Monday, 25 February 2013

App Suggestions

Common Sense Media is a resource I use quite often to read comprehensive app reviews and search for apps that may suit a particular student.  The organizers of the website and newly created blog have collaborated with a group of classroom teachers, special educators, intervention specialists, speech and language pathologists, and professors to create a great list of apps that meet communication, social and motor skills, and academic needs.  The apps are organized into beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, providing you, as an educator, with options from which to choose.  Please see their list here.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Technology Infusion

There is such a great push to have educators infuse technology in the classroom, but without a road map it can be overwhelming. First, there is the professional development piece.  There are countless technological applications that one can choose to implement in the classroom- enough that you have a choice between a few different apps or web 2.0 tools to use for the same purpose. In order to figure out what works best for you, trying them all is almost a necessity. One can now choose the application that is most comfortable or available, given the resources at hand.

Last Wednesday, I participated in delivering a presentation about technology use and student engagement.  Prior to the presentation, I came across a great framework to consider the levels of technology use.  The SAMR model, developed by Ruben R. Puentedura is definitely worth reviewing as it provides a framework for technology use in the classroom.  Puentedura identifies four levels of technology integration/infusion.  At the base level, technology is purely being subbed in for tools that had been used previously.  Same old, same old, but now a computer is being used to do the same task.  Moving into the augmented stage, the use of technology simply improves how the task was previously completed.  The use of technology makes the task easier, better. At the level of modification, without the use of technology the lesson wouldn't happen.  The use of technology is integral to the delivery of the lesson, or the exploration of the concept by students.  The redefinition stage is where I imagine all tech savvy educators exist in an energized state of being.  The use of technology pushes down the classroom walls that hold the exploration of the world at bay.  Technology use at this level allows students to think deeply and critically, to gain access to information previously unattainable, and explore and represent ideas in a way that was previously inconceivable.  There are technological applications that will allow educators to operate at any of these levels.  The question is: what kind of an educational experience to we want to provide for our students?

Please have a look at this great matrix I found that delves a little deeper into Puentedura's SAMR model.  It is a great tool for any teacher who is looking to appropriately infuse technology within the classroom.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Google Hangouts

I have just become enamoured with the collaborative possibilities of Google docs and Google Hangout.  I cannot rave more about the professional development possibilities that Google docs and hangout offers.  I am currently working collaboratively with two resource teachers in Winnipeg and one in Thompson to create a year/unit plan incorporating UDL principles using Google docs.  We are able to witness each other's revisions in real-time and are able to comment on things that need tweaking.  Just the other day, I participated in my first hangout with an administrator in the ISD to collaborate on a presentation that will be delivered to admin council tomorrow.  Google docs and hangout has allowed me to collaborate with professionals near and far to create amazing presentations and projects.  If you haven't heard of Google hangouts, please see this wonderful posting on the Edutopia blog. Or you can visit the hangout site for more information.

Update: I have created a Google doc that includes some links to further information about Google apps and a YouTube video that walks you through Google Hangout.  With this information, you can be well on your way to collaborating and communicating with your colleagues or teaching your students about some great tools for project work! Access the slides here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Educreations is one of my favourite iPad apps.  It is essentially a whiteboard that allows you to draw, annotate on photos from your iPad camera or library, record audio while you are working, and pull in material from your Dropbox account.  When I first came across this app, I imagined it being used by peer tutors to create mini-lessons for tutees that could be saved on an online Educreations account for access anywhere. I envision this app being used from K-12 as there are multiple uses and it really isn't grade-specific.  I just read this interesting post from a kindergarten teacher by the name of Carrie Both who is using this app to assess her students' ability to retell the major events from a story.  You can have a look at her application of Educreations here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A UDL classroom in Oakland, California

I just finished watching a video as a part of a course I am taking.  I thought this video was worth sharing.  If you are familiar with Jennifer Katz's work, you will see her three-block model in action here.

Google Apps For Education (GAFE)

If using dropbox has become a part of your teaching day, then I would highly recommend that you give Google a second look.  When I created my google email account 3 years ago, I had no idea how much I would come to rely on it for work purposes.  I use my Google drive to store spreadsheets and word processing documents, but because I am no longer a front line teacher, I haven't fully explored the potential uses of Google docs in the classroom.  Luckily, there are savvy sages of Google docs.  Jenny Magiera, blogger and tech officianado in the Chicago Public Schools System has written this very informative piece on the many uses of Google drive in the classroom.  Using this online tool will no longer permit senior students to make excuses about not being able to get together to work on their Science project.  Collaboration can take place in real time! Check out Ms. Magiera's blog post here.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Little Inspiration

At the Closing the Gap conference in October 2012, presenter Paul Hamilton showed us a collaborative storytelling website that can be used for creative writing in the classroom. StoryBird allows you to select from artwork that has been offered up by artists to the site creators. Users can select a theme and browse through collections of illustrated pictures.  The average collection will have multiple illustrations to allow a user to create a story around the set of pictures.  It is easy to click and drag pictures onto the page board and then add the inspired text.  Students can collaborate on storybooks together and then have it published in a private account.  Teachers also have the option of creating a class account, adding student accounts to the class account, and then assigning projects for the students to work on.  As an added bonus, books can be purchased for Android and iOS devices at a mere $1.99.  This, I assume, is how the artists are paid for their contributed work.  Published digital works can also be shared with others through email.  As there is such a great selection of artwork collections, it offers inspiration for students to work through the creative writing process. This could be a great option for a reluctant writer!

Please read Camelia Cat's Birthday Puddle Party-  a story I created one evening while exploring how this site works.

Extrinsic Motivation

In my usual perusal of educational blogs, I came across a new and interesting way for teachers to motivate students in their daily academics.  Class Badges is a means of giving your students feedback for their achievements through the awarding of badges. Historically, electronic gaming systems and online games have awarded badges for gaming prowess.  Class Badges works similarly in that you, as an educator, can create badges based on curricular topics you are teaching for your students to work towards. You can award badges to students once they've completed particular parts of a large assignment or project.  Students can track their progress through the assignment by seeing which badges they've earned in correspondence to each part of the assignment that they've submitted.  To sign up, simply 'request an invite' and you'll receive an email with the details for accessing your account. Once you've set up your class account, you can have students register using your classroom code.  Class Badges could very well end the need to purchase new stamps and stickers.class badges