Sunday, March 25, 2012

Digital Storytelling

A cool offering at the Telling Room as part of their Night Owl sessions.  A noted illustrator will discuss using art work to promote writing.  Some of his instruction will focus on iPad use and digital storytelling.

As a participant in the inaugural year of TLC, my goal was to experiment with digital storytelling, and to provide a new way to share student voices.  My experimentation started with how to best deliver student voices.  I used literature responses from our year-long independent reading project as test cases.  My students were familiar with the writing format, and the independent nature of the project led nicely to the experimentation with apps. Students generated book reviews using Voice Thread, Puppet Pals and Toontastic.  Many integrated Hello Crayon and attempted 123D Sculpt to provide more visual pizazz.  We have also branched out into Educreations to share mathematical problem solving.  Now students are about ready to try My Story, Book Creator, and iMovie on the iPad.  Examples of some of these experiments can be found on our fledgling 4-5 blog: 

Some may be worried that technology is eroding the quality of writing, but I am finding the opposite result in my classroom.  The quality of their writing is improving.  My learners are engaged in the same writing process (drafting, editing, revising, conferencing, and delivery) as writers were thirty years ago.  The difference is that they know their voice will be heard, seen, considered, and in some cases responded to by individuals outside the classroom.  As a result, they are taking more time with their work and are more apt to collaborate with one another.

This continues to be an exciting experiment, and I am thrilled to be learning alongside my students.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mind Reading and Other Stuff

 I loved Jess' post from yesterday.  Was she reading my  mind?  She is so right about waiting for an "aha" moment, how that may not come, and how that isn't really important.  So, here was one of those little moments of realization for me last week:
On Friday the Head of School Search Committee met with RG175, the search consultants who had been fact-finding visit for two days.  They were sharing their observations about the many strengths of Waynflete (and they really glowed about them), as well as what they saw as a few of our biggest challenges.  One of the challenges that they saw, and I know they saw it because I pointed it out to them, as I'm sure many did, was that technologically, we may not need to get ahead of the curve, but we need to work our way closer to the crest of the wave.  Several of the members of the committee nodded at this observation, but others took issue.  The consultant asked one of the dissenters, "well, who are the leaders on campus who are making implementation happen and energizing others?"  The committee member said, "Well, Tom is one."  I happened to be sipping an iced tea, and I almost spit it out!  "Believe me," I thought,  "if I am a leader in this area, we are all in trouble!"  It was interesting to me, because I assume that the comment came from the fact that this person knew I was in TLC (and probably didn't know that I was at least a week late on my responsibility to post on this blog!)  So, here's what I wanted to communicate to my fellow members of TLC: that we are perceived to be leaders in our school community in technology implementation, and that whether we feel that way or not, others do.    We don't need to be so critical of the limitations of our efforts and can just recognize that others are looking to us.  That gives us a lot of influence.  I know I need to remind myself of that periodically, so I'm reminding you too!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

So Far, So Good

Ever since I embarked on the TLC adventure back in June, I have been waiting, patiently, for an "aha" moment; the moment that I find clarity on the "how" and "why" of technology use in the classroom. Until now. And no, I have not had my moment, but I am no longer waiting for it. "Aha" implies that there will actually be a moment of clarity, but I can come to realize that implementing technology into the classroom, like teaching anything, is a continual series of exploration and discovery, not a trip from Point A to Point B. So, instead of an "aha" moment, I will share a few "yippee" moments that I have celebrated so far this year:

1. K-1 students create
Puppet Pals story of their trip around Portland on Metro Bus 8. Using their own maps, buses, and writing each student created a 20-30 second movie of his/her experience. And, it was the first jump into iPad use for some of my colleagues!

2. Global connections Part I: A
Google Earth lesson as a launch of our Global Focus week that included "traveling" from a zoomed in image of Waynflete, out to Portland, over the ocean and zooming back in again on the American Academy of Casablanca, Morocco. Which brings me to...

