Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Get Moving!

Remember a few years ago when the standard for excellent educational technology meant gleaming rows of PCs confined to the four walls of a computer lab?  Better yet, what if we travel back 25 years ago to the all powerful classroom PC with neat files of 8 inch floppy disks just BEGGING for a child to play a quick game of Oregon Trail?!?  

Oh, the memories! Can you begin to imagine what memories today's learner will look back fondly upon when they reach their thirties?  

The single most amazing feature of today's technology is that it is mobile.  Sure, the speed and memory capabilities of today's devices are extremely important, but only because they are needed to keep up with the abilities of the most important factor in any piece of technology:  the user's hands.  An iPhone 5 (already outdated) in a two year old's hands is already more powerful than if that same device were in the hands of someone much more senior touching it for the first time.  For a digital native, it's innate and seemingly wired into their DNA.

So what does this have to do with the classroom?  While the trend toward 1:1 is ever increasing, it's important to remember that sometimes the most simplistic, is the most relevant.  

iPads were designed to be mobile.  

Duh, right?

Let's think of it this way.  The car was also invented to be mobile.  It would be incredibly crazy to buy a beautiful new convertible and limit its use to sitting idly in the driveway listening to the radio.  Not only are you missing out on the amazing ability to feel the wind your hair, but also completly missing out on the discovery of new places.  

Why then do we have these amazing, powerful, beautiful devices that sit idly on our students' desks; therefore, limiting their use and the element of discovery?

So, get up!  Get moving!  As you lesson plan, or better yet- open yourself to the flexibility of teaching in the moment, think, "How can I teach this same concept, but with movement?  How can we get outside with this thing?  How can we move beyond these four walls to create a more meaningful learning experience?"  When you begin to think this way, you will find that the ideas suddenly begin to come easier and with less thought.  Creativity, which is born in all of us (yes, ALL of us) will flow freely.

So still stumped?  Let's start with something basic and classroom tested for both primary and intermediate. We promise you'll like them, and you may even love them!

Scavenger Hunts

These can be spur of the moment, or can be elaborately planned activities that allow your learners to visit other areas of your school's campus.  Primary kids will enjoy looking for colors, shapes, numbers, nouns, etc.  Intermediate kids can get more technical as they look for science and math concepts in the real world.  Looking out for everything from inclined planes to geometrical shapes can be made so much more fun by getting mobile!  Use one of the most powerful tools on your device...the camera!

This student is using the camera to find nouns in the cafeteria.

Trekking through the library. 

Have fun!  This student wanted me to take a photo of them taking a photo while we moved through the art room. 
      Companion Tools that Work:
  • PicCollage or other Collage Apps: Perfect for primary kids or intermediate kids just getting started, these apps allow for simple display and classification of objects found on a scavenger hunt.  Kids can personalize their work through fun fonts, clip art, and backgrounds.  Easy peasy.  They've all likely used this app on their parent's iPhones before and can most likely teach you a few things (they did me!).  
  • Popplet:  This is a bit more technical, but still doable for primary kids.  This graphic organizer app allows for more professional looking classifications and displays.  The lite version allows for limited personalization, but students can add photos to their mind maps in addition to text or doodles.  
    This student uses photos collected during a noun scavenger hunt to classify them into  four categories:  person, place, thing, or animal.  Yes, we traumatized a teacher friend's fish as 20 kids crowded around for a photo. 
  • QR Code Hunts:  Do a quick search on TeachersPayTeachers, and you will find 100s of these already made and ready to use.  Word of caution:  always preview materials before purchasing and/or implementing in the classroom.  
  • GooseChase:  This is one of many apps that allows you to create more elaborate scavenger hunts for your kids.  Upload picture clues that they have to find around the school campus.  Students use their devices to document their findings.   This would be great for older students, but younger students could handle simple hunts (Easter Eggs anyone?).  
Above all, keep it fun and keep it mobile!

On the move, 
-Two Techie Teachers

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Slow and Steady

1:1 is now our reality, and we couldn't be happier!

The moment finally happened.  Boxes full of iPad minis were delivered to our classroom nearly three weeks ago, and it may have very well been one of the happiest moments of our teaching lives.  The world of 1:1 is now our reality, and we couldn't be happier.

You might say we've been chomping at the bit for quite some time, and suddenly we found ourselves at the starting gate ready to go.  

Whoa, girls.

I think we all know the old parable of the turtle and hare, and how the arrogance and quick-pace of that old rabbit turned out to be disastrous in the end.  We've learned very quickly that initiating 1:1 in the primary classroom has much to be learned from the moral, "Slow and steady wins the race."

You see, this summer we filled our little minds with as much new and exciting edtech knowledge as we possibly could.  It's so easy to become renewed and refreshed throughout those learning months, and then the reality and exhaustion of putting those ideals into action becomes increasingly clear from day one!  As Dave Burgess says, "It isn't meant to be easy.  It's meant to be worth it." 

Oh, Mr. Pirate Dave- it has been!

Here are a few of our reflections from the past three weeks of fully implementing a 1:1 classroom of iPad minis into the little and capable hands of our primary kiddos.

  • steps!  You don't have to do everything at once and you shouldn't.  Start small and let them get comfortable with the device.  We strongly believe the camera is the most powerful tool on any digital device your students have.  Let them engage in meaningful play.  Really.  We let our kiddos make as many silly faces as they needed to in that photo booth to get it out of their system.  The grins and giggles will have you smiling in no time as well.  Then move on.  Challenge them a day or two at a time.  Reflect.  Which apps are most important to your classroom routines?  For us, apps like KidBlog, PicCollage, and DoodleBuddy were easy places to get the students started.  They also allowed us to quickly use these apps in station activities as well as whole group learning.  Check out our classroom blog links below to catch up with what we've been doing.  

PicCollage is an easy way to personalize our learning.
This first grade student shows off his character map complete with describing words and a mustache!  Below is an example of a kindergarten color scavenger hunt completed in PicCollage.  The possibilities are endless when you open your mind, but the key is to focus on student creation. 

DoodleBuddy has a 1001 uses.
This first grader uses it to share a rough draft sentence for Writer's Workshop.

KidBlog allows the students to become published authors with a large audience and take ownership in their writing.  First graders and kindergartners alike are both fullycapable of sharing experiences through blogging.
  • Follow your district's policies and procedures.  They are there for a reason.  This will save you, your students, and your busy tech department from many headaches and lots of time.  
  • Be flexible.  Glitches are a guarantee at any time of the year, but especially in the beginning as the kinks get worked out.  Have a Plan B, and always- always stay calm.  (Even if you feel like a mess on the inside!)  
  • Most importantly, HAVE FUN and REJOICE!  The world is now at your students' fingertips, and you have unlimited resources at your disposal.  What isn't awesome about that?  

We hope that this year's blogposts are helpful to you as we travel this race together.   Be sure to check out our classroom blogs as well for even more glimpses into our techie classrooms!  

-Two Techie Teachers