Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Experimenting with Book Creator

At my little guy's Mothers' Day celebration, his class of 3 year-olds (and a couple who are 4) read a big book called "The Cat Sat on the Mat". They then read a class made book on the smart board "The Frog Sat on the Log". We decided to make our own version on the weekend using the iPad to take photos of my little guys teddies sitting on a chair.

Each page an extra teddy is added to the chair until the first teddy roars and scares the others away! After taking the photos and adding the text I got my little guy to narrate for the book, adding an audio recording to each page. These play when the icon is touched.

What I liked:
  • Simple to use
  • Allows for images, text and audio
  • Grid lines appear to help you line things up
  • Exports nicely to iBooks for easy reading (and listening)
  • Can be exported to PDF (without audio)
My gripes:
  • I could have saved time if there was a simple way to duplicate pages and then switch out the photos. It was hard to ensure that pictures were the same size and that the text sat in the same position, particularly once the pages had been turned.
While it did the trick, and pretty quick, I'm not yet convinced it's the best way to go for making books on the iPad. I must say though, it was nice to be able to publish it so easily to iBooks and see it in a "library". I think this is a big bonus for students who need that motivation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Fractions with iPads

This week I thought I would share some simple ideas for using iPads to explore fractions. The first session uses Notability to compare fraction size. The second session uses Explain Everything to explore fractions of a group.

Comparing Fraction Size
In this session, students are exploring a problematised situation involving fairy-bread (bread and butter with sprinkles on top). I told my students that my son loves fairy-bread, and that I was offering that he could have 1/4, 2/4, 1/8 or 4/6 of a slice of fairy-bread. My students needed to work out which of these would be the best deal for my son. I demonstrated how this could be worked out by drawing the slices of bread. I pointed out the need for the slices of bread to be the same size, and the pieces on each slice to be of equal size. I modelled how this could be done on the interactive whiteboard. I then gave students a new set of fractions to compare.
Students were given iPads and a stylus to work through their thinking. While I gave them some freedom to explore how to use Notability to solve this, and to discuss their strategies with friends, teachers who want to explicitly teach could follow the following steps:
  1. Create a new Notability file and name it something suitable eg. Fairy-bread Fractions by tapping on the heading which says Note [today's date]
  2. Tap on the + symbol and select "Figure" from the drop-down menu.
  3. Tap on the first symbol and select the square shape from the drop-down menu.
  4. Make a square shape (to represent the fairy-bread). Tap "Done".
  5. When the square shape has handles on the corners, select "Copy" from the options above.
  6. Tap and hold on the screen until "Paste" is given as an option. Paste as many times as necessary. (In my case we used 4 slices of fairy-bread).
  7. Again, when one of the square shapes has handles on the corners, select "Edit".
  8. Tap on the first symbol and select the line from the drop-down menu.
  9. Draw lines to divide the square to match the fraction. 
  10. Tap the first symbol and select the squiggle from the drop-down menu. Colour/shade the required fraction. Tap "Done".
  11. Repeat this with the other squares.
  12. Tap on the pencil tool and use finger or stylus to label the fractions.
  13. Circle the fairy-bread fraction that is largest
  14. Some students are selected to share their work using AirPlay on the interactive whiteboard.
What I liked about this:
While this work could quite easily be repeated with pencils and paper, I like that this task supports students to develop skills in creating shapes and using technology to divide spaces equally and shade with (their new) styluses.

Fraction of a Group
In this session, students are using counters to explore fractions of a group and recording their thoughts using Explain Everything. Students took 24 plastic counters of a variety of colours and used iPads with styluses.
  1. Create a new Explain Everything file by tapping on the + symbol, and save it as something suitable eg. "Fractions with counters" by tapping on the folder symbol in the bottom toolbar (next to the house).
  2. Tell students to divide the group of counters in half. Demonstrate.
  3. Students take a photo of their counters by tapping on the + symbol in square on the left toolbar, and then selecting "New Picture". If they are happy with their photo, they select "Use Photo". If they are happy with the image as is they select "Done", if they need to crop it, they can use the crop tool to select what they want to keep before selecting "Done". The image can be resized with pinch to zoom and moved to a suitable position on the page.
  4. Students write "1/2 of 24 is 12" using their stylus and the pencil tool.
  5. Students press the red circle to record their audio (and drawing if desired) and explain what they have done in their own words.
  6. To add a new slide, students tap the + symbol and then repeat the previous steps with a new fraction.
  7. Repeat with 1/4, 1/8, 1/3, 1/6.
  8. Some students are selected to share their work using AirPlay on the interactive whiteboard.

Extension: If desired, students could then look at the colours of counters, sort them and then create slides that describe the fraction of each colour used.

