Telling A (Digital) Story

Ms. Bellone’s amazing grade 4 class would like to share their fabulous stories with you!

With the help of our 21st Century Literacy Specialist, Ms. Cofino, this class has brought their stories to life by taking their written pieces from their Writer’s Workshop unit and turning them into digital stories using Garage Band and iMovie. Now that their movies are digital, Ms. Bellone was able to publish them on the video sharing website, YouTube, on a channel just for her class called Team Bellone (no personally identifying information has been shared).

Now you can watch all of their excellent digital stories online and even leave a comment or two! Here’s one just to get you started:

Being able to share their work with a global audience is one of the most motivating and engaging ways to help students get excited about writing. Most of these stories have already been viewed over 50 times! How many of your writing pieces have been viewed by 50 people around the world? And that’s only the beginning!

This digital storytelling project also introduced these wonderful grade 4 students to two new technology tools: Garage Band (used for recording your voice) and iMovie (used to combine audio and visual elements). Both of these tools are standard on all Apple computers and are just right for elementary school students to learn more about audio and video editing.

Being able to hear (and see the audio input of) their own voices telling their story helped the students understand how important emphasis, emotion and tone are in their speaking and presenting voices. Having the opportunity to practice this type of animated speaking is great preparation for both face-to-face presentations as well as further technology-based work.

Learning how to combine audio and video input into one smooth, exciting digital story, is a great way to tap into students’ creativity and higher order thinking skills. They had to figure out just how long every picture should be so that each one perfectly matched to their previously recorded audio. Many students even had the time to add a title and credits to make their story more like a movie.

Becoming active producers of creative content in a digital format is a critical aspect of 21st century literacy and an essential experience for all students at ISB. This project is part of the foundation that students need to understand the potential, impact, and appropriate use of technology tools for communication and creativity.

It’s hard to believe this was their very first experience with digital storytelling! We’re already waiting for more amazing stories from Team Bellone!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Recap

We had another great Parent Technology Coffee Morning last week! We started by watching another video called Information R/Evolution, by Kansas State University professor, Michael Wesch:

The video demonstrates the different ways that we are able to access, use and create information in the digital age. Professor Wesch focuses on the needs of our students learning in this digital world, compared to our own experiences with more traditional management of paper-based information. As you might expect, this video prompted some interesting discussion. Here are a few highlights:

  • First and foremost we discussed the need for students to learn how to filter the massive amounts of information that we all have at our fingertips for everything from accuracy to bias to relevance to date of publication.
  • We talked about the need for students to be not only seekers of information, but also content creators. Their world revolves around creation (think YouTube), we need to be providing these same kinds of experiences in the classroom to teach them how to appropriately use these tools for educational purposes.
  • Jeff shared some effective searching strategies for using Google more effectively. You can watch a short video of similar (plus more!) very easy, very effective searching tips directly from Google, or download this one-page help sheet.

We also spent some time introducing our new library catalog system, Destiny. Tara shared some special tricks on how to do a visual search (perfect for our younger learners), as well as how to search the pre-screened websites (organized by age-level appropriateness) called WebPath Express, that comes as part of the Destiny catalog.

Thank you to all of the parents who took time out of their busy day to attend this monthly session! We so enjoy learning with you and sharing new and exciting ideas from our ISB 21st Century Literacy Team!

Our next meeting will be February 4, 2009 at 7:30 am in the Learning Hub Project Zone. Topic: Social Networking: This session will be an introduction to the uses of social networking in the classroom, as well as a demonstration of some of the social networks that our students regularly use (for example Club Penguin).

We hope to see you there!

A New Library Catalog

We have updated our current library catalog to a new and improved system called Destiny. Destiny has tons of fantastic features for our students, including:

  • Book covers shown in search results (like on
  • Related web searching, sites grouped according to grade level (when you search for a topic, the catalog will not only find our books, but also age-appropriate websites)
  • Rating system using stars (coming soon)
  • Book reviews to be authored by students (coming soon)

Check out the new and improved library catalog (from home or from school) here:

We hope you will enjoy all of these new great features!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Recap

We had another excellent discussion at our Parent Technology Coffee Morning this week. This time around we watched two videos about the way students learn today, which is drastically different than the ways we learned when we were in school.

The fist video, A Vision of Students Today, was produced by a Micheal Wesch, a university professor in the US, with his Digital Ethnography class.

Although this video directly addresses university students, many of the points raised were equally relevant to our younger learners.

This video was also the inspiration for the second video we watched, A Vision of K-12 Students Today, which specifically addresses the needs of primary and secondary school students.

Both videos helped prompt a discussion about new and exciting ways to engage our 21st century learners here at ISB.

