Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Today I am thankful for those who served and gave their lives for freedom, thankful for those that came back with horrid memories etched in their minds to live with forever. Thankful for those that do this everyday not knowing what each day may bring. Thankful for my freedoms I usually take for granted because of the great men and women, past and present, that make me feel more at ease than I know I should be. Thank you. What a great day to teach students about our freedoms! Since school is out for us, tell your children, friends, and neighbors...we live in "America the Beautiful."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Elementary Education Apps for Summertime Learning!

Educational Helps:

Developed by a university this math app is free and is a favorite of third-graders. It is geared for 3rd through 8th grade. The app is colorful, not cheesy, there are no ads and it does an excellent job of teaching the number line. Children dive for hidden pearls within the number line and the difficulty increases after every successful dive.
Analogies 4 Kids, $0.99
This app is perfect for the logic lover kid of yours. The analogies presented are similar to those on a SAT but presented in an easy to follow way that even a young kid can figure out. Analogies are often used in gifted programs and seen on IQ tests - this app offers 70 questions and is fun practice. 
 Rocket Math, $0.99 Do math, earn money, build a rocket and watch it fly in outer-space. There are 56 math missions ranging from simple addition to square roots and everything in between (double digit division, decimals, fractions, multiplication, money counting, etc.). For under a dollar this app can take you from kindergarten to high school. I like this app because it has a built in way to push kids further. They can’t trick their ride (their rocket) without completing more math
.Stack the States, Free & $0.99

There is a free version, but I think you will want to go ahead and purchase the other version quickly, it is a bit addictive to me. Pretty neat way to learn states and capitols.
Starfall ABCs, $2.99
Perfect for kindergartners!t There are hundreds of ABC apps out there but this one is no nonsense, easy to use, fun and effective. Children can choose from puzzles, mazes, flash cards and more to gain a well rounded knowledge of the alphabet.
Mad Libs, Free & $3.99
Another one of those apps that we upgraded to the full version after checking out the lite edition. Just like the traditional paper Mad Libs (which we have spent a fortune on), children type in parts of speech to create a silly story. For those who are having trouble finding a part of speech to fill in there's a "Hints" button that offers a scroll of words below. For kids who struggles with comprehension this is a fun app to develop those early parts of speech skills, not to mention we all get a good giggle at the end when reading their stories.
This is a "thinking" app that requires children to build contraptions out of toys and everyday items that solve puzzles. You can also create your own contraptions with slingshots, darts, ropes, balloons and more. It's adorable! There are over 70 levels and children have been found creating similar contraptions in real life. Great way to get kids thinking deeper.
Math Bingo, $0.99
This app is a perfect way to practice math skills. Children select a game (add, subtract, multiply, divide) and the difficulty (easy, medium, hard) and play traditional bingo. They are given a problem and need to find the numerical answer on the bingo chart. When they get a "bingo" they earn a "bingo bug" and collect them - the bugs are quirky and fun, which is what makes them fun to collect.
Unblock Me, Free
This can be an addicting app for all ages. Amazed by the amount of puzzles offered in the free version. It's a puzzle app which requires some great critical thinking and perceptual ability. With 4,200 puzzles offered in this free app what do you have to lose, but time? Great for kids and adults, this app manages to captivate us all while strengthening our problem solving skills. A must have!
Hangman, Free
The banner ad bothers me but for a free app that offers the traditional hangman game. You can choose from a number of categories like fruit, vegetable, family, food, drink, clothes, color, body parts, countries and more. The game is timed while you guess what letters are used to figure out the word before your time is up.
SpellBoard, $4.99
One of the most expensive apps I've ever purchased but well worth the money for the child who struggles with their weekly spelling tests in elementary school. Can be used weekly by recording child's spelling list in your own voice, recording a sentence using the word in your own voice, and generating a quiz. Children can study the quiz before taking it by completing puzzles and/or writing the word on a realistic notepad. They can ask to repeat the word (in your own recorded voice) or ask to speak the phrase (in your own recorded voice). Best of all parents can check in to see the history of the tests to see the percentage and where they need additional help.
Fractions, $0.99
Children have two options "Learn" or "Test". The learn option goes through a series of flashcards (easily read with bright images). The test option gives you three categories (Identify, Equality, Arithmetic) and three levels of difficulty for each. Easily the best app out there for fractions. It starts with elementary fraction lessons of a pizza cut in half and continues with the "hard" level of "arithmetic".  Another app that starts in kinder and takes you up to high school.
Sushi Monster  Free. My students will chose to play this one very often. It has varying levels and therefore can meet the needs of k-5 students (or above). Students like this app because it has great graphics and they are given choices when answering. It helps them learn estimating because of this option.
Story Lines  Free. (We use the one listed under “Education,” not “Games) One of our favorite ways to do creative writing in the elementary school. Students call play by themselves or with a friend. It is a great collaboration app and an excellent way to teach students how to write “visual sentences” with many adjectives. I use this app 2-5 grades.
Chicken Coop Fractions Free. Great for kids learning about fractions because you “catch” eggs on a number line. The students love to watch the hens lay the eggs. There are some ads on this app that can be annoying.Story Wheel  Free and  $2.99.  Spin a wheel and collect separate parts of a story to be assembled in the correct order; finished tales pop into life as animations!

