Thursday, July 31, 2014

4 Pretty Good iPad Apps For Classroom Assessment

I've tried my fair share of iPad education assessment tools: Three Ring, TeakerKit, Easy Portfolio, Schoology, and maybe some other junk. At some point I should do a review on them. But the short of it is they aren't the four most important apps on my iPad for classroom assessment. These are:

Notability



Last year I wrote up a review of some possible note taking apps for teachers- apps that didn't require typing, but instead focused on note taking through handwriting. My favorite at the time was Noteshelf, because it's design was the cleanest and it improved my handwriting the most.  



So of course since then I've been using Notability for all of my in class notes, especially during book discussions. This is because:

1) My handwriting still looks a little better than my actual handwriting with this app.

2) You can zoom really small on a page. Really small. That means I can fit a lot on the screen.

3) Instead of a finite page like on Noteshelf, Notability allows you to continuously scroll down on a page to add notes. This is a big deal when I'm writing fast. 

I use Notability more than any other app in the classroom because I can use my finger to write with, and I'm much more comfortable writing than typing on an iPad.


Confer is an interesting note taking app designed for teachers. It has a lot of room for improvement, but I did use it to consolidate points after summative assessments. 

Each student has three sections: "Strengths", "Teaching Points", and "Next Steps". 


It's nice because after you type something for one student, the same phrase becomes available for the whole class. So for example if I write that one student's strength is "Represent decimals using Base 10 Blocks," then that phrase automatically becomes an option as a strength for all the other students in the class.

Here's how I wish it worked:
1) If I type something as a student's strength, it automatically becomes an option as a "strength", "teaching point", or "next step." Currently Confer does not do this.

2) The organization is built around having multiple classes, with different students in each class. It's a good setup for middle or high school teachers. It's lousy for elementary teachers. I'd like to be able to create one class, then have folders of different subjects for each student. 

3) The export options are lousy. I can export an entire class as a spreadsheet, or individual students as an rtf file. I'd like to at least be able to export an entire class as an rtf file. This is because I'd like to be able to use it to help with narrative report cards, without having to retype everything, or having to export 20 seperate rtf files. 

On a side note, here's the Confer promotional video. How can someone be smart enough to make an app but then film their promotional video with a vertical iPhone? Turn it on it's side when you shoot video!


But the title of this post is "Pretty Good iPad Apps for Classroom Assessment", and indeed with these limitations Confer is pretty good. It could be awesome, but oh well. 

Explain Everything is good because the kids make their own math tutorials, and then upload them all on a Youtube or Vimeo channel. With those tutorials I can see who is understanding a concept and who isn't. 
When the Google Docs app came out for the iPad earlier this year, I wasn't sure it was necessary. At first it seemed redundant since we already had a Google Drive app. But it works much better. You can write comments and view tables- two things that might have been possible on the Google Drive app and I just never figured it out. But I did figure it out on the Google Docs app, and it's a great tool to use to pull up student's work really quickly in the classroom. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wuzzit Trouble: The Future Of Math Thinking and Teaching?

Yesterday I stumbled upon Keith Devlin's presentation, "Using video games to break the Symbol Barrier."


He had several points that I thought were interesting:

1) The complexity of everyday mathematics isn't necessarily because everyday maths is complex. It's because everyday maths relies too heavily on symbols. Everyone can do everyday math. The problem is with its traditional symbolic representation. 

2) Until recently, the symbols associated with mathematics was a necessary evil.  Symbols were the only technology available to store and distribute everyday math. 

3) There are now better ways to store and distribute everyday math, that are just now being realized. 

4) Wuzzit Trouble, a free iPad game that he helped develop, was one way he demonstrated a new way of learning math.

Here is his presentation:

KEITH DEVLIN: Using video games to break the Symbol Barrier from Keith Devlin on Vimeo.

I don't disagree- which I guess means I agree- that symbols get in the way of mathematical thinking. Defining what that thinking is, and how it translates into new learning tools, will be a big challenge in the foreseeable future.

I've played Wuzzit Trouble, and I understand the enthusiasm. 

