Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If I could only have one app - Explain Everything


If I could have only one app to use in the classroom, it would be Explain Everything, available for $2.99 from the app store.  This was the first paid app that we downloaded in our class, it has been worth every penny for the students, and I suspect that we have just started to see its potential as teachers, especially now that version 2 has been released.

If you are not familiar with Explain Everything, it is a general purpose tool that is both an interactive whiteboard and a way to create screencasts.  A teacher or student can annotate or narrate lessons or presentations in multiple ways.  These lessons or presentations can then be saved to the camera roll (important in our case so we can import it to Edmodo) or to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, WedDav, mail, or as a video file.  It is an extremely versatile app.

I was initially reluctant to pay for a screencasting app because there are free options available. We did our first screencasting project using the free Educreations app on a teacher recommendation.  However, our students were frustrated because they could not edit their recordings and I was frustrated because there was no way to save their projects to the iPad camera roll.  Money is often an issue in schools and there are other tools similar to Explain Everything.  There is a comparison chart created by Jac de Haan a year ago here

For the educational bang for the buck though, Explain Everything is one app worth paying for because of its versatility.  It can be used in any classroom, with any subject.  What follows is only a tiny sampling of ideas for student use.  Our students will be doing more with the app next year and I anticipate using it more, as a teacher, for lesson preparation and to provide make-up and specialized lessons for students who have missed class, or need lessons explained in a different way than the one I used for the whole class.

Math ideas:

Students can use it to explain their mathematical thinking to each other.  Earlier in the year, students were struggling to remember the rules of divisibility and we were struggling with a way to motivate them to want to remember them.  We decided to have them work in pairs to create screencasts of the rules for future students.  The students had to learn the rules well in order to explain them.  When they had trouble explaining them, we as teachers could easily look at their screencasts and see what students were not understanding because they had recorded their thought processes for us. This lesson exceeded our expectations.

Students can be assessed on their mathematical thinking.  Students can be given a math problem and asked to provide multiple ways of solving it.  These assessments are much more valuable and thorough with student explanations included.

Language Arts

Students can be assessed on their reading fluency.  A teacher can import a screenshot of a piece of text for a student to read.  The student can then record himself reading it.  Our students have wanted to re-read text multiple times when they have had the opportunity to hear themselves read.  These recordings can be saved throughout the year and compared. 

Reading groups.  Students can record their collaborative thoughts after reading and re-reading texts in class.  This could be in the form of reflecting on theme, mood or author's point of view by discussing words used or by excerpting supporting materials from the text (perhaps by taking photos of highlighted portions of the text). 

Students can create digital stories.  If you saw my last post, you saw some of the digital stories the students created using Explain Everything.  We have only begun to explore the possibilities with language arts.

Using the app

Rather than try to explain the app myself, here is a great video that highlights most of the key features.

                                        Video courtesy of Digital First Ohio State

Additional Explain Everything Resources:
Excellent archived Explain Everything session presented by its developer, a former math teacher, at EdTechTeacher. If you have not tried out this resource, I highly recommend it.
Associated list of resources and videos here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our first few 4-image stories are done!

As promised, here are the first few 4-image stories that the students have created using the Explain Everything screencasting app.  These are "first run" stories, with no editing. We have all learned quite a lot together and overall, the stories are quite delightful.  They should serve their purpose of providing a fun way to remember a moment in time.

Since students have posted their stories to Edmodo, they are now in the process of viewing each others' stories as "critics" to see what has worked well and what things perhaps did not work so well.  They are taking notes to keep in their iPad folders so that they can refer to them when they are working on their next projects. 

The notes are thoughtful and I have overheard many compliments --  about fluency of recordings,  about the ability to center drawings so that the desk doesn't show in the background, about telling a good story, about colorful illustrations, and about story topics.  I have seen lots of heads nodding and consulting with each other - questions asked about "how did you do that?"  There has been a lot of positive energy in the classroom, and as usual, most of the students have not wanted to go to recess, but have wanted to stay in and work with their iPads.

Jannah's story

Joely's story


J.W.'s story

Noor's story

Sean S.'s story

Sofia's story

Monday, February 18, 2013

Our 4 image stories -- the process

As many of you know, I am taking a fantastic ETMOOC  course with about 1,000 other (mostly) educators from around the world who are interested in technology.   Inspired by all the Digital Storytelling that I'm seeing from my fellow ETMOOCers, I was ready for our students to create their own "4 image stories."  This lesson is somewhat based on the "5 photo story" I first heard about from Wes Fryer on his website.