We talked about:

  • How quickly students are able to learn and work with these new tools. Although it may take longer for adults to use them (for example to take notes and highlight and add graphics), it’s very often the quickest and easiest way for our students to accomplish their tasks. Providing methods for students to use these tools within the classroom environment is critical to their engagement in their learning.
  • Along with embracing new tools, it is equally critical to remember that we need to achieve balance. Running and playing with other children (in the real world) is an important part of socialization and relationship-building. It is becoming a bigger task for parents to ensure that their children enjoy a successful balance between both worlds.
  • Although it is important for students to have basic knowledge, it is in the application of this knowledge to actually create something new that students can truly express their understanding. It is important for schools to provide multiple formats for the application of knowledge (some including technology, and some emphasizing other aspects of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intellegences) in order to provide balance, and to reach and engage all learners.

As usual, we had a lively discussion and we hope you will join us next time! Our next session is:

Wednesday, December 3rd: Information R/evolution: This session will be an introduction to the different ways that information is shared, stored, managed and found in our web 2.0 world. We will also offer a brief overview of the new library catalog, Destiny.

Did you know you can download any videos you find online from KeepVid? All you need is the website address (URL) for the video you would like to download, and this website create a web link you can right-click on to download the video!

Try Tumble Books At Home!

ISB subscribes to a number of fantastic reading resources, and one of our favorites is Tumble Books!

Tumble Books is an online collection of electronic books (e-books), animated, talking picture books from a well-rounded selection of authors. We used Tumble Books in the Tech Zone during our first Starbooks evening and are proud to announce that it is now available from home through our ISB subscription.

Check the ES Learning Hub bulletin board for the username and password!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Recap

We had quite a lively discussion about online safety and responsibility this morning at our monthly Parent Technology Coffee Morning. We watched two US public service announcements about online safety and responsibility that we regularly show to students here in the ES to prompt discussion about appropriate behavior online.

The first is titled: The Bulletin Board from the National Crime Prevention Council:

The second is called: The Talent Show (from Don’t Believe the Type):

Both videos prompt great discussions for students, parents and teachers. Some of the interesting points that came up during our discussion today were:

  • One of the most powerful ways we can help children understand about the need for responsible behavior online is to have these kinds of open conversations both at home and at school. Keeping the lines of communication open is critical to help children understand how to stay safe online.
  • Although technology is changing so fast, it’s important to note that parents already have all the skills and life experiences needed to guide their children through their online experiences. Basic common sense that applies to real life (don’t talk to strangers) can also be transferred directly to the online world. Although children may be more quickly able to use online tools, they still need the thoughtful guidance of their parents to help them determine what is appropriate behavior.
  • When these videos are shown at school (in grades 3 – 5, if/when a class begins an online project) we develop questions to help us make the best choices when we share and learn online. The questions that students develop demonstrate such thoughtful and deep understanding of online behavior that it is clear that these experiences are a part of their daily life. One question always comes up in every class: What will other people think of me if they see this?
  • We also discussed “red flag” warning signs for online safety. Here are a few things to watch for: anyone asking to meet your child in person, anyone asking to send your child anything through the mail, anyone asking to give your child a gift or to get specific contact information.
  • “Red flag” warning signs for cyberbullying can be: a child who usually loves to be on the computer suddenly doesn’t want to go anywhere near it (this could be a sign of being bullied), a child who is constantly online, snickering or laughing or shouting at the computer (could be a sign of a child acting as a bully).

As usual, we had a fabulous discussion. Thank you so much to all of the parents who take time out of their day to attend these monthly sessions.

Our next sessions will be:

Wednesday, November 5th: A Vision of Students Today: This session will be an introduction to the ways in which students learn differently than their parents did.

Wednesday, December 3rd: Information R/evolution: This session will be an introduction to the different ways that information is shared, stored, managed and found in our web 2.0 world.

Did you know you can download any videos you find online from KeepVid? All you need is the website address (URL) for the video you would like to download, and this website create a web link you can right-click on to download the video!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Next Week

Our second Parent Technology Coffee Morning will be on Wednesday, October 1st at 7:30 am in the Project Zone of the ES Learning Hub.

This month we will be discussing online safety and responsibility. We will show two great videos that we actually use with students in classes to model the type of discussions that we are having in school, and to provide conversations prompts for parents at home. We’ll also be sharing helpful tips for turning on Google Safe Search and setting up filters on your computers at home (here are a few great hints from Google to get you started).

To help you plan for future Parent Technology Coffee Mornings, here is our plan for the rest of the calendar year:

Wednesday, November 5th: A Vision of Students Today: This session will be an introduction to the ways in which students learn differently than their parents did.

Wednesday, December 3rd: Information R/evolution: This session will be an introduction to the different ways that information is shared, stored, managed and found in our web 2.0 world.

