Sunday, December 7, 2014

Learning Through Leadership Panel

Today, I was fortunate to be able to speak at an Apple Leadership event in Indianapolis. Speaking before me were three incredibly knowledgeable, well spoken superintendents in the area. Dr. Marc Slaton, Mr. Jason Callahan, and Mr. Wayne Barker discussed their districts decisions, policies, and experiences in going 1:1 with grades K-12. With a blend of iPad, MacBook, and Apple TV deployment experiences, I was thrilled to hear the discussion focus mostly on students, teachers, and teaching practices. It was great! The conversations were uplifting and motivational. Real ideas about risk and payoff were shared. Honesty and professionalism led the discussion.

Here are just a few of the key points that I was most impressed, excited to hear.

  • Declining enrollment was halted with 1:1 deployment.
  • Discussion of 1:1 was early, often, and always the goal.
  • Some implementation was teacher driven. Some was teacher resistant. Teachers now recognize importance in the movement now.
  • Technology use following research into higher ed, evaluating opportunities that could be offered, and reflection on student/family needs.
  • The understanding, partnership, and reverence for family highlighted over and over.
  • Recognition that we have a responsibility to create competitive digital citizens.
  • Disengaged students are not acceptable. Need to get them to, "see beyond the walls of our county."
  • Marc Slaton shared how his district started with a test pilot of 90 freshman. Implementation has to be well planned and in manageable stages. He also shared that many students, "wanted their books and worksheets back" at first. Why? The work was more difficult. Students were being challenged to think deeper and create more meaningful work. Awesome!
  • Lack of wifi...not as big of a concern as anticipated. Students and families found a way! And, in the event that families needed support, the schools opened early, stayed open longer, and worked to educate. Tools such as eBackPack were cited as being possible solutions to loading content during school time with utilization at home (offline).
  • Top two areas to invest time, money, conversation, and care---> WiFi and infrastructure and teacher professional development! AGREED!
  • Many of the schools utilized the Apple PD and really focused on in-house training and facilitators. Teachers teaching teachers had the most payoff. From early start days to optional professional development days, to allowing teachers to build/curate content together in teams were the most effective methods. Teachers became very driven to support and learn from each other when it was not a pre-scripted training. Curriculum exploration was done in teams with constant sharing.
  • Deployment success tips- 
    • IT folks on board, ready to go, and Apple Tech certified
    • Organized
    • Cases on devices- not an after thought...make it a priority
    • Involving community and parents with rotating roll out nights for the devices. Start with Keynote welcome, move into IT discussion and Q/A session, rotate through stations to pick up and set up devices. Make it fun! Share what is going on in the district!
    • Insurance- in-house system set up

My discussion was geared towards what technology can look like in the classroom. From projects to simple iPad uses, I shared how students are learning, growing, and being challenged with these tools in our toolkit. :)

Needless to say, I left this gathering entirely impressed by the leadership of these three gentlemen and the work that their teachers, students, and staff are doing. They truly have the pulse of their district, have compassion and understanding for their families, and are innovative in moving forward with technology to move education forward.

I am now in the Indianapolis airport with visions of 1:1 in my district dancing in my head...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Engaging with Tech Before Building Our Stream Table

As we finish up our Earth Science unit, I'm so excited to bust out our last engineering project. It involves using a stream table and saving a Lego village! Maybe a bit silly, but I think the 8th graders could totally use this type of challenge in December!

If you don't know what a stream table is...

This one is from a company, and costs close to $300. A little too much for my budget. ;)

So, the kids are helping to change my former Lego table into a stream table...
After adding the pond liner, hoses, and sediment, this table will be ready to go!

To generate excitement and help students develop some prior knowledge, I set up some lessons meant to ENGAGE!

Students submitted plans for the stream table layout last week on paper or by creating drawings in various apps. Here are a couple of favorites...

We jumped into the concept this week with some fun simulations!

Students were able to adjust the slope, vegetation level, and rain intensity to see the amount of soil erosion. They blogged about their findings, and we discussed the implications for our stream table. 

We used an app called Wind Tunnel to look at how particles move.
Students had 10 minute of pure explore time with the app! Phenomenal ideas, really cool observations, and just fun time was had the day before Thanksgiving break starting!