Here is a sample of student work that one of my students was willing for me to share:

 What I liked about this:
Students were able to use the language to explain what they have done with their counters. They also created a pictorial example and a written number sentence. At the end of the lesson I watched these videos and could see the students who had really grasped the concept, and those who would need further follow up. It was useful to hear the language students were using and it made me realise how few were actually describing this process in terms of fractions when recording their audio. While many had the right pictorial and written response, they tended to say "I had 24 counters and divided them into 3 groups," which while accurate, is slightly different to "I had 24 counters and divided them into thirds." It is good to see that they are making the connection between these ideas, however I hope that they CAN use the fraction terms as required. I would try this again with further emphasis on how we can describe the process using fraction terms.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Explain Everything for 3D Solids and Location

When my husband was planning a trip in Japan, I worked on the part of his trip in Kyoto - at Shijo Dori. After typing out all my instructions and inserting screen shots of Google street view, I felt there should have been a more effective way! I decided to have a go at Explain Everything for iPad.

I used images from Google street view and a map from a Lonely Planet book to create a video with Explain Everything. This video could then be saved to the camera roll, or exported to YouTube. My husband was able to take the video with him on his iPad to help him navigate the area, and while not perfect, it was a good guide given the available information.

As my students have been learning about mapping, I decided to use Explain Everything with them, so that they could give directions from their house to a location in their local area. We don't have Google Maps, so students used Google Maps through Safari to capture their images, and then they recorded their audio and pen strokes. Students shared their work using AirServer. To improve this: I would like to get the Google Maps App on the iPads.

The following week we used Explain Everything to record our exploration of nets of a cube. Students were give construction materials to build their nets. They took a photograph of their proposed net, made a video of themselves trying to fold it into a cube, and then labelled whether it was a net of a cube. They repeated this on additional slides. While the videos were great, I need to do further research into how this production could be put together into one video. To improve this: I would talk to students more about the sort of vocabulary they could be using in their videos.

So far I am impressed with the potential for using Explain Everything in the classroom.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Classroom Management with Lego

After years of using a rainbow path Goal Chart in my classroom, I decided to try something a bit different this year. I bought a Lego kit that can be assembled and reassembled in three different ways. When my students do something of note, they get a 'Lego build' which means they get to do a step in the book toward completing the Lego creation. Once the whole creation is complete the class gets a reward such as free time on the computers or extra play time outside.

It's simple enough, but also fun and my students put in the effort to get a Lego build. Lego builds are awarded for class achievements such as: walking quietly in line, working well on a task, keeping the bag area tidy etc

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Fun

Here I am, trying again to keep the Friday Fun posts happening. I think the trick is to write it as we work through the week. A little each night is much more manageable than a big chunk at the end of the week when I would really prefer to be relaxing with my husband, enjoying take-away Indian food and a glass of Shiraz!

Our Inquiry
As well as continuing our work on reconciliation this week, we have jumped further back in time to learn about Indigenous Australian lifestyle prior to European settlement.

On Monday and Tuesday I worked with each group on their reconciliation plan and helped them to do some fine-tuning. One great thing about using the Explain Everything app, was that it was fairly easy to edit and make adjustments - changing pictures which perhaps weren't as effective, re-wording phrases where inaccurate information was being shared.

Through the students' work I was able to see some common misunderstandings and correct these during class discussion. Some things that needed clarifying were: that the stolen generations were taken long ago and are now parents and grandparents, and that Indigenous Australians don't want our pity - but rather our acknowledgement of the past and a commitment to an improved future together. On the weekend I had found out about an Aboriginal health service in our local area, so we have tailored our fundraising proposal to that end.

In the afternoons we watched the "before time" episodes of My Place Series 2. Students took notes on the first day, recording facts and questions under the headings - "The video showed" and "It made me wonder". Part way through viewing, we paused the video for students to discuss what they had seen and wondered so far. We encouraged students to think about Aboriginal lifestyle prior to European settlement (food, clothing, shelter, customs, environment) rather than focus on the plot of the story. Students then worked in teams of four to create a mind map with the Inspiration iPad app. The My Place Website is a great follow on from the videos.

Here is a picture of my mind map:

As part of our 30 Days of Drawing project (not consecutive days for us - more like one a week!) students took the statements about the connection to the land from Idjhil by Helen Bell and illustrated what one of the statements meant to them. The quality of student images was very impressive.

We also discussed the central idea of our inquiry unit: Indigenous cultures change over time. We thought of other words that could be used in place of the words in this idea. Students then used Socrative on the iPads to log how they would phrase the inquiry in their own words.
This was a quick and easy way to compile our ideas in one document, print and display. It was my second time with Socrative after a miserable failure last time. This time we ensured we were all connected to the internet before starting the app.

