Monday, 28 May 2012

Popplet in Grade 4

The 'All Systems Go!' unit in Grade 4 as an ideal place to explore the use of a mind mapping tool in an on-going (or what we like to call an 'ongoingative') way. That is, to use it as a tool for formative assessment, which naturally evolves into a powerful summative demonstration of a student's understanding by the end of the unit.

Our central idea is that systems work together to support life functions in human beings.

In Week 1, before any teaching has begin, focussing on the Key Concepts: connection and function, the students brainstorm everything they already know, (or think they know) about the systems of the body.

Brainstorming focused on the lines of Inquiry:

• What body systems do you know? How do you think they function.

• How different systems of the body are connected?

• What choices can we make to maintain healthy body systems?

As the unit progressed, week by week, students return to the popplet to add to, adjust and remove information in line with the feedback they receive from their peers, their teacher, and their improving understanding of the central idea.

Finally by the final week of the unit, the popplet has evolved from a formative tool, to a powerful representation of their learning in the unit, it has in effect, become a summative assesssment. This is an 'ongoingative'.

Popplet is particularly powerful for this as it has a timeline tool, that allows students to rewind back through time to appreciate the way their understanding as developed over the course of the unit.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Prezi in Grade 4 Science

Prezi is cloud-based presentation software for exploring and sharing ideas on a virtual canvas. It is a powerful plaform for bridging linear and non-linear information, and as a tool for both free-form brainstorming and structured presentation. As such is is a powerful tool for allowing our students to formatively develop their understanding of the Science Process.

Traditionally students would have tracked and recorded their investigations using paper, which while being a very powerful medium, is not dynamic and it does not provide animation, real-time feedback that facilitates a capacity for continuous expansion. If a student 'messes up' on paper, they either have to try and 'fix' it without ruining it, or ... start again... with ICTs this process is not only painless, but actually helpful, as it facilitates the feedback process of using assessment for learning.

In the Grade 4 'In the Mix' unit students gradually developed their own Prezi over the course of the unit.

So, after the initial weeks of guided enquiry, we wanted to find a way for the students to be able to effectively present their understanding of the Science Process as a result of their class investigations.

For this unit I also wanted the teachers to free from the 'tech' and focus on the Science, so I utilised a model of teaching the students to teach each other.

We used what we call the 'Techsperts' model, I ran one sessions per week at lunch time, and invited 3 to 4 students from each class to attend. These students in tun become the 'experts' in their respective classes, effectively coming the 'teachers' for the specific tool. 

Integration of ICTs into this process allowed for more dynamic teaching, and more importantly, they allow students to show what they know in non-traditional and non-linear ways that more closely approximate the actual steps that are critical to a Scientific investigation, and the reasons why they have to happen in a rigorous sequence.

Prezi was an ideal choice to allow the students to formatively record and ultimately present their understanding of the scientific process, and easily incorporate images to document their inquiries, something which would be far more difficult on paper.

In addition, the fact the Prezi is 'cloud based' allows the students more:

flexibility - not tied to one platform/machine
real time collaboration
ease of sharing (eg, emailing a keynote/PowerPoint is fraught with complications)

Finally often the fully featured programs like Keynote are usually overly complex for what we need as educators, the problem with these programs is they are so feature full that kids get lost - distracted/confused by the 90% of what it can do but they don't need. Prezi (and other cloud based presentation tools) focus on doing the 10% of what we actually need/use.

An especially powerful aspect of the work in this unit was teaching the students to take advantage of a feature known as 'Embedding'. This is a technique whereby a student can copy some HTML code and 'embed' it into a post on their class site.

This facilitates a powerful process of peer sharing, as it is now a relatively simple matter to view, reflect and formatively assess all the class Prezis in one place.

ScreenChomp in Grade 3 Mathematics

ScreenChomp is a basically digital whiteboard that users can write and draw on with the touch of a finger, just like you would with an ordinary whiteboard, so "Why use it?" I hear you say. 

Well this whiteboard allows you to also record audio, while you draw, and you can draw using different pen colours, thickness etc. You can also easily add an image via the iPad camera, or an image on the device in the camera roll. Try doing that with a whiteboard.

All this awesome activity on ScreenChomp can be easily recorded, and the videos produced in ScreenChomp can be downloaded as MP4 files, making them easy to share (and then if you want, edit on your Mac). sharing with any audience is just a as simple as sending an email, which automatically included an link for the recipient to view, or even download the video if they choose, perfect for sharing with parents.

Even better - ScreenChomp is free! This means you can encourage your students to nag their parents to download a copy onto an iPad at home, so they can come to school already to create and collaborate and let the actual tech become transparent. It is the ultimate in 'ease of use' - very few commands (not even undo - just wipe and try again) and no account creation required (unlike the Show Me app).

A digital whiteboard has a whole host of educational uses, it really is what I call 'tech with mileage' - ie, just like pencil and paper there are so many uses for this kind of app, in almost any curriculum area you can think of.

Grade 3, have been putting it to good use, to allow students to describe their understanding of the various strategies they have been learning in Maths, in this way even though a teacher may find if difficult to 'conference' with each student, students can describe their understanding via ScrenChomp and the teacher can review this at a convenient time, helping them to point point which students require further assistance or extension in following lessons. Assessment for Learning, in action. Here are some examples from some of the students in 3JRy.

This video can be utlised in a whole host of ways, eg, to share with other students, to share with parents, or even to compile into a resource to help teach or review strategies with other students.

The examples included in this post where created by students in Julie Ryan's class, feel free to view, who knows, you might even learn a new strategy?

Explain Everything in Grade 3

Explain Everything is an easy-to-use iPad App that lets students, well... explain everything they know about a subject, by annotating, animating, and narrating their explanations - simultaneously. This App is a step up from Apps like ScreenChomp and Show Me, as students can access many more options, so while it lacks the simplicity of those Apps, it more than makes up for it in terms of the possibilities it offers. Multiple screens, undo and redo, text labelling, laser pointers, and a whole host of ways to export the completed video from the iPad.

The central idea for the Media Mania unit is to teach the students that understanding advertising helps them to make informed choices.

So at the end of the unit, for their summative assessment each student 'explained everything' they knew about: 

• The forms and location of advertising
• The strategies used to make advertising effective
• How their feelings, beliefs and values can be influenced by advertising

Friday, 4 May 2012

SonicPics in Grade 1

Objective: Research, plan, make and present an endangered animal project for the "Extinction is Forever" unit.

As part of the Grade 1 endangered animal research project the children were given options for ways to present their research to the class. Some children chose to use the SonicPics App on the iPad.

First they researched certain facts about their animal.

Then they had to find photos/pictures that would match their information for each slide. They used Google images, books, drew pictures and used objects.

They worked independently to take pictures, add captions and plan their speech for each slide.

When they were happy with their slides they could then record the information using their plan to complete their presentation. They then presented it to the class using the IWB.

As it turned out, Ms Foster and Ms Putt need not have spent hours diligently attending drop in sessions after school, and during their holiday to work out how to use it, as the kids investigated it themselves and worked it out and could even trouble shoot problems along the way!

Mr McHugh disagrees ... these remarkable teachers very wisely worked through a plethora of potential Apps, before whittling the choice down to one App they knew would be ideal for their students to use.

This is another excellent example of teachers providing the pedagogical and content expertise of years of teaching, and creatively finding way to make this even more effective by facilitating the effective use of digital technologies with their students. The teachers focus on the pedagogy and content, and their students take care of the technology. Marvellous!