Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mr Popplet's penguins

We've been researching penguins in our class this past week. As part of our research we used the Popplet lite app to record what we know about penguins. Students went to the Pics 4 Learning site that I mentioned here to choose a  picture of a penguin to use as the center of their web. They then listed penguin facts around their pictures. The lite app only allows you to do one Popple at a time so once kiddos are done, they simply screen shot their Popple and then we are good to go again. This can sometimes be a bit of an inconvenience when kiddos don't finish in one sitting and others are waiting to do their Popple.  The Popplet app solves this problem as you can create, save, and come back to Popples as needed. You can even export as pdf and jpegs. The downfall, the full version costs $4.99. On a school budget, the cost outweighs the convenience- so we deal with having to take screen shots.

The app itself is very easy to use and my kiddos have gotten better and faster at creating their Popples. I even have kiddos asking if they can use it during indoor recess. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

DoodlecastPro and Writing

This week during our writing time we have been working on writing informational pieces. We read a book about coyotes and took notes as we went. After collecting and sorting out our notes, kiddos chose three facts that they found most interesting. They then took their facts and wrote an informational paragraph with a topic sentence, 3 details (facts) and a conclusion sentence.
When we were done, students used the site, to find a picture of a coyote which they then uploaded to the DoodlecastPro app. Once this was done, they voice recorded themselves reading their informational piece and shared it with their parents. I am hoping to do a lot more with students recording their writing when they are done as it was extremely motivating for them and was a wonderful way for us to share with our parents. In addition, it gives us an opportunity to go back and reflect on where we started and how far we have come with our writing, reading, and technology skills over the course of the year.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Copyright free images for education

The site above is the site that my class is currently using to find copyright-free images for our technology projects. So often, teachers will have their students simply find images on the web and copy/paste them to their projects. While this is easy and produces many options, it is also illegal. I feel strongly about teaching students to do it the correct way from the beginning. 
To help my students access this site, I simply wrote a post on our classroom blog with a link to the site (our blog is an icon in our home row so is easy for students to access. I use my blog not only as an information area for parents, but also as a portal for my students to get to where they need to go). Once students were on the site, we saved the site as an icon on our iPads which will now make it extremely easy for them to access this site at all times at school. I also linked this site in the sidebar of my classroom blog for students to access at home. Parents were alerted to this site via the classroom blog as well.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

QR Voice and Math

Our district adopted a new math program this year by Origo Education called Stepping Stones. We have been seeing some positive changes in our students' math abilities, comprehension, and ability to explain their thinking. One of the additional resources that we recently received are called Think Tanks. Simply explained, Think Tanks are activity cards that students complete independently at their own pace, although they could easily be utilized in a small group format as well.
There are two Think Tanks- one which develops number sense and computation and one which develops problem-solving skills.

I am excited to implement these with my kiddos, but being a first grade teacher I still have students whose reading abilities will hinder their usage of these cards in an independent format. I want all of my students to be successful with these and have ownership of their learning. I am especially thinking of my kiddos who excel in math but struggle with reading- these are so perfect for them but I need to find a helpful way to get around the reading piece until their skills improve.
QR codes to the rescue, specifically, QR voice.

This wonderful and easy to use website allows you to input or speak up to 100 characters. After you've read or entered your characters, you simply click the blue button to create your code. You can also easily size your code by sliding the blue circle. The voice is easy to understand and the inflections are appropriate most of the time.

You are also able to have your QR voice spoken in 40 different languages. If you want to say my "my friend" in French, you need to type it in in French as well, "mon ami" as it does not translate, just plays it back. What a great resource though for classes that are learning a second language.

As I created each code, I simply copied and pasted each one into a word document where I could print them off, cut them out, and tape them onto the Think Tank cards. Most cards have only 1 code, but several had too much text and needed two codes.
For ease of management I printed the number-sense codes on white and the problem-solving coded in yellow so my kiddos will know which box to return them to. I also color-coded their recording sheets. If they are working on the yellow problem-solving codes, their recording sheet is also yellow. This will hopefully also make it easier for me to know which box they are working out of at a glance. As you can see, I also cut notebooks in half as the kiddos won't need a full-sized notebook to record their answers, not to mention, there's something about 1/2 notebooks that the kids LOVE! 

We practiced scanning QR codes last week and the kids were so excited and amazed. We use the QR reader I-nigma.  I'm excited to start our whole routine this week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Twitter excitement!

Our class recently began using Twitter to share our learning and connect with other first grade classes around the world. I can't even begin to tell you how much excitement has come from this. We are currently connecting with classes in Michigan, Vermont, Canada, Italy, and Australia! We are excited to also Skype with some of our "new friends" in the coming month. 