This video shows our explore time work...

Here are some student blog posts. While there isn't much science language in the blog posts, we have definitely started the conversation, peaked interest, and engaged! The science understanding will develop through play (stream table) and revisiting the concept!

All of these activities are leading up to the stream table work that will explore erosion/deposition and engineering principles to prevent soil loss. Students will work in teams to build structures to slow down the process and prevent a Lego community from destruction! And, yes...we will revisit the Wind Tunnel app as we go to check our understanding.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Augmented Reality Walk Content Review

This week started off on Monday with a really exciting activity that I am just so excited to share!

After exploring many earth science topics like tectonic plate movement, seismic-safe building designs, earth features, earth geologic time periods, and fossils, we were ready to stop and catch our breath. Students have been working hard to learn the content and create different projects with their learning like these:


Short Animations


Toontastic Cartoons

And more! Not displayed here are the fantastic booklets and posters that students created in class. Students are exploring the content in so many ways. So, to catch up, review the information that we have been working with, introduce them to the Aurasma app for later use, and just have a fun activity, I decided to use some of their work in an Augmented Reality walk.

So, using their seismic-safe building models, Earth time period posters, earth features booklets, and various other posters and class materials, I built a walk that would take them through images and videos reviewing the content. As students opened the Aurasma app, they visited various "stops" at the lab tables. 

The stations looked like this:

Students were able to explore the content by watching fossils emerge from their time period posters and information from their Earth booklets.

They were able to watch video clips of the San Andreas fault and bioluminescent animation from the maps in the room.

I embedded information about seismic-safe buildings right inside of their models!

Some triggers loaded web clips. Some loaded student animations. And, some were just fun graphics!

It was really fun to watch the students wander along the AR walk, talk about the information, have fun pulling up the overlays, and just enjoy themselves! Their were a couple of glitches with triggers that didn't work perfectly. Also, it became difficult to hear all the videos in my larger classes. So, it wasn't a flawless activity, but definitely engaging! Students commented, "I love this app!" and "This is really cool!"

With so much interest in using the app, where do I go from here? Well, I have a couple plans:

  1. The posters, booklets, and materials that were used for this activity aren't going anywhere! They will be around the room for any down time. Why not embed the learning on the walls all around them? Their work, their memories, their learning! Review for state tests, connections to later content, and just fun reviews are in our future!
  2. Students are already creating their own augmented reality vocabulary cubes. By training just a couple kids, the understanding of the process is easily being shared. This was my example...and now they are on there way!

3. Students tackle this next time! They are completely capable of creating an Augmented Reality walk for me now! Won't that be awesome!

With such cool technology, this earth science review was fun. :)

If you are interested in using Augmented Reality with the Aurasma app, here are a few resources and good to know facts.:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Beauty in the Statement, "I don't know, what do you think?"

It seems like just yesterday when I would pose the question to my 5th graders, "I don't know, what do you think?" Chances are, I would be using that statement as a buffer for myself. Instead of quickly answering a student question, I would throw it right back to the student...just as I learned working with Commander Reed Steele at the Challenger Learning Center. As the Commander said, "You are making it too easy for them. You aren't in the business of giving answers. Your job is to grow THINKERS, PROBLEM SOLVERS." So, it was definitely a shift in my educational practice. Thank you, Commander!

Now, the statement has a whole new meaning! As much as I prepare for my 8th grade science lessons, as much as I research ahead of time, it is an AWESOME but SCARY feeling when my students ask questions. They may be tired of hearing, "I don't know, what do you think?" I genuinely want to know their ideas and thoughts because it propels me to think outside of my prep and research to learn more myself! The entire process it really we research and learn together, we are growing together as learners. We are trying to connect to our personal lives, find out "why we need to know this", and grow a bit as learners.

Always learning...I love this terrifying feeling. I love the honesty that comes from admitting to my community of learners...I don't know, but I'm so excited that you thought to ask!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seismic-Safe Buildings!

"Cause it's all about the base, about the tremble!"

This is the adaptation to the popular song that my 8th graders are singing in class as they work busily to construct a tower that can withstand seismic activities on the shake table. On Thursday, October 16th, students were given their latest engineering challenge that connects to our Earth Science study.

