Capstone Project: Best Practices Supported by Technology

Potterville Elementary uses the Battle Creek Math and Science Center curriculum for teaching Science. Last year, after taking 21Things4Educators- Things 1-10, I decided to try and use some of what I had learned and to challenge myself to figure out other “Things” in order to create an ending project for two of the units. For our “Weather Watchers” unit, we created a class video to summarize our learning. For the “Sorting Things Out” unit, we created an e-book with Storybook.

*Projects have images of students and cannot be shared publicly. A link to both the video and e-book is being sent separately to instructors.

For my capstone project, I will explore how these projects supported at least some of the 9 categories of best practice. Since this was an initial attempt, I will also explore some additional ways I could use technology in Science instruction.

  1. Identifying Similarities and Differences

Students were involved in this best practice in both science units. During the weather unit, students observed, collected and compared weather and seasons. Technology was used in small ways. For example, I used my iPad compass during our study of wind and I was able to use  the iPad as a document camera to magnify the thermometer as we learned to read it. As part of the sorting unit, the children sorted “junk boxes” by properties.

As I teach these units this year, I will be on the lookout for places that technology use can support the concepts taught. I’m told that I will have 10 iPads (I had 5 last year) this year. I can see some partner projects where students can take pictures or find images (Flickr/Advanced Google Search) to compare or express what they are learning.  Maybe even some use of tools like FaceJack where trees could talk about their visible characteristics that place them in a certain season!

  1. Summarizing and Note Taking

Both ending projects summarized unit learning. I think this is valuable for youngsters. It gives them a chance to think about what they learned, review, clarify and clear up any misunderstandings.

I would like to take time to have students do more summarizing within the unit. The ending summarizing projects were done mostly whole group with some utilization of small groups and partners. I do a lot of “pair and share” when teaching but I would like to find ways for students to use beginning “jotting” or note taking to express understanding.  Kidblog might be a fun way to discuss or express. Now that I have 10 iPads, I could see posing a question and having children respond on the class blog. Students could use the “Whiteboard” app on iPads to jot or draw responses.

  1. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

All students in Room 23 participated in the video. We invited our principal to come in and have a viewing and shared it with our neighboring 1st grade class (who all begged their teacher to let them do one!) I also figured out how to post the video on Vimeo and allow parents to see it with a password. (I did not have permission from all parents to post publicly.) The students were really happy to even just watch the video ourselves but were bursting when our principal came in! The parents who watched it on Vimeo all had positive feedback for me. Children enjoyed  the “Properties” e-book. It was made mostly whole group. We decided together what labels to add to the photos. The book was available for them to read on the iBooks shelf on their iPads. It was read more than once!

I favor intrinsic rewards and recognition. I think that this type of project is a really meaningful and enjoyable way to reinforce effort and provide recognition.

I’d like to be able to put more of the “making” of these projects into the hands of the children. I think that as I become more knowledgeable, it will be easier to do some “modeling” projects and then set them loose! (with supervision)

  1. Homework and Practice

We don’t give a lot of homework in first grade science. The “Sorting Things Out” unit has an ending project that we make into a home project. We study buoyancy and magnets. Students make boats at home to demonstrate what they have learned about these two concepts. This year I took iPad photos of the “launch” of the boats of absent kids. I suppose you could take videos or photos of this or other content or experiments and send them home for kids to discuss with parents if they have technology at home. I will be looking for that as I teach this year!

Our iPads do not go home with children and I am not certain that the majority of my children have the tools or knowledge to use them at home. Now that I have a tiny bit of experience creating video pods and audio pods, I can see incorporating them but would have to figure out how it would work with home technology. QR codes might be something I could post online or send home.

  1. Nonlinguistic Representations

Battle Creek Math and Science units are hands on units and are strong in this area. There is a great combination of hands on, writing logs and visuals. My two ending projects explored using video and e-books with the children as the teachers.

I dabbled in using Popplet and word clouds last year as we brainstormed and/or summarized learning. Gliffy has a variety of diagrams to use. For my first graders, I think finding digital images (photos) to express learning is a really strong option. I know some teachers have folders of images for kids to use. Flickr and Advanced Google Search might work too. Many could use Skitch to label their findings.

