Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Student Designed Challenge

2 days before holiday break...
What images come to mind when thinking of 10 year old students?
For some, loud, hyper, barely manageable, right?

Maybe not!

Tinkerbox have captured my students' attention and ignited their imagination and passion for design! With 2 days before break, anyone visiting my room would be surprised at the very cool learning taking place. 

After break, we are heading into a VERY cool section of science involving LEGO Mindstorm NXT units. This will involve constructing the LEGO rovers, programming the rovers using computer programming, and completing various challenges similar to the challenges the real Mars rovers have faced. To prepare for these challenges, I loaded Tinkerbox and Cargo-Bot apps to our class iPads. Both apps involve elements in programming and problem solving. I had NO idea the interest that would develop.

Several students used the Tinkerbox app one time in class and were hooked. Two students, Luke and Dawson, became so hooked on the app that they loaded the app to their devices at home and began building! Both student emailed me their inventions. In our conversations, Luke and Dawson helped to map out an Epic Tinkerbox Challenge for the remaining students. I typed up the challenge, and today was the day to jump in.

This was the challenge.

I allowed Luke to get our first science class rolling on it. I stepped back and watched Luke demo the project. He mirrored his iPad to the computer, gave some pointers, rotated around the room to support other students, and continued to build while still projecting to the class. I think that I spoke MAYBE 3 times during the class. I had the BEST student teacher.

I wanted to share some of the conversations:

"I tested it like a ton of times." Luke, in response to student questioning his building method.
(Sounds like a science standard to me!)

"I'm going through the training because I'm not sure what to do." Miranda
"The training helped me a lot." Luke

"This is what came from my right here." Matthew
(20 minutes of working through his design)

"I made mine better here." Madelyn
"You JUST gave me an idea." Seth

The conversations around the room were very, very cool!

Student created design...check!
Student engagement...check!
Students as teachers...check!
Problem solving, work ethic, science...check!

And, transition to the LEGO rover investigations...check!

I think Tinkerbox is a great app! I think Luke is a great teacher! I think learning with students is great!

How we utilize a tool as powerful as an iPad makes all the difference. Capitalize on your students' interests. Put the learning into their hands. Become learning partners. And, trust...while there will be mistakes and bumps in utilizing iPads (or other technology), the payoffs will be EPIC! ;)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Liebster Award...Cool!

Thank you to Nancy C at Teaching is Elementary for the Liebster Award Nomination. How cool!
I think it is a pretty cool process, and I'm excited to get involved.

So, here goes...

The Rules:
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. You must answer the questions that the nominator set for you. 
3. You must create 11 new questions for the people you nominate.
4. You must choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post. 
5. No tag backs to the blog that nominated you, but do leave a comment on their post with the URL of your Liebster post.

Random Things About Me:
  1. I would rather drive my first car, Chevy Chevette, than my current SUV, Envoy.
  2. I bought my home because it had a maple, willow, and apple tree!
  3. My daughter and son are the only people that can get me to sing.
  4. My husband proposed to me on Halloween.
  5. I LOVE Arizona and all states west!
  6. I love skiing and kinda stink at snowboarding (but love to claim it).
  7. I love Muppets, Fraggles, Ninja Turtles, Scooby Doo, and Darkwing Duck. Seriously, LOVE!
  8. My first school project that I remember enjoying was a mock interview video in which I was featured as a world known brain surgeon. (I said that I wanted to fix my sister's brain. Ha!)
  9. I cried when my maple tree was cut down this summer. I sobbed when my apple tree was taken out in a storm a couple years ago. And, I plan on moving if my willow tree ever falls!
  10. I get SO excited watching my kids play sports, but I'm terrified of them getting hurt. So, I mostly hold my breath during their games.
  11. I can't help but SEE science all around me...constantly. Seriously, I'm thinking of electrons, light energy, and more while typing this!

Questions from Nancy:
  1. Favorite Book? John Steinbeck- The Moon Is Down
  2. What is your earliest memory? Playing with my older sister and Holly Hobby dolls.
  3. Favorite Sound? My newest dog, Leo, "talking" and my oldest dog, Shadow, breathing.
  4. Book or eReader? BOOK!
  5. Last movie you saw at the theater? Life of Pi...loved it!
  6. If you weren't in education - what would you do? Roofer
  7. Can you speak another language? If so, which one? Nope!
  8. Favorite subject to teach? Science
  9. Sports team you like to watch? Cleveland Cavaliers
  10. A favorite lesson to teach? Animal Adaptations
  11. Would you rather receive an email or letter in the mail? Letter in the opening a letter from one of my best friends, Katie!
My questions:
  1. Do you remember your first school project that mattered to you?
  2. When you see a sunset, do you think "gorgeous" or "refracted light"?
  3. Have you ever wanted to talk to a former teacher? Did you?
  4. What is your least favorite movie?
  5. Are you ever interested in running a marathon?
  6. What is the most interesting idea you've heard in the last week?
  7. Do you have a comfy place to read in your home? Or, are you a roaming reader?
  8. Do you have a special cause or foundation that you are passionate about?
  9. When are you most likely to check your twitter feed?
  10. What is your favorite holiday?
  11. Given a million dollars, who do you tell first?
My choices:
I hope that you check out blog posts from the list above. I have learned from all of the authors. Each offers my brain something different that I need to keep learning and growing.

Again, thank you, Nancy! You have connected with me on some of my key posts, and I so appreciate it! Your voice is always welcome in my mind.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Agnitus...Finding Apps for Derrick

I know I should follow up my last post about NearPod with my observations/work/results/impressions of using the app in the classroom with students, and I will get there. I promise!

But, I have to share about an app that I've started using with a little guy that I tutor on the weekend...using the ipad.

So, first...
let me introduce you to Derrick!
Derrick is a sweet little guy. I've known him for about the past 4 years of his 9 year old life. He's had a really rough start in life, but now he is in the care of a loving family that is committed to doing everything they can to help him live an independent, happy life. With a combination of therapy and love, these parents are doing the very best they can to bring Derrick from an isolated, angry, scared, non-communicative  and uncontrollable state to one in which he can start making sense of the world.

