Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Want to Help your Child Learn Math (or ?)? There's an App for that!

Tim Pelton, February 26, 2014

iPads (tablets) are really useful tools.  In the near future, it is not unreasonable to expect that every child will have ready access to these devices to support learning.  These tablets are content conveyors, exploration instruments, consolidation tutors, observation recorders, creation studios, presentation tools and more.

Content: e.g., Webpages, PDF content, eBooks, iBooks, Kindle, Genius Scan, etc.
Demo: iBooks – Measuring Length : Centimetres

Exploration: e.g., Wolfram-Alpha, Wikipedia, Safari, myscript calculator, Viszulator, etc.
Demo: Population of BC?  Weight of a Quarter?

Consolidate/Play: e.g., Mathtappers ( apps, Pick-a-Path, TanZen, NineGaps, MathSnacks, Slice-it, Geoboard, Numbler, etc.
Try: Numberline, Clockmaster, Slice-it, NineGaps,

Observe: Camera (still, video, document), SparkVue (Pasco sensors), UPad, etc.
Demo: Genius Scan – work sample

Create: Explain Everything, iMovie, Vine, Comic Life, Phoster, Fotor, etc.
Demo: Explain Everything, Comic Life

Present: Playtube, iAnnotate, Stage, etc.
Demo: Playtube

Some of tips that might help you find useful apps include:

  • Check to see that the app is easy to understand and use as a teacher (low threshold).  Do they have some mechanism to review the student’s activity and progress?
  • Check to see that the app is easy for students to use (low friction) and that it is appealing but avoids overusing distracting frills.
  • Look for apps designed to help to students make sense of mathematical concepts (e.g., using dynamic visual models) and avoid the flashcard apps that focus only on rote memorization.  Some procedural apps are ok, but be sure that your students have mastered the concepts first. 
  • Look for apps that allow you to adjust the settings to meet individual needs.
  • Look for apps that focus on mastery before fluency and avoid apps that focus too much on speed.
  • Look for apps that can be used in multiple ways – to support discussion, exploration, strategy sharing, consolidation, fluency building, assessment, etc.
  • Look for apps that allow you to review student progress and upload that information to your computer to support assessment.
  • Look for apps that have supporting materials (in app or on a website) to guide classroom and individual use.
  • Look for apps that support learning in many ways.  Not just consolidation – engage students in communicating, representing, creating, exploring, presenting, etc.
  • Create a page on your school or class website/blog to share apps that you recommend
  • Search for authentic review pages that recommend apps – e.g., (but watch out for splogs)
  • Download Appshopper and Appsgonefree to support your search for apps.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

20+ Ways to Use One or More iPads in the Classroom

Tim Pelton & Leslee Francis Pelton
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Tablets are really useful tools.  In the near future, it is not unreasonable to expect that every child will have ready access to these devices to support learning.  These tablets are not just busywork - they are incredibly useful learning tools. By considering how these devices might be used their potential becomes apparent.  iPads provide us with a framework of supporting functionality including: content conveyors, exploration instruments, consolidation tutors, observation recorders, creation studios, presentation tools and more.

While most of the tools and resources we are exploring here are also available on laptop and desktop computers, the affordances associated with tablet devices (portability, weight, touch screen, simplicity of use etc.) make them a far more likely tool for students’ backpacks, desks or favorite reading spot. Tablets are lighter, more durable and less obstructive (they lay flat on the desk avoiding the barrier effect associated with laptops and desktop PCs). They are also more efficient with respect to providing access as they can be quickly stowed and retrieved and they don’t require relocating to a computer lab.

We chose to focus on iPads because we are familiar with the operating system, they are the most commonly ‘used’ devices, the collection of apps is more comprehensive, they are more consistent and reliable, and they are simple to configure and use.   We prefer tablets to smartphones simply because the working space is larger, making them easier for students to view and manipulate resources as well as supporting more efficient sharing (group work) and teacher observation (an important point).

Just as in previous decades schools ended up requesting specific graphing calculators for students to purchase for math class (to minimize the amount of time required to support students in becoming familiar with and employing them) so too would we recommend a "Bring Your Own Specified Device"(BYOSD) policy for tablets.  Choosing a single type of device and default app collection as resources for classroom use will help to keep the support time requirements manageable. We anticipate that in the near future, each student will have his or her own tablet for use both in the classroom and elsewhere (some will have borrowed devices while most will purchase their own).

While we wait for the BYOSD revolution, you may have a class set of iPads or a COW (class set on wheels) that is being shared within a school (we don’t recommend this model because maintenance and administration can be tedious and impede use), a small collection of tablets as permanent resources in your classroom or perhaps even just a single iPad.  Whatever resources you have you can put them to good use.

