Technology Infused Classrooms

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Luc landformsWhat does a technology-infused classroom look like?  If it’s done correctly, the technology becomes invisible.  It is seamless.  The teacher scaffolds and creates a curriculum-based lesson, then steps back and allows the students to make the magic.

In my classroom, I’ve  intentionally modeled procedures and through the gradual release of responsibility, my students are independent during their work time.  I’m not interrupted while teaching guided reading groups as students incorporate peer collaboration into their skill sets.  Once my students have learned how to use their apps, they are able to then demonstrate their learning in a creative way they choose.

It is not uncommon to see students in the reading center reading eBooks on their iPads asElla making a book well as regular paper books.  At the writing center, there will be children making books in Book Creator as well as writing out long hand on paper.  Ella, pictured at right, chose to skip her free choice centers today to go write a book on her iPad.  On Monday, she chose to write about her weekend news during Writer’s Workshop.  She wrote 6 pages on lined paper.  Her method of delivery differs but she is demonstrating the skills

With a technology infused classroom, students can make their own decisions.  They are engaged and motivated.  In kindergarten, the infusion is slow and deliberate.  It becomes a natural part of our every day routine so that we don’t have to work at it.  We don’t have “iPad time”.  It an extension of our learning. We don’t just add technology and stir.  We use the technology for information, research, collaboration and creation of products.

By being deliberate, having a plan, and empowering your students, creating a technology infused classroom is easy.

Today, we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Technology for Today and Tomorrow

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. -John Dewey

new technologyMy husband decided he needed an iPad for work.  This decision seems fairly innocuous considering the prevalence of this tool in the modern workplace.  What makes this decision remarkable to me, is that he is a reluctant technology adopter.  He doesn’t have an ATM card, he only recently got a smart phone and he isn’t overly interested in trying new technological things.  He has never used an Apple product nor has he used any touch screen device.  And he is just fine with that.  He leaves those things to me.  I was thrilled with his decision and we immediately went to the Apple store and bought him an iPad.

After it was all set up, I was ready to spend the afternoon with him showing him all of the amazing things the iPad can do.  He puttered with it for about 15 minutes and said he was done for the day.  WHAT?  We barely go past turning it on and off, navigating a few apps and he was done.  Baby steps.

Unlike our students, many adults tread cautiously into the world of technology.  My 5 year old kindergarten students watch me demonstrate (just once) a complex set of instructions requiring multiple apps to complete an assignment and they are on it.  Solo.  To my tiny digital natives, I am speaking their language.  To many digital immigrants, I may as well be orbiting Jupiter and speaking Juptonion.

Could this be part of the reluctance of many adults who are in charge of making technology decisions for schools?  A friend of mine posits that perhaps the simplicity is confusing.  Unless we see the value of technology in our own daily lives, it is difficult to find value in it for our students.  “Why do we need to spend all of that money on iPads?”  We have to move beyond being just fine with the way things were.   We speak about 21st century skills and 21st century classrooms as if they are something out of the Jetsons.  We are 13 years into the 21st century people.  If not now, when will be the right time?

By establishing our classrooms as a global learning communities, students and teachers learn together from each other and from a world of other learners.  Teachers no longer need to have all of the answers.  This revelation frees us up and takes the pressure off…we can explore and learn from our students.  I learn from my kindergarten students almost daily. We don’t need to employ the “no pain, no gain” axiom in teaching and learning.

Here is a video compiled by a colleague showcasing some great things at my school…no adults were harmed in the creation of this video…. 🙂

Today, we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

It’s a New Day…I’m Still Me

Every new day is a once in a lifetime event. How much more exciting would our lives be if we embraced this truth and lived accordingly?-Steve Maraboli

emailTuesday, February 19th was an ordinary day.  School, cook dinner, answer emails and play my new game obsession Candy Crush.  (I can NOT get beyond level 30!) I had checked my email obsessively the last 3 weeks waiting to hear some news, and another day looked as if it would pass without hearing anything.

The email notification on my phone reluctantly pulled me away from attempting to crush those candies.  The subject line was: ADE Class of 2013-United States.  Holy cow…here it was.  The long awaited email.  I was home alone when I opened it and saw the first line: Congratulations and welcome to the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program.  I stopped reading and started yelling.  My poor dog was certain I had lost my mind.  This application had been turned in since November and the waiting was excruciating.

