that student's will find fun and interesting:

View the front page of newspapers from all around the country and all around the world at Newseum an interactive museum in Washington DC that chronicles five centuries of news with hands-on exhibits and multimedia displays. The museum emphasizes the role of media in reporting and in creating the news.

Parents may want to look at free lesson plans under the education tab. On the left side menu, click on Resources for Teachers and then Lesson Plans.

Older students may enjoy exploring this website on their own.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Web 2.0 Applications for the Musically Inclined

Recently, a reader commented that her daughter is very interested in music and technology. There are a number of online applications for music creation that students will enjoy. Piano and music teachers will find these programs innovative and useful, too!

NoteFlight is an online music notation system which enables users to compose, create, view, and hear music notation, collaborate with others, and share their music. The application is free for individual users and does not require you to download anything. Music teachers may be interested in Noteflight Learning Edition which works with the Haiku Learning Management System. With this fully web-based system, music teachers can post assignments, assess student work, lead class discussions, engage in online music composition and more. Noteflight Learning Edition does have a fee schedule based on number of classes and students, but does not require any downloads. I am definitely not a musician (as you will be able to tell from this demo I made):

Thounds is an online music platform and social network where you can record your original music just by using a microphone or plugging your instrument into your computer. Once you post your sample, other users from all around the world can add to or contribute to your basic recording. The idea is to share musical ideas and inspiration and to collaborate with others to create original music. Again, it's free and there's no downloading! Watch this demo from the Thounds web site.

Kisstunes enables users to create and record tunes online using their qwerty keyboard. Easy-Peasy! You can store your work online and share with family and friends. Again, it's free, free, free, and no downloads!

JamStudio The Online Music Studio allows you to create and mix your own music, add instrumentation,and experiment with different styles and sounds. Accounts are free; however, with an inexpensive 6 month all access pass*, you own the rights to the songs you create and can have MP3 mixes mailed to you for unlimited use. Educational grants are available for classroom use. I have emailed JamStudio about grants for homebschoolers, and will post an update when I receive a reply.

* Always, always, always read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Policies and Procedures for Copyright violation (all may be included in one statement or they may be in separate statements). Some of these sites retain the right to use your creation on their web site or in their network of services. Before you share or allow others to edit, add to, or change your music, make sure you understand your rights to the content you create and how it may be used by others.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Here is another exciting use of Web 2.o technology for educational purposes. After researching the Baroque Period, my daughter created this Animoto to demonstrate her new knowledge.

Animoto enables users to create short videos or trailers from images or video clips uploaded from their own cameras or from web sites. Then, they can add text and musical accompaniment, either from their own collections or from Animoto's collection, and Animoto creates a professional, animated mix.The process is incredibly quick and easy, and very easy to learn. My daughter grumbled and complained when I first gave her this assignment, thinking it would be really difficult, but her resentment quickly turned to excitement when she realized how easy Animoto is. In order to create a full-length video like this, you have to buy an account ($30 for one year of unlimited videos); however, you can make short, 30 second videos for free!

I have posted the instructions for the Baroque Art Animoto Assignment to my wiki: whitneyswikiways, along with the grading rubric, the written portion of the assignment, and my daughter's references. The written portion is my daughter's analysis and reflection. In the first part, she had to answer specific questions about the Baroque period. Just telling her to find images of Baroque art and architecture would be pointless. She would do a Google search for images and never bother to learn anything. Requiring her to write an analysis forced her to do some research, take some notes, and actually learn something. The reflection gave her an opportunity to think about what she had learned, the research process, and her use of technology.

Requiring a reference page is incredibly important: We need to teach our children respect for for others' intellectual property. We should not allow them to write a report or use images without providing information about their sources. Whenever a student uses a quote, someone else's ideas, or someone's artistic work, they need to provide a citation. I am teaching my daughter APA style. MLA is also an option. Even young children can provide basic information like the author's name and the title of the work.

I encourage you to experiment with Animoto and the other Web 2.0 applications I've highlighted in my blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hanukkah Books

Visit my wiki for reviews of my favorite Hanukkah books. Every year, we read a Hanukkah book on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. I always try to find new ones to add to our collection; however, some, like Eric Kimmel's Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins, we greet like old friends when they come to celebrate the holiday with us. Our latka recipe comes straight out of Granma's Latkes, and one year, The Ugly Menorah inspired my children to make their own hanukkiahs.

For each book on my list, I have provided a link to the author's or illustrator's web site (when available), publisher information, and an age or grade recommendation. Remember to check back, because I will update the list as I find new favorites.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Skills Students Need to Succeed

In my last post, I talked about the importance of giving our home schooled children tests. Being successful on tests requires the development of important skills which will serve our children well in college and beyond.

What are some other skills they need?

This question can be explored from two perspectives: 1) what skills will they need in college, and 2) what skills will they need to succeed in the work place? These questions are deceptively simple. The first focuses on academic skills such as being able to listen to a lecture, take notes, read a textbook or other written material, and engage in self-directed study. The second draws attention to important vocational skills like punctuality, following directions, and getting along with co-workers. When we consider the work environment of the 21st century and the explosion of information, the questions become more complex.

The amount of information in the world is growing at an exponential rate. According to How Much Information? 2003, a study by two scientists at Berkeley, new stored information grew by 30% between 1999 and 2002 and 92% of new information is stored magnetically (primarily on hard discs). This study is now 6 years old, and you know information continues to expand. According to information management industry experts, the amount of information produced annually between 2006 and 2010 was expected to increase more than six times, and the amount of digital information doubles every 18 months.

Our children are growing up in a world in which information is proliferating and more and more communication is digital (through computers, cell phones, laptops, palm pilots, etc). In this world, the goal of education can no longer be knowledge mastery-- there is just too much information, and that information constantly is changing. Consequently, our goal should be to teach our children how to learn rather than what to know.

Our children need to learn:
  • how to ask questions
  • how to find high-quality, relevant information, in both print and digital formats
  • how to evaluate and interpret information
  • how to analyze and synthesize information to produce new understanding (or knowledge)
  • how to use technology to find information and to create information products
  • how to collaborate both in-person and on the Web
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identify 3 sets of skills students need: Life and Career Skills

1. Learning and Innovation Skills
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration
2. Information, Media and Technology Skills
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communications, and Technology Literacy
3. Life and Career Skills
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-direction
  • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
The International Society for Technology in Education identifies six separate skill sets necessary to succeed in the 21st century including: Creativity and Innovation; Communication and Collaboration; Research and Information Fluency; Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making; Digital Citizenship; and Technology Operations and Concepts.

So what should we be teaching our children? Skills! Of course children do need to learn content. They need a base of knowledge against which to evaluate new information and learning, but more importantly, they need to learn how to learn! Our job as home schooling parents is not just to teach them history, science and math. Our job is to use these core subject areas as jumping off points for directed inquiry, guiding our children through the process of raising a question, finding relevant information, evaluating the quality of that information, and analyzing and synthesizing that information to create new knowledge. By preparing our children for the 21st century, we will be creating independent thinkers and problem solvers who are ready to participate in our democracy.