Posted in Apps, iLesson

Teaching Time

We’ve been doing a telling time unit the past week or so, and I thought I’d hit a few of the highlights of the unit.  First of all, teaching time can be pretty boring.  How many ways can a student practice either using a manipulative clock to show a time, or reading clocks to tell time?  Finding a hook to reach the students is essential to keeping the students engaged.  Here are a few of the ways I incorporated technology into our time unit.

I started the unit by teaching my students a really specific way of telling time in a step by step fashion.  To help clarify the procedure, I used a great screen casting app called Educreations.  I created a quick two minute video that detailed the steps and posted it on my class webpage.  This allows my kids to access it if they need to, but more importantly allows my students’ parents to see exactly what the procedure looks like.  Check out the instructional video here: Telling Time to the Five Minutes.

I also used two apps on our class set of iPods (though I could use them on the iPads as well).  The first is a very simple time app good for beginners.  Wooly Wormies: Tell Time Lite has several practice games including a parent/child game, a change the analog clock game, and my favorite a matching game.  I had my students practice matching digital times to analog clocks showing times to the quarter hour.  My first group of students used this app to self check and practice their skills.

A much more in depth app is Mathtappers: Clockmaster.  The app has three difficulty levels: time to the quarter hour, time to the five minutes, and time to the minute.  Players either change a digital clock to reflect the time given on an analog clock, or turn the hands on an analog clock to match a digital clock.  After ten chances, the app gives a score out of fifty points.  This makes an easy informal assessment grade if you need it.  The app stores information for up to four students per device, making this a good progress monitoring app as well.

Overall, I was really just looking for some quick ways to hook my students into a unit that can at times seem boring.  The only way to learn to tell time is to practice the skill repeatedly.  With digital clocks making analog clocks outdated, it’s even more difficult to engage the students.  These few activities brought a little life to what could definitely have been a dry unit.

Posted in Apps, iLesson

Educam Classroom Viewer – a new way of presenting material

Educam Classroom Viewer

I have a new favorite device!  I was given the opportunity to write a review for a new app called Educam Classroom Viewer.  The app works in conjunction with the Ken-A-Vision corporation’s document camera or digital microscope.  Simply load up the camera, begin an online session, and open the Educam app.  The document camera and app communicate – showing whatever the teacher is displaying on the student’s iPad.  The beauty of it all?  The students can then annotate the image in all sorts of different ways.

The app itself allows students to draw on the image with a variety of pen sizes and colors.  Students can also type notes and use arrows to label parts.  When finished students can then save the image to the iPad’s photo gallery.  From there you can email the image, upload it to a cloud device like Dropbox, or download it to a computer.

Applying multiplication vocabulary.

I tried the app in two ways this week.  With one group of students we’ve been working on multiplication and math vocabulary words.  In a spur of the moment idea, I put a multiplication problem under the document camera and sent it to my kids.  I then assessed their knowledge of the multiplication vocabulary by having them follow specific directions.  First, students had to solve the multiplication problem.  They then had to put a red rectangle around the factors of the problem and a yellow circle around the product.  They had to put the multiples that they counted by out to the side of the problem.  Students then had to email me their finished image.  Super easy assessment and a great way for my students to apply their vocabulary knowledge.

Ken-A-Vision document camera

With another group of students we spent way more time with the app.  We’ve been studying text features as they relate to informational texts.  Instead of photocopying pages from a book for students to mark on, I simply put a book under the document camera and sent the image to the students.  I hooked one iPad to the LCD projector so that I could model for my students where the buttons were and how to use them.  Students had to identify graphic features and label them using the text box feature.  They also had to use the pen feature to locate various print features.  The buttons were so user-friendly that it took very little instruction for my students to be completely independent with the app.

Label the graphic features and circle the print features.
Annotating text features.

I love any app or device that results in product based learning.  It helps my students own the learning and brings my lessons a higher level of rigor.  These were my first two attempts with the device, and I’m already spinning lesson ideas on other ways to incorporate the app.  (We’re working on cause and effect – maybe a photo on one side, and the students have to draw and write a short description of the effect in the space next to the photo?)  I’m really hoping for the opportunity to have more time to use the device and hope to report back with more ideas.