Before we started this project, we had been reading memoirs and talking about why their authors would pick to tell their tales.  For this 4 image story, students picked one memorable moment from their lives that they thought they would want to remember years from now.  They might pick the story everyone always told about the funny uncle, or the story about the time when everyone ended up eating sandwiches for Thanksgiving dinner.  The story just had to be about something that was important to them.

The students first wrote their memories down in story form, then they were asked to imagine how they would illustrate that story with only 4 images.  This wasn't easy.  Students had to consider which parts of the story were most important and they had to carefully consider the story sequence.  There were many "redos."  After everyone had quickly drafted some ideas on paper, they were given art paper to draw the 4 images for the project.

Once the drawings/images were finished, the students used our first paid app (thanks to all of you who donated to Walk With Pride!), Explain Everything, to import their images into a continuous story.  The images were imported via the camera roll, then students added a minimal amount of text to each image and audio of themselves reading the text. 

Here are some pictures of the process:

Mapping out a rough draft of the 4 images

Drawing the final 4 images

Getting ready to take photos of the images for Explain Everything.

Adding text.
Recording audio.

Sharing what we created.
About half of the class has finished their projects already and they are very excited about their work, if a little uncomfortable hearing their own voices in the recordings!  I hope to post their stories soon, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Haiku Deck (for teachers)

This post is about, Haiku Deck, an app I found through ETMOOC, a huge massive on-line open course I'm taking with about 2,000 other students. I'm so excited about this app that I decided to go ahead and post about it now before we have used it in the classroom since most of what we have concentrated on this year has been math-related.

The example below is one I created for my ETMOOC class in about 30 minutes.

There are several things I really like about Haiku Deck:

1. It is really easy to use. Click to add short bits of text. Click to add images from either the app or the camera roll. Click to add a new page. That's it.

2. The images are beautiful and easy to search.

Unless you choose to use your own images from the camera roll, the images gathered by the app originate from Flickr. Flickr is one of my favorite image sources because there are so many beautiful photographs there, and because they are so searchable. You can search using the searches suggested by the app or you can create your own searches. Searches can be literal, such as "sun." You can also search more general terms, such as "joy." Both will generate streams of photographs.

3. The images are all Creative Commons images that have the image credits embedded in them when the Haiku Deck in created.

I love this as a teacher! We spend lots of time in class talking about how important it is to give credit for images taken from the internet. When you create a Haiku Deck this work of proper attribution is done for you. All the Haiku Deck images have the image credit embedded in them so that when the image is viewed, the viewer can click on the CC logo at the bottom of the screen and view the image photographer and details of the Creative Commons license. This can be used in class to introduce Creative Commons licensing, to talk about proper attribution, and/or as a springboard to students creating their own image-based works.

4. Sharing may still be an issue in elementary classes since sharing is via email, Twitter or Facebook.

However, students could create Haiku Decks on a teacher iPad or on a home iPad with email. Once they are shared in any manner, an embed code is created so that the Haiku Deck can be added to a blog or website. Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad<

Monday, January 28, 2013

Geoboard (free)

Geoboard is another free app that is great to use when learning about fifth grade fractions.  It has two virtual boards, a small 5 x 5 peg board and a larger 10 x 15 peg board, multiple colored rubber bands to use on the boards, and it allows for the possibility of filling in shapes.  It is easy to use once you get used to "hooking" the rubber bands on the pegs and, always a plus with a big class, virtual clean up is a breeze!

As usual, students were introduced to the app first and given a few minutes to experiment with what they could do with it.

Then, we used Geoboard to understand dividing fractions.  Students were able to create wholes, then easily divide them into fractional parts to really understand what they are doing when they divide whole numbers by fractions in this instance.   This can help them understand why, when dividing a whole number by a fraction, they can expect the quotient to be larger than the dividend, rather than smaller as would be the case with two whole numbers, usually a perplexing idea!

 I could have paid one student for a public service announcement for our class and the iPads when she said, "no wonder you didn't understand this when you were a kid (I didn't), you didn't have a teacher as good as you are and you didn't have the iPads."  Thank you my dear!  This is why we teach!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Our app list as of the new year!

