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QR Codes in the Library

May 17, 2013

IMG_4428Our librarian has been exploring how QR codes can be used in the library and has been having the Grade 1 students do digital book reviews.  She uploads their reviews to Vimeo and then creates a QR code from that link.  The QR code is taped to the cover of the book and anyone with a QR code reader can then scan the QR code and hear the book review!

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QR Codes in Portfolios

March 14, 2013

DSCF2017This week are student-led portfolio conferences.  We often struggle with how to get the digital work that students do into portfolios, especially since we aren’t using e-portfolios yet.  One of our Primary (Kindergarten) teachers had the idea to place the QR codes in students’ portfolios to link to some of their digital stories.

Our web publishing agreements state that student work needs to be behind a password, so we use Vimeo to upload videos and then can protect them with a password.  We then use Kaywa to create the QR codes (we create static codes- they’re free!).  The teacher created a Word document for each child and placed that child’s QR codes on that page, along with the password to access the videos.  During the student-led conferences, students got their iPad, scanned the QR codes, and showed their parents their digital work!  Parents loved it and used their own smart phones to scan the QR codes and download the videos to their phones.

Comparing Backyards

March 7, 2013

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a part of a Primary (kindergarten) lesson in which students used the iPads to compare their backyards as part of an introduction to their unit on local environments.

The teacher sent home the school digital cameras over the weekend and asked each child to take 3 pictures of their backyard or environment around their home.  They then brought the cameras back to school and we used the Apple Camera Connector to load the pictures from the SD card to the iPad Photo Roll.  We paired students up and gave each pair an iPad with their pictures loaded on them.  They then used the iPad to view the pictures and talk about what they saw in each other’s backyards.  The easy navigation of the pictures allowed the conversation to flow smoothly and they could quickly and easily refer back to a picture when needed.  They could also zoom in and out on the picture as needed.  As students viewed the pictures and discussed what they saw, they completed a venn diagram (on paper) to show the similarities and differences in each other’s backyards.

It was a simple, yet powerful use of the iPad that led to good discussions and engaged students in the unit.

Explain Everything for Assessment

February 14, 2013

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We love Explain Everything at the Primary School because we can take pictures of children’s work, including what they create during play, and record their voices talking about it.  They can also circle and point-out parts of the picture that they are talking about.  The last few weeks we have been exploring how we can use Explain Everything as a tool for formative and summative assessments.

In one of our Grade 1 classes, students created “Geometric Cities” out of building blocks.  They then took a picture of their city and used Explain Everything to describe the 3-D shapes in their city.  Students would circle the shape, then say the name of that shape.  So the student might say “I have four triangular prisms in my city” and then circle each of the triangular prisms in their picture.

In one of the Primary (Kindergarten) classes, students used Explain Everything to take pictures of things that were “bigger” and “smaller” and record their thinking about bigger and smaller objects.  We could quickly see who was understanding the vocabulary and concept, and who needed some more support.

Another Primary (Kindergarten) class used Explain Everything for a reflection.  They worked in groups to describe a problem that they had in their classroom and then explained how they solved that problem.  They used pictures, voiceover, and the pen tool.  It was particularly powerful for the English language learners to hear their oral language- and an opportunity for their parents to hear how far their English has come!

Explain Everything is not as “kid-friendly” as we’d like, but after the children have used it a couple of times, they are pretty independent.  I would recommend pairing them up or working in groups for the first time before they do an independent activity and have a few adults on hand to help the first couple of times you use it.  Unlike Educreations and Show Me, it is a paid app, but I prefer it over Educreations and Show Me because you are able to export the videos to be able to use in e-portfolios.  Exporting is simple- we usually export to the Camera Roll and then import them into iPhoto on the computer, but they also easily export to Dropbox, Evernote, or even email.

Teachers Need Play Time, Too!

February 4, 2013

IMG_4012Last week we held our second PD release day for the iPad pilot teachers.  After listening to feedback from the last release day, I decided to make it less formal and give teachers opportunities just to “play” with their iPads.  Teachers are busy people and with thousands of apps out there, they just don’t have the time to go through and evaluate them.  Plus, they are all doing great things in their rooms with the iPads, but don’t always have the time to share with each other.

