Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Week(s) in Review

Since my last post, several new "things" have been happening in our class and with the students' use of the iPads.  A few are normal transitions in every classroom, a few are progressive in terms of student capabilities, and unfortunately one is simply not desired.

The first is the addition of a few new students and the loss of a few others.  Normally the movement of students tends to cause a fair amount of disruption in terms of new kids gaining skills, "catching up", and  finding a place and balance within the room.  This aspect, fortunately, just doesn't seem to be happening this year.  One new student, having only been in the room for 3 days, has already built two Keynote presentations, created several graphs in Numbers, and used our normal apps of Adobe Ideas, Accelerated Reader, Safari, My Doodle Buddy, Flip It, etc.  Having no past experience with iPads, I was pleasantly surprised at his partner's skill as well as his own in acquiring new knowledge so quickly.

In terms of new apps, I really should keep a list of which apps come and go.  I have seen quite a few music apps appearing lately mostly focused around learning how to play the piano and guitar.  The guitar makes sense as the class as a whole is learning guitar in their general music class but the piano is a bit of a mystery to me.  Several students are still progressing with their Doodle Buddy games and we are starting to see even more development in terms of the planning and background scenery.  Keynote is now second nature to the kids as they have been using Keynote to illustrate grammar concepts using animation to show pronouns, possessive nouns, and how sentences change depending on word choice.

Lastly, the undesirable part of technology.  One thing that teachers, administrators, and students fear is the use of technology in violation of acceptable use, the student who thinks he/she can get away with something.  Unfortunately one student choose last week as the time to see if they could get away with something.  Needless to say, it didn't work and policy entered into the overall occasion.  At this point, there are a lot of folks making the "told you so" type statements, prove that providing access can be dangerous.  Time to ban the technology.  But in response I give this scenario.  Do we ban pencils because one student choose to poke somebody with one?  Or do we treat the behavior.  Do we get rid of chairs because a student leans back a bit to far and falls?  Or do we treat the behavior.  Or, here in Alaska, do we ban recess as one student last week who choose to place their mouth on metal at 15 below zero?  Or do we treat the behavior.

We choose to treat the behavior, have active discussions regarding appropriate use, and make a plan so that we can treat the behavior and provide answers to acceptable and unacceptable use.  Lesson learned, plan made, progress towards the future.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Students React to iPads

[Editor's note: We're excited to welcome our first guest blogger--Katie Mitchell, daughter of Larry Mitchell and an elementary teacher candidate in the UAF School of Education. Katie is undertaking her internship year at Pearl Creek Elementary in Fairbanks. She checked out a classroom set of 15 iPad 2s from the School of Education for a week of exploration in her classroom. She chronicles her experiences below.]

Four days... that was the length of time my multiage class of fourth, fifth and sixth graders were able to use iPads and needless to say, they were sorely disappointed when their time was up. 

Part of the focus for the week was the Oregon Trail because I was in charge of teaching social studies for the week. The first activity we did was walk the "Oregon Trail," while students counted their steps with a iPad. Using the app, Touch Counter, students were able to record each step they made by tapping the screen, while a timer kept track of how long it took them. Students walked the 1/2 mile trail in partners, complaining at the end that their hands were frozen from the 6 degree temperature and needing ungloved hands in order to operate the iPad. However, all the students enjoyed the activity and with the data they gathered, discovered that it took approximately 4.3 million steps to walk the Oregon Trail (only counting forward progress).

Another big activity we used the iPads for was to record student-written Oregon Trail Songs. To the tune of "Home on the Range," students rewrote the verse and chorus to reflect the Oregon Trail landmarks they had researched for a Google Earth project. The songs turned out to be much harder than I had intended, but most of the students seemed to enjoy the process and they really enjoyed getting to record their voices on Garage Band. I had made a recording of the tune using the guitar on Garage Band and students recorded themselves singing to the music. The songs the students made are very fun and reflect a range of musical ability. 

