Friday, December 24, 2010

Technology in the Classroom Research

I have to admit to feeling a little defensive when teachers refuse to use new technology in their classroom.  Obviously I love new gadgets and tools and yes, the fun toys that technology brings.  But I also love the enthusiasm and risk-taking children demonstrate when using technology.  I also worry that maybe, in 10 years we will have research that proves that the use of technology has harmed our children.  
So, occasionally I browse the internet and other media sources for any research or reports about technology and children.  Here are some of the findings (of course any teacher/student should know to take "research" with a grain of salt and consider the methods and who is reporting the information) I have heard as well as my own observations.  Some of the info and links to the sites are below.
Opinion: Students who use technology are more engaged; prepared for future employment; take risks and are more confident.

Article from net:
"...Reverting once again to the confidence arena, it is imperative that educators understand why technology can be such a positive tool overall. Surveyed students not only said they used computers regularly; they also believed that computers were beneficial to their writing.
They reported that a computer made it easier for them to correct mistakes (89%), allowed them to present ideas more clearly (76%), and that computers allowed them to be more creative, concentrate more and even encouraged them to write more often (60%). In contrast, two of the most common reasons why youngsters indicated they were not good writers involved an inability to write neatly (23%) or not being very good at spelling (21%).
Simply stated, technology gave these youngsters greater confidence. Combine that with the ever-present desire of students to use technology and we have a clear indication as to why teachers would do well to incorporate social media and blogging opportunities into their basic literacy programs."

"The data indicates that young children are entering early childhood settings with dispositions that may not have been part of their repertoire of skills in past decades. As such, there would seem to be an imperative for early childhood educators to be cognisant of this and to develop new learning experiences for young children. As noted in the earlier sections of this paper, this may require considerable input in terms of resources––computer and human. As noted by Downes et al. (2001), the provision of professional development for the uptake of computing technologies will represent a challenge. In part, the fragmented structure of the early childhood sector means that a concerted reform will be quite difficult to implement. Funding such reforms is equally difficult because of the wide range of providers and funding bodies. However, if early childhood educators are to cater for these digital natives, digital experiences need to become part of the everyday practice of centres. Just as the home corner and block corners are an important aspect of the early childhood setting, so too the digital corner may need to be built into the practices. The injection of capital funds into provision of computers with contemporary capacity and programs may need to be built into future planning and budgets."

Some reports I came across (I will read and summarize another time.)

lastly; here is a link to a report from Canby School District which includes data graphs that compare classes that uses 1:1 models versus traditional.  WOW!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Using iPads during reading groups

Here is a link to the video that doesn't work above, of one of my munchkins (there are 6 in my group) during reading groups. Two other groups of six are in the classroom and one is out of the room at this time. He is using two apps (so are the other kids in the group at the same time): pocketphonics and makeaword.

Teaching Tools: Word Families

As promised my first installment of how to use apps to teach the same things, but in better or easier ways*.  Keep in mind, I teach K so these apps are best for primary grades, and these are just my opinions.  I paid to download these apps or I am using the free version! :)

A common way to increase reading fluency is to practice reading word families (WF).  I have done this by using WF sliders (such as a picture of a boat with ___oat and a piece of paper that slides to reveal beginning sounds b,bl,c,g,gl,m), flip books, posters, etc.

Apps that practice the same skills and meet the goals* for teaching tools:
Word Families by 24X7digital LLC (free version has 10 WF -ab,-ack,-ad,-ag,-ail,-ain,-ake,-ale,-all,-est and ads and the paid version, currently $.99, has over 40)  This is your basic WF practice (I haven't bought the paid version yet but I probably will break down soon) and I would consider it an improvement over flipbooks.  I hate making flip books, they take a lot of time, paper and then you have to store them and be able to find the one you want.  Plus flip books don't read the word to the student.

Again, I have the free version.  It has a wheel with the word families on it, and an i (info about WF and other apps, family (takes you to the wheel), next word (will display a word, such as chest), and say word button (pronounces chest).  you select one such as -est and then  either next word or say word.  The words for -est are chest, contest, crest, forest, jest, nest, pest, quest, rest, test,vest, west, best.  Simple but effective.  I haven't used this in the class yet.  I will update this post if there are any tips/problems after I use it with them.

