Tag Archives: teched

My Five Favorite Apps for Kids So Far

Working with teachers to find appropriate apps has had its ups and downs this year. Teachers (myself included) first think to look for goal oriented apps. For example, sight word apps or math facts apps. Goal-oriented apps generally imitate flashcards or encourage impulsive answering. Neither of those is exciting or valuable in other settings. They also think of game apps as a separate category. My view of game apps is that they have a therapeutic value, but children are already play them at home for the most part. I’ve been on the hunt for something a little more challenging that teaches problem-solving skills—but is still engaging. Thinking of the greater brain processes has helped to find more meaningful apps. Amazingly, kids love these apps just as much, and they can be used independently.

Tynker

Although the web-based version has more free games, this app is great for teaching the basics of programming. Kids love this game and choose to play it during downtime when they are not given the choice to play a game like Angry Birds or Temple Run.

Click here For iPad version 

Logic Puzzles

Children get the same kind of satisfaction solving puzzles that adults do. This logic puzzle app helps children with logical thinking skills by challenging them to use limited evidence to solve a puzzle. This is a great team effort app as well.

Click here for Android version

Click here for iPad version

Tellagami

Tellagami has been great for helping students to express themselves in more meaningful ways. There are options for personalizing a character (gender, skin color, outfit, background, etc.) that says what the student decides. Once the character is created, the student can either speak the script or write the script for the character. I prefer this app over Talking Ben because it is more realistic and works on a variety of skills (expression, spelling, creation, etc.). It can be used for book reviews, blog posts, field trip recaps, etc.

Click here for Android version

Click here for iPad

Qrafter

This app is great for reading QR codes. There are a number of apps out there that do the same thing, but the layout on this one is nice. As much as I would love to do more advanced augmented reality, this technology is more reliable (at this point). Within the computer lab, students have created an interactive timeline with QR codes with the focus on computer history. Next plan is a school-wide timeline that stretches up the stairs.

Click here for iPad version

And of course a game that can be used for fun (and problem-solving):

Blokus

If you’re looking for a game to challenge students with their spatial problem-solving and planning, then this is a great option. The game is never the same twice and the rules are simple enough to learn.

Click here for iPad version

There is a vast selection of apps, and I’d love to hear the more meaningful and challenging apps you use in your classrooms.

Oops! …a Teachable Moment…

I, in my haste, planned a quick lesson on explorers for one of my classes. A link had been sent to me by a colleague to a site that was designed to teach about reliable resources. I quickly looked for the assignment on the site, read it, and determined that the assignment was appropriate for the group I was teaching. I scanned the links in the site without really reading through them. The result was that I had to think on my feet.
As the children began reading, the teachers and I started to notice some strange and false facts about the explorers. Then it dawned on us that the site purposely had false information on it to teach kids about finding reliable resources. Close to the end of the period, I asked the students if they read anything that didn’t sound quite right. Only a few had noticed. I had a conversation with them about content on the Internet and how anyone can write anything, even if it’s not true.
They were shocked. I explained that even I was tricked. They loved hearing that! In a way, the lesson worked out fine. Ideally, I would preface lessons like this with an introduction to what I want them to think about as they’re reading. Next time, this group will be comparing the text on the site with more reliable resources and finding the mistakes in the writing. After that, they will be writing blog posts about it. Can’t wait!

Response: Hackschooling: Is This the Future?

I read a post on Diane Ravitch’s blog called Hackschooling: Is This the Future? about a TEDtalk by a teenage boy about redefining schools.

He has a valid point. Learning comes from passion.

The whole picture is not just about making schools centered on individual interests without the training– there’s a fundamental point that he makes about the relationship of his teacher (or guide) to his work. He chooses the topic and someone teaches him how to explore it, question it, and master it. Logan clearly has teachers who work with him to learn the necessary skills to execute research, write about it, and then deliver an eloquent speech. Redefining does not mean taking teachers out of the equation; it means that the child’s passions are merely vehicles for teaching skills.

Continuing the Flipped Math Class

Math has been on my mind a lot lately, which is evidenced by my series of recent math posts. The idea of giving the children work to do on Khan Academy on Fridays is working out really well. Clicking around the site has helped me to see how well-differentiated I can make this flipped classroom. Each child has his or her own login, which helps me to track their progress. In addition to tracking the progress, I can coach them and suggest specific strands to work on.

What this does is free up our time to solve real-world problems in the school during math. As we’re working on measurement, I had them do a project in the art room to measure for a tech installation. They came up with two solutions, and we did a shared writing activity to describe the solutions. After that, they each drew diagrams illustrating the solutions and gave reasons to go with their individually chosen solutions.

This complex, real-life problem was so illuminating to me as a math teacher. It allowed me to coach them through the process and see exactly where the challenges were– more so than any dry word problem in a book. They were also very motivated to be at the head of this meaningful project for the school. I’m looking forward to continuing this kind of work with my group.