So what does all this mean? ” Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) are part of a global community of education leaders recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. They explore new ideas, seek new paths, and embrace new opportunities. That includes working with each other — and with Apple — to bring the freshest, most innovative ideas to students everywhere.”-Apple

I’m thrilled beyond words to be a part of this community and can’t wait to learn from the best of the best.  The honor is incredible, but more importantly, the ability to work with some of the most amazing educators in the world is priceless. ADE

Wednesday, February 20 was back to reality.  Still wearing my huge smile and excitement from the night before, it was apparent my children didn’t know the awesomeness of this distinction. They had no idea anything was different from the day before.  Because it wasn’t.  I’m still me.  I’m excited at the new role I will be wearing as an ADE and the possibilities of what new things I can bring into my classroom, but we are back to business.

My kids ask me each day “What will we learn today?”  My answer is always “Today, we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!”

Thanks to all of you for all of the blog and Twitter love!  We have exciting new things to do…let’s get to it!

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Hope Explains More

hom·o·phone : a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir  and air.

kids laughingIf you want a sure-fire way to make a class of kindergarten students laugh you need only say “underwear”, “poop” or “naked”.  This will result in uncontrolled, hysterical whooping and laughing.  We recently added the sight word “but” to our list and that immediately created some wide eyes and giggling.  I had added a “bad word” to our list.  What was I thinking?

We immediately launched into a lesson on homophones. This is a complicated concept for my students because they don’t realize words can sound the same but be spelled differently and mean different things.  We came up with a few together on an anchor chart to help them visualize this.  We will add to this as we come across other words, hopefully not as scandalous as “but” and “butt”.

These class conversations combined with the anchor charts help them make concrete connections to otherwise nebulous concepts.  My students are not experts on homophones now, but they have been exposed to the concept and hopefully, with the creation of the anchor chart, it will cause them to stop and think when confronted with another word that is confusing.

In a recent post, I extolled the virtues of our Explain Everything app. One of my students, Hope, was very articulate in her explanation of her annotated illustration.  Hope was vexed by the whole “but” “butt” issue and wanted to Explain Everything about these words that was creating such consternation in our classroom.  Please allow Hope to explain more:

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Increasing Math Literacy with iPads

Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.-Deepak Chopra

Math and I don’t get along.  While we are civil out of necessity, I make it a practice not to do math in public.  It just never turns out well. I think our disharmony can be traced back to the early beginnings of our relationship when my second grade teacher would smack our knuckles with a ruler if we used our fingers when adding.  I was terrified of her and I soon became terrified of math.  It’s been a rocky road ever since.

So how ironic that my 100th blog post (insert big fanfare here!) is about math.  I don’t want my students to be afraid of math, nor do I want them to share the same ambivalent feelings I have.

ella tens and onesOur common core math standard this week is “I can break numbers in to tens and ones.”  We’ve unpacked that standard all week.  We’ve practiced and practiced and today was the day they demonstrated their proficiency.  First, we chose four teen numbers.  They drew their tens frame in Doodle Buddy and showed the ones outside the frame.  After the drawing was saved, they imported it into Pic Collage and typed out their breakdown of the number into tens and ones.  This one to the left is Ella’s.  She has extended our valentines theme in her tens frame.

I’ve mentioned before how we are focusing on workflow fluency. As my students save their Pic Collage to their camera roll, I can transfer it to my laptop with Simple Transfer.  This allows me to keep electronic work portfolios.  You could also add this Pic Collage to Explain Everything and the children could tell all about their thinking.  Wells Tens and OnesIn Wells’ example to the right, he chose to draw some of his and use the stickers in Pic Collage for others.

Mathematical thinking supports science, technology and mathematical literacy.  Having students demonstrate and be able to explain how they came to their conclusions is not only important in math, but any problem solving activity.

As we have recently celebrated and counted up to the 100th day of school, we are exposing our students to greater numbers.  Having spent the week on tens and ones, they are already asking me about what the “1” in 100 means if their are zero tens and zero ones.  Time to move the bar up a notch and explore hundreds.

My students loved this activity and it is definitely one you can “count” on me using again!

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Let’s Get Creative With Educreations

  In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it. -Rose Tremain

With only 74 days of school remaining in this year, (wow, that totally seems like I’m counting) I’m feeling the urge to mix things up a bit and try some different things.  I’m a self-confessed organization evangelist and I don’t like messy things (no glitter, ever).  I’m also a big planner and to-do list person.  Call it our ridiculously warm winter this year or perhaps early, early spring, but I’m up for a bit of whimsy.  A bit of spontaneity.

unpacked standardsThis week, our unpacked standard in math, is addition is putting things together and subtraction is taking things apart.  Another kindergarten teacher and I thought it would be fun to put 2 groups of our children together and let them come up with a number story with a partner from the other class.  They would plan together and write it out on paper first.  The partners would decide if it was an addition story or a subtraction story first, then they would decide what object(s) would be used in the number story.  One of the stories went like this: We had 4 flowers.  We gave 2 flowers away.  We had 2 flowers left.

