Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Toon-ing in to Math

Now that we are on winter intersession, I wanted to take a moment to share some of our recent math work!

In an earlier post, I wrote about the amazing app, Toontastic, and how I hoped to use it in my math class. So far it's been going well! Students are creating math stories and problems to share with one another as well as short math instructional videos. The students have loved "toon-ing" in to math in this way. They have begun to link math to real world situations and also have begun to teach each other through video. Here is an example of a student-created review lesson about equivalent fractions.

Additionally, we have continued to use the screencasting whiteboard app, ShowMe, to share our math metacognition and practice problem solving skills. Here are a few newer examples of student work on this app as well. Note that the sound quality is still hit or miss. The students have been recording this without external microphones (i.e., only using the iPad 2's built-in mic). They are in a room of 33 4th/5th graders simultaneously recording ShowMe videos, Toontastic movies, discussing work in math problem solving centers and working in support groups with the teacher. Lots of ambient noise. I'd hoped to win a grant to purchase earbud/mic sets for each student, but unfortunately was not accepted. So for the time being, it looks like we'll have to make do. However, I think that though the quality of sound is not perfect, the student work and thinking comes across - and that's what really counts.

Jordyne's ShowMe: This student is sharing her knowledge of finding fractions of a set. Note her understanding of the relationship between multiplication and division and her use of math vocabulary. This was helpful for me to know as I worked with her.

Mavric's ShowMe: This student is sharing his synthesis of what we did in class last week. After watching his ShowMe, I worked with him on making clear the roles of numerator and denominator and discussed the WHY behind converting fractions-decimals-percents. We also worked on precise math language.

Nathaniel's ShowMe: This student was working on equivalent fractions. During our math meeting, we discussed the importance of math symbols (at one point he uses an addition symbol where he is multiplying).

Update: To see these 4th & 5th grade rockstars screencast and toon their way into science and social studies, check out my grade level partner's great blog! http://mslaidler.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whetting your APPetite Vol. 10: Virtual Manipulatives

I'm trying out a new app called Virtual Manipulatives (thanks to fellow CPS teacher Kim Darche for the recommendation). It's free and it hits not only equivalent fractions, but comparing/ordering fractions and converting between fractions/decimals/percents. Not bad for $0.00!

As I previously promised myself, before running with it whole-class, I had a "focus group" of kids try it out first. We did this today and they were all thumbs up; here are their reviews.

Based on their favorable responses, I'm going to load this app up to all devices and begin weaving it into my plans!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

iOS5 & Me

After reading this incredibly helpful guide by fellow Chicago iPadder Erik Unterschuetz, I decided to update my classroom's 32 iPads to iOS5. I already had installed Lion OSX onto my MacBook, so I figured that by using Erik's tips I'd be home free. So I smiled, took a deep breath and began the update. Over three hours later, I wasn't smiling anymore.

What took so long?
It wasn't a lack of support in Erik's guide. In fact, I'm positive that his step-by-step instructions shaved at least an hour off of the update time. So what was it?
- The restore to each iPad: I had over 10 movies to sync back to each device (thanks, flipped classroom). If you don't have that much media, it won't take as long for you.
- I had to manually re-enter credentials to the wireless network on each iPad. I don't know if this is a fun quirk of our wireless network of if this will be the case for everyone.
- I had to manually set up the new iPad's iOS (walking through a menu of prompts to enter the Apple ID, enable location services, etc.). That did take some time....
- I had to name each iPad with a unique 15-character CPS-centric naming convention. Perhaps your district won't expect this from you.
- As I was waiting on back ups, restores, downloads, etc - I tried to multi-task and do other things... and inevitably missed prompts to move on. I think if I had the patience to sit and do nothing else but update, it may have taken a little less time... perhaps a little over 2.5 hours instead of a little over 3.5.

After the update... was it worth it? Decide for yourself.

Features of iOS 5 that have been helpful in the classroom:
- 4 finger swipe multi tasking
Students can swipe with four fingers to change apps instead of double clicking to use more than one app at a time. They love this.

- Tabbed browsing in Safari
No more black box with a number in it to signify the number of windows open. Now there are tabs just like your laptop or desktop internet browser. Also very helpful when they are navigating between instructions on Edmodo and a Study Island assignment, etc.

- Increased Accessibility Features for Special Education & ESL students
There is an entire site on apple.com dedicated to this. Check it out if you haven't already!

iOS Features I've heard of but have yet to experience:
- Wireless syncing
Hypothetically I am supposed to now be able to sync the iPads wirelessly - no sync cart needed. I've yet to see this... It may be that my iPads aren't all logged in to my Apple ID yet... it took so long to sync them I gave up trying to enter it into each one manually. I'll try to do this over break and see if it works.

- Airplay wireless Mirroring
iOS5 + $99 Apple TV = wireless projection of everything you do on an iPad to a projector or TV screen. Everything. Whereas with the iPad to VGA adapter, not everything happening on your iPad screen appears in the projection (for example in PaperPort Notes, it doesn't show the annotation buttons so when I try to teach my kids what to tap to change font size, I have to use my iPevo or another doc cam), an Apple TV projects everything. I have seen this in action at the Apple office, but our school's wireless network won't play nice with the Apple TV. We're working on getting this fixed, but hopefully I can test this out soon! Imagine: A student is working on a ShowMe and I call on him to share it - with a tap of his finger his iPad is magically appearing on the projector screen. I told the students about this capability and they literally clapped.

For more info, or to see these features in action, check out this video on the Apple site.

