Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Question of Storage and Updating - without a monstrous cart!

The question schools wrestle with, once we find ourselves with a set of iPads and find that teachers and students are happily engaged in using them in their daily classroom life, is how we are going to safely store and easily update these devices?

We have started small with our program, and we decided early that teachers wanted their set of iPads stored in the locked closets in their classrooms. We picked out simple wire baskets from The Container Store  and found, with the thin protectors on the backs of the iPads and magnetic covers, six iPads fit comfortably in each bin. If stored with the power access point facing up, then charging and updating the set is easy, although initially I was stuck with updating each iPad, one at a time.

Next was the challenge of how to update multiple iPads at once. We learned while in Maine at the Leveraging Learning Institute, that the Casper-Jamf suite has been great for their huge management needs, with 400 iPads in the program. The down side they have discovered is that few wireless networks are robust enough to update multiple iPads at once, so they have moved to manually updating them after all. In a workshop about managing devices, the usual Bretford cart solution was trotted out. I finally raised my hand and asked, "What if we don't want a huge piece of furniture that will soon become obsolete?" That was when they shared the solutions employed by the innovative educators in Canby, Oregon. They created a "McGyver" solution involving D-Link USB hubs, and stacks of iPads. I have adapted this system using the D-Link hubs (model # DUB-H). With 6 in a basket I can transport them to my iMac, update all 6, then move on to the next set. It's a simple solution, with no major cart purchased, and could be transferred to classrooms with teachers updating their own classrooms sets as they do in the Auburn, Maine program.

If only it were easier to manage the iPads for education! We are still waiting for Apple to simplify our lives by creating enterprise level solutions for these wonderful devices!

Friday, November 18, 2011


Evernote is a great tool for classroom documentation.

It used to be that the other kindergarten teachers and I would walk around the classroom with a clipboard and scribble notes about student learning, thinking, challenges, and any other skill or ability that our children were demonstrating. By the time report writing came around, I had amassed quite a stack of scribbles and post-it's. It was really nothing that I could share with anyone until after I spent some time sifting through the scribbles and writing drafts of my reports. Using Evernote on our iPads, we can do more and we can share it all. Having created one Evernote folder for each student, I can now walk around the classroom as learning is happening and capture the students articulating their thinking. Evernote allows teachers to type notes, take photos, upload photos, and record audio.

Now, using Evernote, I am able to take a photo of a student's work, and then have a conversation with her as I record her thinking. I can make her thinking visible. (to me, to her, to another teacher who was not present, even to her parents if needed)

Using tags, I can come back later and search for a particular student's work. I can search for all math pattern work or all reading levels or any other category of learning that I tag to find out how we are doing as a whole class. I can save emails and documents that pertain to a student's learning or challenges in their individual Evernote folder.

I can take notes during parent conferences - using my tablet pc and Evernote I can even ink notes in Evernote during meetings and conferences. (dear Evernote, please make inking possible on the iPad version...)

Why this is a good idea:
-use evernote to snap photos of students at work and then write your notes directly onto the note for that photo
-use a new note to compose thoughts for reports from anywhere in your classroom, another classroom, on a field trip, anywhere
-use audio recording in evernote for classroom documentation, both student-led and teacher
-create a folder in your evenote binder for each student at the start of the year
-use evernote to add other documentation on each student as needed - emails, documents, photos, etc.
-open your evernote folders from any computer to write reports or updates or to check for assessments
-share your folders with other teachers, support people as needed
-keep every artifact about your students together, paperless, and accessible from anywhere

A Challenge to App Designers - Where are the Essential Math Apps for Young Learners?

One of our Kindergarten teachers, Denise Coffin, and I have spent three intense days at the Leveraging Learning: the iPad in Primary Grades institute in Auburn, Maine. It has been a gathering of about 120 people from public and independent schools all asking the questions such as, "Are iPads the educational tools that will transform a student's experience by creating opportunities to customize learning?"   As educators, we are all in search of methods and tools that will help students access the curriculum in ways that extend their thinking and engage them more deeply in the concepts they are learning. Learning becomes engaging when students are given the chance to ask questions and are encouraged to discover the answers using materials, tools, and guidance from a teacher, or through collaborating with classmates. What are the teaching methods, combined with powerful learning tools, that will help all students soar, grow, and feel successful?  iPads offer an intuitive interface that we have seen students of many ages interact with creatively, confidently, and with engagement. In these early days, the apps designed for education are still in their early stages. There are new apps out every day, but few of them make the grade for constructivism, deepening of understanding, or richness of material. At the institute, we spent an evening with Ruben Puendetura discussing his iPad Flows. Ruben has deep roots in constructivist thinking and computers in education, going back to the early days of Seymour Papert and Alan Kay. He has reviewed over 800 apps in search of those that meet the qualities of engagement that deepens understanding. I will post about each of his flows in the near future. He has posted a pdf of his flows on the Institute Resources along with many other useful materials.  After his presentation, we approached him at lunch to ask about the absence of a math flow in his collection of apps for young learners. His response was that, at this point, there aren't apps out there for young math learners that fulfill our expectations. We looked together at his Math Flow for older students, which includes interactive graphing calculators, geometry, and higher math apps. Of all of these, the two that could be used with younger students are Touch Draw, which would allow us to create shapes, even virtual Cuisenaire rods, for students to explore and manipulate, Sketchpad Explorer, which offers geometry exploration and discovery similar to Geometer's Sketchpad, and WolframAlpha, a "computational knowledge engine".    What is missing? Where are the apps that help kids work through problem solving and logic questions in a real and engaging way? Where are the apps that make math thinking visible, that challenge children to question the underlying concepts of math? Where are the apps that introduce concepts in a way that students can interact with materials, repeat the experience, and customize their learning? Here is the challenge to app designers who would like to create worthwhile, potentially essential, math apps.    We reflected on the days when "The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis" was still able to run on our computers. This engaging activity presented kids with fun, but often tough, logic problems to solve in the context of a story about traveling Zoombinis. The closest program like that is available only on a computer that runs flash, called "The Lure of the Labyrinth". We are also waiting for programming experiences such as Scratch to move to the iPad. Evidently that app appeared, was taken down by Apple, and is in redesign at this time.
The Math Flow just doesn't exist yet for our younger learners. Educators are willing and eager to find a way to make this happen. There's never been a better time for creative app designers to connect with educators to explore new ways to deepen and broaden student understanding of math using the unique interface of the iPad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Progress Report on iPads in Kindergarten and as a Teacher Productivity Tool

