Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Observation Holy Cross #4

Sarah is finding that her students are more independent now and don't rely on her to tell them what to do next. They are experimenting with devices and are now thinking about what they need to use for the purpose of their learning. I have observed in both classes how fast they are at using the iPads, their fingers fly moving from app to app.
Sarah is finding that students' work is of a much higher standard, the content is a lot better. Parents have told her that their children talk about what they do at school more than what they have ever before. She has noticed that there is a lot of discussion and sharing amongst the students as they talk about how they going to approach their work.
In reflecting on where the students were at the beginning of the year she said that students found it hard to have choices as they were used to being told what to do, now they know how to cope. I saw that with the task Sarah set today...students were given a time limit, expectations and from that they chose how they were going figure out how they were going define, find and present. Every group of 2 or 3 worked in a different way. Their task was to present what they knew about the '12 stations of the cross' and what was the meaning of each station to them.
Examples of what the students came up with are

  • rewrote the words to Impossible by Shontelle and made their own lyric video by recording themselves playing the soundtrack, using the piano on Garageband, and writing the lyrics on Keynote to play at the same time

  • one group made a PowerPoint where they found the information on the internet they needed, I got them to put the information into the 'Finding Relevant Text' Graphic Organiser, highlight the keywords and then write the text in their own words using the keywords

  • some did a TV news report where they recorded themselves reading the news using the iPads and did further editing in Moviemaker

  • one group did a front page for a newspaper

  • a couple of groups made a movie acting out the the different parts of 12 stations
  • several groups used Inspiration maps for recording their ideas

Diane's room layout is working well and she now has a couch that is hugely popular with the
students. She has been allowing students to have choice over what activities they want to do during Reading and Maths.

Because it 'Holy Week' for the Catholic church, students do a lot of work around the '12 Stations of the cross' so Diane had set the same task Sarah had. We had been talking about statistics and Diane was talking about how students could present their knowledge. I saw a great opportunity to talk about infographics. Diane could see how that could fit in with what she wanted students to do that afternoon. I shared with the students what infographics needed and we looked at the structure slideshow example. The students got a lot of good ideas of how to use symbols and different ways to show timelines.

I suggested to Diane that she made it a regular thing during the week to look at different infographics and analyse them using the examples I have curated on

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Observation Clevedon #5

Rachael has fine tuned her Daily Five options and shared with the whole class. She is just working with Reading at the moment. Students are able to access this through Google Docs. Her aim is to develop independence and self management.

I worked with a reading group today in Rebecca's room, with a particularly difficult text on estuaries (The secret life of Estuaries. Connected 3 2006). Students had their iPads and journals and we worked at the TV Learning Zone. Students had the Dictionary app open so that they could look up words that they didn't know.

 When I do this activity again I will get students to record in Notability what words they checked, and a followup task would be to find the suitable dictionary meaning using Dictionary (or search in Google with search term being the 'word' and Define). They could write the sentence from the book and replace the dictionary word with a synonym if applicable.

Every now and then I would ask a student to mirror their iPad so that we could discuss the dictionary term they were looking at.

There were 2 diagrams in the story. I got them to take a photo of the first diagram and annotate the different parts of it. When we came to the next diagram they did the same thing. The diagrams were a visual aid of the text relating to the text they had just read. Some of them started to jot down some notes as they would have to write an explanation later.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Observation at Holy Cross #3

Diane has changed her classroom around and it looks great. The students took part in the redesigning of it. One of my suggestions was to move the shelving away from the wall and point it into the classroom, take everything off the top of it and students can use it as a place to work. It looked like it was working pretty well to me.

Students are still using the Pic Collage app and have become rather adept at using it for lots of different reasons. One of the tasks today was to retell the story of the Prodigal son and then publish it so it looks like a board game. A couple of boys did a lot of problem solving, made their own squares and came up with this result.

