My fifth grade AIG Reading students started their KidBlogs and Vokis yesterday to go along with their First Person Biography projects. It is always difficult to figure out how far I should walk them through the use of a program with which they may be unfamiliar. I don't want to limit their creativity by giving them an example that is much too simple, and I don't want to overwhelm them to the point where they can't remember how to do the basic things on the program. Therefore, I usually just take them far enough to get them interested in figuring out how the program works. I think that encourages their exploration, but it also has a tendency to leave some of the students confused and needing more individual guidance. This isn't a problem when I'm only working with a handful of students. However, when I have 26 students in the computer lab at once, all working on different things, individual assistance for every student isn't always possible.
After looking at the students' posts who submitted them yesterday, I noticed a few problems that probably need to be addressed. First off, for whatever reason, when they start typing their regard for grammatical conventions has a tendency to go out the window. I understand that grammar isn't stressed in schools the same way it was half a century ago, but I think they should take some ownership in showing that they understand the proper way to write when given the opportunity to publish and share their work. This should be true whether it is for a grade or not. I heard another fifth grade teacher make a similar comment last night at our school's Open House. She noted that whenever the students are given an opportunity to identify mistakes in writing, they can point out every error. They especially will point out errors when the teacher has made them. This proves that they know how their writing should look. However, they get careless when it comes to their own writing because they don't take ownership of their responsibilities as writers. They don't see a real reason behind writing properly beyond whether or not the teacher will mark up their papers with a red pen. They don't always realize how what they write reflects on their intelligence as well as their persistence to do their best work at all times. I'm not really sure how to get the students to buy in to taking ownership over their writing choices because I assumed having their name attached to work that is published and available for the whole world to see would be motivation enough.
Another problem I dealt with yesterday in terms of the Voki was the processing speed of creation and trying to embed the Vokis into the KidBlog. I really liked that the students came up with the idea to use the Voki as merely an introduction of the character, so they didn't have to create one for every single entry but still were given the opportunity to use the program and have a little fun with it. However, for some of the students, getting the voices right and having enough space to type in everything they wanted to include in their entries became problematic. Sometimes what was shown in the preview didn't end up being what was saved and posted. I wouldn't mind purchasing the program for my class if I thought those problems would occur less, but I am a little