Make a Word by iphoneapp4fun (I believe it cost $.99)  This is one of my current "dock apps" so I hope you understand I like it and think it a good use of precious learning time.  It has WF practice for -an,-at,-en,-et,-ip,-ig,ot,-og,-ug,-ink.  The main screen is simple- with each of the 10 WF's having a button to select it with, there are no settings to change. When selected it says "Make a word with /i//p/ ip (highlights the letters as it sounds out then blends)  to match the picture.  Rip."  the screen shows a page with a rip, the letters _ip at the bottom and four letter choices on the left, s,z,r,d.  You pull down a letter next to ip and if it's the wrong one the letter is put back and you hear "oops."  the correct letter results in the word sounded out as /r/ /ip/ /rip/, again with the letters highlighted as they are read,  and then you are given sip, dip, zip pictures and then "allright, you know: rip, sip dip, zip" shown in a list along with pictures as they are read to you.  You can touch the word, picture or WF on this page to hear it read while highlighted.  Then the student is given the choice to replay or go to menu.

Why do I think this app is better than the WF sliders, flipbooks, posters....  the illustration, the spoken word, the blending of the word with visual support.  the opportunity for practice that doesn't involve me (no copies, cutting, laminating or time).
Plus, the kids think it's a game.  They never think the flipbooks are a game.  I have used this in class, as a center activity kids can choose off the dock and as a small group "transition activity" while I got something ready for the group.  The iPad works great to fill a few minutes while I answer the phone, deal with an issue, etc when a group of kids are waiting on me. I have the ipads there anyhow, and just say "choose a dock activity" and run off to do what I need to do and know that my kids aren't wasting our precious time.

Here's a new (to me) app...
Short Word Maker 1.0 by Kevin Neelands (free).
has 3 letters on top of screen and definition of the word below.  At the bottom of the page are two buttons, next word and random.  You can tap one of the letters and it will scroll to the next letter that will make a word, or next word and it will make a new word by changing one letter, or random for all letters to change.   I like the definitions.  I would rate this app higher if the words and definitions could have audio attached.

to use for word families; the screen shows let- give permission.  touch the l and it changes to m- met- to come face to face with.  keep going and you have- net, pet, set, vet, wet, yet, bet, get, jet and their definitions.  I like that it demonstrates how to flip through the letters to make a new word (it scrolls past letters quickly that would make a nonsense word.)  I would actually like it to have the option to show nonsense words- maybe with a ? symbol.  This app also lets you change the middle vowel and ending consonant too.

I would have kids use this as a making words alternative. It could be done in a small group or with me displaying on the board to a whole group for quick blending practice.  I like the definitions too.   I haven't used this in the class yet.  I will update this post if there are any tips/problems after I use it with them.

*Teaching tools should improve traditional learning activities by:
1.)  saving time.
2.)  allow for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.
3.)  motivating reluctant learners.
4.)  make learning fun.

Learning tool or toy?

Are iPads a toy or a tool?

My answer; both.  It depends entirely on how you use them.  My goal is to use them in ways that improve traditional learning activities by:
1.)  saving time.
2.)  allow for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.
3.)  motivating reluctant learners.
4.)  make learning fun.

So, I plan to blog on here about specific apps and how they can replace something you already do AND meet the above goals.  I may come up with something catchier, but for now I'll plan on calling them Teaching Tools.  for example, the next post will be Teaching Tools:  Word Families

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dollar Store Deals... on itunes- or how to find good cheap apps

I am a little addicted to shopping for apps on the app store.  One of the reasons I have started this blog is so I can easily share my favorite apps.  Sort of like when you call your best friend to say "hey, when I was at the __ store today they had a sale on that __ you wanted."  This weekend I went to the dollar store to browse for teaching tools and toys/puzzles for my kids.  I kept finding myself debating over the $1 puzzle, workbook, toy, teaching posters.  For the first time I left empty handed- because I realized that the same $1 could buy me an awesome app that wouldn't break, be recalled or lose a piece.  The app store is the ultimate teacher's store.