So was the update worth it? I think so... eventually it had to happen. Some apps no longer run well on iOS4 and demand the iOS5 update. The Airplay wireless mirroring offers a myriad of opportunities... i.e., you could replace an interactive whiteboard for less than $600 (1 iPad + Apple TV).

The students also seem to notice the difference. I teach the students what I'm doing as I'm doing it. So they know that I spent all that time doing the update. They know what an iOS means and what it stands for. They know the difference between iOS4 and iOS5. I joke that my 4th and 5th graders could probably get summer jobs at the Apple Store's Genius Bar. As my kids continue to use this new operating system, I'm sure more features will come to light and I'll be happy to share them here.

Have you noticed anything amazing about this new iOS in your classroom?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Brave and Amazing Colleagues

As mentioned in an earlier post, our school has the great fortune to have expanded our iPad program from one classroom last year to 9 classrooms this year. With this expansion, my role has changed from a classroom teacher and new teacher mentor to classroom teacher/new teacher mentor/STEM coach/tech coordinator/iPad program lead. While this was also an intimidating prospect, I was excited to begin the year and learn with my new iPad colleagues.

As with any expansion, I expected there to be some growing pains. I also expected there to be amazing learning and progress on both the part of the teachers and students.  Well, I expected amazing, but what I got was awe-inspiring. These new iPad teachers have taken simple suggestions, quick overviews of SAMR and innovation philosophy, and a handful of quality apps - and each have created their own innovative learning spaces. What I'm most impressed by are two teachers who originally were self-proclaimed technophobes. They both saw the potential in bringing iPads into their classrooms and were both excited at the opportunity; yet neither had experience with these devices nor the Mac operating system in general. They expressed great fear and discomfort with the new technology but applied for the iPads nonetheless.

What has set this cohort of new iPad teachers apart from others are 3 main things:
- willingness to learn a new skill set and go "back to basics" / coachability
- perseverance despite frequent frustration
- creativity & collaboration

Willingness to learn a new skill set and go "back to basics" / coachability
I recently wrote this post about the necessity to break down your notions of teaching and learning and rebuild it with an effective use of available technology (rather than trying to insert technology into your existing framework). This means that veteran, successful teachers will experience a period (sometimes a long period) of feeling like a first-year teacher. This isn't comfortable and oftentimes takes a blow to your self-esteem as a practitioner. Furthermore, teachers who are used to being the expert in their field - the person to whom others go to for support - are suddenly having to be coached. While in theory one may argue that we are never done learning our craft and teachers should be used to ongoing coaching no matter their level, this isn't always the case. There are teachers who are seen as "master mentor teachers" and have rarely been on the other side of the table.

A good many of my colleagues who embarked on this iPad expansion were considered "master mentor teachers". Their classrooms ran themselves and their students ended the year self-motivated, thoughtful scholars. We all look to them for examples of best practice. And yet once we added iPads to the equation, they were suddenly facing areas of complete ignorance - how do you close a window in Safari? How do you right-click on a Mac? What is screencasting? How do you sync an app, let alone multiple apps? What is iOS?! Each of these teachers jumped in with two feet - not only willing to learn and start anew, but positively hungering for the new information. This was the first key step to their success.

Perseverance despite frequent frustration
As I've chronicled in this blog, bringing in the iPads to my room last year resulted in lots of "hiccups." And perhaps a few more dramatic issues. I lost entire unit of writing that my 50 students had been working on by overwriting the files in the iDisk. I thought I had synced an ePub to all the iPads during an observation and realized I had not... and had nothing else planned for that period. I didn't realize a website ran on flash and had created my lesson around it. You know, that sort of thing. There were many times last year where I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and declare - "I GIVE UP!"

This is where my colleagues now find themselves. The kindergarten teacher recently had to sync a new app to all of her iPads. After completing a few, she checked an iPad and the data from one of her key apps - SmartyPantsSchool - was seemingly wiped clean. Three months of individualized assessment data for her 28 kindergarteners, gone. Possibly worse - each of her students would now have to start over despite all the progress they had already made. Instead of panicking, or throwing in the towel, she took a deep breath, turned to her co-teachers and starting working out a Plan B. I was amazed by how she took it in stride and persevered despite this blow. In the end, we were able to recover the data and move on!

Creativity & Collaboration
iPads in the classroom is still a very young field; there is not a lot of published data to point the way to best practices or models for integration or redefinition. Therefore a lot of this is about making it up as you go - and when you run into a road block, getting creative. These teachers have each taken it upon themselves to read blogs, email me or their Apple coach, Tweet, Facebook, etc - to find new ways to solve old problems. What's more is that they are even beginning to share their journeys with others. The kindergarten teacher - one of my two self-dubbed technophobes - has taken her coaching sessions with me and her own dogged persistence in learning the operation of the Mac and iPad OS and begun to chronicle her learning in her own blog. After a quick Google Hangout and a few in-person tips, she is now not only creating her own screenshot documents for her Kindergarteners to track their own data, she has transformed into a newborn EduBlogger! (Check out her amazing journey at iPads in Kindergarten!)


I've seen other models - both this year and last - which have had less success. I've found that this has had little to do with the quality of the teachers (although this does play an important factor - inserting iPads into an already dysfunctional classroom may only exacerbate the issues). Great practitioners have been lucky enough to gain access to a 1-to-1 set of iPads only to use them as a reading games center for 15 minutes a day. What has pushed this expansion forward has been a testament to the amazing disposition of the 8 teachers I am so lucky to work with on this amazing project. I hope to loop in more of our talented staff soon and that these 8 can go on to mentor them in their iPad adventure.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Great Blog Post about Google + Apple

I've long said that Google and Apple should get together and have a baby. A Gapple. Or perhaps an Appgle. Or a Goople? Whatever you'd call it, both companies offer some amazing products for the classroom that would be better off working together instead of against each other.

