Thursday, August 29, 2013

New School? New Technology!

Started at a new school this year? What are the technology questions you should be asking? What technology preparation should you be doing? Here are some ideas!

  1. Do an inventory of what technology is in your school. 
  2. Talk to the technical analyst or lead technology teacher. I think understanding HOW things work will help you problem solve when things stop working (or even to know when to stop problem solving because it is not fixable by you). Possible questions to ask:
           What are some ongoing technology problems? 
           How old is the technology in the school?
           What is the plan for technology in the school?
           How reliable is the wireless?
  3. Find out the procedures for accessing the various technology. You may need to talk to the librarian, the technical analyst, principal, lead technology teacher and others! 
  4. Find out the subscriptions and cloud computing programs the school has access to. Thing to find out:
           Who manages the subscriptions/programs?
           What setup is required for you/your students use the subscriptions/programs?
           Are there programs you are REQUIRED to use?
  5. Learn about the technical savvy of your new community. Are the parents and families happy to go paperless and receive everything from you via the Internet? Do many of your families have limited access to technology. Are there any on-going community issues around technology?
  6. Have an open-mind! Like all things about moving schools, things are not going to be the same as your old school. There will be things you miss and things you do not miss. 




Monday, August 19, 2013

Android Apps And Grade Two

I will have access to Samsung tablets this school year. In anticipation, I have played around with some Android apps on my Nexus 10. These will not be full reviews yet, as they have not been tested out in a classroom setting. 


The blog post 50 Ideas For iPads in the Classroom has some iPad specific items mentioned, however, it includes great ideas for procedures and is well worth a read for people starting to use any tablet in the classroom.

Common Sense Media has some reviews on Android Apps as well. They provide the age the app is intended for, they give it a learning rating and a quality rating. When you read a full review, they also provide information about: ease of use, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking, drugs and smoking, and privacy and safety. Their audience for these reviews are parents, however, not teachers in a classroom setting.

I've started by trying the free versions of all the apps if a "lite" version was available. The majority of free apps are supported by ads. I would not recommend using the "lite" versions in class. If you do, it is recommended that lessons around consumerism and advertising are a part of your preparation for teaching students how to use the tablets. Common Sense Media has a lesson called "Things For Sale"


Android Apps Previewed


BrainPop Jr. (free)
This is app gives the user access to the current movie of the week plus an easy and a hard quiz about the movie's topic. As well, it gives the (free) user access to six additional free movies. For those who have a subscription, you can also access other educational videos, games, quizzes, and activitiesThe free movies are about:

  • classifying animals
  • bullying
  • nouns
  • US symbols
  • tally charts and bar graphs
  • Internet safety

Will I Use It? Yes. Five of the six free movies are things that fit with the grade two curriculum. I would use this app as a centre activity when we are exploring those topics in class. 

Google Earth (free) 
This app does not have the full capabilities of Google Earth. In theory it would be a great resource for students to have quick access to satellite views of the Earth but I found it glitchy and slow when I used it. 
Will I Use It? Maybe. I'll try it again on the tablets at school and see if it functions better for me on them.  

Guardian Eyewitness (free) 
This app has great pictures but I think it is better suited to division II and up. 
Will I Use It? Not with grade twos

SpellingCity (free*) 
Unlike the website, the (free part of the) app gives you basic spelling practice from ten sample lists that go from kindergarten to grade twelve. If you want students to be able to access the spelling lists you have created on SpellingCity.com (with your free or paid account), then you will have to pay $1.99* for each mobile device for what they call a Mobile PassThe downside is the user is  logging with the teacher account, unless you purchase the classroom premium subscription of $49.99.
Will I Use It? Yes. I think it is worth the $1.99 to try!

RAZ-Kids (app is free but it is based on a subscription)
I have used RAZ-Kids with my grade two classes for the past four years. It is a great addition to reading centres. It costs $89.95 for a subscription. The app connects to this subscription, so students can access their account using this app. 
Will I Use It? Yes 

iStoryBooks (free) 
Common Sense Media summaries this app well: kids' reading skills may not get much of a boost as reading level is typically too high for the targeted ages and writing style is not exceptionally engaging. iStoryBooks offers kids free access to colorful books but would benefit from higher quality literature and a better user interface.
Will I Use It? Maybe. I plan to use RAZ-kids on the tablets. While it is a free app it prompts the user to buy more books. 