In addition to using the iPads for the above mentioned purposes, students played a variety of math and word games throughout the week. Times Table was a huge hit, with students competing for the top record in the class. Some students downloaded the app on their own devices at home and continued to practice, setting extremely high records over the weekend. Word Abacus and Worcle were also some of most chosen apps. The iPads were also used at the end of math class, which comprises students from multiple classes in the school, for students to practice their skills with math games. The students from other classes enjoyed getting to tell their classmates that they had been able to use the iPads.

My students were all really sad when they realized that the iPads were gone and they keep asking me when they will get them again. So I keep reminding them that we will get to have them for another five days after Thanksgiving. Several students reflected on their time with the iPads, using Moveable Write, writing what their favorite thing was and what they might want to do or learn the next time we have the iPads.

[Editor's note: Student reflections are below exported directly from Moveable Write (click to enlarge) and as converted text-- with a few spelling corrections.]

Student One

I really liked having the iPads because they were fun to use and they had more things on them than the laptops. Thank you for letting us use them! I iced it when we used them for the presentation thing because it was fun not to have to put together a book for it. I also liked singing on them even though I'm terrible at singing. I was playing the song when I hit Hard Rock. It sounded really cool!

I would like to make a presentation on the iPads because it was really fun fun when I did it at school! We should have to make something! Anything!!!!!!! I wish we could have them instead of laptops. Laptops aren't as good as iPads.

Student Two

My favorite activity we did with the iPads was the thing when we walked the Oregon Trail and counted our steps. I also liked the free time when we got to play the games. My favorite game is Worcle.

The next time we get to use the iPads I would like to do something kind of like the counting steps activity. The only thing I didn't like about it was that you had to take off your gloves and your hand got really cold. My hand got sort of numb.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meet the Designers

Every classroom should provide opportunities for students to pursue their passions and interests. So far this year, we've seen students write and illustrate children's books, compose original music, create podcasts, explore drawing and sketching, and try their hand at game design. Not all of these pursuits resonate with every single student, but every student has found something outside of the regular curriculum that has held their interest for a significant period of time. When students have free time, they can usually be observed returning to their interest and exploring it in greater depth.

In this video, Jerry and Henry talk about some games they have designed and the games they hope to work on in the future. Game design is a complex effort that involves visual aesthetics, story creation, character development, and an understanding of the variables that govern play. It's obviously an area of intense interest for them that will hopefully lead to a pursuit of subjects such as math and physics that are necessary to understand game design on a higher level. They're off to a good start.

Some other students are pursuing games that involve math concepts that they are studying. Hailey is working on a game in which the main character is pursued by a variety of fractions. If the fraction is in simplest form, it won't hurt you, but if it needs simplifying, watch out...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our Art Gallery

Check out our new Art Gallery page! You can find it on the tabs at the top of the page.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Most Remarkable [Normal] Morning

Most of my observations of Mr. Mitchell's classroom occur on Friday afternoons. As you may have gathered from this blog, those afternoons are usually devoted to exploring new topics, apps, or projects. I thought it might be interesting to showcase a normal morning so that followers of this blog could see what the rest of the day might look like. As you'll see, what's normal in Mr. Mitchell's class is hardly normal for most 5th grade classrooms.

The video below was taken on Monday, October 24. There was nothing special about the schedule or the activities. I wanted to document how the students went about their routine of getting down to work. Mr. Mitchell gave me a quick interview just before the students arrived, which I used as the main narrative for the video. I was immediately struck by the fact that there were no verbal directions given to the students when they arrived at 9:00. They went directly to the class blog, read the instructions, and got to work. They figured out what they needed to do, figured out how to share learning resources between partners, and worked until they left for gym at 10:00. During that time, they completed several assignments and emailed the results to Mr. Mitchell, who evaluated them as he received them. By 10:00am, all of the assignments--audio recordings of spelling and vocabulary words, grammar and usage worksheets, and spelling/vocabulary exercises--had been turned in and evaluated.

Several students started in on other projects--math practice using, Accelerated Reader exercises, reading their personal books (always encouraged), and others--as they finished the assignments. All were productively engaged for the entire hour.