The general prompt is:

Create a model building that can withstand various types of seismic waves on our shake table.
The building must be taller than 30 cm, lighter than 3 pounds, and have a base between 225 cm squared and 324 cm squared. Students also need to have a base floor and a top floor that can support a 100 g mass. All this has to be created from materials such as popsicle sticks, cardboard, tape, and straws. Students can "purchase" extra materials, like additional duct tape, marshmallows, Legos, littleBits components, and more with their @lacrossescience Builder Bucks. Of course, they are welcome to bring in other materials. Awards will be given for creativity, withstanding the most force, and being the tallest structure. Students also can get bonus points for utilizing our littleBits components in their design. For example, students can set up buzzers, lights, timers, motion sensors, and more!

Setting students up for this challenge:

This involved some beginning research with some great apps and web resources. To learn about earthquakes and seismic waves, we viewed a National Geographic video and shared ideas on Schoology:

Then, we explored earthquakes with the US Geological Survey site, and students found other on-line resources to add to their understanding. Our book has a phenomenal section on how to design seismic proof building. So, that was another fantastic resource! After all the research, students used their Blogger app to write up posts. 

Here are a few sample posts:

Ready to build and diving in:

This is were we are currently working...
Students were thrilled to begin testing their ideas and building! Just building...using tools...working together. What a cool environment the lab became! I watched students using math to measure, figure out the area of their base, and negotiate purchases with their @lacrossescience Builder Bucks. Students are now assembling and shaking their buildings to test the sturdiness. They are modifying designs and working together to brainstorm solutions. One of the best parts...power tools and saws! Students are loving the process of building! One student even gave me a demonstration of how to use the compass app as a level! Nifty little trick that I didn't know about! Check this out HERE!

These are just some of the snapshots of the classroom! 

Where do we go from here?

As students build and test their designs, I will continually ask them to think aloud, share, and develop those STEM skills. Questions relating to area, types of seismic waves, electronic configurations, and more will be thrown at the students! As students work, they will develop a Keynote presentation sharing their design with text, images, and video of the building on the shake table. While the buildings are on the shake table, we will use an app called iSeismometer to gauge our force. We will also utilize the SloPro app to closely evaluate the structures movements. From this experience, students will work through a Nearpod lesson in which we finalize the concept.

I can't wait to share our shake table competition on Friday with the student Keynote presentations!

Interested in this activity? The Ohio Department of Education has a great resource HERE.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wow...That Happened!

I've been on a bit of a hiatus from writing and sharing my learning due to a pretty cool event...

I've moved from 5th grade science to 8th grade science. The opportunity came up, and I'm a firm believer that a good challenge should always be welcomed. We grow and develop as educators when we step outside of our comfort zone. And, I have DEFINITELY jumped outside of my comfort zone!

With the first 9 weeks almost upon us, I thought I would record/share a bit of my learning journey in this new position, working with the new content, and learning with my new partners...8th grade scientists!

Lesson 1- While I worked with these students in 5th grade, they are definitely NOT the same learners. They have grown, experienced much, and (sort of) matured! I learned this lesson the first day as I was attempting to write their locker numbers in their agendas. One student very politely turned to me and said, "We can do a lot of these things, Mrs. LaCrosse."

Lesson 2- The excited, full of life, and ready for a challenge group of students that I met in 5th grade are definitely still there. They are somewhat hidden under a layer of hormones, extreme concern about grades, and skepticism. But, they are there! I noticed this during our engineering challenges, our sidewalk chalk artwork, and our field trip to Stone Lab.

Lesson 3- I have SO much to learn! Content, content, content! With so many fantastic resources, it is a bit overwhelming, but I am loving it. We have explored life science content with a field trip to Stone Lab, an iTunes U course, and a wonderful iBook series, Life on Earth. The Life on Earth book series is amazing with wonderful interactives and solid content! Students enjoyed the learning with these tools, and we had some fantastic reports created.

Lesson 4- I don't have to do it all! My iTunes U course was a bit stuffed with activities. I tried to stuff every idea into the course, and that was a mistake. So, lesson will be a long year to explore science with all the great tools at my disposal!