Content Conveyors
Traditional ‘texts’ and other classroom resources may simply be republished and shared as web pages, PDF files or eBooks – the big improvement here is that students are able to search for any word, read more efficiently (e.g., speed reading apps), and even read-along.   Enhanced ‘texts’ like iBooks can allow authors and publishers to augment the text with extensive image collections, selectable audio and video examples, concept animations, interactive widgets, formative assessment devices, etc..

In addition, the potential for publishing text and other content has been democratized with these mediums – providing students, teachers, parents, school districts etc. with tools they need to share content under open licenses.  This further opens the door to the potential for cooperative creation, publication and ongoing refinement of these classroom resources (texts and other learning objects).

Exploration Instruments
Whether your students are using the device as a browser to search Wikipedia, a docent for a virtual museum, a simple calculator to discover number patterns, a rhyme dictionary to support poetry composition, a chemistry simulator to discover the nature of reactions, a game employing a physics engine to explore acceleration or any other exploration resource, they are far more likely to be engaged by these explorations than by simply reading the textbook (even if it is on the iPad).

iPads should allow us to augment rather than replace the exploration opportunities that have previously been available to students in classrooms.   Instead of just one field trip a term (requiring permission slips, travel arrangements, funding, parent support etc.), students can be provided with dozens of additional opportunities to visit curriculum linked museums, historic sites, and other significant sites – at little or no cost.  Many of these visits would not be possible except virtually (distance, danger, cost).   Similarly, in addition to the weekly wet lab with limited resources in chemistry class, students can manipulate the variables and test hypotheses in a wide variety of virtual experiments.

As we find tools to support explorations in our classes – our resource bank expands.  As we develop unit plans and lesson plans and share these with our colleagues the potential for students to be engaged and enthralled increases.

Consolidation Tutors
Yes, we need to have personalized learning, and yes, we need to engage students in discovering, communicating, reasoning, problem solving, strategy building and representing, but we also need to give them opportunities to master processes that were discovered, and build fluency with fundamental facts, concepts and skills.  
Consolidation is a process whereby learners translate specific experiences and processes into generalized concepts, routine procedures and fluently recoverable facts.   It can also be described as the process of transferring information from short-term to long-term memory.

As an example, a child learns to find complementary numbers that add to 10 by making sense of 10 in terms of a visual-spatial model (e.g., a 10-frame), by finding efficient ways to get to 10 from any given number (i.e., more efficient than raw counting).  A consolidation app such as MathTappers:FindSums encourages practice, leads to ready success, provides feedback on accuracy and fluency, and records progress.  Other consolidation apps might provide students with efficient opportunities to practice and build fluency in word decoding (e.g., K12 timed-reading), spelling, tone recognition, banking shots in snooker, etc..

Observation Recorders
iPads give us and our students opportunities to capture, examine and share experiences.  Examples include: capturing data, exemplars, contexts, artifacts, and performances (“Camera”, “Voice Record”); reviewing activities, performances and demonstrations in slow motion (“Ubersense”) or developments and growth in time lapse (”Lapse It”).

These observations may be collected by students or teachers to discover relationships, express ideas and solve problems, other observations of students and their work may be collected by the teacher to demonstrate ideas to discuss or record mastery, and presented to parents or the school community to share experiences and demonstrate engagement and success.

Creation Studios
One of the most powerful ways to help students reflect on an experience or learn a concept or procedure more completely is to challenge them to communicate their understanding.  Asking students to create a poster, a comic, an animation, a video, etc. used to require more extensive training and development of skills.  Now there are many apps that support fluent creation of credible representations of ideas without being overly taxing with respect to artistic skills.  Imagine a middle school student being so proud of their comic explaining a science concept that they take it home and post it on their fridge.

Apps we have used to support creation include Phoster, Captions, Comic Life, iStopMotion, iMovie, Explain Everything, etc..  When we introduce creation apps in the classroom we usually follow a process such as:
Introduce exemplars and discuss features, limitations, effects, styles, etc.
Introduce the problem solving process (understand, plan, do, look back)
Demonstrate the problem solving process and the process of using the tool (think of a cooking show where all of the steps are worked through)
Challenge students to work through understanding (brainstorming, algorithm, concept mapping, reasoning, etc.) and planning (generating a comprehensive storyboard and vetting it).
Provide access to the electronic tool to support creation of final product.
Gallery walk to share products, explain thinking and propose new questions.

The first example should be straightforward and may involve substantial scaffolding – but by the second or third time, they can make it happen on their own.

Presentation Tools
With your iPad connected to a projector or TV (wired through dongle or wireless airplay and an AppleTV), you are ready to share: content, model explorations, have students demonstrate consolidation activities, present creative demos and demonstrate or review observations.  Each of these might be live examples of using a particular app on the iPad, or you may capture examples to share as a web page (“Safari”) or presentation (“Keynote”, “Prezi”, or “Haiku Deck” etc.), or video content (“PlayTube”).

