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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!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Thank You Little Mountain Elementary!

A HUGE thank you to Mr. Hackett and the staff at Little Mountain Elementary for a wonderful workshop day! We had a fantastic time and we hope that you did too! Being able to share our love for technology and teaching with other educators is truly our passion!!! Not to mention how energizing it is to see so many people excited about utilizing their iPads in the classroom!

As promised today, here are links to the presentations for a more in depth look at ways to Utilize your iPad for Conferring (disclaimer we are not paid or supported by the Daily 5 or the Sisters in any way!) and how to Utilize your iPad for Running Records.  We also had questions today about creating pictos, so we have a link to our step-by-step guide for that.
Creating Pictos (scroll down, it is embedded on the right towards the bottom of the page)

As always, if you attended today's workshop, or any other sessions, please let us know if we can help you with anything. And don't forget that we are available for workshops for school districts/schools/grade levels! Keep us in mind when you are planning your summer learning! We can customize any of our workshops to fit your teaching and technology needs-bringing you the latest and greatest iPad education support that comes with first hand experience of what works in today's classrooms!

But you don't have to take our word for it...here are what some of the participants from Little Mountain Elementary said after today's workshops:

"This class was amazing!!! The instructors are classroom teachers so they "get it." Can't wait to implement these activities into my classroom."

"They are so willing to help and explain! Their excitement is contagious!"

"As a "newbie" I have a direction and a path to proceed."

"The presenters are very organized and knowledgeable"

"I enjoyed learning the new technology of qr code. It opens up lots of new opportunities for learning in my classroom."

"You shared lots of meaningful information in an easy to understand way. Wonderful connection of technology ideas!"

"This is fun and amazing!"

Thanks again Little Mountain!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hello Little Mountain Elementary!

Welcome staff members of Little Mountain Elementary! We are so glad that you found our blog! Take a look around and remember to email us with any ?s or thoughts you may have. We are here to help however we can! And as a quick link back to our website with the syllabus and presentations for each of the courses click here https://sites.google.com/site/thetechieteachers/little-mountain.  Don't forget to stop back in a few days for detailed presentations about Confer, PDF Expert, CCPensieve; as well as Levelbook and Record of Reading! Better yet, follow our blog to get the latest information sent to you!

If you won a free app code today at Little Mountain for either Futaba Classroom Games or Confer please remember that you need to go to the redeem section of the App Store and enter your code there. DO NOT GO DIRECTLY TO THE APP AND PURCHASE AS NORMAL. You will get charged the full price for the app. A huge thanks to both Futaba Classroom Games and Confer for the codes-we are BIG fans of both apps and are excited that some of the staff at Little Mountain Elementary get to check them out and fall in love with them too! Spread the word about these awesome apps and super kind app developers!

We love getting into schools and sharing our love for technology and teaching! We've met so many fabulous educators and would love to meet some more! Contact us at normoff13@gmail.com if you are interested in having us present at your school. We can customize ANY technology and teaching class you may want. And if you have already seen us & enjoyed the session, make sure to let your administrators know! We are booking for summer 2014 and back to school sessions now!!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

App Review: Word Wizard

Word Wizard by L'Escapadou is a great app to add to any elementary classroom app list! It isn't a 'gaming' app per-say, but what it is is a whole lot of AWESOME! It is currently listed for $2.99, although I recently saw it go free for a few days so make sure to add it to your iTunes wish list and watch for a price reduction if it isn't a must have app for you for the moment.  That said, it is a must have app for my classroom at the moment and I feel it is well worth the $2.99! If you follow the Daily 5 format within your reading block I recommend this app as a great way to integrate technology within your word work choices. (this is not a statement endorsed by the Sisters or Daily 5 corporation, just my opinion!)

Word Wizard has two main components to it: the Talking Moveable Alphabet Activity and the Spelling Test Activity. Lets talk a quick look at both of these to see what you are getting for your money.