And, they've asked me to help with guidance on the technology front. :)
(They know about my love of tech because my family helped with respite care in the past. We were able to get Derrick to calm down with us and communicate by using the iPad. The parents were very impressed with the way we used the iPad, and they were desperate to know more! So, here we go...)

Working with Derrick, I use apps for creating social stories (stories that help him understand the world around him):

  • iMovie (movies about going to the library, sharing, brushing teeth, reading books, content stories)
  • Scribble press (stories about his stuffed animals, family, my daughter)
  • Toontastic (showing how characters can share ideas)
I also use story book apps:
I also use apps for learning life skills:
  • Brushing Teeth
  • Learn 2 Dial (combined with a real phone and making the screen lock his phone number...we are working on this!)
I work with Derrick on communication skills with:
And, periodically I pick up free/cost apps by using:
That's where I found:
  • DinoPuzzle which is one of Derrick's favorite apps from break time!

But, I wanted to share about a little app called Agnitus...

This app is phenomenal! It capitalizes on game based learning in such cool ways. It also sends me such detailed reports on Derrick's progress...even when he's using the app at home without me. I can see how he is working through the curriculum, how much time he spent in the app, and what percentage he is accomplishing at.

(This is kind of what the email looked like. Sorry...little unorganized in the screen shot!)

This skill report looks a little better. :)

The game based portion is really in line with games like Angry Birds. Derrick is flinging vowels at birds and making attempts to say them as well. This is huge! To help this little guy build speech and vocabulary is a massive goal. He also has the opportunity to work on colors, numbers, life skills like washing up, and shapes, and...MORE!

In an hour long tutoring session, Derrick, Jayden, and I create a quick video or scribble press book that Derrick can access later. We take time to play with apps, practice sharing, and learn with great apps like Agnitus.

Seeing him light up with THIS app is great! He's learning...his way...and HE'S HAPPY!

He hugs me when he sees me. He is excited every Saturday morning knowing that he's going to work with me. The boy that screamed, kicked, and bit me when he stayed in my care for a week during foster care rubs my cheek with his little stuffed toys that he brings to our session. He enjoys me...but he LOVES what I represent...a way to unlock what is inside of him.

What a wonderful way to learn, teach, and grow.
It really is all about the conversations! The iPad is just helping me unlock barriers for Derrick to give him the ways to connect with his world, family, and friends.

Please take the time to visit their website if you have any inclination to pass this app along!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wading in with NearPod App

So, I don't normally do this...but, I just can't help myself on this one!

***I don't usually recommend an app before I have used it successfully many times with students. Typically, I test apps with my two kids, a small group of students, and many classes before I sing it's praise (or trash it) publicly.

But, the NearPod iPad app has me enthralled! Thanks to @trendingedtech I decided to test out this app with a small group of students yesterday in class. As students were finishing their Educreation videos on science vocabulary, I asked them to "pilot" a new app with me. (They love doing this!)

This is a great graphic describing the app:

This is a great video explaining the app:

The feedback from the kids (as we explored together) was awesome! They loved the sample presentation we were working with, and they kept asking if I was going to make my own presentations AND if THEY could make presentations to share with each other. :)

What I did was pull a sample nearpod presentation already created and run with it. The presentation/lesson was created about scale of the solar system. This one lesson included the following features:

  • Gorgeous graphics and solid science information
  • Place for students to log in (so I could see them show up on my screen)
  • AMAZING video showing objects in scale mode (small to large)
  • Intermittent content checks that students respond to (scores and shows you results)
  • Asks students to draw an answer to a question on their ipad (sends to can share then with other students)
  • A final test
Right now, I'm just playing with the free version of the app. I'm building presentations from previous smart board slides and old power points and keynotes. I'm starting with my older materials and adding the interactive features, like students' drawing/submitting ideas, answering questions, and completing polls. The full version adds a couple more features that I can see as I wade into the program I will likely want to buy! I'm just now exploring information on the School Edition...

I would LOVE to connect with others that have used this program in the classroom. Please retweet and pass this post on...would love to work with someone on this!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jeopardy vs. The Amazing Race

What's the difference between Jeopardy and The Amazing Race...

While running today, I started thinking of how learning has changed since my time in elementary, middle, and high school as a student. I think education was approached a little like Jeopardy...memorization, drill, right/wrong, and maybe some creativity in there. The right answer and smartest kid in the room was celebrated. I didn't do poorly in this environment. I managed to be an A/B student, and I worked to connect what I was learning to what I perceived to be the "real world". I looked for the connection in the literature and physics to the world around me. I didn't always see these connections. And, my husband will tell you that while I was book smart, I didn't necessarily flourish in the practical smarts area! Years of teaching has since helped me grow into a more balanced learner.

I like to think that we've begun the transition into an educational model that celebrates the learning process a little like The Amazing Race. We value resourcefulness, problem-solving, intelligence, and ingenuity. We give students problems that have some foundation in the "Real World", and we try to connect them to the challenges around them. The exciting nature of life, challenges, and working as a community has become the springboard for our learning. At least in the classroom...I can't say much for those standardized tests.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Works For You?

Working with teachers in 4, 5, and 6th grade science on Friday proved to be a whole lot of frustrating, exciting, and promising (depending on the time frame). Frequently, meetings scheduled for a couple hours at a time leave us teachers looking at our watches, wondering about our students, and anticipating the ability to work. So, I wanted to explore one part of this meeting...the exciting and promising part...

My building has 2 really great science teachers in 4th grade. They both use various hands-on methods to explore the content with their students. On any given day, you could see them ripping apart flowers for identifying plant parts or wiring up some simple circuits or planting vegetables to teach science & health. This hands-on learning...they both can rock that out! They are also both getting more and more comfortable blending the textbook, online resources (like BrainPop), and SmartBoard technologies. So, they are doing great things.