My friend and fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Chad Kafka (who is also a Google Certified Teacher), has written this informative yet persuasive blog post that eloquently calls for a union between these two tech giants. He brings up many good points and shares some interesting facts about their relationship. After reading it, all I could say was, "Yeah! What he said!"

Take a look and join the cause!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

PaperPort Notes is Out! (Noterize 2.0)

For those of you who have been waiting for the Noterize (PDF annotation app I recently blogged about) update... it's here! And free!

So exciting. Get 'em while they're hot! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kids Kinect in the Classroom

On Friday a colleague and I went to the Microsoft Training Center to learn more about how we could use the XBox Kinect in the classroom. I'm not going to lie; I was extremely skeptical. In considering this tech against my recent obsession with the SAMR innovation continuum, I felt that the Kinect was barely on the second level (augmentation). It seemed little more than an elaborate gimmick to engage kids, further limited by the fact that it could truly only engage 1-2 students at a time.

As we participated in this day-long training, I began to feel that my doubts were justified. The titles offered - Kinect Sports, Body and Brain Connection, Once Upon a Monster and the upcoming National Geographic game - were all interesting but seemed to lack true educational substance. The Body and Brain Connection, for example, has some good algebraic concepts involved, but certain levels could allow a child to guess consistently and attain a high score.

It wasn't until the afternoon that I began to change my thinking. The presenter explained how counselors were using the XBox Live's Avatar Kinect to allow students to discuss their issues anonymously. Think of a confessional in which you speak through a curtain - however this curtain is the XBox Live environment and you get the added benefit of an avatar that translates your facial emotive moves, body movement, etc. The wheels began to turn and I started chatting with a colleague from another school about integrating this concept into our Social Emotional Learning periods such as Morning Meeting.

What if my class submitted issues from within our classroom community, and the students from my friend's school discussed them - and vice versa. Then on a designated day each week, we could meet up in our Avatar Kinect environment - protected by anonymity - to offer possible responses to these classroom community issues. We could further the concept of "walking in someone else's shoes" by having students appear as avatars contrary to their body type, race or gender.

I see my students also utilizing their iPad technology to blog about their reactions, participate in back channel discussion about what they are observing or participating in and sharing audio/visual artifacts with their peers in the XBox Live Avatar Kinect.

Another interesting thought is the taking advantage of Kinect SDK (software development kit) to build apps better suited for the educational environment. Johnny Kissko, an ADE friend and tech whiz, has created the website Kinect Education to promote the creation and sharing of Kinect for education apps. I hope to learn more about this but know I have a ton to learn about programming before I could dream to do this myself. I can, however, dream of apps that could be made: A dynamic geometry app in which my students can unfold polyhedrons into their nets, then refold then and explore volume, surface area and geometric features (edges, vertices, etc.). A celestial exploration in which students are walking across the surface of Mars, floating through the asteroid belt, digging through the chemistry of the sun. A number sense activity where students create arrays and divide quantities into groups - using their bodies.

All in all, do I think that the Kinect games themselves will provide much more than engagement and incentive for my students? Not really. However do I think that the Kinect sensor technology offers some interesting Redefinition opportunities for the classroom? Why yes, I do. Let the experimentation begin.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chicago Area Teachers: Great Professional Learning Opportunity!

Calling all Chicago Area Teachers: Are you looking to to be inspired, encouraged or enriched? Need some fuel to re-energize your classroom and practice? Here is a great professional learning opportunity for you! I'm proud to be speaking about technology at this event (doing a 15-minute Keynote TEDTalk in the opening session), and am excited to see what other workshops have to offer! Hope to see you there!

The 2011 Golden Apple 
Teachers for Tomorrow Conference

Register here:

See conference workshop overviews here:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Breaking Down to Rebuild: Redefining the Innovative Classroom

Recently, I’ve been talking to other school districts about our iPad program and the process by which we began to integrate these devices. At each meeting, I’ve been avidly referring to the SAMR model, an innovation continuum developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. This model describes the various levels of your technology innovation: Substitution > Augmentation > Modification > Redefinition. Think of it as the Bloom’s Taxonomy of innovation. The highest level, redefinition, is of course our goal. However the question becomes – how does one redefine a classroom?
My next suggestion has been met with mixed reactions. I tell everyone that what we've realized seems so simple yet so scary at the same time: to rebuild, one must first do some demolition. By this I mean, you have to be willing to set aside, even discard, your previous understandings of what assessment, differentiation and instruction look like, sound like and feel like. You have to be willing to start over with the new building materials available: i.e., iPads. Instead of trying to insert iPads into an already-existing structure, you must start over and rebuild a structure that utilizes the iPads in the most effective way – to redefine the way your classroom functions.
To illustrate this, I show the following graphic I created explaining my understanding of SAMR. Note that the substitution bubble is the largest, yet still does not outweigh the redefinition bubble. This is meant to demonstrate that while you may create 10, 20 even 30 lessons on the substitution level, their sum effect on your students' learning can still be less than that of 1 lesson on the redefinition level. 
As an example I go back to my argument about apps.  Content apps, like Rocket Math or Math Ninja, while very engaging only address a handful (if not only a single) set of standards. Once your student has mastered that standard, they only serve as practice. Even then, data collection from these apps is limited and the level of student cognition is often low. Consider then, a creation app like ShowMe. This app can be used to address a wide range of standards from math to science to literacy - and will engage students at the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy - creation. Relating this back to SAMR - the content apps are all substituting or augmenting pencil and paper learning. A creation app such as ShowMe is redefining teaching and learning. Thus one redefined lesson outweighing dozens of substitution or augmentation lessons.

