Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Love with the iPad App Draw and Tell

People often ask me what my favourite app in my grade one classroom is and I'm often hesitant to answer that question.  For me my choice of app is more about what type of learning I'm looking for from my students (or they are looking to show me) than a specific app.  We look at what we are trying to do, then match the app that best fits that need.

Having said that one of my goals for this school year is to make my students' thinking behind their learning more visible.  As often as we are able, I encourage my students to talk about what they have done as a way to document their learning.  There are many apps that will allow my students to do this and they include Explain Everything, Screen Chomp, Show Me,  Educreations, and Draw and Tell.  However as a teacher of grade one students Draw and Tell is by far the number one  app we go to share our learning.

Crayon Option
There are a few reasons why. First off it's grade one friendly because the tools make sense at their level.  If they want a paint brush type tool they choose the paint brush option.  If they want a coloured pencil, or  crayon they choose those options.  The eraser looks like what they see on their pencils, and the stickers are there too. Even when they record the microphone button makes sense.  When things make sense in grade one then they can do things on their own. As their teacher that's something I LOVE!

It is so simple to access the camera roll on the iPad.
It's easy for my students to import a picture from the photo album on an iPad independently too so if they have made something in another app and that app saves to photos then the photo of their work is there to be imported. If an app doesn't save to the iPad photo album then they just take a screen shot of their work so that there is a picture of it in the iPad photo album that they can bring into Draw and Tell. In addition for their non digital work they can easily take of photo of it, and then retrieve that photo from the album on the iPad.  So it's possible to add their thinking to anything they have created digitally or otherwise, and all independently.

The app also has colouring pages which can serve as backdrops to oral stories if my students don't want to draw their own backgrounds. The stickers provided in the app can be moved during recording too so stories or other concepts can be animated.

In addition the app saves what you create in an area called Your Drawings.  From there you can easily select your pictures or movies to save to your iPad's photo album.  At the moment I am sending their movie creations to our YouTube channel when I find the time.  However once the KidBlog app is available my students will EASILY be able to add this documentation of their learning to their individual blogs, INDEPENDENTLY - no need to upload to You Tube.  That's huge for me as a grade one teacher.  The more they can do on their own, the less I have to do for them. The less I have to do for them the more time I have to do other things with them.

One of the draw backs I see with Draw and Tell vs some of other apps mentioned above is that with Draw and Tell you can't record as you go.  This hasn't been a problem for us though because the app has a built in pointer light and if you touch the screen while you are recording it follows your finger.  My students  are encouraged to touch the specific spot on the screen that they are talking about so that the blue pointer light appears and is added to the recording.

Another draw back is that you can only add one photo so it's really just a one snapshot look at their learning.  Some of the apps mentioned above allow more than one snapshot to be uploaded.  In addition you can't add video to this app.  You can create video, but you can't import video.  Again this hasn't been an issue for us. For a sequencing activity this many not be the best choice of app.

So how have we used it in my grade one class?  With Draw and Tell we have:

- demonstrated our patterning knowledge by using the sticker tools provided to create patterns
- demonstrated our patterning knowledge by using the drawing tools provided to create patterns
- demonstrated our letter sound knowledge by using the sticker tools provided to sort picture based on initial constant sound
- demonstrated our letter sound knowledge by using the drawing tools provided to draw pictures and/or write words base on initial constant sound
- imported math done in another app to talk about the learning. Here too.
- used the interline paper available in the paper choices to write about our favourite part/character in a story
- add details to our non digital work (unfortunately still on a student iPad so no link yet)
- used it to create an opening scene in an iMovie
- imported an item created in another app to add  details to it

We've been able to add voice to many of our activities and there is still so much more we could use Draw and Tell for.

We could..

- use the lined paper to write our wonders, predictions, or facts we have learned about a specific topic and then record our voice to go with it
- use the colour pages for background, and the stickers to create animated oral stories-
- add voice explanations to ANYTHING we create - digital or non digital

And my head keeps spinning with ideas.

Have you used this app before, and if so how are you using it to help document learning?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A True Honour - A Podcast with Jennifer Wagner

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by Jennifer Wagner if I would be interested in doing a podcast for EdReach .  The mission of EdReach is "to take education forward, by bringing voices together".  My name was passed on to her through one of my first chat friends Jill Fisch.  Needless to say I was thrilled to be asked. Despite being SUPER nervous before hand speaking with Jennifer was  easy. I know I talked a lot (half of our chat isn't even in the podcast that you hear), and I talk quickly, but I can't really help it because I get so excited when people ask me to share things I'm passionate about.  Anyhow incase you missed it and are interested in listening to me ramble with voice you can check out the entire podcast here.

