HELP WANTED: Interesting primary/elementary educational technology projects?

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I’m working with a school district that’s asked me to focus on the primary and elementary grades (Kindergarten through 6th grade, or Years 1 through 6/7). If you only had 1 hour to show some teachers and parents a maximum of 8 to 10 really interesting educational technology projects happening with younger schoolchildren, what would you show them?

I can pull ideas and projects from CASTLE’s list of subject-specific blogs but thought some of you might have more targeted recommendations for me. As usual, I’ll compile the comments and share back out as a blog post. Thanks in advance for any help that you can give!

Image credit: Flat Classroom Skype

51 Responses to “HELP WANTED: Interesting primary/elementary educational technology projects?”

  1. Wolfram Alpha, for sure. Evernote. That should get you pretty far – go few, but deep! (otherwise you’ll get overload / shutdown from participants!)

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Andreas. I’m looking less for tools and more for specific projects with kids and teachers in schools. Got any examples of using Wolfram Alpha / Evernote with primary / elementary students that I can show?

      I agree: few but deep rather than broad and shallow!

      • Okay – here goes a few:

        Wolfram Alpha:
        1. Inventory the local surroundings, check the data available re population, education level, price of bread for city, how many have a TV, etc, etc… (Keep all this data, of course, in Evernote!)

        2. Historical quest – what do things cost today, what did they cost 50 years ago? How long do people live today, in my city, and what was it like before? Why? What kind of jobs do people have today? Yesteryear? What’s a cooper, cobbler?

        3. Knot theory – ask Wolfram for knots, then tie them for real, and all of a sudden you have a 1st grader doing string / knot theory… Now make your own knot, and describe it!

        …and the list could go on…

      • Try Storybird. The students can create their own storyies on any topic with beautiful art work. This could be a poetry or prose lesson. It could simply be a way of students expressing thier understanding of any concept from math to science to history. Sort of a an open response quesiton in a children’s story book format.

        • I agree Storybird is an amazing story creator site with fantastic images to work with and easy to use with younger students. We actually use it with our middle school spanish class where students write their stories in spanish.

  2. I’d show them my Moodle course for TAG grade 5 students.

    Don

    View as guest.

    http://lms.onlineoptions.org/course/view.php?id=5

  3. The iRead project in Escondido, CA would definitely be on my list: https://sites.google.com/a/eusd.org/eusd-iread/

  4. So we’re looking for tools so that we can make use of the “technology” that we’ve purchased? Sheesh.

    • I’m not looking for tools. I’m looking for interesting instructional activities that make good use of the tools/technology already purchased (or that could be purchased). What’s the concern?

      • Semantics on tools. Isn’t this a problem of having done things in the wrong order? Here’s the sensible order of operations as I see it.

        1. We want to do these really important and interesting activities, but they take some technology.
        2. Buy the technology.

        Instead, it seems we have done #2, and then are trying to do #1 to justify our jumping ahead, already having done #2, no?

        • Okay, I get where you’re coming from. Yes, 1 should precede 2! But I see another way to interpret my question, which is not a negative assumption that tools were bought and now we’re searching for how to use them effectively in classrooms but rather:

          We’ve got a rich learning ecosystem. What are additional ways that we can use these powerful learning tools beyond what we’ve already thought of ourselves? How/what can we learn from others, recognizing that we don’t have all the answers ourselves and that innovation and creativity resides in other locations too?

          I think my interpretation is much more positive and reflects the reality in most places.

          • You’re right, that’s more positive. You get points for being positive. Learning from others is great and it’s great that you put out feelers GIVEN what you were asked to do.

            The problem I have is that you weren’t asked to come up with some project to help kids learn X or experience Y. Instead you were asked to come up with projects to use the technology.

            If someone were to have asked for a way to teach X and you were to respond, “Do you have computers?” And they were to answer “Yes,” then that broadens the options, potentially, and even focuses your search.

            But that isn’t the way this was framed, and it isn’t the way that these things normally occur. It’s creating need where need didn’t exist. Is this good? That’s a matter of opinion, I think.

          • Thanks for the positivity points! Woo hoo! :)

            How you put this is NOT how I framed it above OR how the district framed it to me. What they asked me to do was come in and talk about interesting and innovative ways to use tech in primary/elementary classroom settings. They’re doing good stuff already but they asked me to help them think broader, bigger, and different. Nothing wrong with that, I don’t think, and I believe that’s how I framed it in my original post: What are some interesting things going on out there (that we all can learn from)?

            I didn’t frame it in the way you describe. That’s your own interpretation (which you’re welcome to, of course, but doesn’t match the motivations of myself or the district in this case).

