Thursday, January 26, 2012

Math ninja

Today my kiddos were introduced to new app called Math Ninja. This is a fun app to help kids learn their basic facts. You can set it up to practice any or all of the basic facts (+ - x / ) the game is set up as a story and each chapter gives you new challenges. This was definitely a hit today. I'll be curious to see how it affects our learning over the coming days/weeks.
For those of you interested in the app, there is a free version and a paid version. We are currently utilizing the free version at school. I have the full version at home for my son and the only difference I have noticed so far is that the paid version has more levels. We'll see how far the kiddos get before we purchase the whole thing.
If you try this app out, let me know what you think.
Sorry for the terrible glare on the picture!

**UPDATE** Several of my kiddos finished all of the free version levels today... so we downloaded the full version. My students are really enjoying this app for their fact practice!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WASB convention

Along with good conversation, networking, and friendship came frustration, problem solving and glitches. Technology is such a wonderful tool For learning and collaborating but over the last 2 days it has come with its frustrations. It reminds me that to learn, one must make mistakes, problem solve, and remain calm at all times.
Last night, 4 of my model classroom colleagues and I traveled 2 hours to present at the WI School Board Association Convention. We talked, laughed,and learned from each other. We shared positives and frustrations in our journey but most of all we enjoyed talking tech and being social.our presentation was ready, our passion on fire and ready to share UNTIL.. We arrived in our conference room and discovered that we did not have Internet access short of sharing the wifi connection in the hallway. We frantically, No scratch that, we collectively began to problem solve. In the end, it all came together and we were able to share our message... Successfully!!
I won't go into all of the frustrations of the last two days ( I almost threw my "stuff" out the window yesterday) as every day brings its challenges. I will say though....
Technology rocks! It brings endless possibilities for learning and collaboration, problem solving and frustration and yet continues to push us forward in positive directions and FRIENDS, well... friends are the glue to all things
Thank you my model tech friends... You know who you are. You all rock!

For anyone interested in seeing our presentation, you can view it here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Inferring lesson

Before Christmas we read a story called, Shark in the Park in which a little boy named Timothy Pope is looking through his telescope in the park and is sure he keeps seeing a shark. The lens of the telescope is an actual hole in the pages of the book, and as each page is turned the fin of the shark turns out to be something quite ordinary like a cat's ear, a crow's wing, and even his dad's Elvis-style haircut. 

This book was used to help us learn the reading comprehension strategy of  inferring. As an extension of this book and a tie-in to our ITLS Standards (Instructional Technology & Learning Standards). Students worked with a partner to take pictures of an ordinary object up close and then at normal range. We used both digital cameras as well as the cameras on our iPad2s.  Each child then had to tell what they thought they saw when looking at the up close object and then tell what they actually saw. We took our ideas and typed them in MS Word and then learned how to insert our pictures from a network file into our documents. Along with the other first grade classes, we will put all of our ideas into a large class book which will be shared with the entire school.
See below for the raw footage of just a few of the kids' ideas...

Can you guess what this is?

Hunter saw a jail at Glenbrook School...

but it was really just Mr. Sufka's tie! (our principal)

How about this one?

Ayden thought he saw a Captain's hook at Glenbrook School...

but it was just a door handle!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The new cases have arrived

Our new iPod Touch cases have arrived and I couldn't be more thrilled. I currently have hard plastic cases but made the switch over to a silicone case due to the issues I was having with the mini microphones. I have heard various reviews on the silicone cases including that they slip off easily. The ones I ended up purchasing are more like a sleeve and fit quite tightly around the iPod. They also do not have a notch out for the home button but rather a raised surface on top of the home button which you can see in the picture. 
I'm excited to give these a try as I think the silicone cases will be better suited for my first graders in that they will have a better grip on their devices. Even cooler is the fact that they came in a variety of colors...  say it with me, "ooooohhh.... ahhhhhh.... " We now have blue, pink, orange, red, black, clear and purple. I have feeling this will help us to know which device is ours more quickly as well. I will still have to find a way to number them as they engraved number on the back will no longer be visible, but that's a minor issue. I'm actually thinking that I will have my kiddos create their own home screen wallpaper that must include their iPod number. This might be a fun way to assess their app to app creation skills while also giving them some ownership of their device.