When the full review I wrote for Fun Educational Apps is posted, I’ll link to it here.

Posted in Apps

Remote Control Whiteboard

I love my interactive whiteboard.  I have a Smartboard that I use daily for any number of things from interactive lessons to the projection capabilities.  I teach a lot of small groups though, and one aggravation is having to stand up near the Smartboard to manipulate the screen when my small group is sitting at a kidney table.  Enter the app Splashtop.

Splashtop 2 – Remote Desktop is an app that allows you to control your computer remotely from your iPad.  The first time I saw this in use was at a conference where the presenter was using it to flip through her presentation while also switching from website to website to illustrate different points.  It mimics your desktop allowing you to manipulate anything that you normally access…including your Smartboard software.  Brilliant.

We used the Splashtop app to highlight the main idea and details in a Smartboard lesson.

I use this app by setting up my iPad on the table and connecting to my laptop remotely through our wireless connection.  From my laptop, I can now sit at the table with my small group of students and type or manipulate my Smartboard with the students.  This has been particularly useful when we are note-making.  The kids can generate ideas and I type them into the iPad at the table for the whole group to see.  All of the regular features of the Smartboard still work, so students can go up to the board and manipulate it.  The beauty is that I can remain where I can see my student’s independent work while still using the Smartboard effectively.

I’ve found it’s easiest to manipulate the small buttons using a stylus.  Typing is not problem, as the regular iPad keyboard comes up, it’s just easier to choose files using the precision of a stylus.  Keep in mind, your entire desktop is displayed on your iPad screen.   Additionally, while most of the apps I use are free, this is one of the few I’ve actually bought.  However, I find it well worth the money.

Posted in Apps

Sequences – A great new iDevice app

In addition to being a huge tech-dork at school, I also share my enthusiasm with the world by writing app reviews for a great site called  Fun Educational Apps.  If you are looking for educational apps appropriate for all ages, this site and its sister site, Kid’s Apps Deals, are great resources.  They feature educational app reviews with detailed summaries and notifications of when great apps go on sale or are free.

I recently was asked to review a new special education app called Sequences.  This app was created by special educators and therapists to address both the skill of sequencing steps in a process or story, and also to build students’ communication skills as they retell a story.  The app offers scaffolded three, four, and five step stories of familiar tasks or scenes.  Each piece of the story offers a sentence fragment  to help build communication skills.  While I liked the varying levels of skill needed to sequence these stories, what I really loved is that the app is fully customizable.

This app allows the user to create unique sequences using photos and text.  Immediately I thought to use this to create visual schedules.  Instead of holding up picture cards or the those velcro task schedules, students could actually play with their schedule in a puzzle-like atmosphere to not only familiarize themselves with what comes next, but to potentially verbalize the schedule as well.

I also thought about all of those social stories that our Social Behavior Therapists create.  Instead of getting the bound and laminated photo stories to use to reinforce positive behaviors, we could instead create the social stories as a Sequence.  By having students work with their social story in a game like setting, we are creating a much more engaging atmosphere for learning.  I’ve always struggled to get my students to attend to a social story.  There just isn’t a good hook to reel them in.  Doing it on the iPad or iPod would be just the spark I need to engage my students.

I also plan to use the app to practice academic skills with my higher functioning students.  In Science, I’m going to create a Sequence about the scientific method for my fourth and fifth grade students to practice.  In Social Studies, I think it’d be neat to have the students create the Sequence by finding photos of the key causes of the Revolutionary war.  In Math we can use screen shots of the different steps of long division to practice that procedure.  Also, I think our class for students with Moderate Intellectual Disabilities could easily use this app to practice weekly recipes.  This app truly has endless possibilities.

Overall, this app is one of the best special education apps I’ve had the chance to review.  I love the versatility of the app and the way that my brain keeps coming up with ways to use it.  I invite you all to check out the full Sequences review at Fun Educational Apps and hope you will find it as useful as I did.