3. Global Connections Part II: A fantastic pen pal (or "cyber pals"?) experience with a first grade class in Morocco. Back in August, at EdCamp Keene, I created an account on the
Skype Education website ( and sent an email off to a first-grade teacher at the American Academy Casablanca. What ensued was a series of correspondence between the two of us that culminated, 7 months later, in an email exchange of questions/answers between our classes and a Skype video-chat date. Seeing our students in K-1 talking directly to students in a classroom 3400 miles away (and teaching each other songs!) was magical!

There have been other moments, many of which have just been snapshots in time when I have had the iPads out and seen the collaboration, creativity, and discovery of the students as they explore the iPad. I do struggle with carving out that time for exploration (mine and theirs)...time is so hard to find! Looking ahead I am eager to try out
Book Creator and think about the potential for students to participate in documentation and creation of a digital library of the learning we do in K-1. I also just discovered Skitch and see some potential in using it as a way to document/label images of 3-D student work. Voicethread remains on my "to do" list.

Finally a link to an article about the importance of time for PD, training and exploration by teachers. Thanks to Tim for posting this link in our TLC
Diigo group (I have not mastered Diigo, but between TLC and an ECETECH group I joined, I have more tech/iPad articles than time to read them; what a great resource!). For Waynflete, TLC is a step in the right direction and I am thankful to have benefited from time this group has been given to devote to technology work.

"When it comes to Technology, teachers need as much scaffolding as students"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

iBird research in Early Childhood: I experienced another reason to support iPad use for my young students this morning. Two young girls put their heads together over an iPad trying to identify a tiny plastic bird model. They spent 40 minutes poring over the hundreds of bird photos in iBird north. They found one bird that looked quite similar to the model but was lacking certain details. I explained that toy manufacturers sometimes don't paint their toys "correctly " and that it might not be possible to identify this model for sure. They listened respectfully to my explanation but then elected to continue their search. They spent another 30 minutes and found another bird that seemed to be an even closer match for their model. At this point they felt that they had gotten as close as they could to identifying their bird. But still not satisfied, they asked if they could repaint the bird model to supply the missing details. They were able to identify the deficient areas of detail on the model and specify the colors they needed to correct the model. Then they did it! This little bird toy is less than an imch square. I was able to capture some of their process on film. Wow. Every day I discover another reason to LOVE the power this iPad allows my students. Thank you Apple and thank you Page!
Technology and the classroom....while on maternity leave.
I finally have a moment where I am caught up on most emails, the house relatively clean, and my little one is asleep. Her naps are very erratic, sometimes when I think she is headed down for a 3 hour slumber her eyes pop open 10 minutes later. Even though the sight of her eyes gives me so much pleasure normally, when they "pop" open it can be VERY disheartening. I have been able to leave my school respnsibilities at home during maternity leave, but as the end of it nears, I am starting to think about returning to the hustle and bustle of school. At times I think it will be less tiring than staying home with A all day(!), but I will miss her very much, and I am sure that I will long to be back with her for these blissful days! Anyway, here is some insight coming from someone who has not been in the classroom for a few months, so I have been less engaged in bringing technology into the classroom. I think I may write about how I have brought technology into parenting as that is what is crossing my mind all the time. 
I have found that even when I am not at work I am fairly screen oriented. I got the iphone this fall, and I have the ipad through the TLC group. I have stayed on top of deleting or responding to my work emails (30-40 a day most days!), and I have been reaching out to friends more while I have had this time off. Reaching out to friends these days is completely screen oriented. Even just to organize meeting up with someone local I will text, and to talk to a friend from afar, who also has children we will face time or use facebook. With the frenetic schedule of a newborn and almost no time to oneself I find myself using nursing time to connect with people in this way, or to go through emails. I even use a breastfeeding ap that times how long I feed, how long between feedings and is complete with an alarm to remind me to feed if A has not initiated it yet (this never happens). Then I can tap on another page of the ap and get analyzed data...average # of feedings per day/per week, average length of feedings, average amount of expressed milk etc. It is pretty amazing, and I have loved using it- it sure beat writing it down like I did for the first 3 weeks because I had not thought to look for the ap. That was a reminder- there is probably an ap for everything, we just need to take a look! I can use my Iphone or Ipad with this ap and sync the information on icloud- everything is just at the touch of my finger tips. Despite the convienance of this ap and being able to use my devices while breastfeeding (they are portable and can be held in one hand rather than a laptop) I often think about if I am missing an interaction with my baby during nursing. I will often have "screenless" feedings to make sure that we are connecting and I am enjoying the time fully and completely. Other times when I feel stressed and "behind" or "out of the loop" I will use the time to catch up or reach out with my phone. Sometimes it is the only chance I get to talk to my Mom, which I also find important as I venture into this world of parenthood. I am torn, I really like being able to use the technology I have, but I also think it can take away from the organic nature of parenthood. Thoughts anyone!?
 I know that I want to be present for my child, so a majority of the time I am putting away my phone (which is so easy to click on mail when I see a red number on the icon, and because of my type A personality hard to leave a number there). I want to be cognizant of really listening to someone without a phone in hand. I see so many conversations between people where one person is actually looking at a screen, or "just checking something quickly". I want to make sure that I do not do that with my husband, children and students. When they want to tell me something I want to give them all of my attention to set a good example, and to let them know that I am listening. This is where I see technology getting in the way of clear, completely present communication. At work this is true as well. At faculty meetings people are looking at their ipad screens. Somehow having an ipad is more polite than having a laptop out....but is it really?
I hear stirrings from the crib so I have to sign off, but hopefully I given some food for thought. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snow Day