The problem with games that do away with symbols though is that the mathematical thinking involved when solving a game puzzle might not be so easily extrapolated to other platforms that require the same type of thinking. Mastery of a platform doesn't necessarily mean mastery of a mathematical idea. 

So symbols have a place. They teach extrapolation of mathematical thinking across multiple platforms. 

I think. 
             I don't know. Maybe they don't. 
                                                                      But in my experience that's mostly true. 

And then there's the irony... Wuzzit Trouble wasn't developed without variables and symbols. I know this because all programming relies on variables and symbols.

But this doesn't mean I don't think it's a worthwhile venture. In my next post, I'll look at some math apps that develop mathematical thinking. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

10 Great Math Games For The Classroom

As part of the my continuing "meaningful(1) choice(2) time(3)" series, one of my stations will be a math game station. Here then are 10 math games for the classroom... in probably no particular order.

#10 Rummikub
Math Skills:
Combinations
Putting together and taking apart sets
Recoginizing missing elements of sets

How To Play:
Use tiles to make number sets- runs of a single number, or the same color. The goal is to clear your rack of numbers. 




#9 Pentominoes & Tangrams


Math Skills:
Spatial Reasoning

There are a lot of variations of Pentominoes. One way is place the pentominoes in the grid so each pentomino square covers one grid square and the shapes don't overlap. You may rotate and flip the shapes. The game is complete when the board is filled with pentominoes and has no empty spaces.

Tangrams can be used to make thousands of different figures. Here are some tangram challenges of possible figures to make. 




#8 Yahtzee
Math Skills:
Probability
Addition, Mental Math
Comparing Quantities

How To Play:
Players roll five dice to score points in 13 different cattegories.





#7 Othello
Math Skills:
Visualizing lines on a grid
Counting and comparing quantities

How To Play:
White on one side, black on the other, players take turns place a disk with their color on the board. Any of the opponent's disks that are sandwiched in a straight line between the newly-played piece and a disc showing the same color, are flipped to be claimed by the player.




#6 Qwirkle
Math Skills:
- Combinations and comparisons

How To Play:
Tiles are arranged in a crossword style. The "words" must have all the same color with no repeated shape, or all the same shape with no repeated color.








#5 Sumoku
Math Skills:
- Identifying Multiples

How To Play:
Tiles are arranged in a crossword style to be multiples of a key number. The key number is the number rolled on a die.




#4 Backgammon
Math Skills:
- Visualizing odds and percentages 

How To Play:
I can't figure out how to write a short description in a couple sentences. So here is how to play




#3 Mancala
Math Skills:
- Problem solving through visualizing future moves. 

How To Play:
A turn consists of removing all seeds from a pit, "sowing" the seeds (placing one in each of the following pits in sequence) and capturing the opponent's seeds. 




#2 Set
Math Skills:
- Matching Attributes

How To Play:
The object of the game is to identify a set of 3 cards from 12 placed face up on the table. 





#1 Blokus
Math Skills:
- Spatial Reasoning

How To Play:
Order of play is based on color, with blue going first, followed by yellow, red, and green. The first piece played of each color is placed in one of the board's four corners. Each new piece played must be placed so that it touches at least one piece of the same color, with only corner-to-corner contact allowed—edges cannot touch. However, edge-to-edge contact is allowed when two pieces of different color are involved.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

9 iPad Apps For Everyday Classroom Use

Last year was the first year I got to use an iPad in class. I had an Apple TV, iPad stand, 



and an iPad case that I could walk around with using one hand.


It was great!

In a later post I'll talk about the tools I used for assessment. Today I wanted to review the main apps I like for the classroom. 



#1 Too Noisy Lite

I used this during independent or group work. You can set the sensitivity level, and after an initial period where the noise increases because students want to watch the needle move, that part fades away quick enough.






#2 StrataLogica

The best virtual globe that I've found, it's cartoonish imagery is really clear on the projector. You can draw on it and put place markers. 











