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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Where or where has Normoff gone?! Where or where could they be?!

No worries, we are still here! We've been super busy doing some fun (and not as much fun but more like hard work) things. Angie and I are still both very active in all things teaching and technology. We are still presenting at various conferences and school districts, and have had a great time meeting and learning from so many people! Unfortunately with all that we have had going on this blog has been a little forgotten {tear} So wanted to drop by to let you know that we are gone but not forever. Both Angie and I have taken to our own blogs. Angie's is http://angiekalthoff.blogspot.com/ and mine is http://teachernorman.blogspot.com/.  

I started my own personal teaching blog after attending TIES 2014 and hearing what a wonderful reflection piece it can be for teachers. I LOVED blogging here, but I decided that it would be best to do my own as some of what I will be writing about will be Kindergarten stuff (with technology included of course!). Angie is super busy with her Technology Integrationist position and she blogs about many things that relate to that. Not to mention the many speaking engagements she does-she really loves sharing her love of technology with other educators! 

Angie and I presented at the TIES 2014 conference and one of our attendees said the following:
'You did an awesome job of presenting...my favorite sessions were with you! You are down-to-earth and realistic about what you share...and also full of inspiring, creative ideas. THANK YOU!!'

So know that we are still around but just taking a break from blogging here. Please check out or individual blogs and continue to stay tuned with The Techie Teachers! We are so glad you stopped by!!
@mrskalthoff
@teachernorman

Monday, February 17, 2014

Managing my PLN

If you have read some of our previous posts you understand how we value our Personal Learning Network (PLN). There are so many different platforms available to connect with others online from all over the world. It is even better when we are able to meet people from our PLN in person. I just got back from the iSummitMN a little of a week ago and I am looking forward to the ITEM conference up in Duluth on March 15. My friend Andrea and I will be running the unconference in the afternoon.

Back to managing your tools for your PLN. I use HootSuite to watch hashtags (#) , follow certain groups of people and post to multiple accounts.



Have you heard of Twitter Chats? Here is a list of Twitter chats by day of the week and time
bit.ly/officialchatlist 
If you are solely using the Twitter application, these chats will be hard to follow. HootSuite allows you to make a stream following a hashtag of your choice. Sunday night at 7pm Minnesota educators are using the hashtag #MNlead to discuss leadership in education. If you want to follow along in the conversation, I would recommend using a service such as HootSuite. 

Typically when you participate in a Twitter chat there is a moderator or two who lead the conversation. They will post a question and  people will respond to the question. To stay organized and make it easier to follow the moderator will use some thing along the lines of Q1) or Q1-  which means "Question 1" and when others respond they will use A) or A1- which means "Answer to question1". If someone posts something of interest, that you would like to comment on, you can reply to the tweet. It is important for you to remember to include the hashtag so that others in the chat will see your comment.


My HootSuite view

In my HootSuite account I have multiple pages and each page has a different purpose.

  • One page has the top people I follow and interact with. This allows me to easily navigate their Twitter posts and interact with them.
  •  Another page is just for information about me. I see when someone Direct Message (DM) me, posts at me (@), and a stream of new followers. 
  • My third page is a page of conference hashtags (#). I love to connect with others via Twitter while conferences are going on. If I am in a great session I will Tweet out what I am learning, when I attend EdCamps I typically tweet my notes for the day, and if I am leading Professional Development (PD) I will share my resources. 
  • My last page brings us back to the Twitter chats. I went through the list of daily chats and chose one chat per day. If I ever have some down time, I will got to this page and read through previous chats or contribute to a live chat. (Picture above)

My Personal Learning Network has influenced me immensely as a teacher and learner. I have connected with so many wonderful people over the past few years, whom I would have never had the chance to connect with. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

iSummit

A little over a week ago I had the privilege of presenting at the iSummit in Minnesota. I am always excited when a new learning opportunity comes my way, and even more excited when it is with this wonderful group of people.



I lead two sessions.