The iPad implementation group met this week to share experiences with the iPads for students and for teachers. The conversation ranged from iOS5, iCloud, and Evernote tips, to how K's are interacting with the iPads in class and the many ways they are being used there.

Classroom Activites with iPads in Kindergarten

While our two kindergartens are using the iPads in different ways, they are both finding them helpful tools that support their academic goals. The previous post, with a video of the handwriting app, is an example of a way the iPad is impacting the curriculum.  We discussed whether adding a stylus would help with the pencil grip issue, but the teachers pointed out that to use a finger to trace the letters helps the student focus directly on the correct letter formation, and separates the formation from the small motor issues related to holding a pencil correctly, managing other tools like an eraser, etc. They see this as great reinforcement and practice which goes along with the pencil-paper lessons. Our teachers are finding more and more uses for the iPad during their teaching day. While I had thought we could share the sets with older classes as a chance to test them at other levels, one of our kindergartens now says they are just too useful to share. They make them available during math and language arts time so that students who are finished with work or ready for greater challenges can move forward using the selected apps we have agreed on for the program. They are surprised to find that, at this point, they don't use them for informal "choice" time and have not yet used the drawing apps very much. There is a plan to do a project based on a field trip, where students will upload a photo and tell the story of the trip using a drawing and recording app like Screen Chomp. This is where iCloud will be useful, so that all the iPads can share photos.

Teacher Productivity with iPads

This was a great session for teachers to share their experiences with Evernote, including shared notebooks (we have subscribed to Evernote), inked notes, tags, and organizing folders.  Our third grade teacher, who is trying out the iPad as his record-keeping tool this year, has found that he can use his Toshiba tablet PC with the Ink Note feature to hand write notes as he talks to kids in reading conferences or other meetings for one-to-one assessment. He feels that inking sends a better message than typing, and with the syncing ability, he has access to the handwritten notes on the iPad as well. We are hoping Evernote will include Ink Notes on their next upgrade, which would really help make note-taking like this more efficient. Many of our teachers had not understood the value of tagging notes, which serves the same purpose as having folders. We discussed how one could collect all of a student's work in a folder, but sort our notes by topic through tags, such as "Betty reading comprehension"," Betty math", etc. Once a tag has been established, it appears on the list of choices, so you can write a detailed tag once, then never have to write it again. The upgrade to iOS5 has added the opportunities provided by iCloud to the mix. Teachers are eager to try out the chance to share photos and projects across iPads via the cloud. We have already tested the photo stream and can see that it will be a great addition.

In November, one of the K teachers and I look forward to attending and learning much more in Auburn, Maine at the institute entitled: Leveraging Learning: the iPad in Primary Grades 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Handwriting: iPads and Paper and Pencil

The Kindergarten has a weekly guided lesson on the iPads. This week during their handwriting practice, groups moved through the iPad activities on iWriteWords and traditional worksheets. One of our theories about using iPads was that with the right app that gives students direction for their letter formation and feedback when they do it incorrectly, they would get the kind of repeated practice that will eventually make the formation of letters come naturally. This video demonstrates the challenge of guiding a kindergartener through correct letter formation with paper and pencil, compared to practicing repeatedly with feedback on the iPad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

iPads as table easels

A new idea!

This week the iPads came in extremely handy as we used them in a brand new way - something we did not anticipate using iPads to accomplish. The children were asked to copy something from one easel we had in the room. (a weekly activity) Since the children are spread out at various tables, they usually need to wait for the easel to "travel" to their table in order to take their turn copying down a message.
We decided to use the iPads to make the easel work more accessible to all the children. We took a picture of the easel on a number of iPads and set the iPads in front of those children who weren’t in direct eyesight of the easel. This helped us manage our children and our time in a much better way! Everyone got to work on the project simultaneously. As a class, we were able to finish earlier than we normally would and move onto our next activity.
The iPads could be used as this type of table easel for almost anything that requires student examination. We'll likely use this same idea for art discussions, community meetings, word wall words, etc....
Below is an example of our students using the iPads as individual easels:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Introducing the iPads to the students!

