Friday, December 30, 2011

More than one way to skin a cat

While perusing the twitter feed this evening, I stumbled on a tweet from @brasst for "Awesome Apps for Science Experiments, Storytelling, Coding, and More". I will be honest in saying that I don't usually give too much attention to these lists because in the past year I have come to realize that we all have our Top 10 (or whatever) apps that we find success in using. But, I looked into this tweet and was pleasantly surprised. I found a nifty little (free) app called Scribble Press.

Before I start singing the praises of Scribble Press, I want to back up. :)

In the past, I have given out my top apps list, but it is with great stress that I do that. (Seriously, I'm never really comfortable with this.) I have prefaced all my recommendations with the idea that it works for me, in my room, with my kids, at that moment, for that task. (Pretty good disclaimer, right?) But, it is impossible to give advice on that perfect app that will work flawlessly with any students all the time.

From the beginning of using iPads, I have been on the hunt (like everyone else) for the apps that are the best of the best. They need to:

-Be user-friendly for my 5th graders. I shouldn't have to TEACH the app. (Maybe some explore time to gain familiarity, but NO time wasted teaching the app. I don't mind my students doing a little problem solving, but frustration is not OK.)
-Be cost effective. (Enough said)
-Allow for easy sharing and displaying student work. I look for a way to email, post on twitter, save to iPhoto, upload to Dropbox, or combination. Nothing is more frustrating than spending the time on the work, to have it trapped on the iPad.
-Be multi-purpose. I'd like to use it over and over...student familiarity in apps really highlights content comprehension.

That's where my thought, "More than one way to skin a cat" comes in...

This is a screen shot of a couple apps that I have grouped together.

The top line highlights possible book building apps.
Pages- Most people know of the awesome potential with Pages. Student book creations here may be an idea.
StoryKit- I started the first year of iPads with this app. I liked it because of the ease of use and the portability of the finished product. You can get a link to an on-line version. Great for sharing with home. This isn't the most polished looking app, but it is fundamentally strong!
CreativeBookBuilder- This is the book building app that I am now investing the most time in. I like the ability to include various media in the book (from pics to movies to audio clips). Very versatile, but not easy to share with home. :(
Scribble Press- After testing it out (on my own and with my 9 yr old daughter), I can say that I will most definitely be offering it to my 5th graders as a project option. While it doesn't have the choices in media, it is very easy to share, and it is a bit more polished than StoryKit.
Composer- This is an app for building a more interactive book. While I love the idea of students creating books that have tap and motion going on, I think the app is geared more at design, and I want the focus to be on content. Plus, how to share? I think you have to publish. So, really not an option for my students (maybe me at some point).

Now, beyond that I have a couple of concept mapping apps (Popplet and Idea Sketch), cartoon making apps (StripDesign-cartoon strip and Toontastic-moving cartoon), and a couple of drawing apps (Doodle Buddy and DrawingPad).

See my point!

I think what it comes down to is this...

We now have a flood of apps available to us. This is good and bad. We want to have options, but my goodness! Sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack.

So, start with your content and purpose. What do you want your students to show you? Then, definitely check out a Top 10 now and then. But, don't panic! There is more than one way to skin a cat..find the app that works for you, your students, your budget, your time, and your goals.

Now...back to testing apps. ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Can Science Be Any Cooler!

Just wanted to post a quick blog...

The last few weeks have been SO wicked cool in science. We have had such opportunities and resources. From NASA Lunar and Meteorite samples (that came in the WORLD'S COOLEST CASES):

to Skyping with Phil Plait, @BadAstronomer:

(Click picture for link.)

After watching Phil's TED talk in class, I sent a request via email for a quick skype with very enthusiastic 5th graders! His acceptance threw us into overdrive creating questions, voting on the ten best, and getting our band room ready for many eager kids. My awesome principal, Mark Doughty (@woodlandsprin) helped with equipment and location.

Our Skype lasted just a bit over a half hour, and the kids were amazed. The connection he made with them through humor and relating the concepts to their lives were phenomenal!

What an experience! (I was SO nervous and excited). But, it was AWESOME!

to Skyping with friends all over the country to share our NASA samples...

it has been amazing!

It makes me feel so fortunate to have such opportunities and connections!

This isn't even counting in our other resources...

Marcus Chown's Solar System app,

Moon phase rap,

Brain pop videos,


And more!

Wow! What an awesome beginning to Earth and Space Science!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

While we are exploring our planet, solar system, and more, my students are showing such unbridled enthusiasm. I LOVE it!

Today was especially cool!

To introduce how we learn about our solar system, galaxy, and beyond, we are checking out meteorites. Let me set the stage...

1. Students warmed up by viewing and discussing a couple of the better ShowMe videos (they created on Friday with the ShowMe app on the iPad) for vocabulary terms telescope, inertia, and gravity.

2. Then, we jumped on to edmodo to share what we know already about asteroids, meteors, and meteorites. Students had a basic understanding that they are typically found in space, can hit earth, and that's about it!

3. So, we multi-tasked...

We watched a TED talk: Phil Plait: How to defend Earth from asteroids.

We back-channeled on edmodo what we were hearing, surprised by, wondering next, and TERRIFIED about.

This was WHILE we were making initial observations about the NASA meteorite samples that I checked out. Student recorded what they noticed with using a hand lens on edmodo.

Well, needless to was really cool! The students comments and questions on edmodo were both very intuitive, but also really clarifying for me! Their comments gave me a window into their thinking, ideas and misconceptions.

BUT, the ultimate comment during the day came from 2 of my students right in the middle of the lesson...
One boy looked up from typing to say, "Wow! Now I know why Math and Science are SO important!"
Even better, one of the young ladies looked up and said, "Now you know why I'm going to be a scientist! I'm not leaving this up to just ANYONE!"

Awesome! They got it. :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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