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Friday, May 31, 2013

5th Grade Update- April and May in Review



5th graders have spent the last two months programming in a LOGO environment.  LOGO is an oldie but a goodie.  I used it myself as a 5th grader.  It is a great piece of software for the students to use in the spring because it aligns perfectly with the math unit on geometry.  Students programmed a turtle to move around the screen, drawing pictures, and they used their math knowledge to calculate the interior angles of polygons to draw shapes.  Every class they built on their previous knowledge to learn LOGO commands, write their own commands, introduce variables into their commands, and combine commands to create more complicated commands.  For example, each student taught their turtle how to draw a square by writing their own square command and how to draw a triangle by writing their own triangle command using the following commands that the turtle already knew: repeat, forward, and right.  They then combined their square and triangle commands to teach the turtle how to draw a house.  The final culminating project was getting the turtle to draw a scene related to their science "Project O" field trip.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

iPads in Math Classroom


With my wonderful, 7-student, 7th grade class, we set off to explore Explain Everything on the iPad.  We were motivated to try this because there are often more students who want to present their work and their thinking than are able to do so, within our time constraints.  We thought that by using Explain Everything, all students would have the opportunity to articulate their thinking in addition to presenting their written work.  Their first assignment was to explain how they would graph a quadratic equation without making a table.  The example below demonstrates both areas of the student’s understanding as well as some misunderstandings that we could then address.
video




The night after this homework, class began with a litany of concerns/complaints.  We wrote them on the board and then a student snapped a picture on his iPad and mailed them to me.


As can be seen, students had numerous technical concerns with Explain Everything.  Feeling a bit down on technology, I then asked if there had been any advantages to working on the iPad, and the students jumped in with appreciation! 

While the “fun” component of the work might eventually wear off, students found that voicing their thinking helped them to better understand the material.  This was a key finding.  And, students wanted more Ipad work and were brimming with ideas!  Based on their input, we decided that for the next homework, rather than completing a hard copy of a worksheet with quadratic tables, they would complete a PDF of the worksheet in Explain Everything or Notability.  After numerous challenges with sending the files, we concluded that Notability was the preferred program when not recording voice and that it was best to save the image to a photo roll and then save it to a Google drive folder.  Great progress – much more exploration to be done! 


Randi Currier
MS Math 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

iPads in English Classroom


This past fall I experimented with expanding the use of iPads with my 7th grade English class.  We used the iPads in a number of ways: as a communication tool within the class, as a reading/annotating tool, as a tool to share ideas during class, and as a tool for creating projects.  The students each borrowed a school iPad and during our study of Before We Were Free and our Myth/eReader project.  Students borrowed a single iPad, which they used in school and at home.

Communication tool:
            I posted class assignments, handouts, and other resources on our class website.  Having the iPad at their fingertips allowed students to access these materials at anytime at home, in class, study hall, etc.  Aside from saving trees, the iPads proved to be a great way for seventh graders to keep these materials on hand and organized. 
                       
Reading/ annotating/classroom sharing tool:
            Active reading and annotating are skills central to our English teaching in the Middle School.  Students had always practiced these skills in their traditional paper texts.  With this novel, however, students had both the paper copy and eReader on the iPad. I asked the students to read at least the first two assignments in the novel, complete with their active reading, before they chose which form of text to use for the unit.  They did their active reading using the tools available on the eReader itself.  Without exception, students chose to read and take notes on the iPad.  After the initial “Cool” phase, followed by the “Wait, this takes more steps than on paper” phase, they saw real benefit to notating on the iPad.  The active reading “sticky notes” could be as long and detailed as they chose, and they invariably wrote much more; they could easily highlight in a range of colors, thereby color-coding the topics (yellow is characterization, pink is foreshadowing, etc.), and the page remained neat and easily readable.  In addition, the iPad allows them to list and search their notes for easy reference later.  Perhaps the best benefit, from my point of view, was that the students could project their annotations on the Smartboard, and we could discuss their note-taking strategies and ideas as a class.
            We used Notability as their tool for taking notes in class.  Again, students loved the easy organization.  And again, we could project their class notes on the Smartboard to discuss note-taking skills as a class.  During one particular lesson, students used Notability to make a character chart illustrating the complex relationships between characters.  They were creative with the app and projecting their work on the Smartboard made sharing and refinement of ideas much easier.

Projects: 
            We did three projects using the iPad:  Trujillo research/Timeline using Timeline Maker), Flyers using Infographics, and illustrated myths using Book Creator.  The students conducted research online and illustrated with Drawing Pad, Scratch, and other online tools.  With few exceptions in converting online illustrations onto Book Creator, students found the process for these projects pretty easy to master.  

Betsy Canaday
English, Department Head

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Launch Grant 2012-2013: Kindergarten iPads

This year’s iPad Launch Project in Kindergarten North has been a huge success.  When we originally agreed to implement the use of six new iPads in our classroom, we were hopeful that they would assist with our documentation of student work (through photos, videos, and note-taking) and help to reinforce our students’ academic learning (through math and literacy apps).  What we did not expect is how well the iPads would help us in addressing and assessing students’ individual academic needs.  After almost a full school year with these devices, we have found that the iPads have been an invaluable addition to our lessons and daily routines.   
The benefit of having iPads for teacher-use was immediately apparent.  From the very first day of school, we were able to take photos and videos of our students and their work with the ability to see the footage instantly and on a large screen.  Notes, observations, and dictation of the students’ descriptions of their artwork, block structures, and more could be taken immediately and easily saved on these devices.  If the children wanted to see what a certain African animal or building in Boston looked like, it could be pulled up quickly on the iPad and displayed for the entire class to see.  Additionally, we have downloaded a terrific selection of children’s audiobooks for the students to listen to during Literacy Stations and Rest Time.

The impact of the iPads on our students’ academic learning has actually surpassed our expectations.  We spent the summer researching various math and literacy apps on our own and through professional development – searching for activities that would reinforce the content that we covered throughout the school year.  We found numerous apps that focused on important Kindergarten skills, such as hearing beginning sounds in words (Sound Sorting: Beginning Sounds app), matching letters with their appropriate sounds (Super WHY app), letter and number formation (Letter School app), and how to sequence numbers (Mathlandia app).  An unexpected benefit of having the iPads was how well these devices allowed us to differentiate instruction based on specific students’ needs.  One child could use a particular app to practice his/her sight words, while another student could work on identifying teen numbers.  Certain apps, such as Smarty Pants School, even have built-in assessments that identify areas that an individual student needs to work on and then provide activities and games that strengthen those particular skills.  We have had a positive experience using these iPads in the classroom, and we are excited to discover additional ways to incorporate them next year.   

Thursday, May 9, 2013

iPads in English Classroom


This past fall I experimented with expanding the use of iPads with my 7th grade English class.  We used the iPads in a number of ways: as a communication tool within the class, as a reading/annotating tool, as a tool to share ideas during class, and as a tool for creating projects.  The students each borrowed a school iPad and during our study of Before We Were Free and our Myth/eReader project.  Students borrowed a single iPad, which they used in school and at home.


Communication tool:
            I posted class assignments, handouts, and other resources on our class website.  Having the iPad at their fingertips allowed students to access these materials at anytime at home, in class, study hall, etc.  Aside from saving trees, the iPads proved to be a great way for seventh graders to keep these materials on hand and organized. 
                       
Reading/ annotating/classroom sharing tool:
            Active reading and annotating are skills central to our English teaching in the Middle School.  Students had always practiced these skills in their traditional paper texts.  With this novel, however, students had both the paper copy and eReader on the iPadI asked the students to read at least the first two assignments in the novel, complete with their active reading, before they chose which form of text to use for the unit.  They did their active reading using the tools available on the eReader itself.  Without exception, students chose to read and take notes on the iPad.  After the initial “Cool” phase, followed by the “Wait, this takes more steps than on paper” phase, they saw real benefit to notating on the iPad.  The active reading “sticky notes” could be as long and detailed as they chose, and they invariably wrote much more; they could easily highlight in a range of colors, thereby color-coding the topics (yellow is characterization, pink is foreshadowing, etc.), and the page remained neat and easily readable.  In addition, the iPad allows them to list and search their notes for easy reference later.  Perhaps the best benefit, from my point of view, was that the students could project their annotations on the Smartboard, and we could discuss their note-taking strategies and ideas as a class.
            We used Notability as their tool for taking notes in class.  Again, students loved the easy organization.  And again, we could project their class notes on the Smartboard to discuss note-taking skills as a class.  During one particular lesson, students used Notability to make a character chart illustrating the complex relationships between characters.  They were creative with the app and projecting their work on the Smartboard made sharing and refinement of ideas much easier.


Projects: 
            We did three projects using the iPad:  Trujillo research/Timeline using Timeline Maker), Flyers using Infographics, and illustrated myths using Book Creator.  The students conducted research online and illustrated with Drawing Pad, Scratch, and other online tools.  With few exceptions in converting online illustrations onto Book Creator, students found the process for these projects pretty easy to master.  

Betsy Canaday
English, Department Head