In KX, we found it extremely important to have an orientation (10-15 minutes) with the children on how to handle the iPads. Our assumptions were that the children would be so familiar with iPads (seeing as how prevalent they are in many children’s homes) that they would just jump into using them. What we discovered very quickly was that using mom or dad's iPad for games requires different skills/knowledge/care than using them in a targeted manner for our enrichment activities.
Our observation was that many children put their entire hand on the iPads and weren’t accustomed to dragging their fingers over the screen yet. They were unaware of how to open the lid to create an "easel." They needed to be taught how we want them to begin or approach the iPad - in our case, we have the covers closed and want the students to wait for instructions, then open and begin with an app that we already have open. They also needed to practice ending their iPad time - clearing their work and leaving the app open at it's starting point for the next group. We worked with a small group of six children at a time and we modeled the proper uses of the I-Pad by demonstrating right in front of them before they tried it on their own. By the end of the orientation, the children were using their fingers properly and were onto trying out the fantastic programs we have for them!
We decided to open this introduction and exploration session using the DoodleArt app. This video shows the students trying out their first app.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Reflections on art apps.

It has been a fun and interesting summer with the ipad! After watching my nearly 7 year old and nearly 2 year old use the ipad and explore apps and after my own exploration of academic apps I find that most of the reviews from classroom teachers fall in line with my thoughts regarding those apps.

As an art teacher I was most interested in exploring the drawing and design apps keeping in mind their use primarily with the younger grades. We all know that nothing takes the place of sensorial stimulation, development and satisfaction of pencil, pen, marker or brush to paper, canvas or other surface, nonetheless using some of these apps will promote sensorial engagement and fine motor development. That being said, here are my reviews of the ones I thought have merit for use in the classroom for individual and small group work.

* Draw Free: Of all of the drawing apps my daughter seemed to enjoy this one the most and I can easily see why. The overall design of this app is visually appealing and very easy to figure out without the need for turorial. The screen opens with a textured tan background and offers very clear and simple options for changing your background color to one of many offered or for importing photos or drawings as backgrounds for drawing on. It only offers one tool which although called a brush, is more like drawing lines and has options for varying the thickeness of the line. A fun looking color wheel can be accessed to change the line color. This is a perfect app to introduce the idea of drawing on the ipad for the younger grades.

* Doodle Buddy and Brushes: These are both great art making apps for classroom use with younger students. They offer more options than Draw Free in terms of tools and the ability to see the result of overlapping the marks made by those tools as there is transparency to some of the media. They also offer the option of changing tool thickness, color and media (such as paint, marker, chalk etc). These are more in line with the basic paint programs that students use in the the tech lab but the screens seem tobe designed to please and encourage the success of younger students.

* Mirror Lite Paint: Wow! So much fun, even I was addicted. As an art teacher, it is one thing to discuss the notion of true symmetry with students and a whole other thing to provide students with an opportunity to have simple explorations of it that do not require mirror, paint and folding paper in half or cutting lines or shapes through stacked sheets of paper and aligning them. This is a very satisfying exploration of symmetry! The screen can be divided into two or 4 which provides all the more excitement and interest. Tools and colors vary in thickness and media to a degree and the marks overlap but without transparency. It offers beautiful and vibrant color options for both background and tools creating bold and exciting outcomes. Watching what you draw mirror or mirror in quadruple has a kaleidescopic effect that is mezmerizing and kids will truly grasp the notion of symmetry even after one or two attempts. This is a great precursor or addition to the aforementioned mirrors, paint and paper symmetry explorations for younger students.

For Elementary use and beyond, in the art room or classroom, I discovered and downloaded (utilizing my personal apple account) two free art apps that I think are very worthwhile.

* Art HD: This is a visual feast of an app and that is even before you get into exploring it. It is gorgeously designed and accompanied by sounds of classical music throughout. The free version offers a limited but wonderful menu of classical European artists, Impressionists, Fauvists as well as Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Surrealist Frida Kahlo and an American Modernist or two that you can choose to learn about. They provide an image of either a portrait, self portrait or photograph of the artists as your entree to their info. When selected you can view biographical info but the best part is viewing the art. You can enter an on screen gallery for a particular artist and view their art as a slide show, pausing when desired. The resolution of the images is stunning and the color and textural translation is fantastic, all accompanied by the wondefrul and uninterrupted music. You also have the option of creating your own galleries by importing images and biographical info for the artists that you desire to have available. I love this app and can only imagine what the full version has to offer!

* MOMA: This app is like taking a mini tour through some of the MOMA's permanent collection. Having grown up in New York and having visited the MOMA often during my youth, this was like a visit with old friends. It is modern and sophisticated in design (I'd expect nothing less of the MOMA). The prevailing background color is white which allows all of the artwork to sing on the screen and sing they do! They arrange the paintings on a white wall just as they are at the MOMA (with infrequent exception). The works of art hang with appropriate distance from each other as in the museum and with variation in scale as in the museum so you truly have the feeling of walking through one of the galleries. In the free version only paintings are avaiable for view and as expected the resolution is superb as is the color and textural translation. When you click on a painting and enlarged version comes up with limited info about the artist. A menu on the side offers "About this work" and "More about this work". Most of the works will be familiar to appreciators of art and are must knows in understanding modern art.