I showed some students how they could put down their ideas quickly into a Graphic Organiser. I made it in Inspiration 9.1 on the computer and then exported to Inspiration Maps, I added it as a download to my recount page on my Graphic Organiser wiki, so the students went to that page in Safari, clicked the download and then tapped on 'Open in Inspiration'. There are still a couple bugs in Inspiration Maps (which are going to be addressed in the next update). When you download a map from a website or Dropbox, make sure once it is open that you tap the Home button before making any changes to it. Then re-open it from the home page. If you don't when you have added all your thoughts and tap the home button, the map will completely disappear. Also you can't make the boxes bigger, so if they are going to write a lot they may need to insert a new symbol and reconnect it. But as I said before, these issues are going to be fixed. The students did enjoy writing up their ideas like this and the scaffolding they got from the hints at the side.

Sarah has started her management system for writing, where she has set her expectations, students have a timeline and they have to show where they are on the timeline by moving their name.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Observation 'The Gardens' 12 March 2013

Evernote and Edmodo are being used by some of the teachers in this school. Tracy in particular has lead the movement amongst the e-Learning teachers with Edmodo. Most of her Year 5/6 class are in their second year of e-Learning and it shows. The students are very quick and adept with the technology.

Jan's Year 5/6 class has some boys that are 'blossoming' using iPads. They are more focussed, on task, engaged and interested in what they are doing. She had no problems setting up her room this year and feels very comfortable with the way it works. I noticed that the students were using the whiteboards for their learning rather than the teacher.

Jan wanted her students to practise their handwriting with Drawing apps on the iPad. The students mostly chose Drawing Pad. I suggested using Notability with lines and also suggested that they record themselves in Screen Chomp writing the alphabet so that they could see what letters they are not forming correctly. Once they had their practice in Notability, they could save into a Handwriting folder, their best pieces of writing could be shared to Evernote.
The last 2 years the e-Learning teachers have been using Google Sites for their digital portfolios. They have decided it was too cumbersome so they are using Evernote which can be used both on computers and devices. Most creative apps will share to Evernote, so students can store best evidence of their progress in notebooks in Evernote. Work that has been hand done can be photographed and added as well. Students can also use the recording option to record their feelings about their work.
During reading time students were creating their graphics in Drawing Pad based on their reading book Sea Witch. Once they made the individual pictures they added them to Comic Life.


One of Tracey's students showed me how to install the Evernote clipper to Safari on the iPad

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Students and Researching

I came across the following infographic from Education Database Online Blog about students using technology to research.

Digital Research Infographic

A lot of the points I agree with. Students in primary and intermediate schools all use Google and Wikipedia for researching. Most of the researching I see is of a poor standard
  • students ask questions in the search engine
  • students don't know what key words are
  • a lot of what is found is regurgitated in a PowerPoint or a Keynote with words students obviously don't know the meaning of
  • it is all lower end thinking, there is no new knowledge or meaning
What I don't agree with is that Technology is making it harder for students to research. In my travels my observations are is that teachers do not teach research skills, they assume that students know how to research. Researching is considered Googling! The statement that the amount of information is overwhelming is due to the poor research skills that turns up millions of results. Another statement that it is harder for students to find credible sources is also down to teaching students how to recognise from URLs what looks like credible sites, and then searching the page itself to see if it is a reputable site.
Is the internet distracting? Are devices and their apps distracting? Yes they are! So now we have to teach self control to students, and reinforce on task behaviour.
I disagree with 'technology is damaging students' attention spans'... if anything it is improving it. In the last two weeks I have been in six different schools. My observations were of engaged, interested students who were learning. All of the schools were using devices to differing levels, all have had to discuss with students about appropriate use of devices and apps. Several teachers have told me that in particular several of their boys who were not doing well in traditional classrooms have been turned around with using devices.
I believe that technology is making it easier to research if you have the skills. Devices and apps like Evernote that allow you to store, cite and organise information needs to be taught to teachers and students alike. Google runs a free online PowerSearching Course which all teachers should do.

