Friday, November 16, 2012

Two Interactive iPad Apps that Work!

I recently learned about two iPad Apps that allow you to get immediate feedback from your classes. They both work really really well.

Nearpod puts teachers in control of student iPads

1. Nearpod allows the teacher to control what students see on their iPad. Teachers can upload any PDF file and Nearpod separates each page into a slide. Students sign into a "room" and the teacher takes control of the slides that each student sees. If that wasn't cool enough, Nearpod also allows you to intersperse different types of interactive questions throughout the presentation to check for understanding. I tried this recently with a grammar lesson and it was great. I was able to see who was getting the concepts and who wasn't immediately.

Space Race on Socrative
2. Socrative allows the teacher to create interactive quizes which students answer on their iPads. Students can see immediately if they are right or wrong. You can also show a graph of the answers after students have responded and use that to spur discussion about the topic. Socrative will send you data from the session in an excel file with each student's response. The other fun feature is the Space Race which puts students in competition to answer questions first and win the race.

Both of these Apps are free, Nearpod allows you pay to upgrade for more features such as large response groups and the ability have more students in a session, store more slideshows and share them with others.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Silent History - It's an App - It's a Book - It's Awesome

Field Report Locations
The Silent History is "a new kind of novel." The App itself is free, but then you have to pay for the books within the App. The book is serialized and each installment is delivered to your iDevice on a daily basis (except weekends). You must wait 8 (painful) hours between each piece of the story.

A science fiction novel set in the future about a phenomenon of "Silent" children, children who are born without speech. The story is told through "witnesses" who recount their various experiences with these kids. Each episode features a different perspective at a different point in history. There are 6 books which tell the story from 2011 - 2043. You can purchase the books separately for 1.99 or all 6 for $8.99.

Field Report from South Beach, Miami FL
In addition to the story itself. The App uses geolocation to point you to "Field Reports." In order to read a field report, you must be in exactly the spot where it was written. Thus far I have been able to access three reports. One led me to a clearing in the woods above a middle school not to far from where I teach. The other two were on South Beach in Miami. (I was able to check them out when I was down there for my my Grandmother's birthday.) The reports themselves rely heavily on you being in that spot. It is a pretty creepy and cool experience to stand there and read them.

In many ways this is a book like any other, yet reading it this way makes it something entirely different. If you start now you will be able to marathon through the first book (lucky you) and a little bit of the second. Then you will be just like me, waiting each day for the next installment.

I think this is a brilliant idea that has great potential. Children's books in this form could really help kids get excited about reading! I am certainly loving it.

If you do start reading the series, let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Love Love Love my new Chromebook!!

In addition to piloting iPads this year, we are also looking at the new Samsung Chromebook. For only $249 you can access your Google Drive and the web through your Chrome browser. Given that we are a Google Apps for Education school and I am a very heavy user of Google Docs, Presentations, Forms and Spreadsheets, this machine fits my needs perfectly. Plus it is the size of a Macbook Air and weighs only 2.5 pounds.

I can't say it could replace my Macbook Pro for things like editing video, plus the screen is a bit small, but for just about everything else it is the perfect little tool. I'm hoping to get a class set at the end of the year and try them with the kids. I'll let you know how it goes.

Are you using Chromebooks at your school? I would love to hear about your experience.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Technology is NOT just a tool...

I just attended a (fabulous) conference where the Key Note speaker made the point that technology is just a tool. Now believe it or not, I have heard that before. I have even said it myself. I understand the point that everyone is trying to make. It isn't really about the technology it is about the pedagogy, technology should be like oxygen,  the technology shouldn't come first, etc. etc. etc.

All of that is true, but really technology is not just a tool. Marshall McLuhan famously said "The medium is the message." The technology tools we use impact teaching and learning in more ways than we realize. We use these tools as status symbols (as I write this on my brand new Chromebook) and as political statements (are you a mac or a pc?). The tools we use send many messages about who we are as learners and teachers and schools. Are you a 1 to 1 laptop school, an iPad school, a virtual school, are you an innovative teacher, a traditional teacher, are you a 21st century teacher?

We shouldn't fool ourselves that these things don't matter. They do. The more we are aware of the messages we send through the tools that we use, the better able we are to send the right messages.