            I’m comfy with the idea – given that this is a tech leadership blog – with the assumption that digital technologies are a potentially powerful and usually appropriate mechanism for facilitating student learning. It’s a digital world these days and most knowledge work done by adults is done with digital devices. I’m fine with – and indeed advocate for – schools mirroring that.

            Thanks for the conversation.

  5. Hi Scott
    This may interest you.

    My project involving Microsoft Tag that I did with my 6/7 year olds in Sheffield, UK.

    http://ideasfactory.me/?p=166

    I’ve also used similar technology to improve writing-
    Video explanation here-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9SwTiNx_Ps&feature=feedu

    Hope it helps

  6. How about Alice? It would probably be best for the older set (5yh-7th). It’s a free program that helps students learn programming. Check on it at alice.org

  7. One more:

    http://www.edutopia.org/groups/project-learning
    Project-Based Learning | Edutopia

  8. By the wY, would parents ever ask for good examples of students using pencils? Or a protractor?

    • Oh, I dunno. Isn’t it okay to recognize that many of these learning technologies are still new to educators and parents? Goodness knows I have trouble keeping up with what’s out there (and how it might be used well) and I live in this space daily!

  9. Since I’m not in the classroom now, I’ll go a bit generic and apologize for that. But they both are about teachers changing what they do first. That’s where the impact lies, I think.

    Evernote: Their ambassador for ed is Kevin Buran, a 6th/8th grade science teacher. He does what seem to me to be very simple things that have powerful impacts. http://blog.evernote.com/2011/08/30/teaching-with-evernote-a-6th-and-8th-grade-science-teacher-shares-his-top-tips-back-to-school-series/

    Flipped Classroom: Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann are doing interesting work. http://mast.unco.edu/programs/vodcasting/

  10. Our PreK-5 school has an online school newspaper: http://terracetimes.com In the primary grades (mostly K-2) the posts are done by the teachers about the student work or jointly with the students. But in the upper grades it is completely done by students. It is not assigned, they post on their own initiative. Each class has several student editors who approve posts before they go live.

  11. Scott, I have been working with my K-6 students for the past 5 years. These are just a few:
    http://tinyurl.com/3hakt6a (using Blabber)
    http://tinyurl.com/44gjh4v (using Tagxedo)
    http://tinyurl.com/3bwgvjf (using Voki)
    http://tinyurl.com/5wqghzd (using Glogster)
    http://tinyurl.com/67aw9al (using Photostory)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_eb4xelQFc
    (using Movie Maker)& a green screen

    but also you might be interested in seeing things we’ve done in the last 2 years on our school FB page:

    http://tinyurl.com/3b2vwsk

    P.S.
    (I am currently a master’s student at UNI in IT)Aren’t you an Iowan?
    Lisa Schaa
    Schaaspillsink.blogspot.com
    lisaschaa@gmail.com

  12. I read the initial post and thought you wanted ideas on how we are incorporating tech into our lessons – but then reading all the comments got confused. I teach fourth and fifth grade special education, teaching a modified curriculum in reading, writing, and math. So these lessons are multi-leveled and easily adapted. So just in case you are looking for lesson/project ideas, here are a few I’ve used the in the past week or two:

    1. Listen to an a few instrumental soundtracks on the iPods (Halloween themed this time). Students choose one track and based on the title and music write an imaginary movie scene. When finished, they recorded themselves reading on Garageband. I then laid the track over top of their recording to create a Scary Stories album. We listened to and critiqued each story the day after Halloween.

    2. Socrative.com quizzes using iPods and/or iPads. Beautiful tool!

    3. Created a podcast for students to watch on iPod or iPad that reviews our recent lessons on expanded form. Then asked a variety of questions where students had to pause the podcast and write answers to quiz on scratch paper.

    4. Use podcasts to have students “notemake” instead of “notetake”. Students watch podcast and generate notes in pairs to share with the class.

  13. Scratch is easier than Alice, and a lot more fun. It can be used as young as 4th grade, and teaches programming skills (http://scratch.mit.edu). I have students create stories, art and music projects, and games. Some of my students’ projects can be found here: http://scratch.mit.edu/users/lblanken

    I also have my 6th graders make web sites using either Weebly or Google Sites.

    For 7th grade, we make podcasts and videos about the school, and then make QR codes to go with them.

  14. We do a ton of things with tech at our high tech elementary school: http://www.BethkeElementary.com just check out our website and let me know if you are interested in anything.

    • your school is amazing Brad!! Would I be able to ask you a few questions? I would really like to know how you get the check out ebooks program and some of the other cool things you do.