As usual a summary of all of our discussions will be posted here on the Connect 2.0 blog for any parents that might not be able to attend.

Hope to see you there!

Starbooks is Approaching!

We are so excited to be approaching our first Starbooks event of the school year!

When: September 25, 2008 from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Where: The ES Learning Hub
Why: To celebrate a love of reading

Basically, Starbooks is an evening event for all students and families in the ES to come to the Learning Hub and celebrate reading. In the past, we have had over a hundred people attending! This is a great way to connect with other families around a love of reading!

We have several activities planned for our upcoming evening:

  • Art & Reading: Draw your favorite place to read in the Project Zone!
  • Cozy Time: Cuddle up with your family to read a great book in the Reading Zone!
  • E-books: Explore our interactive e-books in the Tech Zone!
  • Reading Around the World: Listen to a fabulous story read aloud in either Dutch, Hebrew, Spanish or Thai in the Amphitheater Zone!

Each family will have the opportunity to rotate through each activity over the course of the evening.

The timeline of our evening will run as follows:

6:30 – 6:40: Welcome and Introductions
6:40 – 6:50: First Activity
6:50 – 7:00: Second Activity
7:00 – 7:10: Third Activity
7:10 – 7: 20: Fourth Activity
7:20 – 7:30: Closing and Thank You

If you are planning to attend, please RSVP here.

ISB Elementary Students Go Global!

Our fabulous elementary teachers and students are participating in a wide range of exciting projects that help them connect to the world around them using web 2.0 tools. If you’re curious about web 2.0 or the different ways that your children will be using technology at school, please come to our monthly Parent Technology Coffee Mornings in the ES Learning Hub (the first Wednesday of every month at 7:30, as listed in the school calendar).

For now, you can get started by checking out our first projects for the school year:

Grade 5: Students Teaching Students

The wonderful Chrissy Hellyer and her fellow new ISB teacher, Aly McAloon, will be kicking off the school with a classroom blogging project that will eventually include a regular podcast focused on the Lucy Caulkins Readers Workshop. Our students will start by reading and commenting on each class’ blog, while learning about online safety and appropriate behavior, and will eventually become contributing authors to this blog. We will connect with another grade 5 class at Shanghai American School and the American School of Madrid to help engage and motivate our learners to share their learning with their classmates around the world!

Grade 4: BlogPals

Our fabulous returning teacher, Sonja Merrell, who participated in the 1001 Flat World Tales last year, is back for more 21st century learning this year! She has decided to start the school year off with a class blog, which she will use as a communication portal for her students and their parents. We’re going to start off the year using this blog as a discussion tool, to build a strong school-home connection and to get her students thinking about their learning in a more interactive way. Over time we will have each student as a contributing author to the blog, in order to record their learning and development over the course of the school year.

Grade 2: A Window to Our World

Another amazing returning colleague, Susan Souza, is connecting her class to a partner class via a tool called Ning. She conducted a similar project last year and was amazed to see how quickly her students took to this new learning environment – posting questions and answers, commenting on individual student pages, and sharing their learning as a class – all in second grade! This year the project will focus on building intercultural understanding, learning about diversity, and getting to know our collaborative partners in this private network.

Grade 1: ESL Learners Speak English

Our enthusiastic grade 1 ESL teacher, Erin DeYoung, started using VoiceThread in her classroom last year as a way for her beginning ESL students to practice their English in an authentic environment. We had a great time connecting to grade 1 ESL students at the American School of Madrid, and we’re planning to re-connect again this year. Our students will start practicing their English with an short introduction to each student so that our partner class can really get to know each person as an individual. Over time the students share a bit about their lives in Thailand, the school, and other grade 1 favorites.

Kindergarten: Kids Draw!

Our amazing Kindergarten team teachers, Sandy Chin and Akiko Nagamine, are jumping in to a new model of technology learning with their fantastic class. We have started out the year with a short unit on drawing, where the students were asked to draw a picture of themselves on paper (for a unit entitled “All About Me”) and then draw the same picture on the computer (using KidPix). We discussed what was the same and what was different about drawing on paper and drawing on the computer. Interestingly, although almost all of them though drawing on the computer was more difficult (we still need to work on those fine motor skills), most of them liked drawing on the computer better. After this short unit, Sandy, Akiko and I realized we have lots of room to grow with drawing and technology. We’d like to revisit the concept of drawing on the computer over the course of the year and build in some thoughtful reflection, ideally with VoiceThread, where students can talk about the context of the picture, and the skills they learned while drawing.

All of these projects are being facilitated by our 21st Century Literacy Specialist, Ms. Cofino, in partnership with the classroom teacher. You can keep up with all of the new and exciting developments in 21st century literacy here on the Connect 2.0 blog!