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.