Upper School Research Tools

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 3.26.06 PMResearch is a time consuming process, but there are a plethora of online resources and websites that help alleviate the stress of compiling information, annotating sources, and composing a paper.  Many students often feel overwhelmed with the research process, and they don’t necessarily know how to begin.

The early portion of research requires structure and organization.  A tool like Symbaloo allows students to bookmark credible web sources.  Students can now go to one page that houses all of their research content, and each link or resource is represented by an image tile.  Patti Weiss, the Instructional Technology Facilitator at The Fletcher School, discusses the versatility of Symbaloo and asserts, “Symbaloo provides students with both guidance and independence, leading them to take responsibility for their own learning while continuing to benefit from Fletcher’s excellent devices and technology resources”.  Symbaloo’s user-friendly features and simplicity makes research less daunting.  

Citing sources and formatting are two other areas of the research process that involve careful attention.  Schools and universities across the country warn students about the negative consequences of plagiarism.  It is important that every student understands the importance of citing every source.  Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (also commonly known as Purdue OWL) outlines all of the rules of both the MLA and APA Formatting Styles and Guides.  The site provides thorough explanations of the rules as well as samples of citations and formatting requirements.  Furthermore, students who need to review any grammar concept can easily access helpful tips on English grammar, usage, and mechanics on the site.  Purdue OWL also updates their site regularly to include the latest changes on citation rules and requirements.

Students at The Fletcher School are exposed to research-based writing assignments in the ninth grade.  Mr. Gale, a Composition teacher in the Upper School, remarks, “Ninth graders learn how to identify credible sources on the web, extract relevant information, paraphrase the research in their own words, and understand how to cite their sources correctly.”  This exposure prepares Fletcher students for the writing that they will encounter in college.  

History is another course where students conduct research-based projects.  Mr. Jolley, a History teacher at The Fletcher School, claims, “Research is necessary to the understanding of history.  Often students learn from the perspective of the teacher; it is just as important for students to take ownership of their learning, and they should examine documents from the past that show the ideas, feelings, and reasons behind the historical content they are studying in class.  It is imperative that students are given the skills to find and evaluate historical resources; these skills serve them across curriculum and allow them to apply the same skills in the outside world.”

The writing that Fletcher students complete in all of their courses ultimately prepares them for their Senior Exit Project.  Fletcher seniors are required to compose an 8-10 page research paper on the topic of their choice and create a multimedia presentation to be presented in front of the Fletcher community.  Seniors take a two-day field trip to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Atkins Library to explore ideas for their project and collect sources.  They continue the research and writing throughout the fall semester.  Google Slides, Keynote, and/or Prezi  are among the tools that they use to create the multimedia component of their project; they also use Google Docs to compose and revise their papers.  The Senior Exit Project is a wonderful opportunity for the  Fletcher seniors to showcase their writing, critical thinking, and oral presentation skills.

With a methodical plan and the right tools, any student is capable of writing a well-developed, organized, and properly cited paper.  

K-1 Students Create Digital Privacy Book

Keep it Private Online

Click the thumbnail above to download Masarya’s book!

The Fletcher School is committed to developing digital literacy and citizenship skills beginning with our youngest students. Our kindergarten and first grade students begin by learning about online safety and privacy. They are taught to think about going online as a fun field trip. The rules are the same as a real field trip:  always go places with an adult, don’t wander off on your own and talk only with people you know. We practice looking at websites and discuss which ones have topics they enjoy and activities that work well and are fun to play. The site they choose should seem like it’s made for someone their age. The teacher displays a variety of website forms that ask a child to sign up before using the site. Students discuss how to approach a parent about help with deciding if this is a good site for them. Then, using the Book Creator app each kindergarten and first grade student creates a book titled, “Keep it Private Online.” Their book displays words and pictures of the information they know should be kept private when using the internet.

Example by Masarya:


iPad K-4 SymbalooA key component of The Fletcher School’s Digital Citizenship program includes guiding students to make excellent choices when using their devices.  Our teachers prepare students for their digital worlds by modeling, instructing digital citizenship, and teaching students how to practice navigating and organizing resources from a variety of sources.  Students can now benefit from this continued guidance when using their devices either at school or at home using Symbaloo.

Symbaloo is a personalized learning environment, which offers a shared collection of online bookmarks and web resources.  Fletcher’s Symbaloo webmixes are organized by grade levels and customized by Fletcher’s EdTech team, evolving with continuous student and teacher input.  With Symbaloo, Fletcher students may use technology to access specific activities/games which are safe and appropriate for specific approved school periods (eg. advisory, homeroom, team time), during before/after school programs, and even at home.  Symbaloo provides students with both guidance and independence, leading them to take responsibility for their own learning while continuing to benefit from Fletcher’s excellent devices and technology resources.  