As we connect with classes, we find and label them on our classroom map. This has been a great connection to our curriculum as we study maps. My co-teaching partner brought in a globe the other day during our snack time and the kids went ape! They were so excited they immediately asked if we would pull down the map and they began finding our Twitter buddies on the map and then located them on the globe! The absolute best part was that this was all started by them and the excitement and learning went on for a good 10 minutes before we said we had to move on.

If you haven't tried Twitter with your class, I highly recommend it. It is an easy way to connect with classes globally. The 140 character limit makes it a fast and easy way for students to take ownership in the writing as well.  If you are looking for classes at your grade level, check out this blog post, Great Twitter Classroom Connections, on Drew Frank's blog.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Choosing the right app

In math we have been working on understanding that numbers are made up of 10s and 1s. We have been building numbers and now are comparing numbers with our concrete models so we can visually see how 32 is larger than 17. This seems like a very basic concept to us, but for children, numbers are often very abstract and although they may know that the number is larger, they may not realize why.

We have been using base 10 blocks and cubes to show numbers but have also been using virtual base 10 blocks (Number Pieces Basic which is a free app) and also drawing representations of the blocks with a drawing app (MaxDoodle)  on the iPad. You can see representations of both in our pictures.

Today kiddos had to represent numbers and also prove how they knew one was larger than the other. They could choose how they wanted to show it. It was great to see them take ownership not only of their learning but of how they felt most comfortable showing what they knew. As we finished, kiddos had the opportunity to come up and explain their thinking.

I am excited by the growth I am seeing not only with everyone's ability to show what they know and explain their thinking but am especially excited by the fact that students are confidently using technology independently. Even more so though... I am ecstatic that they are beginning to appropriately choose the right tool/app to do the job.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My districts' Learning Services blog recently posted this infographic about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology. I was intrigued as I read through each habit and began to reflect upon my own journey of using and embedding technology into my teaching and learning.

In reading through each definition, I can say that per these standards I would be considered effective, but as with anything, one can always strive to be better and I can certainly find areas within each of these points that I can improve.  

Point number 1 is definitely near and dear to my heart. I so often hear teachers say they are "using" technology only to find out in chatting with them that they have devices in their classrooms and students are simply doing what the iPad is telling them to do and answering questions that are thrown at them- basically just utilizing apps for drill and kill of content but in a more engaging way.

I want my students to use the power of the device to help them create and manipulate content through the use of creation apps, apps in which they tell the device what to do. I want them to learn, "show what they know", and share their knowledge in innovative, creative and global ways. As I type this I think of a blog post that I just read the other day of a teacher who shares many of my philosophies. You can check out her blog here and read a post that speaks of similar philosophies here  where she discussed the criteria she uses before an app can make it onto her students' devices.

If you've read this far, I hope that you will read the infographic and reflect on your technology usage. Are you an effective teacher? How can you improve? What are your strengths and passions that drive you to engage students and utilize technology in your classroom?

The infographic below is difficult to read, if you click here or on the image below it will take you to a blog with a larger print copy.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lights, camera, ACTION VERBS

Another Pic Collage project. As I've said a gazillion times before- PicCollage is one of my go-to apps. It is so easy for first graders to use and share. 

This time, kiddos worked in groups of 3 or 4 to take pics of themselves showing various verbs. Once they had their pics, groups worked collaboratively to create their collage. 

When we were done, we used AirPlay and Air Server to mirror our iPads onto the Smartboard to share our creations with the class.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ugly Holiday Sweaters

Right before the holiday, our staff had an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. The kids thought it was quite a hoot. After the staff day, I decided it would be fun to do our own Tech'd-out Ugly Sweater Day after stumbling across the Ugly Sweater writing prompt on Technology Tailgate. This couldn't have been more timely as we are currently working on opinion writing. 
 I started by downloading the free, Ugly Holiday Sweaters app. This is an iPhone app so if you are downloading on iPads you will need to toggle over to the iPhone app area. Be careful to get the right app as there is another free ugly sweater iPad app which has some inappropriate content for your classroom. This app has 10 different sweaters for kiddos to choose from- just enough to give them choice but not take too long to decide. 

Once kiddos decided on their sweater, we used the app to take a pic. Here is one of my kiddos in his sweater.  At this point, students needed to tell 3 reasons why their holiday sweater was the ugliest. They had some really clever ideas including one of my little guys stating that his sweater was "just too Christmas-y!"

We chose to print our pics off from the app and attach them to our writing so we could display them in the hall for all to enjoy. We've had lots of comments and giggles on our writing. This will be a definite re-do next year!