Setup suggestions:
Whether you have one iPad or many - it is helpful to put some consideration into setting up the device to minimize distractions and ensure the devices are useful to the students.  Here is a developing list of suggestions that we are working on:

1. Set up an AppleID for your class – manage up to 10 iPads.

2. Set passcode and restrictions (Settings-> general)

3. Set “automatic download” for apps - if you have more than one device on an account

4. Turn on iCloud and “find my iPad” (Settings-> iCloud).   So that someone else doesn't

5. Adjust auto-lock (15 min) and passcode lock (after 4 hours - limits the number of times you need to enter

6. Set up a lock screen – include offer of a reward and email

7. Find a case that protects the corners (don't bother with screen protectors)

8. Connect to your TV or projector:
  • Wireless via airplay to AppleTV connected by HDMI to projector or T
  • Wired via adaptor dongle (to VGA or to HDMI) to projector or TV

9. Watch for iTunes cards on sale – you can usually pick them up for 20% off

10. Swipe down from top – see notifications, calendar, etc.

11. Swipe down from middle – search apps on device (or web, Wikipedia)

12. Swipe up from bottom – control center – volume, airdrop, wifi, Bluetooth, lock, AirPlay, timer, camera

13. Strange Problems?  Try powering down then restarting – hold down the power button until red “slide to power off” option appears.

14. Capture the screen to your camera roll:  First, hold the power button down (just a fraction of a second), then tap home key.  Screen should flash white to confirm image taken. If a student wants to confirm their association with the image, have them take a picture of themselves immediately after.

15. Accessibility:
  • What works best for you and your students.
  • Zoom (double tap with three fingers, slide to zoom, drag to move)
16. Order some inexpensive styli for iPad through eBay.

17. Find a lamp to support document camera use – the better the light the better the picture.

Making good use of a single iPad in your classroom (or even a few more)

Given our framework of uses for iPads in the classroom, we are now ready to reflect on specific activities:
·      Content [C]
·      Exploration [E]
·      Consolidation [Cs]
·      Observation [O]
·      Creation [Cr]
·      Presentation [P]

1.   Take attendance [O]

2.   Capture students saying their names while holding name cards to help you learn their names quickly [O]

3.   Monitor the audio level in the class to support a manageable volume while working. [O]

4.   Use it as a document camera replacement – iPad and Stand (a similar total cost).  The iPad has advantages over document camera in that it allows you to draw on and annotate the image or video.   (“Stage”)  [P]

5.   Record still images to capture students’ work (“camera”, “night vision”, etc) [O]

6.   Record video of student performances for review, instruction or portfolio [O]

7.   Record audio (“Voice recorder pro” allows you to adjust gain) [O]

8.   Capture and vet videos from the web cache them so that you can present without Wi-Fi (YouTube/PlayTube) [P]

9.   Challenge yourself and your students to find still, audio or video exemplars to communicate the essential components of the current concept [O, E]

10. Challenge yourself and your students to create a poster (“Phoster”, “Caption”), [C, P, Cr]

11. Challenge yourself and your students to create a comic (“Comic Life”), [C, P, Cr]

12. Challenge yourself and your students to create a presentation (“Keynote”, “Haiku Deck”), [C, P, Cr]

13. Challenge yourself and your students to create a demonstration or animation (“Explain Everything”), [C, P, Cr]

14. Challenge yourself and your students to create a game (“Stick Around”) [C, P, Cr]

15. Challenge yourself and your students to create a movie trailer, a Vine or ? to share their observations (“iMovie”, “Vine”) [C, P, Cr]

16. Post an entry on the classroom blog or website [P]

17. Find and read a topic relevant iBook (“iBooks”) [C, E, Cs, O]

18. Search the web for a fact or an explanation, or visit Moodle to download class resources (“Safari”, “Puffin”) [C, E]

19. Watch a video (“YouTube”, “PlayTube”) [C, E, O]

20. Have the iPad read the text on the screen to you – read along (Speak Selection) [C, Cs]

21. Scan a document that is relevant for discussion (“Genius Scan”) [C, E]

22. Annotate a document  (“Stage”, “iAnnotate”) [C, E, O]

23. Play games to build skills and fluency (“MathTappers”, “Nine Gaps”, “Word Party”, etc.) [Cs]

24. Challenge yourself or your students to create a virtual manipulative for your students to use at an activity centre (“Explain Everything”) [C, E, O, Cr]

25. Demonstrate your process using an app and save it as a recording for a student who is away (“DispRecorder”)

26. Review cached videos relevant to lesson topic (“PlayTube”) [C, E]

27. Write poems with the assistance of “” (“Safari”, “Pages”) [E, Cs, Cr]

28. Learn a language (“DuoLingo”) [C, E, Cs]

29. Facetime or Skype with an expert, a parent, a travelling child, etc.  Share the experience, ask questions, learn (Facetime”, “Skype”) [C, E, O, P]