Lesson 5- Staying true to some of my iPad faves is a good call! Regardless of 5th grade or 8th grade, some tools are just amazing resources in the classroom. So, here's a quick run down of those apps that have made the jump (because they are just awesome tools)!
  • Socrative App- Great for exit tickets, quick checks, and students asking questions anonymously.
  • Blogger App- Getting those kiddos writing about science and sharing ideas on their own blogs!
  • DrawingPad App- Avoiding the standard stealing of images from Google...draw it please! And some beautiful images have resulted!

  • Toontastic School Edition App- Students still love storytelling in science! I used the app for option in assessment and received some GREAT toons. Here is one of my faves... much more!

I'm learning a lot, loving teaching, enjoying my students, and thrilled to have access to so many great tools!

More to come as we explore 8th grade science!

Seismic-Safe Buildings...Preparing for Learning

Before beginning our engineering task to design seismic-safe buildings, I asked my 8th graders to do a little research on the topic. Using their book and other resources on the iPads, I am requiring them to compose a blog post in which they share their understanding of seismic-safe buildings. So, to evaluate the process, I am constructing my own blog post!

I honestly know very little about what makes a building more prepared for seismic activity. I imagine that it has to do with allowing for flexibility in the areas that attach. I also think that the materials that we would use in Ohio for our construction are probably much different than the materials used for these buildings. Other than a generic knowledge on the topic, I don't have much!

The section in the book about seismic-safe buildings is full of great information on how to protect buildings from earthquake damage. The overall idea of reinforcing to make stronger and less likely to snap is found in many features. The features not only strengthen, but also allow the building to move or protect from the energy of seismic waves. Some ideas are shear walls to transfer the energy down, tension ties to absorb and scatter the energy, and base isolators to prevent some of the energy from the ground from even entering the building. These look like shocks at the bottom of the building. The cross braces are found all around the building. Finally, the dampers are like shocks found on a car, and flexible pipes are able to bend and pass energy through them. While these are costly measures, they can definitely help a building survive earthquake shocks.

I did find some more information on-line about building safer homes. The goal is to protect the building from movement that occurs in a side to side motion, as well as an up and down motion. So, balancing the load to resist both motions is a good idea. Also, the actual ground that the building is on does matter. Softer ground can actually allow the building to just sink in! Using lighter materials, bracing throughout the structure, and materials that have some bend/yield to them is recommended.

I am excited to see the buildings that we come up with. I am thinking that offering a mix of materials will allow students to test out some of the ideas from the research that they have done. Using both straws and Popsicle sticks, plastic and card board, marshmallows, and various other scrap material should make for an interesting set of designs. I think students will focus on building a very solid base, as this was stressed in several resources. Playing with the height of the buildings will be interesting!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

From Fresh Water JellyFish to Balloon Cars, Book Building, Blogging, Guest Speakers and more!

The school year is winding down, and as excited as I am about a summer filled with family, professional development, and travel, I am a little saddened by the end. After 16 years of doing this, you would think that I would get the hang of wishing my students well, closing down the classroom, and ending the chapter. But, I don't. My throat gets tight the entire day. I have a hard time saying good bye. And, I think of how many really cool moments we had as a learning community. It's just hard. Period.

I grow to love my kids. ;)

So, looking back at this year...even the 14 snow days...I am super happy with the learning that occurred, the growth that both students and I showed.

My students and parents filled out a survey for me showing their thoughts. These are my take aways from that survey:

  1. Homework and test amount were thought to be just right. However, many struggled with a final vocabulary and achievement test at the end. So...maybe need to bump up the work ahead of time.
  2. Most loved the technology implementation. However, a couple would have liked to see more physical products coming home. I get, definitely can work with that next year.
  3. Loved field trips. Stone Lab was more loved. But, students and parents appreciated the Challenger Learning Center. So, I will definitely work to keep both in the experience next year.
  4. Skype, Edmodo, and Hangouts with both student scientists and professionals were a hit!
  5. Would love to see even more school to home connections. So, I am going to get a class Facebook page rolling and going to add the option of Remind 101. With our Twitter and Instagram account already in place, these two additional methods should hit everyone. I also am going to post homework on our ProgressBook account, and I can't wait to see what our options will be through the new district web page.

