Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Serious Gaming

Gaming is a serious issue in education today! Our generation and beyond lives in a gaming world. As educators we are going to have to cater to this game atmosphere if we want to survive! Students are being challenged every day with video games, whether we see it that way or not. There was an article we read (I believe earlier in this class) about gaming. I've looked for it and just can't figure out where it came from, BUT I remember reading it out loud to my husband. It discussed how many people consider gaming an addiction. What about people who love to read, do we call that an addiction? The word addiction becomes negative when paired with video games. However, in the current generation of students that is how they are interacting with their world. They are meeting people all over the world, challenging each other, and creating masterpieces. I will admit my husband is a "serious gamer" on the XBOX and it drives me crazy, but he has shared some pretty cool games that require you to think outside the box and be creative!

In a past class we looked at this site, it has several tools to use in the classroom. I chose to research the creativity section and found much of it to be games. One of my favorite sites was the Invention at Play, the section that I think is really neat is Tinker Ball. This game could be used when talking about basic elements of physics. What I like about this section of games is they are not just remedial questions. These are sites that encourage creativity and thinking. Students get bored with just repetitive questions, even if there is a "little" game to go along with the question.


In my opinion, it is not worth it to spend my personal money on games that just spit out questions, IXL (you can use this site free for a limited time). There are plenty of free games available through PBS , funbrain, gameaquarium, and sites like BBC. However, I would be willing to spend money on Zondle's Phonics portion of the site. From the demo it sounds like kids follow a mission and work their way through different levels of phonics, while also saving the world :) Another site I am looking into using this year is ABC Mouse, which I found through a colleague in another class. It is free for teachers and you can set up a class account. Serious gaming does not have to be expensive if you look in the right places!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flipped Classroom

While I think flipping classrooms is a wonderful idea for classes like this one, I am just not sure how it would play out for 1st grade. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but I can't hardly find any resources or examples of 1st grade classes that have tried it! There is one school that has a set of resources for the first graders, which can be found here. However, I don't see any explanation of the whys, and hows. The teacher does have an extensive list of resources and simply, but well done.

Let's get the negatives laid out:
First graders access to technology at home (parent permission, or not being available at all)
Longer amount of Time
First graders have limited technology troubleshooting skills (and parents may too)

Looking at the positives:
Students would be more engaged in homework
Students could spend as much time on skill as needed
Parents can SEE what the skill is and how it's being taught.

So while I have come to the conclusion that the full idea of a flipped classroom won't work for me, I have got some ideas running. There are ways that I can promote learning at home so they are prepared before coming to school. One easy way that I can do a little flipping is encouraging access to our reading material from home. Each student has login, which can be accessed from home. They can read or listen to our textbook, fill out practice book pages, and assessments from home. Now loading up the kiddos with online practice book pages is not the point of a flipped classroom, but having the students read the story before coming to class would! They could come already knowing about the story and then in class we would have more time to work on skills. This would overcome one of the negatives of dealing with troubleshooting. If it is always the same site, and drill of reading the story there is less chance of error.

I could also see occasionally providing videos for students to access at home to pre-teach, but I will definitely have to be prepared for the kiddos who will have to access this before or after school. Which most of the flipped classrooms I read about encounter this every day as they flip their classrooms. I think the key to making this work in my classroom would be parent communication. Ultimately, they are the ones in control of whether their 1st grader can access these videos. Once students are older they are responsible for getting to that video (whether coming in before school, going to the library, accessing while parents aren't home), but for first graders they will be very dependent on their parents for making this happen! I could see some 1st grade parents loving the idea of a flipped classroom, the ones always asking about what they can work on a home. Then there are the parents who are runners from one activity to another who will not find this an easy task to accomplish... What? My kid does his homework at home instead of during his brother's baseball practice?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Videocast and Podcast

The best set of videocast that I could find was actually through our Think Central login which correlates with our reading curriculum, Storytown. Most teachers would probably not find these too helpful, but as I make the switch to 1st grade it was helpful to see the different aspects of Storytown taught to the younger ones. You cannot access the set of podcast unless you have a login so I thought I would give you a brief overview. The podcasts are divided into different sections and skills. Each skill is explained and gives examples. Then the remaining time you are in the classroom watching the skill be taught.

As for videos that may enhance the learning environment for the kiddos I found this adorable video cast on school tube. Now I see two uses with this videocast. One, I could use it as an engagement piece. Get the kiddos excited for what's to come as we start our chicks unit. Two, I could simply use the as inspiration and document our own experience. Then I could post for parents to share what we have learned. Better yet, use the videocast both ways!

Why Podcasts?