How Does Symbaloo work?

Fletcher students may use the following resources to create, explore, or play games during before and after school programs, or during any assigned free time during the school day:

MacBook 5-12 Symbaloo

Any student/teacher wishing to suggest an item to be added to the Symbaloo may submit their idea using the Symbaloo Request Form, which is also linked on each Symbaloo webmix.



Google Hangouts on Air – A Morning News Show Tool

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Our very own FNN debuted on Monday, January 11, 2016!  What is FNN, you ask? FNN stands for Falcon News Network and is a daily morning news show produced, directed and filmed by Fletcher students. Under the direction of Kit Verica and behind-the-scenes technical support from the Fletcher Ed Tech Team, the Falcon News Network has worked diligently these past few months preparing to take over the morning announcements.

Back in the fall, Don Goble, a broadcast journalism teacher, came to Fletcher to help us prepare for the implementation of our student-led morning news show. Don’s expertise provided us with the information we needed to begin the process by envisioning a mission and gathering up all of the elements needed to run a show.  Last year we converted an office into a green screen studio. Transforming the tiny room into a news studio required a few additional steps. We brought in professional lights, a webcam, a MacBook for recording the broadcast, a high-quality microphone and a teleprompter.

IMG_9125The FNN team was selected based on teacher recommendations and students’ dedication to arriving early each day. Branding was another important part of the process. First, the team asked students to submit name ideas, which were voted upon by students, faculty and staff through a Google Form. The name, FNN was the clear winner!  In the next phase, the team asked students to submit designs for the FNN logo contest. The winning logo was created by Justine G and Abby F and has now become the official branding of FNN. We even purchased a pop up banner with the FNN logo to serve as the backdrop behind our news anchors.

IMG_9739The workflow of FNN is entirely digital, starting with the morning announcement requests, which are submitted by faculty and staff through a Google Form. Directed by Alex K, Max  and Alex M compose and add the submitted announcements to a teleprompter – an iPad on a tripod loaded with the PromptSmart Pro app. The webcam and microphone is set up in front of our news anchors, Jeffrey and Tyler, and plugged into a Mac. Ned and Henry work on the production side and use Google Hangouts on Air to film the live broadcast.

FNN1Each morning at 8:15 am, each grades 6-12 classroom teacher turns on their projector and Airplays their Mac screens to the Apple TV so that the students in each class can watch the show live. To watch the show LIVE, all viewers go to http://bit.ly/falconnewsnetwork to tune in.

If you’d like to watch previous recordings of the show, you can go to  http://bit.ly/FNNonYouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe to the FNN Channel!


We are so proud of our FNN team and can’t wait to check out the next episode!

Self-Checking in Math Class with QR Codes and Book Creator

20160108_084618During the first semester of school, the 6th grade students learned various math concepts such as integers, order of operation, prime factorization, number lines, operations with decimals and prime and composite numbers. We spent time on how to solve word problems by applying different strategies and using skills taught in class.

As a cumulative first semester activity, the students became the word problem writers!  Students created a QR Code Math Booklet of their own that had a total of six problems utilizing the concepts we learned in class. Each problem also included a QR Code with the answer for self-assessment purposes. 

After the books were completed, students chose another student’s book and completed the problems. Using a QR Code Scanner, the students checked their work. The 6th graders realized that writing math books is not an easy task!



Ignite presentations are structured slide presentations, that feature twenty slides that automatically advance every fifteen seconds.  As an attendee of ISTE I have always been impressed by the educators that participate in the Ignite sessions.  Each Ignite presenter I have seen has given off an air of calm and conviction in their topic.  How do they do it?  How do they not crack under the fifteen second time pressure?  How do they even begin to craft their presentation?  At The Fletcher School I teach Integrated Studies which has a focus on digital citizenship and technology.  What better place to give Ignite a try?  The project lends itself to teaching research skills, photo citation skills, and public speaking skills.

Ignite presentations have an extremely wide range of topics.  Some of my favorites are Better Living Through Fast Food by Jay Thompson and How to Give an Ignite Talk by Scott Berkun. While these topics are fun and entertaining, I wanted my classes presentations to have a little more meat to them, especially as the first student suggested topic was “Why do Reese’s cups stick to the wrapper?”  Definitely interesting, but I was hoping for topics that were a little more worldly and pushed the students beyond the borders of their private school world.  

I stumbled across the Rock Your World curriculum and decided to use it to my advantage.  We began by looking at the Declaration of Human Rights and the Public Service Announcements Rock Your World directed us to on Youth for Human Rights.  We used these to determine the interests of the classes.  After reading the Declaration and viewing the public service announcements, each class gave suggestions and we came to a consensus on a topic to begin researching.  