My first session was an iPad Refresher session. People who were new to iPads and people who were looking for more from their iPad attended. I would say there were around 30 participants in the room. I had extra help from the Hopkins Genius Team.
Here is a link to my presentation. http://goo.gl/OyCQKu 

My second session was on Elementary Engagement. I shared to ways for teachers to use their iPad to help with management and assessment. I used Reflector to reflect my iPad onto my laptop to demo a few parts of the apps. The second part of the session was for people to explore different ways for their students to use iPads and extension activities.
Here is a link to my presentation.  http://goo.gl/vCHGpE 

As always, after a session at a conference it is great to leave feedback for the hosts. So.... if you attended my session and didn't leave feed back you can do that here Session Evaluation ! It is not too late!

I look forward to Flipped Education's next event in May: Minnesota Google Summit aka #MNGS

If you would like to know more about my day at #iSummitMN please visit my personal blog.
Here is the link to my personal blog. http://goo.gl/yN7tgb
  -- Angie--



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

App Review: Stick Pick



Stick Pick has become a must have app for my classroom and I believe it can truly help any classroom teacher no matter what age level! I first heard about Stick Pick at an Anita Archer workshop (she's great by the way!) when she was discussing formative assessment for today's classroom. Stick Pick is a teacher tool that has transformed my whole group differentiation and excelled my students' comprehension and academic achievement.  This app beats calling on students using the old 'pull a stick with a name on it from a can' method (although that is essentially what this is but with a whole lot of awesomeness in that can!) Priced at $2.99 it is an app that is definitely worth its weight in popsicle sticks! We feature this app in our formative assessments utilizing iPads classes for educators and here are a few (okay many) reasons why and the basics of Stick Pick:

  • Create as many classes as you want within the app. This is great for tracking progress across multiple academic areas or for teachers who have many classes/small groups that they see in a day. I know of an interventionist who uses this app and loves it!
    • You can use it as just a can with sticks with names on them if you want, or you can have question stems assigned to each student that will appear when you pull their stick.
    • The question stems are categorized into three modes: ESL, Bloom's Revised or Bloom's. 
    We love that we can set what
    type of questions to ask students!
      • You assign each student within those three modes. The breakdown of the modes are:
        • ESL: Beginning, Early Intermediate, Intermediate, Early Advanced, Advanced
        • Bloom's Revised: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating
        • Bloom's: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation

      • When you notice that a student is either struggling or excelling, you can easily go into the student's profile and adjust their question stem level.

      • Once you have all your students entered, you can easily copy an entire class with or without the scores, saving you time on re-entering each student again if you have the same or similar roster. You can also choose if you want to be able to pick a stick by tapping, shaking the device or both and if you want the sound on.  And for all you lefties out there, there is also a left-handed mode! 

      • When you choose your class you will be taken to a screen with all your sticks in a can. From there you can choose to 'peek', allowing you to choose a specific student to assess. Or you can tap/shake your device to let the app randomly choose a stick for you.

      • When a student is chosen (either by you or randomly) a screen appears that shows you their name, the options to assess, reset the stick and mark it as used.  You will also see 10-20 question stems from that student's assigned learning level. We love the options within the question stems and have found them to easily work into whatever content we are discussing.
      Just like when we want our students 
      to pick 'just right work' this app 
      helps us ask 'just right questions'
      • After the student answers you can track if they answered it correct, incorrect or assign them a score of 0-5 on a preset rubric. For Bloom's and Bloom's Revised modes it is a Critical Thinking Rubric. For ESL mode it is a Degree of Elaboration Rubric.
        Critical Thinking Rubric
      • Once you score the student you can either mark it as used so it goes into a different 'used can' or reset the stick to put it back in with the other sticks to be chosen from again. 
        What the main screen looks like
      • The teacher gets to choose what can to pull the stick from, so even if you mark it used you can still access those students' sticks before resetting the entire class. At any time you can reset the class so that all the sticks go back into the main can. 