Happy snow day, everyone!
OK, so it’s my turn to add to the blog post - yikes! I am not a Blogger or a Tweeter or a Facebook member, so I have no experience putting my thoughts out there into cyberworld. Here goes!
What a great experience it has been being part of the TLC group this year and having the opportunity to explore the use of iPads in the classroom. In 2-3, we feel fortunate to have six iPads for our program in addition to each teacher iPad. Having iPads easily accessible in our space certainly facilitates our explorations. We have all found that Futaba, Pyramid 13, Pop Math and Telling Time are useful tools for practicing Spanish and math skills. Some of us have used PuppetPals and Toontastic to enhance story writing. I have used Phonics to customize decoding practice for a couple of students who benefitted from the extra reinforcement that the App provides. I have also used VoiceThread with some students.
Just having an iPad nearby enables us to do a quick search for information to add to something we are reading about or studying. Yesterday, while working with a small group of students on telling time, I was able to provide each student with an iPad to look up Leap Day and explore the reason why we need to have an extra day added to our calendar every four years. With each child able to have their own iPad, we could access the information in a more interactive way than just having me project the site on the SMART Board. We all went to the same site; each child could view the information and graphics on the site as we read the information together. The kids were fascinated with the math involved and with a graphic that showed the elliptical rotation of the Earth around the sun that creates the need for the extra day. The information sparked some calculations and discussion of how our Gregorian calendar was devised and what Leap Year is all about.
I played around a bit last weekend with the Explain Everything app after reading the “iPad Screencasting” article on Diigo. I thought Explain Everything sounded familiar and discovered that I already had it on my iPad. I must have installed it when it was mentioned by someone, but never took the time to try it out. So I made a little presentation about my trip to Tucson with Cindy and Michaela over vacation to visit Shyla. I included maps, photos, text and voice. It was not too tedious a process to put it all together. Now I just need to show it to the kids to test it out. I would like to further explore other uses of this presentation app in 2-3, keeping in mind, of course, that a premade presentation is no substitute for teacher-student connections/interactions, as mentioned in the “ ATech-Happy Professor…” article. Thank you to everyone who has sent along articles for us to read.