Wordfoto and Grandparents Day

Today we wrapped up our poetry unit in 3rd grade reading.  I promise another post with my lesson plans, because I thought this was a great unit and I really enjoyed teaching poetry.  We used a lot of technology and I want to share some of our iMovies and Comic Strips with all of you in the future.  

As a culmination of our unit, we wrote poems for our grandparents for our annual Grandparent’s Day Celebration at our school.  Each student wrote 10 words that described their grandparents and then we used the app Wordfoto to put the words on a picture of the grandparents.  I LOVE the result!

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Think about all the ways you could use this app in class!  The students could find a picture of the Civil War and write ten words to describe that particular battle in the Civil War.  The students could find a picture of a plant and label the picture names of each part of a plant.  They could load a math problem and write the words that describe the problem such as factors, equal, factor pair, product, etc.  I think the opportunities are endless with this app and certainly creative! 


iPad Deployment for Teachers

I have been working all year to convince our IT staff and our leaders that the iPad is a necessary (helpful) teaching tool.  The higher ups have listened and our teachers are getting iPads!  I am so excited for the teachers.  I have read report after report (click here for the horizon report) that states that tablet computing and iPads in particular, are important in the classroom.  Of course, we can’t say that they are THE MOST important thing in the classroom because we know the the teachers are the most important part of any successful classroom.  But, I also know that iPads and technology engage students and without engagement, students won’t learn.

So, in order to continue our schools quest of becoming a school that embraces 21st century learning, we are rolling out this new technology for our teachers.  We are also getting 3 iPad carts and our 4th and 5th graders will be bringing their own devices to school.

We have been trying to put together a roll-out plan for awhile but we have so many questions!  I have put together a deployment flow chart, using ithoughts HD on the iPad (click on the picture for the pdf).  I keep trying to add in new trainings that I have forgotten or new apps that our teachers will need.  This is definitely a working document, but I think our plan is sound.  We are still trying to work through the apple ID dilemma – do we let the teachers use their own or do we use a school ID? 


Our first phase of the deployment will consist of giving the iPads to the teachers.  I have decided to do this in three groups.  The first group to get their ipads will be the teachers that already have apple products, the next group will be teachers that have smart phones, and the third group will be teachers that do not own a personal mobile device.  By breaking down the groups, I am hoping to ease the frustration of the teachers that already know how to use these devices by giving them their devices and then letting them move on.  I will be able to spend more time with each teacher in the third group because that group will be the smallest and I can walk them through their device step-by-step.

I am also setting up a menu of training, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all training.  The teachers will be required to attend a basics course where I will go over how to use their ipad (a little more in depth than the actual deployment training) and a teacher apps training, but then I am offering student apps training, productivity training, and a coaches training.  If they would like additional training they may come to one of those courses.   Then, in July, just before school comes back, I am going to train the teachers on how to build lessons around the ipad.

I will post my training documents as I create them.  I am just now beginning to work through my deployment training.  I would love to know any tips you have learned from your training!

Great Tools for Teaching Spelling

I find that when it comes to spelling, most teachers have the students memorize the list, play a few games, do the workbook pages or a tic-tac-toe choice board and then give the test.  I have to admit that when I was a classroom teacher, I did the same thing.  Where in the schedule is there time for spelling?  Truly, do we need to teach the skill of memorizing how to spell words, because really isn’t that what spelling is? 

My son is a terrible speller (as am I!), but when he was diagnosed with dyslexia I realized how important the skill of spelling is!  However, I also know that there is limited time in the school day and is spelling really one of those subjects that I am going to spend an enormous amount of time teaching?  I think the best approach to spelling is one that incorporates spelling into reading and writing.  We know that spelling, reading and writing are very closely tied together!  Show me a student with spelling problems and I will show you a student with reading or writing problems.  If a student cannot spell then that means the student is having trouble encoding words.  If a student can’t encode words, then the student is going to experience extreme frustration with regards to writing.  For my son, he can decode words fairly well, because he has had years of explicit instruction in phonics.  HOWEVER, he cannot encode a word to save his life!  Writing is extremely painful for him and he does not carry over his spelling words from his spelling list to his writing.  I see this exact same model play out in the classroom over and over – I just didn’t realize the link until my son was diagnosed (I had already been teaching 6 years at that point!).

