August 14

Reading with technology – an update!

This post is an update to the most popular post on this site – Guided Reading on the iPad. This post has been read thousands of times, and lots of the apps and ideas there are still relevant, but times are changing and I thought it would be interesting to revisit at why using a tablet like device can be beneficial for reading. I won’t go through the activities and ideas in detail, instead I’ll look at what else has been happening with technology and reading in the classroom.

Not just the iPad

Much of the two year old post was based on my work which was specific to iPads. My experiences have now been across chrome, android and kindle devices. Much of what I wrote about in my initial post still rings true and there is now a huge increase in apps available for all platforms, and indeed all devices can be seen in the classroom.

Group work:

if you are organised into groups, tablet devices work very well. Many of the apps detailed in the previous post are now available for android, including the fab Explain Everything (which as I write this is also coming to Chrome) and there are some really great apps out there for testing word skills, spelling, sentence structure etc. Obviously it depends what your focus is, but I know that with the increased focus on spelling and grammar many great apps are appearing that would work great as a paired activity.

 

Some of the new iPad apps i've bee using

 

  • Alan Peat’s apps include grammar references, word play games and references for the national curriculum. iPad and android. Works very well on small screens.
  • Puppet Pals on the iPad has had a complete overall with Puppet Pals 2 – and is jam packed with even more features.
  • Book Creator is now also available on Android, and remains a brilliant way to get children to create something quickly, or work as a group to repsond to something
  • Google apps have a wide variety of word processing, comic creating, animating etc. The collaborative nature of these, as well as the way in which teachers can be involved make them ideal for responding to text work (interviewing, imagining endings and so on).
  • Web sites such as Oxford Owls who have online books, with partners and tasks such as reviewing orquestioning each other children can get alot from these services.
Individual work

Putting aside the individual scope for production and creation eBooks with features such as dictionaries, links to other books and read along (or aloud) features are now mich more common. Kindles have worked very well in my experience alongside the traditional classroom library, can be seen as a reward (though not always!) and borrowed by children who may benefit. Alternatively a class reader on the kindle, then used with targeted readers has also worked very well. Motivation, easier to read text (often resulting in a feeling that they are reading more) and cheaper books. Kindles are also much cheaper than some tablets, and don’t have so much distraction (though they are online now) – turning parental controls on however is a very simple process. Other than that publishers are coming round to putting books out electronically, and they can be a huge space saver in the classroom.

There has been a huge increase in story telling apps. Many I discussed already elsewhere on this site – I always enjoy reviewing these as some of them are absolutely gorgeous. There have been some great new ones as well. Mr Glue is an iPad app which supports the retelling and creation of books. Me Books is a fabulously creative book app on both android and iPad. Story telling apps should all now include recording, breat voice acting, recording of your own, and some level of control over how the narrative paces. It’s worth asking the developer for a free trial before you commit the school!

Mr Glue Stories - easy and fun

 

I hope this update proves useful for those of you using digital technologies in the classroom. Please let me know what you’ve found useful in the classroom!


Resources:

What is guided reading? A guide from Scholastic!

Top Tips for using Kindles in the Classroom

 

May 16

Go Animate

I’m always on the lookout for tools that can support creativity, be practical for classroom use and use our Chromebooks.

Go Animate was shared with me via twitter and it has proven incredibly useful!

The online package provides all the tools needed to create simple animated video that can then be shared. You are given a variety of tools to add voice, customize your characters and to be as complex as you like.

We also have iPads, and whilst you can access some of the features on the iPad, it uses Flash and so you can’t really produce a finished product. However the online environment means that children can access it anywhere.

A quick look at their blog gives some great examples. You can get a feel for how the finished product will look.

 

Simple

The environment, once logged in, is easy to use and intuitive. For our first session I just let our Digital Leaders play with it and then give me their thoughts. They were enthusiastic and very keen to keep going. Digital Leaders are a standard way for us to introduce new software, the idea being that they get to grips with it and then can show the other children.

