Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Exploring the iPad

I am constantly amazed at the number of apps available for use in the classroom! We have continued using Notability, Google Drive, GroupMaker, and TooNoisy, as well as adding on some new apps.

Using Notability to complete our Daily Spiral Review in math:

Using Notability as graph paper to fix a math assignment:

As we do not have a full class set of iPads, many of the things that we are doing can be used on the iPad or on the computer.  I recently downloaded FrontRow on the classroom iPad and was excited to find out that it can be used on any computer with Google Chrome.  FrontRow is a math application that is aligned to the Common Core standards.  Students take a short diagnostic to see what they already know about a concept, and then the computer or iPad sets everything up from there.  The thing that I like the most about this app is the amount of data I receive about my students.  It tells me exactly what concept the majority of my students are struggling with so that I can guide my instruction.  FrontRow also groups the students based on what areas they are doing well in, as well as what areas they need more instruction on.  It even creates practice sheets for each individual student--with answer keys!  I had my students use FrontRow in computer lab the first time so that everyone could access it at the same time.  In the future, this will be an app that my students can use on our classroom computers or on the classroom iPad.

Using FrontRow in the computer lab


In December a coworker suggested trying KidBlog with my students.  This is a great way for my students to practice writing and get comments from other people.  The students enjoy reading the comments from other people, and have been excited to see that people in other parts of the world are reading their blog.  Click here to visit our class blog.  We would love some comments!

One new app that we explored was Keynote.  This is similar to PowerPoint, but it is much easier to use.  Last week I had the students work in groups of three to create a presentation about one of the reading vocabulary words.  They had to write a definition, a sentence, and find a picture to represent the word.  The kids were so excited to include real photos, and enjoyed sharing these presentations with the class.

Working in groups to create a Keynote presentation about the reading vocabulary words.

This week we used Keynote in a different way.  I quickly created a presentation with the reading vocabulary word and definition on a slide, and then we got started with our game.  The students took turns holding the iPad over their head so they couldn't see the word, and then the other students in the classroom had to provide clues so the person could guess the word.  I had them provide definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and even act out the word.  This was a great activity, and the students definitely know this week's vocabulary words!

Playing our vocabulary game using Keynote.

My students finished creating their iMovie to introduce our class to our pen pals in Arizona.  They had so much fun planning what they wanted to include, writing a script, and then recording what they wanted to share.  Click here to see our video.

Last week I had the exciting opportunity to sit in on a Google Hangout with Tony Vincent, the creator of the Stick Around app.  The Stick Around app is used to create puzzles.  This app is wonderful for review activities.  I had the chance to create a measurement review puzzle, and my students enjoyed this new format.  Since I only have one iPad, my students completed it using marker boards and then we answered the questions as a whole group.  It was nice to try a different format for our review, and the students were more engaged with what we were doing.

Using Stick Around to review converting customary measurements.

This week we are finishing up our unit on the West region of the United States.  Usually we review by filling out a study guide and talking through the information.  This time we tried something new.  I used the website to create QR codes with the study guide questions.  I borrowed iPads from many of the other teachers in my building, placed the QR codes around the classroom, and then let me students move around the room to scan the QR codes and answer the questions.  The kids were more involved with the review, and seemed to really enjoy this new format.

Scanning codes for our Social Studies QR code review.

We've had our classroom iPad for three weeks now, and I am amazed by how much it has changed our classroom!  I am loving all the changes, and I know my students are enjoying the new things that we are trying.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A One iPad Classroom: Week One

My name is Brittany Braasch and I am a fourth grade teacher in Nebraska.  This is my fifth year of teaching.  I love working with elementary students and seeing them grow and change throughout their year with me.  I enjoy trying new things with my students, and try to include technology as much as possible.  This year I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in an Apple Foundations Training where I have been learning about how to utilize my Macbook and an iPad in the classroom.  I received my classroom iPad a little over a week ago and immediately began exploring.  We have just finished our first week of being a one iPad classroom.  I can already say that the iPad has completely changed our classroom.

At the beginning of each day I have my students complete a Daily Oral Language sheet.  This is a great way for students to practice editing and revising, identifying different parts of speech, and improving their language skills.  Over the course of the school year I have noticed that my students are not as engaged with this activity.  When I received my classroom iPad I was excited to try using Notability and AirPlay to project the DOL on the board and then have students take turns answering the questions and explaining their reasoning while using the iPad.  The second I pulled out the iPad, all eyes were on me, and the students were completely engaged.  They loved being able to write on the iPad and explain what they were thinking.  Our discussions about the language amazed me.  Even my quietest students were excited to explain their DOL.

Now came the difficult part…how do I choose who gets to use the iPad next?  Luckily, I have a wonderful coworker across that hall that has a 1:1 iPad classroom.  When I talked to her, she suggested the GroupMaker app.  I downloaded the app, input my students, and immediately noticed a difference.  My students enjoyed watching the app pick names, and were shocked to find out that they could be called on more than once.  This kept the students engaged, even after they had been called on once.  Plus, they didn't question the app like they would question me if I called on the same student more than once!

After lunch my students complete a Daily Spiral Review for our math curriculum.  This review allows students to continue practicing math skills after we have already learned the skill.  This has helped immensely with retention of different math skills.  However, the students were getting tired of going over the spiral review.  I had the same students participating each day, and the students that I was most concerned with continued to struggle with staying focused during this time.  Since I've been using the iPad (again using Notability and AirPlay), the students are once again engaged and the discussions have been amazing.

Our classroom is going to be Pen Pals with a classroom in Arizona.  We are getting ready to write our first letters to the other classroom, but before we started our letters, I wanted to introduce our class to our new Pen Pals.  We decided to make a video to introduce ourselves and show our Pen Pals around our classroom.  Using the iPad we have been able to film ourselves and will then use iMovie to put together our introduction video.  My students have enjoyed creating a script of the important things to include in our video.  We were also able to take a virtual field trip to our Pen Pal's school using Google Earth.  This led to a discussion about the differences in landforms and even the formation of the cities which tied in perfectly to our study of the West in Social Studies.

On Friday we tried a new app: Too Noisy.  During the winter it always gets a little loud in the classroom because the students aren't able to burn off that extra energy outside.  When looking on Pinterest for ideas, I found several references to the Too Noisy app and decided to give it a try.  I didn't say anything to my class, just hooked up my Macbook to the projector, turned on Reflector, and used AirPlay to mirror my iPad onto the screen.  It took about 10 seconds for my students to notice and quiet down.  They knew exactly what it was for!  After a couple of minutes, we talked about what the Too Noisy app is used for, and I challenged the students to transition to the next activity without going above a certain point on the Too Noisy app scale (I just drew a line on the marker board).  The students were shocked to see that simple things like pushing in their chairs would cause the noise level to spike above the line.  This led to a great discussion about how noisy the classroom can become, and how difficult it can be to focus when it is too noisy.  We were able to finish our reading testing in complete silence and the students did so much better on their tests!  This is definitely an app that I will continue using!

So in one short week we have used: Notability, Google Drive, GroupMaker, Too Noisy, Google Earth, and iMovie.  Next week we will be using Tellagami and Keynote.  Students will be working in small groups and creating a Tellagami for the reading vocabulary words.  They will also begin researching a state from the West and creating a Keynote to present to the class.  I can't wait to see what my students create!