Talking Moveable Alphabet Activity.This is the feature of this app that I use the most in my classroom.  In the beginning of the year I have student use this to form their names and as a great way to explore the alphabet. Currently I have students practicing their individual sight word lists as a way to see it, hear it, spell it, and say it!  How it works: On the bottom half of the screen there are letter tiles.  You can choose to have either capital or lowercase letters and if you would like them displayed in alphabetical order or in the qwerty keyboard style. I always choose alphabetical order for my students. The top half of the screen is blank with fillable tiles or a plain background. You can choose if you want the students to drag the letters to the tiles on the top or for it to emulate a keyboard typing. I always choose drag for some extra fine motor/iPad skill practice. When a letter gets touched you will hear the letter sound in a very clear, correct pronouncing voice. Nothing irritates this K teacher more than when a app pronounces e as an a sound! You can also choose it to say the letter name if you'd prefer. When you place multiple letters next to each other it will blend the sounds together for the letters there. Great for beginning blending practice! When you place a complete word it will say the word correctly. Think of building the word said. It doesn't read it at the end as /s/ /i/ /d/ but rather as said. Students can also create sentences by making words and pressing the speak button. The app will then read the words together in a sentence format.  Other fun features: in case you are wondering they even thought of a profanity block if you have that kiddo in your class! No worries about spelling naughty words here! There is also a way to make an exception for the pronunciation of words so that it says a students name correctly instead of the phonetic version. Students can also build numbers as well, fun for exploring big numbers!
iPhone Screenshot 4

Spelling Test Activity. This feature I use more for my higher level students at the beginning of the year and for all of my students towards the end of the year when they are ready for more of a traditional spelling test.  This portion of the app is exactly what it says it is, a Spelling Test Activity.  There are some fun features in here though.  First, you can create your own customized list or choose from over 180 premade lists ranging from CVC words to Nature words.  Personalized lists can be imported or shared between users. Within the customized lists you can even have sentences, extending the life of this app throughout most of your student's elementary years. Within the settings you can have all letters present or only the letters found in the word. This is a wonderful feature for my beginning spellers! And if they ever get stuck there are hints as well.  After each word is spelled correctly, there is a brightly colored short animation (nothing too gimmicky) and at the end of a complete list the student can 'draw' with a fun animation feature. While my students like this as a quick brain break, it isn't what they spend a ton of time on and I super appreciate that! For both animation features you can choose the time students spend on it or whether you want it to be present at all.  There are user profiles that you can go into to see how each user is doing as far as percentage passing, hints used, what words they answered correctly, and when they took each individual quiz.
iPad Screenshot 3

What we wish for: I wish that within the Spelling Test Activity I could assign each student/user a specific test section before they play. Within my classroom students share devices so it is imperative to differentiation that each student work on their just right work.  It is very difficult for K students to go into their usernames and then choose the appropriate quiz from there.  I emailed the developer and asked about this feature-when I hear back from them I will let you know. What I noticed about L'Escapadou is that they are very attentive to the feedback they get back and have made many updates based on suggestions from the users. As educators, we LOVE when developers not only hear what you have to say, but make small additions to their apps that can really make an app classroom friendly!

Overall Word Wizard is a fantastic app for any educator or family member out there wishing to engage their child with some alphabet fun! Because of the app updates, superior developer support and customization this is an app that will get you a lot of use for your money! The Techie Teachers highly recommend Word Wizard by L'Escapadou!
***FYI if you are teaching your student another language or they are in an immersion classroom Word Wizard is also available in Spanish, Swedish, French, German, and Finnish! A great app in many great languages=perfection for today's worldly students!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Are TheTechieTeachers Hibernating?

Well considering that we have been in a polar vortex here with temperatures in the negative teens with wind chills in the negative 50s it could be likely! But no, we are safely warm and busy working. As we try our best to stay updated with our blog, teacherspayteachers, website, Twitter and Facebook there are days (and even weeks) that go by where we don't get a chance to post here and we apologize for that. We are both working full time, not to mention being busy with presenting at a variety of technology and education conferences and workshops on the weekends, non-school days and after school hours. And despite the cold weather we are already planning ahead for our summer sessions!!! We LOVE being able to get out to different venues and school districts to share directly with our fellow educators how teaching with technology can help students in so many ways.

Know that we are still incorporating technology into education, often spending hours figuring out what is working and what isn't.  We've been trying out some great new apps and a variety of ways to take education to the next level by incorporating iOS devices and other technology formats in the many aspects of education--from administrators to educators of every level. We will be doing our best to share our thoughts with you as we go, as we have found some amazing ideas and tricks of the trade out there!! We noticed we have had some new followers on here-THANK YOU! If you have recently found us or have been with us all along, we appreciate you and your patience as we figure out how to balance the wonderful world of blogging! Stay with us, there are many great things to come!