Needless to say they picked it up immediately, it was all very familiar to them and they really enjoyed the cartoon style. All of the controls, were available within a couple of clicks and the icons, instructions used were straightforward. It created a kind of stop motion type effect, which the children could easily improve uponwith practice. Dialogue could be typed in and then either recorded or voiced by the computer.

Whole Class Use

Moving into whole class use then was simple, I used it for our look at ‘bullying’ and the children had planned a simple storyboard. I stressed that they were to use a more simple approach to story telling and they created a plan to animate. They were then able to turn this into a simple movie.

The topics that we have looked at so far include the bullying movie and a look at the water cycle – and there were adequate resources on the site for this. No doubt there could be some improvements in characters available, but we haven’t fully investigated the whole customisation process yet.

 

 

Management

Management of the system is also easy – as a teacher I can change passwords, set up groups (for collaboration!) and then view all video that has been created. I set up the initial lot of passwords manually, but you can also input files. I also put the link on our Google Classroom Stream, which meant the pupils could also access from home. Which they have done!

 

I should point out that I took part in a free trial for this review – however I will be subscribing! If interested I will add some of the videos to this review later, alongside the children’s comments!

 

September 6

Classroom Collaboration – what you can try straight away!

Classroom collaboration was cited as one of the key reasons to begin using technology in the classroom in a recent (and quick) question and answer session….

There are many, many ways to get your pupils to collaborate more, and obviously using tech is only one strand of this. From role play, drama, team games and problem solving; once you get your pupils used to the different roles and the collaborative techniques of listening and working together it all becomes so much easier. How then can digital technology help?

An incredibly effective way to get collaboration is through a classroom (or school) blog. If the school is reluctant to get involved with this there are plenty of ways that you, as a class teacher, could get involved. It is very simple to start a blog through a free service such as blogger – and then use it in class to get children to collaborate on ideas such as storytelling or problem solving. Children can add their contributions in the classroom.

Give a voice…

A side effect of collaboration is that there will always be some children that are not heard, or who dot get to contribute. Programmes which allow for pupils to get involved without standing up in front of their classmates, or even saying anything, can be useful.

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This example from educationismylife.com .

A simple idea is Padlet – and I’ve mentioned this lots on the site already – Padlet allows you to create a very quick whiteboard space which can be added to by clicking. You could set up a Padlet during a lesson with a question -and leave it on the computer for them to contribute to. For example – different ways to start a story, or solutions to maths questions. Using that Padlet’s code they can also contribute from home or through a different device in the classroom. I have already shared several examples of this – this post here looks at the use of Padlet for questioning.  However it has many uses – and even more so if you have a classroom blog which can be accessed from home-  groups can work on Padlets for different concepts, science planning and questioning for example. You can even password protect the Padlet so only children from your class can contribute.  The use is limitless – and a great way to get contributions from your pupils.

Popplet is another collaborative tool – allowing the group discussions to be contributed to, and accessed by anyone with the code for that popplet. It is also an app, and a website -so again if you have more devices in class the children can contribute as they see fit. I have used this versatile tool when story planning, allowing children to take their story off in different branches whilst we watched on the whiteboard. Again – I have written about Popplet before – and their are many examples of it’s use to be found!

Be creative…

More creative forms of collaboration were also mentioned by those advocates of technology in the classroom – a group working together to create something. iPads and tablet devices work brilliantly for this kind of thing – whether working together around one device or sharing and adding to their work. Obvious contendors for the iPad are Book Creator, Garage Band and Explain Everything. Garage Band is a particularly powerful tool – for example creating a radio advertisment with voice and music can be a powerful group task and the results using this app will sound impressive,

image

These apps are all incredibly easy to get started with and easily share the work within the tablet systems. But computers and laptops can be just as good for collaboration: Google Drive is another great way for pupils to contribute – registering your class as a user (either with a class email, or a temporary made up one) and when the pupils log in they can all share work and contribute to it. Of course, if the infrastructure is there you could register indiviuals in order to better control their work. This presentation has lots of ways to get you started!

Online apps such as Scratch also allow for collaboration – saving the class work, (or your example) on there lets the children take what you have created and then ‘tinker’ – indeed improving and debugging forms part of the KS2 computing curriculum anyway and Scratch is a perfect way of doing that.