        • Student's responses and progress is recorded within the app. You can easily go into each student's profile to see their history (super helpful when grading time comes around!) and you can send the information out via email. 
        Being able to see student's past results
        allows us to reflect on student progress

        Whoa! That is a ton of information! It may seem overwhelming to read about, but it really is a simple, easy to use app.  If you are wanting to improve your formative assessments, classroom discussions, and differentiation of instruction this app can help you!

        One of my first ever principal observations suggested that I work on incorporating more higher level thinking questions into my whole group instruction. Working with a group of students that included those who were new to the country with little to no English all the way to gifted and talented students made that goal huge and daunting.  Wish I would've known about this app then, as it really takes all the work out of higher level questioning at the right level for each student! 

        Upper grades can even use this app within their small group work, allowing students to ask each other questions, making their work more on point and productive.  We highly recommend Stick Pick as a top teacher app! Let us know how you are utilizing Stick Pick in your classroom!


        Saturday, February 1, 2014

        Running Records with iPads & App Review: Levelbook

        Levelbook by Von Bruno is a great app for teachers to use when testing their students' literacy. We love that Levelbook is designed, developed and maintained by a professional certified teacher. As of right now Levelbook costs $4.99.

        Gone are the days of making copies and carrying around a binder of running records (yahoo!). Teachers now have a tool that combines their basic running record format with a calculator, stop watch features, and the ability to record the student reading and play it back at a later time. We are big fans of this app because it allows us to go back throughout the year and listen to our students' reading progress with our students! We can share these recordings with other teachers who are working with our students or with parents at conference time. The developer has added many great features in the latest update, and through our conversations with him it sounds like there are many more wonderful features to come!

        Here are some of the other main highlights of Levelbook:
        • Simple and clean format of this app makes it easy to use and access daily.
        • Cloud storage available now so you can access your student's information across multiple devices.
        • Student's audio and running record information is recorded and saved, along with scores, notes and flags. These can be easily seen and accessed under each student's profile, listing them in chronological order. They are also color coded based on whether that book is considered independent, instructional or frustration level for that student.
        • Students are color coded according to their achievement to the benchmark data that you input. When viewing an entire class you can quickly see who is at grade level or below. See picture above.
        • 5 different reading level systems are supported, inlcuding Fountas & Pinnell (what our district uses) as well as Reading A-Z, Reading Recovery, DRA, Lexile, and PM Reader.You select what reading system you are using when setting up your class accounts.
        • You only need to input book titles and information once. The app then remembers it and stores it in a drop down box for you. You can input all your book information ahead of time, or you can add books as you go. We've done both and are big fans of each aspect of this feature! See picture to the left.



        I presented at our district's staff development day on Utilizing Running Records with Your iPad and featured Levelbook during that class. Here is a part of that presentation reviewing running records basics as well a simple how to guide we created for Levelbook. At the very end there is a slide with some of the possible updates coming to Levelbook! As we've said before, we LOVE it when developers take feedback from educators and use it to better their products! 




        We've discussed utilizing your iPads for your classroom running records before in our review in Record of Reading, and we continue to encourage teachers to make the leap from using the old fashioned paper route to using a great app such as Levelbook! It will streamline your running records by freeing up time, space and hopefully a little bit of your sanity! Well we can't promise that last one, but know that we've found Levelbook to help us stay organized, portable and minimize the time we spend assessing--leaving us with more time for teaching! Let us know if you are using Levelbook in your classroom! 

        Tuesday, January 28, 2014

        App Review: Drawing Pad

        We featured Drawing Pad in our iPad Apps for Kids workshops within our Elementary Creation Apps focus this summer, and will continue to recommend it especially after its newest update that happened just a few days ago! Lets take a look at Drawing Pad and what it is that makes it a Techie Teacher approved app and then share some ways that we like to use it in a educational setting!

