Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kid Blog

I just read another blog entry from another teacher referencing Kid Blog.  Does anyone out there use it?  What do you think?  Can you tell me how you use it in your class?

Thanks for the help!

Friday, May 25, 2012

App Developers

I am constantly finding new apps and trying them out in my room.  Some are an instant hit, and some should have never been downloaded.  However, it's not uncommon for me to have a question, and I'm not afraid to hit the "comment" section on a web site and ask.

The wonderful thing about iPad apps is how many of them come from seemingly small companies.  When you send an email, many times you wind up hearing directly from the app developer himself.  I've had a few friendly email sessions with app developers over the months, learning the intricacies of the apps or making suggestions for them.  

When we had a problem with Toontastic, I wound up in an e-conversation with Andy Russell, the co-founder of Launchpad Toys (ie the company that birthed Toontastic).  That led to me eventually getting published on their blog.

When I wanted to try out Educreations, I downloaded the app and created an account.  Within hours I received an email from Chris Streeter, the creator of that app.  He and I wrote back and forth a number of times and was interested in how the app was being used in the classroom. Even though I think Educreations is more user friendly, my kids like ScreenChomp better; it has more color choices.  Chris wanted to know what colors they wanted.

Math Evolve won numerous awards in 2011 and has all sorts of accolades.  Still, Adam Cocceri, the co-creator of Math Evolve, has been interested in every aspect of how I use it in the classroom.  He certainly doesn't need my endorsement, but he wants to know.  When I emailed him the picture below, he was so excited he told his students (also a 6th grade math teacher) and wanted to post it on Facebook.

Heck!  When I started to research Educreations, I posted a question on Twitter and mentioned I was a ScreenChomp kinda guy.  Within an hour, the official ScreenChomp Twitter account was following me and posted something like, "And that's why we love you." on my feed.

What's the point of this post?  I'm not really sure.  As I sum up, there are a couple of takeaways I have.
1.  Don't ever be afraid to ask questions.  We're in a new era of technology where we are not quite as dependent on behemoths like Microsoft and Google.  These are small companies that are trying to scratch out a living.  They want you to use their product.  They want your business.  They are there for you.
2. I love the excitement that comes from the app developers.  They are genuinely excited that I am using their apps in my classroom. You don't get that from the big companies.  They expect you to use their stuff.
3. I am not an app developer, but I can shape the future of educational apps.  By giving my input and sharing what my kids are thinking, I am helping to push educational technology to be something better than it is today.  I love that I can help in some small way.

So, find an app and hit the "comment" section.  See what happens when you do! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Flubaroo Test Run

I gave my first "test" today using Google Forms and graded by Flubaroo.  It was definitely a dry run, and any errors were probably caused by me rather than the software.  Anyhow, here's my take on the experience. You can see the test (should you want to) using this QR Code.

  • It helps to have a healthy knowledge of how to make a form first. I made a few mistakes, had to do some deleting, and somehow my mistakes found their way to the final spreadsheet.  This means that they made it to my final Flubaroo grading sheet too.  That made for a confusing grade report.
  • Make sure your answer key is correct.  I know.  That's a no-brainer.  However, I did my answer key from memory and didn't bother to double-check my work.  On a paper and pencil test, I can say, "oops!" and fix it.  It's a bit harder on Flubaroo.
  • Taking a test on an iPad is both good and bad.  The good is that I can give them a QR Code and they can go right to it without typing in a long URL.  The bad is that it's way too easy to hit the wrong button on an iPad.  One little touch, and your test could be gone -- sent right to my spread sheet.  I had that happen with a few kids. 
  • I didn't do this, but if you include an email field in your form, you can opt to have the test results and answer key emailed directly to the student.  This is both good and bad.  Good because there is immediate feedback.  Bad because they can forward that immediate feedback to their friends. 

Overall, the kids seemed to like the format, though some wanted paper and pencil to do the work.  I also didn't actually include questions on the form.  I gave them page and problem number.  (You call it laziness.  I call overworked.)  I think that if I gave them actual questions to answer on the form and paper and pencil to work it they would have liked it.

I loved that it was instantly graded and I didn't have to spend time marking it all. I also got to see specific problems that were right and wrong and problems that caused a major issue with the class in general.

Are you using Flubaroo yet?  How are you using it?  What are your thoughts? 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NearPod Review

I was recently asked by our IT person to review a new iPad app called NearPod, so I thought I would put my review on the blog so other people could read about it too.

NearPod is a free app that allows teachers to put presentations on student iPads.  These presentations can be found on the NearPod store.  All of their presentations are currently free, many of them being derived from the Khan Academy.  The presentations include both video and text and give the students a chance to answer questions along the way. They also give teachers the freedom to build presentations, which is a good thing with only 17 presentations currently in their store. Teachers control the pace of the lesson.  A student cannot just fly through the lesson to get to the end.  The only way to advance to another page is when the teacher advances it.  Teachers also have the ability to put test results or student drawings on everyone's iPad.