However, after talking to our 6th grade science teacher about the fantastic interactive books he is creating on the iPad using CreativeBookBuilder

, and after digging into some methodology with me, both teachers were ready to start. Anywhere. Somewhere. Where? Time? Who has it? Familiarity? Not there yet. So, how do you start? This was my approach.

Start with the CONTENT-
What are you exploring with your students? What do you normally do?
One culminating project for the students is to create an ecosystem mural. Love it! Art,!
I tell them, "Do that!"
One teacher asks, "How do I use the iPad for it?"
"You don't. You will not use the iPad to make that ecosystem mural. Keep that process. The students will use chalk, pictures...whatever. But, let's get them to talk about the science. Let them continue the conversation about their work by utilizing the iPad."
So, we explored using the camera on the iPad and the ShowMe app

for having students trace the energy flow in their ecosystem (who eats who). We did a quick intro to the ShowMe app and discussed setting up an account.

(From here, the 6th grade science teacher partnered up with one of the 4th grade teachers, and I kept working with the other.)

Now...she's hooked. "I can do that. It's just take a picture and use it in the ShowMe app to have the kids talk science." Yep!

What else can we do?
Start with the CONTENT-
What are you exploring with your students? What do you normally do?
We next looked at a concept that is new to their standards this year. She is struggling with this content because it is new, and she doesn't have any go to activities.
So, we GOOGLED THAT SHIT! (Sorry...that's my new phrase...)
But, we did. She was surprised that we didn't start in the app store. My thought process that I explained was...before we go to the store (grocery or app), we do some research and make a shopping list! Let's get the best...not be an impulse shopper. (That is what lands you with CRAPTASTIC apps and ridiculous food in the cart.)

We found the Dinosaurs: American Museum of Natural History Collections app.

Next question was what do I do with that? Hmmmmm. This is where it gets tricky. My first thought is put it back in her court. Don't do the thinking for her. But, she looked completely lost!
So, I scaffolded it.
I described how I had just used the ISS Vook (an interactive book) with my students. Basically, worked from an exploration perspective with that app because there is JUST SO MUCH COOL STUFF in it. Students completed a box chart set of notes...
What did I view? (Tell me a little about the videos you watched.)
What did I read? (What sections were really interesting to you?)
What did I learn?
What do I wonder?
This activity doesn't require a tremendous amount of support. It is being completed with high interest content. And, each child came back to the group and shared what they discovered in a whole class setting.

Using the 4th grade teacher's time constraints and resources, we developed a pretty similar activity using the app.

From here, I took her to our her set up with an iPad to take home and practice with!

Here's my dilemma:
The conversation and hunt for more is still racing through my head. With a couple of quick searches, I was able to find even more...

Webquest with Fossils For Kids site?
The Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs interactive book?

Or, do I just show her how to pull pics from internet in to create slideshow in the Photos? That is a wicked cool way to display content while exploring a hands-on lab!

I'm not sure how much support to give...I don't want momentum to slow. I want our conversation to continue!

What works for you?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Setting up my young scientists up to succeed!

Our latest lab in 5th grade science was a HOOT! Seriously, we dissected owl pellets, and it was a phenomenal experience for the kids. While I knew the lab would be a great experience, I wanted to set my young scientists up to have the most success possible. Here's how we did it...

Flip that learning! Giving the students a chance to develop prior knowledge for the lab was really important. So, I gave them a homework assignment that would get them ready. They were given the week to watch a 2 minute video that described the procedure for dissecting owl pellets.

I loaded the video from KidWings Website to our Edmodo site for students to view.

While watching, they were asked to write the steps of the lab, 2-3 safety concerns, and 2-3 ways they could share their results after the lab. They also had the data recording sheet ahead of time to get prepared for the big day!

Out of 100 students, 2 were not prepared for the lab. How's that for homework completion! Given an assignment that they were genuinely interested in, I was able to get a GREAT percentage of students to complete their work, and they were READY to learn with me on Friday!

And...did we ever learn!

Students were so ready to go! As they entered, they rolled up their sleeves and jumped right into the lab. I didn't have to waste time with directions or explanations. With a quick review of safety concerns and a quick overview of where materials were located, we were into the lab.

While working with the students, I was able to dip into the BEST conversations! They were comparing the pellet bones to many other animals (including themselves). They were sorting, classifying, and TALKING science all period. No disruptions, no arguments, no short cuts! Just great questions, great discussions, and solid science work.

Some of my favorite conversations were related to:
*soft tissue vs. bone and fur
*how the ball and socket worked together
*how the bones around the eye were SO big that must mean large eyes...which must mean night time animals
*how hands on was the MOST fun
*comparing this dissection to the fish dissection at Stone Lab
*energy transfer from the food to the owl

Setting my students up to succeed was as simple as front loading the content with a short, descriptive video. We didn't waste time...we were ready to learn!

***FYI- some kids still misunderstood...some thought I killed the owls to get the pellets!

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gary Talks Programming...Kids Get It!

Let me introduce you to our friend, Gary...

He's a Puppet Lab guy.
He's a world traveler.
He's a tech guy.

Most importantly... he's the guy that can talk CODE and PROGRAMMING to 10/11 year olds in "kid speak". And, that's what he did today in 5th grade science class.


The VERY first thing Gary did was form a connection with the kids. He started off with, "Remember when..." Our class had played a little game with Gary a couple months ago...Where In The World. We used our class Twitter account and asked Gary questions to narrow down what country he was presenting in (Sweden).  The kids absolutely LOVED connecting with Gary over, this intro quickly pulled them into the lesson.

 The talk of our previous Twitter game led to talk of the Arctic circle, hours of daylight, tilting of the planet... Oh...and we talked language translation, geography, and money.


 His big accomplishment (other than all that other stuff) was to make a really great connection with programming and Lego building for the kids. He compared the bits of code that they would be working with in class to Lego bricks. "Each little brick of code...that makes the whole thing work." That made sense (to the kids and me)!

