Trying to Provide Options

We have looked through a few student learning management systems and have decided upon Schoology. We have some high hopes for some opportunities to let students head out on their own and move ahead while having the opportunity for teachers to work one on one with students that need a little extra practice and guidance. 
We will have activities lined out for students to do in the order they want while being able to test when they think they have the concept down. If they do, they can work on a genius project or tutor those in need of help.
We will still teach whole ass lessons with the option of having students teach a few lessons. 
This is going to be an opportunity of learning for all of us as we try to give students more options. I am hoping that we can give students more options than this in the future.


IBeacon in the Classroom?

I have been reading a lot about Apple' iBeacon. I know it will be the next invasion of privacy issue we will need to address, but then I thought about what it could do for us in education. My school is 1:1 iPad 3-5 grades. I imagine that if their iPads can be recognized when they come in the classroom I can assign a topic or an agenda of things to do that day for each individual student. We rotate students into different classes and I see that this can give them topics and assignments as soon as they come into their classroom. I can see the opportunity for individual questions depending on how I differentiate and the activity. I can see the opportunity to use it in the classroom. I also see it as an incentive for students to remember their iPads. Our iPads to home for home learning (after a short presentation and signing a permission form).

I know I can do many of these things with other means, but having the information come right when they enter the classroom, no matter what classroom, is exciting. If students come to a classroom  museum, a presentation can share information, help, and give suggestions on what to do. How fun would it be to have different pictures or presentations come up depending where students are in the school? What about when a parent comes into the school. Information, directions to get to the right room for a class production or school activity. 

These are a few things I see that can be used with this new technology. I wonder how long before we can set up beacons using this technology?

A Few Articles
4 Uses for iBeacon - Wired.com
iBeacons Gaming- Macrumors.com
First Look: Using iBeacon Location Awareness - Appleinsider.com


Why Do I Teach?

I was reading though some tweets from my PLN last week and I came upon one by Karl Lindgren-Streicher(). He was quoting Jamie Casap () writing, "he doesn't ask kids what they want to be, he asks students what problem they want solve." I brought that question up to my students. They wrote about what problem they would solve. It was great to listen to some of the problems they want to solve.
A couple days later, I started to think about what problem I want to solve as a teacher. Why did I become a teacher? What do I want to do with my life? When I started in college I thought that all students can learn. When I started teaching I had other ideas, but after a few years I learned from the students that all students can learn. They can progress. Every student can progress. That is when I decided I wanted to change how students felt when they came into the classroom. I wanted more for them. I wanted to give students opportunities they might not get elsewhere. Over time I changed my teacher to try to accommodate different learning styles. When I learned about flipping the classroom, it gave me one more thing to give students to help them progress. Thinking about this question gave me the opportunity to reflect on why I do what I do. What problem did you want to solve when you started teaching?


Increasing iPad Usage in the Classroom

We are now a 1:1 iPad grade level. What an opportunity for our students to use iPads in school. Some students also have the opportunity to take them home for home learning, if their parents want that option. We have increased the use of iPads in each subject as we find ways to use them. And that brings me to the issue with 1:1 technology in the classroom.
We decided not to use the iPad as a GamePad for students. We want them to create, collaborate, and consume information with the iPad in as many subjects as possible. That is not an easy task. We looked for apps that made learning better and not as a way to keep students busy. They get the games at home, we need them to see technology as a way to learn and produce. I will say that we do have a few games on the iPads they can use on those days we would pull out board games anyway (rainy days, 100˚+ days, etc.). We try to get learning games that students like to play. There are some questions we needed to ask as we decided what to do, how to do it, and which apps we will use.
  • How do we make an activity/assignment better by using the iPad?
    • We did not want to make an activity harder or more time consuming for the teachers or the students.
  • Is the iPad the best tool to use in the activity/assignment?
    • Just because we have the iPad does not mean it is the best tool for the job. Sometimes a whiteboard is the better choice.
  • What is the learning outcome of the activity/assignment?
    • It is still about the learning.
  • Which app is best for the activity/assignment and will the app make it better?
There are activities that we changed because of the iPad. There are many we kept the same. We started writing a few books using iBooks Author for the students. We take some of the articles/assignments we use and put them into books for students to read. In iBooks students can look up words, highlight important information, and bookmark pages. That has kept our paper use down.
Our use of Google Drive is huge.  We wrote a ebook to help students as they start to use Google Drive. We started with writing stories, and now it has become our student portfolio. They share their stories with their teacher and other students for comments to help make the stories better. They also create a folder and share it with their teacher. Students can upload pictures of assignments, activities, objects for their portfolio. We use the spreadsheet for students to monitor their improvement. They keep track of their assessment scores to see their improvement and for writing goals on a document. The teachers created a shared folder for dropping pages in for students, short videos for students to watch, and a place for students to download books or files.
Another app we started using is Explain Everything. We use it as a white board to record how students are doing their work. We could use free app Educreations or Doceri for the same thing, but there is more to EE. We have students take a picture of a story we posted on the iPad Photo Stream and import it to EE. Students read and record the story then upload it as a movie to their Google Drive portfolio. This gives us a fluency assessment that they can review later to hear improvement in their reading. They can mark up the story to show words they missed, how many words they read in one minute, and listen to how they read. Spelling sorts are our activity of choice. So we started using EE for sorting. They can cut out the words right in EE and save a stack of words to sort. Students sort the words and then write it into their composition book. We post the words on Google Drive in the shared folder for students to take a picture of. We have just started to crack the surface of what we can do in this app.
We have come up with some great uses of the iPads to help with organization and implementation of assignments and activities. We are always looking for more ideas. If you have any ideas or suggestions of what else we can do, let me know.