Sunday, December 8, 2013

iPads in Grade 4: The Other Stuff in Week 2

My 2nd Week Reflection, Part 2
My school lent my classroom five iPads two weeks ago to see if I could find things to do with them. If I can then they might make them more widely available for other upper elementary classrooms. My class gets to use them for three weeks and then I have to give them up. In the meantime I've been asked to make weekly reports on how I used them. 

In my last post, I talked about using Aurasma in our class.

For this post I'll discuss the following:
1) Finalizing our Book Trailers (continued from Week 1)
2) Extending our Math Tutorial Playlist (continued from Week 1)
3) Recording our Thinking For Assessments

Finalizing our Book Trailers (continued from Week 1)
I initially talked about this project in the Week 1 blog post. The assignment was to storyboard and create a book trailer for Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin. On Monday of this past week we spent the period filming, so the total amount of filming was a period and a half (about 90 minutes). There were three groups, so we have three finished trailers using different trailer genres telling the same story.

It's hard to recognize exactly what's going on unless you are familiar with the book. That's okay. But equally as important to the fluidity of the trailer storyline is the use of words. For these types of trailers (where speech is taken out of video and the setting always has to be somewhere in the school even if that's not the setting in the book), the words drive the story more than images. Each group handled the words in a different way. I tried to get the groups to start out with a question, so that the audience could connect with the trailer from the beginning. 

There's a fine balance with words in a trailer. It's easier (but less effective) to write generalized language if the story that is being told isn't clear to the storytellers, or if the trailer assignment's objectives aren't clear. Using the end products as a reflection next week can help clarify this. 

Extending our Math Tutorial Playlist (continued from Week 1)
Speaking of reflection, the next step in developing our Youtube math tutorials that we started making last week is feedback. This would be a great opportunity to begin to teach comments and how to use them effectively. But we wouldn't be able to make any comments on our Youtube channel, because Youtube changed their comments policy.
Youtube comments have always been a magnificent representation of the dredges of online behavior. It seems though that Youtube's new comments policy was put into place not so much to clean that up as to get people to sign up to Google+. My kids can't sign into Google+ and therefore can't comment on each other's Youtube videos (The dredges can't either because they are unlisted). We needed an alternative way. 

We have E-portfolios in Google Sites. And if we embed our videos into our e-portfolios we can leave all the comments we want. So this week we tried to look critically at each other's tutorials, using the "Two stars and a wish" template; two things you found good or interesting, and one thing that the tutorial author could improve on. 

The effort, mechanics, and detail range from kid to kid of course. But this is a good starting point.
The next step is to look at these comments as a class and ask ourselves some questions:

  • What types of comments are the most helpful for feedback? 
  • Which ones can help us improve our mathematical thinking and explanations? 
  • Are there any types of comments that we would want to respond to? 
  • How can we write a comment that starts a conversation instead of ends it?

Here's a final thought on this math tutorial project for this year: So far the focus has been about the authors of these tutorials learning how to explain what they are doing, and to help me understand the gaps in their thinking. They were never set up to be actual tutorials for others to learn from. But I'd like them to be. And maybe Khan Academy is a good template for how to do this. For example, that site doesn't have a "comments" section. Instead the section is labeled "questions." We could use a platform such as Wikispaces, and have the students be the curators of the content. Each student could be in charge of a section that they are responsible for designing, maintaining, updating (and perhaps responsible for encouraging page traffic and collaboration).

Recording our Thinking For Assessments
The final thing I did with the iPads this week is use them for individual assessments. I'm strictly using the iPad as a video camera here. I could easily replace it with a FLIP camera or whatever, but because I have an iPad stand* and it is so easy to upload video content onto the cloud, the iPads make sense. The following video is a little dry, but as a teacher, it's an invaluable piece for me to assess individual's understanding.

The difficult part is to find the time to do this for every single one of my kids. As I have it set up now, I can do about two children a day. I might not be able to do this will all the children, but I can do it for the ones who aren't used to sharing their thinking in a full classroom.

* The stand I have is a great stand for iPads, but we are actually using iPad minis. Our tech director suggested we design stands for iPad minis and have the school's 3D printer make them. I think that sounds awesome. We might try to do this when we come back from break.

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