Posts tagged ‘Apps’

Why “App Smashing” is Opening up a World of Creativity for School Kids

“What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think ‘outside the box,’ people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done.” By Steve Jobs

Guest Post by Fe Cowan from Palmetto High School, Williamston, South Carolina

Being a student in a higher-poverty district doesn’t mean pupils get a compromised education, just as wealthier students aren’t guaranteed success. How to engage students is up to teachers and while lavish budgets are never unwanted, there are many ways we can use ingenuity to give any student a more enriching experience. Of course, this assumes the teacher is also engaged and doesn’t believe classes should only involve pulling pages out of a standard workbook.

I’ve been teaching for 28 years. Currently, I teach world geography to ninth graders at Palmetto High School, which is located in Williamston, South Carolina near Greenville, South Carolina in the piedmont area of Anderson School District 1.. Even though our district is at 49% poverty while Palmetto sits at close to 60% poverty, our district administrators have put us ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. All students from primary to high school have some form of one-to-one technology. As a teacher, I wanted my students to experience the things that kids in a wealthier district would encounter and I’m delighted to say that not only is this currently the case, but my students are actually ahead of other students in some important ways.

I’ve been using “app smashing” with my students, which is a phrase coined by a teacher who found that after using iPads in the classroom for some time, one application never seemed like enough to achieve a satisfactory outcome. In app smashing, two or more apps are used to create content, delivering several positive results like getting more out of the software, improving the teaching experience, increasing student engagement, encouraging collaboration and, best of all, promoting creative thinking.

Get out of the rut….

Effective teaching mandates not being afraid to try something new in the classroom. Many teachers criticize the kids for spending so much of their time on video games and TV, which automatically turns these areas into a negative. This is the wrong attitude because finding a way to reflect student interests prevents boredom in class and can lead to more enlightened learning that will stick with pupils. And there’s the powerful side benefit of reducing or eliminating behavior problems.

Every year that I’ve taught World Geography, I’ve given an assignment in which students create a restaurant located in some other part of the world. Earlier, we used Microsoft apps like PowerPoint and Word to develop flyers and other details and a few years ago when we had iPads, I had students create commercials for their restaurant. Our school/district recently switched to Chromebooks so initially, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the familiar applications like iMovie that had been working for me on the Apple platform. I need not have worried. After some online searching, I found WeVideo and Soundtrap for the Chromebook. One of the added bonuses of both software was the collaborative aspects that allow students to work together in groups on the same assignment, which wasn’t possible with iMovie. As educators, we are required to teach our students 21st century skills like collaboration.
As a teacher, I’ve long been committed to developing my own materials rather than using workbook sheets so I make everything my students write on in class like a crossword puzzle or something else myself. But I needed a tool to help me fulfill my longtime goal of adding music creation to my restaurant commercial assignment. This is what brought me to use app smashing.

While WeVideo has downloadable music, this didn’t support my educational goal of enhancing their learning and the innovation process. That’s why I chose Soundtrap, which is an online music and recording studio that lets my kids add music to their commercial. For example, when we study Latin America, their commercial is for an imaginary Latin American restaurant and creating Latin-style music could be part of their commercial. Soundtrap is an intuitive, easy-to-use tool but there are still students who resist or are a bit frightened of technology so I made the music part of the assignment an extra-credit project for those interested. The results were impressive. Many students jumped right in and some created music that was so good that I wasn’t sure if they made it on their own or pulled it off a video. Fortunately, they did it all themselves.

Having taught kids in wealthier and poorer districts, it was disheartening for me to see how the wealthier kids I taught were mainly using their electronic devices just for typing while my students in Palmetto are far ahead of them in app smashing – it promotes creativity and collaboration. We have another assignment coming up — we’re in Europe now — in which they’ll pretend they’re going to two concerts by different artists. They have to find tourist sites they’d visit and they can create and add music and some narration for extra credit.

I’ve been taking every opportunity to play with music with my students because along with collaboration, creativity is a 21st century skill that people need. But, I try to ground these activities in key life lessons, so I tell my students that these creative skills they’re learning are something that might earn them money, too. Knowing how to develop videos with music or develop flyers are skills that are desirable in the real world.
Like anyone, kids can be a bit apprehensive when faced with something they’ve never done before, but the process of learning and producing good results is a powerful teaching tool. Whether its app smashing, making a pretend commercial for an overseas restaurant or learning how to collaborate, the journey is enriching.

Unfortunately, some teachers resist learning new things, too, but I believe stepping out of your comfort zone not only prevents boredom for everyone but can create the pride in achievement that gives educators as well as their students a more engaged, happy life.

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Hour of Code

“Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand. ” By Martin Fowler

Did you know there will be 1,000,000 more computer science jobs than students by 2020 and that 9 out of 10 US schools don’t teach computer programming? This week (December 9-15) Computer Science Education and Code.org will host the Hour Of Code. The Hour of Code is an event organized to show that everyone can learn to code.  Here is a short video describing Hour of Code:

I believe that Computer Science courses will soon be in every school, as it is a language we should know for the 21st century. Teaching students to code from a young age (just like foreign languages) can help students have a better understanding of computer science. This video is an oldie but goodie that talks about why we should be teaching coding.

