Sunday, December 23, 2012

Exploring Solids with Think 3D Free

We have been learning about solids in my 4+5 combo math class. I use manipulative blocks, but since I don't have Legos, they tend to fall over, end up on the floor, etc. the high-touch blocks are great for some, but when it comes to manipulating the solids, there are challenges.

Enter a high-tech counterpart, Think 3d Free. The kids can create unlimited possibilities of shapes and explore and interact with them. They are sharing shapes and challenging each other to identify properties of their creations. It has really helped them understand perspective as well as volume vs. surface area. And, it's fun! I gave my kids free time on the iPads right before break and they asked, "can we use 3D Free?" Yes, you can!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

To share or not to share

There has been some discussion within our academy, staff and union about sharing our iPad carts amongst multiple classrooms. As discussed here before, teachers in our district were invited to apply for the pilot 1:1 program. Along with the cart of iPads came requirements to help research and recommend policy and procedures for future implementations in our district. For a variety of reasons, some teachers chose not to apply. Those that did apply and were accepted into the program have been an amazing group of pioneers who I am privileged to work with!

Apple designed the iPad for individual use. After all, it is called an iPad not a wePad or usPad. There is no file management system on the iPad. As we in the academy have found out, getting user content off of the iPad is not a straightforward proposition. Each app has its own peculiarities of where and how you can offload or download. It takes a spreadsheet to list and track the logins and work-flow process you need for each app. When we start to think about sharing and adding the layer of multiple logins, the problem grows even more unwieldy.
Some of our cohort are sharing the devices in a variety of creative ways. During her class' music, PE and other out of classroom times, one teacher loans her cart to a special ed class to use a variety of educational game apps. The middle school cohort obviously shares devices across their class periods. She started out using Apple Configurator which has been a less than positive experience. There have been challenges, but she works diligently to train all of her periods to be respectful of each other's work and they continue to work through their challenges. Last year at Bagby, we hosted a sibling lunch where our students invited their school age siblings to come and use the iPads. One group of girls made a 'horror film' in iMovie titled "the Attack of the Second Grade Sisters." I have used the iPads in my Excel/RTI class to expose a greater number of students at our school to the technology. Last year I had 2 4th graders from a combo class join me for Science and they used the devices alongside my home room students.
I have discovered that without the extensive digital citizenship and cyber-safety education from Common Sense Media that my home room participated in, my "visiting students" do not always follow iPad and basic digital citizenship rules. And since I only have my RTI students for 4 hours of reading a week, I simply do not have the time to deliver digital education to them. Further, despite reminders, they do not log off of their accounts when they leave, they walk with the iPads open, they use apps when they are not supposed to and they look at work that other students have created, just like they would look into another student's desk. They do not feel ownership for the devices and do not treat them with respect. My home room students feel that their privacy is being violated and that their work is not being respected.
One of the benefits of having the cart in my room is he immediacy of access. When the shuttle flew over, we could go outside with our iPads, take pictures and interview observers. Students create work over days or weeks. if they are sharing devices, they run the risk of other students deleting or altering their work. Yes, we can have rules in place. And we do. However, adding users adds the potential for confusion and error. One possible help would be apps such as the Our Pad. Kelly Walsh wrote is his blog, Emerging EdTech about such apps. "The basic idea behind Our Pad, HotSwap and the like is that it stores user names and passwords for a couple dozen pre-configured web apps for multiple users. Each user sets a profile used to sign in to the app. When you are signed in as the current user on that iPad, your configured apps are available through a menu." However, these apps are really designed for consumers and not students.
Mark Gleeson, a respected iPad blogger, writes "The most obvious problem with sharing iPads..., is the lack of file system and autosave/store within app functionality of the iPad. It’s great for its original purpose of easy access for the intended individual use scenario. For shared environments, it creates a mountain of files stored by potentially hundreds of users. Will other users delete/ overwrite or edit the file? Will we run out of storage space because of the number of photos, movies, animations, comic strips, documents, drawings, ebooks etc floating around all those apps waiting to be completed?
Again, some of this can be dealt with through a number of file sharing or transferring methods... The biggest issue is consistent adoption of these methods." The "workable solution" requires training of students and staff, not only in the process of file transferring but in the consistent practice of it. And in this case, whose responsibility is it to do the training? Who is ultimately responsible for the cart? The iPad? The user content? Gleeson has implemented overnight sharing for teachers to explore the possibilities of iPads on their own time. The iPads need to be back in the hands of students the next day and he has had to implement a detailed set of procedures to make this work.
Edudemic posted an article, 5 Critical Mistakes and they cite as number 4: 4) Treating iPads like multi-user devices:
iPads were designed as a single-user device and not meant to be shared via carts. Financial constraints have forced many schools to abandon 1:1 aspirations, but sharing them separates the functionality from the user. Carts that rotate through several classrooms force teachers to take time away from learning, create a nightmare of student accounts, and often focus attention on workflow systems rather than learning."
"Instead of sharing iPads across multiple classrooms, schools should be allocating them to a few select pilot classrooms for an entire year. Schools should be documenting pilot group successes and failures and begin to codify iPad integration functionality and elicit best practices to serve as a foundation for future iPad expansion. If a school cannot envision financially moving to a 1-1 iPad model, then Bring your Own Device (BYOD) models may prove much more compelling than shared iPad systems.

