Posted in wellbeing

Appreciation.

appreciate
 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/11167810745

 

It doesn’t take much to appreciate what you have. But many of us don’t do it often enough. During the last week of term before Easter, staff were involved in a morning devotion focusing on gratitude – an attitude of gratitude goes a long way.

This year I appreciate so much more than I used to.

The fact that I am healthier than I was in 2015. I enjoy the variety that my job offers me. The new opportunities that I have had. The support I am offered. The love I am given. The friendships I have.

I was talking with my fiancee last week about being in the ‘now’. I feel that the constant integration of technology into our lives has suppressed our ability to appreciate what we already have. Now, when I’m the passenger on a road trip, I’m often looking at my phone…instead of looking out of the window. Instead of leafing through my countless recipe books and family recipes, I jump online to find a recipe quickly. Instead of having to wait days to have photo film develop, we upload them to social media…after we’ve deleted the first 4 attempts because someone wasn’t looking, or it was a ‘bad angle’ of mum.

Now we have apps on our phones and iPads to help us create to-do lists, with schedules and reminders. Thankfully…I have scaled back from this and have gone back to an old-fashioned diary this year. And on the table next to the couch are 3 pens and a pad of sticky notes.

Don’t forget to appreciate the little things! Like pens…and sticky notes.

 

Posted in iPads, Learning, Technology

Technology for relief teachers.

Today was my first day of relief teaching in the school that I’m not actually working part-time at this year. So, I was not connected to the school wifi, or have log in details or anything. For someone who loves integrating technology into lessons in any way possible, I was slightly ‘meh’ about my day in Year 6.

Regardless of this, I had packed my iPad in my handbag. What was I planning to do with it? No idea! But I was determined. I pulled out my folder of ‘Break’ apps, courtesy of @DaleSidebottom. I had ClassBreak, MathBreak, TeacherShake, QuizBreak, BrainBrea, ScienceBreak & LiteracyBreak. All of these can be purchased from the iTunes App Store, search: The Ultimate Teachers App Pack.

But which ones could be used without an internet connection?

  • LiteracyBreak – a great range of Introduction Games, Nursery Rhymes, Brainteasers, Debating Topics, Writing Games, Bus Activities (think: school camp and long excursions!), Group Games and a section for ideas on Organising Groups.
  • ScienceBreak – all sections except Science Videos (links to Youtube videos) will work offline. Great ideas for lesson starters, simple low-prep experiments, fun facts…and the list goes on!
  • ClassBreak – a plethora of activities and games: icebreakers, PE, team building and time filler! Subject games & classroom activities, riddles, jokes, quotes of the day, brain gym & a true and false guessing game.
  • MathBreak – this was my go-to app for the day and my favourite section was the riddles! Most of them were maths-related, but some were just good old fashioned logic thinking! This app also features a list of dice games and times table tricks.

Anything else? Well, I asked another teacher if there was a CRT log-in for the Interactive Whiteboard & classroom computer, and there was. (Always pays to ask!) Right – logged in and ready to go!

This was perfect, as I had 7 statements for the students to write out in their books and then decide if they agree or disagree with them…and then the good old discuss and compare, most popular responses etc. Perfect to do as a Kahoot survey! (You don’t have a free Kahoot account? Why not?!)

So, at the beginning of lunch, I whipped up a Kahoot survey (it took all of 4 minutes) and once the students had done the required work of writing the questions down, they decided on their answers – survey style. It was a great way of gaining a whole class snapshot of their beliefs & opinions and provided a healthy discussion board for us to chat about.

Aaaaand, just because I love inspiring students with clips from Youtube, this clip tied in really well with the topic of our afternoon lesson – serving others.

So never fear, relief teachers can use technology successfully! Anything else to add to my list?

Posted in iPads, Technology, Web 2.0

Making technology work for you.

I’ve just returned from the Critical Agenda’s Annual Conference “Supporting Students with Special Needs”.

One of the workshops I went to was presented by Megan Iemma (@megsamanda), focusing on using ICT in the Special Needs classroom. Megan presented us with a large range of different websites and apps that (I thought) were for students to use in the classroom. However as I listened more, I realised that a lot of these tools were for teachers to use in the planning stage of their lessons and that sometimes the students would benefit from the technology without actually using the technology themselves. I was particularly focused on the literary/dyslexia side of things.