Here are the directions give the students, directly from the blog:
Make a plan so that both members of your group complete the following assignments by 10:00.
  1. Using AudioMemos, read/record your spelling words, and vocabulary words with definitions
  2. Complete today's Grammar10b and Spelling10b (Adobe Ideas and Email)
  3. Write (paper and pencil) your Spelling Words 1 time, Vocabulary and Definitions 2 times
That's it. The rest was up up to the students

"Make a plan" is a powerful way to begin a lesson. These students are learning to take control of their own learning. They're not waiting to be told what to do or how to do it. Feedback is immediate and corrections can be made as soon as they are noticed. As Mr. Mitchell says, that's the real world.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Designing Games

Friday afternoons in Mr. Mitchell's are usually reserved for student-centered projects that will engage the students in higher-order thinking skills and reinforce collaboration and peer tutoring among the students. This Friday was no exception. The topic was game design. On its face, game design may seem like play. But as you will see in the video, it involves planning, experimentation, revision, collaboration, and testing as well as design aesthetics such as art, sound, and movement. It's a type of visual storytelling that requires considerable thought and ingenuity.

The students are using a free iPad app called My Doodle Game for the first time. App users are given a wide range of control over the visual layout, characters, and actions. It struck me as the students were constructing their first games how much their facility with the iPad helped them in the process. Their imaginations immediately took over, and they helped each other figure out how to perform necessary actions. I did not observe a single student ask Mr. Mitchell for help. Their only requests to him were that he try their game and make suggestions for better play.

Initially, I thought this might have greater appeal to the boys in the class, but that was clearly not the case. I did notice that the boys tended to be more absorbed in actions and game play while the girls generally were more concerned with the visual presentation and storyline. The fact that Mr. Mitchell's students share iPads--most commonly in boy/girl teams--contributed to the large degree of synergy that you'll see in the video. Everyone contributed and everyone learned from each other--and had a good time doing so.

Now that the students are familiar with the principles of game design and with My Doodle Game, they will be able to concentrate on planning more complex story lines and game play. One goal is to have the students create scenarios and storyboards for the next game(s) that they design.

One quick note--the students did finish their Oceans and Division Keynote projects before starting on game design. Those are subjects for another video.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Exploring Tessellations with Keynote

This post documents a remarkable lesson in which the students use Keynote to explore geometry by creating tessellations. Keynote's ability to copy/paste, rotate, zoom in and out, colorize, and group objects makes it an ideal medium for experimenting with the repeating geometric patterns that make up tessellations, and the ability to create additional slides means that students can experiment with multiple forms within a single document.

In this video, you'll learn the essentials of Mr. Mitchell's lesson for the students. They were already familiar with Keynote, and other math lessons had covered topics in geometry and tessellation. You can tell from the students' comments that they were paying attention to correct geometric definitions and terminology, and you can also tell that they were intrigued by the beauty and complexity of their creations. As they became more comfortable with the concepts, the designs got more complex and challenging and the conversations got more interesting.

When the students were done, the Keynote files were emailed to Mr. Mitchell and displayed on the projector for the class to review. It's a powerful lesson design--provide the tools, step aside, offer help and extension as needed, and come together for review and reflection.

Ideas in this classroom spread like wildfires on the tundra.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 4, 5, 6, and 7 in Review

Wow ... time does fly when learning is happening.  Since my last post the kids have come such a long ways and the learning curve has simply gone beyond my initial expectations.  We have been downloading, keeping and discarding apps by the dozens and the kids have arrived at that point of self reflection in terms of choosing apps that meet their needs and goals.

As some of the videos show, we have accomplished a far amount of exploration as well as production including some fascinating uses of Keynote to make tessellations and children's books as well more traditional uses for a presentation of the 13 Colonies and some of the Founders of America.  The kids have become proficient at the use of Keynote in conjunction with Adobe Ideas, Drawing Box, Safari, and any other app from which they can take screen shots.

We also explored eBook Creator which allows screen shots to become pages of an ebook in which students can record their own voices reading the book.  While the app has a lot of potential, it is an iphone/itouch app which does limit some of what can be done.  We also noticed that it sometimes does not like large file sizes and are currently looking for a replacement.