In order to really work on spelling for kids that have significant spelling51D3qQ4ZAdL._SL500_AA300_ issues I highly recommend the book, Words Their Way!  It is a fabulous book, that is labor intensive in the classroom.  This book gives explicit  instruction in spelling patters.  It lays out lessons based on the child’s needs.  This is not a book that I would use in whole class instruction, rather I would use it to remediate students that need extra help.  Additionally, on the Promethean Planet website their are a ton of flipcharts that have already been made that support this program!  I love it when I can find resources already made!

Playing off of ideas in Words Their Way,  there are many iPad resources that can photobe used to help students with spelling difficulties.  One of my favorites is the app icardsort.  I load my son’s words into this app and then have him sort the words based on the phonics of spelling rule that he is learning.   We then have a discussion on why he thinks cards are sorted together.  Adding new words is very easy and the decks can be emailed.  So, you can create one deck for your class and send it to your students (if they have ipads) or you can load it onto a class cart of ipads.  If you do not have ipads, create a center with flashcards.

Another tip for spelling, that really is just rote memorization, but makes the learning fun is to record a story with the spelling words that all follow a specific rule.  For example, my son could NOT memorize the “le” , “el” list.  He could just not remember which word had which ending.  We talked to his Orton-Gillingham tutor about how he could learn these words!  She suggested us making up a story with all of the “le” words and then a different story with the “el” words.  This was AMAZING!  All of the words were learned and he made a 100 on that test!  WE use this strategy each week now.  Also, his carryover to his writing is greatly increasing.  He can  remember the stories and will write some (not all) of his words correctly now in his writing.  We use the app Voice Changer Plus Voice-Changer-Plusto make it fun.  The app allows my son to record his voice but, then change the recording into a bunch of different sounds like mice, or a guitar, or a choir!

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Finally, to study spelling words and learn them in a semi-fun way we use the app SpellBoard.  I LOVE this app.  My son and I load his words in to the app together (you have to record the words).   Then, my son can play games, study his words on his own and take a test (on his own) for the rest of the  week.  We have set benchmarks he must reach each day and he meets those goals every week.  One of the things I love most about this app is the freedom it gives teachers to individualize spelling instruction in her class.  Aphoto (3) teacher could conceivable have MULTIPLE lists going on in her classroom based on her assessments of spelling skills in students.  Students could load their own words (starting in 2nd grade) and then study and work at their own pace through the week.  Finally, students could take the test and then send the results to the teacher!  This would free up spelling time during the day for individualized, explicit instruction on both the high and the low end of the ability range in a classroom!


Bring Your Own Device Pilot – phase 1 FINISHED!

We finished our BYOD pilot last week and I have to say, it was an amazing success!  The students loved the program, as did the parents!  We are in the process of wrapping up the pilot and trying to launch another one with more classrooms.

To effectively measure the success of the pilot I created surveys for the parents and the students, using Google Forms.  When we set out to do the pilot we decided that the program would only be useful to us if the students were engaged and excited about learning, if the technology enhanced learning, and the technology was easy for the students to use.  So, in order to measure our effectiveness, those are the types of questions I asked of the students and parents.

We just sent the parent link out today, so no parents have answered yet.  The student’s responses are coming in and if you are interested in seeing what they have to see about the pilot you can find their answers here.  I think the thing that has surprised me the most is one of the students said they would have liked more direct instruction on how to make a video.  I guess I went into this project thinking that the students are digital natives and therefore wouldn’t need any extra reinforcement on the process.  Also, being that they were using their own devices, I wanted them to pick the tool that they were already familiar with.  In hindsight, I should have had a “mini-lesson” for students that wanted to hear how to make the trailer, instead of relying on the students to teach each other and ask me if they had questions.

