September 2009

I am very fortunate to be a part of a Microsoft Innovative Educators project this school year.  We are using a program called Marvin to create a digital story.  Marvin is click and add programming environment.  The students add lines of codes or commands to develop a personal narrative.  The students can add multiple 3D characters.  The characters can move and perform actions.  They are a bit limited, but very responsive if you take the time to program the characters to move in small increments.  By building multiple lines of code, you can create complex sequences.  Marvin allows background images to be added.  You can also upload sounds, record voice, and combine all of these parts together to create movies.  You can export the final project as an .avi or .mov file.

We are using the Marvin program to create a personal narrative.  A big part of the project is developing a sense of self in the students and finding their inner voice.  We don’t just want a blow by blow story of their existence, but an understanding of their past and what makes them special.


One of the colleagues I am working with on the project developed a moodle course to guide the students through a process of self discovery.  Each moodle section has activities to complete, forums to participate in, and resources to help guide them.  The students researched the origin of their name, interviewed their parents about when they were born, and researched their family roots.  They shared their favourite memories, choose meaningful quotes, and wrote six word memoirs.    The students developed a timeline of their life, shared ideas about what they would do if they ruled the world on a live chat with students from other schools, and planned their movies using a storyboard format.

The project guides students through a process of creating a digital story using various tools.  Glogster was used to create digital posters of family roots.  The students used wordle to organize and publish their six word memoirs.  A wallwisher virtual bulletin board was used to post and share ideas.  A OneNote liveshare was an open sharing medium used to facilitate a chat among students across various school locations.  Wikis were used to compile stories of students’ most embarrassing moments, funny stories, and life lessons.


Combining useful tools with a content management system to build understanding allows students to build a self awareness and personal voice that come together to create stories using Marvin animation software.moodle2

I can really take no credit for the ideas and project development.  The credit all goes to Darlene, a grade 5/6 teacher.   I am just grateful to be part of such a powerful learning experience for children.  I wanted to share the ideas so others may benefit from the power of digital storytelling and a worthwhile collaborative project.

The project has been selected to present in Salvador, Brazil at the end of October.  Who is attending is still being worked out at this point, but my fingers are crossed!

Over the last two years I’ve eased my way into blogging with my grade 5 students in the classroom.  I started with a simple blog where students left comments on a particular topic.  It was more of a forum than a blog, but it was a starting point.

I then started to open the blog to comments from more than just my students, inviting other classes and educators to leave comments.  I also had my students comment on the blogs of others.

This year I started blogs on the second day of school.  My goal is to provide a place for students to write, grow, and express themselves.  Sometimes the topics will be very prescribed, other times they topics will be of the students own choice.

I’m using edublogs as my student blogging platform.  I choose it for the safe, more protected environment that it provides.  I blog at wordpress and at edublogs and I like both.  I’ve tried blogger and google spaces, but I like the dashboard editing environment of wordpress/edublogs.

I set up all of the student accounts ahead of time.  I used the gmail + method described here to set up accounts.  I used numbers and the school acronym as usernames instead of the students’ names to provide a more closed environment.  I set up everything a head of time so we didn’t have to go through the process of choosing usernames, email confirmation, and a general headache.

The first day of blogging was learning how to log in, picking a theme, and renaming the title of the blog.  Some students are still at this point and slowly making changes.  A few are flying and have already written several posts.  I gave them a set prompt to write from on the second day, and we all had to learn how to copy and paste from the class blog to their own.

@mswecker and @fivbert were kind enough to leave comments for my students.  I can’t wait to go back on Tuesday to see the reactions of the students who see they have comments!  They are going to be very excited.

Visit their blogs here!

When preparing lessons using Smart notebook, one of the great features you can incorporate is the ability to hide content and have it “appear” at an opportune moment.

The list below are your options to hide and reveal content in your lessons:

1) Flash Based Pull Tabs – In the new LAT 2.0 the pull tabs can be “pinned” to a location.   After you pull them out, you hit the arrow and they will hide again automatically.  Pull tabs in the LAT 2.0 can be pulled from the left, right, top, or bottom of the screen.  They can also be pulled out from behind other objects.  Very flexible and useful!   The tabs come in all sorts of colours to match your lesson design.
Reveal - pull tab
2)Simple Pull Tabs – The flash based pull tabs are great, and easy to use, but they have limitations.  The graphic based pull tabs are more flexible.  You can group an image, text, or a shape to the graphic tab and pull out the tab to reveal the attached content.  Using image transparency you can have a complete overlay attached to a tab and pull it across to fill in answers, add colour, or enhance details.
reveal simple tab
3) Question Flipper – Text/Image – a simple tile that, when pressed, flips over to reveal text or a photo.
reveal flipper
4) Balloon Pop – click on the balloon to reveal text, graphics, or photos underneath. Great for very young kids!
Reveal balloon
5) Question Tool – click on the box to have text appear/disappear in the box.
reveal note
6) Information Button/Note Reveal – Click on the Question mark to reveal information!   A nice reveal tool to use with old and young students alike.   The information button has a larger box to type in.  The note reveal is for shorter chunks of information and can appear to the left or to the right.
Reveal info button
7) Click and Reveal Shapes – click on the shape to reveal text, graphics, or photos underneath.  The shape can be a square, star, circle, rectangle, or triangle.
Reveal square