In our Maths lessons at the start of the week, we worked on the four times tables. We looked at the strategy "double, double again" and students practised applying this method. We practised with the Tables Toons on Mathletics along with a dice rolling game and a card game.

For the dice game, students simply rolled the dice and multiplied by 4 (doubling, doubling again if they couldn't recall the answer immediately).

For the card game, they played in pairs with a standard deck of cards (K, Q, J = 10, A=1, Jokers removed). The first student shuffled the cards and fanned them out for the second student to select one. The second student multiplied the number by 4 and gave the answer. The first student then tried to work out the card number by dividing by 4. This game helps students to see the connection between multiplication and division and assists with recall of facts.

I encouraged students to use these games at home to practise their tables.

Students also explored fractions using resources on Scootle, as well as iPads. In one of our sessions they used Notability to compare fraction sizes. In another session they worked with fractions of a group and used Explain Everything to record their thinking. These lessons will be explained in greater detail for Tech Tips in upcoming weeks.

Students have been working on stories that they planned and began writing earlier in the term. We are trying to see these through to publication as books to put on our shelves. It is taking quite some time for students to complete the whole process, and we have had many interruptions.

We also read some Dreaming stories and students used post-it notes to jot down their thoughts on the following questions:
What are Dreaming stories?
What are their features and purpose?
Who is the audience?
We discussed these ideas and they were compiled into one document.

We've had another great week, full of new learning and challenges. Next week we head off on our school camp - hoping for warm weather and no rain!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Using Notability to Support the Teaching of Spelling

My current school uses THRASS resources to teach students to spell. Our methods work from a phonographic model, whereby the focus is on the phonemes (sounds) and the many ways these sounds can be represented in the English language. My class has been looking at the sound j like in jam, giant, cage and bridge. I grabbed a bunch of whiteboards and markers and sat down with my class ready to start a spelling activity, but then I started feeling guilty. Also beside me were the iPads we had used earlier in the day for research. So, instead so handing out the whiteboards, I handed out the iPads.

My first attempt was far from beautiful. I gave a brief introduction to Notability and then asked boys to simply write the four graphemes we had identified (j, g, ge, dge) and then type in words under the right  headings as I said them. I wished that I could set it up in a table, but in hindsight, I think that was just a bit of residual from years of working in a word processing environment. I needed to find the way to do this in a note taking environment.

I had a bit of spare time one night, so played around a little with it, and found a way to make it work well. This new method involves using a sticky for each of the graphemes. As I played, I also realised there was another common grapheme, dg as in budget - b like in bird, u like in bus, dg (like in budget), e like in garden, and t like in tap. When I taught my students this grapheme, they struggled to understand why it wasn't just dge, given that combination is there. What I needed to show them was that in this group of words the letter e had a different sound it represented, whereas in bridge the e doesn't represent another sound, so can be grouped with the dg. Tricky!

So....the steps are:

  1. Students make a new note and change the title to something relevant by selecting the heading when in typing mode. 
  2. Students click on the plus symbol and make a "typing" sticky for each focus *grapheme and label these. To change colour, tap away from sticky, then back on sticky, and option tabs will come up above. Choose "paper" to select the sticky background colour.
  3. Teacher calls out words with focus *phoneme and students type these on the appropriate sticky.
  4. Students share their work with a partner and discuss their reasoning. Students can make changes.
  5. Teacher shows correct groupings. Students make changes as necessary.
  6. Students use the highlighter tool to show the focus grapheme in words.
  7. Students select a word from one of their stickies eg. Judge. They click on the plus symbol to add a figure and draw a relevant picture. They crop the picture and then select "done". They move it to the appropriate box and then tap on "Add a caption" to write a sentence about the picture (with appropriate punctuation). Repeat for each grapheme.
  8. Students who finish early can record audio of them saying and sounding out words from their page.
  9. Students share their work - showing iPad, using Air Play, printing screenshot, email...

*grapheme - letter or letter combination that represents a sound in a word
*phoneme - unit of sound

What's the point?
When I try to integrate ICT I often find myself asking, "What's the point?" Is there a significant reason for using this strategy over pencil and paper, or whiteboard and marker? Is this same old but just with fancier toys? I'm still not 100% sold on this idea, particularly because it takes so long I the early phases, but there are definitely some benefits.

Reasons I would do it:

  • Next year my students will be required to bring their own iPads to school and will be using this app. By helping them grow accustomed to it now, they will be ready to use it independently in the future.
  • My students are highly motivated when using the iPads
  • Students are learning how to use technology to create documents to record their thinking  and learning
  • The spell check function supports students with their writing and placement. If they spell a word incorrectly, they will have this information immediately and can consider other options.
  • When you have students record their sounding out of words, it makes it easier to identify their errors with breaking the words down into sounds