Inquiring into Technology

In the fall two grade 3 teachers asked my colleague and I to introduce iPad apps to their classes. After some coaching, we decided to start with introducing the big ideas behind presenting information before the apps. We’ve done that (post coming soon) and now the classes are ready to go further with some practical application of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity. But because I like to think big (and make more work for myself), I wondered what a learning experience would look like for introducing any app to students.

Could we create a learning experience that could be adapted by teachers/instructional coaches for any creation app/program (and would not be boring or repetitive for students)?

After doing some brainstorming with Andria based on Kath Murdoch‘s Inquiry Cycle, I drafted the learning experience below. Anyone with the link is able to comment…looking forward to your warm and cool feedback!

Garage Band & IB DP Oral Exams

A couple weeks ago our Language B department contacted me to train them on how to use Garage Band for their oral exams. I had only minimal experience from last year, so I contacted Christina (our curriculum coordinator) for the details. After a brief chat and checking out her blog post from her experience a couple years ago, I was ready.

The mini-training for our teachers was successful however they were a little nervous about remembering the exact right steps on the day of (they didn’t want their students to do amazing work to then realize that it didn’t record). In order to make it the simplest possible for the teachers, I created a tutorial with screen shots and a checklist they could use for each student. I got good feedback from it and thought I’d share it for any other DP teachers who need to submit oral exams to the IB. Feel free to share it and adapt as necessary!

Community walk

In November, I participated in a Community Walk with one of our Grade 2 classes as part of their ‘Where We Are in Place and Time’ unit of inquiry. Their teacher, Ms. Kira, is currently working on her International Teaching Certificate and IB level 1 award and this was part of her course requirements.

In groups of 2 (each with an adult supervisor), students walked around the community near our school for 30 minutes. The majority of our students do not live near the school so this was a new experience for them. Their goal was to take pictures of the community and interview someone in order to learn about life in the community. Shahad and Lulwa were ready to go with their interview questions (2 pages!) and iPad.

They wandered around a bit before finding a man working at a bakala (convenience store) who agreed to answer their questions.

They had two full pages of questions that were…quite interesting and definitely detailed! Although I did have to help focus them, it was really fun to see them interact with a local community member in both Arabic and English.

They took pictures and videos using their school iPads during their walk in order to create a presentation for their classmates and parents. Afterwards, they ended up creating a 6 minute long Explain Everything…it was a struggle to watch. The heart was there but it was a time when the technology seemed to inhibit the demonstration of their learning. Explain Everything just has a few too many tools for 2nd graders. But I was also impressed that they did the video all by themselves (I had my suspicions about some of the other groups).

Overall I really enjoyed being a part of this experience and hope I can be more involved next year! Kira asked me to reflect further on the experience:

Explain how you believe the Community contributed to the cultural life of your school and how it contributed to the local community.

  • Most of our students don’t live in the community of the school. Being forced to actually go out and explore this community helped the students understand what life is like here. The saw the stark differences from what they’re used to seeing where they live. Walking around the community was not a normal part of their everyday lives and took courage on behalf of the students (and adults!). The walk helped our students become more open-minded and reflective. It also benefited the community – our school and the community are kept almost completely separate  99% of the time. This was a fantastic opportunity for the community to see and interact with the students at our school. It created a better understanding, both on the part of the school and the community, about what is on the other side of the walls. Our students took a risk to be communicators with adults in the community and were rewarded when those adults treated them with respect. Everyone learned something!

How did the Community Walk change your perception of the local community?

  • I enjoy interacting with the local businesses around our school (while still being conscious of my surroundings). Although I live in the community, our walk took us to streets that I do not often traverse. I enjoyed seeing the new businesses and how the employees interacted with the students. It was definitely a positive experience!

I watched #COETAILCast 11

And really enjoyed it! Definitely worth an hour of your time. But if you don’t have that much time, here are the highlights (according to me):

COETAILers on Twitter
After the workshop I gave at PEAK on Saturday, I found value in the conversation re: Twitter. Becoming a connected educator can do so much for you and for the education community.

