Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “Technology”

Beyond Blogging

Beyond Blogging ~ Teacher ~ Students ~ Classrooms ~

Note: This blog post is a presentation I’m sharing today for educators at the Teachers for Global Classrooms Symposium in Washington DC. If you are not here with us, you may still enjoy learning about how I’ve used blogging to globalize my teaching.  In order to see the full content of the post, please click through to the accompanying pages.

Welcome to I started this blog back in February, with the intent to use it to help students at my school, Innovation Academy, see themselves as part of a global community. I chose the name, Innovation on Earth, because I also hope to innovate in the field of global education.  And somehow, 4 countries and 112 posts later, I am a blogger. I’ve gotten over 27,000 page views and over 920 comments. Statistics show that my blog has been viewed in 93 countries.

But it’s not about the numbers. This blog has become something bigger for me.  I blog because I love creating, storytelling, and photography.  I blog because learning about other cultures continually amazes me and I can never wait another second longer than necessary to share this with others. I blog because of the look on my students’ faces when they feel connected and inspired.

I’m no expert. In fact, I’ve never taken a single course in anything computer-related. However, when I went back and looked at my ridiculous number of posts over the past 6 months, I realized that I can’t wait another second to share with all of you the lessons I’ve learned about using a blog to inspire.  I hope you’ll consider “going beyond” with your own blog, using it in each of these 3 ways:

Back to School Night

Dear Parents and Guardians ~ Welcome to Back to School Night! By now, you’ve probably been to a number of these events before, and you are expecting the same old routine.  Let’s get to the heart of this all. Here’s what matters:

We live in an increasingly complicated world. As your child’s teachers, we will do our absolute best to prepare these students to be successful, caring citizens. 

Whew! We have a difficult job ahead of us- preparing students for the 21st century.  We are ready… and thrilled to take on this challenge with your children. You might be wondering about some of the other basics of this class. We can answer those questions too:

Who is my child’s teacher?  My name is Sara Krakauer. This is my 10th year teaching at Innovation Academy. I co-teach HB Salk and HB Gandhi with John Bresnahan.

What is this class and what is it like? We teach Social Studies Project to a combined class of 5th and 6th graders.  It’s a two hour class that meets every other quarter (alternating with Science).  It focuses on American history (5th grade standards in Massachusetts) and world geography / culture (6th grade standards in Massachusetts).

What will students be learning this year?  This year, we’ll be working on two units (you can download the overview and documents on our class website):

  • Reaction, Revolution, Reform: U.S. Government, how it came to be, and the American Revolution
  • The Global Action Project: World geography and culture, studied through a lens of international development in Africa and the Americas

How are students assessed? As noted in our grading policy, we mostly assess students through rubrics (big projects), but we do have some more traditional homework and tests.

How can I support my child at home? There are lots of ways to support your child with love and attention, but here are a few ways to use technological resources to support what’s happening at school:

  • Check X2 regularly!
  • Check your child’s planner and the Homework GoogleDoc as needed.
  • Log onto Edmodo, our new online forum. Set up an account by using the parent code that your child gave you (or can access when they log in). Monitor participation.

Oh, and how was your summer in China? Wonderful! If you haven’t already checked it out, this site includes my blog so you can see lots of photos and videos about my experience. And here’s some highlights:

Have questions, comments, or ideas about 21st century education?  Email me any time:

Cool Like Facebook

Student profiles on Edmodo are personalized, but secure.

In Social Studies class, we recently piloted a new technological tool called Edmodo.  It’s a website that is made for students to communicate with social networking tools in a safe, secure manner.   In some ways, it has an interface like Facebook — students create a profile page, can post on a wall, and comment on each others’ posts.  However, there are many additional features, like the ability to submit assignments online, take polls, earn badges, and give parents access to seeing what’s going on in class.  In addition, it’s totally safe, because all content is hidden from the public and monitored by teachers. Facebook requires users to be 13 years old, but that doesn’t mean that our 5th and 6th graders aren’t interested in connecting with each other using new technologies.

