Saturday, April 5, 2014

What have iPads done to my room?!...Come Take A Look

My classroom has had 1:1 iPads since December of 2012.  The iPads have brought a dramatic change to the way I teach my students and the way my students learn.  When I tell community members, teachers, district administration, college professors, board members, etc. that I have 1:1 iPads in my classroom, I often get a smile and a "wow, that's really nice" but in my mind I'm shouting "YOU have NO idea!"  When I start to explain some of the things my students are doing in my room with the iPads, blank stares or fake smiles appear on most faces because they just don't understand what the iPads are doing for education.  I then invite them to come into my classroom and observe, but NO ONE comes.

iPads in my classroom are raising some eyebrows.  I've been questioned on how I'm teaching and if my students are learning, concerns that the time on the iPad takes away from peer interactions, questions about how I grade all of my students' work and if I'm teaching all of the curriculum, and now budget cuts preventing the possibility of more iPads in other classrooms.  Which send me the message that you really don't care what's going on in my classroom.

My response....come spend some time in my classroom and you will see how our classroom works. Your doubts will be erased and you'll have the desire to change teachers' pedagogy like I do and want to create learners that are exploring and creating not sitting at their desks listening to a teacher lecture and filling out worksheets.

Jenna's PicCollage about Vitamin C
In my classroom, my students are collaborating together on projects, proudly sharing their creativity, asking thought provoking questions, celebrating classmates successes, and mending disappointments.  I spent some time this week just watching my class.  My students were having conversations with each other and as I took the time to listen, those conversations were revolving around students' work. Through these conversations, my students are learning!

These are some of the things I observed:

Students laughing with each other about funny images in the collages they created with the PicCollage App and discussing why they chose to use those particular images to represent their learning in Health.

Students solving Stick Around puzzles their classmates created to help them review their reading story for the week, spelling words, or math skills.

Students complimenting another student on the iMovie she created about our Mystery Hangout and asking her how they can add those special effect to their iMovies.
Madison's iMovie                                  Haylee's iMovie

Students debating and discussing which objects would be measured with which unit of measurement and why.

Alex showing what his mind is thinking in math
Students sharing about the chapter book they have been reading and what images they are going to add to their iMovie to help describe their book.

Students discussing which teams are winning in the NCAA basketball tournament and who they are going to write about in their next blog post.

Students creating math projects together that explain their thinking and show understanding of how problems are solved.

Reviewing spelling sentences together

A student asking another student to review his spelling sentences for the week to make sure the words are spelled correctly.

These are just a few of the conversations that are happening in my classroom on a daily basis.  These conversations are evidence of my students learning, creating, and building relationships.

So yes, the iPads have changed my classroom.
My students are learning by discovering, not by having me stand at the front of the room and lecture. My classroom is student focused not teacher focused.  My students are working together, collaborating and building strong peer relationships.  I'm not stuck at my desk grading piles of papers. I'm walking around talking with my students and having them share their creations with me.  Through those conversations I'm able to assess their learning.  The learning in my classroom is completely different from the school we have all known, but this change is a good thing.

So, if by chance you are a millionaire, or a superintendent, or work for congress, or a school board member, or a community member, or any other interested stakeholder, please (I'm begging) come take the time to visit my classroom and see how much iPads can change a classroom!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sticking to Stick Around

After hearing so many positive things about the app Stick Around from a variety of educators, I was ecstatic when the approval came through to purchase the app for my students.  In the last few weeks, Stick Around has added a new dynamic of learning in my classroom.  Stick Around is an app that allows the user to create puzzles that are solved by matching the appropriate sticker with the problem.  I started using this app by created puzzles for my students to solve.  I have created puzzles that require students to sort spelling words based on patterns, puzzles that require them to solve a variety of math problems, puzzles that sort rocks and minerals, and puzzles that sequence parts of a story.  The students enjoy solving the problems and I love the immediate feedback they receive from the puzzle.
Puzzle I created for my 4th graders to review for math

The other piece of Stick Around that I love is the fact that my students are able to create their own puzzles.  Many of my math assignments have involved having my students create their own puzzles.  They then share these puzzles in a Google Drive folder that is shared with their classmates.  This allows them to solve each other's puzzles as they are completed.  My students have taken greater pride in their work knowing their puzzles are going to be played by their classmates.  I have observed them double checking their work and taking the time to add an extra "challenge" to their puzzle.  The ease of sharing these puzzles and enjoyment the students have in solving and creating them is priceless.

