Rocket Ship Launch

I do almost as much technology at work as I seem to do ‘library.’ I provide students more direct instruction in a library setting, but the teachers get more technology support from me than they do information resources. Not necessarily because that’s what they need, but because technology always seems to be that ‘point of need.’ I’m not often asked about research models, but I am often asked how to fix a printer.

It’s just the way it goes.

So technology tools are as integrated into what I do as information skills are. I like to find ways to make processes as smooth for teachers and students as possible. A few years ago we had two different problems in the computer lab, but I found similar solutions for both.

For upper grade students, it was taking too much of precious lab time for teachers to write the URL on the board and have students type it into their browser. Students do need practice typing URLs, but not every week for long entries. Our websites are also a bit complex to actually use and teachers kept forgetting how to add links.

In the primary grades the issue was completely different. I got tired of Starfall. I’m still tired of Starfall. I saw so much Starfall a few years ago that I have had enough. I know it’s a great website for primary students, but in limited doses for specific purposes, not for technology instruction for a year.

Rocket Ship Web Launch for January

For both grade ranges, I put a shortcut on the lab desktops with customized pictures. The primary link is a picture of a rocket ship to represent a web ‘launch.’ I created a simple webpage with graphics linked to websites students usually visit in the computer lab. I kept Starfall on the page, but also solicited ideas from teachers for websites they wanted to use with students. Each month I edit the page to include links to content area resources of popular themes (winter, animals, community helpers, fire safety, etc.). I save these monthly pages to tweak the following year. I also save the current month’s page as the base URL so that it stays the same for my desktop link. It’s easy for students to click the Rocket Ship and then choose the graphic for the website they’re supposed to visit.

For the upper elementary students, I created a school delicious.com account. Teachers have the username and password, but still email me when they need a link added. I linked it on our desktop with a picture of a cupcake. It’s our Delicious Cupcake.

Yeah, I have that kind of sense of humor.

The Rocket Ship is going strong. We’ve since created a “K” page for Kindergarten of even more specific links. A teacher maintains this page. The Delicious account is still functional, but some of the links teachers want to use get buried. Students have learned to navigate through the tags. I know there are many other resources we could probably use. I’ve looked at livebinders.com, netvibes.com, and a few others. But since I’ve rebuilt my library website with a wiki this year I think I’m going to encourage teachers to use wikis that I can link to from a master page.

I keep a ‘master’ copy of the links in a resource folder. If they get deleted from a desktop it’s easy to click and drag them back into place.

One final note….this tech strategy has allowed our primary teachers to differentiate their lab instruction for students’ literacy skills. I’m still not always thrilled to see the lab being used for just website activities instead of technology instruction, but I’m glad to see less Starfall! Teachers are able to quickly direct students to websites with activities for specific skills–word families, letter recognition, rhyming, and even math skills!

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