Basically, students are into it.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Listen to what they have to say about Edmodo after less than a week using it:

We aren’t just using Edmodo because it’s cool.  We just finished posting our first rubric assignment there!  Students had to write about an issue that they’d like to see changed in America.  They analyzed how the government could make a change on their issue, and how a regular citizen could influence the government to make the change happen.  Students wrote about getting rid of the Electoral College system, getting health care for all citizens, preventing future terrorist attacks, and many other interesting topics. For extra credit, some of them are developing their ideas into real action.  Stay tuned to hear more about how these individuals begin changing the world… one person at a time!

Technology: Terrific or Terrible?

“Clouds” in Lynn, MA (made by a group of sky writing jets last weekend)

Here I am, writing a blog entry in my bedroom, getting ready to send this text up into the Cloud.  I rarely think about what I am doing when I publish something online. However, it’s really amazing when I stop to think about it. In a few minutes, when I am done writing, this text will be sent to storage farms which could be anywhere in the world. In just a few more seconds, it will be made available to billions of people online. There’s no guarantee that anyone will read this, but they could.

Girl in Beijing fighting with her mom about her cell phone use

In fact, my statistics reveal that fewer people viewed my blog today than any other day all summer, but I still got views from Australia, Japan, and Germany. It’s hard not to feel like the internet is magic.

Over the 10 years that I’ve been teaching at Innovation Academy, technology has become a greater and greater part of the classroom experience.  Today, more 5th grade students have their own cell phone, email address, social networking accounts, and more. They speak this technological lingo as their first language, and not as a foreign tongue.  During our orientation sessions over the past few days, I led classes on technology for over 100 students. We are working to help students understand how computing works in the 21st century, to go beyond just clicking. We showed this fabulous video which I can’t take credit for, but does a hysterical job explaining cloud computing:

Students are impressed with the Cloud, but they were able to identify problems with increased technology in today’s society. Students named the following challenges that technology brings:

  • Less time to play outside
  • Frustrations waiting for broken machines
  • Empty wallets due to money spent on computers
  • Hackers and “haters” that can be very dangerous
  • Increased use of energy to run all the computers, creating more CO2 which is damaging the environment

Today’s youth are connected, and they are aware. Watch out.  They are not just taking in information. They are producing new knowledge. And it’s not going away. It’s stored up there in the Cloud.

What goes viral?

News hits in China!

My friends Jack and Teresa became internet celebrities this week. It’s crazy how fast it can happen.  Basically, Jack proposed to Teresa in a creative way, enlisting a team of friends and strangers to help pull off the stunt.  Their little youtube video got picked up by some big time news stations, and it spread.  Pretty soon, it was all over the news, and the video has now been viewed by over 350,000 people.

Whoa.  The story has appeared on the Huffington Post, MSN, Yahoo!, World News with Diane Sawyer, and they were in an interview with Boston Channel 5 (WCVB).

It didn’t stop there. It went international!  We’ve seen articles in United Kingdom, China, Vietnam, Belgium, and Spain — click each country’s name to see what they are saying about Jack and Teresa.  If you don’t speak the language, you might need to use Google Translate to understand what they are saying, but you can get an idea from the pictures.

All of this is a good reminder about the power of the internet.  Information can travel much faster than even an airplane. But my big question is WHY? What makes one video go viral and another one go unwatched?

This summer, I made a lot of videos in China.  Most of them have barely gotten 100 views on youtube.  I’m not sure if I mind.  Perhaps I’d rather have a few dedicated readers than millions of adoring fans. Of all of my videos in China, this is the one that got the most views, but I don’t really know why:

What do you think? What makes something go viral on the internet, spreading to thousands of people? If I don’t measure success by the number of views, how do you think I should measure success for this blog? I’d love to hear your input.

And congratulations to Jack and Teresa!

Still Want a Penpal?

