Sunday, December 21, 2014

Our Community: O'Neill (on the iBooks Store!)

Mrs. Pistulka’s 3rd Grade Reading class has been busy learning about communities and how they change over time.  As a culminating project, the class researched the history of our community, O’Neill, and created a multimedia book to share what they learned.  

As a result of research from books, local experts, and a field trip to the Kinkaid Museum, each student reported on key events from a historical timeline of our community.  With the help of Mrs. Morrow they compiled their stories in iBooks Author and created a Multi-Touch book that can be experienced in iBooks on the iPad.  

You can see an overview of the book's contents by viewing the class Introduction video here:

Or, better yet, just proceed directly to the iBooks Store to download the book for free and read in the iBooks app!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Literature Circles with iBooks Author

My 8th grade Reading class has recently started Literature Circles with the four novels they are reading.

To assist with the Literature Circle role sheets and discussions, I created an iBooks Author template and distributed it to my students.

Use this template to facilitate Literature Circles with your Reading classes through iBooks Author. Each of you will create a customized portfolio of your literature circle work and discussions. All the literature circle roles have chapters available with instructions and pages for completing the role.  In addition, you will add Word Wizard words to your glossary and take notes on each circle day in the pages of your iBooks Author portfolio. 

The approach was successful as each student individually read, reflected, and compiled their ideas into their own Lit Circle journal iba file on each "reading" day.  Then on circle discussion days they used their book to guide the discussions in their group.  Students rotated through the various roles according to a schedule and when lit circles were complete they handed in their complete .iba file for assessment purposes.  

A sampling of the work by individual students was collected and is available via an iTunes U course here:
Made for iBooks by O'Neill Public Schools
(find the post entitled "Literature Circles Log")

Get a glimpse into the OHS English department

with this video shared with the O'Neill Public School's Board of Education:

the EDGe Digital Magazine

The inaugural edition of the EDGe magazine has recently been published by students at O'Neill High School under the leadership of Katie Morrow.

Find out more about the efforts of this Student Digital Publishing Corps by visiting this page:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Extra! Extra! Looking for a Digital Publishing Corps

 We’re looking for a few good

If you like to write, 
have an interest in journalism, 
and LOVE technology,

Then you should apply to become a part of OHS’s Digital Publishing Corps

Ten students from grades 7-12 will be selected for the 2014-2015 school year. 

The primary responsibility of the group will be
producing a monthly newsletter entitled 
The EDGe” (Educating the Digital Generation)
This newsletter will be distributed in a variety of formats
and will feature technology and learning 
at OHS at and beyond

In exchange for your contributions to the group, 
you will be issued an iPad mini 
to use along with your MacBook
all school year long. 

With it you can:
  • capture photographs, 
  • plan story ideas, 
  • or even create media 
to be included in our EDGe publishings. 

To apply to be considered for one of the 10 spots you are encouraged to:

Complete the Google form at by a JUNE 1st deadline to be considered for the 2014-2015 school year.  

You will receive an email by June 15 letting you know of your acceptance status.  

If you have any questions, you can email
**This project is being funded through a grant from Century Link/NETA awarded to O'Neill Public Schools in April 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Year-End Reflections - English 8 at OHS

I asked the students in my 8th grade English class to reflect on their journey this school year and publish on their blogs as a culminating post.  A strong advocate for leading by example, I figured that I too would complete this final assignment.  

Students never cease to impress me, and their reflections did the same.  I’ve collected bits and pieces of their responses in order to reinforce the high points for me this year as well. 

“It was fun to feel like I was a real author.” - Nikki

This was more than a ploy to make students hate English class less.  Rather, it is truly my mission to help students see the connections between what they are learning in the classroom and the application of that knowledge, skill or expertise in the world around them.  I truly believe that each and every student can be and is an author.  Nikki is just one of many of this year’s class who actually proved it.  

This year’s eighth grade students were published in the Holt County Independent, Norfolk Daily News, and on Apple’s iBooks Store.  They spread their written messages on air on the radio, on blogs and social media, through email, and on bulletin boards and billboards.  They spoke their mind and expressed their insights to the School Board, to students outside of their grade level, and in letters to loved ones. They communicated through writing with their peers, within online writing forums with strangers, and with people in positions of power.  They wrote competitively - speech contests, poetry contests, essay contests, and more.  And they ARE AUTHORS!

“There is a lot more to writing than words on a page. You have to feel the words and put emotion in them so that the readers connect.” - Shayne

That personal connection to your writing with infused emotion holds true in the relationships within the classroom as well.  When I asked the students to list their three favorite things we did this school year, many expressed appreciation for the very first day of class.  This was a day devoted entirely to improv games, ice-breakers, and relationship building.  The fact that they remember that experience from over 9 months of language arts lessons, mixed among countless repetition of parts of speech and sentence fluency tips, shows the power of emotion in learning.  Connecting.  It’s what happens when an author composes words that reach a reader.  It’s also what happens in a successful classroom of middle school learners.  

“With Mrs. Morrow she can get really excited sometimes, so keep her under control. Mrs. Troester, on the other hand, can get very serious, so take everything seriously. And make sure to get everything done on time to keep them happy.” - Montana

This advice from Montana clearly illustrates the power of joy.  And yet the importance of staying focused.  And all the while, it sometimes is nothing more than being responsible and following through that can leave the biggest impact.

