February 27, 2011

Max My Dream

Social neworks are beatiful places where teachers can learn on Sunday evening: Arjana Blazic and Eva Büyüksimkeşyan shared a very interesting post from "Life Feast", a very interesting blog by Ana Maria Menezes, about a writing tool - Max My Dream

In Max My Dream you write your dream in 140 characters and wait for a few seconds. Then you can watch your dream animated, you can send it to a friend with a short note inviting your friend to send you a dream, too, or you can share it on facebook or twitter.

I couldn't resist. This is my dream:

In her blog post Ana Maria suggests some ideas for the use of the tool with students.
I'm going to share this dream with my students on our class blog, because this dream incudes them and my dreams about their future work. I'll have them guess my original words. I'll also invite them to choose a topic we discussed in class to express their opinion, their dream, about it.
I can't wait to see what they are going to post.

February 23, 2011

February 20, 2011

Only a Game – Lessons in Safer Internet for Children

I started a series of lessons with my sixth graders with the aim of teaching them to feel more comfortable using the Internet and preparing a short drama piece to present as our class contribution to the annual celebrations of our School Day in May.

I found this new activity for teachers on Childnet page and wrote to the authors to get the complete script because it looked just the right kind of material for my 12 – year – old girls and boys. I got it and started immediately working on it with my students.

The scene is very simple: two desks with computers and one big screen in the background. The main characters are two students who live in very different families and go to the same school.
Alex envies Jay because Jay has his new computer in his bedroom and can play whatever games he wants whenever he wants. Alex's parents are strict, his computer is in the front room and the parents decide when and how long he plays on it.
Jay's older friend Taylor persuades him to start playing a new “cool“ game pretending to be fourteen years old and he is soon in trouble when he realizes he has to disclose his personal information to claim the prize and various pop-up messages keep appearing on his screen. He is also in trouble at school because he didn't do some homework that he forgot about because of the game.

The drama comes with three lesson plans and I have already had two lessons with my students.
• In the first lesson we talked about their experience of using the Internet at school and at home, named their favorite games. It was very exciting to see how all students, even the weaker ones, wanted to share their thoughts and experience. Then we read the script and discussed what we learned from Jay's experience.
• The script is in English, it's a foreign language for my students and they'll need some time to learn their lines, but they are so excited they all applied for different roles of real or virtual characters.
Now we are at scene three when Jay starts playing the new “cool“game pretending to be older. Here we have to create our own setting, our own virtual characters that will appear on the stage, their appearance, costumes, background sounds of the game, too. The students are so excited I had to allow some more time for all group ideas to be presented and we'll decide next week on our scene, and, I hope, proceed to the following scenes.
• I hope everything will go smoothly, with only the learning of the language and proper pronunciation until the last scene. There isn't much text and the students understood and discussed it already.
Then in the last scene we have to create our own advice for Jay. I plan to use Childnet SMART rules again. My students are already familiar with the rules: S – safe, M – meet, A – accept, R – reliable, T – tell. I plan to use the Kidsmart presentation and remind them of the rules, have them work in pairs on every detail of Jay's problem and then present their advice to the group. Then we'll agree on all the individual sentences of our advice that go into our script. I also hope to have time to get students to write all the pieces of advice on big posters to keep on the walls.

• The final scene of the play is to be a rap song, possibly with dance. I'll leave it to the imagination of my students and correct only the language.

I'm very excited and can't wait to put our drama on stage. I've been even happier since a few parents reported having talked about the topic with their children because the child was very excited about our work at school and wanted to share the details with parents. It looks like it's going to be a success.

February 7, 2011

Creating avatar icons

I've started preparing for a collaborative project on a wiki my students are sharing with a class from Armenia. Parent permission forms are ready and I hope I'll have them back and all signed before the end of the week.

In the meantime I'll invite the students to join the wiki. When they join, they'll need pictures to represent them when they post. My students are only 14, so I thought of an activity 0 for them: creating avatar icons instead of personal photos.
I've just written a post on their blog sharing one idea on how to do it and inviting them to share if they know of a better, easier of more interesting way of doing it.

I've invited them to visit http://avatars.yahoo.com/ and choose a shape they like or think reflects their interests, or maybe even looks like them in a way.
When they create an avatar picture, they can right click it and save it.
For example:

To get a small picture of the avatar face, to use as an icon, for example when they are writing comments,I suggested resizing it: http://www.sherv.net/icon-maker/ It is easy, you just upload the picture, choose the part you like and save it again.

I've given them an example of what they can do with the picture:

I hope this will help my students create their avatar photos in no time and have fun.