 Time to play... 

Gary walked the fifth graders through code that directed the computer to:

 -Assignment vs. Comparison


 And more... The kids were problem-solving with Gary as they worked through making the "computer do EXACTLY what you told it to do!" Using guess and check, thinking aloud, and reasoning, Gary led the students through a pretty complex set of tasks (in my opinion). Discussion of taking a bigger problem and breaking it down into the smaller parts to have "little victories" was exactly the message I want my young scientists to get! The entire lesson focused on problem solving, math, language, and science. Talk of variables, errors, and resolution...pretty intense, right? But, Gary definitely kept the kids engaged, working, and thinking.


 It didn't hurt that he brought his audience Swedish candy!

He even managed to plug having more women in this field! Hooray!

 But, seriously... find your GARY! That guy that'll spend the day connecting to your kids. We need professionals in our classrooms promoting problem-solving, critical thinking, science, math, technology, language.

Find him (or her)... then, * 4.

Run that program ALL DAY!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Water Cycle Cartoons

Quick post...
someone asked for a quick how to for the water cycle cartoons I posted a week or so ago.

Here goes...

DrawingPad App pictures + StripDesigner App= FUN water cycle cartoon making

*Excellent assessment piece for me...continued the conversation AND showed what students need a bit of a review!

Here are the sample projects...

Weaving in the iPad and other Technology (even when I'm not there)

This week has been a particularly rough week for both me and my students. With three days out of the classroom, we miss each other and it's tough! I love my students, and I love the work they do for me. As I'm out, I'm wondering a couple things:

  1. Are they learning while I'm out?
  2. Are they being "good" for the sub? 
  3. Are they respectful to each other?
  4. Am I giving them the same or similar activities as if I were there?
Now, I'll be the first to admit that I had some students who were challenging for the sub and the students around them. general, working today with the students I reflected on two things...Yes-they were learning in my absence and Yes- they were completing the activities using the iPad even in my absence.

Here are a few ways I set my students up to learn in my absence...still utilizing the technology in the room:
  • In several classes, I had several students who pretested out of the material for this week. They excelled on a voluntary pretest given through our StudyIsland program. So, they worked independently on their iPads to create ScribblePress books about energy traveling through ecosystems. Given a check sheet of topics that needed to be covered, the students utilized apps such as Popplet, DrawingPad, Safari, ScribblePress, and TypeDrawing to create these books...independently. (You see I modeled this for them about 2 weeks ago as we made our field trip books together. They all contributed and then watched me pull it together in ScribblePress app once already. They were set!) HOWEVER...they did have to get a quick tutorial on Dropbox if they were working with a partner. That didn't slow them down though!
Here are 2 sample pages from Luke's book...

But, what about other students? What did I have them do with the sub?
  • There was some reading out of the book. There was some note-taking. (I don't know that they particularly enjoyed that. But, I did have some awesome Smart Board slides for them to utilize and get involved with!)
  • They did use Edmodo. They used it to share with me while I was away. They discussed their day, what they got accomplished, and what they still wanted to learn. I loved reading their posts! Here is one that just cracked me up!

  • They did use Edmodo to back channel during a Planet Earth video clip. That was really cool to see their thoughts as they watched a segment from Cave ecosystems.
  • Today we used DrawingPad app on the iPad to create food chains. This was a great assessment for me to see who really understood the concept from the previous day. Here's a cool example of that...

  • Tomorrow, students will be working with their iPads to take a quick StudyIsland follow up assessment. Then, they will be working in MentalCase app for building flash cards for vocabulary.

To stay connected with my students, I mentioned that I used Edmodo. But, I also made a video (using iMovie on my iPad and uploading to our school YouTube account) explaining my expectations and where class was headed for the day. And, I was lucky enough to Skype into one of my Science classes with the help of my awesome special education teacher, Karen Lamb. She got us hooked up and dialed in for a fun quick Skype.

So, it's been a rough week. But, my students and I are still moving forward, still utilizing our tools, and still learning in science. I'm looking forward to a full, fun week next week. I have a Mystery Skype planned, a ShowMe app lesson planned, and some fun chalk and iMovie action for food!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What it looks like...Part 2

The boat engine sounds have faded. The muddy socks have been washed. The exhausted feeling is gone. Another amazing trip at Stone Lab for my fifth graders has passed. But, with so much content, so much science, so much learning...I can't let it go! I want to know just how much my students got from the trip and what they are now curious about.

So, back in the classroom, we have some great conversations!

The students are talking about the food, the fun, the dissections. But, I'm much science did they pick up? They keep saying it was amazing, they want to go back. But, what about the science? It was hands-on and fun, but...

So, I decided to have them SHOW me what they learned. I could have given a multiple choice test, throw in a short answer or two, maybe an extended response questions. But, I decided to do a slightly different method. We would make a class book with each student contributing to the text and illustrations with various iPad projects. We would pull it all together with the PHENOMENAL app, ScribblePress. Each science class' book would have a link for parents to read. We could save the book in iBooks on our iPads for later review. And, I would be purchasing a couple copies of each book (from ScribblePress) for give away drawings. And, each class could get to read the other classes books. Heck...we could even share our books with our Edmodo, Twitter, and Skype partner classes. Woo hoo! Yep. Very cool. So, "here's what it looks like".

1. Brainstorm the WHAT of the book. (Great conversation here with students while listing ideas on the smart board.)

2. Discuss the HOW of the book. (Students have plenty of ideas. Those students that were in my Summer Learning Camp session were definitely in the know on this one!)

3. Discuss INDIVIDUAL contributions. (We decide to have 2 wordles created on our classroom computers by 2 students while others are creating iPad projects. Projects include drawings in DrawingPad app, TypeDrawing app pictures, cartoon strips using StripDesign app, Popplets.)

