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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Using PDF Expert App to Make Assessing Easier!

Every year I find myself reevaluating how I do my assessments.  I'm fortunate to work in a school district that already has standards based grading and assessments that coordinate, however it feels like every year I'm lugging around more and more paperwork and stuff that I find myself not often using.  Then come the end of the year I have oodles of paperwork that I need to shred, which hurts my heart to see all that paper used and then forgotten about.  So with school quickly approaching one of my tasks this summer was to streamline my beginning of the year assessments.  I want it to be quick, easy, portable, and most of all as paperless as possible!

I wasn't sure if this was entirely possible until I remembered this fantastic app called PDF Expert. According to iTunes  It lets you read and annotate PDF documents, highlight text, make notes, draw with your finger and save these changes being compatible with Preview and Adobe Acrobat.  This app is geared more specifically for business people, but Normoff is always on the lookout to see how we can make our lives in education easier with whatever is out there! I'm not going to give you a complete run through on this app, but rather a quick guide as to how you can use PDF expert to make your own portable assessments with the documents you already have.
Step 2 Choose a Server

Step 1: Create your document and save it as a PDF (or if you are already using a PDF you are ahead of the game!)

Step 2: Save your PDF to one of the many supported servers in PDF Expert. I use Google Drive as that is what I use the most anyway, but you can also use Dropbox which many teachers are familiar with.

Step 3: Open the PDF Expert app and then open the network by pressing the blue network button on the left hand side of the app. Select Add to choose the server and then choose the server you wish to connect to.

Step 4 Download the PDF

Step 4: Follow the prompts on PDF Expert to log into that server. When you are logged in you should then be able to see all the documents, including the one you created. Select the document you want and it will instantly transfer to your screen as a download.

Step 5: Open the download.  You can now write and fill out the form as you want.  There are two main tools I used at the top right-the text box creator and the pen.  The text box creator was nice and makes the paper look more clean and formal, however if you are in a hurry it can get just a little bit tricky getting it to line up exactly where you want it to be.  The pen feature works best with a stylus and is my preferred method of note taking.  Don't worry, there is an eraser and an undo button as well.  I'd recommend playing around with this at home so you can press all the buttons to see what they do like I did! I also really like the ability to stick a note onto it to jot down any tidbits of info.
Step 5 Write using text or pen
Step 5 Add a Note

Step 6: After you have taken all of your notes on your student (thank you movie star Ryan Gosling for volunteering to help us!) Press the square with an arrow icon in the top right corner. This will let you send, print or save a copy of the document. I saved the copy with the students name and then the name of the document. This is terrific because it allows you to always have the original waiting for you for the next student! Now you can see your saved copy on the downloads section as well.
Step 6 Save as a Copy
Step 6 Name your File

Step 7 Find Your Work
Step 7: If you need to go back in and continue to work, just open up the copy from the documents/downloads section or from the recents section. Know that you do NOT need to save as a copy every time, it will automatically save changes you've made without you needing to do anything! Woot Woot!! Isn't that every teacher's dream!

Step 8: If you need to you can easily print to a wireless printer or email it to someone.

So that is how I'm going to start my beginning of the year assessments: paperless, streamlined and efficient! It seems like a lot of info but I promise it is actually super easy to do!

We find that PDF Expert is a great teaching app especially within the Daily 5 format.  If you want to hear more about how we use PDF Expert join us for one of our workshops like iPad Apps for Teachers, Creating Formative Assessments Using iPads or How to Maxmize Learning using iPads with Daily Lesson Plans.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

App Review: Read Me Stories 30 Book Library

Read Me Stories 30 Book Library is a great app to incorporate into your classroom's listen to reading center! It is currently listed at $1.99, which is a good price considering you are essentially getting 30 educational books in one app. These books are best for students beginning to read and who are reading at an early elementary level.  Here is what we think...

What We Like:

  1. Book Selection. The books provided within this app are great for early elementary students.  There are a nice variety of fiction books to choose from.  They are short picture books, mostly around 15-20 pages with a portion of a sentence or a short sentence on each page.  The best part---they are all already paid for! No in app purchases to worry about!
  2. Can't skip ahead. You can't swipe the book pages ahead/back while it is reading to you. This keeps my busybodies focused on one thing at a time.  After the page is read you can then turn the page or access the menu if you wish to pick a different book.  The menu has a built in parent code, so students can't easily access it which is a nice deterrent for my off task students.
  3. Character's voice. The narrator of the books each have an unique voice that matches the main character/theme of the book.  It really adds a nice touch and is great for students to hear the variation of expression in the voice.
  4. Use of interesting vocabulary words. For example, in the book Who Took My Things there are words such as hedge, sniffer, deny, and rely.  Unfortunately there is no way within the app to isolate the words, but if the student is following along they can hopefully determine which text matches the word they want to investigate further.  
  5. Focus on the story. These are interactive in the sense that the reader is moving the pages of the book, but they do not have interactive illustrations that can be manipulated by the reader.  I find this to be nice, as sometimes interactive books can be too much about the fun playing with the pictures and less about listening to the story.  There are sound effects that correlate with some parts of the story, but they add to the story not take away.  

What We Wish Was Different:
  1. Highlighting the word that is being spoken.  This would go along way to help some of my students who are working on word-to-word matching skills.
  2. Would love for there to be non-fiction books as well! Maybe that could be the next set of 30 books?!
Read Me Stories 30 Book Library is a perfect way to incorporate technology into your students' listen to reading work.  The ability to have 30 books into one spot is highly beneficial.  This app will be on my beginning of the year list of must haves for sure!  We have a FREE Reading Response Form to go along with this app in our Teachers Pay Teachers store--stop by and check it out! We'd love to hear about any other apps that you utilize in listen to reading work!

