What makes for great instruction that has educational technology involved? I have designed lessons this year to my K-5 students that answers this question. As a classroom teacher who taught 3rd and 4th grade for 20 years, I love to equip my students with tools to help them communicate clearly. In my opinion, technology enhances students’ experiences with communicating. There are endless digital options these days for students to use to create and to write, but I will focus on just three apps in this post. Stay tuned for future posts on Tellagami app, Collins Book Creator app, and Book Press app.
After doing an Interactive Read Aloud with my first graders using “A Chair For My Mother” by Vera Williams, I asked students to collaborate while drawing three pictures that showed the beginning, middle and end of the story in the Doodle Buddy app. Next, they took screenshots of their drawings and placed them in the Comic Maker app where they added speech bubbles with text. They clearly communicated their understanding of the story while designing a creative digital product. Could students have retold the story by drawing on paper? Yes. Did my students need pencil or paper to do this assignment? No. They drew on the iPad with their fingers and typed using the iPad’s keyboard. I gave them a way to read and respond to books while adding to their ever growing repertoire of digital writing strategies.
In December of 2013 I gave 4th grade students iPads with the “Write About This” app. They could choose their own picture with three levels of prompts to promote creative thinking. The student who wrote the story above articulated her thoughts while composing vivid verbs, inserting internal thoughts and approximating proper use of quotation marks. This image inspired her. If I had just given her this prompt to write about with paper and pencil, I don’t know if she would have been able to write with such creativity. Asking learners to type while composing is different than having them write with a pencil. This learner was not only inspired by the picture, also also embraced the opportunity to type on the iPad screen. She published a piece of writing that looks like one she could read in a book with a type font and beamed when she shared it with the class.
Learners communicating their thoughts is nothing new, but with the ability to use technology, students can design and dive deep into engagement! Teachers can show leadership by modeling how to use the apps with their students by using the Airplay mode on the iPad and an Apple TV. My students love to get their hands on iPads. As I demonstrate the steps of app smashing between Doodle Buddy and Comic Maker or show the components of the “Write About This” app to students, they appreciate the tips and are ready to start their projects.
This past week I asked my Kindergarten students to use the Doodle Buddy app to stamp groups of ten objects and label each row. I recently got an Apple TV which allows me to share students’ work on the iPads on my big screen. When pairs of students finished creating as many rows of ten as possible, I would say, ” Would you like me to show your work on the screen?” Every group would say, “Show mine!” The ability to choose the Airplay function on the students’ iPads allowed me to share their work. We all like a little recognition, I suppose, so the faces of the students whose iPads I showed beamed when their work was displayed. I could see that some students were labeling their second row of 20 as “11” and the third row of ten objects as “13” where the number three was written backwards. I was able to help these students count the stamps on their second row and then rewrite the number “20” at the end of the row. Their misconceptions helped me to know how to guide them to a correct way to label groups of twenty objects, thirty objects, etc. Using Doodle Buddy’s features is an effective way for students to demonstrate their understanding of math. I loved that my students wanted me to share their work because they collectively contributed to their ongoing story of how counting objects works!
I also received a nice compliment this week when my bulletin board in the school hallway was chosen as “Bulletin Board of the Week”. I had showcased my students as they presented their Haiku Decks about a topic of their choice and as they gave mini Ted-like talks to deliver their presentations. I had also printed some of their written comments that they had typed in Socrative, a free app that allows students to give teachers comments as exit tickets. If you would like to read more about this project, please reference my October 2013 blog post. I was thrilled that my board was shared with the staff in the weekly letter that my principal sends as being as good one. There are so many reasons to celebrate students’ work!
I love when an educational app stands out as having multiple uses, especially when it’s FREE! The Trading Cards app has been a way for me to have students reflect on a book’s events. This app is a creation of http://www.readwritethink.org. After reading “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears”, my third grade students analyzed various causes and effects in the story. I demonstrated how to use the Trading Cards app on the iPad then students paired up and used our 14 iPads to develop their own digital Trading Cards to represent the characters. I overheard rich conversations about characters’ decisions as they built their Trading Cards. Even though I had modeled the Problem and “An Outcome” or solution to the problem, I noticed that several students had difficulty understanding the concept of “an outcome”. I embraced these teachable moments and posed questions like, “How do you think that the problem was solved in the end? Did the lion’s investigation lead him to blame someone? How do we know that the mosquito has a guilty conscience?”. These questions helped students arrive at the definition of “the outcome”. After using this app for students to describe animal characters, I now want to have them CLOSELY READ articles about famous places and create a Digital Trading Card for them. I plan to have them explore the National Parks app by National Geographic Society, choose a park that strikes a chord with their personal interests, then create a Digital Trading Card! After reading biographies, students can develop a Digital Trading Card on the famous person. I could even have them create a Digital Trading Card about vocabulary words from science and social studies topics. The possibilities are endless. I am thrilled that my PTO is purchasing Apple TVs so that students can project their Digital Trading Cards using their iPads too! I like that this app allows students to not only create, but also critically think about the topic. I designed this lesson so that students did not do it in isolation, but collaborated and discussed elements of the story. They liked pressing the arrows at the bottom of Side 1 of their cards and flipping to side 2 while also choosing from assorted background colors. I gave my students the option to draw a picture of their chosen animal in the Doodle Buddy app then import it into the picture frame of the digital card frame for a finishing touch. I placed pictures that I took of iPad screens where students had built their Trading Cards here: