A More Effective Teacher

I took a leap today and had my students begin working on Evernote to keep a journal. I am posting the results here even though the result is not as polished as I would like.

I think that Evernote notebooks have the potential to be an education game changer. As I previously noted on Twitter, I had a student with organizational challenges begin using Evernote about two weeks ago. Here, he is able to store pictures of organizers, record audio responses to some work, and write a journal that is generally of higher quality because the iPad is pointing out his mistakes to him (it has been interesting to watch him work – I can here him say “Oh! That’s how you spell (fill in the blank)? I didn’t know that!)

When he was away for a couple of days, I put his missing work directly into his Evernote and he was able to access everything directly from home.

Today’s work was writing a journal. While I would like to get better at doing this, today was a first step. Ten students wrote their journals in Evernote and I was able to access their work from my desk on my iPad. I recorded feedback for them using Explain Everything and sent them a copy back that they can watch and use to make corrections to their work.

I think this will be a powerful tool for students as I can have a virtual 2 minute meeting with each student after they are already gone for the day and make improvements to their work.

Pinterest, FTW!

Today my students scored a pretty fun afternoon, and I’m pretty pleased with the results of their work. After spending some time on Pinterest, I was inspired to adapt this art project for my students’ work with the Grade 4 curriculum’s unit on rocks and minerals and the Grade 5 curriculum’s unit on weather.

This lesson covered so much: science, language arts, art perspective.

One of my students even remarked: Mme! We’re having fun, but we’re learning, too!

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The students traced their hands and feet, then they drew their faces and bodies. Students were required to include three rock samples and one cloud sample, all of which could be identified by a viewer. After drawing, students outlined their work with a sharpie and painted with water colour. Finally, students blogged their rock and cloud samples and a QR code posted next to their work takes viewers to their site.

I loved this project and I think students were pretty pleased too!

Apps I Love

Finally, I got the Reflection app installed and working. Really great stuff here. I can have students work in their groups on their iPads and three clicks brings up a dock with a “share” option on it. The students choose that and the computer hooked to the projector will mirror the iPad, sharing whatever they do on their screen at their desk.

Evernote, again, is awesome. I have started using it with a student who has trouble getting organized and so far it’s been like night and day. No more papers to go missing. No more “I left it at home on the kitchen counter”. We also had enormous success with this student’s writing today. He was able to photograph the organizer and write on it with Skitch and save it to his Evernote.

eclicker has an updated app for $14 and I splurged. It’s much streamlined over the old version and a great way to have students review. I had groups of students use the “host” version (eclicker presentation) to write multiple choice, true and false, and open question questions that they will share with peers at the next science lesson. The app, brilliantly, allows users to bring in image files and is so easy to figure out I had kids up and running in minutes. The “audience” version (free) allows students to buzz in their answers all at the same time (class review) or at their own pace (could see using this for quizzes).

A colleague showed me sock puppets, and we’re going to try it Friday with our reading buddies. Looking forward to sharing our results with you!

Also, I have lately recommitted to using my SMARTboard everyday in a meaningful way and have had good success this week. More on that later!

21st Century Classroom

I promised my admin that if an iPad 2 made an appearance in my classroom, I would dedicate my next blog post to all the cool stuff it could do, so here it is.

First, I want to note that the “cool factor” isn’t really a factor; yes, the iPads are cool, but I think that if they don’t enhance the learning in the classroom then they aren’t worth the investment.

In addition to what we have already been doing with the iPad1s, the iPad2 has pushed the creation of content light years from where it was. We know that students are already big consumers of content, but how do we make them content producers too?

Building a camera into the technology makes it really intuitive.

So far, I have used it for enrichment with a student who is already weeks ahead on his novel study. In addition to creating a traditional book report, he is in the middle of creating a book trailer with iMovie. The students are practically fighting each other for the next chance to film a book trailer, but my criteria is that their traditional book report be done first and that it be well done. I hesitate to include the movie right now, because it is a work in progress but I think it is valuable to see what is being done, and as I tell my students, creative work is hard to share because we are opening up our hearts to criticism, but criticism often makes our work better. I met with this student about his video and he sees where he will improve it. I look forward to sharing the finished version when it is done.

It has been used to support weaker students by creating oral/visual flash cards of French vocabulary.

To collaborate and brainstorm:

For organization. With 25 students in my regular room and 31 students in my math room, organization is key. I currently have one student (on a rotating basis) every last recess who gets to access the classroom website via the WordPress app and update the daily homework. Students who are absent check the website from home or upon their return and get caught back up.

It has been used to green the classroom by making worksheets digital. This being said, I don’t think digital worksheets are the best way to learn, but sometimes they are an easy way to reinforce a skill set.

It has been used to share as students work in small groups on their iPads and then share to the projector via air sharing.

It has been used to communicate as all of my contacts are loaded into it and I can easily create distribution lists for newsletters and quick communications with parents regarding child progress.

The technology cupboard has been an evolving project, but I seem to have found a solution that works:

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The cupboard has three dish racks from the dollar store, the top rack being for 9 keyboards, the middle being for 10 iPads, and the bottom being for 10 iPods. The bottom rack also houses 2 small tackle boxes: 1 for earbuds and 1 for mics for the iPods.

The Paper Trail

I am now a classroom teacher (and have been for 9 years or so) and a mother to a school-aged child in three after-school activities and I am finding it very difficult to stay on top of everything. As a teacher, I have dates and paper flying at me from every direction and as a Mom, I am on the receiving end of all that paper. My solution is technology.

1. Email newsletters and requests to parents. It appears directly in their inboxes, often with a link that parents can just click to add dates to their calendars.

2. Scan paper with my phone as soon as it comes home. I can search for a digital document with a few clicks, while a paper document goes missing easily.

3. Deal with it as soon as I touch it. Need permission? Sign it! Need money? Pay it! Receiving money at school? Check it, track it, deposit it!

4. Put it all in one place: one calendar, one to do list, one inbox…

5. EVERNOTE! Love! Really! Great place to sort and keep student work, notes, reminders, etc! Also started one for kid #1, because while I love all the work he brings home, where should I put it?

6. Keeping absent students up to date can be a challenge. I find it easiest just to run the correct number of copies of my calendar for absent students, though I would like (maybe with older students?) to keep them on track by having them subscribe to the calendar on their devices.

7. Keep calm and carry on! I think I’m busy now!? Wait until kid #2 is also in school and activities!