Sunday, September 29, 2013

"May I take your picture?" - iPad Photography in the Classroom

Last week we had another introductory lesson for iPad use with our First Grade students, which focused on taking pictures.  We started by discussing why we might need to take a photo of someone.  Perhaps the student might need an image of a person in the story he is writing.  Maybe she is creating a photo collage to demonstrate something learned.  Teachers want to have photos of students to document what is happening in the classroom.  There are so many reasons why we might need to take a picture at school.  Now with iPads in the classroom, it is ridiculously easy to take multiple photographs.

In the classroom – how do you make sure everyone is ok with the picture?  To demonstrate, the First Graders acted out several scenarios and we created a flow chart on the board. 

1. Ask the other person if you can take their picture.  If they say no – stop.  Go find another person and start over.

How often do teachers just start snapping away in class to document the activity? 

2.  If the other person says yes, take the picture, and then show it to the other person for approval.  If he doesn’t like it, retake the picture until it meets his approval.

I know as a teacher, I am often guilty of not doing this step.  When every child asks, “Can I see the picture?” I am thinking that I have 24 kids to photograph and showing each of them the picture will take time.  In reality, it isn’t too much time to show the picture and retake it if the child requests.  More often than not, children are happy with what they see!

3.  Once the picture is taken and approved, tell the other person what you are planning to do with it.  Then show them!

All of these steps may seem like very strict guidelines, but we are looking at a life lesson here.  If children can learn at this young age that they need to ask to first take then share someone’s image first, maybe then as these students get older, they will think twice before posting an embarrassing picture of their friend.

One of my goals for the year is to constantly be aware of when I am photographing the students in my class and letting them know.  I plan on telling the children that I am going to post the pictures to our class website and then showing it to them.  I was able to put this process in practice immediately as we made a grade wide movie trailer for a school assembly last week.  I had to explain to all 48 first graders what was happening, why we were photographing them and retaking several shots when students weren’t satisfied with the initial results.  It didn’t take as much time as I thought it would, and was a nice reminder to me that this is an important practice to demonstrate as we are asking the students to do the same thing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

iPrep for iPads: Apps To Invite Back

iPad Rollout Day!  4x is super geeked for the introduction of iPads today.  It is the beginning of a journey with this class to collaborate more, create more, and learn more.  There were so many highlights of piloting 1:1 iPads in 4th grade last year.  Some of them were hard earned successes seeded by careful plans, but most of them were unexpected surprises.  What will inspire, excite, and obsess this year's class?  We don't know yet, and so we will try to leave room for everyone to discover something new.

What we do know is that not all apps are equal.  There were some that sparked our students' imaginations and others that fell flat.  Some that provided valuable skill practice and others that weren't worth the free download.  So which apps are being invited back?  Here's our short list:

Creativity Apps: open ended, good for any subject

Book Creator
Drawing Box
Explain Everything
Pic Collage
Strip Design

Productivity Apps: for getting the work done

Google Drive
I-nigma QR code ereader
Inspiration Lite

Exploration Apps: for seeing new things

Google Earth
Star Walk
Solar Walk

Tools and Resources: 


Games and Puzzles

Big Seed
Move the Turtle: Programming for Kids
Math Doodles
Slice It!

There are a few fan favorites that our class doesn't plan to use with students this year: Evernote, Skitch, Notability etc.  Some of these we tried, and for various reasons, they didn't work out.  Some we don't need because we can do something similar with another program that we like better.   On the other hand, a comeback might be just an update or project need away.  Instead of spending a lot of time investigating new apps this year, we want to find more innovative ways to use the apps we have, especially if they are open ended and multifaceted.  (We will take recommendations so if you think there is an app we should consider, let us know.)

There was one app designer that really caught our attention last year. Esa Helttula of idevbooks makes a mean math program.  The clean design and flexible settings allowed our students to practice important arithmetic skills at their own pace in a way that emphasized how and why various algorithms work. We'll be adding several of those (multiplication, long division, partial quotients) as we teach the concepts.

Additionally, backchanneling at conferences has encouraged me to try websites like TodaysMeet or Poll Everywhere or Padlet with students.  We are also looking forward to developing a better relationship with our AppleTV, which was not playing nice last year.