Well, shopping the app store can be time consuming and frustrating.  There are also some apps that are duds, or just not as good as others.  New apps are added all the time too and while I think the app store is easy to use it's also has a pretty poor organizational system.  It can take a lot of time to slog through the apps in other languages, topics you don't care about to find your new favorite. There are so many great apps that pop up every few days it could become an obsession to look for them.  Oh, wait... maybe it has already become one for me.  Maybe I need to join AppsAnonymous.

Anyhow, how do you find good apps?  First, check out my earlier blogs.  I have a list of some of my favorites.  I will update as I go.  Some are free, some are not; some are better than others.

Then, check the app store; you can sort by release date (my preference), most popular and name.  I tend to focus on the "education category" and check through it every few days for new apps.  Secondly, check out the "top charts" (be sure to click on the more button after the first 10 free/paid apps on the list.  Third, activate and browse through your "Genius" recommendations.  Many are ones I ignore, but it has also helped me find some really great apps. Also, sign up for a "free app a day" app and check it as close to daily as you can.  They have several apps that usually cost you, but that are free! for that day only. Mostly games, but I have lucked out with a few good apps I wanted but didn't want to pay for. Lastly, when you look at an app's description for more info/read reviews (ALWAYS read the full description and reviews if you are thinking about buying an app) look on the left side of the description; this shows you other apps by the same developer.  Sometimes their other apps are better or might fit your need best.

Suggestion: always check for a free version before you pay.  Or, at least look critically at the reviews and screen shots.  Some apps are not worth $ while other free apps are amazing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Managing applications; OR, how to keep kids on task when using the iPad.

I love the folders that were available with the Nov. 2010 update. To make a folder all you have to do is drag one apps picture onto another. You can rename the folder as needed. I have put the apps that are focused on abc's together and named it abc's of course. I also I have math, +math, words and +words to help kids find the apps that they will be successful with. The words apps work on sounding out words or writing them. The +words apps work on more complicated spellings.  The math folder has simpler counting apps while the +math has addition, subtraction and money apps.

I also have a game folder; the students can only chose to use games during choice time. If they use a game during learning time they lose iPads for the week. I've only had one child test that so far and he was not happy when I enforced the consequence. He hasn't done that again either.  Having games has been a huge motivator for the students; if they have lost any playtime minutes (my management system- after a warning about a behavior if they continue they lose 5 minutes of playtime) they don't get a turn on the iPad that day.  The kids who were continually losing playtime have shown a marked improvement since we got the iPads.  They do not want to risk losing the chance to use the iPad.

Even with the folders I specify which apps can be used during "learning" or "center" time. While there are many good apps I want to be sure that the kids are working on specific skills during our work time.  The dock (the gray bar that stays on the bottom of the screen) holds six apps that will be visible when the home button is pushed.  I put the "best" of my educational apps here- the ones I currently have on the dock:
Literacy:  pocket phonics, iwritewords, makeaword, montessori crosswords
Math: Park Math, 123 tracer

The other apps I may ask kids to use frequently are not in folders, instead they are on the "homepage".  For example, I have StoryBuddy, Montessori Numbers, MathAliens abcLetters, dtdnumwiz, Teach Me Kindergarten, iplay&sing, ABC Magnetic Land HD, and several book apps: Seuss ABC, Pop Out Peter Rabbit, Meegenius, and xmas tale.

The best feature of the iPad is it's ease of use for little guys.  The home button quickly takes them back to all the choices on the dock or homepage.  The apps start up quickly as well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

All I want for Christmas is 18 more iPads.

Yes, greedy I know but I only have 7.  And there are 24 kids in my class.  And it's way cooler than an apple shaped magnet.

Favorite iPad Apps

I think that many of the skills some of the apps address could be done in class with pen and paper (the dot to dots, math facts, spelling practice) but when done on the ipad it saves copy time, paper and more importantly the kids get instant feedback.