One of the “ah-ha” moments for me came with the students said the groups were too big.  I had put the students in groups of three for the project because that seemed like a good number!  However, the students said that working in a group that big on this type of project was problematic.  They would have preferred to just have two students in each group.  I think this is great input.  As a side note, I should mention that surveying your students after any lesson is really important!  The students are the audience and the consumers of the information we as teachers are delivering.  The students have really great insight into how to better deliver a lesson and what worked effectively and what wasn’t so great in the lesson.  I always have a “debrief” with my students after a unit and get their input.  I tell the students that they can’t make me cry, but they can tell me anything negative as long as they phrase it politely.  I also tell them that I reserve the right to NOT take their advice, because sometimes they can’t see the big picture of why we did something (but I do always try to explain the big picture to the students!).

To sum up, I think the pilot was a smashing success and I am looking forward to expanding the pilot group to a larger group of students.  I will post the parent feedback as soon as I have the results.  Additionally, if you are interested in seeing the student’s work, it can be found here.

Bring Your Own Device in Elementary School

My school is currently looking at rolling at a Bring Your Own Device program.  We are in the phase of the process where we are discussing all of the pro’s and con’s and working out policies and procedures.  We are having a philosophical debate about weather a BYOD program is appropriate in elementary school.  My school is a k-12 private school so we have to look at a policy that will impact the entire school.  I specifically work with the elementary school so I am trying to determine how this program will affect the younger student’s at our school.

I think fourth and fifth-grade would have no problem with a BYOD program at school.  These students are using these technologies at home and are familiar with how they work.  Third-grade is an interesting question, because I believe they are old enough to handle BYOD.   I think any students younger than third-grade should have technology in the classroom and not a BYOD program.  Younger students have enough trouble getting themselves and their homework to school in one piece, I do not think we should add to their stress by having them bring their own device to school as well.

One idea our school is looking at is off-setting the cost of text books for parents by allowing students to carry “digital” textbooks.  That naturally begs the question – Do students need to have textbooks?  I think that is an interesting question, because I do not think students need to have textbooks.  I believe we have to prepare students for the world they are going to live in, which is one where all of their books are on the Ipad or their Kindle.  However, some in our school believe that students need to have textbooks and believe that we are doing our student’s a disservice by not teaching them to properly handle textbooks.  They believe that working with textbooks is a fundamental reading skill that young students need to have.  I agree with this sentiment as well!  I am having a hard time determining if that mentality is “old school” or just solid educational practice.

There have been a lot of fads in education that have proved to be harmful to students (whole language to name one!) and could reading from an electronic device be one of those fads?  Could we do more damage to young children’s eyes by having them read off of electronic devices, rather than books?  I think these are all very serious questions that need to be addressed and researched before schools allow elementary age students to Bring Their Own Device!

Finally Teaching!

I won’t spend too much time with this blog lamenting about how my transition is going from teacher to ITS (Instructional Technology Specialist), but this week I am especially having a hard time with my decision.  I MISS teaching!  I miss using the technology that I am researching and helping my own students achieve successes through technology.  I realize the bigger picture and that I am helping all the students but, it doesn’t feel the same to me.  For the past couple of weeks I have been helping with a kindergarten classroom and I sure do love being with them – it just isn’t enough time each day.  Today, I will teach my first ITS created lesson to a group of 4th graders.

The way that we have setup our model for the ITS at my school is the teacher’s will send me a lesson topic and I will create a lesson using technology to teach to her class.  I will then go in to her class and teach, while the teacher is in the room so she or he can see all that the technology can do.  Then, the teacher and I will plan a lesson together where she plans to use one of the technologies that I showed during my lesson.  I will then come into her classroom and while she or he teaches the lesson and offer support if needed.  The “I do it”, “We do it”, “You do it” model.

Since school started I have been busy helping teachers USE technology!  It has been exciting to be around because the teachers are excited about technology because they know they have the support they need.  Teachers are adding pictures and animotos to their websites, the teachers are setting up student blogs and using their activotes!

I am going to launch Twitter in a class this week!  I got my ipad today which I will use to pilot the Twitter program at our school.  Stay tuned for my post on the launch!