 

 

Reflection- Part 2

Writing has encouraged me to think deeply about my craft as a teacher. In addition, my break has given me more time to reflect on my way of working. Combining writing and time away has helped me to further reflect on my previous post I wrote about taking time for myself to both enjoy my work and avoid burnout. An extension of this reflection is the connection to a few articles, this one in particular, I read about a changing the presentation and delivery of professional development to engage more teachers on a meaningful level. Basically, no one looks forward to a lecture at the end of the day– no one wants to watch someone else click through a Powerpoint after a long day at school.

In this digital age, we have changed our way of learning. Most learning happens through our individual drive to learn (as it always has), but it looks different now. It has become more accessible from home, which results in less face-to-face interaction. Teachers seek on their own what they know they want to know. The problem is that teachers want (and need) to talk with other adults who share their interests and have similar experiences– it can be done online, but there’s value in being able to converse with colleagues in a physical setting. Being able to be fully honest in a place where confidentiality is not broken is important.

What can motivate teachers to want to have PD after school within the school community? There’s no question in my mind that teachers want to learn; that’s not the issue– it’s everything else on their plates– being stuck in the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute and missing out on the bigger picture. It is only natural for many teachers to work like that, but there is a need for exposure to new ideas, bigger ideas, conversations, and reflection.

Here’s the test idea that we’ll try: a small group of teachers will meet regularly to continue a school-betterment project that was started by all the teachers earlier this year. This smaller focus group will continue work on the project, which will deepen our understanding of the flow of academic goals for children and will help create a more consistent reference for the curricular goals for reports, IEPs, conference notes, etc.

The project is intense and will require dedication, motivation, and energy. What’s going to be different is the presentation– we’ll have snacks, coffee, and even a little wine. So, instead of a forced collaboration with only goals and checklists, we’ll get together and work on the bigger ideas– our common interest fueling our learning in a more social and fun context. It seems like it will be more productive this way, and we’ll also feel better about it– not dreading the time we will spend on the project but looking forward to the time we spend on it. The sense of accomplishment at the end will hopefully also come with an interest in doing another project of the same magnitude. We’ll see!

Differentiating with Technology

When I was growing up, my computer classes were focused on typing and how to use specific programs. As the Technology Coordinator this year, it’s my job to facilitate lessons using technology. My focus is not on the smaller skills like how to save a Word Document, but on the bigger picture: to use computers to extend learning. The skills are absolutely needed, but children learn those skills through use, not through direct instruction (just like language). Every time I’ve gone to PD on a computer program, I find that I already knew 90% of what was presented because I’ve played around with computers. The creative aspect of technology is the part that’s harder to learn and harder to teach.

So far, I’ve worked with two classes in the lab. Our focus has been research on a topic they’re learning in class. One group is a fifth grade group and the other is a second grade group. It is so easy to differentiate the instruction with they way I have it set up. Some children are writing based on their research, and some are having their learning recorded on video. They’re each having a chance to express what they’ve learned in a way that is just right for them.

Before getting to this point, I needed to work on infrastructure– some of which is constantly evolving. The students have a student login with a student email account that I facilitate. I write the students an email as my prep for the lesson. Each child opens the email with their name in the subject, and they have a detailed list of instructions for their assignment. I can find appropriate resources based on their reading levels. My time with the group is maximized because I don’t need to give group directions– children are motivated to understand how to use computers.

Next week, I’ll have headphones for each computer, and I’m going to install a text-to-speech program for the children who will need sources read to them. This will make finding resources so much easier, as I will need to find resources for the child’s listening comprehension level instead of their decoding and comprehension levels. Many more resources will be accessible to them.

It’s amazing to have children creating instead of just filling in blanks on worksheets. They are excited and more invested in their work. I have more to think about for K-1, but maybe we will be able to do something similar with videos instead of writing. I want to move beyond the mindset of repetition and rote learning.

Keeping Organized

I’m the kind of organized person that has labeled boxes in my apartment for everything from dog supplies to checkbooks to stamps to matches. Everything has a place… and usually a color, too. My classroom was always well organized as well.

I’ve been exploring with the best ways to keep my digital life organized for myself and for the people I provide resources for. So far, I love Dropmark. It’s visual, easy to organize, quick to load, and there are different levels of privacy for each category. I’ve found it so helpful for the lessons I teach. All I need to do is send the link or link it to a QR code in order to share it with my groups.

I’ve also been collecting resources for teachers to begin to use in their classrooms and to start the flipped classroom model. The idea of the flipped classroom is to provide learning opportunities at home, too. Providing families with meaningful and safe resources for their children to explore at home will help children to see that screens can be used for more than games. It also means that the instruction in the classroom will be more rich with more knowledge about topics than a teacher could provide in a 30 minute lesson.

Here’s the beginning of my Dropmark. Check it out!