Apps I recommend:
* app is free or has a lite version

Multiple subjects
Teach me kindergarten, (also teach me toddler and first grade)  only $.99 cents each
*ABC letters (mathaliens- also has shapes numbers)
*iplay and sing
ABC magnetic land
*Feed Me!
*Puppet Pals
Drawing Pad

For literacy/writing
*iwritewords (there is also a spanish version)
make a word
*Montessori Words
*Time Reading
*tales2go (free for a limited time, definitely a great app!)
starfall ABC's
*magnetic ABCs
ABC magic
*ABC tris
*word magic
*abc phonics
*alphabet tracing
*play and learn

*RF Alphabet
*sightwords free

*A-Z books (like the leveled readers website) has one free book levels aa-j
*Toy Story
*the grouches
*Dictionary (curious george)
*Read Me Stories
*big secret
*Storychimes (multiple stories)
Pop Out Peter Rabbit
Dr.Seuss ABC
Xmas Tale
*going places
*TTiptoes (tale of timmy tiptoes by b. potter)
*what's that you're eating?
*iReading HD17
There are also several Dr. Seuss and Miss Spider's lite versions available.

Park Math
counting (great for counting to 20 practice)
*Freddy Fraction
*Numbers (montessori)
*Make shapes
*animals count
*sticker shop (money)
*Lets do math
*Math ninja (the kids LOVE this)
*times tables
*lets tans
*undersea math
*math circus
*mathboard addition
*fraction reducer

Puzzles (my daughter loves these)

*Animal match
*audio note
*dragon dictation
*live notes
*going places
*Free App a Day- 

Science/Social Studies
*USA Free
*speed geo lite
*Wacky Safari free
*stack the states

*pocket frogs
*mx mayhem
*talking roby
*cut the rope
*trace (super dorky illustrations but I love this!)
*game room

Thursday, December 16, 2010

iPad, uPad, all kids should have iPads!

Apparently Stanford is doing it. So we are doing it. The 9th and 10th grade students were issued iPads this year. The school board has iPads instead of printed agenda's and policy books. "iPads for All" is the goal for our school apparently. And I am on board.

Totally. Irrevocably. Kindergarten needs iPads. I sent an e-mail during the presentation about how high-school would be using iPads to district teachers at the September inservice. "I am VERY interested in using the iPads in my classroom. I think the touch screens would be ideal for my students. Already, I use computers with my students almost every day. I know budget is what the budget is, but I wanted to let you know that if/when it's possible to get a few for my class it'd be very welcomed by me."

I had never held one or seen one other than in a commercial before, but I knew my kids needed them. After some begging, pleading, and more begging our elementary was given 10 to share. The other 5 teachers agreed to let me have 5 and borrow one other, since no one else had requested to get them or had a clue how they'd use them.

I took one home over the weekend and started using it in class on Monday. I handed it to a child who was unable to sit through an assembly to use while he waited for the rest of the class. I gave him no instructions other than to touch the screen and use the home button to switch to another activity. And he was off.

My two year old LOVES the iPad. She speeds between "apps" (mini games, activities, programs that are downloaded from itunes). She sings and counts along. She traces shapes, numbers, letters. She puts together puzzles and talks to "Tom Cat" aka "Talking Tom." Trust me, I have bought all the Leapfrog toys, mini laptops, DSi's, xbox's, mp3 players, computers, and miscellaneous gadgets aimed towards little kids. I really think technology like the iPad will revolutionize the way kids learn.

The future is now.

Can you hear me now? Now? NOW?

I love the commercial. Really, I do. Because the tag line runs through my head about a thousand times a day. With 24 kiddo's (one of mine moved away- you will be missed, beautiful sister!) and by the way- 19 of them are boys- I am always wondering if anyone can hear me. Seriously, is there a black hole swallowing my instructions between me and the yellow table?

So when my hubby asked me if I wanted to demo a voice magnification system I said YES!!!

Here's the spiel I got from the representative:

Teaching without audio enhancement would be like teaching with only the front lights on in the classroom. The teacher can see and teach, but the students in the back of the room are in the dark and can’t see what they are doing.