These are all great apps for children to use over the summer for fun ways to keep learning.
( -List adapted and added to by Julie Davis)

Continuing Suggestions on Classroom Management and Technology

This is my third post on ideas for managing technology in a 1:1 atmosphere. These ideas are adapted from my own use with my elementary students.
1- As students enter the classroom, have them as a standard rule to place tablets "flipped" on upper corner of desk. Any laptops should be closed.
2- At your cue, have students close all open apps on their tablet device. This will allow you the opportunity to check any student that seems to be off task. If an app is open that you have not told the class to open then you may assume this student has been off task. This eliminates any questions about whether they were using it before class.
3- I cannot say enough how helpful it is to use keywords in the classroom regarding technology. I use the terms "flat," "close," "flip" on a regular basis and therefore do not have to explain what I want to happen in each class time.
4- If I am giving instructions or we are in a classroom discussion, I often require that all devices stay in the "flat" position so that I can see that:
A) the students are looking at my eyes
B) the students are not preoccupied with the device.
C) all devices are on the home screen or on an app that I have told them to go to.
5- I teach elementary school but this seems to help students immediately follow device instructions. At the end of the class I will often say, "When I count to 5 all devices should be in flat position and all apps should be closed. When you have closed your apps, flip your device." I then clap and say 1-2-3-4-5. For some reason, they see this as a race and immediately follow instructions. The same students seem to go slowly at following this command as a rule, these students I often walk over to and start the process for them. A few times of that shows them the importance of following instructions.
As the year has progressed, students have started finishing their processes as I start this very familiar sentence and it seems to help with device closure at the end of the class period.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Who Says Desks Have to Stay in Place in a 1:1 Environment?

A few years back I read an article that made me really wish my technology lab desks were not bolted to the ground (tried to find the article again for citing purposes but couldn’t). The following is my thoughts on classroom seating arrangements and technology usage.
Most classrooms are set up in one of five different arrangements.
1)      Traditional columns and rows-this method is still the most predominately used method in middle and high schools. “Traditional rows of desks or tables facing the focal point are often used for teacher-centered activities (lecturing, giving directions, or presenting on the whiteboard) or for independent activities (tests, silent reading). Many teachers use this arrangement as the “default.” However, there are “dead zones” in the corners and the back of the room with this arrangement; students in the front center also are more likely to get your attention. While this arrangement minimizes distractions, it also limits student-to-student discussions since students are looking at the backs of other students” (HP1to1Guide, 2010).
This is probably the hardest set up to monitor technology usage because it takes the teacher a while to navigate the room both with sight and mobility. On the other hand, if the teacher’s desk is placed in the back of the room and rules are established regarding the angle of the laptop or tablet device, this can be a very effective way to monitor for a teacher that tends to be stationary in the classroom setting.

2)      Islands-desks grouped – This method often groups students together based on teachers conceived idea of what works best personality wise in the classroom. “If you do a lot of collaborative activities, consider pushing desks together. Pairs of desks are good for turn-and-talk activities, and groups of three to four are appropriate for cooperative learning. You can also use the lab tables for small group work, unless equipment and materials are set up for another class. In pairs or groups, be sure students can still see a screen or focal point for instructions or debriefing. This arrangement could be distracting during independent work” (HP1to1Guide, 2010).
This is probably my favorite way to teach with technology, especially if students are doing research and I am working the room anyway. This allows me to see many devices at one time and to easily work with the students. My rule is that the device always has to be desk level and sometimes, depending on the nature of the lesson plan, I require my students to keep their iPad flat for the period of time when I am giving instructions and not being able to work the classroom.