I have throughly enjoyed my time with the ipad and am grateful for the experience!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Sidwell iPad Experience, thus far

I had the opportunity to participate in part of the professional development sessions for a major iPads in Kindergarten initiative in the Auburn School District on Auburn, Maine. The project is coordinated by Mike Muir, director of the Maine Center for Meaningful, Engaged Learning. All kindergateners in Auburn will have one-to-one iPads this year. They have 400 iPads ready to go.

The Auburn project is approaching this in much the same way we are, albeit on a much larger scale, so it was a pleasure to present my thoughts and discuss plans and questions with them.

Below are the points I presented to the teachers in Auburn. I will put together my notes on the follow-up discussion for a later post.

The Sidwell iPad Experience, thus far.

Goal: to explore educational value of iPads as tools for young learners and their teachers

We identified K as the target group based on their stage in learning basic literacy and math concepts and the potential value of practice and response provided by iPad apps. The interface of the iPad with its simplicity and instant on/off makes this a form of technology that is manageable by young children.

Teachers in K, the math coordinator, and I (as project admin) were given iPads for the year. 12 student iPads were purchased and distributed for summer exploration to representatives from all grade levels and departments at lower school. The expectation was that they share their experience on our blog. The goal was to review apps and to evaluate the interface in order to help the kindergarten teachers plan effective implementation in the fall.

Based on evaluations and visits to several schools who launched iPad programs last year, the following guidelines have evolved:

1. The best learning occurs with a teacher nearby to observe, guide, respond. Therefore in our program the iPads will be used in small groups, guided by a teacher

2. All apps are not equal, and their value to your program depends on your goals, vision, and the methods of the school. In our school we rarely use reward systems to motivate students, so our teachers have universally expressed concerns about the over-the-top reactions, such as cheering, stars, medals, etc. triggered by the smallest correct answer. Having read Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, these huge rewards for small accomplishments are actually counter- productive as they create an expectation of acclimation from outward sources when what we hope to instill is a sense of determination and satisfaction with the learning process that is internal and not dependent on outward rewards.

3. Learning with technology should include a creative element that is unique to the medium. Clearly the iPad should not replace crayons, paint and chalk. How does it encourage creativity in ways that are not otherwise available to a young learner? Our teachers are most interested in using iPads as early literacy tools. They are seeking apps that offer young children the opportunity to share their ideas and practice creating narratives, expressing thoughts and ideas they can't yet share in writing. The ability to create a drawing or take a photo and narrate it aloud, or to piece together a story using elements provided, may be a boost to their early literacy skills and give teachers and parents insight into the way the student thinks and learns. If students can find new forms of self-expression using the iPad, then it has the potential to hold an important place in the classroom curriculum.

4. Many skills and concepts taught in early childhood classrooms require repetition and practice. It is effective to find a variety of ways to practice these skills and concepts, which leads us to think that adding the iPad as one form of experience makes sense. The handwriting apps that guide students to form letters correctly will provide the repetition and feedback that this age group benefits from as they work to develop appropriate handwriting skills. The apps that articulate math concepts and help students see and understand the concepts of counting, grouping, adding, and subtracting may offer practice and feedback that will provide individualized reinforcement difficult to offer in a classroom.

Of course, as previously stated, all apps are not equal. In our next phase I will ask teachers to articulate the requirements they envision for the ideal apps to accomplish the goals described here. These will be shared with those app developers who are interested in working with us, and with our Upper School computer science students who may be interested in working with us to create our own apps to meet our expectations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reflections from Summer Users

The summer is ending and it is time to reflect on the experience of using an iPad for several months. My summer iPad users agreed to blog and share their thoughts, so I asked them to think of three discoveries they made. What follows are their reflections. It is interesting to see the similarities in their responses.

One note I will make is that our plan for the iPads in the classroom is for small group work. That means a teacher is nearby or participating in the work students engage in, just as she/he would be if they were making art, learning math concepts, or practicing reading and writing. There is little doubt in my mind that any work in school is strengthened with the presence of a teacher who encourages, notices the student's approach and process, and is aware of their accomplishments. This is true whether technology is involved or not. The question we are continuing to ask is whether this particular technology can enhance the classroom experience for young learners, and improve the note-taking and ability to share student work for the teachers.

The reflections:

The one thought I do have for the ipad student use is how to how easily a student can exit out of a given program
when things get challenging. how they manage frustration. how we teacher use the ipad to encourage perserverance.
i was watching my daughter play around and granted, she is not even 3, but if a given program is not easily intuitive and responsive to her actions, she will exit. i suppose there is something of a skill there but...

Zarya, Kindergarten

Kids love working on the iPad. It is habit forming and has to be rationed. Kids can intuitively figure out how to use the programs, which are engaging for the most part.

Puppet Pals and Story Patch invite creative story telling and thus foster writing and reading skills.

Motion Math was a fun, interactive way for an 8 year old to practice his knowledge of fractions. Turning the screen to direct the ball was exciting for him.

Alpha Tots was engaging and interactive for a 3 year old. She stayed with it for all 26 letters.
Diane, Early Childhood

1. Teaching children, especially younger children, how to interact with the screen is important.  Younger children may get easily frustrated by having to tap very specific areas or drag objects around very often.

2. Questions about reward structure of some games/apps.  Winning gold stars or trophies raises the question of external versus internal motivation.  LIke some games, but wanted the ability to turn OFF the rewards.