Stick Around has become one of the staple apps I use in my classroom.  I strongly recommend that you take the time to consider this app for your classroom.  It offers immediate feedback to my students as well as numerous tools that allow students to demonstrate their learning through pictures, drawings, voice recordings, and words.

As an added bonus to this app, my students were given the opportunity to do a Google Hangout with the creator of the app Tony Vincent.  Thank you to my colleague, Brent Catlett, for getting this set up for my classroom as well as several others in our district.

It was a wonderful opportunity for my students and they learned so many new things from Mr. Vincent about the app such has how to duplicate shapes, delete stickers and new updates that will be coming soon.  Connecting my students with Tony Vincent gets them excited about what the future holds for them.  They are starting to realize that creating apps could be part of their future. I feel that this experience brings the world into my classroom and I love it!  My students were excited about meeting with Mr. Vincent and wrote wonderful blogs about the experience.  Feel free to read a few.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Finding something new from my PLN

I've been working with 1:1 iPads in my classroom since the middle of last year.  I've been amazed by the opportunities the iPads have brought to my classroom.  The environment and learning in my classroom has completely changed, which I love.  If I were to ramble off a list of the things my students have done, the list is actually quite long, but that doesn't seem to be enough for me.  I hadn't brought anything new to the table lately, so I wasn't satisfied.  I think this is the mindset of any quality teacher no mater if they have iPads or not.  

I was going to dedicate this post to a new app I've been working with in my classroom but I'm thinking that will have to be for another time. Because, whenever I start to feel in a "slump," I spend a short amount of time connecting with my PLN on my twitter feed, and my inspiration is ignited.   

I want to share with you what inspired me in the last 20 minutes:

By following #4thchat, I have Science flowing through my brain and thinking about developing a STEM project my students could work on.  There were also some ideas on teaching punctuation and developing math journals for students.

@JenBadura shared a post about The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar.  After reading this, I found even more value in my students' blogging so I'm geared up to continue to push my students to blog.  

@lindaYollis shared the idea of students commenting on blog as if they were specific presidents.  I LOVE IT! What a great way for students to focus on the voice of their writing.

@teachkiwi shared an excellent video to explain SAMR and how classrooms should be changing.

@jdeinhammer is working with high school students to create an iTunesU course for 3-5th graders about A Healthy Body and the Immune System.  This relates directly to my Health curriculum so I can't wait to show it to my students!

@catlett1 shared a post about how his PLN has made him a better educator (possibly the inspiration for this post)

@annfeldmann1 shared a post from @shannonmiller on 18 Apps that Support Creative Process.  These are tools I could definitely use in my classroom.

@pernilleripp wrote a wonderful post titled "I am a reader."  It made me want to drop everything and read.  Something I love to do, but don't do enough of.

I ended my evening by adding a few comments to blogs posted on #comments4kids.  By doing this, I not only helped a fellow teacher and students, but I learned about gray water, the Chinese New Year, and refreshed my memory on the book The Giver.  It's a gift that keeps giving!

So I guess you could say my "slump" is over thanks to my PLN.  Now my new problem do I fit it all in :)  I am always so grateful that my colleague Brent Catlett (@catlett1) introduced me to the world of Twitter.  I'm not quite sure where my classroom would be without it.  So my suggestion, build your PLN.  Spend some time using your PLN to get ideas and share your ideas back.  Keep yourself out of the "slump."  The world of education is changing and in order to stay a head of this fast moving train, you need to be an active part of your PLN. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pop Quiz using Doceri....SUCCESS!

This week my students are preparing for their test on adding and subtracting fractions.  I feel like fractions are consuming their brains!  We have discussed a variety of strategies to find a common denominator and I have realized that each student has a method they prefer.  Students love having choices and I enjoy giving them choices.  However, I still needed to know they are confident in the skill.

Today, after reviewing all of the different strategies, I gave my students a pop quiz with 5 different problems.  They were required to do the quiz on Doceri and record themselves solving the problems.  While students were doing this, they were explaining their thinking.

As I was walking around the room, I noticed students catching their mistakes and changing their answers, students asking others about problems they encountered, and students gleaming with success when they completed all of the problems successfully.  The students' work was checked by one of their peers who listened to the videos and evaluated their thinking.  During this time, I heard students reminding other students to simplify their fractions or to subtract instead of add.  My students then added these new videos to their digital math portfolios.

I love the math conversations that are happening in my classroom because of the iPads.  My students are becoming more confident in their math skills and they are explaining their learning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

gClassFolders....Where have you been all of my life?!

