Tag Archives: iPad

QR Codes in Grade 3

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It’s a long story with lots of background but let’s cut to the chase and say that I have been very leery of allowing my grade 3 students to do research on the internet. Given the limited amount of time we have had using technology in our class this year, I don’t feel as though I have given enough attention to teaching my students to search responsibly and analyze the veracity of the search results. I do know, however, that on the internet there is a lot of really good information about ancient civilizations specifically geared towards elementary students that I would like to them to explore.  

So, how do I access what I know is the quality content on the internet without risking my students “accidentally” stumbling upon extraneous information? 

I decided to introduce QR codes to my students as a way of allowing them to visit certain selected websites without having them waste time finding relevant sites or getting sidetracked with irrelevant ones.

It was a pretty easy introduction actually; this was a nice surprise.  Some of them had seen them before; all of them made the connection between scanning a barcode at the grocery store to find the price and scanning a QR code to access the information behind the code.

The afternoon before the lesson I posted several QR codes (generated with a free app from the Google Chrome Web Store) with a subtitle “What in the world is this?” Students were engaged and intrigued by these posters and some of them went home and inquired into their use.

The following morning we used the scan app on our iPads to access the link.  The common craft video it linked to explained the basics of QR codes and we were off to the races!

I had prepared a research exercise where students were able to practice scanning and this novel way of accessing information kind of took the edge off of having to read a text for information retrieval. Score one for sneaking in some learning without your students even knowing it.

My students were able to think of some ways of using these codes in our classroom and we hope to incorporate them into our unit of inquiry summative where students will create a museum artifact from the ancient civilization of their choice.

Karen and Janette’s Course 5 Ideas 2.0

So Course 5 has arrived and the pressure is on to create a final project for COETAIL that will do justice to all the learning that has happened so far!

Janette (the PYP coordinator) and I have been talking COETAIL final project for awhile but we really need to get something started.  So we met with our school’s tech coaches last week to brainstorm some thoughts and to present the ideas we had planned.

After a great session we have come to some conclusions:

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1. We will be very short on time if we try to work within the time allowed for the unit we had planned to rework (March 10 – April 25).

2. We have decided to work on the unit that starts next week.

3. We had better get cracking!

So we met again today and here is a summation of our ideas (they may still change though!).

We will now focus on the unit for Sharing the Planet – An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.

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This unit will run from  February 3 – March 14, which should allow us less time to plan out what we want to do before the unit begins but more time to reflect upon how it went and create our video for Course 5.

The central idea for the unit is: Plants provide many of the resources our planet needs to thrive.

Key Concepts:
  • Function
  • Connection
  • Responsibility
Related Concepts:
  • Resources; Responsibility
Inquiry Into:
  • What plant life needs to survive.
  • Why the planet needs plants to thrive.
  • Our responsibility towards plant life.
Teacher Questions:
  • How do plants grow and survive?
  • Why does the planet need plants to thrive?
  • What is our responsibility to plant life in the environment?
Learner Profile:
  • Balanced
  • Caring
  • Principled
  • Commitment
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Research Skills
  • Self-Management Skills

When wanted to make sure our ideas for the technology component considered the S.A.M.R. model, specifically focusing on achieving Redefinition – the computer allows for the creation of new tasks that would otherwise be inconceivable without the technology. Ideally, we would like to start doing new things in new ways.

So, what exactly will we do?

Well, we have a few NEW ideas.

  • We are thinking of blogging to document our thinking and learning  throughout the unit (Transactional Writing is our focus this unit).
  • Students could use digital cameras and iPads to take pictures and video to upload to their blogs.
  • We know there will be a need to address Digital Citizenship.
  • If the project is working well, we may try to connect with other classrooms in our grade team.

We have had concerns about the availability and access our students have to technology.  While we are not a ‘bring your own device’ school, we will ask for exception during this unit to allow our students to bring in their laptops or iPads.

There is so much to think about such as which platform we would like to use to host our blogs but now that we are underway it is very exciting!  I am so glad I have a great team to work with on this project.

Ready. Fire. …. Aim?

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My school is in an interesting and unforeseen position.  Good intentions of creating a 1:1 program have hit myriad unanticipated roadblocks and now we have some students in classrooms with school-issued iPads while the majority do not have them. Bringing your own device is not an option for day-to-day use. In addition, construction delays have prevented the opening of the computer lab associated with the library.

