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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Guest Blogger: Mrs. L's Rocketlaunchers - A Learning Portal

Hello! Hailing from cold but beautiful Northeast Ohio, my name is Hedy Laverdiere and I am the Lower School Technology Coordinator for Lawrence School, a private school in Broadview Heights, Ohio, serving children in grades one through twelve with learning differences. Teaching is my third career, following a home/web-based business as well as a former career as a software trainer. As I’ve put the cart before the horse my entire life, I’m currently pursuing my Masters in Ed Tech through Ursuline College. My position as a technology coordinator entails providing technology resources for our teachers and students, working with them integrating tech into the curriculum, as well as professional development. I have tons of free resources and tech integration ideas for you to use with your students and fellow teachers.

My website, which our students, as well as others, use as a tech integration portal from its Launchpad, is Mrs. L’s Rocketlaunchers, which, in brief, provides links to educational websites, games, multimedia, resources, student projects, blogs, and podcasts. I hope you’ll bookmark it in your classrooms, computer labs, and recommend for home use for your students. We also welcome classroom collaborations for blogging and webcams!

Mrs. L’s Rocketlaunchers
Mrs. L’s Rocketlaunchers contains several sections including Mission, with links to blogs, the LAUNCHPAD, our educational portal, the Toolkit on how to blog, podcast, and vodcast, Techno with links to teacher website templates, and BEYOND, with resources and links for teachers. The LAUNCHPAD is primarily used by students (http://www.rocketlaunchers.org/launchpad.html) and is set as the default webpage in our computer labs and teacher pc’s, which have projection in the classrooms. A link to Google provides access to quick searches.

The LAUNCHPAD is organized by content areas of Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies, as well as Art, Health, and Music. Links to Celebrations, Holidays & Seasons, Documents, ePals login page, Lessons, Lions Lair, Multimedia, Research, Typing Skills, and Webquests, among a few others, are accessible. Clipart is purposely used with a text descriptor to assist younger students in locating sites as directed by their teacher. For example, first graders can be directed to “click on the blooming tree for Holidays & Seasons.” Each link subdivides into other categories. For example, the link for Language Arts has branches for Reading, Writing, Phonics, Spelling/Grammar & Punctuation, and Working with Words.

Kerpoof!
Through Rocketlaunchers, students can access their Kerpoof student accounts under Multimedia, Kerpoof. Kerpoof is an engaging site with tools to create storybooks, cards, pictures drawings, and multimedia movies. Teachers can create a regular account at Kerpoof. After login, teachers can return to the Home page, click on For Teachers, then Teacher Tools to request a Teacher Account. Upon approval, teachers can setup student accounts in moments, providing amenities usually reserved for fee-based accounts.


Student Work in the Lions Lair – Podcasts, Languages Online Flash Gamemakers, and Classblogmeister Blogs
The Lions Lair link is Lawrence School’s student project area, with links to our students’ podcasts, the ROAR Radio show, classroom blogs, Study Fun (teachers assign Flash games, created by gamemakers from Languages Online, as homework or classwork), and a few other projects. ROAR Radio is created using open source Audacity and podsafe music with how-to links located under the ToolKit. A $20 headset with mic or microphone was our sole expense, though I am fortunate to have my site hosted for free.

Assistive tech is at play here as well, as Languages Online allows for audio within its Flash games, very helpful for students with dyslexia or other reading differences. Languages Online provides five gamemakers (samples I’ve created are linked): a Sentence gamemaker, Memory games, Matching games, Tetris, and Comprehension gamemaker.

I am currently exploring an interesting website called YackPack. YackPack is an online communication interface that allows a teacher and students to interact via audio messaging. I foresee a variety of applications for it, such as an online class, connecting with an absent student, as well as assistive tech uses. For example, a student exhibiting difficulties with reading and/or writing could respond orally to a teacher’s homework posting.

Our students (visit one of our class blogs) have just begun blogging using Classblogmeister, a phenomenal classroom-oriented site run by David Warlick. If you are moving towards blogging with your students, I highly recommend it, especially due to its highly-responsive and active Classblogmeister tech support forum on Yahoo groups. A members only Ning group is also available for teaching and learning.

I appreciate this opportunity through Richard and his wonderful blog, Free Tech 4 Teachers, to share with you, and as always, look forward to his future writings. Thanks, Richard! Feel free to email me with comments or questions.

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