The best Ignite resource I found was by Olivia Mitchell: The Fastest Way to Create an Ignite Presentation.  She lays out planning an Ignite presentation in six steps:

  1. Create an outline using her presentation planner
  2. Convert the planner into 20 slides – no pictures yet!
  3. Finesse the script so it fits into the 15 second time limit for each slide
  4. Find pictures for each slide
  5. Practice with notes
  6. Present

The biggest mistake I made was to focus on the five minute time limit, not the fifteen seconds per slide time limit.  When verbally reading the written slides each class came in at the five minute mark, I thought we were golden.  After finding the visuals for the slides and thinking we were done, we did a practice run through with a fifteen second timer.  What a disaster!  It turned out the script for some of the slides only lasted six or seven seconds.  We then had to make some very hurried edits in order to be prepared for presentation day.  We practiced in the classroom as well as the room we would be presenting in.  Practicing in the actual room gave the kids a bit of a wake up call of what presentation day would be like.

Our efforts were worth it, presentation day was fabulous.  Parents of the students came, as well as the students from sixth and seventh grade.  There were definitely some nerves, but the each group did a great job.  Parents enjoyed seeing their kids in a public speaking role and each student left the presentation with a sense of accomplishment.

I am thrilled with the outcome of the Ignite presentations.  I am already looking forward to seeing which topics the students will chose next year!


Hour of Code at Fletcher

IMG_0247This is our third year to participate in Hour of Code, an International focus during the week of December 7th to highlight the possibilities that learning to code can offer to students in our technological age.

This week Paula Paul came and spoke to us about her career as a programmer and introduced us to what real coding looks like through koding.com.

Mrs. Poe’s 7th grade computer classes will spend not just an hour but more than a week working with a coding simulation interface to experience how to talk to a computer and what it takes for a computer to interact with them.

There are many options available to learn to code such as Code.org, Code Academy and Khan Academy and we match the students to a site that fits their interests and abilities. These sites are available to anyone, anytime so check them out and try coding yourself!


“Promoting an Idea” with Adobe Voice

voice.001Mrs. Perry’s class worked on “Promoting an Idea” using the free iOS app, Adobe Voice. This app allows students to focus on the spoken content of their video rather than the visual. The icons in Adobe Voice are automatically credited at the end of the slide show. Students paired up to discuss an idea and worked together to write their script.

Adobe Voice has a prompt for each slide. Example:  “What problem does the audience or who you’re helping struggle with today?” The students’ enthusiasm in using their own ideas was inspiring.

Click below to view students’ work products:

Teaching with Movies

Letters to Children’s Hospital

Embrace Kindness

EdTech Coffee Chats

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The new Edtech Coffee Chats series kicked off on November 11 for parents of grades K-4 students, who enjoyed meeting with Fletcher’s EdTech Team in the school’s Technology and Learning Center.  The relaxed format of this drop-in event enabled parents to ask an abundance of excellent and important questions about Fletcher’s one-to-one program and their students’ iPad devices.  Several tech-savvy parents even offered useful tips and shared their experiences for managing both Fletcher and personal devices at home.  

A wide variety of device, digital citizenship, and general technology topics were covered during the first EdTech Coffee Chat, including:

  • iOS 9 tips
    • Important accessibility features for students with learning disabilities
    • Jenny Grabiec’s new iOS accessibility iBook, iCan with iOS
    • Optional parental restrictions located in iPad settings
    • Battery life to check usage
  • Excellent habits for iPad use at home
    • Checking devices often with your child
    • Learning how to check history
    • Password management tips and tricks
    • Discussing tech topics with your child
    • Keeping devices in a common area at home, particularly after bedtime
    • Using Guided Access to lock student into one app, with optional timer
    • The pros and cons of filtering at home
    • Teaching children how to manage devices appropriately as preparation for the real world and their future
    • Communicating as a main key of technology success
  • Age-appropriate search techniques
  • Advantages of digital books, with built-in accessibility tools such as text to speech, font and view customization, search, bookmarking, and highlighting features
  • Minecraft as an educational tool
  • Finding balance between technology and the rest of life

We appreciate the wonderful contributions of our first EdTech Coffee Chat participants!  Please join us at an upcoming EdTech Coffee Chat, one Wednesday per month from 8:15 – 9:15 AM.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

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Storyboards Come Alive with QuickTime Player!


In October, Mrs. Heath’s fifth grade class finished up the novel, Because of Winn Dixie and were asked to develop a character study. Using Storyboard That, each student created a storyboard to describe a scene from the book, while highlighting the traits of a specific book character. Students went one step further by adding voice to their storyboards! To narrate through each of the frames, the students created screencasts using QuickTime Player for Mac. They pieced the clips together using iMovie for Mac. Check out Regan’s storyboard below!