4. Discuss TRANSFER to my iPad. (Students suggest emailing...fine. I suggest using our twitter account...that works. We throw in Dropbox as well. Dropbox is where they access the photos from the trip that I took. Some students want to add photos into their projects...imagine that!)


The students do a great job with the tech. They help each other. I rotated around to ask questions, give feedback, and LISTEN. I was amazed with the very cool conversations. Students were discussing the science behind the trip. They were usually trying to "one up" the person with their story, or what they learned. But, the science was there! I did have some students that needed to be redirected to the task, but I expected a little of that!

While the projects themselves didn't show a ton of science (with vocabulary or specific content), the conversations were very helpful in my assessment of the learning that occurred. Topics ranging from invasive species to adaptations to science equipment and! We had it all.

The projects were starting to roll in, and now...enter ScribblePress!
This app is such a user friendly, creative too. LOVE IT!

After students mailed, tweeted, and dropped their projects to me, I had my iPad mirroring to the projector, using Apple TV. The students watched and assisted ;) me as I pulled the projects to my iPad. (Never underestimate the value of thinking and talking aloud your tech processes with the students. This modeling is so desperately needed. We don't just throw our hands in the air and put in a help desk ticket to tech department. We THINK it through. Then, contact help...if needed.)

As projects piled up, we started to build the book. Still mirroring to the big screen, the students guided my writing. They recognized the book needed a beginning, middle, and end. And, they knew it had to be well written to accompany all their fun projects! I prompted in areas such as transitions, grammar, run-on sentences, etc. (to the best of my ability) We discussed how informational the text needed to be to share ALL THE COOL SCIENCE we learned.

Now, we are creating, discussing, and sharing. SCIENCE! Talk of plankton and energy transfer through ecosystems (state standards). Talk of long term investigations and data collection (state standards). Talk of interconnectedness and disruption of food webs with invasive species (state standards). Talk of delicious corn dogs and pudding (NOT state standard...but all agreed to be yummy).

So, to wrap this EPICALLY long post...
part 3 will be shared Monday as we polish up those class book masterpieces! The work is fifth grade. The science is wicked cool, and stay tuned. :)

What it looks like...Part 1

Just this weekend, I worked with a phenomenal group of educators in using technology in the classroom. The session was hosted by A+ Educators, and it was professional development that was continuing from previous work. It was also going to be a continued support and collaboration. I was there to help set up MacBooks, Apple TVs, projectors, and camera equipment, as well as give instructional ideas and answer questions from the teachers perspective. As expected, it was a fun time! The teachers were excited about the materials and the possibilities that were coming with them.

My part in the training was mostly supportive with only a small section officially dedicated to discussing the process of using Apple TV as a conduit for iPads and MacBooks, as well as the very cool ways to explore content with Apple TV. So, I did my section of the training and also worked with the teachers in a rotation fashion. As conversations developed about iPads, Apple TV, and more, I heard myself saying over and over again..."So, this is what it looks like." In describing my students using iPads, or in a lesson utilizing the Apple TV, or even in managing technology in the classroom, I was trying to set the stage for understanding. I was trying to paint a picture of the classroom while stressing three main points- collaboration, content, and creativity.

Not to belabor the point...but, I really believe that a teacher wanting to use technology in the classroom will be most successful when the tone is one of collaboration, and not instructor-driven. I want to collaborate with my students on the technology piece, and not make it a management issue. The content is my specialty, and if I design challenging, engaging lessons that allow students to explore that content, then the technology isn't a management issue. Which leads into the creativity puzzle pieces, it will fit together. (Not perfectly at times. Just like a real puzzle, you sometimes have a piece with a rough edge.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Are We Going To Use The iPads?

Our final day of summer learning camp, and one of the fourth graders blurted out, "Are we going to use the iPads today?" I paused before I answered. I knew the answer would be YES, but I wanted to really think more about the question before I answered.

Working only with these students for 4 of their 10 camp days (2.5 hour each time), we had explored apps such as:
  • TypeDrawing
  • ScribblePress
  • DrawingPad
  • Math Drills
  • Pearl Diver
  • Tangrams
  • Popplet + Pages
We had created amazing books about ourselves through ScribblePress. Many students were receiving their printed books today. (They were high quality books and very quickly shipped!) Others had viewed their books at home with family.
We had written paragraphs about our favorite sports and games with Popplet and Pages. The color copies were proudly displayed in the hallway and ready to go home today. Many students chose to read their paragraphs aloud to the class.
And, we just had a blast with all the math apps! From working on number lines in Pearl Diver to basic facts in the game based MathDrills app, we loved it.
The list goes on!

So, could I really get annoyed for the blurted out question, "Are we going to use the iPads today?" No. We did have a lot of fun. We built up confidences as readers and writers. And, we enjoyed what normally could be a VERY boring way to end summer.

Here's what I was think about though...
My incoming 5th graders will have this same mode of thought for the first few weeks of school. They will walk in each day with the same look in their eyes. They will be anticipating class for that most important reason.

Will we use the iPads today?

The moment will come in the year when this question isn't asked any more. It will silently disappear. I won't notice it right away. The kids won't notice it either. The questions will change...

What are we learning about today?
Are we connecting with anyone on Skype?
Do you want me to send out the tweets today?
Do we have a science lab to explore today?
Did we get a response back from our friends in Georgia?
Can I show you this app we could use?
Can I post my Toontastic to Edmodo?

And, that is when it is exciting! The iPad is just an iPad. It is just a tool for learning, exploring science, showcasing our questions and learning, a way to connect, a way to create...Ok. An iPad is just an iPad.

There is a point when the focus is technology. I think it happens with all new tech. The amazing part is when the technology isn't the focus any more!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Popplet + Pages= Fun Writing!

Just a quick post on today's summer school activity...

Trying to encourage a group of 15 reluctant writers can be a struggle! I won't lie! (Especially, when I am the iPad lady.) So, how did I get my incoming 4th graders to write today?