        The Basics of Drawing Pad: It costs $1.99, with the option for in-app purchases for different coloring books. It does come with 2 coloring books for free: Farm and More Fun.  Each coloring book has over 20 images that can be colored using all of the tools in your artist drawer.  We appreciate that the basics of this app are included in the purchase price, including all the different artist tools, colors, and the saving/sharing feature.  When you first get this app we recommend you watching the short tutorial video that is embedded within the app. It is a very helpful walk through for the app, and it is easy to follow along or go back to if need be. Drawing Pad is labeled as a mobile art studio for all ages, and we'd agree! With the easy to use interfaces preschool and Kindergarten students can explore and not get frustrated. The variety of tools and advanced abilities make this an app that even adult artists can use and love. Whether you are using this in a school setting or at home, know that every artist can create with Drawing Pad!

        How It Works: Open up a new canvas and start working right away! According to the App Store Drawing Pad includes: Crayons, Markers, Paint Brushes, Colored Pencils, Sketch Pencils, Roller Stamp Pens, Erasures, Stickers, Construction Paper, Blenders, Text Sticker Tool, Photo Background Import, Photo Stickers, Gradient Brushes & Crayons, Advanced Brush Control, Color wheel and  a Gradient Panel.  Whoa! There really is any type of medium that you would want. And the best part is, they really do look like what they say they are! The chalk looks like you are drawing with dusty chalk, the crayons color just like Crayolas. This is huge for my perfectionist students who want their visions to translate exactly to the device-just like it would on paper!  You can add text, different backgrounds and use your photo roll to make stickers or background pages. Even better than on paper, Drawing Pad allows you to edit and change as you go,as well as a save feature that allows you to come back to your work again and again.

        What We Wish was Different: Because we don't currently have 1:1 iPads in our classroom, and many of the teachers that we work with during our workshops don't either, it would be great to have the ability to name the work with a student's name. I sent the developer an email letting him know of this suggestion and he thinks it is a great idea, maybe it will be an added feature in an upcoming update! Other than that the controls are simple to use and with the latest update they fixed many of the bugs and updated some features for ease of use (such as a simpler share function and parental control for the coloring book store. We LOVE when developers respond to feedback from their users and Drawing Pad has shown us great customer service so far!

        How to Utilize Drawing Pad in Education: Drawing Pad can be used in place of anytime you have the students illustrating or creating art pieces to accompany their work.  Because it is a creation app the possibilities are endless! How have I been using it in my K classroom? Here is a few ways:

        • As an open ended activity. I have many budding artists in my classroom and Drawing Pad beats the old paper and pencil or even whiteboard and dry erase markers.  For them to be able to experiment with different art tools without me having to purchase them is a huge plus for me! We use it in small groups to discuss various art vocabulary (which often coincides with math vocab!) such as thickness, line, shape, pattern, symmetry and texture.  Many of my creative students will choose Drawing Pad as an academic choice activity
        • As a tool to learn about the writing process.  To introduce my students to how to write a story I use the following steps: Think-Draw-Add Detail-Label-Sentence and always 'when you are done you've actually just begun!'.  Because Drawing Pad lets us save work in an album and come back to it as many times as need be it fits in nicely while students develop this process.  In fact, I'd go so far to say it works better as the ability to erase and change is much easier on the iPad than it is on paper! 
        • As an accompaniment to a research report (or really an type of report!). Because of the multiple tools at your disposal the students are able to create a customized image that they are very proud of, with each one having its own unique properties.  Giving students choice is a huge motivating factor, and I like that I don't have to say 'no' to anything-----ergo No, you can't use your permanent markers that somehow got sent in with your school supplies, despite the fact that you ask every time we illustrate something:/  
        • As a background for assessing learning. Think about the different learning styles. One of them is Spatial Learning. This means they love designing, drawing, visualizing and expressing their knowledge through creation. When I create my lesson plans this is often a hard one for me to incorporate new ideas for. Using Drawing Pad has helped me integrate more spatial learning activities and responses into my curriculum.  Instead of just discussing a habitat in science, I can now upload a picture of a habitat (lets say pond) and the students have to add in what type of things can be found in that habitat. Or, when we learn about bears, I add a variety of bear themed stickers and backgrounds and let the students show me what they know about bears.
        • As a tool for learning vocabulary.  In my classroom we focus on a new set of vocabulary words each week. To provide some extra practice for my EL students I use Drawing Pad for them to practice their vocabulary words.  Using the camera feature I take pictures of the vocabulary word picture cards that are apart of our curriculum.  I then have them put one picture onto a blank screen and then draw another example of that word. For instance, the word fetch shows a picture of a dog fetching a stick. Using Drawing Pad the students then draw next to that picture another example of fetch. They did work such as them fetching a pencil, their sister fetching the milk, or a cat fetching a mouse. This allows them to extend their knowledge with the visual support of what they have been pre-taught. We can then print the vocabulary pictures into a book for the students to read during their Daily 5 work.
        • Interactive displays using QR Codes or AR.  Because of the ease of sending out the student's work and that you can easily print as well, it is fun to use Drawing Pad to make an interactive art display or bulletin board. For example, have the students create artwork. Then record them either as a video or using a voice recording app such as Audioboo and create a QR Code that links the viewers to the artist's explanation of their work! You can even use their artwork as a trigger image for augmented reality using Aurasma app (if this intrigues you check back for a future post on how to do this!
        There are even more possibilities for incorporating Drawing Pad into educational settings! Let us know how you use Drawing Pad in your classroom by leaving a comment below! We recommend Drawing Pad to anyone looking to add a little art into their teaching with technology!