3. Navigation through apps - many of the apps I found the strongest allowed the participant to navigate through the activities/tasks easily, the method of navigation was clear (not just some random indecipherable icon) and integrated into the screen layout.  Also, the strongest apps afford the participants the ability to tailor the game to their abilities (moving between activities freely within the app, selecting the "level" you wish to play).

Brian, First grade

I still feel strongly that iPads should only be used in limited amounts as supplementary math stations...never take the place of the children experiencing hands on counting and work with manipulative materials including blocks, tangrams, cusenaire rods etc.......
I am also concerned that every game/activity has bells and whistles, applause and superlatives when the student has success. It isn't that children don't deserve positive feedback,it is just that they can't depend or should not learn that this is what learning entails...because how will they ever develop there own sense of accomplishment and satisfaction...and how to just feel content doing and learning as well as making mistakes...
I was working with a K graduate this summer who enjoyed the iPad but really wanted the interaction with me as a teacher and I honestly think he enjoyed the iPad more because I was sitting right next to him.
Materials and gadgets are great but the bottom line is face to face interaction, discussion and personal specific feedback make for the best learning conditions.

Merry, Math Coordinator

Dragon Dictation might be an interesting tool for older kids.  We often sit down one on one with the kids that have trouble writing.  It usually is the case that they just need to talk it out to get started.  With Dragon Dictation, I think a teacher could work with 2 or 3 kids at a time (each with an iPad) so we could talk as a group, then when they have a solid idea, they could go "talk it out" with the iPad.  It might be worth exploring.

- I LOVE the "stack the states" and "stack the countries" apps.  My kids do too.  They are really a fun way to learn about geography and spatial relationships.  If you haven't tried them yet, you should!

-Recording movies on an iPad is really easy.  I can see situations where teachers record certain lessons or kids working together or alone, then have the ability to review it later for report notes, or show the video to parents at conferences as an example.  It could be really useful.
 Eve, Fourth grade

1. I need to test all apps with students before assuming that they will/will not like it.

2. Great tool but for chinese for elementary school students I am still struggling to find super apps. I feel sure that some will be developed over the next year or two as it grows in popularity in China.

3. I can see using ipads in class as a nice way to have students review using a different tool. For example sometimes we would have students do their work on little white boards and then hold the boards up to show us. This use of a "cool tool" was a great way to engage students and keep things different. So for ipads I could see in third grade it would be a great way to work on memorizing the US states, and for math review.

Thanks or xiexie
Edith, Chinese 

I am excited about using evernote to document student work

I really like the idea of the iPad replacing the hand held whiteboards that students use for handwriting practice

I want to know if an all ebook listening center is something anyone else uses in their classrooms and would like to move our listening center to the iPads.

Denise, Kindergarten

In terms of the kids vs adult ease of use, I agree with someone ( I forget who) who blogged that sometimes things that seemed cumbersome or unwieldy to us as adults are really  not bothersome to the kids. One app in particular ( I think it was Fish HD) seemed very visually confusing ot me, with the fish forming the letters and swimming in and out of the letter form to do so. It did not seem to bother my little six hear old friend who was experimenting for me. Having said that, I do think it would be visually confusing for many of my students, who may not be as visually secure as some of their peers.

Some of the apps seemed a bit like glorified video games to me, while others seemed good as reinforment tools for material already taught and still others actually helped with critical thinking. One of my very favorite apps is the Coin Math!

As far as a teacher tool, I can see alot of good uses here, as well. Also, just as far as logistics are concerned, it is certainly light weight, easy to pull out quickly to use and the battery seems to last a good long while. The touch tone key board is extremely sensitive and sometimes frustrating in that sense. I know there is a key board that one can purchase to use with the ipad, but then it seems like you might as well be toting your laptop around. Still, I loved using it! There is something absolutuely fun about it!

Louise, Learning Specialist

1. I think there is good potential with the ipads, but I am wary of them replacing real world experiences, especially those that are tactile.  With that said, I am starting to see some ways, and imagine that there are far more than I have realized, that the ipad can give students and teachers unique or improved experiences.  I am interested in continuing to search these out.

2. Motion Math.  I like how there is such a quick connection with the game developer, plus all the things I like about this game.  I plan to email Jacob about ideas I have that could create a fraction game that would work for younger children as well.  I like how the technology both lends itself to such a multi-intelligent and interesting game while also creating a direct link with the creators--not necessarily all ipad specific things, but interesting to me.

3. The ipad is changing my thinking about how to document, collect, and organize classroom notes, plans, and ideas.  Right now I am thinking about this through Evernote.  I have already created a notebook for each student and am envisioning using the simple photo and voice recording features of the ipad to assist in my note taking and collecting insights about kids.  I could see discussing a detail with parents at a conference and then pulling up a picture of it actually happening since I was able to take it with the ipad.

4.  Thinking far beyond game apps.  When I started with the ipad apps I was mostly going through games, which many of them are and most of which I did not care for.  But then I started to think beyond and using other apps.  Interestingly I found an entire textbook of sorts focused on Jamestown.  It has great images, videos, and well written and researched text.  Some is too advanced for my students but I can see using this app in class.  By reading some pieces of the other blogs that you connected to ours, I have also seen some really interesting ideas, such as creating photo albums where studnets can flip through and record their thoughts, tell a story, answer questions verbally, and so on.  Overall I realize there is a much larger world of apps and possibilities out there and would like more time to search and think through them and to try some ideas out in class.