Do you want to teach your students to code but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you want to learn coding yourself? Check out all these resources:

Tynker (I have seen a few  3-5 grade teachers use this for coding clubs after-school) and Tynker’s Hour of Code Info

Codecademy.com (I have seen a few middle schools use this site for coding clubs after-school, this is how I taught myself to code)

Scratch  and Scratch’s Hour of Code Guide

Kodu and Kodu’s Hour of Code Info

Khan Academy: Computer Programming  and Khan’s Hour of Code Info

Activate! 

Code Monster

Gamestar Mechanic

Lego Digital Designer

My favorite coding App is Kodableyou can read about why here. They are always adding more and more resources to make this app very easy for teachers and parents to teach coding.

Using Kodable App in the Classroom

“I can’t live without my smartphone, but I really geek on coding. It’s not so much technology that I like, but puzzle solving.” Sylvia Day

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Last week I was lucky to meet the creators of KodableGrechen and Jon. Kodable is an amazing app that teaches programming to students K-2nd. It allows students to have an interactive learning experience using a gamification approach. That app will soon also have curriculum to help educators including lesson plans, vocabulary and activities. Jon and Grechen are also working on a web and android version which will be great for BYOT schools.

Kodable uses a scaffolding technique helping the students learn the positional arrows by dragging and dropping. Using key programing skills such as if – then statements the students steer a ‘fuzz’ character through a sequence of mazes. The students also earn coins and level up as incentives. Kodable connects with the Common Core curriculum. Here are just a few standards it meets: W.1.7, L.1.6, Math Mathematical Practices along with the many of the Anchor Standards.

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You can have multiple players allowing you to differentiate and lets the students work at their own pace. The level ‘Bugs Below’ is a fabulous feature letting the students learn to de-bug; acknowledging problem codes and using critical thinking skills to work out how to fix them. You can take it a step further in the classroom by having the students blog on HOW they solved the problem.

Meet the Fuzz Family

Other articles and blog posts about Kodable:

Kodable Teaches Kids To Code Before They Learn To Read

Kodable: the First Step in Coding

Kodable: Engage Their Minds

Kodable: Gets Kids Thinking About Logic and More 

Katching up with Kodable: Bugs Below! KidTech Summit, and STEM

Apps and Sites That Work on All Devices for BYOT

“Honestly, I think we should be delighted people still want to read, be it on a Kindle or a Nook or whatever the latest device is.” By J.K. Rowling

With more and more schools launching, ‘Bring Your Own Technology’ or ‘Bringing Your Own Device’ (BYOT/BYOD) I created a symbaloo of all apps and web tools that work on all devices to help educators get started. Even though I am a firm believe, it doesn’t matter what site/app the students use to show mastery of a concept, some educators need a starting place and many have loved this symbaloo so I, of course, want to pass it along.

Typically when you click on the symbaloo tile it will bring you to a website/app that is linked. This symbaloo is a little different because I can’t embed the symboloo because wordpress doesn’t allow iframe widgets, so I had to make it a screen shot with url link.

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If there are sites that work on all devices that you have learned about, I would love to add them to my symbaloo. Please share in the comment section as websites are making apps everyday.

If you would like to view my previous posts on BYOT see below:

Bring Your Own Devices Resources

5 Best Practices for BYOT in the Classroom

Getting Teachers and Parents Comfortable with BYOT

Rolling Out Our BYOT

BYOT and Balancing Equality 

BYOT Our First Month in Review

Using ThingLink in the Classroom

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” by Edwin Land

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Thinglink was introduced to me when I was at the NC Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) Conference during a presentation by Richard Byrne (@rmbryne). I thought it was a really great FREE web tool but was disappointed it didn’t also have an app. A few weeks ago, Thinglink launched their FREE app, which I love!

What is Thinglink? Thinglink makes pictures interactive with text, video, images and links. When you click on a Thinglink image, you’ll see symbols such as red video circles and dots where it is interactive. Thinglink has endless possibilities in education. My top 3 ways of using it in education are below:

1. Student Portfolios: Teachers can use a picture of a student and through-out the year, students can add images of their work or video to show mastery of content. By doing this each quarter the teachers, students and parents can see the progress over the year. Each corner of the picture could represent each quarter/semester.

2. Assessment, Projects and Presentation: Students can create Thinglinks to show their understanding for any Common Core or Essential Standard. Teachers can have a rubric setting the expectation for what they want in the Thinglink. For example you could require, two text boxes, a link and  a video. Or you can set the expectation that the student must show mastery of a standard, and the student has a little more freedom to determine what that looks like. Having the students creating Thinglinks lets them use all their 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating, communicating and collaborating (if they work with a partner).

Ex of Assessment: The student can draw out any topic, for example the water cycle or a math problem, using the free Skitch app. The student can save it to their camera roll and then create a Thinglink demonstrating their knowledge by adding recordings, text and links explaining their thinking.

Ex of a project: The students can make book reports by taking a picture of the book cover and embedding a movie trailer that they have created for the book. Or for non-fiction the student could find a picture of the person like Steve Jobs, and they can show their understanding of the book. Click here for my example, I chose to do a favorite quote and speech.