While the concept may seem simple, the execution is anything but. Teachers need to be inspired, then supported, then supported some more. It is frightening to be risking not only your comfort, but your students' success on something you've never tried. I always recommend that school leaders begin by taking their teachers to visit schools who are doing this well- who have already made the journey through the SAMR model - or are currently doing so.

After your team has been inspired to take a sledgehammer to their proverbial classrooms and start anew, school leaders must be ready to help the teachers pick up the pieces and support them in rebuilding a new, more innovative classroom. Frequent and relevant professional development, release time to plan and fostering active learning communities are a few of the supports that have helped me to be successful in my first year of redefining my classroom.

While this may seem a daunting task no matter the hat you wear: district leader, school leader, coach, classroom teacher - consider the reward at the end of the day. Consider what redefining your classrooms will mean to the students who learn in them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Kids Write an App (Sort of)

This year, we have continued to try out new apps and ideas for using iPads in the classroom. Recently, we have been experimenting with three annotation apps. One of these apps had particularly caught my eye for its unique ability to screencast student annotations with audio narration of their thinking. After playing with it for a few hours, I blogged great excitement for it, immediately purchased 32 Volume Purchase Program licenses to sync it to all of my devices and mapped out a lesson to introduce it to students.

Sometime that evening, I realized that I was ignoring my promise to myself: test apps with a small "focus group" of students before unleashing it on all of my kids. However, I had already paid for 32 licenses... I crossed my fingers and prayed that a small group of students would love it. They had to; the app was amazing!

The next day, my students responded with pure venom. The app was out.

I blogged about their reactions in a post about my students' reactions to three annotation apps to share and solicit feedback from other teachers. To my surprise, the app developer himself not only responded, but requested an audience with my student reviewers! His sole intention was the improve the apps and show the students that they could have an influence on the world around them. How amazing.

The students got permission to stay after school and organized their thoughts to Skype with the app developer. The day of the Skype arrived, and my students came in quite excited. One student shared on her mood check in:

I was worried that my students would be too nervous or intimidated to give honest feedback to the developer. I should have known better - they're never shy! The students openly critiqued the app, giving specific feedback and notes about its functionality and aesthetic.  They were both polite and excited to meet with him.

After the discussion, the app developer generously agreed to update his app with many of my students' suggestions. The students smiled, said goodbye, but didn't seem to truly swallow the enormity of what they had accomplished as 9 and 10 year olds.

Apparently a good night's sleep aided in the digestion of this idea. All of the students returned to school the next day bouncing on their heels to talk to me. They pulled me aside and said, "Ms. Magiera! Do you know what we did?! We got to MAKE an app! We told the INVENTOR what to do! And he LISTENED!" They continued, beaming about how they felt "important" and "famous". One asked if they have classes in "app cooking" in high school.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I love You(Tube): The Mathademics Channel

In the previous post, I wrote about my new math differentiation model. Today I've been putting together materials for next week's groups (specifically creating/finding videos for the flipped classroom video groups) and have been perusing the Mathademics YouTube channel. After about 15 minutes of downloading videos using www.savevid.com (our district blocks YouTube), I am hooked.

This YouTube channel features screencast lessons made by real teachers like you and me. I've been making all of my own for the past year - and while not too difficult, this can be time consuming. Here I've found a great host of videos to download, free and easy! What's more, they are sorted into channels according to teacher (if you find someone who has a similar approach to teaching as you, and want to find more videos by him/her) or by math strand (number sense, geometry, algebra, etc.)!

You can even make your own channel to share your own videos (something I plan to do when I have a free weekend).

Check it out!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Differentiated Math, v5.2

In the years that I've been teaching math through differentiated groups, my routines and strategies are ever-evolving. Each summer I spend time reflecting on how the year went, pouring over data and student anecdotal feedback to determine what could be improved the following fall.

Ever since injecting my classroom with a rush of technology, I've found myself having these reflection and rebuilding sessions more often. Currently our school is on a 2-week fall intersession. This time off has encouraged me to consider how our new tech-niques (get it? tech? techniques? ha!) and the introduction of the Promethean board can positively impact the routines in our classroom. In this first quarter of school, we have been refining several new math activities and routines using the iPads; now I'm ready to consider how we can make them a more effective and efficient part of our math period.

After a lot of brainstorming - considering what would be best for the students yet manageable for me as their teacher, I came up with a rough draft of a plan. Below is the latest version of math grouping in room 313. As this is my fifth year of differentiated math grouping and the second iteration of the model this year, I have dubbed it version 5.2. 

I invite any comments, questions or ideas for further improvement and promise to write more as I see successes and... less than successes. Special thanks to Autumn Laidler for being a thought partner and to Dan Meyer - whose blog reminds me to try and keep it real when teaching math.

Differentiated Math, version 5.2

Math Block: 70 minutes, daily
Number of teachers in the room: 2
Curriculum: 4th and 5th grade Everyday Mathematics (EM)
Number of Students: 32

Everyday Math Lesson (30 minutes)
> EM Mental Math & Reflexes Routine - iPads as slates w/ MentalNote App (2-3m)

> EM Math Message (5m)

> EM Lesson & Math Discussion (15-20m)

> Exit Ticket / RSA - EM daily formative assessment (3-5m)

Differentiated Groups (40 minutes) 
> Teacher Center 1: EM Lesson Targeted Review
- Who: Based on Exit Ticket; teacher will use the Google form's conditional highlighting to determine which students need to be in this group immediately after they submit their responses
- Length: Two to three 10-20 minute centers
- Where: Tables 1 and 4 - at Promethean Board
- What: This is the part of the lesson that most teachers continue to teach whole-group... so their entire 60-minute block is a mixture of whole-group instruction and workbook practice. I've found that breaking up the group after half an hour and doing this more focused differentiated instruction is more effective for my students. During this group, I will teach content from lesson objectives utilizing the Promethean Board's interactive features and student iPads / SplashTop app.

