Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Board Presentation

I recently presented my findings to the Board of Trustees.  It is intended that next year, the trial goes school wide with the purchase of iPods and iPads (depending on the year level and team - this can be mixed).  It is obvious that these devices not only take the pressure off the laptops and desktops, but they engage learners.  I am very pleased with the findings and look forward to 2012!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Student Voice

Some of the students in my class decided to conduct interviews with feedback for me in regards to the impact iPods have had on their learning this year.  The feedback was positive (and unprompted by me).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fractions, Flight, Word Study, Maths and the Rugby World Cup

I recently tested my maths class on their fractions and discovered that generally, their recall of fractions and how they relate to each other was not as good as I anticipated.  It wasn't that they didn't know them, it was more about the fact that their recall of them was not more instantaneous.  I have now downloaded a number of apps that should assist with this recall:
Estimate Fractions, Fractions, Picturing Fractions, Fraction Drills, Fraction Monkeys, Candy Factory (I think this one is going to be a real hit!), Math Chef, Portion Platter

I have also added some new basic facts apps:
Factors, Asteroid Arithmetic, Number battle (they can use Wifi to battle each other)

The inclusion of the following Word Study apps should boost interest levels and engagement:
Lexagram, Avalanche, Fishtropolis, Ultimate Word Search, Word Wizard

With the Rugby World Cup looming, I have downloaded the free app, so we can follow the stats and the countries playing with ease.

Our next infusion learning topic is based on flight.  I have added the following apps:
Airplanes and AirPedia (these are reference based), Backyard Pilot (learn to fly a plane), Airport (learn how an airport operates), Warship (problem solving - like the game 'Rush hour') and World Record Paper Planes (has a variety of paper plane designs to simulate flight eg. stunt, dart, eagle)

It is really important to have a variety of apps to ensure the children have something new and exciting to facilitate their learning.  I am simply amazed by the variety and number of apps that are available for practically anything you are looking for!

Friday, August 26, 2011

In house training

Last week, I did an in house training session with staff from Years 4 - 6, as well as the ELL teacher and two members from the management team.  I explained how I have been using the iPod to engage my students, drawing attention to the apps I have found to be the most useful and productive.  I showed them how I go about storing/charging the devices, syncing new apps and getting the children's work (generally photos, videos and screenshots of other work) from the device and onto the school server.  The staff were then able to have a try of some of the apps (although time was a constraint).  To me, it appeared that my presentation was well received.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Infusion Learning - directing the children to specific information

We have recently started our newest infusion learning topic called 'My Space to Your Place' where we are focusing on the Social Sciences aspect.  One of the activities that I was discussing with my class was about conflict and war.  The children could not tell me very much about the subject - they knew a bit about the ANZAC's, but that was pretty much it.  So the children set forth to find out more ... unfortunately, due to their lack of knowledge, they floundered.  I figured that there were probably some apps that would assist with this - I was right!  The children needed direction, and this was definitely one of the moments with the iPods that they were priceless!  The apps I downloaded were:

Wars of the 20th Century - this outlines all wars and conflict in the 20th Century, with photos and a narrative (brief on one side, then they can 'flip' it to get more detail).
Maps of War - Breaks down the wars into the following categories - democracy, religion, leadership, an so on, and shows a map with a moving time line of events.
Historic Line - has a history time line of events dating BC to present day, Inventions, Monarchs, Notable people, Prime Ministers and Presidents. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mathematics Apps

I have categorised the apps into different strands - I have Basic Facts - this is where there are apps that will test the speed, recall and accuracy of their basic facts knowledge (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).
Dot to Dot is a very basic game of ordering numbers (sequencing)
Times Tables allows children to select which times table they would like to study - they can view, write, listen then test.
Math Drills Lite lets children test their skills on basic facts
Roll it is like the game Yahtzee - they can have multiple players
Brain Booster tests skills on basic facts
Basic Math tests skill on specific operations
Alien Equation is where the children have to arrange the operations tiles to make the equation true.  The sound function on this will drive you nuts, so make sure they turn the sound off!
Brain Thaw multi-leveled, using multiples (or factors) of numbers

The second mathematics folder that I have is called Geometry.  These allow the children to explore the different functions and skills of Geometry as it can quite often get overlooked or rushed.  This can be incorporated into the maintenance part of your maths programme.
Keep Balance, Geometry: Volume of Solids Lite, Tangram, GeoSudoku, Geometry Test

The third folder is called Maths - this is where I have put anything else related to the subject - there's fractions and decimals, time, ordering numbers and algebra.
Number line, Pearl Diver, Fraction Factory, Just Fraction, Algebra Touch, Clock Master

I change these around from time to time, and add new apps as needed.  You can't expect the children to use the same ones all year round (although there will be the odd one that they will love).  As I progress on this journey, I add relevant apps to complement what I am teaching in the classroom.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


