Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Seamless integration

Our goal of getting the students to see the itouch as a learning tool is coming to light. Mrs. Lewis taught a lesson on context clues using the Dictionary.com app. Students practiced determining meaning of words in a small passage, and then worked together to decide which definition fit best in context. Students then used the dictionary app to check what they thought a word meant while reading in their book club books. It was a great (and simple) integration of technology into our Reading day!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Learning with the itouch

Spreading our enthusiasm - what we want to do next

Future plans: Which we do not have any problems coming up with ideas, the problem lies in finding the time to implement!!! Here are just a few:

Purchase green material to make “green screen.” We have parent willing to sew our screen together, but need to research the best homemade plan. Using green screen, students in fifth will write hints about- Where in the World is Lilly? These will be accompanied with pictures of different places and then shared with the school through KMWE. The clues will begin easy so to include PK/K/1st(with the places being around the school) These clues will gradually get harder to include places around Houston, Texas, United States and then the World.

Recruiting parents to help supervise “Lightbulb lab” so that students can work on projects throughout the day when work is completed.

Establish student email accounts through district mysbisd domain to possibly connect with epals and skype partners.

Blogs- students will first contribute to class blog and then after practice- set up their own blogs based on book clubs or topic discussion.

Having students record book club conversations with itouch devices then sharing with others. This will allow the teacher to be “omnipresent.” These conversations can be later replayed by the teacher to provide oral language grades as well as to help hold the students accountable in their discussions. “The teacher is listening!”

Podcasts for instructional uses- having students record their thinking for working math problems and then sharing through itouch devices with other students who are struggling with the concept.

Multi-grade learning:
Third grade Planet project - Reverse mentor- when they have finished with their project, third graders will “present” to fifth graders. After presentation- fifth and third grade students will work together using the itouch and planet applications to further both of their understanding of the planets and then present together to other groups.

Second grade Bird Unit- fifth graders will mentor second grade using bird applications on itouch. They will also help them with their research on purple martins.

Spreading our enthusiasm - what we have shared so far

We feel strongly that although the itouch devices are housed in the Fifth grade classrooms, the learning they give opportunity to is worth sharing with as many students as possible!

Pre-K/Kindergarten: Using the apps: ABCs free, Color Talk, Numbers and Memory Match, fifth grade students really enjoyed working with and teaching the younger students.

First grade: Fifth graders shared some time together before the thanksgiving break playing "Turkey Trot" and "Thanksgiving Match". It was great to see the partners taking turns and enjoying some problem solving games.

Second Grade (and more):Second grade teachers using them to capture Reader’s Theatre and then have been sharing the readings with the class using AV cables to connect to TV.

Third grade: Small groups are working on putting together their Reader’s Theatre using digital cameras and photostory.

Fourth grade: Factbook app. Tried scavenger hunt originally given to fifth, and are now creating another scavenger hunt for fifth grade to try!

MWE FLIP Crew: students using flip cameras to capture events of the school such as Kindergarten Storybook Parade and Thanksgiving Feast.

TEACHnology classes

So many projects- so little time! It has been challenging to coordinate technology lessons within the context of the already packed school day. We would love for technology to be a “specials class” that students go to at least once a week!!! In order for the technologies to be used seamlessly within the classroom skills have to be taught, and this takes time even though the students catch on very quickly.

After completing introductory “skill classes” during voluntary recess sessions on: imovie, iphoto, photostory, windows movie maker, blogging, web 2.0 tools, flipcharts, flip cameras and garage band, we have moved on to projects. We have identified four projects for the students to work on integrating all of the different technologies. The four projects are: a recycle video to share with Terrace Elementary; a history of MWE video to remember our building once we are rennovated; Teacher University to spotlight the collegiate expereinces in our building; and the mentor project to continue building relationships across grade levels. The students will choose which long-term project that they want to work on.

One challenge for this grant has been having enough “man-power”. Due to “technical issues”- that arrive daily- some of our good intentions have taken longer than planned.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Case issues

We are so glad to have the cases (red and blue iSkins) on the itouch devices for the students, but it has not come without some hang-ups. First of all was the un-earth-friendly packaging the cases came in! It took an assmbly line of four of us working for 30 minutes just to get them out of the package! Then we spent the next 30 minutes putting the cases on the itouches themselves! (We all had sore fingers by the end of it all.) The worst was trying to plug the itouches into the sync cart with the case on. The cord would not fit all the way into the slot, so most of the cases had to be taken off at one end in order to charge and sync the devices. One teacher has the same case for her phone and says once the case stretches out it should be easier, but until then we will have to have the students remove the bottom of the cases when we need to sync or charge them.

Here we go!

