Monday, March 17, 2014

We Are Officially iPaddling Through Our Day... (Part Two)

Well, here it is--part two of the "We Are Officially iPaddling Through Our Day" series! I will be discussing a few more apps that have become a staple in my classroom. These apps include: Notability, Google Earth, KidBlog, and Popplet!

Notability has been a game changer in my classroom! We use this app at least two, if not three times, each day. If you were to ask any of my fourth graders what Notability is used for, they would simple say, "A way to do our regular work without using a pencil and paper!" 

What I love about this app is simplicity of it. This would be one of the apps my students caught on to using right away. Many of our daily paper assignments have been transformed into PDF files on Google Drive. I love that I can share a worksheet or task with all of my students within a matter of a minute. What I love even more is that fact that once my students have completed their annotations, they can "customize" it with colors, and export it back to me via Google Drive! 

An example of student work using Notability. 

Using Notability to complete the Southwest Desert Webquest. 

Google Earth: 
Google Earth is geobrowser that accesses satellite and aerial imagery over the internet to represent the Earth as a three-dimensional (3D) globe. In fourth grade, students study the different regions of the United States. During our study of the regions, students are asked to recall landforms, landmarks, major cities, important individuals, and important events. My tech coach, +Ann Feldmann and I decided to come up with virtual field trips, also called "Webquests" to go along with our studies. 

An example of a Webquest/Google Earth study that the students have completed.

Each webquest has a series of instructions and questions. Students load the Webquest into Notability, then annotate as needed. They are asked to search for important landforms and landmarks, using key words, within the Google Earth app. Once they find what the are looking for, they are asked to document their findings in their webquests. (This can range from "fill in the blank" answers to importing screenshots.) Multitasking has become the norm to my students! 
An aerial view of Arizona. (Screenshot taken by one of my students.)

A 3D, ground view of the Colorado River, right in the heart of the Grand Canyon.

In just a few short weeks, my students have been able to travel all over the west region of the United States! They have been able to visit places like the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, the USS Arizona Memorial---all without stepping a foot outside our classroom! 

I introduced KidBlog to my students back in December. KidBlog is a safe and simple way for students to blog. This app allows me to control and manage student content, as well as comments. A blog is a frequently updated online personal journal. iPads and the KidBlog app have had the greatest impact on the quality of blogging over the past few years. 

How do I utilize this in my classroom? We use KidBlog to practice the writing process and our writing skills through blog prompts. Students also have the chance to reflect on their learning, as well as connect with other students around the world! 

Mrs. Feldmann and I introduced Popplet to the students several weeks ago. Popplet is a power tool that allows students to create mind maps, brain diagrams, and basic graphic organizers. Popplet allows students to customize their graphic organizers by changing colors to the background, boxes, and text. Pictures can also be dropped into the organizers as well. As I've mentioned before, I appreciate the simplicity of apps---and this app does that!

My students have been using Popplet in a variety of areas. Most recently, my students have used this app to organize their rock and mineral observations in Science. I always find it fascinating how they organize their information! This has really given me a "snapshot" of their understanding, as well as their processing! 
Students were given a basic template to use while recording their observations.

As you can see, they just take a template and create and make their own organizers!

So many wonderful things are happening here in fourth grade at Central! Gone are the days of basic knowledge (remember) and  comprehension (understand). My students are now expected to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create material as they learn! I am definitely proud of them! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

We Are Officially iPaddling Through Our Day...(Part One)

WOW! looking at the date of my first post, many would assume that I've been completely disconnected with this journey, but that is the complete OPPOSITE! Life in fourth grade is busier than EVER! I figured I'd finally publish this draft---especially since I have four others sitting in the draft "back burner" waiting to be complete! This post will be a two-part post, just due to the sheer fact that there is so much information to share. Please be on the look out for the second post in a couple of days.

Our iPads were officially delivered to our classroom on Thursday, January 25th. Thankfully, that was our day of no specials, so we were able to really sit down and break apart the basics of the iPad. We spent the majority of our time discussing the basics of the iPad, i.e. turning it on/off, navigating the screen, exploring the settings, and scrolling and finger swiping the screens. It was nice to have a hard copy of the iPad Basics to give the kids. Thanks to Ann Feldmann, my awesome coach, for providing us with that handout! I still see the kids take them out from time to time to review the basics. Below is the image that was included in their handout.

The following day, Ann popped into our room to introduce herself to the class. The kids were excited to finally meet our tech coach! 

With Ann's help, we were able to help the class create folders, all while dragging and dropping their apps into their designated folders. We also spent a great deal of time introducing their Google Mail and Drives. Ann and I decided to have the students set up shortcuts for their BPS emails, which has been such a blessing! Gone are the days of waiting 5-10 minutes for students to plug in their emails. With a shortcut such as "JS", John Smith's email pops up! We then took some time to answer any questions the kids had.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I am happy to say that my kiddos have done a phenomenal job with the transition into a 1:1 classroom. We are now utilizing our new tech tools in 75% of our day.  Below is a short blurb of each app the kiddos are using on a daily basis.