Still smiling thinking that this opportunity even made it's way to me. I am very thankful.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Documenting My Students' Learning

The more I look at ways to document my students’ learning digitally the more excited I get. With the introduction of iPads into my classroom the possibilities continue to grow.  And it isn’t so much the number of iPads I have available to me because quite frankly one iPad is enough to capture the thinking behind my students' learning.  Obviously the more iPads I have available the more content my students are creating , and the more I need to have a place to organize and store this content.  Having a place like Evernote and Kidblog to organize and store this information makes it all easier to share with my students and their parents.

The two things I like best about an iPad is that my students can take pictures of their learning (either by taking screen shots, working in an app that saves to photos, or taking a photo of their non digital work) and they can record  their thinking behind their learning through apps that create videos (like my absolute favourite Draw and Tell).  Photos can easily be opened in Skitch which are now automatically stored in your Evernote account.  My students can add their names to their pictures in Skitch , or add more written details/labels if they’d like.   I learned about this from Ben Sheridan in the blog post he’s written here. If you are using evernote with young children I HIGHLY recommend you read Ben's post.

I am still eagerly waiting for the KidBlog app to arrive because it will become another place for my students to store their work.  Unlike Evernote (that I have discovered yet) Kidblog is open to a global audience so the ENTIRE WORLD can see their learning and leave comments.   Once the Kidblog app arrives my students will be able to send their work to Evernote AND put it on their individual blog all independently. Right now I have to embed items to their blogs.  Needless to say I am VERY excited about a Kidblog app. VERY EXCITED!

How do you document your students' learning?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Morning Learning with Discovery Education

It seems that Saturday mornings before I head off to my fall/winter spin class I  discover great free webinars on line.  This Saturday was no exception.

This morning I discovered the  DEN Virtual Conference, which was a free on line conference put on by the Discovery Education Network - aka DEN.  The DEN has fantastic resources that can be used in a classroom at every level. While I didn't have wide open day for learning, I did have time to listen in on Kathy Cassidy's talk on Primary Digital Portfolios.

If you follow me on twitter, or you've regularly read this blog you'll know that I have a lot of respect for Kathy and what she is doing with her grade one students in Moose Jaw.  She's been a real mentor for me as I got my feet wet then jumped in full splash into this on line, connected educator's world.  And while we talk and learn from/with one another all the time I had never heard her actually do a presentation.  I knew I was in for a treat.

First off, before I go any further, if you're new to this on line education world you need to understand that these webinars are not only free but they allow you to learn in the comfort of your own home while wearing your PJs.  Oh how I love my PJs.

Back to the Primary Digital Portfolio presentation.

Kathy and I have talked many times about her students' digital portfolios, and with her recent switch from Blogmiester to EduBlog I was curious to see what she was doing differently if anything and why.  To no surprise she didn't disappoint. Kathy shared why she switched from paper portfolios to digital ones. She shared various platforms that you can use to host portfolios. She shared the types of work her students add to their portfolios.  She discussed ways to keep the children's identity safe and that she teaches on line safety and the importance of a clean digital footprint.  If you're an early primary teacher looking to have digital portfolios for your students to document their learning over the year, I highly recommend that you check out her webinar here.

But of course listening to Kathy speak just makes my head spin more.  Right now I'm am using both Evernote to collect samples, and Kidblog.  Evernote is great because I have separate folders for each student's work. It's really easy to add content from an iPad but I haven't figured out how to share to a global audience. I can share with specific people, but not the world or at least not yet.  As Kathy  mentioned in her DEN presentation sharing the artifacts with the world is one of the strengths of taking a portfolio on line.  The audience for a child's work grows exponentially and it also allows visitors to leave comments on the work.  With Evernote that isn't possible.... yet.

With Kidblog my students can independently write their own blog posts, but there is no easy way for them to upload their digital artifacts onto their blogs.  It falls into what I call the "grey hair" factor because for me to upload the amazing artifacts my students are making on several different iPads for all 21 of them, I will in fact go grey.  I don't want to go grey any sooner than I have to.  So my reality is at the moment they are creating a ton of incredible work (both digitally and non digitally) but very little of it is getting into their digital portfolios.  Yes, there are tons of photos of this great work, but I just can't find the time to add it to each and every one of their individual blogs.

But.... there is a very strong rumour that there will soon (please, please, please, pretty please really soon) be an app available for KidBlog which will allow my students to EASILY and INDEPENDENTLY upload their photos directly to their blogs.  Oh, how I just can't wait for that day.  Then my students can have real digital portfolios like Kathy Cassidy's have.

