Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking Ownership

One of our second grade classes is on its third day using the iPads in their literacy centers, and another class just got started today. It was interesting to sit in on both our "veteran" (of three days) class and our beginning class and notice the difference a few days has made. In the more experienced class, students navigated smoothly to a new sight word video, reset the video upon finishing, and then started the Spell Blocks with Sight Words app. Without prompting, students began to explore the settings in Spell Blocks with Sight Words to adjust the challenge level to meet their needs.
In contrast, the beginning class was still in teacher-directed mode and struggled a bit just to get the movie to play and pause as they wished.

Navigation issues aside, I feel the veteran class is starting to think differently about the iPad and to look for ways they can customize it to their needs. This is something we anticipated
would happen, and I am
glad to see it happening so soon -- so our planning discussions will now turn to differentiation and how we can use the iPads to customize the learning experience for individual students.

Students are also taking increasing ownership of the management of the equipment. Each room has a team of three students who go to the cart, unplug the iPads, and carry them to the classroom. They take this job very seriously!

There has been so much progress over the last three days, and I can't wait to see what next week will bring.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First day with student literacy centers!

Today our second graders started using the iPads in their literacy centers. We set up the iPads so there are three screens of apps -- one for literacy practice, one for art and publication, and a third for teacher apps. As each group of 5 students came to the center, I showed them how to navigate through the screens and, specifically, how to navigate a video. There was a little confusion between the video progress bar (at the top) and the volume slider (near the playback controls), so that was something we talked about.

For today's content, we used a sight word video that prompted students to read the word silently, pause the movie, write the word, and then listen to the word and a sentence including the word. Sight word recognition will help second graders build reading fluency and comprehension, and practicing sight words is always an important activity in the early months of the school year. Without exception, the activity went smoothly and students were engaged throughout. I am thinking of making a companion video to this one that will present the words in more rapid succession to help with memorization. The current video is more of a guess-and-check model, where students can check their reading by hearing the word after they've had some time to read it to themselves.

Tomorrow we will use the Spell Blocks with Sight Words application as a second literacy center activity, and then begin the fluency recordings. I will also teach the student tech teams how to set up the literacy center themselves. We are so excited to be underway!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Numbering the iPads

So this may not be the most earth shattering revelation, but I think it was a small stroke of genius on the part of our excellent Apple Professional Development trainer, Bruce Ahlborn. Rather than relying on the numbers we have hand-written on the outside of the silicone cases to tell which iPad is which, we are also making jpeg images in Keynote that have the iPad number on them in a large font, and those will become the iPad wallpaper. Simple, visible, helpful, and won't rub off -- an incredibly helpful detail!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Almost ready...

Next week we will start using the iPads in our second grade literacy centers. We have been working on some student pre-surveys to learn a bit about their current confidence level with technology and their level of awareness of different types of technology-based learning tasks. Because the students are so young, this process has been a bit of a challenge! My general impression so far is that kids have some awareness of using technology to play games and perhaps to find some information, and I can't wait to see how their knowledge and confidence grow over the course of the year.

There has been a good deal of behind the scenes activity since school began September 7. Finding affordable protective cases was a mundane but necessary step. After much consideration, we ended up with the delightfully named Minisuit by Vizu, which we selected for its affordable price, ease of application, and variety of color options (and perhaps partially for its fabulous name). We want kids to be able to readily identify which set of iPads belongs in their classroom, and color coding seemed like a pretty good way to do this. Sadly, the screen protectors that come with the Minisuit aren't going to cut it, and the Minisuits themselves really seem to attract classroom dust and grit -- but for the price, I still think it was a reasonable choice.

We are also working on finalizing the apps and content that will be on the iPads for their initial use. While introducing the iPads, we plan to have students using teacher-created vodcasts to practice their reading sight words and also using the Blue Fire app to record themselves reading and practice fluency.

Monday, September 20, 2010

So Excited.....

I am looking forward to creating stories for the iPads. Tina, Kelly, & I have been discussing creating a book to support our pioneer unit. :)