Khan Academy: 

My class has been working with this app since Day 2.  Khan Academy allows to differentiate Math concepts for each of my students. Students have the capability to practice math at their own pace. You can start at 1 + 1 and from there, you can jump right into whatever topic needs some brushing up! One thing I greatly appreciate about this app is that each problem is randomly generated, so you never run out of practice material. (Reminds me somewhat of our MAP assessments!)

With each concept, students are allowed a "hint". If you need that hint, every single problem can be broken down, step-by-step, with one click. If students are still having difficulties and need more assistance,  they can always watch a related video. Independent learning at its finest!

My favorite part of this amazing app? The immediate data and feedback I receive! I have access to all of my students' data. I can get summaries of our class's performance as a whole, or dive into a particular student's profile to figure out exactly which topics are a challenge. From there, I can quickly figure out and determine how to best spend my time working with my students, as well as make sure to assign the appropriate lessons to my kids. What a time saver!

Spelling City: 

Students now utilize this app as they study their weekly word lists. On Mondays, I have students complete a "Pre-Test" by using the "Test Me" activity in Spelling City. Once finished, students highlight the misspelled words in their planner. This gives them immediate feedback on which words to spend some extra time on studying during the week. It also provides my parents simple information in terms of what to really focus on while studying. 

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, in addition to completing their assigned Spelling Practice Book pages, I asked the students to complete various activities within the Spelling City app. Depending on the difficulty of the list, how I assign the activities change weekly. Some of the activities include, "Hang Mouse", "Word Scramble", "Word Search",  "Alphabetize", and "Audio Word Match". 

As for Thursdays and Fridays, we continue to use the same procedure as before. Students will complete their Spelling Pre-Test on Thursdays via Spelling City's "Test Me". If students receive their 100% that day, they have officially tested out for the week. If students do not receive a 100%, they will retest on Friday. I am so amazed about the immediate feedback both students and I can receive with just a click of a button. It is truly amazing! 

Explain Everything:

This app has been a staple in our classroom since Day 1!! For those of you who know my students and myself, we are absolutely obsessed with this app! Explain Everything gives my students the opportunity to create presentations, or slideshows, all while having the capability to use the record feature to explain what is happening. We have been using this app for:

-Creating math videos and explaining the process and concepts we've learned. As students record their problems and show their work, they are "voicing over" what is it that they are doing. The students are literally walking me through their work! It's been a great tool to monitor my students' learning. Are they truly understanding the material? If not, where did they go wrong?  It's a simple, yet amazing, diagnostic tool!

-Creating vocabulary journals with our weekly Reading selection vocabulary. Students say the word, state the meaning, use the word in context with a sentence that makes sense and relates to the Google image they found. The students take pride in their journals and more often than not, ask to work on their journals instead of playing during indoor recess. How awesome!

Please be on the lookout for my next post soon.  We will discuss: Notability, Google Earth, KidBlog, Popplet, and Stick Around! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

And So It Begins...

"You have far more influence over the volition and engagement of your students than you may realize." -Unknown

Many would consider a fifth year teacher relatively new to the profession, or even a "21st Century Learning Expert", which is far from where I consider myself to be. I have been relying on textbooks, file cabinets, paper, and pencils for the last five years. I've been also working endless hours to ensure my students are learning the material they need to succeed in all statewide assessments. For those who aren't aware, education has drastically changed over the past ten to fifteen years. There has been a tremendous shift towards testing, state and national standards, student scores, meeting criteria, etc. With that being said, I knew both my students and myself have fallen into a huge rut. We need a change. The change we've been looking for not only needs to ensure that student learning will be aligned to district objectives and state standards, but the change also needs to focus on higher-level thinking, creativity, and relevance/meaning to my kids' lives. I took it upon myself to enroll into  the Apple Foundations Training and apply for the iPad Academy. In December 2013, I was chosen to be part of the academy. I am blessed to be part of such an elite group of educators!

I've always been a huge advocate for the implementation of classroom technology. Given the opportunity, I've always made sure I could incorporate it every single day. I'm a huge believer in making the classroom a 1:1 setting. I am excited to show my kids that iPads are not just fun and games, but they're also powerful learning tools. The possibilities are endless!  I will admit, I am nervous too. While technology is a great tool, sometimes things can go haywire. With the help of my coach, Ann Feldmann, I am confident in knowing that I will be able to handle any challenge that may arise!

So this semester, I will periodically post about our transition from the traditional classroom to my ideal classroom, a 1:1 tech-savvy place. I am excited to see what's in store for the Cougars at Central. Here's to a semester of curiosity, creativity, and craziness!