I started with a topic they all enjoy...sports and games. I asked them to brainstorm their favorite game or sport. We chatted about why they enjoyed the sports and games. Then, using the Reflection Software mirroring my iPad screen to the projector, I used the Popplet app for creating a web of my favorite sport...running. I showed the central theme in the middle, details surrounding it, and even inserted fun pictures.

Time for the students to work...
and they did! They did a great job working and helping each other.

After their popplets were saved to the photo library, we were ready for a break! (snack and recess time)

Upon returning, we rocked it out by pulling those perfect, popplet, prewriting tool pictures into PAGES! (Tell me there is a writing teacher out there impressed with THAT sentence!) The students used these graphics (for the most part) to build a paragraph.

Then, to give these writers a hard copy of their hard work, I had them print from the iPads using the Printopia software loaded to my computer. (This software allows you to save to the computer or use the computer to share with a printer.)

So, that was our day...mixing in a couple of fun math apps for thoseneeding a break or for those working a little faster. FUN!

Here are a couple more samples:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer School as Tech Integration

This year in summer school, I have a pretty unique position (for me). I'm being utilized as a tech integration specialist for grades 4-6. It's a weird feeling being that secondary teacher. But, the two ladies that I am working with are AWESOME! They are not approaching me as an add-on to their summer school. They are looking to truly pull my talents and interests in to support the emerging math and language arts students. Very cool!

 Also, let's be honest...the teacher that walks into the room pushing a cart of iPads is going to get the love!

 Here's how we are approaching this condensed time with kids (and iPads).

 Assessing their current levels and need in math facts... Enter MathDrills


 The app name itself isn't entirely inspiring for being a fun way to use the iPad. But, it totally is! The app is game-based and operates in a fun way. The entire time kids are answering math questions, they are "racing" with pit stops, fun sounds and animations, and SUPPORT. The app has optional support features such as a number line, problem count, and ways to tailor the app to the child's need.


 The student is being tracked in speed and accuracy. AND, the app generates a nice certificate and report that can be emailed to various locations. (The kids were really ramped up with the certificate!) We had the students explore the app with the practice and game sections. Then, they completed a 30 question test that allowed for results to be emailed to the teachers. This can be repeated after the two week session to check for progress. Just a great app with many possibilities to customize for the students needs!

 Next...let's get them reading, writing, and creating!

 Enter, ScribblePress app.


 Another way to tailor the instruction towards the student's level. The app itself is geared towards book building. Books that can be shared at completion with iTunes or via a link. The app allows for scaffolding in a fill in the blank format for emerging readers/writers or a completely blank book format for more advanced story generating.


 We used the story skeleton, "All About Me" to have the kids introduce themselves to us and get familiar with the iPad features. They were off an running! We didn't have to TEACH them how to use the app. The features are really well laid out and common sense like. So, the students weren't frustrated with the basic creating. That left a lot of time and energy for proof reading and editing. Students were able to go back through and fix their capitalization and punctuation errors. They added and deleted to personalize. And, the most fun came with the drawings and pictures added! What fun! And, were are working with words... We will polish up those stories about themselves and engage in another writing activity in the Scribble Press app.

 And, from here... We are utilizing some other really cool apps!

 To read about my experiences last summer teaching summer school to 7-9th grade students, click below. You can check out how I utilized google apps, Skype, iBooks, and Edmodo!

Please, share what apps you will be piloting in a summer school program! Or, interested in setting up a quick Skype call between groups? Let me know!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Creating content, or what? Part 2

So, I hit submit on the previous blog post, Creating content, or what? and thought, "Wow. I'm glad I got that off my chest!" Seriously, I thought of how many times I have sped through the science to get to the tech, and I'm a little disappointed in myself. I'm robbing my students of some true science experiences by being so focused on the tech & product building.

But, I don't think I always do this...
I think I have set the stage (at times) for my students to experience science more in line with Apple's Challenge Based Learning. I'm not doing it wrong ALL the time. :)

So, thinking a little more about this, I decided to find an example of each in my most previous year. I'm going to highlight instructional practices in which I approached content creation incorrectly and correctly.

Topic: Exploring potential & kinetic energy
  • I began by demonstrating various toys showing potential vs. kinetic energy. (Did you catch that I?)
  • We watched a brain pop about potential and kinetic energy.
  • We followed up with a short passage from the book.
  • We watched another couple cartoon like videos about potential and kinetic energy...maybe a Bill Nye.
  • Then, I asked the kids to create a cartoon strip showing potential and kinetic energy. Enter...ipad project. (We used Strip Designer app...which is an awesome app!)

Potential & Kinetic Period 2

What I noticed in my students' projects:
  • very repetitive examples used (mainly the toys that I demonstrated or the examples in the video)
  • very few/if any real world examples (from their experiences)
  • rushed drawings...little detail
  • some incomplete
  • minimal/if any descriptions of science
So, yep. That would be wrong! There was no content creation. There was very little content understanding. Why? The learning was doomed from the start. My goals were focused on the WRONG aspects.
(I would love a DO OVER with that lesson!)

Topic: Future Exploration Vehicles for NASA
My ultimate goal with this exploration was to encourage students to use what they knew about NASA, space exploration history, and our solar system to design the next vehicle for NASA to use to explore. ( Curiosity is the next.) I wanted to combine research skills, beginning engineering skills, team work/negotiation, and electrical wiring (simple circuits) during this project.
So...the CHALLENGE was set. The materials were dumped in the middle of the room (Legos, wiring materials, and more). And, the students were given the choice of creating a Keynote or iMovie to document their vehicle (what it was, where it was going, who built it, what it would study, et).

Here is a link to my 2nd period science class projects. You will have to scroll half way down the page to get to the projects.

When I look through these projects, I see a HUGE difference!
  • Personal...These kids really bought into this content. They made this rover, satellite, or space station uniquely theirs.
  • Depth- They researched what NASA has already done by utilizing various apps (like the wicked cool NASA app) and sites.
  • Polished- From their mission badges to the vehicle itself, the kids invested time in doing it right!
  • Content- It was not regurgitated information. The variety and details are all from self-driven research.