  15. Hmmm where to start!
    Our primary kids love:
    – Glogster, Prezi, and Voicethread (great visual, audio, collaboration and multimedia capabilities)
    – Podcasting and posting to blog/wiki
    – Picnik, Scratch, Google Sketchup, Google Earth (e.g. mark out a voyage or tour) Museum Box (all free),
    – stop motion animation (MS Moviemaker)
    – Kidspiration (e.g. Graphic organisers, visual info)

    Our focus is that technology is integrated across the curriculum and staff have loads of flexibility.

    Its not about the software or hardware – its about the HEADware: what are you asking the children to do? What higher order thinking and creativity is involved? How is it linked or integrated to deep learning about key concepts and processes?
    Hope this helps :)
    We save links for our Junior school here
    http://groups.diigo.com/group/ict-junior-school

  16. I just came across this site the other day after looking at the keynote speakers at iLEARN in Hawaii…the site is http://www.zooburst.com/ and it’s a digital story telling site that uses augmented reality to allow students to hold a piece of paper and present their pop up story.

  17. We have 3rd grade students creating podcasts about topics that they tend to get confused over – like dropping the Y and adding IES.
    These podcasts are loaded on to their 1:1 iPod program in all classrooms.Whenever a child forgets the rule, the teacher doesn’t reteach – she says, there’s a podcast for that. Go watch it again. We saw growth in achievement.
    I can send some examples if interested.

  18. My students are finishing a Unit on Impact Earth. Student groups read Environmental Picture Books, wrote dramatic scenes about the book, recorded them in Vocaroo and posted them to share on our Edmodo Science page. Using ideas from these picture books they created lists of 5 Ways to Help the Environment on a free digital bulletin board called Linoit and shared these ideas in Edmodo. Their ideas, images and movies made me hopeful for Mother Earth. They used these ideas to plan an Eek-O-Friendly Halloween Party that included online invites created in Punchbowl. They just finished creating their own Weebly Websites and created a weather page to conclude our unit by answering their own questions. They will communicate with students in Joplin, MO and Baltimore, MD through Edmodo and Skype.

  19. Digital storytelling! Our school creates many different stories for many different purposes using technology in grades K-6. Some are podcasts using GarageBand, some are PowerPoint and Keynote presos, others use green screen and iMovie. Here’s a link to last year’s Digital Storytelling extension class: https://sites.google.com/site/eaglesdontstopatthegate/. You’ll find a quite a range of “authentic” work here!

    Also, I facilitate a student “Tech Team” at school and we are involved in many different projects across campus. The Tech Team, made up of 4th-6th graders, created a Google Presentation, 20 Ways to Use Google in the Classroom,” (a la Tom Barrett!). Each of them learned about a different tool and created a slide: http://goo.gl/HRm5U. They shared their presentation at a technology conference Student Showcase.

    We use edu.Glogster to create Web Quests for students that really engage them in a variety of topics. Here is one for 3rd grade Social Studies: http://goo.gl/eFFDn.

    I could share a lot more…but it’s really early in the morning here and I’m just barely through my first cup of coffee! If any of these links don’t work Scott, I apologize – just shoot me an email.

  20. Use some GPS path tracking tool (GPS Motion X is what I use) enable the tracking and then have them try and spell something in cursive on the playground. GPS leads to all sorts of math / triangulation lectures.

  21. We did (are doing) a project we call “Learning Math Together”. What started as a PD opportunity for teachers has grown into an amazing network of collaborative projects among elementary classes. Our teachers were paired up (they taught a few hours away from each other) to co-plan and co-teach via video conference (sometimes using Polycom, adobe connect or Skype). The teachers grew it into wonderful collaborative projects for their classes to work on together. We’ve done it with grade 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 so far. More info here: http://learningmathtogether.wikispaces.com/

  22. You can use Stop Motion video for digital story telling. Click on the link to view some of the selections from my grade 8 class. I would be more than pass on my expertise.

    http://mrchartrandsplace.weebly.com/4/post/2011/06/stop-motion-awards-2011.html

  23. A few great projects happening with voicethread, edmodo, EduGlogster, and wikis here:

    http://globalclassroom2011.wikispaces.com

    http://globalclassroom2011-12.wikispaces.com

  24. http://writeyourstory.wikispaces.com/
    Progressive, collaborative story, paired with classes from around the world, K – 8, Eng/Span. from @kditzler Great, great project. And most importantly, all the tools used are COPPA compliant, Terms of Use/Privacy allows for elementary children.

  25. Hi Scott,

    We are in our second year of the “Digital Citizenship Project.” Here is the explanation: http://jonorech.blogspot.com/2011/03/practicing-digital-citizenship.html

    We had nearly 1000 students participate last year, and instead of just “Complying” with state mandates, I believe kids are actually learning and displaying how to become better digital citizens…both the grade school kids as well as our HS students.

    Creating for authentic audience is a big plus too.