Let's teach the basic research skills! The following links are to a Higher Order Thinking Resource wiki that I am developing, that makes use of Graphic Organisers to scaffold student learning

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Coggle and Mindmapping

Coggle is not a Google app but it works with a Google Sign in. You can create simple mindmaps and share them with others. I can see students using this as a quick easy way of getting all their thoughts down, save as a PDF or a graphic and then uploading to Evernote, Google Docs or any other application. You cannot use it on an iPad in Safari but you can on the Chrome App. The Puffin app (Free or NZ$4.19 for iPad) will also allow you to add content on the iPad.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Observation Week Clevedon

The teachers are discovering that the Google Drive app is not perfect. You can't copy a document in Drive, students need to go to Chrome and open the desktop version. Students had problems signing in and you can't see the collaborators on your documents in real time, you have to tap sync to see what they have added. My suggestion is to use the Google Drive app for getting down ideas, editing,  and sharing. If the teachers want the students to do peer editing, it would be best to use the class laptops so that they can make full use of the commenting feature.

Students are making choices in what apps they use for their learning. One group of students were splitting words into syllables and several of them chose Notability, where they typed the words and use the pen tool to draw the lines. Others were writing in notes or writing in their books.

I liked this short maths starter called 10 pin bowling The students chose an app to record their answers and they had 5 minutes to get rid of all of the pins. Apps they could have used were Showme, Educreations, Screen Chomp or Notability.

The classroom wikis ( Rachael and Rebecca) are being referred to all of the time and resources are being added constantly for student use.

The teachers have been sharing PDF worksheets to Dropbox for the students to work from and students record their answers in their books. They could also import it to Notability and record their answers using the pencil or text tool.

The use of Evernote has started in one classroom where each student has a notebook where they save their research information. Students found out how to add graphics, type notes, add tags and they are going to learn how to use Evernote to reference their research.

To get to know the iPad one of the teachers has made up an iChallenge for both classes. Students had to fill in what they were able to do, they used the emoji symbols to record their answers. Following on from our discussion about monitoring the options students choose, Rachael is trialing this spreadsheet with a group to see if they can self manage themselves and their tasks. We look forward to the end of the term to evaluate how it worked.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Writing, Reading and Boys

I have had several people at lots of different schools talking to me about boys and literacy and how they are not doing so well according to the benchmarks they are supposed to meet. When I am in classrooms and see the types of activities that the students are doing, most of the time they are boring, prescriptive tasks that have been given to students for decades to do.
There are lots of great resources out there that have great activities that you can do with children. Some of my favourites come from Sheena Cameron who is incidentally publishing a new book on Writing this year. But we all know 'technology engages boys'. Give them a device, use your imagination and think of tasks that will grab them.

Examples I have seen recently

read through your story with your buddy and find the long 'a' vowel sounds
Let's put the books on our head and balance, pick up debris from the ground and flick it, annoy somebody close by, giggle over something funny one of them said (sound familiar?)
So why are they doing that? They are bored, it is not engaging, they can't see the worth of it.
Suggested Solution: 
give them a device (iPod Touch, iPad, laptop with camera) Task is now to record yourself saying the words, one person can take notes and write down the words with the long vowel sound, the other person can be saying the words. Yes, there will be laughter, and pulling of faces, but give them an expectation and a time limit 'I want you to find 20 long 'a' vowel words in 5 minutes, set your timers now.
Predicted Outcome: 
they will have had fun, they will be engaged in the task, they will be reading, they will discover their mouth shape changes when they say the words

read your story with your buddy
exactly the same as the observation before. When I have noticed boys to be engaged in buddy reading is when they are looking at high interest topic books such as space, dinosaurs and cars and trucks.
Suggested Solution
For buddy reading choose high interest topic books. Let them read the interactive books on the iPads, iPod touches, let them read some of the books online on the computer together.
Let the students use Sock Puppets to record themselves taking turns in reading. Apart from the laughs they will get from hearing the squeaky voice, they will hear if they are reading fluently.
Predicted Outcome:
they will talk about what they are reading, they will be engaged in their learning. They will be reading. They can share back to the group/class.

