Monday, February 28, 2011

Getting Started with iPads

Check out this helpful site, created by a colleague of mine, about using iPads in the classroom- high school and kindergarten.   Jon Tienhaara is the assistant principal and 9th grade math teacher at our school and has been the one carrying out our iPad implementation project.  His site has a video, and step by step info on getting your own iPad project off the ground.

Ipads In The Classroom

Thanks for sharing Jon!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teaching Tools: Math Facts

In my classroom I focus on friends of 5 and 10 (all the ways to add up to 5 and 10).  I use Park Math and a couple others (I reviewed them already here to teach K math skills.

In my role as a mommy though, I have a second and third grader who need to practice their math facts for fluency.  I have found several apps that meet my definition of a Teaching Tool and those are:

1) Rocket Math, Free (and worth buying full version for $.99- which I just did after convincing myself of how great it is!)
41 launches and only 2 medals?  My toddler has been helping me!
Rocket Math (made by Stack the States and Stack the Countries developer Dan Russell-Pinson) takes place in, you guessed it- space.  The player builds a rocket (many design options to interest kids and make them think about physics as well) and attempts to launch it into outer space.  You purchase parts when you solve math equations (chose from easy, hard+,-,x,/) to earn money.  If you successfully craft a rocket that can make it into space (not easy for the non scientific minded like me) you earn a medal depending on how well you know math subjects like money, odd/even numbers, patterning, etc. 
Fun Math!
Features: Up to five player profiles, ability to work out a problem on a scribble pad, great graphics and a really fun balance of math, creativity, science!

Rocket Math meets my criteria for
Teaching tools should improve traditional learning activities by (4.75/5 star rating):
****   1.)  saving time. (replace flash card time, on multiple subjects, with this practice- however kids could spend a lot of time fiddling with their rockets rather than the math- my suggestion would be to make them earn a certain amount of money before they can create or modify a rocket)
*****   2.)  allow for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.  (Can choose from 5 (free version) 8 (full) missions when rocket is successfully launched- such as money, time, shapes... and add,subtract, multiply, divide to earn money) and 6 levels of difficulty.
***** 3.)  motivating reluctant learners.  (My 7 1/2 year old chooses to play it on his own even with non-educational games on his iPad).
*****4.)  make learning fun. (I think it's fun too!)

Others to check out- my husband says I need to clean my house and get off the blog, plus my child is out in the snow and I haven't heard from him in a while and we all know how dangerous silence is! so I am not going to go into detail... yet.

2. Long Division Drills by Power Math Apps (3.75/5 stars)- not extremely motivating, but good practice 

3. Times Tables (4.0/5) good drills along with modeling of how multiplication works.  Again, try the free version but I think it's worth buying.

4. Math Circus- (4.0/5)   not a practice app, but rather it has short clips that teach about multiplication and various strategies that can be used.  I make my son watch it (HE LOVES TV) when he struggles to multiply his 7's and 8's.  

5. Math Ninja (4.5/5 stars)- FUN!  throw ninja style weapons at robots who are attacking- earn more weapons by completing math drills- add,subtract, multiply, divide.  My favorite feature- if you get the answer wrong, it tells you the correct solution and you type it in.  I HATE (bad me, I'm trying to not use HATE! but we are all adults here right?) apps that simply move on to the next problem.  Free version available, but of course I ended up buying this one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview Questions

I haven't posted for a while- sorry, sorry!  I can hardly believe the first 2 months of 2011 are almost over already.  I don't have anything amazing to share tonight, but I thought I'd post my responses to some questions I was asked about using iPads/tech in K.  

1.  How has the iPad changed the way students learn in your class?
The iPad allows for greater differentiation of instruction with immediate reinforcementwhen I can't be alongside a student.  They can move at their own pace more readily, and kids are less aware of what they can and can't do in relation to other students.
2.  Using the iPad in Kindergarten, do you see the students' age being a concern?
Actually, the age and development level of kindergartners make iPad's  ideal for them.     Young children instinctively reach out to touch items that catch their interest, and the simplicity and intuitive design of the iPad makes it easier for young students to use than any other technology I've used in the classroom.

3.  Does the iPad make any aspects of your teaching easier/more difficult?
The only "difficult" part of using the iPads is not having enough- they are a coveted item and finding ways to share them fairly is an extra challenge.  I could use them for even more parts of our day if I had a class set and wouldn't have to track who has had a turn, etc.