Lunch, one of the times I have attempted to redeem academically for years, has now taken on a whole new feel as the kids use it to explore word games including Word Warp, Abacus, Worcle, and out newest find, WordBlast.  In all cases, the kids eat and explore words, spelling, and definitions and often times needed to be reminded that food is part of the equation as 30 minutes pass ever so quickly.

So what is next?  Well in order to answer that, I should explain my role in this mobile learning project.

First ... I am a facilitator and guide which is not always the picture of a traditional teacher.  My job really is to direct the flow of learning so that the learning becomes student driven and student initiated. Yes, I do keep curricular objectives in mind and yes, I do review adopted curriculum to ensure we are covering the material that has been adopted and approved by our local school board.  What differs is the process by which we reach that goal.  For example, our tessellation project was specifically found in our adopted math curriculum in terms of a discussion of tessellations but rather than using a ruler and geometry template, we opted to use Keynote which gave us complete control of polygonal shapes with the enhancement of color, altering shapes, and ultimately the ability to create dozens of shapes not present on our geometry template.  In previous years, the "book's" method allowed kids to produce one tessellation minus color and minus the individuality of the student.  Now the class produced dozens of examples of varying complexity and structure while discarding dozens of others and we were able to openly share them on a large screen for all to see.  And ... in one case, a 3 dimensional tessellating pattern using cubic forms took place without specific teaching ... just simple exploration.  My ultimate role ... about 10-15 minutes to teaching and demonstrating followed by 2 hours of student work, exploration and creation.

Do they understand tessellations now ... oh yes!

So future ideas ... found a new app ... Little Solver Figural Analogies from which we will begin exploring rotation, translation, and reflection of shapes (tessellations) ... directly based in our math curriculum ... connected to out supplemental use of ... which should create some higher learning platforms for student exploration.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Author! Author!

The students in Mr. Mitchell's class have kindergarten reading buddies. They thought it would be a good idea to create their own stories to share using their iPads, and the eStorybook project was born. The students used Adobe Ideas or Drawing Box for the illustrations, Keynote to create the pages and add text, and eBook Creator to record their own voices and save the projects as eBooks that could be read and listened to on the iPad. We're very pleased with the initial results, and we hope you like them too.

In this post, three pairs of authors discuss their stories and show you how they were created. We're including the ebooks they created so that you can download them and read them yourselves. To read them, you'll need to have eBook Creator installed on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. You can download it here. It's unfortunately no longer free, and we're searching for ways to create new ebooks that can be read by more folks and can be recorded as movies so that we can publish them in the blog.

Enjoy, and look for more books in the next few weeks.

The Candy Town Mystery
Princess Bubblegum is missing from her castle. Can the folks of Candy Town save her? Karli and Maddy discuss their ebook and show you how it was created.

Download The Candy Town Mystery. For now, you'll need eBook Creator on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to read it.

Jack and Alice
Jack is a giraffe. Alice is an elephant. Can they be friends? Izzy and Makennah discuss their ebook and how it was created.

Download Jack and Alice. For now, you'll need eBook Creator on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to read it.

Princess Orange Blossom
Queen Lemon Lime is sick, and she needs help. Orange Blossom and the other gummy bears need to help her. Hailey and Addy discuss their ebook andy how they made it using their iPads.

Download Princess Orange Blossom. For now, you'll need eBook Creator on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to read it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Best Spelling Lesson Ever

This post describes an innovative and effective use of Google Docs forms and a class blog to engage students in a cooperative word study exercise.

As you may know from following this blog, Mr. Mitchell has a class blog (Google Sites) which he uses to describe each day's agenda and post review and assignment materials. This blog is open to the parents and students and is a well-used avenue of communication between all parties. For this lesson, Mr. Mitchell has posted a spelling quiz using a Google Docs form which is published on the web and linked in the blog so that parents and students can access it.

To take the quiz, the students open the blog, follow the link to the quiz, and complete it. Form contents are automatically returned to a Google Docs spreadsheet, which Mr. Mitchell opens live on the projector for the class to see. And that's where the word study begins.