We started the day by looking at some general apps and brainstormed how they can be used across the curriculum at various grade levels.  I showcased Popplet, SMART Notebook, and Explain Everything/Educreations.  Some of the teachers had already started using these apps in their rooms and were able to show examples of student work.  The pilot teachers then had time to download the apps if they wanted them and play with them for a while.

Next teachers shared some of their successes and challenges.  They each shared examples of ways the iPads were being used in their classrooms.  They then had more time just to talk with each other and play with the apps.  All went away with an idea that they wanted to try immediately in their classrooms.

The feedback from the teachers was that the gift of time to collaborate and play was what made their PD day meaningful and productive.  As I’ve been in classrooms the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of the ideas gained that day put into practice, and there has been some great technology integration happening.  As professional developers, I think we tend to get a mindset that we are the experts and PD time needs to be used for formal presentations and trainings.  I’ve found though that that’s not the case- and sometimes taking a step back and facilitating the conversations rather than dominating them leads to much more effective and meaningful professional development.

The Importance of Choice

January 17, 2013

The last couple of weeks I have been working with one of the Primary (Kindergarten) classes to publish their Writer’s Workshop stories.  Before Winter Break, this class was using Puppet Pals quite a bit to create digital stories.  When it came time to publish the stories they had written, I talked with the teacher and we both agreed that Puppet Pals would be the right tool for us to use since they were familiar with it.

I pulled the first group to start creating their stories.  I reminded them how to take pictures of their illustrations to create the characters and settings in Puppet Pals and then let them go off to begin working on it.  A little while later, one of the boys came up to me and was concerned because he didn’t want his characters moving around in his story- he wanted it to be more like an e-book where the reader could see the whole page and see his writing, but he could still read it to the reader.  I started showing him some examples that other students have created with other apps and he decided he liked the iMovie app.  He used the camera to take pictures of the pages in his Writer’s Workshop book, cropped them, inserted them into iMovie, and recorded a voiceover…  All with very minimal assistance!  It turned out beautifully and was exactly what he wanted… He was very proud.  Another girl in the group decided she wanted to do the same thing after seeing what he did.

We now have a mixture of Puppet Pals and iMovie digital stories, but that’s okay!  Some children wanted their stories to be published more like movies with the animated characters.  Others liked the idea of an e-book where the pages turned from page to page.  It is their work, and they should be able to choose how they want to publish it.  They still met the same objective, they just looked differently!

It was a good reminder for me of the importance of listening to kids and understanding what it is that they want to do rather than always giving them the tool.  Even though they are young, they have background experiences that give them ideas.  That boy had never used the iMovie app before, but he had seen an e-book and knew that’s what he wanted to make.  My job then was to help him find the right tool to make his idea come to life.

Play School Art Maker

December 6, 2012

IMG_3952One of our main uses of ICT at the Primary School is digital storytelling.  We have been exploring many storytelling apps and one of our Pre-Primary (4-5 year olds) teachers recently discovered Play School Art Maker from the Australian Broadcasting Company.  It is meant for young children and is very child-friendly.  Our 4 year olds had no problem navigating it and really enjoyed the child-friendly look of the characters.  It also provides audio support.

Similar to Puppet Pals, the children select a background and the characters that they want in that scene.  They can then take a screen shot of their scene, or they can record a story.  Their stories are cut off after about 30 seconds, but that is usually plenty of time for that age group.  They can then play back their stories and save them to watch again and again!

This teacher was using the app as part of their storytelling unit.  The children worked in pairs on the iPad to select where their story would take place and who/what would be in the story.  The “stories” very much resembled how the children would play and interact with toys.  There were a lot of animal noises, sharks eating fish, and rockets blasting off into space!  After hearing their story, some pairs would choose to continue telling the next part of the story while some would choose to make a new scene with new characters.  The children generally only needed assistance getting started with their stories- they were pretty independent with the app itself.