General Tips

Just getting started with collaboraton can be tough in a primary classroom – it will only work if children are aware of the point of the collaboration and the behaviours expected!

  • Begin by giving roles – for example within a science lesson you might have a ‘recorder’ ‘analyst’ ‘equipment manager.
  • Demonstrate and be a role model for how you expect the groups to work -e.g. you might have to take part as a member of a group and then refer to the class for solutions when problems arise. An example might be a maths puzzle – one person may be the ‘accuracy checker’ – and then ask teh class what happens if you find a mistake? What should you do?
  • In the beginning have a tight hold on the technology – for example a blog where each group is to record their end result – model how you expect it to be used.
  • Then ‘loosen up’ – once the children are aware of the different tools at their disposal let them choose – for example how they present their art project is up to them – and the key is that they don’t have to make use of any digital technology at all!

 

I hope this helps – other common uses for technology came out of the twitter chat, and I’ll explore those later! Thanks for reading – feel free to comment!


 

May 30

Hakitzu – stretch your pupils with JavaScript

Looking for inventive ways of stretching your pupils to develop their coding skills?

Hakitzu is a great game from Kuato Studios  which puts you in control of robots during combat.  The studio have been running a brilliant 100 Hours of Code programme  – visiting schools and using their game to show pupils and teachers how fun coding can be. And it is fun!!

The game introduces JavaScript , which may be more advanced than Primary children would normally go, so teachers can develop their own confidence at the same time. In the classroom the pupils enjoy the developing sense of competition and can get involved really quickly as it follows different levels of difficulty. You begin with a tutorial which allows movement easily with little coding – as the difficulty ramps up you need to use more code.

As with any app in the classroom there are some practical constraints (though this may change as the app updates)

  • an email and username is needed for the competitive element of the game – if the children have one they wish to use then great – or you can provide with names and made-up email (do try this first though in case that changes!)
  • The tutorial and initial sections of the app are easily accessible – and you could easily let them play with this first and then bring them back to see what they are finding difficult
  • to play the competitive elements the wifi in the class needs to be good…

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Get it on ios here

On Android here

A great dropbox for Hakitzu resources here – lots of ideas here!

Read more from their blog here

May 11

Using Popplet

I’ve mentioned Popplet in lots of posts before – it is one of the most useful and versatile classroom tools I’ve come across. I thought a quick post dedicated to how we use it in the classroom might be useful!

Popplet

It is both an iPad app and a web based app 

Getting started:

You can get into it immediately via the web app – you don’t need an account (though it is helpful – see below) – and the iPad app is also free to try.

There is a super easy to understand tutorial which guides you through the basics – great for sharing with staff and pupils!

Make good use of the ability to insert pictures, colours and text – it can make your mind-maps look really professional and gives a real sense of pride!

popplet2

In the classroom:

Children can quickly create ideas for writing, which can then be displayed and added to as the lesson goes on.

Clever use of colour means you can easily model the different branches of mind mapping and get children to do the same.

With iPads children can create, and add to, their mind maps then use them as prompts for their writing.

The mind maps can be exported as images and added to class blogs.

But register an account:

Children can work on Popplets – and then share them across platforms to view each other’s work.

Quickly share a Popplet that was created on the whiteboard with individual computers/iPads

Share a class account and let the children access it at home.

Quick ideas:
  • Writing – mindmapping plot ideas and stories which can then be viewed by the children as they write. I have used this with the iPad Writing Project – and it allowed us to build up lots of different ideas for story plots and characters, and add to them as we worked. The children could even use this at home.
  • Vocabulary work – using as a topic web for key words, concepts, meanings etc.. Again, as it is so quick to do it can be added to as the topic builds up, and accessed whenever they need to.
  • Science – mapping out exploration questions, and linking these to answers as they go on. For example with a recent look at material properties we were able to collate pictures of materials alongside their properties as we went through the afternoon.
  • Research – especially for topic work / non-fiction writing – mindmapping can bring order to their thoughts when done properly and using Popplet means they will be able to access these again (and they will look good!!)

The Popplet Blog has some really great ideas for making use of all the features!