> Teacher Center 2: Strand work 
- Who: Students will be able to work on math strands in which they need extra practice. This will be informed by their MAP test RIT score and daily formative assessments from class.
- Length: Two to three 10-20 minute centers
- Where: Meeting Table
- What: Teacher creates five word problems to address strand content. The first word problem will be a "Do Now" for the students to work through collaboratively (and will be a pre-assessment to help gauge student learning during this center). The second will be a "I do" model problem. The third and fourth problems will be "We do" problems for the students to "chew" through concepts. The fifth problem will be the exit ticket formative assessment to determine if the student gained any understanding from the group.

> Student Independent Work: Personal Learning Plan
- Who: All students not working at a teacher center
- Length: Full Differentiated Block
- Where: At seats
- What: Personal Learning Plan will follow the same four activities weekly. PLP to be distributed through Edmodo.

Student Personal Learning Plan (M-Th); Friday is self-assessment day 

> Goals of the Personal Learning Plans:
- To increase student self-efficacy
- To increase student curiosity in and enjoyment of math
- To support our school in its quest to increase student test scores (Regardless of personal beliefs, this is a task that must be addressed as a high needs school in a large urban district.)

> To be assigned weekly - students work through plan at their own pace.

> To be assigned to students via Edmodo (student completes Edmodo reflection after each activity)

> Each student will be assigned variations on the following four activities, weekly:
1- Instructional Level: Flipped Classroom - Content Videos Students watch content videos on their iPad for further practice in week areas. Then they complete a short assessment on Study Island to assess whether the video had a positive impact on their understanding. Initially these videos will be assigned, but my hope is that my students can eventually self-select videos based on their own understanding of their learning needs.
2- Instructional Level: Real-world math problem posed by photo or video (see Dan Meyer's blog for examples) - Students will work out their thinking aloud and on the virtual whiteboard using ShowMe, then type up an "extended response" version of their thinking on Edmodo (they will also link their ShowMe to their Edmodo extended response)
3- Grade Level: EM Math Boxes using the free PaperPort Notes App
4- Instructional Level: Math Choice Board 
- Everyday Math Project
- Respond to real-world problem on math blog
- Create math story on Toontastic for your own real-world problem
- Math Games (prescribed math games apps to strengthen student understanding)


Student Peer-Assessment
> Show Me Review (ON FRIDAYS)
- Display student video on the board
- Students respond via "tweet stream" on Edmodo
* First time, students submit responses through "Turn In" button (so only teacher can view comments)
* Teacher will review and display exemplars
* Once students have "mastered the art of feedback" students can respond via the "Reply" button so all may see their comments
* Students can eventually self-select their own videos from the ShowMe site to provide feedback to their classmates

> Math Boxes Self-Assessment (ON FRIDAYS):
- Teacher places corrected math boxes in DropBox
- Partners correct classmates' work (by pulling them up from Dropbox)
- Students address mistakes in their own corrected Math Boxes
- Students fill out reflection on Edmodo regarding their mistakes/learnings

Teacher-Driven Assessments
> Study Island Assessments

> Written Extended Responses on Edmodo (response to math problem)

> Teacher Center exit tickets and work

> Math Choice assignments

Roll-out / Implementation Plan

I do realize that someone reading this draft plan may be thinking... "My goodness... this crazy woman is biting off far more than she can chew." Perhaps. However, my students already have the requisite skills to all of the above activities in isolation. They may just need some scaffolding to get into a daily routine. Therefore we will take the next week to model expectations for what this looks like in an individualized and self-directed setting. We will discuss methods for getting support when the teacher is working with a small group as well as strategies for self-assessment of effort and work. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Resources for Evaluating EdTech Integration

Much appreciation to Ray Nashar, an ADE from Mount Saint Joseph Girls' College in Australia, for sharing this great resource bundle. This page shares evaluation tools for your edtech integration projects. The SAMR (Substitute --> Augment --> Modify --> Redefine) model is especially interesting to me as that is the thinking I've been experiencing as I progress through my iPad project (i.e., create new opportunities vs. simply replace old ones).

Also of note is his video regarding the "3 Carriage Train" - an interesting lesson through metaphor of how to go about inspiring innovation amongst educators. Thanks, Ray, for sharing and creating these!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Promethean + iPads = ???

Today my Promethean Board was installed! I spent long hours after work trying to figure out how to operate this newest addition to my digi-classroom. Thanks to the aid of my good friend (and co-worker) Autumn Laidler and my other good friend, Google, I began to learn the basics. As we explored the different features of the board, we wondered aloud about what effects it could have - positive and negative - on our students' learning.

My Worries...
As a math teacher, I love to have miles of whiteboard space so as to allow students to work out problems without erasing... this way they (and their peers) can see the journey of their thinking, find mistakes and amazing pathways to solutions. I worry that this board will cause us to lose out on this facet of my math classroom.

Also, will I be "stuck" in the front of the room?

Will the technology become my focus instead of the math?

