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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Apps for Teaching Chinese to Lower Schoolers

I looked at several story apps including Rye Studios' and Ana Lomba's. So far
everything I have found is geared towards native speakers, much too hard for
beginners. Would love to find very simple stories, such as those used in
beginning esl. Will keep searching....

I did find a fantastic app though that allows students to work on
writing numbers in Chinese. It is called 123 Fun: Write and Learn Numbers.
This is exactly what I have been looking for. It has both the sound and the
visuals, and most importantly, when students write the numbers in Chinese
they must follow the proper stroke order or it does not allow them to
proceed. This is wonderful! Students need to learn how to write these basic characters, but must use the proper stroke order. With this app they can
practice to their heart's content. I am going to have my 7-year old tester
work with it to see if it is appealing to her.

The only issue I am running into so far with my ipad is that I am having great trouble installing a Chinese-typing capability on my ipad. I do not want to see everything in Chinese, just be able to switch into typing in Chinese whenever I need to.
Edith Zhang

Exploring Apps

          I have had a lot of fun learning to use the iPad and am glad I had a few weeks before school ended to try out some of the apps with my students. Motion Math and Coin Math were by far the favorite for my fourth graders. Needless to say, many of the other apps we have currently are for younger students. I have to admit that I am completely turned off by some of the graphics in the math  apps, such as Dino Math,, UnderSea Math, Piggy Math, Fish HD- granted these are very elementary but I maintain there could be higher graphic standards- I find the images and simplicity of the apps demeaning to even our youngest students. Montesorrium's Intro to Math is much more visually pleasing. I wish more app designers would consider aesthetics.
         All that aside, I think the Number Sense HD Mathomatix has some core value in the mathematical ideas it has its participants play with. BoosterBalls, Do the Dotty, Numberella, Fishoonka and Toot Toot Train are presented in a logical sequential order leading participants to play with counting, understanding numbers from lowest to highest, biggest to smallest, developing the concepts of less than and greater than, more than and less than, and the idea of equality and equal groups as well as pushing children to count on.
       After exploring the apps we had pre-loaded, I ordered a few other free apps and I found one I think would be good for third grade students. It is basically practice for mental addition practice for pairs of numbers adding to whatever number you want to set: e.g., I played it with pairs to 100. It is called Find Sums and is listed under educational apps at the Apple Store. There is also a multiple app and a fraction app, which I have explored.

       On a personal note, I have truly enjoyed StarWalk, Google Earth, Dictation and playing GarageBand! I am learning to use pages and still learning to type keeping my hands off the keys. I was so frustrated that I purchased a Zaggmate Keyboard, which works fairly well; although, it doesn't have a touch pad so I am still feeling rather inept selecting and highlighting text in order to copy and paste. I hope to meet with a colleague soon to go over some nagging details. The camera has been great fun. Here is a painting my brother did sitting by a pond in Wellfleet, Mass, where we were just together. He could not have done this using any of our "art" apps.

Now I just need to figure out why I can't simply rotate it! It must be because I am typing this on my laptop- not on my iPad- then I could!   Merry

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Notes on first experiences using a iPad with my four year old

Throughout the month of June, my daughter and I have been “learning” to use the iPad together. She looks forward to the time we spend using it. Every time I take out the iPad, she is eager to take part. These are some of my thoughts and impressions as we began exploring the iPad through a variety of math apps.

Having a decent amount of experience with the iOS platform I was, at first, more interested in how my daughter would interact with the touch screen of the iPad. I wondered if it would be difficult for someone developing her fine motor skills to move objects around without the tactile feedback we receive when we “touch” something. For the most part, she adapted to the nature of the iPad very quickly.

The interactions she has had so far have involved two types of “touch” – tapping and dragging. “Tapping” came easily as it almost always provides immediate feedback. You tap a spot and something happens or nothing happens. All she needed to know was where to tap. Most of the apps we have explored so far have involved tapping. She generally took to these games quickly and was able to work on her own with little support from me.

“Dragging” is a more challenging task, as objects have to be moved to a particular “spot” for the desired result to take affect. It took her a little while to get adjusted to touching an object and moving it, especially when the object was smaller. She only had visual clues to gauge whether she had “grasped” the object she intended and initially experienced some frustration when she wasn’t able to interact with the game in the way she wanted. Pieces would move to the wrong place or not move at all. Also, she seemed to find it particularly frustrating when she dragged something to where she thought she was supposed to, but her placement was “off” just enough for the app to ask her to try again. She needed more support from me until she gained enough confidence to work on her own.

One other challenge for small children working with the iPad is the devices expectation that you touch it only in one spot. Many times early in our experiences together, my daughter would try to make something happen on the screen and could not get the iPad to respond as she was touching the screen with her palm pad or wrist already. I had to help her position her hand in such a way that only her finger touched the screen. This is similar to the conundrum faced by children and adults using a SMARTBoard.

In working with some of the “learning” apps (my impressions of them will come in a later post), I was not surprised to find that the more “teaching” it was (in her opinion, Numerate and Intro to Math), the less time my daughter would work with it. She would ask to "play" something else. With more frequent breaks, she would return to these apps but it was clear they were not her favorites. The more game/puzzle oriented it was, (Number Sense HD and Park Math HD were favorites), the longer she would interact with the app. She was more likely to request these apps the next time we sat down together. She would talk about playing these apps and about how much fun they were.

The biggest benefit for me in sitting down with my daughter and the iPad is the information I got about her understanding of number so far. I found that even some of the weaker apps still gave me insight about how she thinks when counting and making groups. I can see in the classroom these apps providing feedback that could be used to develop subsequent instruction and classroom experiences.

The video encapsulates our experiences with the iPad thus far. She can hold her hand so that only her finger touch the screen, sometimes makes multiple attempts to move small objects to where she wants them, is fairly accurate and careful in her counting (one-to one), counting above twenty is something she is still learning; she is having fun.