So, setting the stage for true content creation for ME means having that open challenge, not being so rushed for the product, being supportive of the process, and being patient with the tech integration. If it is to be done well, the students will need the stage set correctly.

Any ideas?

Creating content, or what?

Laying out this next school year involves making decisions on some upcoming projects, developing connections with other classes, and evaluating my tech usage in class. Using the summer to roll ideas around, plan with others, and research teaching practices, has led me to think about the idea of students creating content. I recently read a post by another teacher about having her students create iBooks. She described how her students were "creating content". Something in this claim made me wonder...

To CREATE content, students have to be the owners of the:
  • questions
  • discoveries
  • and work product.
This would be my qualification for saying that they are "creating content". Otherwise, aren't they just regurgitating content in a fun, flashy format? Yes, it's fun. Yes, it will most definitely make them retain the content longer with more depth than traditional studies. But, it isn't really creating the content. We aren't asking them to bring their own questions, ideas, and struggles to the process.

I think that I've been somewhat guilty of this in the past. I haven't given the time to truly explore content and develop ownership to the students as often as possible. I tend to rush through the exploration of the content to get to the fun product making part. Yep...guilty on some levels. I think that I do this sometimes because the iPad offers SO many tools for students to show understanding, and I want to use as many as possible. The device then drives the instruction...ssshhhhh. Don't tell!

So, here's the final thought...

Giving my students the opportunity to OWN the learning (in my eyes) is best accomplished by giving them ownership in the WHOLE process. Reminds me of Apple's Challenge Based Learning.
While I know I use this approach on some occasions, it is time to take the plunge and really buy into this methodology.

Sounds like more to add to my own IEP...

What do you think?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Satellite Children

Last night, my daughter and I spent the night in our small tent in the backyard enjoying the stars, Radio Disney, and Stack the States Challenge. (Boy...she is better than I thought with that app!) We had snacks, comfy (really uncomfortable) accommodations, and ADVENTURE. That's what Jay calls any "mom time"...adventure. Whether we are riding the motorcycle out to visit grandma or hanging in a tent, when we are's adventure. As the night wore on and Jay got sleepier, I watched her start to slide back in years. Parents know this. We see our kids grow forward and slide back constantly. A word or phrase used as a 7 year old gets dropped and picked up later at 9. The way Jay slid back last night just made me think. Her little hand grabbing mine. Her snuggle up with her favorite Bug (stuffed toy). Her feet wrapping around my legs. All these little physical signs are so very like Jay. She used to do this constantly, but she's getting more and more independent. She seeks out time with other people more and more. It made me think of my children as satellites. At one point, they just orbited right around me. A very regular pattern, predictable, comforting. I knew their limits, their choices, their abilities. They had these little growth spurts, but they came back quickly. My gravitational field with their...we just existed together in this motion. Now, as my children are getting to be 10 and 11, I see the satellites starting to drift. They are falling out of orbit more and more often. They snap back for awhile...during back yard camping trips. But, my gravitational pull just isn't enough to keep them in orbit. The need for showing individuality and independence is more and more evident. (You would think with their mass increasing, the gravitational pull would be greater. But...) This is both a really cool thing to experience and heartbreaking. I just wish I had more time in the satellite mode. I know that I have no right to demand more of this time, refusing my children the amazing experience of growing and experiencing the world. It's just a little daunting. Maybe at some point, the laws of physics will kick back in. Maybe these next years of drifting orbit will be hard for me. But, hopefully our combined mass will be so great, they will be unable to come back and visit that comfortable orbit. Just thoughts of a parent... (Probably all of this was spurred by Pluto having another moon added to it's growing list!)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

iPad Project Menu

In collecting my ideas for this upcoming school year, I have been sifting through my ideas for iPad projects. I have used many different projects on the iPad for assessing my students' understanding of science content. We used postcard making with the LifeCards app to assess understanding of various planet characteristics. We've created popplets for concept mapping of the water cycle. We've created Keynote presentations for designing new ecofriendly, alternate energy based communities. And more...

So, for next year, I'm looking to scaffold the iPad projects in a similar method. Highlighting:
  • content, content, content- The science must lead the project!
  • audience- Adapt the project to fit the audience.
  • choice- What are you natively interested in building?
This last part is where I think I'm going to implement the use of a project menu board. We've discussed using menus on twitter chats, and I've utilized menu systems with science classwork. So, why not try it with my iPad projects?

Here's my beginning list of projects. GOOGLE SITE LINK

Feel free to add some ideas, and share your twitter or google contact if you'd like.
Otherwise, maybe this list can give you some ideas for iPad project building. :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

IEP Revisited

Last year, right around this time, I posted My Personal IEP post ( This post was inspired by Morgan Kolis, @Room5Friends. In my post, I identified my top goals for the school year. They included balance in instruction, communication, and connecting my students. I printed out this post and hung it on the science supply cabinet in my room (as I elected to ditch the desk this year).

Periodically, I reviewed it, but I'll be honest, I fell short in the communication with families area. I didn't have as much variety in communication as I had hoped. The school postcards were GREAT, and I rocked that out. However, I wanted to initiate more contact through phone, and that didn't happen as much. Twitter...great, but only had a few parent followers. The other areas looked pretty good. I had a nice mix in tech, hands on, and literacy based instruction. We managed to explore the science content while developing investigations, connecting with other professional and student scientists around the United States, and avoiding achievement test prep nonsense as much as possible.

