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