Friday, 31 January 2014

Using Digital Assessment Tools in the Classroom

Yesterday morning, bright and early, I sat in on a great session delivered by Mike Meechin at FETC.  The two hour session was appropriately-paced and informative.  Meechin spoke about a variety of free online assessment tools that can be used to collect data on student understanding in an efficient and engaging way. He is proponent of quick and easy-to-use tech solutions to collect instant student data, feeding into the instructional practices of the educator.  Although I had downloaded the free Socrative app about a year ago, I've never really had the time to play around and learn the ins and outs of this application, available in both iDevice and online form.  What I like about this app, (other than the fact that it is free) is that classroom teachers can quickly set up tests and quizzes to give to students prior to lectures or as an exit slip after a lesson plan to determine student understanding quickly and without heavy marking.  The Socrative app allows teachers to set up an online 'classroom' which students can enter and complete teacher assigned tasks. This app provides students and teachers with instantaneous feedback about their understanding of facts related to the concept taught. Rather than handing students a paper quiz and collecting dozens of papers for marking, the teacher can quickly administer and collect the data needed to inform their teaching on the fly.
A similar tech tool that was presented during Meechin's session was the use of (Also free!). Sign up for an account online and the app does all the things Socrative does, but allows educators to push out links which open up in a browser tab as soon as the student clicks on it.
One of my favourite suggestions from Meechin's presentation was the use of QR codes, a piece of technology that I've never used before, but have heard other educators rave about.  He had a couple of QR codes set up in his presentation slides.  When we scanned them using our smartphones, using a QR reader app, we had access to content that he had placed in each of the codes.  Meechin suggested using this tool to have students go through a gallery walk.  You could easily infuse this technology in lessons to have students complete think-pair-shares, responding to questions that you have placed up around your classroom.  

Friday, 17 January 2014

Nutrition and Living Sustainably

One of the most important life skills we can impart on our students is knowledge of good nutrition.  In the next couple of months, I plan to teach a unit on Healthy Lifestyles, incorporating mental wellness, proper nutrition, and exercise.  As always, I had a look for some great apps that could be used to review these important concepts.  I found the review in iTunes on Nicholas' Garden to be quite good.  It encompasses the 'farm to fork' values that are key to living sustainably.  Students can view healthy, kid-friendly recipes, create grocery lists, all while making healthy choices.  His recipe board is set up in a very visual manner, much like Pinterest.  You can check out the Nicholas' Garden website here.  The Apple app is free in iTunes. Another great app designed for both the iPhone and iPad is Awesome Eats. Reviews peg it as a kid-friendly and engaging way of exploring healthy foods in a game-like platform.  I plan to use both of these free apps in my unit and I hope that there are ways you can incorporate them into your teaching as well!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Music to my ears!

Including students with a variety of physical and cognitive challenges into a band or a music class can pose a challenge at times.  iPad technology and apps can be a great way to introduce the creation of music with students. Reg Swanson has compiled a great list of music apps that you may consider using with students. You can view the app icons and descriptions here.