The protective cases for the itouches came in on Tuesday, so students spent Wednesday setting up their assigned itouch. They browsed the loaded apps and determined categories to sort them into. Most students set up pages for spelling/word games, math apps, science and social studies apps, mentoring apps for use with the younger grades, and a brain game page. After that the students practiced their cursive handwriting on the ABC Cursive app to reinforce the handwriting practice we have started this week. The students also cleaned the screen, put on a screen protector, and refit the case onto their itouch. The students are looking forward to using the itouch in Language Arts as a resource for their learning!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ready to jump, but...

We are still waiting to assign the itouch devices to the students on an individual basis. The only hang-up is that the cases have yet to be delivered to us! We do not want the students to have the device unprotected and slick on their desktops for classroom use, but the waiting is keeping us from moving forward. We are ready for the "novelty" to wear off, and for the students to see how this can be a tool they use seamlessly while reading, writing, and learning their fifth grade content. We know there will be temptation to use it for play, but we are going to be very straight-forward about our expectations. We may even set up the itouch screens to be sorted by subject area so that we can tell them that during this time they should only be using apps from screen ___(1,2 3, etc). We hope this will teach them the appropriate times to use the apps we have selected.

iTouch edit

We have experimented with using the Thumbtack microphones. Mrs. Lewis had the students record their compositions about an interesting event in their life using the Voice Memo app on the itouch and the Thumbtack microphone. After making their recording, they used the itouch to listen to their story, revise, and edit their composition. Many students said how much they enjoyed recording their story so they could hear what it was they wanted to say. Many resource and ESL students who did not have a good start to their written story, found that recording the story first was very helpful. Plus, since "voice" is an important part of personal narrative, it was a valuable use of the app for the other students as well.

Tracking our progress

We have set up a planning board where we are keeping track of student’s technology proficiencies. We plan on having a flip crew. These students will be used to go into classrooms and train teachers as well as their students on how to use the camera and then make a movie/burn a DVD. Two fifth graders have already made a DVD from footage taken by a third grade teacher on a field trip. The two students used flip software and created a movie and then presented it to the class. They were so excited about their accomplishment!

We have also set up a bulletin board where we can track the applications that have been used in the classroom setting. We have created a flag to represent USA Factbook and have written the Scavenger hunt questions on cards to create a web. We plan on having a select amount of fifth teach fourth grade about the Constitution using the app and the visual.

We are on our way to making this technology a part of our classrooms!

Mentoring begins

We decided that our fifth graders needed some training on the many things available for them to use in their lab, so we have devised a plan. We plan to open the lab on Monday, October 26 to offer tech trainings to the students during their lunch/recess time. We will allow students to sign up for things such as: flip cameras, imovie, photo story, windows movie maker, imovie, garageband and other applications. Fifth grade teachers will take turns teaching these applications that they have become proficient using.

Mentor program- We started the process with two teach teams. 6 Fifth graders on Mondays and Wednesdays and 6 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each fifth grader has been assigned a PK/K student. The time frame is 12-12:15 two times a week and the location is in the PK/K building hallway. Since the fifth graders are so anxious to participate we are only having the 12 fifth graders teach for one week until we cycle all of the fifth graders through. As soon as they have all had a chance, we will interview or choose mentors based on interest.

"Lightbulb Lab" begins slowly

A group of fifth grade students created a movie using the flip camera and imovie about Lilly and the Plastic Purple Purse by Kevin Henkes. Students burned it onto a DVD and we are in the process of sending the movie around from class to class with a toy mouse and purple purse with the following letter.

Dear Meadow Wood,

Our fifth graders have been busy creating our own “Lightbulb lab”, based on Kevin Henkes’ book- Lilly and the Plastic Purple Purse. In Lilly’s classroom there is a place where the students can go and create! We have made a classroom just for this purpose! Pretty soon you and your class will be invited to join the fifth graders in this lab where ideas are not only imagined but created! Enjoy this movie created by fifth grade and produced in the lab about Lilly and the Plastic Purple Purse. This is just the first of many exciting ideas that will be created in the Lightbulb Lab! We can’t wait for you to join us! We will have an official opening soon!!!

Prep of devices taking more time

Teachers are still having difficulty logging onto the MacBooks from home. We can not access home internet as an admin password is required. However, we have been able to upgrade itunes to version 9 successfully on all three macs.

We have set some restrictions on the student itouch devices so that the following applications/programs are not accessible to the students:
App store
You Tube
This was very time consuming as we had to go into each device and set the passcode and desired restrictions. Setting up 81 itouches to be ready to use has been quite and undertaking!

We are still trying to perfect syncing with the cart. Some applications do not sync correctly, so we have had to download directly to the itouch device one at a time over the wireless connection or by connecting directly to the MacBook. We have decided to allow the itouches to sync all when connected to the MacBook for syncing instead of selecting certain apps to sync one at a time. This has cut down on the time it takes immensely.

When the itouches arrived we had to so many updates to perfom, as well as register each one individually, that it has inhibited us from moving forward faster with our plan implementation. This has proven very frustrating to us as well as the students.

iTouch student survey

Also on September 17th we gave the fifth grade students a survey to find out how much they knew about using the itouch. Mrs. Meyer then analyzed the results to compare to end of the year survey.

Fifth Grade itouch Awareness Survey (Fall 2009)
1) Do you, or anyone in your family, own an itouch or iphone? Have you used an itouch or iphone before?
2) How do you turn on an itouch?
3) How do you select an app on the itouch?
4) Why do you think it is called an itouch?
5) Do all apps use the internet? Why or why not?
6) How do you move from “page” to “page” on an itouch?
7) Why do you think your teacher wants to use an itouch in her classroom?
8) Why do you want to use an itouch in your classroom?

74 students took the survey. The questions were analyzed very simply. The students’ answers were checked to see if they did in fact understand how to perform the action stated in the question. Yes or no as well as responses were recorded. This survey will be given again at the end of the year paying particular attention to question 7 and also posing new questions as to the student’s opinion on the effectiveness of the device used in the classroom setting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Constitution Day - September 17, 2009

Our team decided that we would use the itouch devices in one classroom until the students become more comfortable accessing the apps and using the new technology. Mrs. Lewis volunteered to use her classtime to do this, beginning on Constitution Day. The itouches were loaded with USA free, which contains the actual image and written words of the Constitution. Mrs. Lewis devised a scavenger hunt asking the students to use the app to find facts about the Constitution.
The students were so excited to be able to finally use the itouch devices! The classes spent the first 30 minutes discussing the rules and expectations of using the itouch devices at school, and then had time to explore Safari to learn how to manipulate the different functions of the itouch. Then they were introduced to the USA free app and given time to use their research skills to find out about the Constitution. The next day the students were asking when the next time we would use itouch devices in class. They can not wait to try out more things and are such fast learners!

Slow start in September

After being trained, we set out to register our itouch carts as well as load one application, USA factbook, on each device so that on Constitution Day the students could perform a scavenger hunt to learn about the Constitution. We had several issues syncing the devices. The devices seemed to sync effortlessly with the first application, but later when we tried to add several other applications- Word Warp, Math drill lite, Discovery Channel and Numbrix- the application would appear to sync but then when we touched the icon to run the app the app would flash and then revert to the home screen. We worked on this for several days before finally calling Karen to come out and help us. With her help, we discovered the macbooks were assigning each user their own itune library. Therefore, we decided to just have one teacher log in and do all syncing. This however did not fix the problem of the syncing. After a call to Apple and a subsequent email we may have found the answer. All devices have to be turned off and then synced. We are not sure why this works but for now we will take it! We have successfully synced 40 itouches with four applications, and the syncing process is getting easier! We have decided however to designate certain days "sync days" due to the time commitment needed to make sure they work. We want to ensure student time is not wasted troubleshooting the devices!

iTeach room/ Lightbulb lab- Based on Kevin Henkes’ book- Lilly and the Plastic Purple Purse : We have set up a project room in an extra fifth grade classroom. We chose 5 fifth graders to help illustrate the book using iMovie to show to the younger grades. We used a Flip camera to take digital stills of the book and have been working for 2 weeks on coordinating the audio to go with the slides. It has been a challenge aligning the audio with the book slides. The other fifth graders have chosen books for their book clubs and we plan on letting this first group of fifth graders “teach” the others how to make a “movie” of their book using iMovie.

Mentoring aspect of grant- We are waiting on the cases before we begin moving the devices about the school. We will report on this later.

iTouch training - September 9, 2009

On September 8 we received the three macbooks and 81 itouch devices in 2 sync-carts. Tech services came and were very quick to set up the printers as well as get the macs up and running.

On September 9 the MWE fifth grade team members - Karyn Lewis, Carole Maniloff, Jenny Meyer, and Erika Wheeler- attended a workshop at Bunker Hill Elementary led by an Apple rep to teach us and other grant recipients, how to use the MacBooks and iTouch devices. This was a day long training in which we learned the basic layout of the Macbook as well as created a podcast on the itouch. Our team created a podcast that we planned to share with our parents at curriculum night. The training was beneficial. However we wished we would have had more time to play with the devices before (or during) the meeting with so that we could have generated more efficient questions.

At the end of the meeting, Karen Justl notified us of the district's plan to introduce google applications and student email accounts. We left feeling excited about our devices and ready to get started.

On September 22, MWE Curriculum Night, we shared the podcast we created from the training about our vision with the parents. We also let the parents “touch” the devices! It was exciting to see the parents playing with the the apps and seeing the educational possibilites of the itouch devices.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Power to Learn Grant Meeting - Aug 21, 2009

We met at Westchester Academy with several other grant recipient teams to discuss grant items such as Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) as related to our technology, Digital Citizenship, and to find out what other schools were doing as their projects. It was a relaxing atmosphere as lunch was provided and we were encouraged to discuss our vision for the coming year. Karen Justl spear-headed our discussions as we talked about our accomplishments and our obstacles. We left with 5 flip cameras which our team was very excited to explore. Our technology liaison is going to work on a spreadsheet so that we can track our devices and keep inventory. We look forward to the training Apple is going to provide us in September as we anxiously await the arrival of our other devices.

Transforming our space into a "Lightbulb Lab"

Over the summer, one member of our team transformed our extra fifth grade classroom into an exciting learning environment. She spent countless hours painting 2 walls navy blue, and our old, brown, wooden cabinets are now goldenrod yellow. She also added starry curtains to match. We will call it our "Lightbulb Lab", based on Kevin Henke's book Lilly and the Plastic Purse.

So, we have decided to involve our students in the creation of this room as well. We are going to read the book that inspired us to all the fifth grade classes, and ask them to design a lightbulb to hang in our "Lightning Lab" to represent all the new ideas that will be born there. We also want to involve some of the younger students we will touch as we work throughout the year. So we have decided to invite some classes to paint handprints on the walls around our white boards. We will alternate a fifth grader's hand with a primary student's hand, attached with a small lightbulb to represent that when two minds join together, great thinking will happen.

We have also purchased a lava lamp and a multi-bulb floor lamp to place in the room. An aide in our building made a bead curtain to hang in the room as well. We can't wait to add our technology so that we can spark many new ideas at Meadow Wood this year! We hope the creation of this space gives us a room where creativity, thinking, and learning as well as collaboration happens daily!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Using iTouch to teach 5th grade

Our design for implementation has three basic parts:

  • use of the iTouch as a classroom resource

  • creation of podcasts to share what we learn with others

  • and mentoring younger students to cement our learning by teaching it to someone else.

After teaching students about how to operate the iTouch device, we will begin to integrate some of the apps into our daily lessons. For example, the use of a class blog, through WordPress, to post assignments based on book club readings. Students will continue to meet in traditional level or interest based book clubs, but we will add the technology element by using a blog for the assignment format. This is one way students from all 3 sections of our fifth grade will be able to interact with each other, even though they are not in the same homeroom.

Another way we see using technology to further student's engagement and skills, is to set up ways to podcast information to share with others. Students will be able to record audio podcasts with a microphone accessory for the iTouch. Students will also have access to iFlip video cameras to create video podcasts. Teachers would demonstrate how to upload these files to the class blog or other site to share with our school, as well as others. Science and Social Studies topics, as well as book reviews are possible uses for podcasting in the classroom.

Lastly, we believe that "Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.”(Aristotle). Our students will use the iTouch to teach reading, science, and math concepts to younger students thorugh a mentoring project. This aspect of our approach will allow all students success in using what they learn on a daily basis to help another student. Apps such as planetFacts will allow fifth graders to talk to third graders about the topics they are both learning about. Math Dr. Lite will be used to tutor students on math facts in a fun and interactive way. Plus there are many site word and vocabulary flashcard apps for students to develop and use.

We are looking forward to implementing these ideas and many more during this school year. Please come back often to see what we have tried!

iTeach, therefore i am

Picture a room full of ten year olds sitting at desks using iTouches, with their teacher watching in approval. These students are not playing, aimlessly surfing the web, or texting their friends. They are utilizing the iTouch applications (apps) to become engaged in the discussion and learning taking place. This is definitely not your typical classroom, however it is one I believe we will see more of in the near future.
Technology needs to change from a removed, once-in-awhile resource to something that is always accessible, at students’ fingertips, whenever they need it to assist in their understanding. Whereas laptop computers and netbooks require booting up and logging on, an iTouch is “powered up” by a mere touch of a button and a swipe of the screen. And unlike the laptop, which takes up the entire desktop, an iTouch can sit on the corner of the desk without interfering with the other items a student needs during the day.
With the increased use of WiFi connections in schools, the iTouch can easily access the internet, even though most applications do not require it. It is an immediate resource to use in teachable moments which enables students to find the answers to their questions immediately! In this way, students won’t have to remember their question and discover the answer at home on their own time. With the use of the iTouch, students can search and find the answers to many of their curious questions stemming from the topics their teachers introduce to them in class.
The iTouch does not replace anything in the classroom. It adds a resource to the students’ arsenal which allows them to be excited and engaged in their education. Students will look forward to finding out what new app they will utilize to further their studies, and forget that at one time all they thought an iTouch was used for was games and texting!