Examples of these include:

The Readability Test Tool

Rewordify

AAC Ferrett App Directory

Megan’s workshop really made me think about how I use technology in the classroom and that sometimes the biggest advantage for the students is when the teacher has used technology to differentiate the learning task.

What sorts of apps/programs do you use to help differentiate tasks for students?

Posted in iPads, Learning

4 Apps for creating…3 different ways!

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 8.32.19 PM
http://www.mrswideen.com/2012/12/my-top-picks-for-content-creation-ipad.html

Often iPad apps are seen as a quick fix to boredom – used to entertain, with minimal thinking involved. Here are 4 free apps to use in the classroom, for students to create, rather than to consume!

Number pieces – free

  • Using number lines as a basic counting tool in Numeracy, and annotate to show different numbers on the line.
  • Making numbers to 100 using the Base 10 blocks.
  • Forming a variety of numbers and annotating their extended notation. This could be photographed and added into Educreations, to include students voice to explain their thinking.

ChatterPix Kids – free

  • Counting to 10. Students can take a photo of themselves, add a mouth and record their verbal counting.
  • Role-playing. Students can record their thoughts on what to say in certain situations they may encounter in the classroom or in the playground.
  • Oral presentations. Students can record their thoughts on paper and then read them aloud while recording their own voice.

Make Beliefs Comix – free

  • Inserting characters to use as a basic storytelling tool.
  • Using the characters to add speech bubbles and create dialogue between 2 or more characters.
  • Create a comic which includes dialogue, and follow it up with a lesson on talking marks when writing.

PicCollage – free

  • Learning a specific sound/blend. Students take photos of objects around their classroom that begin with that sound/blend. They can add text, or a title of the letter they are working on.
  • Writing descriptions. Students can photograph an object, and add text to add adjectives around the photo.
  • Modelling behaviours during Literacy – how to Read to Self. Students can take photos of their partner reading and annotate with text to identify the correct behaviours to show during this time.

(These ideas were designed with F-2 classes in mind, but can easily be adapted for higher year levels.)

Posted in iPads, Learning

Reluctant Writers

This year I have been faced with a significant number of difficult students in my class. Let’s face it, no class is a ‘breeze’. There are individual nooks and crannies to every single student, however the Year 2 class I am teaching in 2015 seem to present a myriad of ‘specialities’.

Trying to get my Year 2 students to write is challenging. I have a student with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), who needs physical stimulation, eg a trampoline, massage, yoga, roller-board to shift his ‘writing brain’ into action. Despite his Occupational Therapist providing me with a wide range of suggestions – some days there is no progress made – the ‘Defiance’ part of his diagnoses comes into play, well and truly!

Add to this mix a boy who has autism and hates any fine motor activities, a girl who has super low processing speed, a boy who has the attention span of a gnat…it’s really like any regular classroom.

Trying to write descriptions last week was my chance to really find out what I could expect from these students.  I started with a 3 step process:

  1. Plan
  2. Draft
  3. Publish

I decided to eliminate the editing stage, to try and build that success. I helped edit briefly, but wanted to show the children that publishing work is fun and something to be proud of.

We used this template to brainstorm words to describe our lunchbox.  I then modelled how to write the words into sentences as a whole group activity. Once the students had written their sentences, it was time to publish.

Using the iPads, students worked in pairs to use PicCollage to describe their lunchboxes. I gave (and modelled) the following instructions:

  1. Take a photo of your partner with their lunchbox.
  2. Open PicCollage and add the photo of your partner.
  3. Add text boxes with your descriptive sentences.
  4. Change the background etc.

PicCollage - Version 2

There were a few types of students – those who completed all three stages with ease. Others who did the planning, but found the drafting too draining. There were others who planned and drafted, but weren’t overly interested in publishing – they’d prefer to spend their iPad time doing whatever they like, rather than a set task.

  It was a fabulous activity to include all students.

What other strategies/apps do you use to encourage reluctant writers?

Posted in iPads, Technology

Technology Tuesdays – iPads for Assessment

Today’s Technology Tuesday session is about using iPads for Assessment purposes in the Early Years.

It is an amalgamation of two of my previous posts, Evernote and RRCalc.

Evernote can be a tricky app to master, but I found that when I set it up on my computer, the iPad app became a lot easier to use.  It allows me to have a Notebook Stack for my class, with each student having their own Notebook. Within each student’s Notebook, I have created Notes for different categories.  For example, in Brad’s Notebook, I have 3 Notes so far – Behaviour, Maths and Literacy.