So while I wasn't able to spend an entire day of learning with the Discovery Education Network, I was able to spend some time and in the process I learned a whole lot more this morning.  Sometimes I wonder if my brain will explode from all my learning.  Hopefully it won't.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Playing with QR Codes

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to hear about and join in a Classroom Live 2.0 webinar with Karen Mensing .  What I took most out of her presentation is how she is using QR codes with her students.  In the past I've used QR codes a bit -  there is a QR code on my classroom window which when scanned sends our visitors directly to our class blog - but I haven't used them all that much in my teaching practice.  I've read about people using them to send their students on a scavenger hunt around the school, or to scan a mystery math problem. While both are exciting ideas I wasn't sure the QR code was adding much to the learning beyond the fun factor and I wanted more than that.

Karen's presentation intrigued me and my head immediately started to spin.  What I liked best is that Karen was using QR codes to add voice to written work.  As a grade one teacher, particularly with students who at this time of the year struggle with telling their stories with written words, I liked that idea of voice QR Codes.

She introduced me to the web based site (which is also a free  iOs app).  Croak It allows you to record short voice messages. You don't have to sign up or provide any personal information. You just push a button and start talking.  When you're done you are given a link to your recording. It's as simple as that.  I think Vocaroo works the same way too. AudioBoo is another fantastic voice recording website/app but it does require an account.

On Tuesday my students started bringing back their Flat Wilbur pictures as part of our Global Read Aloud project with a school in NYC.  I was fortunate to have a volunteer in my room. She worked with my students using Croak It and had them record voice to add to their photos.  My students were talking about their photos.  My helper then took the link that was provided and created a free QR code at Kaywa.  From there she took the QR code link and inserted it as an "image by URL" in a google doc. We then printed the QR codes and attached them to their photos.  Of course we were mindful to not say our names in our recordings since we didn't want our faces linked to our names.

Here's one of the QR codes we created.

Now when we send our photos to NYC not only will they see where we live, but they will hear us talk about where we live in our real voices.  I'd say that's a pretty cool way to learn using QR codes.

But if you know me at all now that I have a new tool to use I want to find as many age appropriate meaningful ways to use this tool.  Right now I have a student that has a lot of trouble remembering his letter names. He works really hard but it's just something that is not coming easily for him for a variety of reasons.  However, every day my students are encouraged to write.  For some their writing is more about the pictures they are drawing and the stories they tell with those pictures, than the letters or words or sentence they are writing.  Writing to me is about telling a story, and so while I have students who are challenged to "write" a story, they are telling a story - just with pictures instead of words.

Anyhow back to this one special student, and his challenges with letters.  He is VERY GOOD at telling his stories through pictures.  Yesterday I had him use the Croak It website so that we could record his story that accompanied his picture.  Needless to say he was thrilled. We got a link and I immediately took the link to Kaywa and created a QR code.  This QR code will be added to his picture story.  Weeks from now we will still remember the story  behind his drawing. How's that for an authentic way to use this tool?

I have many more ideas to use QR codes with my students.  I'm curious to know how you are using QR codes for learning - and I'm looking at more than just because it adds the element of "fun".

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Am Thankful For ...

As I celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend it is important for me to take the time to be thankful for what I have in my life.

I am thankful for my family. As crazy as we all are, when I need them most they are always there for me.
I am thankful for my friends, blessed with way more true friends than one person deserves.  I am truly wealthy in this department.
I am thankful for my health. I could always be taller, or thinner, or fitter, or... but I am who I am and I'm thankful for that.
I am thankful for my twitter PLN.  I honestly can't thank them enough for listening to me when I've had a rough day, or for just being there when we need each other.  They get me and I'm so thankful for that.
I am thankful for my career.  Most days I LOVE what I do. I make a difference in peoples lives and my students make a difference in mine.  How lucky am I?
I am thankful for so many of the people I work with in my school district. I have incredible support from my friends in  my own school, through to people in other schools, right up to people at the district level.  I can't thank them enough for believing in me.
I am thankful for my desire to learn. There is never a dull moment in my brain (although I must admit at three am I could use a dull moment or two).
I am thankful to question, pretty much everything but not in a threatening way, to help me understand things better.
I am thankful for my ability to think, really think about what I do and why.
I am thankful for my ability to make my own decisions based on what I know or believe to be true (most of the time).
I am thankful I was born in Canada.
I am thankful I can call Canada home.
I am thankful I have a valid passport.
I am thankful I am able see the world.
I am thankful for the experiences I have.
I am thankful for so many things.

What are you thankful for?

In the midst of writing this blog post I heard  from a dear friend of the sudden passing of her sister.  Her sister was young and healthy, happily married and the mother of two young children (3 yrs and 8 months old).  It has hit me hard and even more of a reason to publish this post.  Be thankful for what you have because in a second it may be gone.