30. Create and publish an iBook – to share content with Students and others (“iBooks Author” on mac) [C, O, Cr, P]

31.  Draw a picture, paint a painting (“Paper by 53”) [E, Cr]

What other ideas and tools do you have?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

1:1 iPads in Teacher Education - preparing teachers for tomorrow

Presented June 25 at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio TX 

Tim Pelton,                       Leslee Francis Pelton,

This poster examines the experiences of one instructor working within a pilot program where iPads are being introduced into a teacher education program.  This program was initiated because we see iPads proliferating in homes and schools, and we perceive that iPads are highly suitable for classroom use.  Specifically:

  • The touch interface is more direct and concrete than previous generations of computers.  Its appealing and intuitive interface supports student engagement.
  • The operating system (iOS) and apps are low threshold and low friction - they are easy to master and adopt (Pelton & Francis Pelton, 2008).
  • iOS is sandboxed – even if an app fails, everything else still works.
  • iOS devices are ubiquitous. Many instructors and students are already familiar with these devices and apps in other contexts.
  • There are almost a million apps available, and, even though only a very small percentage of the apps available might be judged to be educationally sound, a small percentage of a large number is still worthwhile – we just need to identify and share what works!
  • Apps and course resources can be easily linked to, or distributed, via a website, blog, class Moodle or email.
  • The costs associated with purchasing an iPad can be at least partially mitigated by adopting course texts that are free or less expensive.

6 Ways iPads can be used to Support Student Learning

  • Acquisition of Information – e.g., textbooks, websites, wikis, videos, etc.
  • Exploration of interactive learning objects - discover relationships, shared learning
  • Consolidation of processes - build mastery and fluency
  • Demonstration of mastery and skills - capture a performance
  • Construction of interactive objects - share representations, problem solving
  • Creation of conceptual vignettes - share understandings, communicate with others

Goals and Expectations

  • Align theory and practice - Pre-service teachers are most engaged when they can see the connection between the theory and tools they are being taught and the practical application of such – from motivational theories, to constructivism and problem based learning.
  • Teacher educators should be role models - Pre-service teachers need to experience the appropriate use of technology as students in order to fairly evaluate the potential of these tools. We want to provide multiple opportunities and situations for students to see and use iPads in authentic ways as students.  This will support their technological and pedagogical content knowledge.
  • Collaborative learning with technology scaffolding - Encourage students to work collaboratively to develop resources, lessons and assessment strategies in a challenging but still low-stress environment.  Encourage and support appropriate integration of technology by students.
  • Systemic change - As faculty and students are dive into this new paradigm together – it is a shared learning experience.  Authentically mastering a set of tools (iPads and Apps) that are readily available will shift the focus from ‘finding ways to teach with technology’ to ‘teaching in a world with transparent technology’.

Some Recommended Apps used in our Math Class (a small subset):

MathTappers(free) - Seven different exploration and consolidation apps created by the authors
  • ExplainEverything ($2.99) - Create visual manipulatives (teachers and students) and create video vignettes/animations (teachers and students)
  • BackgroundEraser for iPad Mini ($0.99) - Trim unnecessary background for use in animations
  • Paper(Free + in app purchases) - An excellent intuitive drawing app

Initial Observations

  • Paperless classroom (facilitated by a class Moodle) provided enhanced quality, access and use of classroom resources, while simultaneously providing students with resources to carry away. 
  • Annotation tools support focused exploration of resources (zoom, highlight, annotate).
  • Access to video content improved. Very low threshold means video can be part of the flow.  Because it is easy to scrub/search/review content there is less learned helplessness.
  • Creation of sharable resources and video exemplars is supported.  By leading the students through the process, skills and confidence are built.
  • The ever-present camera can be used as a tool to support sharing of resources (i.e., documents and artifacts) and student processes or products. 
  • Airplay (with an Apple TV or an emulator) allows teachers and students to share examples, but a direct cable connection is more reliable (given wifi limitations).
  • Switching between multiple applications is easy – supporting the learning process.
  • Apps that worked well to support learning are used, apps that don’t are discarded.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

50th Anniversary Deans' Lecture Series
Spring 2013 Legacy Art Gallery Lecture: What's New in Education?
Wednesday, April 10: 7 to 8:30 pm, Legacy Gallery, 630 Yates Street
Tablets, ebooks and apps—what are they bringing to the classroom that isn't already there? How will these new tools help children learn? How can teachers, parents and others use them to support 21st century learning?
Speakers: Tim Pelton, PhD and Leslee Francis-Pelton, PhD and Chair, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, UVic.