I have created a handout for the session, with links to videos which help explain how to use Evernote in conjunction with the RRCalc, to keep track of reading progress.  The handout can be found here: iPads & Early Years Assessment.

Other apps that I use for my assessment are

  • Numbers – like an Excel Spreadsheet, with a different sheet for each topic (Spelling Results, PAT Maths, Project Partners etc).
  • Record of Reading – very similar to the RRCalc, but this app allows you to photograph the running record with the words to follow along.
  • Skitch – I will often photograph a rubric in Skitch and then annotate for various students. There’s probably a much easier way…I’m still learning and trying!
Posted in Technology

Switch off!

The week leading up to the Victorian school holidays, @KatSchrav, as the moderator of @Edutweetoz tweeted this:

Screenshot 2014-07-09 13.37.43

As you can see, #digitaldowntime wasn’t a major priority for me – I hadn’t really thought about it, but appreciated its value.

However, it got me thinking… I need to schedule it in.

My first thought was to have Technology Free days – you know, no phone, no tv, no iPad, no laptop… but to be honest, that would be fairly difficult for me. I use all of those things (apart from the tv) during my work day at school.

My second thought was to limit my iPad and laptop use to just at work. But, it would be unfair to limit my technology use to only while at school – all teachers know that there is SOME level of preparation that happens at home, and there is only so much laminating you can do without using the computer to print something else off!

I have opted for this, the third option: switching off from technology outside of school hours for two days per week – Monday and Friday. I asked myself – what will this mean?

It means my iPad and laptop will stay in my bag when I get home until I unpack them at work the following morning. I’ll have to be more organised – no more posting on the class blog when I get home, no more researching a new lesson idea for the following day.

It means I will only use my phone for phone calls, messages and photos – no Facebook, no Twitter, no internet searching, no Pinterest, no frantic recipe searching for dinner (I have enough recipe books in paper format!)

It means that I’ll be able to relax and enjoy some new interests in my life – going to classes at the gym, learning more at aerial yoga, baking and cooking new treats as part of my ‘I Quit Sugar journey’, and playing with my new puppy. I might even have time to have real conversations with the people around me. I can still watch tv…without ‘multi-tasking’ with 6 different browser windows and apps open.

It means that I’ll have to let go of my F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) that I experience when I leave the worlds of Facebook and Twitter – what if I miss an important event in my friends’ lives? What if I miss a revolutionary idea that is going to change the education world? What if I don’t read that email from an angry parent and respond immediately? I will have to catch up on Twitter chats that happen on Mondays and Fridays…that’s just how it will be.

I’m only starting on Monday the 14th of July – it’s my Term 3 Resolution. 

It’s a wellbeing thing. Switch off. Join me. I dare you. 

Posted in iPads, Technology

iPads for Assessment

As I am trying to cut back on my paper trail, I am always looking for ways to use my iPad.

Assessment is no different. I am using a range of apps to try and streamline my assessment records. Here are a few of my must-haves:

Calc (previously RR Calc)

Recording your student read aloud allows you to calculate their accuracy, words per minute and text level. The only way of keeping these records is via email. I email them to myself and then open them in Evernote.

IMG_1527

I have created a notebook stack with a notebook for each student in Evernote, so once the reading recording has been opened in Evernote, I just move it to the student’s individual notebook. (Please note, creating a notebook stack can only be achieved when using Evernote on a computer, not an iPad! I have a notebook stack called ‘Students 2014’, with 26 notebooks within that stack). Having that audio file of the student reading is perfect evidence for parent teacher interviews!

IMG_1530

Evernote

Evernote is my next must-have, for the reasons above, plus much more! The ability to tag your notes with a category makes it easy to see all of the notes that you have written about ‘Meetings 2014’, or finding the web address that you typed down to access the school interview site!

Numbers

The iPad version of Microsoft Excel, this app offers all of the same spreadsheet functions. I never knew how valuable a spreadsheet was until last year. I store ALL of my assessment results in Excel – scores, dates, stanine, percentages etc, while all of my anecdotal notes are for Evernote. I have a page for each different type of assessment/record keeping – South Australian Spelling Test, PAT testing, Weekly Spelling Test scores, On Demand Testing, Assembly Awards, Reading Levels and Reciprocal Reading Groups…you name it, I’ve recorded it!

TeacherKit

Many of my colleagues use this in the secondary department as they have various subjects and classes. This app allows you to take the roll, assess student work, track student behaviour, create seating plans and add notes to lesson plans. Read more about this app here.