    We are starting our next go around in 2 weeks. Let me know if you want more info.

  26. Hi Scott,
    I hope this helps.
    My class worked with programmers to create content for an Augmented Reality Tourism app for the iPhone for the town of Dundas. This project is about to be scaled so other classes around the world can participate.
    http://heidisiwak.blogspot.com/p/wiki-for-app.html

    This years grade 6’s are hosting their first global twitter chat on Nov 10.
    http://heidisiwak.blogspot.com/2011/11/archiving-our-chat.html

  27. Scott! Thanks for asking.

    First, go here and I think you’ll find a TON:

    http://www.jenuinetech.com/

    Some of my own faves:

    Computer Lab: Now with Less Computer
    (Using USB microscopes to study seeds:
    http://www.ncs-tech.org/?p=4043

    Kindergarten Digital Camera Scavenger Hunt
    (Using digital cameras to take photos of common objects in the classroom)
    http://www.ncs-tech.org/?p=6192

    Kindergarten Voicethread project on Farms
    http://www.ncs-tech.org/?p=4620

    I have about eleventy-kabillion more. If we had a couple of hours at a Starbucks or something, I could totally hook you up…

    Kevin Jarrett
    Technology Facilitator, K-4
    http://about.me/kjarrett

    • I teach 1-4th graders and will look at the links you left. I’m sure I’ll be in touch after I look at them, but I went to about.me/kjarrett, and that picture is absolutely gorgeous!! i can look at it all day.
      Naomi

  28. Oh and I forgot, I’ve started recapping/reflecting on my lessons every week (thanks to Alice Mercer for the inspiration), they are all here: http://www.ncs-tech.org/?cat=176

  29. There are some good ideas here that can be adapted to different classrooms, but how about something that adapts to every student? While I haven’t yet implemented it this year, having students create their own learning plans can be pretty valuable. Of course the real difficulty is finding/making time to let students do it.

    http://mrcsclassblog.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

    As soon as my students are finished with their digital storytelling project they will be creating their own learning.

  30. Kevin just tweeted out this link. The comment section is going to be a great reference for me. In addition to some of what was mentioned above:

    monsterproject.wikispaces.com
    Students in second and third grade explore adjectives by drawing and describing monsters, sharing descriptions, drawing partner’s monsters, and comparing the results.

    Canada-US Wiki
    A collaboration between my school and a school in Canada comparing our schools and weather and sharing work.

    sharingtime.wikispaces.com
    Just getting started – students are learning about time zones, comparing when other students around the world are in class, and creating artifacts about what they are doing in school during that time period.

    I’m also participating in the Progressive Story project someone else mentioned. It’s a great collaborative storytelling project.

  31. I can’t even imagine where to start. Showing student work is probably best. They don’t need the how-to. I like showing the 4th grade VoiceThread on the Japanese Internment Camps because it shows student art, writing, reading, voice and the historical fiction (first person letters from the camps) are commented on verbally by actual camp survivors. A moving example for sure. If you want the link let me know.

  32. We connected with a classroom in Ohio through Voice Thread last year. We played a game of Poetry Tag (idea by Deb Frazier – http://deb-frazier.blogspot.com/)along with teaching each other math games, about our schools, sharing stories and more. Here is the link to our shared Voice Threads: http://jillfisch.edublogs.org/voice-threads/ (on my old blog).

    Deb Frazier is doing a Global Classroom project this year at: http://globalclassroom2011-12.wikispaces.com/.

    My crew created a Voice Thread to share what we learned when we interviewed our grandparents about the similarities and differences between their childhoods and ours: http://jillfisch.blogspot.com/2011/10/crew-news-october-7-2011.html

    We are working on a Voice Thread reflecting on our recent climbing experiences. We have the Voice Thread up and will add our reflections this week by voice comments:http://jillfisch.blogspot.com/2011/11/crew-news-november-3-2011.html This is a work in progress.

    We will also begin to add student blogging using Kidblogs and writing Storybirds as a choice during our Writing Workshop this week.

  33. Here is one of our middle school projects where students created book trailers of their favorite books. You could do this with younger students as well. We used jaycut to edit and publish, another project we used photostory3 and published as unlisted video on youtube, or with younger students you could publish on SchoolTube and get the embed code to put them on your website.
    List of Finished Projects: http://goo.gl/Ur3sg
    Rubric: http://goo.gl/LuWFr

  34. Have you looked at the Global Read Aloud Project put together by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) — http://globalreadaloud.wikispaces.com/ — and the Progressive Story Project by Karen Ditzler (@kditzler) — http://writeyourstory.wikispaces.com/? My students have been involved in both of these projects, and they work for multiple grade levels.

    Hope this helps!
    Aviva

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