Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Smart App, Smart Math

Grade: 6
App: Smart Notebook
Student Learning Goal: Students will use technology solve a 'multiple entry point' math problem.

Learning Pathway:
Smart Technologies recently released a new iPad app with a slim version of their popular Notebook application. The students at our school LOVE working in Notebook so we downloaded it as soon as heard about it.

After hearing about it one of our grade 6 teachers wanted to try them out. This was her first attempt at using the new App. Usually, This problem would be created and writing (or printing) numbers on paper then cutting them out into strips.

Here's what it looked like...

Comparing their work with others allowed some students to feel comfortable and confident with their own ideas.

Students were able to share their strategies and ideas with their peers.

The Notebook App allowed student to manipulate number strips with ease, rather than making the numbers  from paper strips.

Kindergarten Labeling

Grade: Kindergarten
App: Skitch by Evernote
Student Learning Goal: Student will take a photo of them self and then label their body parts using a visual list on the Smartboard that we co-created together.

Learning Path:
Our kindergarten students LOVE working on the iPads. My original thought, when we introcuced them to center time was tey would have to work on an independent game style app and practice literacy based activities such as sight words and letter formation. While this was a good activity as far as engagement was concerned, I wondered if we could push them a little further than just 'practicing'.

Last year, I knew that Grade 1 students had used Skitch to annotate over the top of a photo that had taken. I wondered if kindergarten students could do something similar...

We tried it!

First we created a visual list of the words we could use to label our face. I wrote the words in upper case letters  so students could recognize them on the iPad keyboard when typing.

Here is what these students created in about 20 minutes. I can't wait to see where we can take this kind of learning task in the future with these students!


Monday, November 12, 2012

iPad Deployment Successes!

This is post I wrote for my own professional blog. I thought I should share my experiences here. It seems there is a lot of confusion and questions in our system regarding the deployment of iPads and iPods. I would love to share what we did and answer questions as they come up. Please contact me through Twitter (@stevewclark), email ( or comment on this post. Through sharing our struggles and questions with each other, we can learn together.

Here is my experience thus far:

We have had iPads in our school for all of 3.5 months. We are certainly not experts with them yet but we are trying different things and have some ideas for other schools wishing to deploy these amazing learning devices.

Our Experience So Far

First of all we borrowed some iPads and iPods from our Innovative Learning Commons with their Explore program. We had them for about 8 weeks and during that time we explored possible uses for iPads and/or iPods in our school. We decided to go with iPads due to the larger screen size and the possibility of more than one student working with the device at a time. We created this blog to share some of the cool learning projects happening in our school.
This is a screenshot of the original website. We changed it to Blogger format (this site you're on now) for ease of posting. 
We quickly realized that the iPad is more than a game device, where students play game style, or drill and practice style Apps. What we found out was the iPad's most powerful tools came from the camera, speakers, microphone and also the ability to manipulate something on the screen. With our new found understanding of learning this tool fits perfectly into today's classroom. The iPad allows students to focus of their strengths by utilizing them to express an understanding of what they are learning about. Kathy Schrock has collected a lot of information about 'the best Apps' for learning. She shares and organizes them through Bloom's Taxonomy. Click here to see her other recommendations for mobile devices.
This is Kathy Schrocks revised 'Blooms Taxonomy' guide to possible learning tasks.
Here is a link to some of the favourite Apps compiled by teachers from our school as well as a few from colleagues that wanted to contribute to our list  (via Twitter). If you would like to contribute to this list, please fill in the form below.
There are many other versions of Apps aligned with Blooms Taxonomy. A quick Google search will bring up many different recommendations. We have also shared more engaging and exciting learning projects that may or may not include our iPads, or mobile devices from other schools we're connected with. Find them on our collaborative Learning Commons blog - Area III Learning Commons.

Management of iPads

Managing a set of iPads has its challenges that's for sure. We bought 32 devices. We currently have 29 in our iPad PowerSync Cart by Bretford (which we also purchased).
We chose the PowerSync cart as we do not have enough iPads to go around the whole school (although I would definitely entertain the idea of a 1:1 ratio with iPads). We also want to keep them secure and also manage them easily from one computer. Pedagogically, I believe this is not the best idea as an iPad is designed to be an personalized mobile device as opposed to one that is used by a wide range of people. 
Because a lot of different people use each of the iPads, at different time, and for different purposes, they all fill up with different work pretty quickly, and therefore are hard to keep streamlined and 'clean'. In our building, we are working hard to educate our students to erase their work after it has been exported from the iPad.

Change of Plan

As our understanding of the value that iPads will bring to our students, we have decided to make a few adjustments to the way we deploy them. Just this week we decided that we will put one device into each classroom and leave the remaining 18 devices in the cart so they can be booked by classroom. The idea at this stage is to have the classroom teacher manage the Apps and settings on their classroom iPad. This means they will be able to build up a collection of Apps to use in their own classroom and help personalize learning for students in their own class. Obviously, one iPad doesn't go very far, but we hope this will help teachers gain a deeper understanding of their value.
We still need to work out how we will will manage the buying of Apps.
  • Who will pay for Apps that cost?
  • What happens when the teacher leaves the a school - What happens to the Apps if it was their own account that purchased Apps
  • How can we keep control of the 'buying'?
  • How do we encourage the buying of 'good' Apps?
  • What is a 'good' App?
  • What email will we use for the iTunes account?
There will be other questions that will arise, for sure. We also have some answers to the questions above that we will explore in the coming days and weeks.

Have I missed anything? Probably. I am excited to see where our journey goes next with iPads in learning. I look forward to sharing our journey. I welcome any questions or comments that others may have.

What questions has your school come up with? How are iPads and iPods being deployed in your building? What problems are you having with the network? Please share your frustrations and celebrations...