Never got a penpal in another country to write back? Here’s another chance. I got an email this week from a teacher in Ukraine who is looking for American students to match with her class.  Many  you have already written a letter that you could adapt to send here.  So, if you still want a penpal, keep reading. These students are eagerly awaiting responses!

Here’s the message that I received from the teacher:

Dear colleague: My name is Anna. I teach 10-12 year olds. My fourth graders were extremely excited and amazed about pen pals from the USA. Thank you for the opportunity to email you. I am sending you a recent photo of my students. They are very talented and creative. Thank you so much for reaching out. I hope your students will enjoy hearing back from their pen pals. Hope to hear from you soon.  Yours sincerely, Anna Ukhan, First City Gymnasia, Cherkasy, Ukraine

This is our friendly class.

Boys: (from left to right)

  1. My name is Zhenia.  I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is riding a bike. I have many friends.  I have a pet . It is a dog. Its name is Alik. My family is small. I don’t have any sisters or brothers. My dream is to be helpful to people.
  2. My name is Oleksii. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is swimming. I have a pet. It is a fat cat.  Its name is Ryzhik. My family is big. I have a brother.
  3. My name is Vlad.  I’m  ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is riding a bike and swimming. I have a pet it is a dog. Its name is Palma. I like to play with it in my free time.  My family is small and friendly.
  4. My name is Nikita. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is playing computer games. I have a pet. It is cat. Its name is Sniezhka. My family is big and friendly. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but I have many cousins. On Sundays we spend time together.
  5. My name is Vova. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is swimming in a pool. I have a pet. It is a dog. Its name is Jack. My family is big. I have a sister and a brother. They are my cousins.
  6. My name is Dan. I’m nine years old. I’m the pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is sport. I have a pet. It is a dog. Its name is Sabrina. My family is small and happy. I have a sister. She is funny and cool. She is one but she knows some English words.                                                                     


  1.  My name is Milena.  I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is gymnastics. I’m the best pupil in my class. I have only excellent marks.  I have a pet. It is a cat. Its name is Luksia. My family is big and friendly. I have a sister.
  2. My name is Anna. I’m ten. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is drawing and dancing. I have a pet. It is a cat. Its name is Kuzia. My family is small and friendly. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.
  3. My name is Tatiana. My surname is Dudko. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is reading and drawing. I go to the church with my parents every Sunday.  I don’t have any pets. My family is small. I have a little sister.
  4. My name is Polina. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing disco and hip-hop. I have a pet. It’s a cat. Its name is Ryzhik. My family is small and friendly. I have two sisters and one brother.
  5. My name is Sophia. My surname is Snesar. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing. My favorite subject is English. I have a pet. It is a parrot. Its name is Kesha. My family is big. I have a sister, and brother. My family is friendly.
  6. My name is Emma. My surname is Shtyk. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing. I also like to spend time with my friends. I have a pet. It is a big white dog. Its name is Bobik. It is very funny. My family isn’t big. It’s a pity, but I don’t have any brothers or sisters.

Want to be an American penpal?  Sign up here.

Note: This option is only open to Innovation Academy students, and you’ll have to sign in with your IACS google docs account in order to see the details.

Blog Round Up

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know my student Anna.  Her comments after each entry truly demonstrate what this blog is meant to be: a conversation.  If done well, each entry should begin a dialogue that inspires learning about living well in a world of diverse cultures.  I am proud that many students, in addition to Anna, have gotten involved.  They’ve been commenting on entries, doing research beyond this site, and talking to each other.  Some students even started a global action club at our school, which I am helping to get off the ground.  This blog isn’t meant to be about me, but about them.  As I continue writing from China this summer, I hope to experiment with even more creative strategies to get young people involved in this exploration of global citizenship.

I interviewed Anna and two other students, Sarah and Juliano, about what they’ve learned through this site. It’s always best to hear directly from the experts, so please view their video blog debut here:

Readers: What have you learned from this blog?  What ideas do you have to continue building this site and get more voices involved?

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