However, the ways the iPad make things easier is definitely worth all the times I'm asked- is it my turn yet?    There are several apps that have replaced using hundreds of manipulatives- which take valuable time to pass out and manage.  For example- instead of passing out 8 letters to each child for a making words lesson, I simply have them go to an app and pull up the needed letters.  This takes about 30 seconds versus several minutes (and no clean up).  Occasionally I need to occupy part of my students for brief periods (such as when I am working with a small group and another student needs assistance) I can direct my group to work with a specific app and know that they are working on a needed skill rather than waiting for me to return.  The portability of the iPads is wonderful too- throughout the day they might be on the floor with a student, at a table, go down to the library, the hallway, or even the gym.  The kids can carry them too. 

4.  How do you see the role of technology influencing your class in the future?  I think technology will influence all classrooms more and more in the future, and I welcome it in mine.  I consider using technology to do things that have been done "the old fashioned way" akin to using a microwave instead of a stove or driving a car rather than using a horse.  The old way works just fine, but there are definate benefits to using computers over handwriting for some projects, or an app instead of an worksheet.  Of course, new technology shouldn't be automatically considered superior to old ways- after all, if I want butter melted quickly I use the microwave.  If I want to bake a cake though, I need to take the time to use the oven for the best results.  My role as a teacher is to determine the best way to meet the needs of my students, using all resources available.

Monday, February 7, 2011

too much technology?

RANTING AHEAD, avoid if you're looking for useful info.  I said before this is a bit of a diary, so here is a post I wrote back in December but never posted.  Today I'm a little cranky so I'm not as positive as I usually try to be!

I read an article yesterday about parents fighting the increased use of technology in the schools.  I have a co-worker who believes that kids are entertained too much and chooses to eschew the use of technology in her classroom for the most part.

I obviously feel differently both as a parent and teacher.  I have no idea how to use an abacus and feel that a calculator is a better way to compute numbers (AND YES! we need to teach and know how to do mental math, but c'mon... for more than shopping and garage sales, more often than not I'll use a calculator). There is a benefit to doing things the way they have worked for years- such baking cakes in an oven, not a microwave.  Yet, I often choose to microwave items that I need quickly or aren't any worse off by using it.  I think there should be balance in everything and that as a teacher it's my job to meet the needs of my students- and for these digital natives, it's teaching digitally when paper and pencil isn't meeting their needs as effectively as I could hope.

Using an iPad to practice skills we'd otherwise teach using worksheets or flash cards is FUN and entertaining!  Why is fun bad?  Maybe it's the ECE teacher in me; but let's let kids have fun in school.  Why bore them to sleep?  My son bought a Brooke's Reader, second year book recently from our local Friends of the Library that is over a 100 years old.  He likes reading it, but the difference between that reading text and the current second grade ones are huge.  Would we go back to using black and white texts with a small font and few illustrations?  Why should technology be ignored because it's new or fun?

I agree with the parents in the article that kids get too much "screen time"  but I don't think that using computers in class for educational purposes should be considered screen time.

Teaching with technology rule number 2, restated.  Do not waste teaching time with technology; enhance teaching with technology.

I consider choice time in my classroom to be playtime; an opportunity for kids to develop social skills, make their own decisions, and a reward for all their hard work during the day.  I let them "play" with any of the apps on the ipads or any of the computer games and websites.

I have gone back and forth internally about whether to have 'fun' apps- ones that don't teach or practice skills on the ipad and computer for use during choice time.  The fun side of me won- I let the kids choose from toys and learning activities in class during this time- why should the ipad/pc be any different?  I do however have the rule that kids can't watch other kids play on the ipads/computers.  They can have a partner to play a two person game, otherwise children use the computers/ipads individually.  I think watching a friend play is similar to watching tv.

I don't think students should be playing with technology during teaching time.  If older students are using ipads or computers during instructional time they should be using them to take notes or practice the skills being taught, not messaging friends or playing games.  (Although I admit to doing both during boring conferences and meetings.)  I think teachers need programs (and they exist, but I am not familiar with them) that let them oversee student's ipads/ during class-time to eliminate off task behaviors related to the technology.

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