A fabulous teacher, Lisa Maples, embedded her class Thinglink into her wiki, as an end of year project. There are  links to various digital projects that the students have created. http://maples.cmswiki.wikispaces.net/Thinglink+2012-2013

3. Lesson Plans and Homework: Teachers can create Thinglinks to help differentiate lessons and homework. Using any image, the teacher can add the content they want the students to know. You can even spice up graphic organizers and info-graphics.

Ex of  a Lesson Plan: The teacher can take a picture of an ecosystem and add all the vocabulary words and/or videos that can help the students learn the topic.

Ex of Homework: This is a great way to flip the classroom. You can embed videos and practice problems on a  topic and have the students complete for homework. Click here for an example using comparing fractions.

Thinglinks are easy to create on both the website and in the app. First create an account at thinglink.com (it is free). If you want to create a Thinglink on the app, download it, and then sign in. Using the pictures in your camera roll, chose one and then tap anywhere on the picture. Here you add the content you want such as video or text, add a title and you are done. You can share it by emailing the link from the app but it also automatically syncs; when you log into your account through the website, you can share it many more ways. If you are creating a Thinglink on the website, click on create in the top right corner and chose an image that is on your computer or for a website (make sure it is a creative commons imagine) and add your content. That is it, I love free and simple!

Any of these Thinglinks can be made into a QR code as well. You can have these posted around the room as helping aids or to inform the students. Just copy the url and paste into any QR code creator such as qrstuff or follow my directions on my blog post about making  QR code in google drive.

I would love to hear how you have used Thinglink or want to use it in your classroom, please share in the comments or on this open Thinglink I created by clicking edit and adding your idea. (To make a Thinglink where anyone can add info, click on the edit tab and set your settings to anyone.) Another great way to have students collaborate in the classroom.

Follow me on Thinglink:  Edu_Thompson. Here are some more great Thinglinks done by other educators! Click on the links to view.

Flexible Learning Paths

Web Tools and Literacy

Let’s Teach Kids to Code

Using Bitsboard App for Assessment

“Every thought we think is creating our future.” by Louise L. Hay

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Bitsboard is a FREE App I learned about recently. It is a great app to use with any grade level, with any curriculum for informal assessments. This App is available for IOS devices and Androids. Once you download Bitsboard they give you some boards that are already created. You can also look through their catalog and download any Bitsboard you like. With Bitsboard you can learn almost anything from site words, to time, to foreign languages. Bitsboard has several assessments you can choose from which allows you to switch up the assessment but still concentrate on the same content. There are assessments such as flashcards, matching, spelling and true or false to name just a few.

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Two of my favorite features I like about Bitsboard is, one that you as the teacher can tell the student which assessment they need to work on or you can allow them to choose. Each assessment also progress monitors the content so you can track your students learning. My second favorite feature is that you can create your own boards or students can. It is easy to create a board, all you need to do is tap new board and decide on the content you want the assessment to be.

When I was working with some fourth grade students, they made their own Bitsboard on the topic Rocks and Minerals (4.P.2). Not only could the others students use it to learn but the students who made the board showed their mastery of their knowledge as well. I also worked with some students with disabilities using this app as well. We used it to teach the students emotions, social skills and vocabulary.

In the top right there is a gear that you can tap and it will allow you to follow a quick guide or a getting started manual.This is also where you can edit your boards and share them. I hope you enjoy Bitsboard in the classroom as much as I do and I would love to hear how you use it in the classroom as well.

Creating Games with the Tiny Tap App Based on Common Core

“Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, deserves to be. ” By David Thornburg

Tiny Tap

Tiny Tap is an app that I came across when I was waiting to get my oil changed in my car. I was sitting next to this little girl who was in Kindergarten and she was playing on the app. I asked her to tell me about it and she was showing me all the games she could play on the app and then the game she created on the app herself. Of course I had to also test out this new app and see how I could apply it to the classroom curriculum.

Tiny Tap is s a free iPad app that allows you to create simple games based on pictures that you take, find or ones you draw. The app is very user friendly, even a Kindergarten could make a game. 🙂 It is easy for teachers to use for differentiated instruction because students can play a game that is based on their needs. Within 10 mins I made a game that connected with the Math Common Core standard K.CC.7.

Here are the steps on how to create a game:

1. Click on create a game and add the title of your game.

2. Tap on the add photo and either upload pictures, take new pictures, find picture on the web or draw a picture based on your Common Core curriculum standard you want to address.

3. To create your question press the record button and start talking.

4. When you have finished recording, select the portion of your picture that is your answer by circling it.

5. Click on done and it will appear on your shelf.

If you want to go back and edit any of the games you created, you can at any time, by clicking on the edit button in the top right corner.  There is also a TinyTap Market where you can see what other people have created, some are free and some are paid. You can also edit others games once it is downloaded into your shelf.

The best part is students who have shown mastery can make games for students that still need to practice certain curriculum skills. This allows students to use their 21st century skills by allowing them to critically think, communicate and create.

I hope you enjoy this app as much as I have!

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