3)      U-shaped – Allows for collaboration but good teacher integration. “Students can see each other, which fosters student-to-student discussions within a large group. This is also useful for teacher-centered presentations, as you can maintain eye contact with all students. As students work, you can zip across the inner space to provide assistance where needed. For large group discussions, you can close the U into a circle and sit with the students, sending the message that you are part of the discussion. However, this takes up a lot of space, and some students may be easily distracted during independent work” (HP1to1Guide, 2010).
When teachers work from inside the area of the horseshoe, they are close enough to view tablets well. The downside with this is that if a student is using a laptop, it is very hard to view what they are doing. As a teacher, one must make sure you are very engaging in your delivery to keep students on task. If you tend to teach from the front of the classroom only, this is probably one of the best ways to allow for technology use during lectures because it gives the students the feeling that you are very close to them through the use of your eye contact and moving around in the half semi-circle.

4)      Circle – Great for discussion purposes. “This has the benefit of providing ample opportunity for interaction but hinders the ability to utilize the board. It can also be challenging when having the students take quizzes and tests in that it is easier for students to cheat” (Classroom Arrangement, 2013). This allows for an excellent way to use the Socratic teaching method and usually leads to active engagement of the student because all eyes are on them. When using technology for research after group discussions, teachers can work the room from the outside of the circle to make sure students are on task.

5)      Debate (or runway model)– Allows for students to openly discuss opposing sides of an argument.  This seating chart is the most practical (although not most ideal) way to arrange your chairs if class discussion is important to you, because students can always face at least half the class, and most can see the faces of about 75 percent of their classmates easily. Just remember, as you teach in the center aisle, you may have the unnerving feeling of being surrounded” (Rookie Teaching Techniques, 2013).  
This method works best if student desks are grouped on each side of your runway instead of in the typical rows with space. The grouping allows you to more easily eyeball the device usage while teaching.

Remember, it is quite possible to implement many of these different desk placement scenarios in one class seating. Place pictures of the different setups for desk placement somewhere prominent in your classroom. At the beginning of the year, practice moving from one set up to the next with your students by pointing at the pictures. Time students as they move from one set up to the next and keep that time posted in the classroom so that it can become a game to see how quickly they can move from one part of the lesson to the next. Have classes compete against each other. Rearranging your desk placement not only will help you monitor your students’ technology usage but it will also breathe a little life into their day.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Freedom to Learn with Technology

What happens when you take the restrictions off and just let students learn?
Yesterday, one of my lesson plans consisted of taking the rolling cart of iPads to a fifth grade classroom and allowing those students to work on their ocean poster mla bibliography pages on noodlebib by signing on their accounts. I quickly began to realize that many of these students were either done with their bibliography or were finishing at a rapid pace.
On the fly, I decided to give those students a new assignment. "Pick one ocean animal, research it using the available apps and create a popplet page including the name of the animal, six facts about that animal, and a picture."
As all teachers know, bibliography pages lead to lots of questions so I was still pretty engulfed with helping those students that hadn\\\\\\\'t finished their bibliographies. So when a few of the popplet building students said, "how do we do A?" or "where can we go to find B?" My immediate response was "no place is off limits today while using your iPad."
I was amazed at the way these students ran with this project. Some of them got their own iPads out because they knew they already had websites pulled up that would help them. Some of them were seeking photos from social media sites because they had been on a trip and their mom had a photo of them with a dolphin. (Of course, my fifth grader still asked "are you sure its ok for me to go there?" which made my inner control heart smile).They were free to do this however they chose...and they chose to run with it! It was probably the best "on the fly" lesson plan I\\\\\\\'ve done in a long while...and this is why I think it worked:
A) I knew I was roaming the classroom like crazy that day and I knew that I could see what the students were working on and if they were on task.
B) there is excitement about using technology in the classroom to do project-based learning.
C) I knocked down the walls of what was allowed and not allowed, gave up control that I dearly love to have and watched my students thrive in their new found liberties.
D) I have set up parameters for teaching with technology that allow my students the luxury to fail and to be restored.