By sorting the form responses, Mr. Mitchell and the class can immediately see the results of everyone's work. Patterns of errors can be recognized and discussed; basic concepts can be reinforced. The entire class is engaged in the process. Initially, I was concerned that students might not like to be singled out for errors, but that's clearly not the case. Students treat this as a comfortable opportunity to learn, and they are not afraid to make errors and learn from them. "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer. Students get immediate feedback and have multiple opportunities to hear about rules and conventions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting Out of the Way

Here's a great idea for a lesson plan:
  1. Give the students the tools they need.
  2. Get of of the way while they explore, collaborate, solve problems and create.
  3. Refocus by having the students review, criticize, and learn from each other.
In the video below, you'll see Mr. Mitchell do just that. At the end of the fourth week of school, the students had sufficient experience with their technology tools to focus on the task at hand--in this case, to create a project that could be shared with others that would provide some level of instruction or information for the audience. The students' choices were varied--using ScreenChomp to demonstrate factoring, drawing, calculation, or a variety of other topics, creating an App of the Week or other informational podcast using Audio Memo, or working through some social studies topics with Keynote. Students had to negotiate both content and output with their partners, agree on a course of action, create a script or outline, locate the tools they would need, create the project, and finally present their work to the class for critical review. The latter is significant as it also allowed the students to show new things they had learned and become teachers for the rest of the class.

Along the way, the students had to solve several problems--how to have three people listening to a project through headphones when the audio splitters only allowed two headphones at a time, how to manage more than one iPad as needed for the presentation or recording, how to cooperatively create scripts that were easy to follow, and how to do this without the familiar pencil and paper tools. As you can see, they were able to come up with solutions for just about everything.

Mr. Mitchell's role in the process was to facilitate their learning in whatever ways were appropriate to the task at hand. In some cases, it was direct instruction; in others, it might be asking extending questions, making suggestions for apps, or helping to locate resources. Student engagement was strong and pervasive. You'll see students rehearsing their work and revising it based on feedback. The lesson lasted for 2.5 hours--from the end of lunch until the final bell.

What a great way to end the week.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Word Games at Lunch

One of the fascinating things about observing Mr. Mitchell's class is the extent to which students use their time productively. This is even true at lunch, where most of the students choose from a variety of word games to play alone, cooperatively, or even against each other over bluetooth or wi-fi. It's significant that all of the word games in this video were located and suggested by students.

In this short video, you'll see students playing Word Abacus, Worcle, and Word Warp X. The latter two are particularly interesting because you can touch words from the word lists to find their definitions and usages--something that the students often do, particularly when they create a word by trying plausible combinations of letters.

Word Warp is interesting because you can challenge other players in real time. In the video, Karli and Monique are challenging Mr. Mitchell.

The other fascinating thing I observed is the extent to which the students interact with each other in the process, and the extent to which the conversations that they have revolve around words, spellings, and meanings. Who said learning can't be fun?

Practicing Podcasts

Nels and Jerry spent some time on Friday composing a podcast on how to use one of their favorite apps, TouchBand. They used two apps for this process: TouchBand and Notes. They wrote their script using Notes on one iPad while composing and recording demonstration clips with TouchBand on a second iPad. After an hour or so, they were ready to try out their podcast. We found a quiet spot in the library to try out a few new ideas. We decided to make a video of the process so that other classes could learn how we did it.

We wanted to use our new Samson Go Mic for the recording. This is a USB mic that attaches to the iPad using the camera connection kit from Apple. The sound quality is excellent and it comes with a 10-foot USB cable so that you can record audio clearly without having to be right next to the event you are recording. It's also great for interviews and recording live instruments.

We attached the Go Mic to Mrs. Mitchell's iPad and placed it between Jerry and Nels, close to them and to the iPad they were using to play their sound clips. Mrs. Mitchell used the Camera app on her iPad to record over-the-shoulder video of Jerry and Nels while I recorded the process using a video camera. The sound you hear in the video came from Mrs. Mitchell's iPad and the Go Mic, as it was superior to the camera audio. You can see the Go Mic sitting on the table between the iPads in the video.