Posted in iPads, Learning, Technology

Technology & ASD

Referring to teaching students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), I was inspired to write this post by a question asked during #pstchat tonight on Twitter.

Q7. Does technology provide tools that help students with ASD? #PSTchat
17/06/2014 8:28 pm

Yes, it does. But it’s not the be all and end all.

One of my students ‘hates’ writing. I suggested that he could use the iPad to record his thoughts, plan, draft etc. No, he didn’t want to because “Nobody else is.”

Some children with ASD like to be the centre of attention, or don’t realise that they are being treated any differently. Others are very switched on and are agitated by the fact that they are ‘different’. When using technology with ASD students, there needs to be a clear purpose. 

I have used iPads as a reward for a student who could do 20 minutes of solid work. It had a clear purpose – to motivate the student to achieve as well as give his brain a break and clear his head in the 10 minutes of iPad time.  Clearing his head was a positive strategy in order for him to consume the next set of instructions.

For non-verbal ASD students, the app “Tap To Talk” can be helpful for constructing a line of communication. Other communication tools like voice recorders can provide relief for those hard-to-handle moments when things are hard to understand!

I have used apps like ‘Strip Design‘ and ‘Comics Head‘ for ASD students to help construct social stories, using speech marks and photos of themselves. The power of having a photo of themselves is fantastic and gives a lot more meaning to the activity.

In instances where ASD students may ‘need’ to do some writing, or produce literacy content, apps like Educreations, Explain Everything or 30 Hands can offer them the opportunity to record their voice, annotate photos and complete the task successfully.

Even a the simple timer or stopwatch in the ‘Clock’ app on your iPad can prove to be a useful device for students with ASD. It shows elapsed time for a set timeframe, so it is visual for them to see, but can also emit a sound to signal the end of the activity.

Sitting an ASD student in the corner with an iPad while you teach everybody else an entirely different concept is rarely productive and isn’t a feature of an inclusive classroom. ASD students need to be interacted with, listened to and appreciated within a classroom. Celebrate their successes!

Many of these suggestions are suitable for all students, not just those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Posted in iPads, Technology

Recent ‘gems’ from the App Store

I thought I’d share with you a few of my most recent valuable iPad downloads from the App Store. Some of them I found through apps like AppOfTheDay and AppsGoneFree, whereas others were in the featured section of iTunes.

ABC Spy HD – free

A fantastic introduction to the alphabet for students which integrates with the world around them. Students are to scroll through the alphabet and take a photo of something beginning with each letter. They can choose a frame for their photo, add the word using text if they like and email and print the book when they are finished. Taking photos of classmates who have names starting with letters is a good way to start the letter-sound relationship and the fact that it can be made into a concrete material is fabulous!

Curious Ruler – free for a limited time

This app would be a fantastic resource for the maths classroom, especially when measuring using formal and informal units. By taking a photo of an object in the classroom, students can choose an informal unit to measure it with – compare the object’s length to the Australian $1 coin, a soccer ball, or a DVD. Changing the units means that you can view the results in centimetres or inches and encourage students to check that it’s correct using hands-on materials!

Dreamtime – free

This iBook-style app features a variety of Dreamtime stories written, illustrated and animated by students at Healesville High School. It offers an audio feature, so the story can be read aloud, or students can read it themselves. By touching individual words, they are read aloud for a full, authentic reading experience. For anybody who is teaching Indigenous culture and would like to focus on the history of story-telling, this app is a great find! 

K12 Timed Reading Practice Lite – free (Full version – $2.49)

If fluency and comprehension are a focus in your class, this app offers an easy assessment method. By entering a student’s name, you are able to ask students to read a passage as the app times how long it takes and calculates a words per minute score. At the end of each passage there are 3 comprehension questions for the reader to answer, highlighting correct and incorrect answers. While this version is free, it offers a range of passages to choose from without limiting you too much.

K12 Equivalence Tiles – free

Another app by K12 Inc., this app allows you to manipulate values in fraction, decimal and percentage format, to show the comparison between them and highlight the equivalence. With each different value colour-coded, it makes it easy to see the similarities and differences between the 3 types of figures. While there isn’t any option to export the chart, taking a screenshot of it and importing it into another app like Explain Everything or Educreations would allow students to explain and rationalise their mathematical thinking.

 

Although this is just a snapshot of what I’ve recently downloaded, I hope they’ve been helpful!