So now we are dealing with bigger management issues such as:  What do you do when 6 out of 22 students have iPads? Are students allowed to share them? What does instruction look like for the students who have iPads? What are the other students doing while the students who have iPads are receiving instruction? What kind of instruction in technology are students without iPads receiving?

As we iron out the wrinkles these developments have presented to both administration, tech coaches and teachers, it is obvious that well thought out, practical plans for the use of iPads and, in fact, all technology will need to be amended.

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Every teacher runs their classroom differently and I am very grateful for our  administration allowing us to have that autonomy in our classrooms.  Having said that, there are as many tips for classroom management as there are classroom teachers.  With respect to strategies for the day-to-day use of devices in the classroom, it is imperative that teachers have a well-aimed plan.  Remember back to all those detailed lesson plans we were asked to create in our pre-service education?  Yep, the ones where you needed to consider everything that could possibly go wrong and have a plan B just in case.  Plans like that are important to have until routines can be established.

There are plenty of helpful articles and blog posts where teachers can read up on strategies and interact with colleagues to glean some helpful hints.  I do think, though, that when it comes to using devices in the classroom the best way to find what works for you is to start using the devices. Every classroom will be different. Every school will have its own set of rules for its own set of equipment.  Issues of how devices will be charged, stored, maintained and cared for will vary tremendously.

In my opinion, the most important thing to factor in would be flexibility. Teachers may have thought of plans for how classroom materials are stored, managed and used safely and still problems may arise.  I am thinking of all the best laid plans for the use of scissors in the classroom. No matter where I had planned for them to be stored or my thoughts on how easily they were accessed, I had not factored in that this year (in grade 3 no less!) I would have a student cut her hair! What actually happens may deviate from what was intended.

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So, planning, flexibility and a good sense of humour thrown into the mix should serve you well. After all, it’s nothing we teachers can’t handle!

Progress Report: Developing

Way back in Course 1 we looked at integrating technology in our classrooms by doing new things in new ways.  Mark Prensky’s article about Shaping Tech for the Classroom talks about the typical four-step process of integrating technology:

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.

These four steps can be compared to the four levels of the SAMR model:

  • Substitution: the computer stands in for another technological tool without a significant change in the tool’s function.
  • Augmentation: the computer replaces another technological tool, with significant functionality increase.
  • Modification: the computer enables the redesign of significant portions of a task.
  • Redefinition: the computer allows for the creation of new tasks that would otherwise be inconceivable without the technology.

Furthermore, this week I read this article in EDUTOPIA which states that there are four key components to learning technology.

  • active engagement;
  • participation in groups;
  • frequent interaction and feedback; and,
  • connection to real-world experts.

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This collection of ideas is percolating as I am developing an idea of how I view technology use in the classroom.  Call it integration, embedding or whatever you will, I think the ideal in technology integration is to let the curriculum drive how technology is used in the classroom.  Best practices seem to indicate that if teachers allow children to choose what they think is the best means of technology to deepen their understanding of a particular concept and give them time to consolidate their learning through the use of that technology, we can maximize student participation in their personal learning journey and, hopefully, increase their enduring understanding.

“Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.

So, the ISTE NETs – T standard that we are looking at this week is a lofty goal:

2.b: Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.

How does my classroom (and ultimately, my school) live up to that standard?

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Not very well, it seems.  This year our school has embarked on the first stages of a 1:1 iPad initiative but the implementation of this plan has encountered MANY speed bumps.  The bottom line is that we are not 1:1 and iPad use, so far, has been sporadic.  In addition, we have lost our elementary tech teacher and computer lab and in return have been given three K-12 tech coaches. Unfortunately, classroom teachers are not too sure how to optimize these individuals. Being the optimist that I am, though, I have faith that these hurdles will be overcome and that more good than bad will come out in the end.

If I consider the four key components to learning technology from above, I can see how our school might increase our odds;  just as we would students, we need to actively engage teachers, continue allowing them time to frequently participate in group discussions on technology with their peers and connect them to real-world experts for their personal development.

These COETAIL courses are helping me to see that while the first two levels/steps of technology integration are a logical progress into 21st century learning, I need to shift my thinking to the latter two stages and modify or redefine how I am using and teaching technology in my classroom.  I hope to keep this forefront in my thinking when I am redesigning a unit of study for Course 5.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles

I have learned a lot of amazing things during this COETAIL course and the two that have preceded it but I think that this assignment ranks right up there as the most frustrating and yet the most meaningful.  This image represents how I felt when I first read the assignment.