  1. Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning is another area where Battle Creek Math and Science units are strong. With all the hands-on projects, there is a lot of partner and small group work. The projects we did allowed children to work together to decide on content and record it. I put the clips together to create the video without student participation.

I’d like to experiment more with Lino to see if it could be used for cooperative groups at my level.

  1. Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback

Our objectives for the final projects were to express understanding of the learning goals for the two units. For example, the science goals for the “Weather Watchers” unit are: *I can use weather tools. *I can tell about the four seasons. *I know how to stay safe in bad weather. When we made our video, we discussed each goal and arrived at our “script.” Students received peer and teacher feedback as we decided what to record.

I would like to explore using Kidblog to state a goal and question such as: One of our goals is “I can tell about the four seasons.” What can you tell about spring? It might be fun to try Photopeach as well and get photos with captions.

  1. Generating and Testing Hypotheses

My projects didn’t really address this practice but the units I taught did. Science is an area where this is a natural. In our weather unit, students made predictions. One example: Are all areas of the playground the same temperature? We were able to take our thermometers out and find out. In our properties unit we also predicted. What objects are attracted to a magnet? We used magnets and explored a variety of objects.

I’m not sure how to do this better or enhance it with technology. I will be on the lookout as I teach these units this year.

  1. Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

Battle Creek Math and Science units use a chart with: What we know/What we think we know/What we want to know at the start and throughout their units. They incorporate “hooks” to get children organized and activate background knowledge.  My projects, of course, were at the end of the units.

I think that some of the video resources on PBS learning and the school YouTube sites might be worth exploring to find some cues and initiate some questions. Once again, Kidblog could be used to get kids thinking.  As far as advance organizers- my favorite so far was Popplet. I’d like to explore Lino.

In closing:

I have attended the Reading and Writing Institute at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University for 3 weeklong sessions over the years. I am always so inspired and awed and honored AND I always learn SO much! One of the things that I learned there is that when I go back to my classroom, I cannot do it all! They tell me to choose one or two things and do them. When those are incorporated (or not,) then choose another. Do it well.

This class has been a similar experience. There are so many things that I want to do. There are so many things I have learned about that I didn’t even mention here. I’ve repeated a few options more than once! I want to move forward, choosing “things” that really benefit the children and enhance their learning and love of learning. I will try to do a few and do them well. I will keep learning and be open to all of the possibilities that keep being introduced to me. Thank you, 21 Things Instructors!

Flipping Your Classroom


I used Jing to capture a digital book on Raz-Kids. In first grade, we teach many beginning reading strategies. Beginning readers start by learning to use all clues that they can. Sometimes children are focused only on phonics clues and they forget to use picture clues and to think about what makes sense. I chose to teach a lesson on using pictures clues to help figure out tricky words and meaning.

I shared my finished video with a colleague for feedback. I recorded three times before I saved a version but I would like to make the script a little smoother. I’d like to make some areas better. One thing I didn’t do was point out my that the beginning sound of mermaid didn’t match the sn beginning of the word on the page. I didn’t think out loud that this book must be about pretending to be animals. I also need to work on making the sound louder. I used my laptop and even though I adjusted the sound in the settings, it didn’t record very loudly.

I posted my video to my weebly page and below.

Online Video and Audio Resources

I started this assignment by searching a variety of prepared video sites for “nouns.” We teach nouns in our first week of first grade and I thought it could be a starting point. I looked at all three Utube sites: Teachertube, Schooltube and Utube for Schools. I also looked at MI Streamnet and PBS Learning Media. I found something on almost all of them but I will talk about my favorite and least favorite sites for this comparison.

PBS Learning Media was my favorite. This site allowed a more specific search and that is valuable when time is limited. It allowed me to search by grade level and subject in addition to media type. There were also other choices for searching that I didn’t use. The site was easy to use and I found several resources that I am interested in. I didn’t find a noun video but I found several phonics and reading strategy videos that were short (under 2 minutes.) Lots of the phonics and conventions resorces I found on the uTube sites were between 3 and 5 minutes. My preference for 6 and 7 year olds is short videos for single concepts like these.

I especially liked a video on “chunking” made by “The Electric Company.”  I would definitely use this site and recommend it to a colleague. You need to create an account to use this site.