5. Games.  Despite looking beyond games, I also think having games for kids to play connected to basic skill practice once and a while on the ipad can be fun and engaging.  I actually bought a magnetic dart board for a similar reason, fun fact practice.

6. I could see using the ipad as a convenient recording device of sorts to use in student assessments and to help conduct student interviews, but I have not worked through this much.

Overall, I hope I will be able to hold onto the ipad throughout the year and to experiment and keep searching.  It continues to be worthwhile.

Maurice, 3rd grade

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The iPad Experience from the Child's Viewpoint

iPad Choices of a 3½ year old girl
Alpha Tots was engaging for my 3½ year old. She liked the airplane flying in the letters and then having something to do, like build a robot. She learned quickly to press on a letter until the program was ready to present the next letter. Some activities were hard for her to figure out. For the letter G the watering can had to be held up high in order for the tomatoes to grow. For the letter S, stacking the rings in the right order was frustrating even though she has performed that task many times before in real life.
Alphabet Tracing: She liked tracing the letters. She didn’t pay attention to the arrow directions but enjoyed making letters on the screen.
Intro To Letters: She liked looking at the letters but had trouble using the record button at the right time.
Intro to Math: She liked tracing the numbers. She seemed fascinated by the sound of touching sandpaper when the program ball traced the number. She waited until the ball finished before she traced the number.
Doodle Buddy, Draw Free, Chalkboard and Brushes were interesting also. She liked using her finger to make lines, curves and dots and change colors.
Blocks!: This program was her first choice, as the lego blocks are a familiar sight. Creating designs with different colors and shapes was fun for her.
iPad Choices of an 8 ½ year old boy
Motion Math HD was great fun and required effort on his part. It “made fractions fun” he said. He didn’t mind missing the correct answer. The motion part was good for him.
Count the Coins: He could move the coins around for better counting, but he didn’t stay with it very long.
Puppet Pals: He loved that program. He easily made stories with sound effects and dialogue. He concentrated on it for quite a while and enjoyed the creative aspect. 
Story Patch: Another favorite because he could makeup a story.  He used the help feature to create the story but he was delighted to choose visuals from the menu.
Kid Paint: He loved creating a picture. He made one with perspective – cars on a bridge over water with boats. 
Garage Band: He easily created a song using different instruments and added vocals too.
Blocks!: He also enjoyed creating with the lego type blocks. Adding people figures gave it a story dimension for him.
Posted by Diane McDougall

Friday, August 12, 2011

"I had it first!..."

No, that's not the cry of frustration from my nearly 7 year old or even from my nearly 2 year old (whose preference would be to yell "MINE" to the very top of her lungs). Instead it is the defense of my 40+ husband upon my chastising him to "Give the ipad back to the baby!" The addition of the ipad to our household has brought both delight and chaos to our lives!

This summer has been a HUGE foray in general for our family into the world of acquiring and actually utilizing up to date technological devices and services. Let's see, as a birthday gift for my husband, I surprised him with a brand spanking new 32" flat screen TV equipped to communicate with all other technologies in our home (save kitchen appliances). We switched and upgraded our cable, phone and Internet service to one which would best enable full blossom of the aforementioned communication and wait for it...for the VERY first time have wireless signals wafting through the air. We are watching movies online and cruising You tube and Face book from wherever we want. We are synching and sharing music, photos and video from ipods and laptops. We are beginning to experiment with video chatting and considering major upgrades to the potential of our outdated cell phones. All of this jump started by the knowledge that we would have an ipad in the house to experiment and play with this summer.

For most of you I'll bet your lives have already been made more convenient and streamlined by the very things we have just begun to embrace. Perhaps these things have brought you and your family pleasure as well as some precious time by making communication with family and friends more concise, succinct and coordinated (or maybe the opposite as keeping up with Face book has easily become a 45 minute a day activity?). We are slowly getting the hang of it all, slowly.

The ipad has been a marvel for us. I have been impressed by so many of it's aspects overall. It is just the right size and just the right weight for every member of our house to use. It is solidly constructed and sturdy as it's kinda' sorta' been banged up a bit during various tugs of war (between siblings and with visiting cousins and friends) and handling in general. It's held up very well and with no nicks, scrapes, cracks or breaks. I have been truly amazed with how easy it is to operate and to access and utilize apps. My 6 1/2 year old has been able to quite independently open, figure out, use and master most of the age appropriate learning and game apps much to her delight as she has no other gaming devices. She is now addicted in no time flat. What is really ridiculous is that my 1 1/2 year old has watched us intently and when given the ipad she can press the button to reveal or hide apps. She can scroll to the side until she gets to her apps of choice which are usually my first tangrams, animal sights and sounds and You tube where she can completely O.D. on Elmo and Sesame Street clips. She too is jonesing for her ipad time each day (ugh, and night). Just the knowledge that it is in the house has become something that they look forward to upon entering the house or shortly thereafter. This has been a challenge and we have had to put our foot (feet?) down, cut them off and move them on to activities that require absolutely no technology. Of course, this usually solicits bouts of objecting, whining and sometimes crying.

