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!

Math Movies

So this? Yeah… this is pretty cool! I had my students make fraction movies today. Using the app “Explain Everything” they recorded a lesson or an explanation of their understanding. I can imagine using this recorded lesson as a resource for students in the future. It’s also a great way for students to communicate their thinking without having to write it all out. I can get their ideas even when I don’t have the time in class to sit down with each group during class time – I can review their movie after the students have left for the day. As I said to the students, there will be a learning curve with the software. The movie they made today is not as good as the movies they will make in the future. We reviewed a couple of movies in math class and students discussed the math, critiqued their own work and provided constructive criticism for other groups. Some really powerful stuff going on here!

Apps I love

I just happened to be resyncing my ipods this morning so I had a chance to go through my apps again when a colleague asked for some advice on some good apps. I thought I would also post here for parents who often ask for what apps are worth the investment. The following is a list of apps I would be hard done by to work without:

Pages: Just a word processor, but it works great for students who prefer to type. I also have a couple of students whose handwriting I have a hard time reading and Pages means that they can communicate their ideas easier.

Dropbox: easy way to get documents from my computer to their device. Love it. I use it with my guided reading program. Most of my books come from Reading A-Z and they open seamlessly.

iBooks: This is where the reading A-Z books open to. It looks just like the paper book without the wasted paper. Have also invested in a few books from iBooks and the kids can highlight and make notes as they read.

Dictionaries: Some are a little pricey, but they are by far the best investment I have made: Collins, Multi, Robert (dixel) Meriam Webster, Bescherelle). My students LOVE looking stuff up that was like pulling teeth to get them to do before. Writing and reading have improved TONS just by having these resources.

Tumblebooks: This is less for my own students, but they read them with their buddies. My four year old loves them and they highlight the words as they read along.

Explain everything: Allows you to import an image and will record sound and drawing as you explain. I haven’t used this with students yet but I want to use it with math evals. I have created a couple of math lessons with this that students can refer back to when they need support.

Evernote: just a great way to organize notes

Chalkboard: Good way for students to reason through math.

Math tutor and World Maths: Good drill and practice

LeaderPost: Kids use for current events. Good for distilling an article down to a paragraph or two.

Sticky notes: kids use stickys as they read for vocab and notes

Flipped

I’ve been back in the classroom for three weeks now, and I think it’s safe to say that “flipped” is a good word for it… It’s a different pace of life than being home with my kids. I don’t know why it surprises me… it’s the same thing every year when we come back from break. Roll out of bed, hit the ground running.

I have been excitedly planning for the use of technology in my class and, as can be expected, I hit some technical glitches right away. The iPads are much slower at syncing than I had anticipated because they all need an updated OS, which seems to reset them. It’s taken an hour each for the two iPads I have done so far. Part of my plan for today’s PD day is to catch up on that front.

The learning curve was steep in the beginning, but I think I have a good app figured out for screencasting. I have been using “Explain Everything” ($1.99). It has some really nice features that allow me to bring in images and video, to draw and record on the screen, and to pause and rewind when needed.

So far, I recorded one lesson with the students. In that lesson I recorded sections where the students were to “pause now and find a solution on paper”. I watched them do it in class time and walked around to watch them work. All of them seemed to be engaged in the lesson and took the time to pause the video at the appropriate spots to work.

After watching the video, students were given some text book questions to do and all students seemed to have had success.

The plan now is to record a lesson and have the students watch at home so that we can ask questions at the top of the lesson, hopefully posting questions to corkboard, and spend the in-class portion practicing. The teacher who covered for my mat leave did a nice job of setting the students up with a math routine and they know that it goes lesson, text book work, duotang work, evaluations.

I think even if I don’t get the at-home portion of the flipped classroom working this year that there is some value in having recorded lessons for students. This could be a good way for more advanced students to work ahead and for weaker students to go back and review.