Chunking video:

PBS Learning Media:

21 PBS media dashboard21 PBS media


The site that I found least useful was MI Streamnet. I found no way to sort when searching. The entry of nouns had no resources. Many of the resources that did come up were for teacher use, not to use with students. I found that a majority of resources had to do with assessment and data. I did find a video called: Science is Elementary: Magnets. We teach magnets in first grade so I clicked on it and got a message that a password was required for that video.

21 MI Streamnet

The uTube sites were not as search friendly as PBS but I did find some resources on them and expect to return to them in the future.

iTunes Podcasts

A podcast is different from an audio recording because it is a part of series of audio recordings and it can be subscribed to.

I listened to a podcast from Brains On! from Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media called “How do you Catch a Cold?.” It was written by Molly Bloom. I was thinking that it might be a good one for the beginning of the year to help kids with preventative measures. This audio had two speakers and part of the audio was in play format. This seemed like a fun way to present infromation to children. It was over 20 minutes which is a little long for 6 and 7 year olds. The sound and quality were both good on these podcasts.

I also listened to a podcast from Storynory. It is called “Three short fables from the Philippines.” The stories are about animals and why things are the way they are. The first one was “Why Dogs Wag Their Tails.” This site uses professional actors as readers and the sound and quality is very good. They have been publishing audio stories every week since November of 2005. I could only figure out how to get to their 41 lastest podcasts on iTunes but they also have a website where you can access all of their files. They had such variety there. There were their original stories and also fairy tales, nursery rhymes, stories about holidays and saints and much more! They even have something called “catch phrase” that talks about phrases kids might not understand such as “at my wit’s end.” These are really good additions. Many have British accents but heavy enough to interfere with comprehension. Length of selections varied with the length of the story. There were introductions to the ones I listened to.

First grade classrooms often use listening centers but are usually paired with a book. I’m not sure how well pure audio would work for 6 and 7 year olds but I think some of the shorter ones might keep their attention, especially where they had background knowledge to support them. I was attracted to the Fairy Tales because we have studied fairy tales in first grade, reading several versions of the same tale. After reading and working on a fairy tale in class, a recording of one to listen to would give children another way to experience it.

I also thought that listening to short podcasts with a pencil and pad in hand might be a way to begin to learn notetaking with pictures or words.

Since we are not in school yet, I shared this idea with one of my teaching partners. She regularly uses listening centers in her classroom and thought both of my ideas were do-able. I tweeted the Brains On! podcast info.

21 podcast Brain on!


I recorded my reflections about video and audio resources on Audacity and sent the file by e-mail to Melissa.

The recording went smoothly. I tried to add music to the beginning like Jennifer did in our recorded session. I got music downloaded from Freeplay and tried to import it to Audacity but the file would not open. I decided to save that for another day! I was able to export my Audacity file to my computer and to put it on Dropbox but I was unable to import it to this site.

This has been a good experience though it is always frustrating to hit a brick wall. I was able to get the file to Melissa but was not able to really understand how to export and use it. I will work on using this site more and hopefully figure out how to export it!





Digital Story Telling


I used the storyboard.doc form to plan my story about Morning Jobs.

21 storyboard


I used Animoto to make a digital story or slideshow about the morning jobs in my classroom. I used photographs I had taken in the classroom and also photos from Flikr that had Creative Commons use for commercial purposes. I added text and music. I was somewhat limited by using the free version but thought it turned out pretty well. It only allowed me a 30 second video with 6 slides for the free version. I posted this video on my weebly for Room 23 on a new page called “Our Classroom.”

I also created a storybird account. I really liked the look and images available on the training video when Carolyn used it. I have used Voki and Big Cat apps in my classroom. They have animation.


Students in Room 23 used Big Cat apps on iPads last year. First they read the Big Cat story and then they can write their own. Students choose characters, setting, objects and text. It is quite a project for first graders. They did it at Reading Center time with a partner. It took two to three sessions to complete a story.  Students were engaged, cooperative, creative. They thought about character, story and detail. They shared their finished story with others.

Summarizing is a really valuable way to use Digital Storytelling. Last year, we took photos and wrote text to summarize our Science unit about properties. We used Skitch to label photos. It was very teacher led but we made decisions together. The students were engaged and it was another chance to interact with the content and solidify learning. We made it into a digital book and put it on the bookshelf in their iPads so they could read it.