answer comprehension questions in their books
5 minutes have gone by and they have written the date, and the number 1. They have discussed what pen or pencil they will use, they will have searched everywhere for a ruler...
Suggested Solution
Use a simple Graphic Organiser like Expanded Question or the Notability app where they can take a photo of the questions and type in their answers
Predicted Outcome
Students will stay on task and want to get started on their work

Printed Worksheets
Some students like worksheets. A lot don't really care for them. I see grimaces on faces, then there becomes the long hunt for the missing pen/pencil that was there 30 seconds ago. And while we are looking for the pencil/pen we happen to drop/misplace the worksheet and will need to search or berate the person next to us for having/hiding our worksheet. Once they get to their table/desk 5 minutes later the teacher is berating them for not starting. Then starts the slide into the body slump as they take another 5 minutes to painstakingly write their name...sound familiar? Why are they doing that? Because the task is boring!
Suggested Solution
Interactive Worksheets in Google Docs/Word/Pages/PowerPoint/Keynote/Google Presentation. Have some comprehension questions, but some might link to a website where they have to search for something or read something related to their instructional text. Add a Graphic Organiser/s that may scaffold them in their answers. In PowerPoint/Keynote or Google presentation insert a YouTube movie with Questions for them to answer at different points. In Google Docs insert a drawing block where they can draw the answer to the question or they can use a Drawing app on their iPad and then insert the drawing into the Interactive Worksheet. Ask a question that allows them to photograph the answer. Mix it up a bit and have Word Study questions, Dictionary meanings etc where students can use dictionaries/thesaurus on devices, online, printed books.

This all might sound like a lot of work for the teacher but a worksheet in this format could become a template that could be used over and over again. And if you start this with your top group you will have the 'Interactive Worksheet' for the next reading group when they get to that level.
When planning your activities think how you could do the same thing creatively using technologies that will grab that reluctant child and engage him..

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

e-Learning at The Gardens

Most of the students in the two year 7/8 rooms have been going 2 years in e-Learning classrooms, so the teachers have found the beginning of the year with students and devices hardly any problem at all. The students are all very proficient at using their iPads and move freely around the classrooms using all sorts of digital devices and pen and paper.
Christine makes extensive use of Edmodo where she shares almost all of the students 'Learning assignments'. Students can choose what programmes they want to use to show off their learning and share back to Edmodo. Children use the chat  and messaging features purposely to discuss learning.

Some of the apps the students like to use are

They also use Google Sites for blogging and occasionally use Google Docs mostly on the computers rather than the iPad.

Christine still does handwriting with all of the students for 2 reasons
  1. Parents are concerned that students won't be able to write when they get to Secondary school
  2. Some of the students writing does need to improve legibility
She makes a handwriting PDF, using amazing handwriting worksheet maker. Students access it through Edmodo and practise their handwriting in their handwriting books.

Christine feels that she does a lot more marking in an e-Learning classroom, as students tend to finish work more quickly because they have typed it up once, had it edited and then they finish with the final product. But to balance that, Anna feels that she is so much freer in the class to work with individuals, pairs or groups as the students are so much more independent and self managing.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Oberservation Week 4 Holy Cross

Looking around the whole Year 5/6 class I could not see one single child who was not engaged. They were working in pairs using iPads and the PuppetPals app or computers. One child used her initiative and used the notes app to record her thoughts as she was creating in PuppetPal.

Later in the day they were making choices about how they were going to record their information. I introduced one child to Pic Collage, who then started teaching another.
I loved seeing the individual creativity that was coming out, they were choosing the digital tools they wanted to use.

 Sarah had extra students in her class today (40 in total). But still everybody worked well, with students moving between iPads and computers.
 These students were writing up important events that happened in the years since they were born. I told them about 'This day in history' and they were able to track events and complete their tasks.

Students were mindmapping their ideas so I introduced one group to Popplet. The teacher set up a class account. Students can do 5 different mindmaps before they need to delete them to make room for more. So another tool was added to their digital toolkit today 'Popplet'.