My Hopes & Ideas...
In response to my worry regarding the room becoming too teacher-centric, I turn - once again - to our iPads. I plan on using the Splashtop app (currently on sale for $4.99 for a limited time) to not only untether myself from the front of the room, but also allow to students to interact with the Promethean Board from their seats. Imagine we're investigating a math problem as a room, and a student wants to share his/her work. In a few moments, they can take control of my computer and show their work on the board. Moreover, they can then screenshot that work and email it to me so I can have a visual record of their participation.

As Autumn and I talked, we discussed the great opportunity in capturing lessons that occur on this board. I am hoping to experiment with Quicktime Screencasts to achieve this goal. When the lesson begins I'll start the screencast so that as I teach the lesson, I'll capture the student interaction, teacher/student modeling, discussion, work, etc. on the board... then upload this video to Dropbox for students to view. Absent students can see what they missed and present students who need a second look could also access this resource. Moreover, teachers from other grades (or in schools with more than one math teacher per grade) could see this lesson to consider vertical alignment and strengthen our PLC.

Finally, there is the simple plus of having a projector and board in my room at all times now. Now I can easily display student Keynotes, share annotated PDF files, Toontastic projects and ShowMe videos for our class to view and discuss!

All in all, I feel a bit like I did when I started the iPad grant: excited and terrified... though perhaps on a smaller scale. I have lots of ideas but also lots of worries. Of course, I'll continue to post as I try things out, inevitably make mistakes... then try something new.

Teachers who are already doing amazing things with interactive whiteboards... I beg you to share your ideas and expertise below!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Student Reviews of Annotation Apps

Today I had several students try out Explain Everything, Noterize and one continue with neu.Annotate PDF. They used these apps to complete their unit review practice at their seats. Below are examples of their work and reactions (as well as my final determination on which app to use).

Using Noterize

Unfortunately there are no screenshots of this app in use because if the app window closes accidentally (which happened to BOTH students using it), you LOSE ALL OF YOUR WORK! They were so upset about this, but being resilient scholars, they were both happy to start over with a new app.

Student Reviews of Apps
(From above)
Reviews on Noterize:
"I like that you can change the pages and you can do what you want to do on that page."
"I don't like the size because when you are in the middle it is humongous and I don't like the marker and pencil because I don't know which one is which." -5th Grader

Reviews on Explain Everything:
"I like the colors and the questions."
"I dislike the eraser, the movement, the buttons on the side, another things I don't know the name of. When you zoom in, it messes up your whole thing because all the pieces of my writing move around for no reason. It is really hard to erase because sometimes you don't get to erase things after awhile. I hate it and I never want to use it again. I like noterize or newannotate better." - 5th Grader

"[I like] That you get to do all of your problems just like noterize and i think it's cool."
"[I dislike] how you erase. It it's very irritating to me about that app. also like when you try to answer a question all the stuff moves and it's so annoying and irritating to me." - 4th Grader

Reviews on neu.Annotate:
"I like this app because you can do math boxes on the iPads and you can learn in a different way."
"The thing i dislike about is how the way you have to write and it's really hard and the eraser doesn't work sometime when you try to erase things." - 4th Grader


Based on the students reactions and performance on the apps, I think I will use Noterize for the foreseeable future. While the screencasting function in Explain Everything is very cool, the lack of functionality for my students makes it impractical to use. I also tried PDF-notes 2.0.0, but again - the functionality (and ads) once again leave neu.Annotate in 2nd place and Noterize in 1st. Thanks again to Steph Meewes for showing me that Noterize is free!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Whetting your APPetite Vol. 9: Update on Screencasting & Digital Math Workbooks

Two new screencasting / annotation apps have caught my eye, one free and one paid. Both offer solutions for some of the problems I addressed in the cons section of the post "Pros and Cons of Digital Workbooks." Many thanks to Stephanie Meewes in Chicago for pointing out that Noterize is free. I was under the silly impression that it was $3.99. What a happy surprise!

Below is an overview of each app so you can decide if the free version will work for you. (Sadly, I think I'll have to cough up the cash for the paid version... but am not too sad because it offers some amazing opportunities for my students!)

Noterize, FREE
Noterize shares many of the same features as neu.Annotate PDF, and many more! This handy little app - which costs the same $0.00 as neu.Annotate - but also has palm protection and the ability to include voice recordings to your slides. Furthermore, it allows users to upload their annotated pages through email, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Box.net and Dropbox (neu.Annotate only allows for email). When saving the document, you can also annotate the file name, which is great when you have many students turning in the same file.

Downsides: You can't do a full screen recording with video on Noterize. You can only do audio - which isn't half bad, but the visual annotation capture can be incredibly powerful when students are working through math problems (see below, in review of Explain Everything). Also, the audio can only be shared through Docs Folder (which you access through iTunes) and cannot be uploaded to Dropbox. This makes it difficult to access these recordings from a class set of iPads. After this reflection, it seems that Noterize is parallel to to neu.Annotate in all aspects except the fact that the upload function is much better. If choosing between Noterize and neu.Annotate, I would definitely choose the former.

Explain Everything, $2.99
($1.49 through volume purchase if you buy 20+ units)

Explain Everything has, well, everything. It has all the features of Noterize and neu.Annotate PLUS all the features of apps like ShowMe and ScreenChomp. Yes, that's right: Students can screencast their work as they write! As they solve mathematical problems, work through misunderstandings, and persevere towards a solution, they can now capture their thinking both through live recording of their writing but also as they think aloud!