What I Like About NearPod:

  • This is a great way to put a multimedia lesson in front of children without a projector.  Each child holds vibrant videos and cool pictures in their hands. 
  • Every student is forced to respond to every question AND the teacher gets immediate feedback on how each student understands the content.  This information can be emailed to the teacher for review later if necessary. 
  • It's quick. It's easy.  It takes little planning.  This is especially a good thing when you're feeling frazzled like I am today.
  • It's paced by the teacher.  I have numerous students who attack their work at a sprinter's pace when I intended an artistic masterpiece.  There is value in going slowly and digesting the information at hand.
What I Don't Like About NearPod:
  • It's really nothing more than a textbook.  Don't get me wrong.  It's on an iPad, so it's more cool than a textbook... but it's the same thing.  There is nothing really interactive about it.  Students are still passive learners.
  • There is a lot of information for a child to digest.  My wife (a former 5th grade language arts teacher) and I did the graphic organizer example together.  This lesson is to be for kids 8 and up, but I think it's a lot for a 10 year old, much less an 8 year old. 
  • The diagrams are not necessarily visually and kid friendly.  They had my wife write on a fish diagram, and they expected her fingers to write very tiny on a very small line.  Then, she had to do a crossword puzzle, but you couldn't actually see the puzzle in thumbnail and couldn't type the answer in enlarged view.  
  • It's paced by the teacher.  Some kids need more time than others.  If they are not done with the page and the teacher moves on, not good.  
In the end, I think that NearPod has some good things to offer.  If you're a teacher just starting with iPads, this is a great tool to get your feet wet.  Everyone has an iPad.  Everyone is engaged at the same time.  Everyone answers questions. It's a step into the the world of iPad integration. If you know me, I'm looking for ways to use iPads to do new things in new ways and to encourage creativity not consumption.  So, I probably won't use it in my lessons.  

For other testing programs look toward Socrative or Flubaroo as well.  

I'd love to hear from other teachers using NearPod.  What are your opinions?  How are you using it in the classroom? 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ohio Goes Google 2012

In an effort to make this a truly Google effort, I'm going to share the link to the article written on Google Docs.  Enjoy and please feel free to comment.  Thanks!

Click here to read.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Google Apps for Education vs. Live@Edu?

I'm very excited to attend a conference on Thursday about Google Apps for Education.  It seems that all systems are go for us to dig into that platform.  I'm excited to get into Google.  A lot of my life is already on Google (email, blogs, YouTube, web site, etc.), so I feel comfortable going forward from here.  However, we just got thrown a curve ball and were introduced to Live@Edu, a Microsoft platform which is to be comparable to Google's product.  So, I'm writing this post as a plea for help.  Please give me comments one way or the other.  What do you like or dislike about these products?  Which do you use?  Which do you prefer?  Give me ammunition to help our school make the best decision.

Thanks for your help!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Three Little Alligators

The other day, I read The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales to my fifth grade language arts class.  Their homework was to write another fairy tale in a silly manner. I loved hearing their wacky tales, but this one took the cake.

In order to understand this, you have to understand some of our local culture.  I teach in Cincinnati, OH, but I live in Kentucky.  (You know... the home of the 2012 NCAA basketball champs.  You may have heard about it.)  Every season there is a Crosstown Shootout between University of Cincinnati and Xavier University.  Since our area is quite devoid of any good professional sports, college sports reign supreme.  This young lady summed up the rivalries quite well.  Read and enjoy!

My comment to her:  At least UK has a trophy to throw and didn't get knocked out by a nut.

The Three Little Alligators
By Anna R.

Once upon a time, there were three little alligators trying to decide where to go to college. Their choices were the University of Kentucky, Xavier University, and the best of all, University of Cincinnati. The first little alligator, Tuck, decided to go to the University of Kentucky. The second alligator, Xavier, chose to go to Xavier University. The smartest alligator, Baehr, went to the University of Cincinnati.

     The little alligators did not know that a giant mutant rabbit had just eaten his way through the Appalachian Mountains and was heading northwest. The rabbit smelled the blue cabbage that made up most of the buildings at the University of Kentucky. When the rabbit got there, he said “I’ll gnaw and I’ll chew, and I'll eat all the way through” and so he did. As the UK Athletic Director was throwing the NCAA 2012 Men's Basketball National Championship trophy at the rabbit, Tuck escaped and went to live with his friend Xavier at Xavier University.

     The giant mutant rabbit was still hungry and headed north. He smelled the blue carrots that made up most of the building at Xavier University. When the rabbit got there, he said “I’ll gnaw and I’ll chew, and I'll eat all the way through” and so he did. As the XU Men’s Basketball coach, Crispy Mac, was running away, the rabbit grabbed him and ate him. But that gave Tuck and Xavier the chance to run to their friend Baehr at the University of Cincinnati, the greatest of all universities.

     The rabbit was still hungry and he headed cross town. The rabbit couldn't smell anything but he heard the sounds of metal that made up most of the buildings at the University of Cincinnati. When the rabbit got there he said “I’ll gnaw and I’ll chew, and I'll eat all the way through” and so he tried.

     Since the University of Cincinnati has the smartest students, with the approval of the Head Football Coach, Butch, they set up a trap at Nippert Stadium. Baehr and his friends along with the smart cats trapped and killed the giant mutant rabbit. The whole campus celebrated with rabbit stew. Forevermore, Baehr and the cats were joined together; the University of Cincinnati now had their mascot, the Baehr-cat. Today, the University of Cincinnati's mascot is the Bearcat.