        Monday, January 27, 2014

        App Review: colAR Mix


        Want to take your Writing Workshop to the next level?! Try using colAR Mix! ColAR Mix is a 3D Coloring Book App that uses augmented reality (AR). This means that it combines layers of digital content combined with your actual environment using the camera feature on your iOS device, creating a virtual reality on your screen. Technical definition aside, it is a whole lot of awesome! We've talked about AR in a school setting using the app Fetch! Lunch Rush for math, and we want to share how you can use AR in your writing academics by using colAR Mix!

        How does colAR Mix work?
        ColAR Mix is a free app (with in-app purchases) that uses pre-made coloring sheets to make coloring pages come to life through AR. They offer free coloring pages, as well as 2 different packs of coloring sheets that can be used with the in-app purchases of $2.99 for each.  After coloring the page using any medium you'd like, you then open the colAR Mix app and hold your iOS device over the coloring page, using your camera to scan the picture.  The picture you made will then 'come to life' on your screen, utilizing animations and sounds that the developer has set in the app. Each coloring page does something a little different, and in my opinion some pages are much 'cooler' than others to see. Within the app you have the option to zoom in and out of your image, pause the image, take a picture of your 3D image to your device's camera roll, turn the sound on and off, and if you tilt the angle of your iOS device you can see your image from many angles, including what it looks like from the back!

        First, color your page carefully! Some pages have a lot of detail so set aside a large amount of time!

        Scan your page with the colAR Mix app. Make sure to try different angles. We put the page on the floor to make for easier viewing. Be prepared, after viewing it in the app you may want to go back and add more detail and color!


        Here is a close up of the fish picture. You can see how the app turned the fish into a 3D image onto our breakfast table!

        We also had fun interacting with the images. Here he is trying to grab the butterfly flying on the screen. Fun!!