New Year's Apps

It might seem like a funny thing to say, but even though we’ve got iPads in our classroom, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about apps.  Our idea is that we are using iPads to allow the students to have the opportunity to work in real time with technology, to work collaboratively on projects, and to exercise their creative muscles.  Fortunately, they can do these things using relatively few apps.  We don’t have to try to keep up with the new best apps – as if we could.  And we don’t have to spend a lot of our limited educational dollars on apps, because there are a lot of free apps that can do what we want to do in our classroom.
Since friends, parents and curious others have asked, here’s a list of the apps that are currently loaded on our classroom iPads.  There’s no magic to this list, it’s just the one that works for us right now.  The list changes every few weeks, and I’m planning to add our first paid app, the screencasting app Explain Everything, this weekend.  It’s a little tricky to redeem paid apps as a school using Apple’s Volume Purchase Program and Apple Configurator; but, hopefully, the students will be telling their families about Explain Everything by the end of the week when they are working on their Five Picture Memoirs.
Although there are less than twenty apps on this list, even this short list of predominantly free apps highlights the versatility of the iPad.   What can be done is limited only by the curriculum, planning time, and imagination of teachers and students.
General Purpose apps:
Edmodo – Edmodo is an online learning platform that, among other things, allows teachers to curate work from student iPads.   We will be learning how to use this in the new year.  It may be one way to work around students having emails.
iTalk Recorder – Students have been using the iTalk Recorder app to practice their fluency in class.
Nearpod – Nearpod allows teachers to create lessons that students can study on their iPads at their own pace.  Mrs. Dowlen has been experimenting with using Nearpod with math lessons.  
Popplet lite – This is a brainstorming, mind-mapping tool which can be used in any curriculum area.
Scribble Press – This is a simple book making app which is really fun to use.
Skitch – This is an app that can be used for multiple purposes.  We often use it in class for  annotating images from the internet so we can give proper attribution when we use them.
Student Clicker – Socrative – This is a fun way to give in class quizzes.  Don't tell the students, but there is a glitch in the app and I never got the final grades for one of the quizzes we took in class.
Vimeo  - This app is for video creation.  We haven't used this yet, but so far have been happy with making videos on the iPad itself.
Screencasting apps: In my opinion, screencasting is one of the GREAT things about the iPad.  We do lots of screencasting in class and will do more of it.  I can’t wait to use Explain Everything.  Of all the screencasting apps I've used, it seems to be the best for classroom use.
Explain Everything (coming soon)
Educreations Interactive Whiteboard   This app is very easy to use, but has some drawbacks.  The students aren't able to review their work after they have recorded it, and there is no way to edit.  Until these features are added, and they may well be, a paid app may be a better answer for us.
Math apps:
Geoboard  Since we don't use Geoboards in class often, it's hard to justify keeping them in the closet for the few times they are used, especially since the rubber bands get old and break.  Now that we have this app, we don't have to.  The app allows students to manipulate the geoboards without the storage issues or the rubber bands.
Virtual Manipulatives!  See the earlier post about our lessons using this app.  It is great for working with fractions.
Social Studies apps:

Geomaster – US States  We don't play a lot of games in class, but this is a fun way to practice the states.
Google Earth  See the earlier post about our beginning forays into using Google Earth.  I've seen numerous ideas for lessons that I hope we have time to try.
Language Arts Apps

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rainy day Google Earth

What do you do when it's yet another rainy day recess? 

If you are lucky enough to have a relatively new class set of iPads, you pass out the iPads, ask the students to investigate the Google Earth app and see what happens.

Last week, during a rainy day recess, I decided to give the students 20 minutes to use the Google Earth app any way they wanted to.  I didn't have any plan in mind.  I hadn't even used Google Earth myself.  It was just one of those moments that happens sometimes in a classroom that turned into a great lesson with everyone working together to find out where we live on this planet, and then finding other places of interest - historical sites in our country, the White House and Wrigley Field - and in other countries.  There were discussions about Salinas, Prunedale, Hawaii, Colorado, Japan and Ireland.  Some students spent time looking at Germany, Sweden and Denmark since we are currently reading the novel Number the Stars.  There was a student who figured out how to look at the topography of the oceans.

I had read that there is no need to spend class time teaching (somewhat pre-vetted apps) to students because they will quickly learn what they need to know and then teach each other; that was definitely the case with Google Earth.  The class quickly figured out who the experts were (there were many) and students went to the student experts for help.  I was not the teacher, but more of an educational consultant.  I got to spend my time answering questions about how a student could calculate the distance between Germany and Denmark, how to find the spelling of a city in Ireland, or how to learn more about deep ocean trenches.  It was clear after 20 minutes that there was much, much more that we could do with Google Earth, we had only started to touch the possibilities.  Students were finding topics that interested them and things that they wanted to find out more about out. Maybe we can do more of this at school, and maybe they can do more of it at home.  We shall see!

The students received no instruction from me. In fact, I had only downloaded Google Earth using Apple Configurator the night before, so didn't know any more than they did about it.

The students quickly helped each other to find the app and learn how to use it.

The first thing most of them did was find their current home, then former homes.  For some this was easy, for some it was more difficult.  Some had to find landmarks, such as the school, and then find the way they would walk or drive from there.

Here is a picture of the states map on the blacktop at the back of our school.

Then students started to look for places of historical importance, like the White House.

This student found places in Ireland where he had been on vacation.