Xtra Math revisited

This is a site that I have written about before, but that I have just started using again for this school year. Although I've written about it before, I know that there are still lots of people that haven't heard of it, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit it. is an AWESOME site to help students master their basic math facts. I use it in conjunction with Otter Creek's Mastering Math Facts program (Rocket Math). Xtramath is very easy to use and is set up in such a way that your students can practice at school as well as at home! The site has separate logins for school/home and videos  to explain how the site works for both parents and teachers.  Entering your class takes only a few minutes and is as simple as entering your students' first names, the site will then assign your students a pin number for logging in. Xtramath has also done the legwork for you by preparing a personalized form letter for each of your students with an enrollment code that parents use to set up their home account. The developer even has his email on the note so that if parents have issues, they will contact him directly and not you. 

The defaults when setting up your class are: K/1- addition only, 2nd graders also get subtraction, 3rd graders also do multiplication, 4/5 also does division. These are the presets and can be changed to accomodate your gifted learners or those that need their fact practice modified for additional practice in earlier operations.
I've used this site with my son as well, so I can attest to the fact that it is easy for parents to access at home. From the parent viewpoint, I am able to see which facts my son knew and didn't know.  The fact table is color coded to show which facts he answered quickly (within 3 seconds), which he answered correctly but took too long (4-10 seconds), and which he didn't know (either got wrong or ran out of time). It also tracks progress over time, something that I'm excited to see.  The practice sessions are short, about 15-25 problems. When a child finishes their session it also shows them a color coded table so that they can see how many problems they knew quickly (smiley face), which ones they knew but took a little extra time (green check mark), which ones they took too long on, and which ones they got wrong (red x). This has been eye opening as well as motivating for my students. Keep in mind that it takes younger students a bit of time to just get used to key placement when answering the problems so don't be alarmed that it is taking them longer than you'd like. Last year and this year, I found that it took my kiddos about a week to get the hang of it and for the results to be more accurate to what their capabilities truly were.

From the teacher perspective, I love it all the more! Students come to the computer, do their practice, and when done the site will randomly pick the next student for that child to tap. If they are busy or absent there is a button that they click and the computer will pick a new student. There is also a code you can enter if you are lucky enough to have more than one computer in your room. This code allows the computers to sync to each other so to speak so that each student will only get picked one time despite using more than one computer. Currently I am accessing 6 netbooks in my classroom which is allowing all my students to get through their practice in a very short period of time.
Another awesome aspect is that I have access to all of my students' progress records from both school AND home. It is a great way to watch each child's progress. The reports are easy to read and easy to access as well. It's a great way to monitor fact practice for RTi purposes and really does help with parental conversations as all of the information is there for both of us to see and discuss.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, that each week you will recieve an email report showing how your kiddos are doing as well. Super cool!

If you haven't tried this site out with your class, I HIGHLY recommend it. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Sometimes it's the little things that can frustrate you, like how right now blogger will not let me upload pics from my computer! Uggh!!!

This is what our mini microphones look
 like when they are plugged in

Today, my kiddos were introduced to Songify on their iPod Touches. We've used it before as a whole class with the iPad, but this was their first go around on their own. We were using it as a differentiated way to practice our spelling words. Kiddos were going to read and spell their words into the app and then Songify takes their words and turns it into a song. The kids love it and the tunes are pretty funky. The app itself is free and you get several songs with it. You can also purchase add'l songs. Doesn't sound so frustrating yet, does it? Well, we have 2nd gen iPod touches so we do not have built-in microphones. Instead, we have mini microphones that we need to plug into the headphone jack. It's an extra step, but not that big of a deal.  I just finished demonstrating the process to my class and sent them off to give it a try when 3 or 4 kiddos as well as my mom helper came over to say that it wasn't working. They kept getting a pop-up saying that the microphone wasn't connected. Funny... it worked just fine when I modeled it to the kids 2 minutes earlier. Hmmm... well come to find out that the mics could not be pushed far enough in to be recognized due to the hard cases that we have on our devices. I guess I just got lucky on my iPod. I thought about how I could notch out the area with a dremel tool, or maybe just go without cases (not something I really want to do) or .... or..... ugggh... order new cases.
Well tonight I went onto eBay (didn't want to wait for our tech dept to help me out with this one.... they are awesome but I'm feeling a bit impatient) and found silicone cases for cheap! Cool thing is that they come in different colors...ooooohhhh..... ahhhhhhhhh..... might just jazz up our devices a bit. Hoping that the flexibility of the silicone will work great. If not, it's easy to cut! hahahahaha (*cynical laugh*) 
 Looking forward to getting them so we can try Songify again! Fingers crossed!