Having only an early generation ipod and a truly archaic cell phone (which does not even have a QWERTY key pad) I was not acquainted with the scrolling, pinching, touching, tapping and dragging screens to access and manipulate information and entertainment material. Although I utilize the Smart board in my classroom and perform some of these actions, this is certainly different. I too have enjoyed the ease of access and ability to perform various functions and to explore apps. I have downloaded some great free art apps with fantastic potential for class room use. Some enable interesting art and design making potential with finger or photography as well as some that provide access to museum collections, publications and art games. I look forward to reviewing some of these in the very near future.

For my husband the ipad has been all about ANGRY BIRDS! Okay, he also finds the Star Walk amazing and has been caught walking around with the Compass app up revealing where true north is. Angry birds has become his thing to do, his thing to fiddle with when his mind is racing, sort of like how I bite my thumbnails or crack open sunflower seeds one after another after another. Of course the fact that it is the coolest, sleekest and most fun device in the house from which he can access email and search the web is highly appealing to him.

Every one in our household has had some difficulty breaking free from the ipads mesmerizing siren call. We are affectionately changing its name to the "Mine pad".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Combining iPad and Laptop with Evernote to Use as Note Taking Tool

I've started to get into using Evernote a lot. It looks like a wonderful note taking tool and I am trying to use it to plan out curriculum and thoughts about the upcoming school year. The app is a green square with a grey elephant in the middle. Today I started thinking about how to use Evernote along with the iPad and my laptop to keep student notes. In Evernote I could create a separate notebook for each student and then make new entries for each student as the year goes on. With Evernote I can type and handwrite thoughts, I can capture and import images, and I can record my voice. Plus it seems to have many nice organizing features that I have not yet discovered. I am starting to realize, I think correctly, that the iPad and PC laptop bring different abilities to using Evernote.

With the iPad I am starting to envision...
-Taking pictures of children's work or of children and recording my thoughts either by typing them with the image or by recording myself speaking thoughts into the iPad.
-Recording conversations with students or student explanations or read alouds or spoken presentations to be listened to and reviewed later. I believe I can also type or verbally record my observations on the same note.
-The iPad is light and easy to carry around and could be more efficient for recording moments and thoughts throughout the day.

With the laptop am starting to envision...
-Having more options for what I can do with Evernote, such as writing or typing and creating new notebooks for students, a task that the iPad does seem capable of doing.
-Writing more in depth thoughts that I may not want to use the screen keypad for.
-Overall it seems the laptop can act more as an administrator for my Evernote work, whereas the iPad could function as a day to day thought recording device.

One of the beauties of Evernote is that it stores information virtually--if I am saying that correctly. So, once you synchronize the material you just entered, you are able to review and work with any device on which you have downloaded the program.

Using both interfaces, I could see this being very handy when writing reports. I could review filed notes on the iPad and then take care of report card writing and checklists on the laptop. I don't have to carry home stacks of papers!

I am just starting to figure this out, so there may be snags. I wonder how safe is the information I store. I guess this depends upon the password I use. But I still would like to find out more about the safety dimensions. As well, I need to figure out more what the iPad and the PC laptop can do with Evernote, because they definitely seem different.

I'd appreciate any thought from anyone who is more familiar with Evernote than me.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smart Board Connection?

Is it possible to connect the iPad to the smart board somehow? I am finding certain features that would be great to project and interact with on the smart board. For instance I found a great app focused n Jamestown. Basically it is like a book telling the story about Jamestown, but it has multi-media features as well. Good images and video. I also found a decent collection of antique maps that can be enlarged. I could see using these apps in class. If I cannot connect the iPad to the smart board somehow, then possibly I can download apps on a computer that can. I'd appreciate any thoughts.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Sonic pics

I read about this app, Sonic Pics, on the "iPads at Burley" blog, which is one of the links provided by jenni on our blog.

Basically it allows people to record themselves talking about different photos or drawings that have been moved into the photo library. The people at the Burley School came up with some initial interesting ideas which pertain to all of us. I think you all in k and kx are looking for story telling options, this may be a good option. I am currently downloading the LITE version which is free but allows you to use only 3pictures and you can record 10 minutes of talking. I encourage you to check out their blog, there seem like some other really good ideas that are getting me away from just the skill apps. I think the people at Burley are working with first and second graders.

Good luck.


Mixed Thoughts but Still Exploring

Hello, iPad friends! Hope you all are doing well and finding some way to escape the heat.

I've been enjoying getting used to the pad but am still not sure how helpful/useful it will be in the classroom. I feel the pad should create some sort of experience that cannot be easily created in class with physical materials. As others of you have already said, many of the apps are disappointing. They are primarily focused on a drill/exercise in a game format. Doing math exercises is worth while, but we do not need an iPad to do so. The everyday math materials-which can be found in the app store- are just their physical games put on screen. While they may good, why not just play them with real cards. I like the TanZen Lite app, but I don't see any benefit over using real tangrams and puzzle cards. I also wonder if there is something lost in the students' ability to fee the shape and size of the shapes. By actually touching them does this send info to the brain that is helpful in understanding the materials and solving the puzzles? My hunch is yes.

With that said, here are the apps that I have seen so far that i think do create a unique opportunity for students:

Coin Math. As some of you have said, this is a very nice app for familiarity and comprehension of coins. I like how there are cognitive, visual-spatial, aural, and problem solving aspects to the experience. It does lack the touch and feel of each coin, but the mix of other inputs are great. The gradation of problems are also really well done. This would help third graders.