“My favorite thing that we did was the “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories mostly because they finally left us alone and just let us work instead of having to worry about constant deadlines and requirements.” - Nathaniel

I value constructive criticism immensely. We teach our students to do it in the peer review process and we need to model it as well.  It pains me to realize that we stifle our students’ learning with deadlines and requirements.  Nathaniel’s bravery to admit it, along with his exceptional creative aptitude when he did connect with an assignment is a reminder to me as an educator to build in more of these experiences every year. 

“An iBook is way cooler than just a normal book.” - Justin

WAY cooler! And requires more thinking, more creating, and therefore more learning.  iBooks Author is my current gourmet meal of teaching English(yes kids, that is a metaphor).   We authored collaboratively, published a collection of essays on patriotism, and were able to raise money for a great cause.  We authored nonfiction books to teach others great science and social studies content that we have learned.  We created widgets, intro videos, narrator characters, screencasts and animations to enhance our writing.  All the while we practiced digital citizenship by using creative commons & OER, applying attribution, and promoting via social media. We learned together, my students and I.  We fought through publishing challenges and debugged faulty media elements.  I can’t imagine teaching any kind of writing class in the future without iBooks Author, iBooks, and the iBooks Store as key ingredients.  

“Writing this year taught me that you can achieve anything or you can release yourself from everyone and everything.” - Trevor

Talk about reaching both ends of the spectrum!  Pushing beyond our limits or letting go of it all.  I think about all the talent in Room 220 each and every 2nd and 4th period this year.  Then I think about all that I have yet to learn about each and every one of these amazing students.  There is more to be written, for sure.  I hope that I get to continue to read it!

“English can be a little fun.” - Eddie

Or a lot fun.  Either way, thanks for the great times, OHS Class of 2018.  The world can expect many more great things to come from you!

~Mrs. Morrow

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

OHS Tech Committee Update: March 2014

The following presentation was shared with the Board of Education meeting for March 2014 as an update of the Technology Committee's work over the past year at O'Neill Public Schools.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Student CBL Solutions Underway...

Student solutions for our English 8 "Write to Change the World" Challenge Based Learning project are being noticed around our school, community, and beyond.
Two groups of students visited O'Neill Elementary's 6th grade classes to impress upon them two different topics: 1) the benefits of good hygiene and 2) the dangers of underage drinking.  
Both groups spoke persuasively, impressing upon their younger peers solid suggestions for how they could make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.  The following image shows signatures of students who committed to avoiding alcohol in high school as a result of the presentation.
Another group of 8th graders created a week-long campaign to promote adoption as a powerful choice for life.  They visited KBRX, the local radio station, and created a public service announcement that has been airing each day.  
Along with it, they worked with the radio station's website to create daily polls about adoption and will be publishing the results on their blog: Already they have seen a success in the number of people who have taken their polls, commented on their blog, or shared their positive stories about adoption.  

Other groups of 8th graders are busy implementing their solutions as well. One group has been selling wristbands to raise awareness (and money) towards the cause of building a new gym at OHS. They will be presenting to the Board of Education next Monday night. 

Many OHS students and staff have begun to use recycling boxes provided and maintained by another group of concerned 8th graders. 
Still others are working on a campaign to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline after being educated about the potential effects to our community. 

These are just a few of the many examples of ways concerned students are using the power of their writing to make an impact in their world. Much more to come!

The Power of Writing: Letters to the Editor

As a guiding resource for our English 8 "Write to Change the World" Challenge Based Learning project, we were lucky enough to learn along with the Editor of the Norfolk Daily News, Kent Warneke, as spoke with our classes via Skype.  
We appreciated this real-world expertise on how to write persuasively and get your point across, specifically in newspaper journalism.

We followed this up with, of course, more writing. Students wrote blog posts over what they took away from the experience, thank-you letters to Kent Warneke, and persuasive "Letters to the Editor" to the newspaper of their choosing, to try and convince others to take action on their CBL topics.  
Tune in to see if any O'Neill 8th graders get published, and more importantly, if they convince you to take action and make a difference in the world!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Choose Your Own Ending Contest

The 8th grade 1st quarter Technology class participated in the "Choose Your Ending" video contest sponsored by the North Central District Health Department. 
The following creative videos were created by students, all with the message of making the right choice when it comes to underage drinking.

Delete this content
by Autumn H.
Delete this content
by Makenzie P., Mia T., and Shea C.

Delete this content
by Emily M. and Allison L. 
Delete this content
by Kyle C.

Delete this content
by Josh P. and McCoy S.

AND... the Winner is....!!!

Delete this content
by Deven F. and Cristian C.

The winning team of Deven and Cristian were awarded a $600 gift card for promoting such a positive message! In addition, their video will be featured on the Choose Your Ending website. Many congratulations to all the students involved for "choosing the right ending!"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

O'Neill 8th graders publish book in iBook Store to support Nebraska Troop Support

After a long wait, the OHS English 8 class book is finally live in the iBooks Store! Students in Mrs. Morrow and Mrs. Troester's 8th grade English class wrote, compiled, and enhanced essays about patriotism in a Multi-Touch book for iBooks.  The students are hoping to generate support through the purchase of their book to donate to Nebraska Troop Support.  Download today from the iBooks Store and enjoy some great student writing! 

O'Neill Public School 8th graders express their ideas on what patriotism means and share in the form of this class book.  100% of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Nebraska Troop Support.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sharing slideshows

I have exciting news! My content is among the top 2% of most viewed on SlideShare in 2013