Student Reflection

In preparation for an upcoming presentation at the Wisconsin School Board Association Convention later this month, I interviewed my students using the following 2 questions. The first question was a bit tricky for some seeing as they only have kindergarten to refer back to but some of my kiddos really had some good insight. I then used ReelDirector on the iPad to compile some of their interviews. I'll post it here once I put the finishing touches on it.
  1. How has technology changed the way you learn?
  2. What do you most enjoy about the technology in our classroom?
I also emailed my students' parent and asked them:
  1. Has your child being in the model technology classroom changed your child's motivation for learning? And if so, how?
I have received several responses, all positive, including the following:

  • XXXXX is more excited about school this year, and he largely talks about the technology that he is learning with. He is more confident using technology including our home computer, email, ipods, ipads, etc.  Because of this increased comfort level he is able to do more on his own which makes him want to learn more and try harder.  I also love how the technology has been incorporated in order to have fluid communication with the parents.
  • Yes!  I feel that xxxx’s  motivation to learn has improved.  There is another level of excitement he feels when he goes to school.  He gets to wonder what he might get to do in his day.  There is also a connection made with older peers and family because of his technology knowledge.  He is helping his grandpa learn how to use his new Kindle!

    I feel that xxxx  is better equipped to deal with trial and error because of this opportunity.  He is more open to listen to, and try out new ideas.  He has learned that there is more than one right way to reach a goal.

    Xxxx  loves to use the computer, I pod, etc.  The fact that he can use something he loves in school to facilitate learning makes an even greater impact on what he learns and how it is retained.
and then there was this response...
  •  I would have to say that while my daughter xxxxx was already a motivated learner, being in the model technology classroom has definitely enhanced her motivation and encouraged her to learn in other ways besides as a result of traditional methods of teaching.

    The truth is that we live in a highly technological age – technology is progressing at a very rapid pace. In order to properly function in society as adults, our children have to become proficient with technology and maintain the ability to adapt to the rapid changes technology makes.  Starting out this type of learning at a young age can only help students as they get older in my opinion.

    Since starting to use the technology in your classroom, xxxxx has branched out in her learning. Rather than just asking me the typical curiosity-seeking 6 year old questions, she asks me if we can go on the Internet and look the answers up to those questions. As you know, my husband and I have Ipod Touches. xxxx can use my Ipod and while I watch, can search the Internet for her answers. We’ve loaded several of the apps that you use in class, such as Teach Me and rather than watch TV, she sits and uses those apps. She’s constantly learning – and more importantly, WANTING to constantly learn. And, she’s even taught me a few things about my Ipod that I didn’t know!

    By allowing them to practice emailing you and us (parents), they’re learning letter-writing skills and the proper format for composing letters. That’s an important life skill and rather than being bored and learning in a tedious way, they’re having fun “writing” emails on an Ipod or IPad in addition to their paper writing.

    Another positive that I see is the keyboarding skills that she’s gaining. She already knows where all the letters are on the keyboard and doesn’t have to “hunt and peck” when she’s typing.

    I could go on, but I think I’ve given enough examples to show that being in the model technology classroom has definitely increased xxxx's motivation and passion for learning. Thank you for the opportunity!
"WOW" was about all I could say after reading that well thought out response. I feel very privileged to be able to facilitate this adventure in first grade and although we've definitely had our trials and tribulations, I continue to be impressed with the learning and motivation that has come out of using the various technology in our class.