Thursday, December 17, 2015

Walking the Technology Tight Rope

I’ve loved technology and have been intrigued on how to best integrate it into the classroom.  While teaching 6th grade at Harrison Intermediate, I was lucky enough to be teaching on a team where there was almost one computer per student in the classroom.  I taught World Cultures which was not tested in 6th grade.  This gave me the freedom to be very adventurous in my lessons.  I was willing to try any activity that involved technology.  Some of the lessons were incredible, while other lessons bombed.  Regardless of what happened, the kids always seemed to enjoy coming to class because they were learning about both world cultures and technology.

This year at Whitt I have about one device for every two students.  This gives me a lot of freedom on how I can use technology in the classroom.  Although I have had a lot previously successful experiences using technology in my classroom in the past, I am not nearly as adventuresome as I was in the past.  Since I’m now teaching a STAAR tested subject, I am very careful and intentional on how I use technology in the classroom.  When I am preparing my lessons, I always think about what I feel is going to get me the best results.  A lot of the time this is a lesson without technology.  I am often hesitant about using too much technology.  I’m afraid if I change too much in the classroom, I may not get the same results that I got last year.

I am hoping that as I get more comfortable teaching math (this is my just my second year teaching 4th grade math), that I will be more willing to take risks again.  I want to find the proper balance in my classroom of using the right amount of technology while still getting great growth from my students.

Allen Wade

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

More Celebrations than Challenges! 

When I last posted, I was feeling frustration and stress because I didn't feel completely in control of the technology. As with any new implementation (technology or otherwise), I had some anxiety because of change. This happens whenever I try anything new in the classroom, so I don't know why it surprised me. Stress from change is nothing new to me! That doesn't mean the new strategies aren't valuable; it just means that I need to realize that the stress is normal and that it will dissipate as I become more proficient at what I’m learning to do.

All that being said, I know that there are some things I’ve done in the classroom that have lessened my stress and made the iPads even more valuable to my students!

One of the biggest things I’ve done (that caused some anxiety in me that I don’t understand at all now) is invite students to bring their own devices. That’s right. First graders bringing their own devices. I thought it was crazy and didn’t think I would have any takers. I have four students who bring iPads every day. I have two others who bring them 3-4 days per week. This allows us to work 2:1 on most iPad projects. This is COMPLETELY DOABLE for every task we’ve attempted. Sometimes I have so many iPads in my room that students don’t have a partner if they don’t want to have a partner!

Students work together on a personal device to create a KidPicCollage.

What I’ve learned about BYOD:
·        Ask parents to preload devices with the apps you plan to use.
·        If parents don’t mind, ask them to show/teach their students how to download apps. Some parents prefer to do it themselves with 1st graders, but I imagine that more upper grades parents will allow their students to download.
·        Remind students to take them home each day. Amazingly, the students who forget to take their water bottles and lunchboxes home rarely forget to take their iPads home! J
·        It’s really easy and makes a huge difference in the classroom!!

I also began using an app that COMPLETELY changed how I viewed student products on iPads, both literally and figuratively. I set up a classroom on Seesaw, which is “a student-driven digital portfolio that empowers students to independently document what they are learning at school.” What this really means is that students can upload their work so that you can access it from your computer, your phone or your iPad! If you want, you can provide parent access so that their parents see what they are doing in class! You can provide feedback via comments, as can other students (if you set it up that way). There are settings that allow you to approve all work/comments so that nothing is viewable that you don’t allow. Students can also take pictures of the work they do in their learning journals to share with their parents (instead of waiting until the end of the school year).
You can share links with specific people like this:

 or this:

This is the view from my phone:
This is the view from my phone. Sadie can see my comment.

This is another student's product. I was able to easily download it from Seesaw.

I really encourage you to invite your students to bring their devices to school. I’ll be happy to help type up an email to parents if you are interested! I also encourage you to start using Seesaw in your classroom. I can help you. Jacque Prater can help you. My team is jumping on board with it now, so I’m sure they can help you, too!

Facilitator, not Teacher


     Taking a backseat in the classroom didn’t come easy for me at first. As teachers, we like to have control over every aspect of all activities in our classroom. What I’ve learned over the past few months is that students are ready to take charge when it comes to iPad use in my classroom. So, what that said, I started looking for apps that would be appropriate for specific learning objectives. As I stumbled on to apps, I would learn the basics…just enough to explain how to use the app to my classes and how to use it with a specific learning objective in mind. From that point forward, my students became the teachers. They taught me, each other, and themselves.

     One example of this is using an app called Popplet Lite. This version is free and has some simple, but creative components that allow students to complete assignments while adding their own twist to their work. We have used Popplet Lite several times. Each time students have been able to dig deeper and add more components to their assignments.

     Several weeks ago, students were learning about cause and effect. We read a short story; there were questions targeted at assessing student understanding. Instead of using a paper and pencil, I asked students to build a Popplet and find as many cause and effect examples in the story as they could. I stepped back and watched them work. They found examples, learned how to type in their square, and how to add color to their squares.

     Next, students read the book “Boom.” Because we had used Popplet before, I asked them to create a Popplet showing examples of cause and effect found in this book about volcanoes.

     They learned how to add lines connecting ideas. Students did a gallery walk to look at the different examples from the one book. Compliments were being made, ideas were exchanged, and again, I was the facilitator. They were the teachers. As a teacher, I didn’t get caught up on spelling and punctuation. I wanted them to “show me” what they knew. The more they work with the app, the better writers they will become.

     Last week, students used Popplet Lite to create a timeline about Wylie, specifically noting how it has changed over the years.  Students started by researching the History of Wylie on the Wylie website. Via the web, I found an example of a timeline created using Popplet and shared it with my students to refer to as they worked. I challenged them to take what they had learned about Wylie and create a timeline using Popplet Lite, including at least five relevant facts. I mentioned that they could add pictures, if they wanted to. Within minutes, they discovered how to get a picture from the website and into their Popplet timeline. By they time they were finished, most students had found more than five facts, and the pictures they added were perfect!

     I can honestly say my students have learned and taught me how to use Popplet Lite. This is an easy-to-use app that has allowed me to take the role of facilitator in my classroom. I found that it's not so scary to reverse roles in my classroom!