I've got my areas to grow and areas to celebrate and continue on with.

I loved building our class books:

I loved watching students explore everything from fresh water jellyfish to robotic hands to owl pellets and planets in the solar system!

I'm thrilled to hopefully offer the littleBits materials to the incoming fifth graders with my Donor's Chose request

I'm hopeful for more excitement like this year with my next group of young scientists. If we can have half of the great experiences that we had this year, that would be AWESOME!

I love teaching. I love science. I love my students.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Here Are The Keys...

Passion Projects, Independent Study Project, Interest Driven Learning...

It never matters what you name this type of learning. It only matters that it occurs! Several times this year, I have turned over the "keys of the classroom" to the students. Each time, I am proud of how the students have responded and took ownership of the learning. It is a messy type of learning. One in which you leave the school absolutely EXHAUSTED! But, the outcomes are so cool!

When we explored space, students were able to "Pitch Your Project", which is a version of this learning. The science that we are doing now is another spin on this idea. I'd like to share the work flow for this and highlight some of the learning that I have done. I also have some interesting student projects/results to share.

First, I brainstormed with students what some possible starting points could be for the Interest Driven Learning. My question was, "Looking around the room (and thinking beyond), what else do you want to explore? Is there something that you would like to revisit, or something completely new?" Students came up with a list.

Lego Mindstorms

  • Observations- This is a great way to see student problem solving and group skills. I have used these materials in the past and LOVE the way students divide up talents. The creativity with designing challenges is always exciting to see too! Students are exploring sequencing and programs along with mathmatics/measuring. Just very solid activity and materials and engagement!
Design their own investigation
  • Students were given the guidelines for developing investigations that we used from our Ants In Space research.
  • Some VERY great connections here. Many students wanted to go with something involving chemicals! We settled on baking soda and vinegar. So, many projects with the variables being adjusted there (temperature, amount, container type)
  • But, more exciting than those were the outliers...the kids that truly had an interest driving the learning. I have a student measuring the time frame of melting ice based on mass of ice. I have a student testing various insects and worms reactions to light. I have a student that is working with her rat from home and changing variable to see response. This type of learning is awesome! I cannot wait to share those final Keynote projects. The results are full of science, math, art, and more!

Research a topic that we covered in more detail
  • I didn't realize how many students were still thinking of our Stone Lab trip from September, but many student chose to revisit concepts that related back to that experience. Studying fish and bird migration and ichthyology as a field in science is huge in this area! We are jumping back into our Adventures at Stone Lab book that we created and reaching out to Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Twitter. Given the prompt to create 5-10 guiding questions, students are completely absorbed in their research!

Read the book, Max Goes to the Space Station and complete project
  • This book has been read in my homeroom classroom with our third grade reading partners. Students that didn't get a chance to read it at that time were given the option to dive into it now. Students begin by reading the book and organizing the details with the app, Tools4Students. Using the graphic organizers there, they outline the big ideas within the story. Then, they will work in teams to create a "news story" about Max visiting the International Space Station! I cannot wait to watch that!

Use the images on the site Windows on Earth to recreate as artwork
  • Wow, wow, wow! This is one of my favorites that students developed. We brainstormed this one from a NASA poster that I received at a workshop. The poster showed student artwork based on NASA images of the moon. When I hung the poster up in the classroom, it triggered the idea for using the Windows on Earth resource! After chatting with students, it was decided that they would LOVE to dive into the site and select their favorite images taken from the International Space Station and recreate them in artwork. So, they are using watercolors, chalk, poster paint, colored pencils, crayons, glitter, and more to bring these images into another view! Beautiful and fun! We also are lucky enough to have a Skype call set up with Dan Barstow for follow up questions next week.

Create a Science PhotoJournal with Book Creator app
  • This is a total spin off on my Science in the Picture activity that we do in class. I give students an image to look at and tell me the science that they see in the picture. It could be just a random photo that I took that could have various life, physical, earth and space concepts more obvious in it. I am always amazed at what science my students see in photography. As I tell them, once you SEE science around can't UNSEE it! So, students used their iPads to find images around them that they see science in. Students use the images in Book Creator to write about them. These books are now being uploaded to iTunes, and I am so excited for my student authors. I will be tweeting out the links when they are ready like crazy!

