Reflections on a Joyful Semester – Amanda Duvall

Amanda Retreat Board PhotoThe end of the semester is upon me here in Sitka and I like to look at what I did this semester deciding what went well and what needs to be changed. I am the technology teacher at Blatchley Middle School and my goal is to find websites that the students can use now and in the future to support learning and showing what they know. This year I made a few additions to my curriculum and I tweaked ones I have used in the past. Let me share a few activities my students participated in this semester.

Storybird is a story creation website. The site provides a variety of images to choose from and you make up a story to go with the images. I found this one when I was looking for collaborative tools to use with pen pals outside the Google world and I wanted something that was free.  I have students chat in Todaysmeet (see below) and make decisions with a digital pal in Anchorage. The students are enjoying working with others, talking about what they are going to build and watching what they discuss happen on the screen when a partner puts it up. This has been a nice collaborative tool for creative writing.

This is a site allowing many people to chat in one place. I love using this website to allow whole classes to talk about articles or videos they are reading/ watching. When I follow the chat I know who is on task, who understands what they read and the kids are able to throw out questions to anyone for all to answer. I find I have complete participation as all have the ability to speak and read at a self-chosen pace.
As I mentioned above, I use Todaysmeet for my students to communicate with our pals up north. The kids like that they are working online with someone and we are running into authentic real world problems. The discussion experiences created by this chat website allow us to address authentic issues I could never create on my own.


I started using Minecraft Edu this year as it is a nice interface for managing a Minecraft server. I can add mods and support multiple worlds with ease.  I have students building scenes from books for book reports, recreating historic buildings to give virtual tours and I try to have students use quotes and facts that relate to the real places in the movies they make. Other students are writing scripts about characters in Minecraft, building the sets and making movies in Minecraft as well as building working cells to record movies about the parts of a cell. I keep looking for more ways kids can take the traditional building projects we assign and put them into the Minecraft world. I am looking forward to the reaction our science teacher gets when instead of a cell made from cake, Styrofoam or paper a student projects a working and labeled cell built in Minecraft.

I shocked myself this year by bringing back the classic GIF. I used to have students create short stop motion videos of the experiments they did in science class, how to solve math problems, and make reminder videos of the school expectations. We tried video GIF’s but the students enjoyed the still photo GIF’s more. I explored a few different GIF making websites and found this one was the best for still photos. When I played with video I liked

We had tons of fun this past semester and listed above are just a few of the items we played with. I hope you will try one of them and consider having your students try one too!

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