Motion Math. Again this engages many parts of the brain: cognitive, visual-spatial, kinesthetic, and it is really fun! My only issue is that it gets too hard for third graders far too quickly. Hs anyone found a version that progresses more slowly?

Dragon Dictation. Last year I started thinking about how could a dictation program be used to help students who have a hard time writing their ideas down, such as brainstorming and recording ideas for a story or reading response. For students who are strong speakers, dictation could be a helpful tool to help them with their work. I am curious about exploring this with students. Has any new else thought about or tried this? I have not had enough success with this dictation program, though. I do not have a microphone, so I wonder if that is part of the miscues that I keep getting. One of my favorite miscues was when I said, "Will this help them get ideas down more easily," and the program wrote, With this helps them feel yesterday he is down more easily? . Have you had more success Merry or anyone else who has worked with the program?

Alrighty, I need to get Mr. Will from his nap. I will add more later.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Geography apps - Stack the States/Countries

I recently got hooked on two new apps that everyone in my family enjoys. Stack the States and Stack the Countries are fantastic geography apps. For both apps you have to learn and remember information about the states or countries as well as recognize the shape of the state or country. In addition, once you answer the question correctly, you have to stack the pieces to reach a bar set on the page. The more questions you answer correctly, the higher the bar. If you are not careful stacking the pieces, they can fall off the page and you have to start from the beginning. It is a lot of fun and we are all learning a lot. I can see using this app in my class. The only frustration we have encountered is for my six year old who has trouble sometimes reading the question by himself. Otherwise a great app!

On a completely different note, I am really enjoying using the iPad as a replacement for my computer. It took a little while to get used to typing on the screen, but I find it easier each day. It's very easy to carry with me on trips, and makes me wonder if I would be able to give up my laptop in the future.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Venturing Forth

I remain challenged by the process of getting to this blog site. This time, I am venturing in by way of the iPad. So, no handy email links at the ready-- just Safari and go! I'm here. I got the cursor and the keyboard to work together. I really don't like using the iPad keyboard. Even if I hover my fingers above the screen, the spacing is too tight for touch typing. If I get faster, I will have developed some very bad habits. Unlike Merry, I don't think I would invest in an attachable keyboard. I like the iPad for it's light weight and compactness and if more has to go with it, then I might as well be hauling a laptop. I would not use this device for long discourse.

That said, the whole reason for logging on was to report the successful download of the free app for the Bull Run Battlefield (as written about in today's Post metro section). It looks pretty cool. I'm not a major history buff, but I enjoy a good ranger story/interpretation whenever I chance upon their tours in the parks. This looks like a nice way to get the info (both remotely and while at the site) without having to fit to a schedule. The real question: Will I attempt to get my 10-year old twin nephews to go with me to Manassas in the heat of the summer (just like the real soldiers!) in order to try this app out in situ?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hey! I finally managed to connect to the posting potential of this blog. So, now you know that any comments I have about the iPad are coming from a techno-Luddite and my proficiency is almost as good as your average kindergartener.

I had a chance to share the iPad with a fairly adept 5-year old and to get her input on a few of the apps that I had tried and liked/didn't like. I noticed that with all of the drawing applications, the Chalkboard app was the only one where she actually drew a picture. The rest of them had too many choices and manipulating through the color palettes and pen functions was frustrating. She reacted to the alphabet tracing programs the same way I did-- thought they were boring and quickly realized that they don't respond if you make a mistake, so you can just scribble all over the template and make a mess.

She enjoyed the Alphabet Bus. I had muted the sound completely at first (forgetting that there are some reinforcement instructions/word reading that are part of the educational component). She did the reading herself, as the three-letter words in the demo app are pretty basic. I clicked on the sound about halfway through and the program gives the option to hear or mute the music. The five-year old muted the music pretty quickly herself. This girl really did enjoy the "game" aspect of this app. I'm not sure what the pay-for-it version has, but if there were an app like this where teachers could put in their own vocabulary for students, this would be an awesome study/review tool.

Watching a five year old use the iPad made me aware of some of the issues that Brian raised in his post. Kids have a tendency to touch the screen in multiple places and that effects how a program responds. Also, fine motor skills are pretty important if a program has lots of menu options. My 5-year old tester enjoyed the Puppet Pals app, but frequently stopped the recording or lost her show because of exuberant screen play that crossed over into the control bar. And, if she was sitting with the iPad in her lap (as she was with the Alphabet Bus game), her hands would get tired and she would dip the pad down and the screen orientation would turn upside-down. There is an option to lock the screen in place, but having her sit at a table might have been the solution. Or, if she was sitting somewhere where she could have her knees up as a iPad support, she could have moved the iPad for the game but not lost the horizon plane necessary to keep the screen orientation.

I also had her work with the Rocket Math app, even though I think this is for older students. I had to guide her through the rocket building portion and then we went for the challenges. Some of the challenges are basic for a young student (like shape recognition), but the shapes the user must tap change and the only way the user knows of the new assignment is if they can read the words at the bottom of the screen while also looking at the array of falling objects. Needless to say, I did the reading, while she did the searching and tapping. This app needs a bit of tweaking-- the reading level/dexterity needed to play the game is high, but only some of the tasks related to money are at the same intellectual level as the skills required to work through the nuances of playing the game. But, it is compelling. The five-year old wanted to keep on going and even I enjoy the occasional review of my odd-numbers in my desire to beat my best score.