I really liked the examples in the video on our class sight where student art work, president heads, etc were used in FaceJack. I have SockPuppets on my iPads and one other similar app that I have only used minimally. I am thinking about content in first grade where I could use this. I think students would really enjoy this and that it could be used to help reinforce content or communicate class rules or strategies for reading or math. I’m not sure how I will use this yet, but my gears are turning!


I sent my Morning Jobs video to a fellow first grade teacher. She suggested using audio to read the text. Good idea. I’m not sure I can do that in Animoto but I’m sure I could do it in some program.


Virtual Classroom


I created an Edmodo account and created a room 23 Group. My screenshot shows the group code and a note to Room 23 about verbs. I embedded a u-tube video for them to watch about verbs.

21 Edmodo post and code for Room 23

I requested to join the 21 Things Group with the code from the Moodle recording but have not yet been approved. I’m thinking that Edmodo would be a good tool to use to reinforce teaching in first grade. It could accessed at home with parents or in small groups or centers. I would love to see it in action in a lower elementary classroom. It looks like I could share content, give assignments and send notes and alerts. Having just 5 iPads for student use, it would probably be used for center work and reinforcement at home at this point. I’d love to see other uses and plan to do some investigating! Maybe on Twitter!

Navigating the Land of Online Learning

Successful online students:

Are prepared to use and learn new technology tools

Are willing to use/learn skills that will make them productive learners

Are willing to collaborate in an online learning community

Are prepared and willing to use new methods of communication

Are prepared to make learning decisions

Are willing to be responsible for their needs as learners (might include access issues, support, course issues like registration, parental permission, etc.)


The article I read is “5 Examples of Blended Learning Success.” I went to a session about blended learning at MACUL and so it peaked my interest. The article talked about 5 different schools where blended learning was taking place in various ways. It talked about levels of “cometency based learning” and modular structures and how they were used alone or in combination with traditional, time-based learning.

I explored other resources on the MLO Portal. I found both information and resources for teachers (also for others, but I focused on the teacher section.) I found a few videos in the Utube channel directory that I was interested in and plan to use this resource. I also found articles, policy samples and professional development. The MACUL 2015 conference is one of the PD opportunities listed! I think that I just touched the surface after an hour of exploration!


21 Capspace read around the planet

I am not sure what videoconference equipment is available to me in Potterville.

Literacy is a cornerstone of everything in first grade so I took a screenshot of the Read Around the Planet page. While much of our reading and writing curriculum is being dictated by the basal reader mandate, we do still celebrate Reading Month! I think this is a unique way for children to have enthusiasm about reading and realize the importance and joy of reading in our community- the world!

I also am interested in the ASK program. Authors are always inspiring and thoughtful. It looked like there was a fairly involved process of working with children on questioning. I’m not sure I would allowed the time to do this. I think it would be valuable. I find that thinking about books and being able to form questions and opinions about what is read is a skill that children really need to practice. I think this would be a great way to do it.







Professional Learning Networks


I set up my Twitter account and chose 25 people to follow as a start. I sent my first ever tweet, with a link to one of my favorite sites-the reading and writing program at Teacher’s College at Columbia University!

21 tweet

At LearnPort I watched a short video of Margaret Mooney and others about achieving reading success in the early years. There were several in the section that I might go back and watch for free. I looked over several classes that I might gain from in a variety of areas. I am already a member of MACUL, having attended their yearly conference for the last two years. I went into their site and joined the MACUL SIG EE. I actually went to one of their meetings this year when I attended the conference. I am looking forward to learning more about the value of SIG membership. The video I watched from the REMC Connected Educator series was on using wikis in 2nd grade. It was interesting and inspired me to learn more about this as a possibility for my classroom.

I sent out 4 tweets about the above activities but I am almost more excited about Twitter because I retweeted a tweet that I found valuable. I am not sure how I will manage my time using Twitter. As you know, there is so much that takes time in teaching, so to add something to the routine seems overwhelming. However, I found people I have learned from and respect on Twitter and I think that I will work it in, if not daily, then at least a weekly check. I think Twitter might be worth the time!

My 4 tweets and retweet:

21 tweets 5

Research and Reference Tools

Comparing e-Library Elementay and Kids InfoBits 

The Trumpet of the Swan is a regular read aloud for my first graders and it always leads to some research about trumpeter swans. I typed trumpeter swans into both eLibrary and Kid InfoBits.




