Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Monday, August 22, 2011

ScreenChomping Math Metacognition

Problem solving is becoming the focus of many math educators. In fact, the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice put this strategy front and center. However, many math programs don't seem to have much embedded problem solving practice - and even when it is present, it often seems lacking. What to do?

Of course! iPads!

ScreenChomp is a free app that allows students to record what they write on a virtual whiteboard and also captures their narration as they "draw." Utilizing this app, I have begun giving students challenging math situations and asking them to use the ScreenChomp whiteboard as scratch paper while narrating their thinking aloud. As they fumble through misconceptions, or sail to a solution, their thinking journey is captured.

I then ask students to switch iPads with either an at-level partner, or a scaffolded support partner. They each view their partner's metacognition and respond. The students tried this out last week and again today and are really enjoying it. Said one student, "Wow! It's like being in his head!"

I am now considering developing a rubric or guide to support students as they create their visual/audio think aloud videos as well as analyze their classmate's thinking.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Whetting Your APPetite Vol.8 - Not All Apps are Created Equal

Another question I am often asked is: What are the top apps to buy for [math, reading, writing, science, social science, etc...]? My response is always, no matter the content in question: Creation Apps.

What do I mean by this?

I've found that often teachers get hung up on the "best math game app" or the "best phonics app". Truth be told, the most amazing fractions game, states facts quiz app or phonics app can only be stretched so far - perhaps one or two units (admittedly a bit longer for a good phonics app in primary).

However a good creation app... wow, those pay dividends. Consider a simple free app such as ScreenChomp. This bad boy is a simple screen recording app, yet offers so much. Consider just a few of the endless uses in your classrooms:

- Students solve math problems and narrate their thinking
- Students create math problems and narrate their thinking
- Students create video lessons a la Khan Academy in all subjects
- Students write stories and narrate them
- Students practice fluency by reading a story while a partner illustrates the mind movie that is created (thus practicing listening comprehension / visualization skills)

7/4/12 Update: Try Educreations - a great app that does much of what Screenchomp does, but with better features and versatility!

One of my new favorite apps is neu.Annotate PDF - also the best price around, FREE. This handy app allows students to annotate PDFs with drawings, stamps and photos. It has a palm guard to recognize students' palms if they rest their hands on the glass and is incredibly easy to use. Imagine uploading a form, PDF version of your workbooks, PDF version of your worksheet, etc. and having your students use this application to complete it? Imagine all the paper you can save!

7/4/12 Update: Try PaperPortNotes - Also free, but more features than neu.Annotate PDF.

And how about our good friend Keynote? For those of you unfamiliar this is a the Apple version of Microsoft's mainstay PowerPoint. Not only can kids animate slides to show their thinking, they can share research, create persuasive writing presentations, and share results of a science lab. This app is especially interesting as you can add video to the slides. In the theme of revolutionizing, not just replacing old teaching/learning practices, students can now share a video of their results with classmates instead of just describing it on a sheet of notebook paper.

Collaborative Whiteboard Apps are also fantastic ways to revolutionize student interaction in your classroom. This website features five free options for great collaborative whiteboards on your iPad and explains them far better than I could. I've been awestruck as I've witnessed my students collaborate on a shared writing space from across the classroom - or even between classroom walls when students were being pulled out for specialized services. Thank you, technology.

There are many more amazing creation apps out there. I will continue to explores these in future Whetting Your APPetite volumes, and welcome readers to share their favorites in the comments section.

And let's not forget web-based programming. Who needs apps all? In an age where schools are floundering for funds to hire teachers and purchase curricula, we need every penny we can save. Edmodo and Schoology are two (competing) amazing websites (some previously mentioned in this blog), that can allow your students to create and collaborate. I have yet to determine which I prefer, but have heard strong positive feelings from colleagues about both.