Create a PhotoEngineer Portfolio using Keynote app with Drawing Pad app

  • This is very similar to the PhotoJournal project. The students still capture images, but they are looking at them with the eyes of an engineer! So, they are trying to see how could the objects be improved in design to work more efficiently or be more aesthetically pleasing. Students are doing a great job here! They are reimagining everything from eye glasses that need a little extra flexibility to desks, chairs, headphones, and more! They are pulling the image into Drawing Pad app to design the object to work better. I have a student that re-engineered scissors to work better for students that struggle with hand strength. Very practical. 

Management Concerns:
  • With 115 students and such variety in projects, material needs, and learning speeds, there are some management concerns!
    • What do I do about students who finish early? There is a lot of peer editing and reviews occurring. I am trying to stay strong with the concept of "Ask 3, then me." Eventually, this will need to be addressed. There will be a few students who just need a little more time to work, and the rest of the class will be moving on.
    • What do you do about students who are not finding the INTEREST in the Interest Driven Learning? Well, I gave them the keys, they knew HOW to drive, and if they aren't working well, I take the keys back! I have one student (out of 115) that has had the driving privileges revoked. This student is now on a teacher directed plan. Sometimes behaviors cannot be changed...unfortunately.
    • How will you assess all this? Many ways. I give classwork points for work habits. I ask students to write reflectively in their blogs about the process. And, I will grade the final work product based on a rubric. Students will have time to share with each other, either as a whole class or in groups.
For me, this has been a great way to watch students and reflect on their growth throughout the year. Entering my room at the beginning of the year, I had students who have a love and interest for science. They are curious and want answers! They are impatient at times and unwilling to read or stay focused long enough to get answers. They are frustrated when I say, "What do you think?" They are afraid of being wrong. They only celebrate the "right" answer.

If I don't do anything else in science, I want them to see that they can have the keys. They can direct the learning. They can be curious and want answers. But, they better be ready to work for them! They need to control frustration, celebrate failures, and start with their own ideas. Science is a way of living. It is looking around the world around you and wondering, wanting to preserve, wanting to improve, and wanting answers. Maybe if we keep giving the kids the keys, let them drive the learning, we can develop those learners. I'm sure they will have fender benders now and then...I'm ok with that. "They are in good hands."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dead Ants, Bad News...Recovery!

Thanks to the awesome connection to CASIS, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, our 5th grade classrooms are participating in the Ants in Space project. Partnering up with CASIS, BioEd, and the researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, we are able to be a part of an actual investigation that involves real world science! This research involves ants, investigation design, collection of data, and student observation in connection to the actual science investigation that occurred on the International Space Station. So, wow! Right? We have spent the past couple days reviewing the investigation, learning about pavement ants and their communication, choosing jobs, and practicing the protocol.

Well, big day came...and went. No ants. Why? They were very, very, very dead! Apparently, our school sprayed for insects last week and did an exceptional job. The ants that are usually marching through our classrooms are completely and utterly dead. The ants that I ordered from Carolina Biological...wrong ants. They cannot be used because they do not communicate and forage the same way the pavement ants do. Strike Two! Strike Three occurred as all our ant bait stations were blown away, washed away, and froze out by this horrible Ohio weather. Talk about a very disappointed science teacher and 115 students!

On to Plan B:

Now, I have only designed one other course using this platform, and it was a practice course that I asked adults to give feedback on. I know that this method of learning has so much potential. I am excited to explore it with my favorite kids! I wasn't sure how today would go with the defunct ants investigation plans, but I was ready to tackle this today.

I had already designed the course (Spring Break fun), and my son helped me set up our iPads in the morning with the iTunes U course. I had my students already in learning teams. So, it was as simple as having my students open up the course and dive right in. Wait, wait, back up...ok, it wasn't that easy. ;)

Step One: Introduce the students to the idea of learning through the iTunes U platform.
  • "Guys, this is how high school and college kids work." Build them up!
  • "You know all about these apps and the iPad." Instill a level of confidence!
  • "Working with your learning partner, you have a new mission today." Remind them that they have support!
  • "This is what it looks like." Run them through the format of the iTunes U platform.
  • "Go!"
Step Two: Trouble shoot and problem solve.
  • There was some confusion about how to navigate from our course to our iBook, How We Explore Energy. So, I had to review that again.

