I offered, last school year, an opportunity for third grade teachers to really get hands-on with how to incorporate iPads into their classroom. The grade level leader asked if I could create, with her, a half day training for her fellow teachers. She already approached her principal and received approval for all the teachers in that grade level to work with me one afternoon. Now imagine this, there are ten third grade teachers in this particular building and the principal agreed to get the required subs for this. Here is a leader who knows and understands the importance of professional development for new tools.
The grade level leader and I sat down and looked at the curricular units coming up. My focus was on having the iPads integrated for direct instruction or creation. I wanted to avoid using apps for drill and practice or game purposes. The afternoon started with some basic operational functions and settings, for those teachers new to iPads. We created a few, hands-on examples of using apps like: TinyTap, Nearpod, and Frolyc for direct instruction. We then tried ChatterPix Kids and YAKit Kids for quick thirty second recordings. Educreations in combination with Star Chart for a video tutorial and finally ThingLink for creating interactive images. While demonstrations of each of these engaging ways of incorporating iPads happened I also had an interactive wall of apps. Taped to one of the walls of the room were thirty QR Codes each one to a different app with a description of the app and a practical way it could be used in the classroom. When the QR Code was scanned it would install the app on the iPad for the teacher to try. I wanted to make sure that all the teachers were engaged in iPad examples that fit what they needed.
This summer I had the opportunity to take part in a PD Teacher Challenge. Each week, for ten weeks, a new task was proposed using ThingLink as our medium. Sometimes it was to learn how to incorporate various media types into an interactive image other challenges stretched our thinking of how to use ThingLink with curriculum. Here is a collection of my challenges:
Before starting this challenge, I liked ThingLink. It was an easy to operate tool for students to showcase what they have learned. But now after completing the challenge, I think ThingLink is much more powerful than just a means of showing what you know. It can be used to challenge students’ thinking, for instance as one challenge focused on engaging students in informed decision making (week 8). It can be used to introduce topics, for instance with an interactive map (week 4). ThingLink is a powerful tool that integrates nicely with any curriculum!
So back in March I posted about applying for SMART’s 2014 educators’ summit. Big news, I was accepted! And now here it is Thursday afternoon of the summit. What is there to say… yes, this is an all expenses paid trip; yes, there is tons of swag; yes, we have sessions to see what is in store for the future (and an NDA keeps me from telling you what we previewed) but I want to focus on the best part of my entire experience. SMART is a company which creates software and hardware which provides interactive and collaborative experiences, but what I learned this week: they don’t just sell this, they practice this. They truly want to hear feedback, what works, what doesn’t, what can they add, etc. Not only were we in rooms talking with Directors, V.P.s, and even the President, but the designers, programs, etc. were in the room taking notes. Some of the attendees were able to participate in a hackathon, where they presented an issue(s) and then as a group, over a two day period, they would create a solution(s). SMART’s Summit provided me an opportunity to truly collaborate with educators and others who are genuinely interested not just invested (for monetary reasons) in the instructional opportunities of our students. The best example of this collaboration happened Tuesday night. The weekly #SMARTee chat was happening virtually and in-person. The chat was evolving into a fantastic discussion on how education can move forward, regardless of location. Global (or as we termed it Glocal [Global + Local]) educational systems each face some of the same problems. One of the questions posed to the group was what would you change about your educational environment. Some people mentioned space, time, I said patience, but one educator mentioned access. They do not have wifi access. So as a collaboration, SMART is going to provide them the access they need. This is a company that listens to their customers to make educational opportunities available and possible. Thank you SMART for allowing myself as well as my 75 other fantastic Glocal Educators the opportunity to gather and create/share.
Truss Me! is an iOS app which is taking the educational market by storm. It fits into the ideology of Gamification; using an engaging method to solve problems.
This app offers two modes to users: freestyle & challenges. In freestyle mode, you can build structures to support weights while in challenge mode you try to earn nuts (get it, like nuts and bolts). The higher the score the more nuts you earn (0-3). Your score is determined by two factors: the weight of your structure and the amount of movement the object makes when released.
When you first open the app to the main screen you have three options before you: Freestyle, Challenges, and Help. I would recommend going through the help tutorial. It will introduce you to the various aspects of the app; joints, pins, bars, and weights…
Recently, Thinglink has started to provide resources for educators. They now have a teacher account which can create linked student accounts. Thinglink generates usernames and passwords for the students. They can use the web or app version to create their interactive posters. I found the app version to be less distractive for the students, but there were a few items I wished the app had. First, you could not open and edit an image. Which meant students who didn’t complete their poster in the time period had to exit the app and hope it isn’t closed completely and their progress lost. Second, you couldn’t add a thinglink to a channel. Channels are a stream of interactive posters, this makes it easy for the teacher to collect all images in one place. Finally, there is no way within the app to change the touch icons; this wasn’t a big deal, but variety would be nice. Here is an example I made with the students watching to see how to create one:
The students researched their own planet. They were required to add another image with caption, other than the background poster. They needed a website with caption, text, and a video if they wanted. Their interactive poster’s URL was turned into a QR Code and hung up in the school.
The teachers had resources gathered from their school library and some selected websites. The researching required a period and a half for the students. The students had a packet with guided questions and a four slide template. Their screencast had to include the following:
– Name & nickname of their constellation
– Discoverer & year discovered
– Stars (if too many, give at least five)
– Picture with ‘connect the dots’
– Image of object/person/animal it represents
– Story behind the constellation
When completed the students’ screencasts were turned into QR Codes and hung up in the school to share their work. What do you think?