In the previous post about digital math journals, I mentioned that I don't want to watch 93 videos of my students' work daily. Well, that is still true - however now they are available in case I want to. Students can record their work as they work, but simply send me the image. If, while grading, I decide I want more information about how the student came to this answer, I can go to that child's iPad and watch the screenrecording, or request that they send it to DropBox. Explain Everything doesn't require a document to begin writing, so I can also use this app to replace ShowMe. One app, two applications! Love it! As with Noterize, this app allows a myriad of upload options: Photo Roll, Email, DropBox, Evernote. As mentioned above, the user has the option to upload only the image, only the movie or the entire project.

Downside: This app costs money :(. Also, there may be too many features. I like how simple ShowMe and neu.Annotate are - they allow kids to get in, do what they need to do, and get out. Explain Everything allows students to very easily delete the actual PDF image, rotate it, shrink it, etc. This may cause issues for those with some motor disabilities. However, I think I can overcome this latter downside through careful modeling and practice with my students. I can overcome the first mentioned downside through careful begging.

Downsides, continued: After working with app some more, I have found two more issues: You cannot change the file name as you upload to DropBox. Not terrible, since I can have kids write their names directly on their work, but it would be helpful if you could change it. Also, when uploading the image, it only uploads the image you can see on the screen. So if the kids are zoomed in, that's all it will upload. I will have to train my students to zoom out. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Support for Bretford PowerSync Cart

Earlier this year I wrote about my struggle with the Bretford PowerSync Cart. Well, my friend Bruce Ahlborn shared this incredibly helpful resource for those who are trying to wrangle a cart of their own (from Julene Reed, Director of Academic Technology at St. George’s Independent School). Many of her syncing suggestions are the same as those shared in my previous post, however she offers a plethora of other helpful tips -- such as disabling automatic updates (and thereby halting 30 annoying popup windows when you connect your cart). That tip alone made my day - and this document is overflowing with other amazing tips! Thanks to Julene for creating this awesome document and Bruce for sharing it with me!

One tip I would add: If you don't need the iPads to be individualized (i.e., they can have identical images and identical content), then don't rename them after the backup (as the document linked above suggests). I left all of mine named "NTA313"; now when I buy a new set of apps through VPP or want to upload a video to all, I just plug them in and they all sync simultaneously without me having to do anything. Just be sure to select "sync new apps automatically" on the apps window and "sync 5 newest movies" on the movies window. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pros and Cons of Digital Workbooks

For the past few weeks, our class has been experimenting with digitized versions of our math program's workbooks. After gaining permission from the authors, and having already purchased print materials for each child, we began to create PDF versions of the student lesson pages. Utilizing the free app neu.annotate PDF, kids scribed answers directly onto the page and were able to zoom in to gain extra workspace. Then they emailed the files to me using a generic email address programmed into the iPad. (This way kids do not ever have access to this account aside from within the app; they cannot send other messages or check email from this account.)

After two weeks of experimentation, here are the pros and cons we've experienced:


- More workspace on the page - since students can zoom in, they can complete a lot more calculations in a lot less space.

- Students are able to change colors as they work. This way they can denote fractions more clearly, change colors to represent place value or operation, and are being more cognizant of how color can have a symbolic role in their math communication.

-  I am able to get all of their work via email, give feedback on the same page using neu.annotate PDF and return the work to them via iDisk or Edmodo. This way I don't have to take home STACKS of workbooks / journals to grade at home -- or collect the journals from student bins to stay late and grade at school.

- Students LOVE it.

- Since neu.annotate allows you to add pictures, students can add photos from the web to illustrate real-world mathematics. i.e., In a geometry lesson, students could find examples of concentric circles, etc.

- I can add my own PDF activities to the iPad for students to complete without having to make photocopies! Saving paper!


- As a math teacher, I LOVE to see erasure marks. They tell me a kid is being thoughtful about their math process, checking their work, finding mistakes and fixing them. If I look carefully, I can also see what original mistake they made and how they fixed it. (Or sometimes, they started with the right answer but changed it.) When students use digital tools to write, I lose this step. :( Screencasting on apps like ShowMe can help me see students' thinking, but I won't want to watch each child's entire process of completing a workbook page or activity on a daily basis.

- The turn in system isn't perfect. I have to open 92 emails to see all of their pages. This is A LOT easier than going through 92 100-page workbooks, but it is still cumbersome. I am hoping that I can find a work-around for this (or that publishers just create a digital platform for their curriculum that embeds a sleeker teacher-student interface).

- One can't guarantee that everyone will get permission to do this with their curriculum (due to copyright laws, etc.). However, if that is the case, supplementary materials - especially those teacher-created - are ripe for the iPad and this app!


As we continue to explore, we will share more pros and cons. Until then, please add your comments if you've tried this. How has it worked for you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick iPad Management Tips!

Here are some helpful hints for your classroom iPad device management:

- If you want to see what recent apps your students were using (to make sure they were on task, etc.) - simply double click on the home button (the only button on the face of the iPad) and a dock will appear. This dock lists the apps that were opened in chronological order (with the most recent being the one farthest to the left).

- If you want to multi-task between several apps, you can double click the home button from within an app and tap an app from the bar below. This app is still "running" and therefore none of your progress will be lost. (This is helpful if students are filling out an exit ticket and want to switch screens to look up a word, or use a calculator -- when they switch back to Safari, their form will not have reloaded and they can continue from where they left off.)

- If your student is trying to type in a Google form and the keyboard keeps disappearing this means that there are too many windows open. Tap on the icon on the top left of the screen that looks like a box with a number inside of it. This will show you all running Safari windows. Close all of the unneeded windows and you'll be able to type again.

- If your students are accidentally deleting apps: Go to the settings, tap "General", then tap "Restrictions". Enable Restrictions and toggle "Deleting Apps" to the off position.