What else do we know for sure? There is no shortage of well thought out tools for the classroom. By choosing carefully and limiting the scope, we can focus on helping our 4th graders develop and express their ideas.

iPads in the First Grade Classroom: Start of Year 2

We are starting Week 4 of school and already I can see a difference in the way we are integrating iPads into our classroom.  A main change I can see is that we are rolling things out slowly.  Last year, using iPads in the classroom was such a new idea, I felt that I had to just jump in and try things.  Many times, we had to scramble to figure out where to go next, or we completely failed in our attempts to use iPads in certain areas.  I spent countless hours thinking about and planning how to possibly use the iPad in the classroom only to realize that it wasn't the right place for this tool when actually working with first graders. All that said, I feel that was the right way for me to try to integrate this new tool into the curriculum.  It gave me a good idea of where it could fit and where it could be left on the shelf.

This year, we have learned to roll this tool out with purpose and not just jump in.  We started with a review of the device itself.  What do the various buttons do? Where is the volume? How do you turn the device on and off? How do you know how much battery power is left? When do you need to tell a teacher your device needs to be charged? How do you take a picture? Where is the front camera? Where is the back camera?  It was a great review for the students and teachers alike.  And the big idea that this device was to be used differently in school - it's not your mother's iPad!  

Since it is still the beginning of school, another routine practiced over and over again was "belly buttons down" - a favorite of mine.  This is the signal that all students must stop working, turn their iPad over, and listen to whatever message needs to be delivered.  We practiced this signal many times, the message always being that you can always return to your work, but you need to listen now.

Our grade level team has started discussing where we can go with this tool.  How do we want students to use it in the classroom? Are there certain skills or experiences we want all kids to have before the end of first grade?  We haven't come to any conclusions yet, but are thinking and talking about it.  I am excited for another new year of growth! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

iPrep for iPads: The Game Plan (and Blogging!)

With a great deal of deliberation, 4x has not launched the iPads yet. We will this week – the fourth week of school.  It is the halfway point in the first six weeks – a critical time for routine setting and generally getting to know one’s students.  We waited for a few reasons.  One, a guiding philosophy is that the iPad is a tool and one tool of many that students are equipped with.  It can be perfect or wrong depending on the task, and our students need to now when to use it and when to put it down. Two, we don’t want the iPads (or any particular technology) to be the center of our classroom or our curriculum so we have been doing other stuff with books and color pencils and paper and glue and scissors and poster board.  The pedagogy is leading, and the iPads will literally follow.

When we do launch the iPads on Monday, we are going in with a game plan.  Our tech integration and rollout plan will include “just in time” digital citizenship lessons taught by our Technology and Idea Coordinator, guided discoveries of apps, introductions to supplementary accounts with GoogleDrive and Haiku, email etiquette and protocols, and the piloting of student blogs via KidBlog.

I've selected a few guiding principles or "professional development mantras" to help me stay focused throughout the year, and I look forward to conversing with colleagues about what motivates and guides them.

           We will focus on introducing open ended, creativity apps through meaningful curricular tasks and assignments. When exploring apps, we give minimal instruction.  There is usually a list of things to find or include; part of the learning process is figuring out exactly how to do so.  They teach themselves, each other, and often their teachers! Once the children know enough about these apps, the goal becomes enabling them to choose how to demonstrate what they are learning.  We want them to select the digital or non-digital method/format that is right for them.  We want students to think: 

  • How can I best communicate what is in my head? 
  • What project can I manage effectively and efficiently?  
  • "What can I do well?"  
  • "What risk could I take?"

I am most excited about our KidBlog pilot where students will curate their best work and reflect on their learning. Creating digital portfolios is an important next step - the absence of which left last year's program feeling incomplete. We have heard many good things about this platform, and I am hopeful it will help us achieve our goals. We are currently in the process of developing curriculum on publishing and commenting. Some inspiring work comes from:

If you have blogged with students (especially elementary school students) and have some advice, we would love to hear from you!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

iPrep for iPads: Mobile Learning Experience 2013

I just got back from Tucson, Arizona where Jenni Voorhees and I attended the 2013 Mobile Learning Experience hosted by Tony Vincent and the Arizona K-12 center.  I thought I was crazy to sign up for a conference taking place the third week of school, but the reality is I have a great co-teacher and an experienced sub to rely on.  It was a terrifically run conference at a fabulous location and well worth the trouble. Moreover, as we prepare to launch the second year of our 1:1 iPad program, the chance to connect with other educators offered inspiration and new ideas, which will ultimately benefit our students.  

