I started a wiki page, aptly named girardclass, several weeks ago and have been slowly getting used to the interface. Here is a screen shot:


I would link to the wiki but it is on a secure server. Therefore it is hidden from search engines. I don’t want to take it off secure status  just yet.  I’m a little paranoid that it will get edited by someone outside the class. I want the class to have a successful first time experience and don’t need any extra hassles in the interim.

So, Wednesday. I sent them an e-mail explaining what to do and directions on how to get to the class wiki. Basicly, go to this wiki. Click on the links to find answers to the questions. Copy/Paste the questions and answers into a new mail and send it to me. With only slight snags here and there, I had @ 25 e-mails in my inbox in @ 20 minutes. Nice. The rest trickled in. As the students finished, they went to the C8 Chat room and had fun for the remainder of their computer lab session.

What was the education objective? To get them familiar with the new wiki page that they will be editing for the rest of the school year. Welcome to the new school of Social Studies and Science.


The Chat room happened about 2 weeks ago. And the kids, yet again, went off the Richter with this one. Nothing really to talk about, they just asked each other questions, talked (typed) about absolutely nothing, and had a blast. So, what was my educational objective? To get them used to the Gaggle interface, to get them back into typing, to communicate via computer, and of course, prepare them for lessons in the near future that will have an impact on learning.

We are learning together. This is my first time using Gaggle and all it’s features. It is also my first time as an administrator of an e-mail account for 30 twelve year old kids. Going into the Chat room was educational for me. Before you know it, the page has been filled and is scrolling up. It seems impossible to read but every time I send a chat line reminding a student to use proper standard English or to watch their punctuation, I get a line that acknowledged their mistake.

I told myself that I would introduce them to (my) our class wiki after Thanksgiving holiday break. The Wednesday after break we have computer lab time. Hopefully on Thursday I’ll drop an entry into the Lion’s Den to report progress.






11/25/07 Update: click the above link to listen….Blogging is still kinda new to me.

As a teacher, our most precious commodity is time. At least, it is to me. So, I decided to try something (a few things) I had never thought of doing before.I wanted to do my fluency checks but not in a way that was compressed and rushed. So I set up 4 stations with 4 laptops w/microphones and recorded one page of reading from each student. How?

Audacity is a free (yes, the f word!!!) sound editor. There is a copy in my student folder under in the folder “executables”. Actually, there is a lot of stuff in there if you want it…

Besides being free, the coolest thing about this editor is that you can make it as complicated as you want it. It is pretty darn comprehensive. But we don’t want complicated, do we? Time is precious….

I showed 3 willing volunteers (my homeroom techno-super soldiers) how to do it. I walked them through the software, did a dry run, then the real deal. Bang. Instead of having one geek in the class (me), I now had 4 (3 students + me). Cool, so that makes 4 stations to get 20ish kids into a fluency check. Let’s see: 20 kids/4 stations thats 5 kids per station. From memory, the average reading time was @ 3 minutes total. This includes them saying: their name, the book title, the page they were to read, and the passage.

Hmmm. This took @ 45 minutes to do. Consider this though. It was their (our) first time, some of the laptops did not have Audacity on them (scramble to find ones that did), and I was limited to 4 microphones (thus 4 stations).

Fine. Consider this: I fix the laptops, 17 kids have a much better understanding of what to do, 2 of those kids have a REALLY good understanding of what to do, three have already been trained, 2 more microphones. How long would it take us to get fluency checks with 7 stations going at the same time?

We ran out of time. The bell rang. Funny though. Only @6 kids ran for the door. The rest of them wanted to hear themselves reading. They were excited to listen to the same passage read again, but with their voice. Cool. Time to do some goal setting, eh?

Here is another thing. What if they each record a page for fluency. Then, each student goes back and then uses a (the) rubric to score themselves AND their team members. Time is precious. I will have to weigh that idea after we try it. Besides shifting a percentage of the workload onto the students, how would reading, listening, re-reading, and scoring help my reading group? I’m asking for input here.

I do know this. The kids that don’t do their homework habitually, will be making up for some of the lack of effort…

Please comment. I’m listening (reading).

Oh, and the pod casting part? Yeah, I’m still working on it….look for another post later.