- If you want to disable built-in iPad apps (i.e., Safari, YouTube, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes) that can't be deleted from the normal home screen: Go to the settings, tap "General", then tap "Restrictions". Enable Restrictions and toggle the unwanted apps to the off position.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

ShowMe More Math Metacognition!

As we continue to explore how to increase students' math metacognition (see previous post on this topic), I am finding my iPads more and more invaluable. I've been working with two similar apps shared with me by the great folks at the ADE Institute: ScreenChomp and ShowMe. I started with ScreenChomp as I preferred its interface for my 4th and 5th graders, but have been recently learning towards ShowMe as it has a larger workspace.

Both apps offer the same basic audio and screen-recording features. I've been folding a routine into my differentiated math group time in which students receive a real-world math problem and solve it orally and visually utilizing one of these apps. They then post their response to my page on the app's website (set to private) and I am able to assess them at a later time as well as send their responses to classmates to view, evaluate and respond.

Here is an example of one student's thinking. I love how she starts, backtracks, gets a bit confused, regains her thinking path and perseveres through the problem. This authentic think-aloud paired with a visual workspace gave me an amazing assessment opportunity; it allowed me to accompany this young lady on her mathematical problem solving process and understand what she does and does not understand. Now consider the fact that I have 7 such videos from this period - created simultaneously while I was pulling differentiated math groups. There is almost no way I could have sat in that single 60-minute period and listened patiently to each these students think through this problem. Yet now I can listen and re-listen to assess their thinking - then archive that thinking to track their problem solving progress throughout the year.

My next step is to tie-in Edmodo. I plan to have my students embed these videos - or at minimum link them - on our class page for their classmates to view and leave comments. One of my professional goals this year has been to increase student self-efficacy in the classroom; I want to see each child take more ownership of his or her learning journey. I think this is a great way to make more transparent their own thinking - and the thinking of their colleagues. Once thinking becomes more transparent, they will be better equipped to understand how they think and how others may think differently - or similarly. Through this understanding I believe my students will be able to set more thoughtful goals from themselves as mathematicians.

As a part of this effort, one of my student math groups has begun to brainstorm ideas for rubrics with which we can assess this activity. As we work together to develop this rubric, I will definitely post it here!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Digitize to Improve, Not Just Because You Can

As we travel down the road to a digital school, I find that I frequently need to stop and reflect on the decisions we are making. A recent mistake I've discovered is digitizing just because you can. In this I mean that I have caught myself teaching an entire lesson, creating a new routine or utilizing a new app simply because it is "cooler" than the old fashioned method. However, upon further inspection, I find that the end benefit for the students is no greater than the "old" method. In fact, there are times I read a tweet or get an email about a new app or new use for the iPad, Promethean Board or laptop in the classroom - but then realize that this new method provides no improvement on what had been done before aside from novelty. Therefore, when making a decision on whether to digitize a component of my students' experience, or purchase a new app, I am continually reminding myself: If it doesn't make things better, is it worth it? Additionally, just because it's digital, doesn't necessarily make it better. While thus far most situations have proven that digitizing content and delivery yields improved learning experiences for my students, I know that this is not always the case and therefore a moment of evaluation is warranted.

This comes into play greatly when reconciling our curriculum with our iPads. In many ways, I have found that not only can iPads coexist peacefully with our school's curriculum programs, they often enhance or evolve them. As written in previous posts, I've used apps like Screenchomp (or ShowMe) and Keynote in concert with websites like Edmodo to push my students' mathematical thinking to new heights. However, there are times in which I come across into a fork in the road. These are the times when I have to decide between the curriculum and the technology. In most cases, I can envision a way in which they could be combined to improve each other... if the publishers and authors could create a digital enhancement of the program. However, I am separated from this solution by time (for the program to be developed and released) and money (to purchase this program). In the immediate meanwhile, I must determine how to best educate my students sitting in my classroom today.

One such example are the Everyday Mathematics math boxes. These practice problems, found in the program's daily lesson structure, have been carefully created and structured through years of research on math education. They serve the purpose of spiraled practice throughout the curriculum so that students receive repeated exposure to important concepts throughout the years. After I received the iPads, I found that differentiating spiraled practice opportunities with them could be extremely effective - using web-based programs such as Study Island and mathematics apps. Yet while I received the gift of expanded technology resources in my classroom, I did not receive the added gift of an expanded math block. Therefore, something had to give. Sadly - this was math boxes.

Recently I started worrying that by sacrificing the math boxes I was fatally wounding the integrity of my math program. Was my replacement activity - iPad-based spiraled differentiation - equal to or greater than the impact that the math boxes could provide? My selection of the apps and website targets was not research based, but did offer a level of differentiation and immediate feedback that the math boxes could not. I have experimented with the concept of using PDF versions of the math boxes and allowing students to use a program such as neu.Annotate PDF to fill them out and submit them - but then I am faced with yet another question. Would digitizing the math boxes improve them somehow, or would I be doing this solely to make them iPad-friendly? Once again, as I explore these questions I  keep the simple thought in mind: If it isn't making it better, is it worth it?

I haven't finished grappling with this question. I am going to try both for the time being - a mix of iPads and digitized math boxes -- mixed with some paper and pencil math boxes. I am going to look at variances of student performance, student engagement and my ability to provide meaningful feedback. I am also going to weigh the benefits of any successes or improvements with the time and effort it takes to digitize these experiences (vs. simply opening a math journal). I am working with my professional learning community / network to explore these questions, and more. My end goal is of course to ultimately effectively utilize the technology in my classroom and create the best possible learning experience for my students.

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....