COETAILers on Blogging 
A great discussion about making the time to blog and what to blog about. Hopefully something we can use during our KIEC workshops in January. Two highlights for me: “If you’re in a tech integration job, part of your job is to blog, to reflect” (Jeff Utecht) & “Write for yourself” (Chrissy).

Dana Watts on iPads in education
Dana summed up everything I believed in the perfect way. I’m not going to try to paraphrase. Just go watch it (only a minute or two).

Language B Final Exam Review

When I brainstormed with the Language B department (Arabic & French) about how they could meaningfully integrate technology (SAMR prof development), they were eager to talk about the (quickly approaching) end of the year. Reviewing with students can be frustrating for both students and teachers. They wanted a way to put the responsibility of the review on their students while also engaging them. Although we came up with several ideas, they were most intrigued by Popplet (some of them had already seen it) and two of our French teachers (MYP & DP) gave it a try.

The teachers signed up for free Popplet accounts. For homework, the students signed up for accounts. Amel, the DP French teacher, created a popplet for each unit. She then created popples for grammar, vocabulary, and sub-topics. Once the structure was set, she invited students to the popplet. It was the students’ responsibility to fill in the popplet with grammer concepts, vocabulary words and sub-topics.
Tronc commun  Relations sociales

The middle school MYP teacher also used Popplet in a similar way with her students.

It was fun to hear the oohs and aahs from the students when I added a popple from the desktop and it showed up on their screens. The teachers liked that their students could collaborate and that each popple automatically included the creator’s name. Although only the creator can edit a popple, the teachers liked the comment function to help guide students. The ease of adding students to popplets was beneficial for the teachers. The ability to share links to popplets (on their class Edmodo pages) and create images was incredibly useful. The biggest negative? We’re an iPad school – the fully functional free website is flash-based and the app (with ability to collaborate) costs money. Also, you can only create a limited number of popplets (easily solved by saving the image when done and deleting the popplet).

Although this isn’t a “redefined” use of technology, the ability to simultaneously collaborate on a brainstorm with students gives it more oomph than “substitution.” It was a little taster for our teachers and hopefully they’ll be able to build on their experiences next year.

Google Earth in lower elementary

Last weekend at the Middle East GAFE Summit, I had the pleasure of meeting John Bailey and attending one of his sessions on Google Earth. The man knows his stuff! While I was at his session, I was finally inspired to share an idea I had for the KG2 teachers recently. I’m sure John could embellish it and make it much better (as he found out he was selected to attend the next Google Teacher’s Academy while we were there..congrats John!) but I do what I can. 😉

During the 3-hour planning meeting for the IB PYP KG2 unit, it was mentioned that in the past students have looked at their food wrappers to see where their food comes from. I thought this would be a great way to incorporate Google Earth!

After students find out where their food is from, the teacher could create a placemark for each student/food item. Instead of just creating simple placemarks, I went one step further  and inserted pictures. I took a picture of the food item using my iPad. I then created a secret board on Pinterest (using the iPad app). On my computer, I copied the image URL of the picture on Pinterest. In the placemark, I clicked ‘add image’ and pasted the URL. You could also put the pictures on your website…you just need to be able to get the image URL. If you want to get really awesome, you could mess around with Tours and create a video of all the placemarks.

Although you cannot create placemarks on the iPad (that I’ve found…let me know if you figure it out!), you can open your Trip on the iPad. I emailed myself the Google Earth attachment (you can also upload it to your Google Drive) and was able to open and view it on the iPad. Students can now actually SEE where their food came from! Pretty cool, huh?

(I couldn’t get the embed gadget to work for the Google Earth file. Feel free to open it in Google Earth! Merci to Jeff for his modeling skills 🙂

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this review. Just my honest opinion & experience.