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.