Exploring with Technology

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As the year winds down, we’ve started exploring-it’s the perfect time to learn new technologies and figure out the kinks so we can implement them at the beginning of next year.  Students love using the iPads, and it has helped them stay motivated at this time of the school year.

The app we focused on is Explain Everything (though you do have to purchase it).  We tried it at the beginning of the year during math, but now we’ve been using it for reading strategies.  Students can write and show what they’re thinking in a more engaging way.  Explain Everything is a great tool because it allows you to go back into your project and continue at a later point, which has been helpful as students learned how to use the app.

I explored the app-how to use it and some features-so I was prepared to teach students how to use it.  So far, we have used the app for 2 reading skills: Drawing Conclusions and Compare and Contrast.  Students first chose a picture from their weekly story to use to show their thinking.  They wrote out their sentences, for example, what happened in the picture and what their conclusion was.  We increased the challenge by having them use an amazing vocabulary word.  Separating the writing from the app helped them focus on each part of the project without overwhelming them.

We demonstrated and taught the app during guided reading groups.  We showed them how to take a picture, resize it, and add text.  After showing them the basic features, they were able to create their own project fairly independently.  They caught on quickly to how to use the app, and they wrote amazing sentences.  As they get better at the app and explore it more on their own, they can figure out how to change the text color, label pictures, underline vocabulary words, and record their writing.  We can extend their projects by adding more pages, so they can have all their work in one file or show multiple parts of the same story.

I know there’s more to learn about the app, but I’m excited to start using it, and the students are excited to try something new.  At EdCamp Chicago a few weeks ago, a lot of people mentioned using the app in the elementary classroom.  Also, Shawn McCusker (@ShawnMcCusker) described all the different ways he and his students use Explain Everything in the classroom.  I’m amazed by the different ways it can be incorporated into all concepts in the curriculum.  So far I’ve done math and reading comprehension.  I can’t wait to try more ideas and am open to suggestions.  I’d love to see others’ projects and ideas!

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Creating Community Collages

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The technology specialist wanted to introduce a new app to the first grade students: Pic Collage.  We brainstormed what would be a good subject based on what students were learning.  Remembering that we were discussing communities, I suggested create a collage about things they can find in their community.  We decided that students would have to choose 3 things in their community to create their collage.

As a class, we brainstormed different things that are in our community.  I wanted to make sure students had choices for their pictures, but we wanted some control so they weren’t searching on the open Internet.  We learned it’s important o be prepared and planning takes time because finding pictures for the iPads turned into its own project for me!  In the end, I had to search for and save pictures on one iPad, upload them to Dropbox, and then download them to the other iPads.  I’m not sure if this was the best method, but it worked.

In small groups, the technology specialist and I taught students how to use Pic Collage and it’s different features.  We provided assistance as needed as well as a word wall list.  The students quickly learned how to use the app and became independent workers.  They did a great job and wrote some great sentences describing what’s in their community.

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This is a great app for students to create fun projects showcasing different pictures, even ones they’ve taken.  We are already looking for another way to use this app again in our curriculum!

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