Podcasts are great for storing directions, and how tos. They are perfect for differentiated instruction. May even be a great tool for showing parents how a certain skill is being taught. In fact the videocast I created will mostly be used for small group, but also will be accessible to parents so they can see how we practice our spelling words at school.

However, the time that goes into making them is does not seem worth it for general class use. There are so many videos already made, such as subscriptions to brain pop. There is also study jams and many times I can find valuable videos on youtube. So unless there is something unique to my classroom (such as my spelling words) or I have in mind a specific use (i.e. small groups, documenting our learning) I will take advantage of everyone else's podcasts/ videocasts.

What do you need?

Equipment needed would be video recording device or camera for still shots. Microphones, which is not lacking in our building, however getting them to work with our ancient computers is another story. Then some kind of compilation software, whether movie maker or a storyboard program. Audacity (which is free) is very helpful for recording voice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The iPad and Clickers

In my building we currently have 2 class sets of clickers, one of which lived in my classroom all last year. In the past I used them for state assessment prep in 4th grade but am going to challenge myself to use them with 1st graders this year! As for iPads we are supposedly getting a cart of 30 in a year or two (as a part of a bond issue). My original thinking was to have each teacher check out one each day, because I think it is going to cause drama of checking them out (laptop carts is the current drama). Now this decision is not in my hands, but the more I get into my master's the more I am steering away from this idea anyway. Having each kid on an iPad would be pretty awesome. So that was my motivation for exploring these two technologies, now here is what I found...


Okay for starters I found this comparison of using web vs. iPad tools. My iPod I got from entering the master's program at Mid America has been designated (by me) for classroom use. Wow, what a great bunch of apps I discovered through this image. Just thought I should share these tools! So I guess this would be a reason for using the iPad, there are several FREE apps that can support students in reading/writing (that is what most of the apps were on this pdf). One of the apps listed students could record themselves telling a story and add sounds effects... what a great pre-writing activity. Or it could even be used to read a book and then playback to hear themselves read.

Now imagine your students going on a scavenger hunt, if you are an educator you've made one! Students walking around looking for clues, now imagine an iPad in their hands. And finally picture them scanning a black and white picture, aka QR code. That code directs them to a link of a question, video, picture, article, website, etc. Anything you want!

I have to be honest, this website has made me want to purchase 20 iPads for my class next year! (Not sure my husband would be too happy about that!) When looking at pricing of iPads there didn't seem to be a difference in buying for education vs. average Joe. Either way an iPad 2 is $399 and the new version is $499. There was however a bundle of buying in sets of 10, which brought the price to $379 each. And I am sure if a district is buying in bulk there would be an additional discount. The iPads in Schools blog states that while we do not see a lot of tablets right now because schools were reluctant to commit, they are seeing huge growth and many campuses will be adopting tablets soon!

While I can continue to dream of having a classroom set of iPads, I may lower the bar and make things more realistic by researching android tablets. However in the meantime I will enjoy the new apps I discovered for my iPod. 


The link provided to me for information regarding clickers was all geared towards college, so I did some digging myself...

This video was helpful in seeing how they incorporated clickers into a lesson with younger students. The school also is very fortunate to have smart boards and software in which there was a lot more interaction beyond the clickers!

So I mentioned an article earlier focusing on college clickers, and I have found that many articles/ information regarding clickers revolve around the college or high school world. I did stumble upon this blog  and found a common feeling about technology, especially clickers. Bob Deneau noted that teachers often feel that in primary grades technology has to be "dumbed down" and they cannot use as much. I agree with his response that this is not true. In the classroom he observed the teacher used the questions from brain pop for clicker responses. This is a great way to check understanding without recreating!

One other site that I found which also discussed iPads as the first use of technology gave examples of how to use clickers in a primary classroom:

  • Which word has the short vowel sound of /e/: "bet" or "bit"? Choose A for "bet", choose B for "bit."
  • Choose the right order of the phases of the moon.
  • Which pattern is correct: A or B? (make two number patterns with one having an error).
  • Choose the word that is spelled correctly.
  • Use classroom clickers as a way of pre-assessing knowledge before a unit of study.

In the primary classroom I think clickers would be a great tool to check in through asking a couple of questions every so often to check for understanding. I also feel that clickers would be a great tool for pre-assessment. Our district requires first graders to take a pre-test every quarter, it's a huge paper and pencil packet! It also takes forever to grade! How awesome would it be to have the questions put into eInstruction and have students answer through clickers. It would probably be more engaging to students and is less work for the teacher.

Clickers does not really bring up a cost issue to me, because we already have a couple sets in the building. While we do have this technology, I may be playing tug of war with fourth grade (as they are usually the only ones that use them).