Monday, September 24, 2012

Today's Meet

In preparation for the Lower School retreat, Page, our fearless leader, showed us a platform that allowed for real time communication a la Twitter without the account.  The web-based site is called Today's Meet and I have been implementing it in my 4th and 5th grade classroom.  The site is simple to use.  You set up a chat room by creating a room name.  This name is then added to the end of the url.  Participants can then enter the room using the url and engage in conversation.  Entries are limited to 140 characters and the chatroom can last for 2 hours up to one year.

I have used Today's Meet as part of my literature conversations.  I pre-loaded the page onto the iPads and asked small cooperative groups to share their predictions about the book.  When one group made a bold prediction, other groups would notice and evaluate the validity of the statement looking closely at their own books.  As we began reading, I placed iPads around the room.  As students stumbled upon major discoveries, formulated questions, generated connections, or made predictions they were encouraged to add to our chat.  I also sent a note home letting families know about this tool so students could record their thoughts while doing their homework.

I found that our conversations are more active and students are more connected with "digging" into their text.  Students have reported that the ongoing chat helps them focus since they can relieve their working memory of the big ideas and not carry them around until our next scheduled conversation.

Check it out!

Monday, September 3, 2012


"Using technology effectively in education requires much, much more than just technical skills. Instead, through the use of technology we have the opportunity to sculpt educational visions that address the real needs of children entering a new world."  -Sam Gliksman's Blog, iPads in Education

It's Labor Day, the last official day of a relaxing, yet busy summer spent mostly in Maine. Although I still connected to news and extended friends and family via the internet on the computer and iphone (also my favorite way to take and modify pics these days), until a conference I attended in late August at the Bancroft School, I spent very little time using my newest tool, the iPad (except for reading blogs on my favorite RSS feeds, Zite and Flipboard). I was able to enjoy much more time connected to my family, my garden and the sea. I spent lots of "unplugged" time listening to my own brain, more music (mostly on my iphone) and to the sounds of nature; I felt more balanced! But this healthier balance I feel today is not attributed to less "plugged-in" time, it is just attributed to more leisure time and the choice to plug-in or not. I am so grateful for this time!

By the end of June last year, I was convinced that the iPad had become an invaluable tool in most of my classes and it was my student's "virtual language laboratory." Last week, the Bancroft School iPad Institute absolutely confirmed my belief that this little device is/can/will be an invaluable learning tool that will lighten all of our backpacks and book bags and reduce the amount of paper flow in our classrooms - not to mention all the other tasks it will help us perform, the lessons it will help us learn and the ease of collaboration it will allow!  I am envious of Bancroft's journey because I believe that for this tool to be most efficient, it needs to be in the hands of all learners in the community.  Check out Bancroft's iPad Initiative page and Richard Bryne's Free Technology For Teachers page (he was the keynote speaker at the conference), or the iPads in Education Ning to read more articles on teaching with this tool and asking "WHY?" this tool might work for you.

During the conference at Bancroft, some teachers were still taking notes by hand (I, proudly, did not...this is HUGE for me), there were technology glitches, there was also the normal anxiety one usually encounters; however, there was something else, too!  There was a room full of about 40 teachers and 15 students who had (mostly) made a commitment to teach, learn and collaborate on this device.  Many of my generation (40 and above) were doing what Cathy Davidson writes about in her introduction of, "Now You See It."  They were "Unlearning" old habits.  However, I was profoundly moved by their willingness to jump out of their comfort zone and experiment with the mind boggling amount of "there's an app for that" choices in each of their disciplines (not to mention that many of them will be teaching with etexts next year).  The sharing and collaboration was inevitable and wonderful, and although everyone carried an iPad, people still talked, looked each other in the eye and moved about the spaces is such a portable, collaborative device!  Thankfully, the school was able to make some choices about apps that everyone would use for note taking and document writing this year.  Like us, they have moved to google to communicate via email and, like us, they still upload important docs on a school portal.  However, all students in grades 6-12 have a school gmail account.  All students and teachers take notes in Notability (I LOVE this app!) and everyone uses  iPages (word processing), Numbers (like Excel), Keynote (like PowerPoint).  Here is full list of required apps that the school found most successful last year.

As I begin to think about next year in my classes at Waynflete and my continued collaboration on TLC, I will return to and tweak what I have already created on my wikis, google sites and iPad app presentations, but I will also look forward to some new additions and creating a full year course with 1:1 iPads in Spanish I (so excited for this!).  This does not mean that I will not make a huge commitment to speaking with, engaging with and collaborating with my simply means that I will attempt to use the tools I have (so gratefully) at my disposal to enhance our already engaging conversations, projects, etc...  I will make mistakes, there will be technology glitches and I will fail at some of the new ways of facilitating my lessons, but I know my students will be there to help me find my way in my emerging 21st Century classroom.  I am excited to begin a new year!

For those interested in exploring, here are some of the tools (some require building/creating on the computer and some are just apps that can be used only on the iPad) that I will use in my classes:

Notability (note taking, storytelling, organization...wonderful!)
Explain Everything (storytelling...fabulous app!!)
Quizlet (vocabulary practice...LOVE!)
Voicethread (storytelling and far one of the best out there ;-)
QWiki (a visual, audio wikispaces...just learning about this, but it looks promising)
Sound Cloud and Audioboo (aural/oral practice...our virtual language lab)
CloudOn (microsoft word...links to dropbox)
Dropbox (storing/sharing)
Mental Case (vocabulary flashcards with audio)
Teacherkit (a teacher organizational tool)
GDrive (a direct link to goodle drive)
Animoto (fun, quick and simple video app for showcasing your own photos:  check out one I made with photos I have taken over the years in Spain: EspaƱa)
wikispaces and google sites (all of my classes have a class page...check out our Spanish 7 Site:)
TedSubtitle (watch ted talks with subtitles in many languages)
WordReference (a Spanish/English Dictionary)