The looks on all their faces when they received a reply from their friends was just priceless. All I could think was “now this is what I call buy in”. They are hooked. It’s done. That part is out of the way.

Friday 11/16 we went back in and edited the accounts. They are now allowed to send and receive pictures. I had to open that door for two reasons. (1) They cannot post a pic of themselves in their personal profile. (2) I want them to send pics to me and each other for future projects.

Sound good? Well, not so fast. Since this is the free version of Gaggle, the allowable size of the files being sent are severely limited. Oof. I think this may cause a problem. Sorta. The pics that are in their student folders were taken at @ 6 megapixels. What does that mean? An average 6 Mp (megapixel) file size is @ 3 megabytes. These pics were taken with my personal camera and then transfered to the student drive at the start of the school year. Now we have the Sony mini disc camera; 2.5 mp. We will be using the lower resolution camera from now on (until I can sell Rosemary on a subscription…)

So if you go for Gaggle, shoot your pics at about 640×480 or thereabouts. You should have an easier time and less “mine keeps telling me I can’t do that…”

Stay tuned for the next installment: The Chat Room. Mu Ha Ha Ha (uses evil villain voice).


So, there we were. Lined up at the computer lab. The students were well, students. I couldn’t tell if they were anxious or if I was the only one.

Even though we have laptops in the classroom and could have logged in that way, I am sure glad we didn’t. The lab affords 1:1 ratio of computers to students. The students like it that way.

We start out like any other web enabled session by navigating to the gaggle login/home page. There were some snags with user names as we logged in. All but one was resolved (I fixed it at 3:30. I’m tellin ya this is easy) so he looked on with another student. However, they did not seem as excited as I thought they would be. Hmmm.

Task 1: Shoot me a quick note  saying that you are in and all is well. 90ish% got it the first time (the ones that have Myspace accounts…). Some others needed coaching with the subtle but important little things (no spaces, .net, subject lines…) but I had 29 messagesin my inbox about 12 to 15 minutes before the clean up bell! YAY!

Task 2: Exhaust your quota for the day. They are message restricted: 5 to send and 5 to receive per day. A couple of them smacked that boundary right away. Most did not. Cool. I think they got it.

“Mr. G. Are we going to do this again tomorrow?” Uh, sure, why not. When they saw that they were connected to each other by getting responses back from their peers, they were hooked. Hooked. The conversations were flying. My ESL kids were reading, typing, talking and just plain stoked. Kids were out of there seats. Why? They would send a message to their friend that was 15′ away. Then would rush over to see if they got it. It was one of the louder sessions we have had but hey, the lab is not the library.

Stay tuned for Day 2: personalizing the account.


So far there are over 130 pics of our Desert Survival field trip. We have not even loaded the video yet. Email me if you forgot the password and user name.


I’m chomping on the bit. I hope parents understand. It’s not just e-mail. It’s literacy. It’s ESL support. It’s student interaction. It’s confidence inspiring. It’s blogging. It’s safe. It’s fun. Cross your fingers. I have to fill up my plan book….
Have a nice weekend.

So I came into work yesterday planning on planning and RC’s. Ended up doing that AND successfully importing my class into a Gaggle account. Yay! “That’s nice, what’s Gaggle?” It is a student (k-12) e-mail service that is super safe, secure, user friendly, and free. Yup, I said the f word. Free. I can’t wait to try it out. Not without parent approval first though. Anybody want to help me write a home note explaining that their 6th grade teacher has hooked their kid up with an e-mail account?

Anyway, I have them restricted to our classroom only and will be gradually letting the leash out to Denice’s class, and then eventually to Ben Dickson’s class over at Anderson.

I feel that an e-mail account is a gateway to many other computer skills and traditionally tested skills. I will post how things go as far as signing up all the way to e-mailing assignments and getting responses back from kids. We’ll see.


Laura and I were throwing around some ideas (on a Saturday) and this blog was one of them. As we know, face time seems to be getting harder to come by. However idea sharing could not be more important. So, instead of pretending we can make more time in our day for face time, let’s use this blog to share our ideas.

The nice thing about blogging is that you do it on YOUR time. Or you don’t. You can print and read. Contribute. Whatever. So let’s have fun and see where it goes, eh?

If we need more Categories, let me know and I’ll add them. So. Let’s share!!