Wednesday, November 23, 2011

App Reviews: For Students By Students

As I look for my students to expand their horizons in technology, I always try to find opportunities for kids to create and use content. We know kids become more engaged and motivated when their audience expands. William Glasser's work taught us that we learn 50% of what we see and hear and we can increase that learning to 95% when we actively use information and teach others.

In first grade we spend a lot of time talking about why we share our learning. I want my kids to acquire what Peter H. Johnston refers to as "agency" in his book, Choice Words. I want my kids to see themselves as active players in the global community and think of themselves as, "I'm the kind of kid who can ________." I'm the kind of kid who can save Africa. I'm the kind of kid who can develop a new app. I'm the kind of kid who can teach others even though I'm only six-years-old. When kids begin to view themselves as empowered, content-creators and information-sharers they see the relevance of their work and are inspired to do more.

With our iPad project I'm constantly asking my students why is this important and how could we share this learning with others? As a result of these types of questions, my students decided it was important that we share apps that help us learn and understand more. Using SonicPics, my students are creating video app reviews for kids in our classroom and beyond.

When asked why is this important, here is how a few kids responded:
"Because what if kids in kindergarten don't know about it and it could really help them learn."
"Well, if your parents want to buy apps this could tell them which ones are good ones."
"Maybe other schools are thinking should we get iPads? Yes or no? This could make them say, oh yes we should!"

So, check out Room 106's app reviews! We want to share our learning and hope that you learn something new from first grade!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Power of a Camera

In 2006, our school participated in a state-wide laptop initiative. When the MacBooks with the iSight cameras arrived, at first we saw the camera as a convenience but not necessarily a transformative change. What we soon came to realize was that sometimes, increased convenience in a busy classroom of 30 children CAN be a transformative change! Having the camera always ready, always available, and seamlessly integrated with publishing and media tools makes it possible for students to document learning, create media, and capture their world at a moment's notice. Can you do this with a separate digital camera? Of course. But is it dramatically easier with a built-in camera? You bet it is. Anytime, anywhere access makes a difference with all technology, and a camera is no exception.

The addition of a camera with the iPad 2 is an even bigger deal. To use the MacBook's camera, the photography or video subject has to be positioned in front of the computer. With the iPad dual cameras, the subject can be literally anywhere. Students can capture anything in their learning environment and then podcast, write, draw, or blog about it.

The camera also makes a difference when it comes to assessment. Here's an example: first grade students in Kristin Ziemke's classroom were sorting books into fiction and non-fiction. Kristin needed to know who understood that difference. Kids snapped photos of their piles of books and e-mailed them to her. Voila -- not only does Kristin now know who accomplished this task, but she has simple, authentic data that she can keep and refer to later. In the past, she would have had to rush around to get to all of her students and assess their efforts, and the direct evidence of learning would have been lost the second the students cleaned up their tables.

Think of all the other learning moments students can capture with an iPad camera. Experiments, demonstrations, math manipulative configurations, models, posters -- anything that shows learning and understanding can be documented. When photos are brought into Pages, Keynote, iMovie, or SonicPics, they can become part of a richer reflection that includes text or audio. Those reflections provide authentic information about student understanding and can be captured throughout the year to show growth. The ease and accessibility of the built-in camera makes it possible to weave multimedia assessment throughout the learning day, and it also puts some of the power of documentation and assessment in the hands of the students themselves. Did you do something today you are proud of? Did you overcome a challenge you have had in your learning? Did you finish a book that was especially challenging? Take a picture. Write about it. Talk about it. Those moments are important in the life of a learner, and with a built-in camera, those moments can be saved and shared.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Using Google Forms in 1st Grade

We’ve got pets on the brain. For the past few weeks we have been reading about pets. We’ve written nonfiction text and poems about pets. We’ve collected data on pets, taken informal surveys of favorite pets and graphed our results. We interviewed our peers and asked students across to school to suggest the perfect pet for our classroom.

Now, it is time to select our classroom pet!

Here’s how technology guided this learning sequence over the past week.

First, students accessed the Google form on our classroom website.

Students had to select which pet they would like to have in Room 106 and provide a rationale for why. Using their iPads, students made their selections and submitted their vote.

At the end of the day we projected the results for the whole class to see and read the responses and rationales. My students were thrilled to see their submissions posted and motivated to read their peers’ posts. Many students tried to tally the votes in their head as we read the feedback, but I told them I’d compile the data and present the winning vote on Monday.

On Monday, using their iPads, my students acessed our classroom website. They navigated to the iPad page and viewed the results. To make this task accessible for all students, I paired photos, text and a pie chart to reveal the pet vote information.

And the winner is…a hermit crab! I wish I had videoed their excitement as the results were revealed.

Though this experience could have been done with markers and paper, technology enhanced this experience for my students as it provided a new mode and method for collecting data. Taking a survey on the iPad signified importance for my students; therefore, they worked hard to provide a detailed rationale that accurately communicated their thinking. Students increased the audience for their work as all children had the opportunity to read the posts as they were projected. This act connected the thinking and the collaboration taking place in our classroom and engaged my students actively as members of the learning community. In addition, my students were able to view data represented in multiple modes–this provided increased access for diverse learners and will hopefully build background knowledge for the next time students view data. Finally, this sequence built technology skills for accessing a website, completing an online survey and viewing data electronically.

How fun is that? There’s nothing better than students who are engaged, motivated and having fun learning!

Thank goodness the rat and the snake did not get many votes! I’m not sure what data I would’ve shared if that had happened…