Monthly Archives: April 2014

Being challenged is a good thing!

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At the end of Term 3 last year, all of our staff got their own iPads. When I type ‘got’, I mean that they were required to purchase an iPad, most through a salary sacrifice option. Some, like myself, already had their own. There was some whinging and complaining, but it fell on deaf ears. Our school was progressing, and this was a required step in the process.

One of my roles and challenges was up-skilling the staff to befriend this brand new device that they now owned. There was a wide variety in the interest, current skills and dedication to learning about their iPad. Some staff took their two weeks’ holiday as a learning opportunity and familiarised themselves with the iPad and it’s capabilities. Others left it in the box and hoped that they would be given PD in Term 4. It was the plan, however some self-directed learning was also required!

We presented our staff with their own iPad Handbook (which I don’t actually have a soft copy of – sorry!) and I provided them with a crash-course in iBooks and iTunes with a take home list of QR code links to various iBooks which I thought they may find helpful. I provided them with the resources and basic skills – whether they used it or not was up to them.

It was only a few weeks later that I realised that there were staff asking me really simple questions, like “How do I type using capitals?” and “Can I email a photo to someone?”. I used the Bingo Baker website to create 2 different iPad Bingo Challenge Cards – Level 1, and Level 2. I used the web address of each Challenge Card to create a QR to place on our IT wall in the staffroom and asked staff to scan (and take a screenshot of) both of them during a full staff meeting. 

Level 1 was for staff who needed the basic skills – the capital letters, screenshots, searching the iPad, forcing apps to quit, etc.

Level 2 was for staff who had basic knowledge of their iPad and needed some motivation to create resources for their classes, edit files in their Dropbox, or utilise Guided Access.

Feel free to download the links above and use them at your own school!

There was no extra PD provided about any of the challenges – no extra ‘how to’ or ‘what does that mean?’ – I told the staff to do what I would do – ‘Google it’.

I felt it was important to let staff work through these at their own pace – there was no deadline to meet all of the challenges…until this term! They’ve had at least 6 months to familiarise themselves with these tasks and when we hold our next IT Professional Learning PD afternoon, there will be prizes for those who can prove their skills!

The curriculum isn’t crowded…it’s brimming with opportunity!

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I’ve been concerned with the number of educators who are constantly reminding others of how ‘crowded’ the curriculum is. Many of them are voicing their concerns a little louder now that the National Curriculum has begun to be implemented, while others are relating it to the fact that there are only a certain number of hours in a school day.
 
It frustrates me to hear that many staff believe that the curriculum is “too full”. Rather than looking at the curriculum as “too full”, why are we not looking at it as “brimming with opportunities and variety”? We know that students all have different learning styles and interests. It would be narrow-minded of educators to believe that every single aspect of the curriculum is applicable and important for every single student.
 
My Year 4 History curriculum tells me that I should be covering world explorers such as Magellan, Columbus and Cook. Science tells me that I need to be teaching the life cycles of plants and animals. The new Geography syllabus instructs me to teach biomes of Africa and South America and the sustainability aspects of these. 
 
I didn’t freak out when I saw the requirements. I used my time wisely. I created a series of learning opportunities to try and cover all of the material in the most sensible manner, using a range of subject areas. Students worked in pairs to research (literacy & ICT focus) an African or South American country, including their biomes (geography) and the plants (science) that live in them. This led into life cycles and descriptions and information reports (literacy) on an African animal of their choice. They summarised information (literacy) about plant life cycles and presented their information as a slideshow (ICT). Students proved that there was more than one explorer in the world, which led to discussions on Columbus, Magellan, Marco Polo, Vikings, Matthew Flinders and Captain Cook. Some students focused on the vikings, others were interested in finding out who discovered their country of origin. We used these explorers to develop a timeline (maths) of important dates of world discovery. By communicating with our visual arts teacher, the Year 4’s created South American “God’s eye” art and African masks.
 
Many educators refer to these types of lessons as “Integrated Studies”. That’s fine, as long as it is not a scheduled timeslot to “do” Integrated Studies. If it’s truly integrated, it will be seeping through most of your lessons and immersing students in valuable learning opportunities. It’s not about choosing the most important aspects of the curriculum. It’s about providing students with the opportunity to learn about things that interest them, yet are important to understand.

iPad apps for Daily 5.

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This is my third year of implementing the Daily 5 Literacy Program in my classroom, in conjunction with the Literacy CAFE components. Throughout last year I experimented with ways of using the few iPads that my class had access to, in order to integrate technology into our literacy program. 

I’ve composed a collection of apps/ideas for each of the Daily 5 sessions which may help you in your own classroom:

Read to Self:
Voice Record –ask students to record themselves speaking and play it back to help them identify areas to improve
Dragon Dictation –encourage students to read clearly with this speech-to-text app

Read to Someone:
Voice Record
Tools4Students
Tools4Students 2

Listen to Reading:

Zalairos (Skoolbo)
Toy Story
Collins Big Cat
Pinocchio 
The Jungle Book

Work on Writing:
Photocardlite
Popplet
Tellagami
Book Creator
Tools4Students
Tools4Students 2
Rory’s Storycubes

Word Work:
SBSpelling
Popplet
MadLibs
Doodle buddy
Tools4Students
Tools4Students 2
Abc magnets
Tapthecat (reading eggs)
Bluster!
ABCSpyHD