Here's the video that we created. It's going to make a great podcast.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week 3 Review

Week 3, though short, continued to amaze me with how quickly the kids are adapting to mobile technology and how smooth and flawless the process is.

I introduced the Videos app to the kids this week by preparing and loading 8 videos I made with Screen Chomp in preparation for their first math test.  Key terms such as "Factorization" were reviewed and demonstrated which I felt made a difference in their final grade and overall class performance.  I saw a 4 percentage point gain from last year's class and I could correlate directly the skills that showed mastery with the number of times the movies were watched.  Not completely scientific yet but an interesting thing to note.  The same results seem to prove themselves with the 5 videos they had access to online which they were able to view from home.  Will have to keep working away at this one as we begin moving through Unit 2.

We also had the chance to dissection a moose heart this week ... something fairly unique to Alaska but not so uncommon as many of the kids have hunted, have parents that hunt, or simply see moose as a source of food in the fall.  Our dissection was unique, however, in that we had one iPad using Facetime to broadcast the dissection to a university class that my daughter was in, we had another iPad filming the dissection and I encouraged the kids to take their own pictures and movies with any devices they had in the room.  I was a bit surprised when 13 different devices appeared and also had a chance to explain the difference between acceptable use and unacceptable use as defined by our school board.  And last, but not least, I only used an iPad to put together a short video of the dissection using iMovie and the iPads normal filming/picture capabilities.

Other apps used this week included Notes, Adobe Ideas, Neu.Annotate, Photos, Math Facts, Word Abacus, and Word Warp.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week 2 in Review

What is the learning curve of a 5th grader?  It is based on interest or experience or simply curiosity about what could be around the next corner.

This week started about with a bang as the kids have quickly and efficiently taken to their iPads and are using them with increased efficiency and speed.  We used a lot of apps this week including Worcle, Word Warp X, WordWeb, Adobe Ideas, iBooks, MathFacts, Safari, Movable Write and then an almost endless list of musical instrument apps as the kids learned about podcasting and the creative thought behind it.  The kids have become masters at searching for free apps based on interest and content as well as multitasking the iPads with a double click of the front power button. And almost more impressive, I did a quick count and was surprised to see that I received almost 350 emails this week containing student work, fixed work, and final work in a range of topics including math, grammar, writing, and drawing.

We also had the pleasure of dissecting a caribou heart in class on Thursday and were able to invite about 50 other 5th grade student in for the process.  The whole process was filmed using my iPad II as well as a digital camera and the video is still in process so a few pictures will have to do.  I was extremely pleased to see my youngest daughter, college sophomore in education, perform the dissection after reviewing the heart and circulatory system using her own iPad.  Interesting site to see an iPad projecting, another iPad shooting video, and yet another taking other video from around the room.

Next week ... well actually, now ... I have downloaded another interesting app, Screen Chomp, that allows me to build tutorial videos, upload them to the web or download them as movies, which we will be using in class on the iPads (Video) and at home on YouTube.  Should provide an interesting comparison regarding student preparation for this week's unit test.  If you would like to take a sneak peek, follow the link.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Learn About Podcasting

It's the end of the third week of school. Mr. Mitchell and I decided it was time to let the students start to create most of the content that will appear in this blog. To that end, we set up a short lesson on podcasting so that students could start thinking in those terms.

Beginning right after lunch at 1:00 pm, we taught a brief session starting with listening to a few short podcasts to learn more about how they are produced. We brainstormed some ideas using Popplet Lite, and then suggested that the students start exploring some scripts and resources for their podcasts. We had no idea what would happen or how long this process would hold their interest.

We shoveled them out the door at 3:30 after 2.5 hours of solid exploration, writing, rehearsing, composing, rewriting, and collaborating. The students decided to skip their usual 3:00 - 3:30 outdoor time when they realized it was already 3:15 and everyone was still actively engaged in producing podcasts.