You want me to do what exactly????

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While working on this assignment, I thought a lot about how students feel when assigned a challenging task.  I believe that every student has felt this way before; some in math class, some in writing, some in art, for example.  Their reality is (like mine was) that the task is so monumental they don’t know where to begin.  The hardest part for me was deciding where to start.

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I learned that I need to be mindful not to trivialize my students’ feelings.   Simply helping students generate ideas can allow them to wade through that paralyzing uneasiness and get down to the actual task.

Once I decided the subject, I actually enjoyed the process of messing around with iMovie and creating my digital story.

When I reflect on this assignment I think it is best for me to focus on the process over the product!  I can’t say that I am delighted with the final product but I learned a lot about the iMovie app and about assigning projects for my students without first understanding the process myself.

So, here it is.  My first digital story creation.  Ultimately, I chose to create a movie outlining the steps to baking cookies. We will be working on procedural writing during our next unit and I can picture my grade 3 students using their iPads to create similar movies of routine things they do that involve multiple steps.  We will be focussing on the transition framework; first, next, then and finally.

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I created my movie completely on my iPad and while the lighting an such is not at all professional, I think this is more like what I should expect from my students.  I created the slides in Keynote; also on my iPad.  I only have one thing left to say…

What a huge learning curve!

So, my directorial debut will never go viral and I’m okay with that.  After all, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.   Enjoy your virtual snack!

Infographics & Anchor Charts

So, here we go with a new year of school and a new COETAIL course. I am busy, busy, busy! But, like my students (hopefully), after a long summer…

I am excited about learning and ready to be engaged and enlightened.

I was watching Jeff and Brandon’s Vimeo on the COETAIL blog and had a little smile to myself about Jeff’s comment that the only thing he pins on his Pinterest board is infographics.


This summer I got totally addicted to Pinterest.  I spent many late nights scrolling through links and following little web trails to cool discoveries. While I don’t pin about creating houses out of shipping containers or nail art (who knew there were so many ways to paint designs on your nails?), I do find a lot of great teaching tips and ideas.  I had noticed these cool graphic summaries but up until he spoke about them I didn’t really know that they were called infographics.

I think that infographics appeal to me as a visual learner because they are a neat little summary of a topic with pictures or graphics and a written description.  They are concise and very practical. I also find the good ones to be visually appealing and informative.

You can find infographics on practically every topic.  

There is a particularly interesting one that shows how much sugar is consumed annually by the average American.  It is found on a website that posts a new infographic every day.

I liken infographics to anchor charts, only digitally created.  How many times have we, as teachers, spent class time developing anchor charts with our students only to have them forget their very existence the next day?  Maybe one idea would be to have our students use their iPads to create a collection of their own personal infographics/anchor charts for reference. They would need to use a higher level of thinking to create a simple, single-topic, fact summary that tells a story using an appealing and effective design. Having students create their own infographics could incorporate many discussions on the elements of design such as how to choose fonts and colours that work well together to create a document that is accessible to a wide variety of readers. Layout, word choice, graphic selection and size and so on.

Here is a link to Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Langwitches blog that talks about creating infographics with your students.

What do you think about infographics and have you created any of your own?  If so what apps did you use?

Course 2 Final Project – Acceptable Use Policy

For the final project for Course 2 I chose to work with a group to create an acceptable use policy for our school.  Fellow COETAIL members Janette Haggith, Christina Botbyl and I met several times to discuss the needs of our school, the current state of any policies our school had, and the progress of our efforts.  We divided the policy into divisions and each member of our group contributed in the division in which we teach.  As I teach grade 3, I worked mainly on the pre-kindergarten to grade 2 and grades 3-5 sections which I have posted below.  The policy can be viewed in its entirety in Christina’s blog post.

Our group began by searching the internet and the COETAIL website for other Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) and gathering information from the technology departments at our school.  We drafted our plan then consulted, reworked and wordsmithed awhile.

Here are some of the points that we took into consideration while working on our AUP:

1.  We chose to phrase our statements in as positive a way as possible.  We believe that by creating positive “I will…” statements the document takes on a personal tone that encourages student ‘buy-in’.  We wanted our statements to reflect a sense of cooperative inclusion rather that a list of rules by which to abide.