21 Kids InfoBits 221 elibrary t swan

Both sites had appropriate and usable content. Kids InfoBits had much less but it was more specifically targeted. eLibrary had lots of results but many were not about trumpeter swans. Kids InfoBits had fewer types of selections (only one photo and 4 magazine articles) while eLibary had photos, magazine articles, books, newspaper articles and transcripts. I also found that eLibrary had encyclopedia sources while Kids InfoBits did not.

Printed selections on both sites were somewhat long and did not include photos that were most likely a part of the original articles. Photos help with readability for youngsters.  Most articles were above reading level for first graders and had lots of words on one page which isn’t best for young readers. The eLibary allowed for sorting by reading level (and several other sorts) but I didn’t find a lot of early reader selections. Kids InfoBits was less friendly to sort. It was sorted by types (photo, magazines, etc.) but I found I could go into an advanced search to sort in other ways.

I wanted to see if the low number of selections on Kids InfoBits was limited by my choice of topic so I searched Harriet Tubman (another topic we study.) Kids InfoBits came up with 37 selections in 4 categories. eLibary had in 5 categories. eLibrary had 295 selections in 5 categories.

21 Kids Infobits Harriet

I think first graders could independently search through the photos and that is of value.  Both sites could be used for whole group, teacher-led research which is a common and appropriate thing to do in first grade.

21 elibrary t swan 2

I loved this photo of a trumpeter swan taking off. There is a description in The Trumpet of the Swan of Louis (the young trumpeter swan) learning to do this. This would be a great photo to illustrate it.



Both sites have citations available and both have been created for educational use.  In fact, my 21Things instructor convinced me that these are sites to be trusted and used for student research!

I am really happy to have explored these sites and I feel really comfortable using them with first graders and plan to do so this year.



I found all of the advanced databases suggested to be academically well beyond what I can use with my class in first grade though I could use them personally and share information from them in another format. I searched “trumpeter swans” in all of them. The three sites suggested:

Academic One File:  This has peer reviewed academic journal articles. It is geared for post-secondary use.

General One File:  This has news and periodical articles. I found it appropriate for high school and adult users.

General Reference Center Gold: This has infromation from newspapers, magazines, poems, trade publications and reference books. This seemed appropriate for high school and adult users.

I thought perhaps I could find the most useful selections in General Reference Center Gold since it had a wider variety of materials. I ended up finding a book review on Academic One File that gave me information about a children’s book about trumpeter swans (screenshot below.)

21 academic one book review

I don’t feel these sites are the best resource for lower elementary, however I’m glad to be aware of them.


21 hoax website

This content of this website is not ethical. It purports to sell you ancestors. It is understandable but not believable. It is definitely tongue in cheek. (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are some of the ancestors you can buy.) Several of the links do not work and all of the advertisers are not linked. There is a review section but there are no reviews since 2009. The .org would seem to add validity but when I truncates back , I found it is linked (authority/credibility) to an individual. (The individual died in 2012.)  The purpose of this sight is humor. It is quite easy to distinguish untruths. I found the sight easy to navigate (design/usability) although many things are obviously there for show such as the # of visitors that just spins without stopping. I would not use this site.

21 hoax website dog island

The content of this site is very simple and not well written. The concept is clear but the details are not clear or well thought out.  Authority/Crediblity: This disclaimer is at the bottom of the site: Copyright © 2003-2013 The Dog Island – Disclaimer  Some of the links do not work or take you to unrelated sites. The news links had no link to Dog Island. Purpose: The purpose of this site is humor and maybe finding out how easy or hard it is to fool people. Usability/Design The site was easy to use and fairly well designed. It would need working references and dates and much better writing might to make it somewhat believable. I would not use this site.

The two sights I looked at were fairly obvious in being hoaxes. There didn’t seem to be an evil motive behind either. The authors just seemed to want to have fun and create humor…and maybe see if they could fool someone! I know that there are probably sites out there that are far more dangerous and deceiving. I’m glad to begin to have some tools to evaluate websites.


21 citation tool

I found an article on Google Scholar about trumpeter swans and created the citation below with the tool above.

Henson, P., & Grant, T. (1991). The effects of human disturbance on trumpeter swan breeding behavior. Wildlife Society Bulliten, Vol. 19,(3), 248-257. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from