In addition to attending the conference, I was selected to present on last year’s 1:1 program, as well as a cornerstone of our professional development program, the PD mantra. Here is a copy of the Prezi for "How iPads Revolutionized our 1:1: Program":

Presenting is such a reflective experience.  Sharing our successes and failures, surprises and challenges, as well as the work of our students, is an honor and a pleasure. It gives me time to pause and question and hope and plan for this year. 

Mobile 2013 reminded me of a few things I do not want to forget:  We are a student centered, student powered classroom.  It is not what they know, but what they can do, make, and create.  Teachers are not to be the “sage on the stage” or the “guide on the side”.  Be the “mentor in the center” who is active, alert, and ready to respond to the many teachable moments that will arise.  Asking good questions is a teacher trait that will never go out of style.  Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised.  True humor is deep, thoughtful, and requires critical thinking. Children (and adults!) need to play.  Everyone in the room should experience the joy that is learning.  

These are wise lessons offered by wise educators who believe that technology is a fundamental part of learning experiences today.  Teachers must be creative, nimble, responsive, and flexible.  We don’t need to chase fads, but the world is a-changing, and we are currently in possession of the ones who will create tomorrow.  We have to be on top of our game, or they will resent us for holding them back.

A great experience in Tucson was meeting Ben Loker, owner of Arizona Star Tours.  He told us that when he was about 10 years old he discovered he loved the moon and the stars and began a lifelong journey to study astronomy and keep an eye on the sky.   He started out by getting broken telescopes and fixing them.  The shop owners who supplied him with what he needed eventually gave him a job.  He worked for a star tour company and ultimately bought them out.  Now he owns his own business bringing the highest quality portable telescopes to your conference or wedding and teaching you to see what he sees.  He spends hundreds of hours doing exactly what he loves and shares that love with others.  I left that conversation wondering, how can I better support in my students in finding and  pursuing the things they love?  How can we employ the iPads and technology to foster passion? How will I take what I've learned here and turn it into actual enacted curriculum?

I owe it to my students to keep trying new things and figure it out.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guided Discovery #1: Not Your Mother’s iPad

This year we are rolling out 1-to 2 iPads in K and 1, and 1-to-1 iPads in grades 2, 3, and 4. In each class I have the opportunity, during the critical first six weeks of school, to create expectations for how the iPads are seen and treated by kids. With two years of iPads to reflect on, my goal is to give the students full credit for what they already know about iPads, while making sure that the difference between a school iPad and a home iPad is established.

Not Your Mother’s iPad

In our first session, we talked about how this iPad is a classroom tool with apps that will help them create and share work for their classes. It’s not the iPad your mom hands you when the food is late at the restaurant, or you’re bored in the backseat. While your mom’s iPad might have games on it, and she might let you do whatever you like, the school iPad has apps carefully chosen by your teachers and you will use them for projects in school.

Encouraging Students to Discover and Share

Next, I drew an outline of an iPad, with our iBallz “case” and asked them to help me fill in the blanks. I decided to do this intro “old school” - on an old-fashioned white board or chart paper. This way our work could stay around for students to look at for a while. I asked students to tell me what was missing from the picture. As they came up and added things, we named them, and talked about what they did. An example is the “home” button, that has many jobs and many names. I left it up to the class to decide what to call it, although my personal favorite is “belly button”. After a few important additions were made to the drawing, I invited the students to take their iPads and spend three minutes exploring them without opening any apps. They were charged with finding three things to share they thought others might not know.

The exploration time helped students who were not as familiar with the iPad share discoveries and feel empowered by them. Depending on the group, we learned gestures, how to manage open apps, and how to use the search feature. When we added the battery symbol and % we were able to mention that when the battery is at 20% students should ask the teacher to charge their iPad at the end of the day. Many small details like that came out in this discussion that should help everyone feel more confident later.

The final drawing looked something like this:

After this, we guided students through using the camera app to take a photo of themselves with the front camera and set it as their lockscreen. Although the student’s name is on the back of the iPad, it is helpful to be able to press the home button and see the owner’s face as well.

Last but not least, we practiced putting the iPads away properly and making it clear that each of them is responsible for doing this well. The second session is about photos and how we establish class norms for photo-taking that everyone is comfortable with.