Monday, July 29, 2013

QR Codes Help Make Learning Independent!

This post is about one way we utilize QR Codes in our teaching to increase student accountability and take their learning to the next level! In Kindergarten the beginning of the year can be very tricky for independent work. It is crucial that the activities be a good fit for the students, engaging, and of course--teaching activities.  When I was on vacation (don't all teachers shop for their classroom on vacation?!?!) I came across this fun game: Pop for Counting from Learning Resources. It is a great activity to go along with developing number sense. Whats hard is that its not very independent Kindergarten friendly. If an adult isn't there to help monitor answers, the game becomes less learning and more just playing around.  In years past I've stayed away from these types of activities as I couldn't figure out how to get them to work academically for me.  What has changed for this year?! MY LOVE FOR QR CODES! They are going to be me when I can't be there! My plan is to add a QR code to the back of each game piece that when scanned will say the correct answer.  This provides students with immediate feedback and correct academics.  Follow along to see how I take this game from terrific to terrific and teaching! If you want a more comprehensive understanding of QR codes join us at our QR Codes and Education workshop and make sure to follow our blog as we will be sharing the latest and greatest about teaching with QR Codes.

Step 1: Purchase game.  This game came from Learning Resources, although similar games are in many educational catalogs. I sorted the playing chips by number so I would know how many QR codes I'd need for each number.

Step 2: Download the i-nigma app in iTunes.  This app will scan the QR code and provide a verbal response (not just a written text like in most QR reader apps).  It is easy to use. Once you open the app point the device's camera at the QR code and it will do the rest! (which is scan it, send you to the qr voice website and then read it to you) After scanning the students just have to go back to home and open the i-nigma app to do the next one!

Step 3: Create QR codes. Head to qrvoice.net and type in the box the text you want to be spoken. We posted a link to download a google document with qrvoice QR codes done for you for numbers 1-10. Check it out http://goo.gl/bgqzCJ it is FREE! When you go into the document you can change the size of the QR codes or copy them to make as many as you need.  For this game I created 7 QR codes for each number as that is how many playing chips I have.

Step 4: Scan the qrcode with the i-nigma app. It will speak to you the text you assigned to the QR code.

Step 5: Print, cut out and laminate the amount of QR codes you need to the back of the playing chips.

Finished Product!
Step 6: Play the game! For this game the player spins and takes either 1, 2 or 3 'bubble' chips. If they can correctly say what number is represented on the chips they get to keep the chip. To find out if they said the correct answer, the player scans the QR code on the back after giving their answer. If they hear the answer they had given they are correct they get to keep the chip! If they hear a different answer, they put the chip back into the pile......but they now have had immediate feedback and can work on correcting their errors! Plus, no arguing over what the correct answer is-it is right there for them! The player with the most chips at the end wins! However, in my book, everyone wins: immediate feedback, engaging learning, and successful independent work! Hooray!

We'd love to hear from you if there is any other classroom games that you have modified using QR codes.  Or perhaps you have an activity that you'd like for us to create QR codes for! We'd love to help you increase student accountability in your classroom with the use of QR codes!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

App Review: Everyday Mathematics Monster Squeeze

If your school utilizes Everyday Math curriculum from McGraw-Hill I would highly recommend purchasing this app! Monster Squeeze has always been one of my students' favorite games to play from our math curriculum, so when I found this app I knew it would be a hit! As of today it is listed as $1.99 in iTunes, however I was able to get the app for free on one of McGraw-Hill's app promotion days.

The premise of the app is that 2 students play against each other in trying to determine a computer chosen number on a number line, with a range from 1-10, 5-15, 10-20, 15-25, or 20-30.  When it is your turn you press your guess, if you are right you win the round; if you are wrong one of the monster's arms will cover to your number.  If your number is greater than the monster's number it will cover all the larger numbers, if your number is smaller than the monster's number it will cover all the numbers smaller than your guess.  It will in essence squeeze the number line until the last number shown is the monster's chosen number.  It sounds confusing but it's a fairly simple concept.

What we really like:

  1. How easy it is to play.  This app is perfect for my kinderkiddos-simple to navigate and easy to follow.  There isn't a lot of other 'stuff' happening within the app so they stay focused on the game itself.  
  2. The tie-in to our curriculum.  As a teacher this is a HUGE plus for me.  It keeps the accountability high and demonstrates how seamlessly technology and curriculum can blend together.  For my families it is a nice recommendation that they know is directly correlated to what we are learning about at school. Love anything that can reinforce school learning at home!
What we wished was a little different:

  1. The number range selection.  It would be better to have higher number choices for your students who are ready for/need practice with larger numbers.  This makes this game really only appropriate for preschool-first grade, or as use for students who need extra practice with numbers 0-30.
  2. Have a single player mode.  When only 1 player wishes to play they have to play as both player 1 and 2.  While this isn't a huge deal, it would be a nice option to have for students.
  3. The lag between switching players in between rounds.  Some of my students would be frustrated as they would accidentally take the other players turn.  Its a little tricky to see whose turn it is as the player's color coded label is outlined in yellow.  Finding another way to show who gets to go would eliminate some of the arguments I heard from my students.

Overall, if you have Everyday Math curriculum this is a nice app for the students to practice number sense with.  If you do not use the curriculum, you might be better spending your $2 on another more comprehensive math app-or just add it to your wishlist and see if it goes free anytime soon!