There are a lot of features that I haven't explored yet, but here's a promotional video I found:



#3 Chimes

I just found this app this summer, but it's perfect for the classroom. I like playing music during work time, but this is a great app for independent reading or writing workshop. It doesn't just produce chimes sounds. It can make bird sounds, thunder storms, crickets, waves, wind, frogs, and owls.

The chimes can me moved with a finger, and they bounce around gently for a while. 





#4 Pinterest



It's nice to have a central depository for videos. What I don't like about the Pinterest app is that it doesn't play the videos using the full screen when streaming through Apple TV. 

#5 Decide Now!
A great random name generator, I used this app when I wanted to make random partners or select someone. 









#6 Fun Sounds
I've tried a lot of free soundboards. I like this one because I can delete inappropriate sounds. 













#7 Heads Up!
I've never been a great manager of the last 15 minutes of the school day. I'm pretty horrendous at managing that time. Usually we're a couple minutes late getting out of class, but occasionally we're early. When I am early, "Heads Up!" is a fun class activity to play.







#8 Stage: Interactive Whiteboard & Document Camera


I've gone through a lot of document camera apps, but the one I had the least problems with is the built in camera app that is part of iOS. It's sometimes nice to virtually draw on the image though, so out of the ones that I have played with, Stage seems to be the best.







#9 Haiku Deck
Haiku deck is a web app and an IOS app. On the web, Haike Deck presentations are nothing special. But they look much cooler on an iPad. I've embedded one presentation below. 







Bonus: There are a lot of timer and stopwatch apps in iTunes, but the clock app that comes with IOS works just fine. 




Friday, July 18, 2014

How I'll Make A Classroom Makerspace This Year

This is my third post in my series on meaningful choice time, and reflects more of what I talked about in the first of this series

The Makerspace station that I will make will have components added on to it incrementally as the year progresses. The first components will be a laptop, a Makey Makey set, and conductive ink. 

1) Makey Makey & Conductive Ink
I've talked about Makey Makey before, but with the advent of conductive ink pens, I think the projects that can combine art and electronics will really start to open up. You can use a pencil led with Makey Makey, but it's not super easy. Often times my students had to reapply the pencil drawings to get Makey Makey to interact with it. That's because graphite is not a super conductor. I'm hoping that conductive ink will be much, much easier for Makey Makey to form a circuit. 

Out of the handful of conductive inks out there, Circuit Scribe looks the most promising. It won't be on the market for another month though:


While I'm waiting for Circuit Scribe to be ready, I went ahead and bought a couple of Bare Conductive pens. 




They seem a little more messy, but I think they'll work well with Makey Makey, and fit into what I want this station to be; a creation station that blurs the line between art and technology.

Here is the TED talk that shows off Makey Makey:



Before students are ready to design their own Scratch projects with Makey Makey during the second semester, they can use this Scratch resource page of Scratch projects specifically designed to use Makey Makey to interact with projects that have already been created.
Makey Makey also has their own gallery of projects, including a few that use conductive ink


2) Little Bits

During the second half of the first semester we have a unit of inquiry that focuses on electricity and magnetism. During this unit, I'll introduce the second component of the Makerspace: Little Bits

These are way too expensive! 

Even with the educator's discount, they are just way too much money. 

As much as I wanted to get a Pro Library of 252 modules, it costs a cool $2,999 with the discount (without it's $4,500). 

Then next best thing is the Workshop Set of 100 modules. This is $999 with the discount, $1,870 without it. Having played with Little Bits, those 100 modules would be perfect for a classroom. But I can't afford it. 
I'll never have this problem (1)

So I sprung for the "student" set. It used to be called the classroom set, but I can only assume that with only 26 modules, that would mean for many classrooms a single module per student, and you can't really build anything with that. The student set is more appropriately named because despite the claim that 4 to 8 people can create with it, the more accurate number is one. One student. Maybe two. But probably one. It runs $232.90 with the educator discount. But these are so fun... I really wish I had a spare $3000 in my left sock. Here's how they work:  



Each module has a specific function, and they're introducing new modules all the time. Like Makey Makey, I can only imagine a fraction of the possibilities. But again, they're too dang expensive. 