At any given time, 3 out of 7 students have some kind of hearing impairment. Whether it is permanent hearing loss or just plugged ears from a cold; almost half the class can not hear clearly what the teacher is saying. With proper audio enhancement every student in the class hears everything the teacher says without the teacher having to stress their voice or repeat directions.
What if you could cut the number of voice related sick days in HALF! Only 14% of teachers that use a FrontRow system take voice related sick days compared to 34% that do not use audio enhancement.
The new FrontRow Lasso system offers a complete package that provides even audio dispersion in the classroom so every student hears every word.

The setup- not too hard or obvious if it was going to be a permanent placement in the room, but since we are just testing it out we made do with a few awkward placements around the room. There is a green box, two wide speakers and two collared microphones. (I think they look like a dog's shock collar a little). The first time it was spoken through (in the middle of free choice time- think LOUD), although the representative spoke softly about half the children from all over the room looked up. I knew I was going to love using it. I do, so far at least.
I feel a little ridiculous wearing the "NeckMike" as my kids are calling it. It is comfortable and I can imagine forgetting it's there after awhile (I was assured that unlike some systems, if you wear it into the bathroom it will stop transmitting.) Some of my kids tested it today- I went out for recess and several stayed behind in the class. They admitted to waiting to see if they can still hear me talking from outside. Smart monkeys.
Forget that the kids could hear me today with very little vocal effort on my part. I could hear them! During show and tell I had the kids wear the NeckMike- my demo came with two but I wish one was a real microphone for ease of passing around. For once I didn't have to say "speak loudly" "face the audience" or "could you hear them?" We passed around a NeckMike for the question/comment time too- and the kids paid much better attention than they usually do.

Teaching with Technology Rule Number 2. Don't use technology just because it's new. Use it because it improves something that you are already doing.

My students are learning how to speak in public, how to listen and question, but I can't change their personality. Some shout, some whisper... the NeckMike helps me hear the ones that are too quiet- and I think, will instill more confidence as well.


Digital natives are taking over my classroom!

My students, all 25 of them this year- active and loud, quiet and mild, boys and girls... LOVE technology. They are truly "digital natives." They do not shy away from new experiences- in fact they beg to be the first to try! When I run into a problem- and there is almost always going to be a problem with something when you have 25 bodies watching and waiting on you- they are often the ones to help ME figure out the problem.

My husband is the "computer guy" for our district. I was on the internet back when it first started up... and I am not THAT old, but it makes me feel ancient. So much is changing in our fast paced digital world that even a self-professed tech lover like me married to a techie feels lost facing new technology. Recently I was faced with using an iPad for the first time. I clearly recall the uncertainty and feeling of stupidity I felt not knowing how to work the thing. I couldn't figure out how to close the "apps." I know you might feel the same way when facing newfangled technology- so I hope this blog can be a little help to you. And I hope you'll share your experiences with me.

My reward for being the most tech-savy (or most gullible) teacher in our elementary building is that I often request and get new technology first. Our tech goals included starting to use interactive whiteboards... which of course arrived just days before school started. So I jumped in using it the first days of school and had lots of "uh- what do I do now?" moments. One day when it just WOULDN'T work and I really, really, really needed it to- my students began to threaten revolt- a 5 year old said to me- "I think it's unplugged Mrs. H."

Teaching with Technology Rule Number 1. ALWAYS check the power cords first.

Computer Tech's- even when they have to come because they are married to you- DO NOT like being rushed down to "fix" a problem that involves an unplugged cord. And, don't forget- cords usually hook up to the wall & the machine. Check both before you call for help!

Why are today's children "technology natives?" You and I (assuming you are in your 20's at least!) grew up along with the current technology. Today's kids are born into a technological world. For adults, computerese is like a second language- for the little munchkins I teach- it is natural and normal.

So, in my classroom I capture the minds of my little ones through any means possible- and increasingly, through the use of technology. Some teachers resist technology, saying "They need a break from being "entertained" and that the old instructional methods work just fine."

Consider- a few decades ago microwaves were new technology. Is there a house without one on your block? Would you not use your microwave because it doesn't cook the way people did for generations?

A hundred years ago, cars were new. Unless you have an Amish community nearby I doubt you know anyone who doesn't use a vehicle of some type to get around.

I am committed to staying current to meet the needs of my learners. Are you?

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