  • Support for some students looking to have the text read aloud. They were highlighting instead of the read aloud support showing up. Quick tutorial needed for a couple. Then, they supported each other.
  • Now, I'm bored. What do you do once you have all students working at their own pace, using their own materials, and completely engaged? Hmmmmmm. Well, great time to give my focus to those students who could use a little extra attention. I did just that! I let those kids who were rocking it out go at their own speed, and I rotated around.
My classroom today was so the opposite of what it could have been. Yes. We were all really disappointed in the ant investigation being postponed. But, the work flow and engaged learning that occurred with the iTunes U course and our self-created book was amazing! Students in one class were reading the chapter that another class built! They were watching their videos, reading about their investigations, checking out their Toontastic cartoons, diving into their ThingLinks, viewing slide shows, answering questions, and enjoying the puzzles. In observing 115 students, 4 learners needed to be redirected. That's an engaged classroom!

While I realize this is only day one in the process, I think it will only get better as the students continue their learning in the course. I have various activities and apps built in to the course to support the learning occurring from their iBook. Stations of manipulative materials for light, sound, thermal, magnetic and electric energy are placed strategically around the room for various parts of the course.

So, our day in science wasn't a complete disappointment. Kids were bummed about the ants, but it is a great reinforcer that science isn't perfect. We can be ready to go, and variables out of our control can postpone the mission! Regardless, by having access to such amazing tools, like iTunes U, iBooks, and iPads, I can still support the engaged learning in the classroom!

What did the Pink Panther say?
Dead ant, dead ant, dead know!
(I practiced that joke all day yesterday and today.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pitch Your Project Choice

To culminate our studies of planetary features, I asked students to select a planet to research that they would like to know more about. I gave three research activities to guide the students in their studies. Students used resources such as BrainPop videos, the NASA app, the SpaceCraft 3D app, the Kids Discover Space app, their science textbook, sets of planet fact cards, and more to find how their planet has been explored in the past, what unique characteristics their planet has, and how their planet compares to Earth.

During the research, students were free to mix up resources and partner up if needed. The three research sections were called "missions", and students were able to move to each level after completing the mission research. So, students were working on different missions, using various resources, at different times.

When it came time for students sharing their information, I gave them the option to "Pitch Their Project". After working with various iPad apps through the year, I felt that students could blend apps and build something they were truly interested in. The spread of ideas ranged all over the place. Some students were interested in using apps that they were really comfortable with. These students dived into creating blog posts with Popplet graphic organizers, CloudArt Visuals, and ThingLinks. Other students opted for more of a performance type project like live puppet shows, Toontastic cartoons, Chatterpix clips, and Tellagami videos. Then, there were my book builders! I had 1 student create a traditional folded book. Others used the ScribblePress app, and others used the Bookabi app. Some of my hands-on learners opted to build models, posters, and Lego vehicles. But, there's more! Count in a stray iMovie, Keynote project, MineCraft world, and some Aurasma projects, and then you have the final range in projects.

Aurasma Poster

Why open up the project range and allow students to pitch their project choice?

This is where the iPad can help support a differentiated classroom. From the pacing of the research to the sharing of information, students were always in the drivers seat. The learning was personalized, meaningful, and exciting to them. The variety of tools available was as diverse as the learners in the room. Students could go totally digital in their work from start to finish. Or, they could include a digital component to part of the process. Or, stay away from digital tools all together.

Best part of the entire process...
Ownership! Other than a few trouble shooting moments with newer apps like Aurasma, Tellagami, and Keynote, the kids were their for each other. They supported each others' learning in research and project development. I crowd sourced the questions. I asked them to find experts in the room. "What do you think?" was my answer to the few questions that I did get.

A while back I questioned the idea of everyone being asked to create the same project at the same time..."Do we all have to make an iMovie?" I think this project helped support the idea of letting kids pitch their own project. My student presentations were varied, informative, and exciting to watch. Students were proud when they shared, and that was the win!