As a musician, I was particularly encouraged to see how much time and effort the students put into creating their own theme music. Even the non-musicians (if there is such a thing) were engaged in experimenting and listening to sounds and finding apps that would suit their very clear intent. I'd love to see more opportunities for students to explore and create with music, particularly in the context of larger project-based activities.

The immediate goal is to produce at least one student podcast each week, but I wouldn't be surprised to see more than that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Maddy Teaches an Art Lesson

Mr. Mitchell noticed that Maddy was using Adobe Ideas to sketch some animals on her iPad and asked her to teach the class how to do it. Maddy moved to Mr. Mitchell's iPad, which was connected to the overhead, and taught the class using a simple technique based on progressive shapes. Completed images were saved as screen shots, mailed to Mr. Mitchell using a class email account and displayed on the overhead for everyone to view.

Maddy was a wonderful instructor, and the class obviously enjoyed the impromptu lesson. What other lessons could students teach each other? We'll be exploring that idea this year.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

An Impromptu Field Trip

On the third day of school, Mr. Mitchell decided to take the class on a walk into the boreal forest surrounding the school to document some of the local flora with their iPads. Directions were simple and minimal, but the results were spectacular.

Larry gives more background about the field trip in Week 1 in Review.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Week 1 in Review

What a week ... 22 new students ... schedules everywhere and no paper, pencils, textbooks or any of the traditional trappings of the "normal" classroom.

So far we have introduced the iPads and begun our Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies just using our iPads. Apps including iBooks, Adobe ideas, Maps, Map-O-Meter, Google Earth, Safari, and Notes have been employed on a daily basis as well as 1:1 which is an app that allows you to measure objects as large as the iPad screen on the screen.

The kids are becoming smoother and smoother with each day and are emailing as many as 100 completed papers, drawings and observations my way as if they have been doing this for quite some time.

The highlight this week in terms of "going mobile" was an impromptu lesson where the weather was good and we headed outside to see how far our wireless network would reach but also to do some measuring and comparing of plants on our ski trails. Directions went something like this ...

Pick ten objects, measure them using 1:1, record your results in Notes, then draw the object using Adobe Ideas. Go! (Skip's note: the video of this field trip may be viewed in An Impromptu Field Trip.)

Measurement using 1:1 app

Sample Sizes

Off we went soon losing our wireless about 200 feet outside the building but the kids didn't really seem to notice as leaves, spruce cones, a few mushrooms and other objects were placed on the iPads for measurement. Once measured a double tap of the power button jumped them into Notes for data entry, followed by another double tap to make some drawings. One team even took a screen shot of the 1:1 screen so when they drew their object in Adobe Ideas, it had the "right background."

Using Adobe Ideas to trace/draw a leaf

Data Entry in Notes

On the way back to the building, we aimed instead to the playground equipment where we completed the days math lesson by taking a screen shot of our math journal in iBooks to be completed in Adobe ideas and then emailed to me as we were now in range of our buildings wireless signal. Several corrections were also made on different pages which the kids fixed on the spot while others began to use an array screen shot to practice the old dots game. And to think we even got some fresh air and sunshine on our faces as we did school.

Here's a video that we shot at the end of the day on Friday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Getting to Know You

Welcome to our blog. We're excited to be able to bring you a look at our school year in North Pole, Alaska.

A little history--in May 2011, we created a video called One Transformed Classroom. This video documented Larry Mitchell's fifth grade class's remarkable experiences with using iPads for cooperative learning during the 2010-2011 school year. In that video, we got to know some of the students at the end of a year of active engagement with iPads and innovative teaching. It was quite an experience.

We were so encouraged by the response to One Transformed Classroom that we decided to document Larry's incoming class of fifth graders for the 2011-2012 school year. Most of this documentation will be done by the students themselves. They'll be creating podcasts and videos, posting some of their work, and hopefully interacting with folks all over the world on topics that should be of interest to everyone interested in transformed education.

This post is being written on the third day of the 2011-12 school year. Earlier today, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon filming a few lessons, including an impromptu field trip to document local flora and a math lesson conducted on the playground. Results of those activities will be posted soon here in the Our Alaska Stories blog.

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