PPP's stands for Pupil Progress Presentations.  My class were very keen on the idea of putting the iPods to the test - the children recorded themselves (and each other) displaying PE skills, reading fluency, mathematical problem solving, along with anything else that was of value to show their parents when they were sharing their learning.  The children were able to use the iMovie app on the iPods which allowed them to edit and publish.  They also used the voice recorder to read their writing and turn it into a podcast.  This is an excellent tool to use for those children who are not keen publishers or skilled typists.  What is it that we really want to achieve?  I believe that their writing should be shared orally so that I can hear the expression, intonation and fluency.  There should be a balance in publishing work for the classroom environment (for other children to read) and orally presenting work for other children to listen to.  Many children uploaded these movies and podcasts to their digital portfolio.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Theme Week - Robots

We have just finished our theme week based on Robots.  I found a really cool app called Robotmaker where the children could create their own robot.  We then took a screen shot and opened that screen shot in Label Maker, where the children could give their robot a name and label their work.  This is an activity that I did with all four classes in the team during our Robotic Rotation.  It was a fast, easy process that the children really enjoyed!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reference Skills Apps

There are several baseline apps that have been really useful.

The World
World Facts Free - has the flags and countries of the world, as well as some baseline data about these countries.
History: Maps of World - Gives visual maps of the world and what they have been part of over time.  You can choose categories or a specific era.
Geo Walk - walk the globe and find out about famous places, animals, plants, people around the world.  Complete the quiz at the end.
Brain Pop - this doesn't give you full access to the brainpop site - instead it has a featured movie of the day with a quiz.

Dinosaurs: The American Museum - has basic facts and information about the different dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs unleashed Free! - has flash cards and a quiz about dinosaurs.
Animal Encyclopedia - basic information about the animal kingdom, groups of animals, fauna, animal names and kinds of animals
Animals 360 - a very basic app suitable for younger children.  It incorporates photos and sounds of the animals, a tour of the farm, safari and forest, a quiz and photo puzzle.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Educational Games for English

One of the biggest issues that I have faced is finding apps that are actually going to assist with the learning in the classroom in the core areas - reading, writing and mathematics.  I have found that some of the apps cross-over into all learning areas, especially the dictionary.  I have two different dictionaries on the iPods - one was a free app, the other wasn't, but is substantially better.  The one I prefer is 'Wordbook'.  It not only allows the children to find a words meaning in the dictionary, but it will also pronounce it.  This happens in a matter of seconds, so the user is not spending a long period of time trying to plow through a paper dictionary (which ultimately may not actually have the word needed) when they could be busy carrying on with what they initial task actually entailed.  I have found that with this particular app (and some other reference based apps) that you can change the filters (which is very handy).  We all know which words some children will choose to look up first!  You can choose to turn the profanity filter on, as well as the voice that they hear and the notation (accent).

So, here is the list of games that my children enjoy:
Chicktionary (a bit like the game, Boggle, but it has the letters on eggs and has a huge number of words to find.  You can also opt for a quick play option, or the longer, original game.  The first time my children played this, it took three days for them to find all the words - now some children can find all the words in twenty minutes!)
Scrabble (like the original - they can pass and play, or multiplayer wifi)
SpellDown (this lets them test their own words)
Boggle (like the original)
Word Bubble (different levels, they make words by popping the bubbles)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Taking the iPods on their own out of school adventure!

For four days in May, we take our Year 6 students to camp.  One of the activities that we like to do is something related to ICT.  In the past, we have taken digital cameras and laptops - they have taken a variety of photographs and uploaded them onto a document (we used The Printshop 2) and shared these at school on our return.  THIS year, I thought it would be great to take the iPods - we could shoot some HD video of the campers, take photos, and then use an iPod app to create a digital postcard of some description.  I found an app that would do the job called 'Lifecards'.  It was very simple to use - in fact, the parent helpers within the group were keen to have a go as well!  On completion of their card, they took a screenshot (home button and power button) and I synced their work onto my iPod laptop (The only criteria was that they had to have their name on it so they could find it later).  When we returned to school, I had over 5000 photos and short videos (and of course, 120 lifecards) for the children to use and upload to their digital portfolios, or create a new piece of work in class.  The children who were not in my class had a brilliant opportunity to use the iPods and were subsequently very enthusiastic (and I think a little envious).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Pros & Cons app

So, today we used the 'Pros & Cons' app, which did actually have it's own pros and cons!  One of which was that the free version wasn't that great, so I had to buy the PRO version so that the children could actually complete the task.  Their task was a collaborative one, based on the recent zoo trip last week.  I wanted them to think about the pros and cons of zoos.  Some of their ideas were quite interesting (see for yourself).  The second problem I had was actually getting the information off the iPods.  The options it gave me were - send via email or upload to facebook - neither of which I was keen on doing with this age group.  So, we put our thinking caps on and decided that a screenshot would be the best option.  To do this on an iPod (or iPhone) is to hold the power button (on the top right) and press the home button (the circle one in the middle on the bottom).  Then all I had to do was plug them into my laptop and upload the image - easy peasy!  Here are some samples of the work created.  (Please excuse any spelling errors - the focus was on the information)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A week with the new apps

