Friday, September 21, 2012

Space Shuttle Fly Over, Students and iPads

Out on the field today we waited and waited for the Space Shuttle Endeavour to do her final flyby. I was following the #SpotTheShuttle twitter feed getitng real time updates. The kids wanted to capture pictures on their iPads, and used the covers as sun shades to allow them to see the screens better. It was very exciting when it finally showed, though some of my darlings forgot the rule "thou shall not sun with iPads in your hands" Fortuntely no one or nothing got hurt. After we got back inside we talked about what we saw, why they flew by, where they were going and such. There were many unanswered questions so they started researching, mostly on the free NASA app. One of my students came up to me with a huge smile and said, "I love researching!" Yippee!

Later the students started writing about the day and the space shuttle using ScribblePress (also free). The used pictures we took and some also created iMovies with videos they took, including interviews. I hope they remember this day as much as I remember watching moon walks from my 5th grade classroom!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kids for Pads

So, my students decided they wanted to weigh in on the request for funding for a second cohort of our iPad Academy. They used Google Docs to write collaboratively...They also discussed the ability to chat within Google Docs...Here is their letter.

Dear Board Members,

We are Students in Mrs. McConnell’s & Monger’s ⅘ combo class. We are writing to you because we think that more classes in the Cambrian School District should have iPads. We also think that it isn’t fair that only a few classes get to have iPads. We get to have a lot more fun technology and a better learning experience than the classes that don’t have the iPads. We can learn and get smarter in a fun and educational way. Could other classes have them?

On the iPads, we learn where states and capitals are. We also learn a lot of history by studying the states. We practice cursive and we practiced writing and learned how to publish a book in ScribblePress. We’re learning more about addition, subtraction, fractions, decimals, division & multiplication, and parentheses all from the apps. Finally, we learned how to make movies with iMovie which we can use for projects in Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Math, and all sorts of things. The iPads should be available to other classes because it is a great learning experience. Kids in 5th grade might want iPads in middle school, too.

We think it would be a great idea for the district to have more iPads so we can learn in a different way. More classes should get iPads. They are educational and a fun way to open our minds. The iPads might be expensive, but they are a great way to learn new things. It is a very helpful tool for researching for reports and can hold a lot of school related material like A.R and Vocabulary/SpellingCity. Vocabulary/Spelling City is very helpful for spelling tests and practicing spelling. Having the A.R. tests on the iPads is useful because then we could all take an A.R. test at the same time, instead of having to wait for a computer; it’s much faster that way. Most of the apps are very fun and useful. The iPads can be a much quicker way to get to the internet and it’s also more fun with a touch screen, though sometimes it takes a long time to load things. The iPad is an awesome, fun, and educational tool just like the computer.

Thank you for the fun & educational - fun-ducational iPads. We hope that you can buy more iPads for our school district. Thank you!

Letter to School Board

Letter to the school board:

I worked in technology for 20 years before I found my calling. I was excited about the opportunity to teach children how to learn with technology, as well as to teach teachers how to use technology meaningfully. I was absolutely thrilled when I came to Cambrian and discovered that not only did we have technically excellent IT staff, but we had leadership with the vision and understanding to allow for, and yes fund, innovation and creativity.

It is important in discussions and debate to remain respectful and keep the goal of education in mind. We are here to create lifelong learners. We do what we do, however we do it, to make a difference. Technology …is a tool, not a solution.

Brandon Busteed writes in the Huffington Post that "A technological revolution is happening in the world of education; it is changing schools for the better. But, it will never change the definition of and need for great teaching."

In the 6 months that the Academy has been together we have discovered and developed creative learning opportunities for our students. They have made movies about missions to MARS, they have published stories to iBooks, they have been engaged and engrossed in activities throughout the curriculum, all on free apps! My principal speaks of 100 % engagement during personal white board math work, where my students, using Doodle Buddy, know they might get called on to show their work, but more likely because they are hoping to get called on so they can show OFF their work by taking over AppleTV!

In addition to learning in the content areas, students are also learning 21st century skills. It is no surprise that our students are engaged and excited about learning. They are authentically collaborating and creating and teaching each other with apps like “Explain Everything”, and yes, Sock Puppets. Students are able to research topics more deeply. Even though we don’t know what technology will look like when our kids are in the work force, they will have a foundation because of what they are learning now.

Finally, beyond preparing our students, we are working to create tools for our colleagues. We are creating a set of best practices, app recommendations and do’s and don’ts to help teachers as they adopt this technology. We are working to ensure that implementation for these teachers will help all of us to work more efficiently and effectively to provide a high tech and high touch education to our children.

None of us in the academy feel that an iPad replaces a teacher or even replaces the need for good teaching. Neal Brown, principal in Rockville MD put it nicely, “It’s not really about the iPad, it’s about building a facility with technology, and using technology to give kids the opportunity to build their skills, and the opportunity to pursue their passions,”

Technology doesn't make me a better teacher, but it can help me teach better. The message is simple: This is not a technology expense; it’s an investment in our students and their future!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Using iPads Daily - Google Docs

In an effort to document how we are using the iPads in the classroom, I will try at least occasionally to post how we are using them day-to-day.

Tomorrow our School Board will be voting whether or not to fund another round of the iPad Academy. This means 5 more class sets of iPads, along with carts, appleTV and a Mac Book. I talked with my students about whether or not they thought this was a good idea. Since my 5th graders are working on Persuasive Writing, we decided to do a shared write letter to our School Board, which I plan to read to the Board during public comments. Since all of my students have Google apps accounts "inside our walled garden", we paired up students just to make the collaborative writing little less congested. On their iPads, half my students logged in to Google Apps, while the other half helped compose the letter. Students added their own sentences, edited each others and had some great discussions about how to persuade people to your opinion in a respectful manner.

This exercise also opened the door for authentic discussions about collaborative work. Since we didn't get a chance to finish, and to honor the need for think time, for homework students had to log in to Google apps (some did it from school), review the letter, do at least one edit or add, and sign their name, if they agreed to the letter. The students who had their iPads out for the letter writing in class had to "share" the document with a specific classmate.

Skills: Google apps: logging in, sharing, editing
persuasive writing

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning from ourselves

Debbie R. Has a great idea to keep a daily log of activities she tries with the iPad. I am going to try this!

Today my students used the iPads to take AR quizzes and look up words in the dictionary.