        Some Thoughts on This App

        • This app gains shelf life due to the many options of coloring pages available, and the fact that its fun to go back and change something about your picture to see how it affects the AR image.
        • Try to get the 'extension' packs for free if you can.  Right now the free sheets are all holiday images except for 1 bird picture, which is great for before the holidays but not so great now.  I decided to go with the Dover pack, just because many of the coloring pages in that pack match up the themes that I have throughout the year.
        • The app itself is a little buggy. Now that is subject to change all the time, but there are many reviews that are complaining about this recently. The only issue I had this weekend is that 3 of the coloring pages didn't have sounds when we scanned them with the app. The sound isn't necessary, but it definitely adds to the effects and coolness factor!
        • Use brighter, vivid colors.  This weekend I had help demoing this app from a 5 year old and a bunch of adults (we will keep our ages a secret!) We used color pencils mostly--colAR Mix recommends not having any colors that are too dark close to the drawing's outlines, as this will mess with the AR ability.  I thought color pencils are typically lighter and would make a good choice. While we didn't have any issues with the app not reading it, I feel like the colors could have been a lot brighter and more vivid. This would add some extra visual appeal, not needed but helpful.  I'd recommend using neon colored markers or a large box of crayons with many color options.  Still stay away from the really dark colors by the outlines though, it'd be a bummer if you went through all that trouble and it didn't work.  And yes, the adults were equally excited and mesmerized to see what happened with their coloring page as was my fantastic Kindergarten helper! This app is fascinating-there is no doubt about that!
        • The pictures aren't necessarily for little people. Which can be a good or a not so good thing when you think about it. This app should still appeal to middle and even secondary students due to the content of the coloring pages not being too childlike.  However, when looking at it through my Kindergarten lens, there were a few pictures that I wasn't a big fan of as it isn't really what my K students are 'into'. There is a person, but she is wearing a cut off belly shirt-not something I'm into promoting with 6 year-olds.  A suggestion for the developer would be to offer coloring packs that incorporate a wider range of coloring pages themes. I know not everyone wants a puppy, but it would make me more willing to spend 2.99 on something if I knew I could broaden the age appeal. Which brings me to my next thought...
        • A science or social studies pack would be AWESOME! To be able to tie in those standards in a fun way that spans many grade levels would be super helpful for schools and teachers.  Think solar system, community helpers, animal kingdom...the possibilities are endless. I should mention that they do have a bird, butterfly, fish, dragonfly, pony, shark and dinosaur in the Dover pack (this is the one I purchased).
        Here at The Techie Teachers we are all about using technology to amp up our academics, not just for fun and games. And while coloring has its own fine motor skills and calming effects, we want a little more out of this app for it to make it into our classrooms. So what do we do?! Take it to the next level! The app itself provides the engagement into the activity, now all you have to do is figure out the activity. For me, it is within my writers workshop. 

        I read online about how some upper grade teachers let their students choose which coloring page they wanted to do and the students then had to do a creative writing piece. Check out their article here, it sounds like an awesome project! However, for Kindergarten this is a little too vague and open-ended, as we are just learning about the writing process. So I decided to tie in some of our writing and speaking standards by creating a reporting sheet for the students to fill out, narrowing the possibilities but focusing our content and learning. 

        In a few weeks we will do a week long theme of dinosaurs. This is always a huge hit with all of my students and I love it too! In the Dover pack there is a dinosaur that the students can color and bring to life.  I decided that each student will get a copy of the dinosaur coloring page and they can color it however they'd like.  To tie it in with our writers workshop they will also each need to create a report about their dinosaur. This will be a fictional report, with the students naming their dinosaur, describing what it likes to eat, where it lives, and what makes it special. We will then share our reports in small groups, first describing our dinosaur with our reports and then showing it on an iPad. I don't know yet if I can project the AR images from the app onto my SmartBoard, I will let you know. If so, it would be neat to have the image projecting to the whole class as they read their reports aloud to the class. This activity allows my students to work on our district's Writing Benchmarks, as well as Benchmarks for Speaking, Viewing, Listening and Media Literacy

        If this goes well, which I anticipate it going REALLY well, the Dover pack contained pages that I can do a similar activity during my insect, ocean or farm week.  I'd like to have more images for the students to choose from and then have them write an informational report on the coloring page (ie 5 different ocean animals that could lead to small group research papers) but we will make do with what we have and hopefully the developer will take our feedback and add some more images to help make it more education user friendly!

        Overall, we are fans of colAR Mix and think it is a great app to add to your teaching tool box!! Let us know how you are using, or plan to use, colAR Mix in your classroom by leaving us a comment or link below! We'd love to hear more ideas!