A few days ago, my colleague, Ann Feldmann shared on our community a gClassFolder Tutorial created by @mickie_mueller.  I was anxious to watch the video, but a little hesitant on what I was going to discover.  Google Drive with my students has always been a love, hate relationship.  The organization piece has always been a struggle.  I had no idea that by watching this tutorial I was going to hit the JACKPOT!
I currently work in a GAFE district and have 1:1 iPads in my classroom.  My students are continually creating and sharing their learning through a variety of apps.  They then take these creations and save them to their Drive.  I love the accessibility Drive gives them especially the fact that they can open their Drive at school or at home.  Their learning is always at their fingertips because of Google Drive.
In a perfect world, my students would be able to manage their Drive without any difficulty; but this isn't a perfect world, and my students aren't quite there yet.  One of the bumps in the road I often face is helping my students organize their Drive so they can share their work in a seemingly flawless way.  It seems like every few month,s I have to go through the headache of taking my students into the computer lab and helping them re-organize, re-label, and re-share a variety of folders and docs in their Drive.
The headache usually starts to form when I have 19 different 4th graders asking how to spell something or what button to push or claiming they accidentally deleted something or that they forgot my email address.  At this point I begin to ask myself if my somewhat paperless classroom is worth it.  But then we head back into the classroom with our organized Drives and the workflow on the iPads are flawless. So I think to myself, if only there was a way for me organize their Drives with a few clicks.
Well, my "if only" has been answered!  gClassFolders literally made my jaw drop when I realized what it would do for my students and I.  Seriously, where has this been all of my GAFE life.  Within 10 minutes I had folders created for every subject that included shared with me, edit and view.  All of the folder were organized in my Drive according to subject and on a spreadsheet that had a link for each student's individual folder.  And the best parts, (keep in mind I am a 4th grade teacher) everything is spelled correctly and put in alphabetical order!  So yes, my nerdy, organization freak self has been having a day of celebration.  For those of you who already know about gClassFolders, share the love of knowledge with others.  For those organization crazies like myself, gClassFolders might just be your new best friend.  Thanks Ann for sharing!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Geldes Math Academy

  Today my students and I took on the challenge of ordering fractions with unlike denominators.  This entire week the students have been working with fractions and determining their common factors and multiples.  Today the students did an activity with the iPads that allowed them to move around the room and talk about their learning.

  I started the activity by putting the students in groups of 3.  Within that group, the students worked together to create 3 fractions that had different denominators.  The group then took their fractions to another group.  That group in turn discussed what the common denominator would be and told the group members what they needed to do to their fractions to create fractions with common denominators.
  As I was moving around the room, I was amazed by the math conversations I heard happening.  My students were helping their classmates solve various problems and explaining their thinking. Once the students were able to show confidence in the topic, they created an Explain Everything video to add to their math notebook on the iPad.

 I love the accessibly the students have with the iPads. The videos they have created for math have been a valuable tool for them to refer back to whenever they need a reminder on how to do a particular task in math. Their learning is always at their fingertips and the learning is something they have created. One of my students said, "We should call our math folders Geldes Academy because we make videos just like Khan."  I like the idea, Geldes Math Academy.  It has a nice ring to it, and it is an amazing showcase of my students' learning.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Building Their Toolbelts

As the second part of the school year begins, I'm feeling refreshed and energized.  As a teacher, obviously I love my breaks (don't we all) and it was a little rough to come back and wake up early.  However, the energy that my students brought back after break has been contagious.  Their confidence and familiarity with the iPads and the apps has inspired them to learn more.  I've caught myself giving my classroom a 2nd look these last few weeks.  After a semester of hard work of teaching and working on the iPads, my classroom feels like a little steam engine that is chugging along smoothly.  I can finally breathe!
This past week, I have been able to tell my students, you need to create a project that shows your understanding of the reading vocabulary we are learning, immediately after I gave them this assignment, students started asking about using a variety of apps to show their learning.  I loved the fact that they were so familiar with so many of the apps that they were willing to use.  I now have projects flowing in from all of my students that are filled with app smashing.  They are using Keynote, Explain Everything, Comic Life, Tellagami, and many others.   The beauty of this is that they are doing this by themselves!
So my advice for those of you with 1:1 iPads.  Be patient, work diligently with the students on a variety of apps.  Fill up their tool belts, then let them build. Eventually your work pays off and your students become creators that revolutionize their way of learning.