So I leave you with this: consider the bang for your buck as you purchase apps. Will that measurement app really be used all year? Do you really want to spend $1.99 x 32 devices to buy it? Or would you rather spend $0.00 x 32 devices for a creation app that will push your kids to higher (Bloom's!) levels throughout your school year? Consider....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Sync-y Situation…

We are now 5 school days into our year and going strong. On Thursday I received a call in my classroom from the iPad deployment folks: our iPad bundles were being delivered on Friday. I held the phone up to my class and they cheered ecstatically. The man said it was the best moment of his week.
Friday morning the iPads came right on schedule and two wonderful consultants set up our 4 new bundles (adding to our current set of 32 iPad 1's). After school I sat down with my 32 shiny new iPad 2’s, my Bretford PowerSync Cart and a got ready to make some magic.
Three hours later, no magic.
What happened? Well, I didn’t realize a few things:
1)   Always read the owners manual first. (See picture, below.)
2)   See #1- Had I done this, I would have known that all of the iPads have to be registered and set up individually the first time you sync.
3)   App folders, though painstakingly created by me for the first iPad, do not automatically get synced to all of the remaining iPads.
So, fast-forward to today. I woke up ready to rectify the situation. How do I solve the majority of my problems? Google. After a quick web search I found a remedy to this folders issue.
I went to school with a mug of tea, my husband and my newly-Googled knowledge ready to go. Two hours later I had the carts ready to roll for students. Here is what I did:
1)   Registered and configured each iPad per the instructions in the Bretford Manual.
2)   Created folders, set up my dock and modified sync settings on one iPad
3)   Created a back up of this iPad by right-clicking (control-click on a Mac) on the iPad device in the left column of iTunes.
4)   Allowed all of the other 29 iPads (the Bretford PowerSync Cart syncs 30 iPads at a time) to sync and download all of the apps (purchased via the Volume Purchase Program. See this great blog for more info on VPP).
5)   After they had synced and all apps were loaded I manually (yes, one at a time), right clicked on each iPad and selected “Restore from Back Up". This took about 5 seconds per device.
6)   Selected the back up I just created with the first iPad
7)   Voila – all of my iPads’ apps are now organized into identical folders, with identical docks and settings!
Now that I’ve gone through this somewhat laborious process once, I will not have to do it again. I can let the sync cart do its magic and sync updates to all of my devices at once. As I update movies, apps, songs and other content, it will simply add it on to the set-up I've already created. Hooray!
Note: I believe this is another way to do this using the iPhone Config Utility that is much more tech savvy (I believe how large companies or school districts would do this), but that's beyond my Google-able knowledge. When the contractors delivered our iPads they had a pre-set home screen, internet settings and apps set up per a downloaded "image." However, for us on the school level, who can't contract to larger companies to do this, I believe the method described above will work well. If anyone else has a quicker way, please post below in comments! Thanks! :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Year, New Role, New vPLC

This year our school has the great fortune to be expanding from 32 iPads to 160. Within our AUSL school network there are an additional two other schools that are a part of the CPS iPad expansion wave. As a result, my role this year is changing from sole iPad practitioner to iPad facilitator, coordinator and coach. While I will still be able to experiment, explore, refine and reflect on technology integration with one period of 4th/5th math a day, I will now have some "release time" to support teachers new to this terrain.

A total of 9 teachers at my school will be utilizing iPads to evolve their classroom landscape, with additional teachers at two of our sister schools. We all exist within a larger Chicago Public School PLC of several dozen schools. So the question became - how to manage our learning community? As with most schools, considering all of the teams, committees and PD meetings, it is quite difficult to find time and space to come together.

So I thought to myself, why not use technology for a TechEd PLC? Therefore we created a Google Site to manage announcements, schedules, attachments, app request Google forms, etc and embedded a blogger site to manage our PLC conversations. After just a week, I can already feel that this was a good choice. The members of our PLC are not only contributing to this blog, but they are being open and honest with their excitement and fears, commenting and sharing with others, and engaging in the reflective process -- all before a single device has entered their classrooms.

As we continue in this process, we hope not only use this space to air concerns, victories and questions, but also to post videos of our instruction, photographs of students engaging with the technology, examples of student work and teacher resources. Our Site and Blog will not only be a forum for discussion and sharing, but will eventually also stand as evidence of our learning, growth and successes.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Blogger on LaunchPad Toys!

Hi friends and visitors! I wrote a piece on Toontastic and my plans to utilize it in my class this year. It is featured on the Launchpad Toys website. Thanks to Andy Russell for featuring me on the Launchpad blog!