Math Pack Flash Cards (free) 
This app has a variety of "flash cards"/questions for math operations for  kindergarten to eighth grade kids.
Will I Use It? No. The layout and organization of the site is not ideal for grade twos in a centre situation. 

NASA (free) 
The NASA app provides information, videos and photos about space. This would be a great app for any grade six classroom! 
Will I Use It? NoWhile anything about NASA is very cool,  I do not see a direct link to grade two curriculum. 


TangramHD (free) 
There are many tangram apps. For classroom use, I did not want one that was based on levels or scores.  This one has categories of puzzles that the user can select from: people, animals, boats, numbers and alphabet, stuff and buildings, and geometry. It does have advertising for its other game but it is minimal. 
Will I Use It? Yes


Apps On Deck For Preview

The following apps are ones I have seen suggested during my research:
Bad Piggies (free) - puzzle games
Cash Cow ($4.03) - a math puzzle game that uses money
Doodle Fit Free (free) - spatial puzzles
Dragon Dictation Lite (free) -    voice recognition dictation ap
i-Prompt (free)- Tele-prompting software
MathBoard ($4.92) - math drills
Math Workout (free) - 
Minecraft Pocket Edition (free) - open-ended activity that is about exploration and creation
Mobile Mouse Lite (free)- makes your tablet a wireless remote for your computer/whiteboard 
My DPS (Digital Problem Solver) $0.99 - it teaches emotions and coping strategies
Story Dice ($2) - dice with symbols for telling stories
Where's My Perry? Free (free) - a puzzle game
Where's My Water? Free (free) - a puzzle game

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Flashback Post To Help With School Start Up

Div1Edtech has a number of blog posts that may be useful for  technology planning and for school start up. 


Class Landing Page

Late August/early September is a great time to set up a class website or landing page. Check out the post A One Stop Shop! The Benefits of a Class Website to see why! I am thinking about setting up this year's class website using Google Sites. Check out the student landing page I made using Google Sites for my previous school: Together We Accomplish More


EPSB Staff cab also use SchoolZone as a landing page. Put the websites you will regularly use as links on the Resources section! If it is your first post there, it will stay at the top for the rest of the year which will make it easy for your students to access from home and school regularly.


Subscriptions

Part of setting up your classroom is thinking about resources, traditional and digital. What subscriptions are worth the money? Check out the blog post Subscriptions and Sign Ups as a jumping off point. 


Technology Lesson-Unit-Year Planning

As you put together your year plan, think about how you might incorporate technology. In the 2012-13 school year I tried to chronicle my technology use in the very long post This is the blog post that doesn't end. Yes, it goes on and on my friend. 

In division one it is important to plan for teaching basic technology skills at the beginning of the year. These first steps can be daunting at times. Check out the blog posts below for some tips and ideas:

Post Your Suggestions!

Please post your tips, links and suggestions in the comments for division one technology school start up ideas!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What's Next For Div1Edtech?

The themes for my posts for the 2013-2014 school year will be Android Apps for division one, UDL for division one, as it relates to educational technology, and digitally connecting division one students with other students from outside their school.


Android Apps? Why Not iPad Apps?

The new school I am working at in September has Samsung tablets. I am excited to look at how these can be effectively used in the classroom. I was disappointed to find out when doing research on Android apps that most discussion out there is around iPad apps. The limited discussion around Android apps for education rarely included division one apps. However, Google Play for Education is supposed to launch in September! Please leave a comment with any Android apps you think I should check out!


UDL? 

Universal Design for Learning is something that I learned about last year. The principles of UDL fit with my educational philosophy. I read Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: Creating Compassionate Learning Communities, this summer. 


Digital Connections

Off and on over the past ten years I have included pen pals, or some variation, in my teaching. Initially I used ePals, which I would still recommend to teachers looking for unique opportunities to connect their students with other students around the world. With EPSB going Google over the past few years, it seemed like a good time to try a Google product platform. So I began to explore how to effectively use Blogger with division one students. Please leave a comment if you are interested in connecting digitally (gmail, Blogger, etc.) with another division one classroom. I started a community on Google+ that is meant to help teachers find other classes to connect with on Blogger. Check it out!