So, for this coming year, I have MORE goals:
  • Communication- Going to continue working on that! I am going to try to make 3-5 calls home over the week. Identifying the positive moments, as well as sharing areas of growth will be the focus.
  • Communication- Twitter, going to try to encourage more parents to follow. Edmodo, going to get parents involved in our Learning Management System.
  • Continuing Education- This is the year for me to renew my National Board Certification. So, I'll have a social studies class in the mix of science classes. FUN!
  • Growing with iPad use- I'm excited to use my iPads for the 3rd year with students. I am looking for even more ways to learn, create, and share with the devices!
  • Global Read Aloud- I am signed up for this really cool connection, and I am super excited to jump into this!
  • Connections- I loved the conversations that occurred this year in connecting my classes through Skype, Edmodo, and Twitter. Definitely hoping to keep those connections, and I'm looking for 1 or more class to pilot a more permanent connection with. Please see my Help Wanted post.
And, my final goal...
  • I am really going to try to enjoy having my son in class this year! I know that their will be a balance in there and maybe it will be a struggle, but I hope he sees the love of learning, students, and science that I have. This will be a new dimension and relationship for us, and my goal is to relax, enjoy, and savor this time with him.
Do you have your goals? I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Help Wanted!

This past year, I had amazing experiences connecting my classroom to other classrooms via Skype, Twitter, and Edmodo. I am REALLY looking forward to that for the upcoming year. I loved the classes that we worked with, and I want to follow that similar path for this new group of students.

Also, I am also looking to build this relationship up with a class to class connection that will be on a more full time basis. I want to essentially merge two classes to work together to explore science. Using combined efforts with resources, ideas, and students, I would love to make a year long commitment with our classes.

Sound interesting?

If so, here's what I'm looking for:

  • 5th grade class (connection in science content)
  • Ohio preferably (due to state standards)
  • willing to Skype or Google chat on a weekly (building up to daily) basis from the very beginning of school for class period
  • Willing to connect classes through Edmodo and possibly Twitter
  • Willing to integrate technology with emphasis possibly on iPad project use, video, and web-site development of content learning
  • Willing to engage students in a more problem based learning style
  • Interested in connecting classes to science and technology professionals via Skype
If this sounds interesting and worth having a conversation about, please let me know on this blog or through twitter @llacrosse

I would love to explore learning in this format. I think we are doing great things in 5th grade @lacrossescience and I would love to take this next step.

Please share this request. :) I can brainstorm possible connection possibilities.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scaffolding Skype

I think most people can agree that science happens to be one of those subjects that kids naturally get excited about. I always say that I have the best "gig" in the building. Students come into my room from day one with enthusiasm and great questions. They are ready to roll!

Of course, many images like this comes to their mind!

In any case, the love for science is already there! 5th graders are natively the best scientists around. So, I feel that the best thing I can do for them is to CONNECT them to other scientists. My task then becomes giving them a forum to continue their conversations, ask questions, learn together, create and build representations of their learning and ideas!

Skype offers this forum. I can connect my students to other classrooms of scientists around the country! The possibilities are endless. Right? Right! However, I wanted to do this well. So, like any activity I want my students to do well, I scaffold the experience giving them opportunities to practice, experience success, and expand on the activity.

How? This is how I approached it with 100+ students in a day...

*We started SMALL!

I set up short 15-20 minute Mystery Skypes with other 4th and 5th grade classrooms that I had connected professionally on twitter. (You can find out a TON about Mystery Skypes and the roles students perform during these skypes by doing a simple google search.)

I was able to give the students pre-Mystery Skype practices by calling another one of my accounts with a student in another classroom. Or, my classes called other teachers in my building or my friend, Gary in Oregon. Just giving them an opportunity to do a quick run through made ALL the difference when the Skype calls really got rolling!

These Mystery Skypes allowed me to have conversations with my students about the content we were sharing (geography, science, map skills, etc) AND the manners and behaviors required of a this type of connection. We talked about clarity of voice, eye contact, asking follow up questions, and showing interest in the other class.

Side note---the content my students shared became SO ingrained in them because of the practice and sharing sessions. Information about our ecosystem, geography, economy, and culture was repeated over and over...pretty cool!

*Spreading our wings...

After my students gained confidence in the Mystery Skype mode, we were ready to spread our wings and expand our delivery of content. skypes!

We used our classes that we had connected with to share other science content that we were learning. Our calls to our partner scientists ranged from:
*performing investigations for each other
*singing and dancing our science songs
*showing our water cycle model
*sharing our NASA moon and meteorite samples
*playing game shows with our science content

These skypes always ended with smiles and high fives amongst my students. They scurried out into the hall sharing with the incoming students about how awesome our partner classes were! Science conversations continued all day long.

*Ready for more...

With our science learning including great videos from TED Talks and The Symphony of Science, my students were ready to talk to scientists around the country. I didn't initially know if any scientist would respond to my emails. But, I was SUPER fortunate to not have one scientist respond...but two!

After watching Phil Plait, @BadAstronomer discuss meteor impacts on a TED Talk, my students had so many awesome questions. So, I contacted Dr. Plait through the TED Talk profile pages, and we set up a time to Skype. WOW! He was awesome! So kid friendly, patient, and excited...the skype was phenomenal. My students had created and voted on questions to ask. They stood before the camera with the most respectful, professional manners. And, it was truly a moment of pride for me! At the end of the Skype, the kids were cheering, and I gave away a couple of his books.

This success gave me the courage to send an email to another scientist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. My students had listened to several of his videos. They were singing along to Symphony of Science, Onward to the Edge. They were hooked! So, it seemed logical to send a request his way.

I didn't think that we were going to be able to connect because he is a REALLY busy guy! But, when I read the email from Dr. Tyson's assistant confirming a Skype meet up, my hands were shaking with excitement!

This was the grand finale to the year for us! The students were ready for this. I was MORE than excited. We were all nervous. But, when the skype call got going, it was amazing how poised, confident, and inquisitive the students were.

Video of Tyson Skype

I truly believe that this experience was so powerful for many reasons:
*Dr. Tyson is just AWESOME!
*The students had control over the science conversation.
*The students were practiced, seasoned Skypers through the scaffolded interactions through the year.

So, this was my process. I'm sure I made some mistakes, but I'm positive that next year I'll be ready to embark on this journey with another 100+ fifth grade scientists. And, we will learn together.