3) Squishy Circuits

During our electricity and magnetism unit, the students make their own conductive and insulating dough. We figure out first how to light an LED with the dough, and then with parallel and series circuits. 

After that, Squishy Circuits will be an addition to the Makerspace, where they can again combine their knowledge of science with design.
That LED in his chest is keeping him alive.


Here's the TED talk showing off Squishy Circuits.





Those are the high tech resources I'll have for my Makerspace. I will need to see what I can bring in (cardboard, felt, clay, etc.,) to help students create in the Makerspace as well.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Setting Up a Podcast Station In The Classroom

Yesterday I talked about integrating some current ideas into my choice time for next year. To continue my "meaningful choice time" series, for this post I'll dive into one of my stations that just so happens to have nothing to do with those ideas. But I feel it's nonetheless important not only to the idea of "Choice time" but also to actively teach good speaking and listening habits.

Because we all can't be big-eared Vulcans


I've mentioned Julian Treasure before (he actually has 5 TED talks, which must be some kind of record), but it wasn't until I recently listened to the TED Radio Hour episode called "Extrasensory", that I remembered his listening strategy acronym, called "RASA"

Not to be confused with "Tabula Rasa"
Who said Season 6 of Buffy was all gloom and doom?

From this Julian Treasure's TED talk, RASA stands for:

Receive, which means pay attention to the person
Appreciate: making little noises like "hmm," "oh," and "okay."
Summarize: The word "so" is very important in communication.
Ask: Ask questions afterward.

Having a two person podcast, where one student is the interviewer and one student is the interviewee, seems like the perfect forum to practice these listening skills. 

Here's what my setup will look like for this year: 

Design is important for me. And when there is only sound involved, I think for students to take ownership, there has to be care in making the product. That's why when I have a podcast station during choice time when there is a lot of activity around, the sound quality should be a priority. I want it to look, feel, and sound like a radio station. That's why I'm not using an iPad to do this; the space has to seem legitimate. Here is how I set this up:

Behringer XM8500 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

($19.99)
Each of these microphones sell for $20 on Amazon. They're dynamic mics, so they are really good at picking up just the voice in front of them. I haven't tested this with a classroom full of children yet, but I turned on the overhead fan and opened the window right next to microphone when the wind was blowing hard, and the only sound it picked up was my voice. Dynamic mics are the way to go.  



On Stage DS7200B Adjustable Desk Microphone Stand, Black 

($12.95)

This stand is a stand. 
They sit on the desk. 



On Stage MY325 Dynamic Shock Mount Microphone Clip

($9.95)

The clips that come with the microphones don't fit with these stands, so I got these. They work with both the microphones and the stands. 


Your Cable Store XLR 3 Pin Microphone Cable (6 feet)

($6.99)
















The microphones don't have their own power source. They use these cables to plug into a device that can handle two channels of audio. 


Zoom H4N

($229.99)
This is a big expenditure. It's a dang good recorder on its own. It's not a good podcast recorder because its built-in microphones aren't dynamic. This means that it picks up every single possible sound in the classroom. Instead I use it as both a mixer and a hard drive. 


Memory: 

I've read reports that the Zoom H4N can only handle a 32GB card without a degradation in quality. However the bigger the memory, the more time it will take the Zoom H4N to turn on and load. Either a 4 GB or an 8 GB card will give you enough recording time for multiple recordings. 

After a podcast is recorded, it can be transferred to a laptop. We'll use GarageBand to edit and SoundCloud to publish. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ideas For Meaningful Choice Time In The Classroom

I've never really had choice time in the class room because I wanted to have a lot of options, and I needed every option to be meaningful. It came down to not having enough time to design it. But this summer I started really thinking about choice time ideas, and how I wanted it to look. There is a big push right now in education to give kids time to create and tinker and build. 
Like a space drill that shoots fireworks


I don't disagree, and have been looking at choice time as giving kids more of an opportunity to create. Here's a look at some of the current fads:

Genius Hour
I'll say right up front that I hate this name. 
I think this is because of Louis C.K.