An important thing to understand is that this is really only providing access to web based accounts. It does not allow for multiple users on apps. So tracking individual performance data across multiple users on a single app does not generally seem to be possible or at least not easy. Ideally, teachers will be using iPad created work as performance assessments of their students' work. If multiple students are using the same device, we run the risk of accidental or intentional overwriting, deleting, or changing of user data and student work. We wouldn't have two students take a test on the same piece of paper would we?
It seems to me that while sharing may be the only option for some schools, it is not ideal. So, what about a one or five iPad classroom? With a smaller set of iPads, more classrooms could have some iPads. Over time, and once iPads have proven their worth, Home & School Club money could more likely fund 5 iPads per target class than 30. An iPad "suitcase", rather than a cart could utilize one iTunes account that shares apps across 5 devices, which stays within Apple's license sharing rules. And since we are teaching digital citizenship, as educators we should model it and pay for all the software we use. 1-5 iPads could be used in centers, for project based work, for differentiation and reward. Teachers could use one iPad as a productivity tool with apps such as Class Dojo, PowerSchool and Classroom Organizer.Heidi Butkus offers a variety of suggestions for a small set of iPads.
This is still relatively new technology and its significant impact has yet to be measured or quantified meaningfully. As more districts try various implementation methods, we'll have a better point from which to base decisions. Our iPad Action Research Academy recently added a second cohort and we broadened our scope to include two other districts. Our colleagues in Moreland and Union are testing a grade level cart share system and their experiences will provide useful insight? It appears that Apple has plans to release an iPad (or iOS) which supports multiple users, according to Apple Insider which potentially could help address some of the problems with sharing. In the meantime, our cart is staying in our room. It's not that I am greedy. I just worked hard to get these tools in the hands of my kids, and I worked hard to get my kids to be responsible digital citizens. I want to be able to study and quantify the true benefits of a 1:1 environment. I'm happy to work with my colleagues to help them identify ways to acquire and use one or five or thirty devices in their own classrooms.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Student PSAs with iMovie

Over the past few weeks our students have been researching, writing, filming and editing Public Service Announcements (PSA) about issues that concern them. Our principal wrote about students using this platform to address positive behavior. One of my students suffered a concussion during some early morning playground horseplay. He learned about the seriousness of brain injuries and wanted others to know about the risks so he made this movie, Playground Safety. Some students used their iPads and some used our small Sony cameras. All of them used iMovie to edit and produce their projects.

I am constantly amazed by my students creativity, initiative and productivity using 21st century tools!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Substitute teachers and iPads.

A few weeks ago, I met my substitute teacher for the day at my door. I was on site for meetings, but would not be in my classroom. In my plans and in our chat, I told her about how my kids would be using the iPads to work on two different projects that were in progress. She said, "oh we won't be needing those, I have other things planned."

Later that day I saw her and she seemed pleasantly surprised by my students ability to use the devices to meet their learning goals. It seems that despite her 'other plans', my kids knew what they needed to do and use to finish their assignments.

This week I'm out for a whole week for professional development. I have never, ever been away from my class this long and was quite worried about it. I made sure I had a sub who was comfortable with technology. She has been amazed by what the kids can and do accomplish.

It got me thinking about the first sub's initial reluctance to use the devices. I thought it was a generational thing. Although I am over 50, I've found most teachers my age are less likely to be flexible and adaptable to including technologies into their practices. I am an anomaly due to my first career in high tech. ( I really did work for a company that helped invent the Internet.) I realized it wasn't that my first sub was afraid to use the tablets.
It was more that she thought of iPads as a toy, something a sub might use to fill time, like a game of 7-up or a seasonal crossword puzzle. She hadn't thought of them in regards to their educational value. My kids use their iPads to create, collaborate, problem solve, communicate, research, and yes, to play games. But when they play games, it is with a purpose.

Their new favorite game site is SumDog. Sumdog's learning engine adapts its questions to each student's ability helping teachers deliver Common Core State Standards. It is a group of math games that help students learn and practice math concepts. To use the site with ipads, they need ro go through Rover since it has flash animation. I can target the kids activities to concepts we are working on in class. I am also able to gather data on their activities to see which concepts they are struggling with and where they have mastered concepts. they collaborate with each other and strategize how to play the games. They can play against and with each other. Last week we won a city wide contest! I actually had to tell my kids, "stop doing math and go outside to play!"

So yes, they do play games on the iPads, but there is always a learning objective at the heart of the activity.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Show What You know

This week, Katrina Schwartz wrote a great blog piece on the uses of Educreations, and other interactive whiteboard type apps,  in the classroom. She notes that Replay NoteScreenChompShowMeDoodleCast ProKnowmiaExplain Everything and Educreations all offer teachers the ability to record the visual and audio components of a “whiteboard” lesson on their iPads, and share it online. Schwartz is with KQED's MindShift which itself is a great resource for discussions about education trends, but I digress.

Although we have been using Educreations, Explain Everything, ShowMe and ScreenChomp fairly interchangeably over the past year since we got our 1:1 iPads, Educreations really is our "go to" app for this purpose.  In my classroom, students use these tools as a way to demonstrate their learning.  It really has helped them solidify their problem solving process, clarify their thinking and be able to articulate it using academic vocabulary. Last year I had a student who really struggled with math concepts. One day he had an ah-ha moment and declared that he must make a recording to share his discovery of how to solve double digit multiplication with the world!

What I would like to see is an easier way for students to share their work outside of the classroom without having their own account.  Our biggest challenge with almost every app has been the the lack of consistency of process in saving student work, getting it to a place where I can see and assess it and being able to show it to parents.  

So far, all of our used for these apps have been student based.  Students use the apps to share learnings in math, and Science and to develop literacy. Students love being able to use Educreations and other tools to demonstrate their knowledge and share it with their peers.  They are motivated to do their best work on an authentic and meaningful way.