I must say that at the end of last week, I did go a bit crazy with purchasing and uploading a big number of new apps to the iPods.  I was so enthusiastic due to the children in my class really taking on board what I was saying about the purpose of the iPods in the classroom and how they thought they could impact or improve their learning.  I had already gathered a list of apps that I was quite keen to get (while on the ICT Conference) along with some other tried and tested apps.  I spent the majority of the weekend syncing and updating the software on the iPods, then got completely carried away with arranging the apps into different folders so that the children would be able to locate what they needed immediately, rather than sifting through 53 apps!  I sorted them as follows:  Spelling, Maths - Basic Facts, Maths - Decimals and Fractions, Infusion Learning, Publishing Tools, Music and Utilities.  I immediately saw the benefits of this on Monday when I was working with the children because it streamlined what I was doing - there was no fumbling!

During our language time, the children discovered many features within the apps, including a voice activated tool that they could use when researching their animals for their information writing task.  This is incredibly useful if they are unsure of the correct spelling.  It also emphasised the need for speaking slowly and clearly.  Secondly, the Dictionary was equally useful - finding the meaning of unknown or unseen words as well as 'saying' the pronunciation which is a real bonus!  I also have a number of word games, including 'Boggle' and 'Scrabble' which can be multi-player games.  Another aspect is for the children to become self critical on their written language work - they need to read aloud using the 'Voice Memo' function, word for word, then listen to it, make any amendments and try again.  They quickly saw that this was a very effective way of immediately recognising missing words or sentences that simply don't make sense!  (we are all pretty good at skim reading and adding words as we speak)
Checking the meaning of unknown words

Checking the meaning of unseen text

Listening to the pronunciation of the word

Using the TVNZ app to summarise National and World News

Skimming, scanning and summarising

Checking the meaning of unseen text when working independently

My maths class was equally impressed with the new apps - Fractions and Decimals is one of the hot spots that I have been working with my children on.  Not only that, I have been teaching exponents and square roots with two of my groups - the scientific calculator in the utilities is truly unbelievable!  The children had no idea that when you turned the calculator 'landscape' it changed from a standard calculator to a scientific one!
Using a scientific calculator

Decimals and fractions

Decimals and Fractions

Basic Facts

Basic Facts

Scientific Calculator

Finally, I simply cannot get over the level of engagement in learning (especially those who have seemed unmotivated or not productive with their time) - the photos really do say it all.  After the planning of the logistics is done, the implementation makes it all worthwhile.  My aim for the week was to have the iPods fully utilised all day, every day - I have achieved that goal!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The First Day

As you can probably imagine, the children in my class were overwhelmed with excitement when they were finally allowed to 'touch' the iPods.  My first step was to observe the children and see what they thought of the basic apps that were installed.  They discussed and rated each one.  This gave me the starting point of which direction I was heading in as far as apps and the usage or purpose of them.  The part that amazed me was the focus that the children had.  They took it very seriously and were brutally honest about the apps (which was really great for me).  The part that I thought was really great was that they were so concerned with 'damaging' them, that they took it upon themselves to get clean towels to cradle the iPods.  Just look at the smiles on their faces!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The big idea and the BIGGER questions!

In 2010, I viewed a short media clip about a school in Escondido, California, that had used iPod touches in their school with inspiring results.  After much discussion and preparation for my BoT presentation late last year, it was approved that I would be able to run a trial of iPod touches in my classroom to see the impact that it would have on students learning.  15 were purchased in February 2011 for this purpose.

The next stage was to ensure that logistics were organised.  This meant finding a means of storing, charging and syncing these.  The first step was to get them laser engraved for security purposes.  I purchased multi-USB chargers and protective covers, and set up one of our old laptop storage facilities with the iPods.

The next question on my mind was 'How do I logistically update the apps and what copyright ramifications are involved?'  I searched EVERYWHERE on the WWW only to discover that there were different views and opinions on what was 'allowed'.  I then phoned 'Apple' and they assured me that syncing the devices from one centralised laptop or computer was the way to go.

My next question was 'How am I going to do this?'  I spoke to the IT Technician at my school and he set up an itunes account on one of the older laptops, so that itunes gift cards could be used as a means of purchasing apps and it could be easily monitored.  The biggest issue that I was concerned about was that I wanted to start with a system that wouldn't fail if for some reason I was no longer working at the school.

So, the next big question was 'How am I going to implement this effectively in my classroom?'   Luckily, I was able to go on an ICT Conference in late February, where my primary focus was to source as much information and ideas related to this.  I think I succeeded!