All these words we use, anybody can be a genius now. It used to be you had to have a thought no one ever had before or you had to invent a number. Now, it's like, "Hey, I've got a cup in case we need another cup." "Dude, you're a genius!" 

But I've always liked the idea, even before it was borrowed from Google:



I've done something similar to Genius Hour at the end of the each year. I call it "Independent Projects." Not as hyperbolic as "Genius Hour," but it would be cool to extend this so that it could be implemented year round.

Makerspace
There are tons of versions of these spaces. Even the name varies. It could be called a Maker Playground, Maker Party, Maker Camp, or, if I had my way, Maker Smackdown.  It depends on who is running it and how often it's available. "Maker" seems to be a key word though. I like the definition from this Makerspace website: "Community Centers With Tools." That gives a lot of leeway on how each of us specifically defines the space, given our structure and resources. It can be as low tech or as high tech as you want, or a combination of both. Makerspaces are typically found in a public education space, like a library. If there is not a regular Makerspace in a school library, then the library could hold a special event, like this one:




Cardboard Challenge
I've seen a lot of tweets from educators who went to ITSE 2014 mentioning the Cardboard Challenge. The Cardboard Challenge is an annual event. This year it takes place on October 11th. Apparently it was inspired by this cool video:



I don't think I'll participate in the annual event, but I do like the idea of constructing imaginative cities or arcades or robots or whatever from cardboard. 

These three ideas have given me a lot to think about, but I don't only want my choice time to be about creation. In the upcoming blog posts, I'll detail the stations I've put together for choice time.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Tellagami + Green Screen = World Adventure Story

One of the great things about an International School is that a class is made up of kids from all over the world. That gives a lot of opportunities for projects that wouldn't be possible in a more homogeneous learning environment.

A student of mine had to leave suddenly during the middle of the second semester this year. As a way to tell him we were thinking about him, we came up with the following digital story project. Here's an outline:

1) Our protagonist, Bonno, would travel around the world. He loves animals, so his mission would be to find the Liger- the big cat that's half lion, and half tiger. 


Not to be confused with a Tigon

2) The countries he visits as he tracks the liger are his classmates' home countries. In the case where his classmate has two or more nationalities, the child chooses one to feature.

3) Each chapter will be written by a new student, with their location being featured.

4) Our protagonist also likes hotdogs, so he should eat a hotdog in each place too.

5) Each student will need to talk to the person who is writing the chapter before him or her, and the person who is writing the next chapter, to make sure that the way our protagonist gets from place to place is consistent between chapters.

We used Google Drive to write each of our chapters, and then I formatted it into a digital book

Each child also drew a picture that we could insert in the digital movie version of the project. The picture had to do with their location somehow. For example, the Cheomseongdae Observatory in Gyeongju, South Korea:




Then we used the iPad app Tellagami to record our chapters. The students designed their characters and recorded their chapter. At the time Tellagami could only record 30 seconds of audio (A new update offers an in-app purchase that allows for 90 seconds of recording). So if the chapter took, say, two minutes to record, then the student had 4 Tellagami recordings.



The students made sure that the background of each Tellagami video was green, so that we could place the pictures we drew as part of the background.


Just paint the background green


Once all the chapters were recorded, I first tried to use the Green Screen app by Do Ink to fill in the background, but that app can only handle small projects and wasn't conducive to the 60 or so Tellagami clips that needed to be used to make the story.


So I went back to my old standby, iMovie. Now iMovie had a recent update to make it look more like Final Cut. But I didn't initially update my computer and everything went swimmingly. Then half way through editing I updated, and it's like my project gained 300 pounds. Edits were slow. I could only make about four or five before the whole thing crashed. So yeah, I'm not a big fan of the latest iMovie overhaul.

I added a little bit of music and some more pictures to match the story, and here it is: "Bonno's World Adventure" featuring 20 chapters, 19 locations, 11 countries, a liger, and a bunch of hotdogs and helicopters.


The project is similar to one I did for a leaving school director in that it tells a story through the students' own voices and features the countries that make up the class. I like Tellagami though because it's more of an animated cartoon of the student. It would be nice if Tellagami had more features to design a more personalized narrator. 


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