2.  We tried to keep our policy concise and use language that was appropriate to the age of the students in the division.  This document is intended to be the starting point for discussion between students and parents as well as students and teachers so we felt that it should be written in simple, grade level appropriate language.

3. It took us awhile to come up with a general term to refer to all of the possible electronic devices to which the students may have access.  We settled on ‘electronics’ to include, but not be limited to, iPads, computers, the internet, printers, scanners, digital cameras and video cameras.  Who knows what amazing tools the future will bring!

4. We wanted to include statements that reflected our consideration of the importance of current issues in technology such as personal privacy, cyber-bullying, copyright and the access to potentially inappropriate material without making these issues appear threatening.  It is our intention that our policy promotes and models responsible digital citizenship.

I think that our AUP is comprehensive and complete.  It is my hope that the document that we have drafted will be used as a starting point for the team that will be created to roll out our 1:1 iPad initiative for the 2012-2013 school year.  Such a document needs to be dynamic and the individuals who work with the AUP need to be flexible and open to the constant changes and fast pace that is the world of technology for 21st century learners.

Please, don’t burst my bubble!

I have been trying to figure out what I think about blogging and connecting to the technology/education community.  I have been reading like crazy this week and messing around with lots of different ideas.  For the last few weeks, I feel like I have been living in the barren, remote wilderness of this community and have not been anywhere even close to packing my bags and moving to suburbia, never mind the downtown core. This week, however, I feel like I may be closer to looking at the real estate ads and browsing MLS listings.

Will I ever gather the knowledge and courage to contribute and be a productive member of this community?

I have been reading and following so many amazing leads.  Thanks Jeff for introducing me to the Google Reader; we have become very close this week (my reader and I ♥).  I am amazed by all the wonderful resources available on the internet for those who choose to go looking for them.  Whether you want to integrate technology into your classroom teaching practices or take up alpaca farming, there is someone out there blogging about some of the same ideas you might have percolating in your head and eagerly awaiting your comments on their posts that will enhance their journey.

This week the students in my grade 3 class have been working on a PowerPoint presentation to consolidate what they have learned about the central idea of our current unit of inquiry “plants provide many of the resources our planet needs to thrive”.  They are enjoying this project immensely and are very engaged in what they are learning about technology as they work on it. I see them teaching and learning from each other as they lean over to their neighbour and ask “how did you get yours to…?”

Next year our school will be going 1:1 with iPads in the classroom.  I received my iPad just before our winter break and since then I have been messing around and becoming acquainted with it.  I began to think about how I would modify a project like this for the technology we will be introducing next year.

Director's Chair

<Stage cue> Enter NET 2.a: design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity. 

My next step was to access my local community, so I approached a fellow colleague and COETAILer and vented: “How was I supposed to do this next year without access to my familiar computer lab and only iPads as resources?”  The rant turned into a vision: “Wouldn’t it be great if the kids could take pictures of their growing plants with their iPads, add graphics from the internet, learn new technology skills and, at the same time, incorporate the content area?” She listened to me, supportively, and we decided there must be a way to do this effectively however, together we didn’t know it.  Next, I approached some other tech users in my school and although they didn’t know how to do what I wanted to do either, I got a lead to the Keynote app.  I downloaded it and began to “play” with it.  That night I made a quick Keynote presentation on my iPad incorporating photos of my students, images from the internet and text!  I was thrilled with my learning and motivated to try it with the kids.  Heck – if I can do it an eight year-old can too, right?

Reflecting about my learning process, with respect to this project, I began to think of the online community of potential “helpers”.  What if I had not been able to progress further through face-to-face networking?  I would have been discouraged and maybe I would have given up.  So, I started to search for people blogging about how to use iPads in the elementary classroom.  I found tons of people also on similar journeys and added them to my Google Reader.  Along the way, among other things, I have learned some valuable tips on how to use Google Docs and my MacBook more efficiently, I have some promising leads on new apps to try and I watched a cool video on how to turn my iPad into a document camera!

I feel like I have taken a monumental leap this week in my personal growth.  I was successful in a technological problem solving exercise, increased my “buy-in” to the iPad 1:1 initiative that is coming whether we like it or not, expanded my Google Reader subscriptions and connected to some inspiring educators.  All in the course of a few days.  I hope my learning bubble does not burst!

Don't burst my bubble!