After the story was written out and illustrated on paper, the pair opened their Educreations app.  Educreations is a free interactive whiteboard for iPad. Students can create a video tutorial, record and play their voice, add photos from the camera or their own drawings,  and can animate their images by dragging them around the screen while recording.  planningEach pair of students, decided who would read the story problem first and who would illustrate the story problem while it was being read.  Then they reversed roles and recorded it on the other student’s iPad.  This way both students had their work to show.

My planning only went as far as the partners working on the story problems together and then recording. These students took this assignment and ran with it.  The partners came up with great story problem ideas and did a wonderful job collaborating and taking turns. They loved taking turns and putting the story problem on each iPad.  I’ve mentioned how much they love to talk!

This app has so many possibilities and is so easy to use.  I can even create lessons on the app and have students watch it as needed to work on a skill.  Lessons can be shared via email, Facebook and Twitter if needed.  By having a target plan in place, but allowing the students to take charge and turn it into their own, I find the results usually far exceed even my high expectations…and THAT is definitely a happy ending!

boys planning

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For the Love of Words…

The limits of my language are the limits of my universe-Goethe

Kaylee vocabWe are at the point in the school year where my students are able to read most of their sight words and are able to decode many others.  As we flex our thinking muscles, we are working on increasing vocabulary words.

Students learn vocabulary words informally when they are immersed in a word rich environment. Anchor charts with rich words and lists of synonyms can be used to create a word rich environment. Students learn new words through rich conversations, personal reading and daily experiences with read aloud texts.

We are working to increase our Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary during literacy centers.  Students are given 4 vocabulary words that go along with our thematic unit.  In the example above, the words were love, heart, friend and valentine.  The children had to write a sentence in Pic Collage to show they understood the word and then they illustrated their sentence in Doodle Buddy and imported it into the Pic Collage.  They will also be allowed to look for pictures on Safari to demonstrate words soon.  (I was a little hesitant to have them look up images for valentines words…) After they created their Pic Collage, they shared it with their team and read the sentences of the other children.  A colleague of mine uses Strip Designer with her first graders to demonstrate their vocabulary words.  Either of these apps work great.  You can save the work to the photo library or upload to PaperPort to demonstrate workflow.

To teach vocabulary, we must use rich and robust instruction through multiple exposures. Children who acquire a substantial vocabulary are often able to think more deeply, express themselves better, and learn new things more quickly. They are also very likely to be successful not only learning to read, but also in reading at or above grade level throughout their school years.

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Hope Explains Everything on iPad

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Have you ever listened to a 5 year old tell about their work? Try listening to 25 of them.  Daily.  They have so much they want to tell and explain that I don’t have enough ears to listen to it all.  Their work is so detailed and there are like 40 bajillion things they absolutely must tell, and if you interrupt them even once, they must.  start.  over.



Thank goodness I have Explain Everything.  It is the perfect app for my kids to demonstrate their workflow, show me what they have learned and talk, talk, talk to their hearts content.  If they mess up, they just erase and start over.  My kids are learning about labeling and annotating their work.  Scientists label and good readers annotate for meaning.  When I showed them the app, someone said, “You mean I can just tell my iPad everything I want it to know?”  Yes…within 13.8 GB of reason.  So with full permission to illustrate, write, label, annotate AND talk, this lesson was a home run. There is an example from Hope, one of my students at the end of this post.

Ok…so a small caveat.  I have a slight obsession with neat and orderly and it’s hard for me to do messy.  (Yes, I realize I teach kindergarten.  Somehow it all works.)  This activity can get messy.  I had to get over my urge to tidy it up and put it all in a bento box and say that’s, that. You can’t have kids recording all over the classroom while other kids are talking and recording at the same time.  So, as kids finished their illustrations, labeling and annotations, I allowed 4 at a time to go out in the hall, spread themselves out, and tell their story.  I actually had to tell them it was ok to speak up so they could be heard by the recorder.

We will be using this approach with demonstrating mastery of math standards as well in the coming weeks.  Explain Everything is not free…There are other apps, like Show Me that does similar things that is free.

As my kids are working on many different kinds of fluencies, stretching their cognitive wings and needing to share what they’ve learned, having the iPad allows my kids to create, produce, redefine and transform all in one place.

Please allow Hope to Explain Everything:

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Workflow and iPads

Don’t mistake activity for achievement.-John Wooden

boys workingIn a recent post, I wrote about moving beyond apps and concentrating your focus on content. What are your students learning, why are they learning it and how will they know they’ve learned it? As I unpack the common core standards with my students, I am focusing heavily on these questions…not so that I can answer them, but so that they can answer them.  With these questions in place and iPads in hand, we need to look beyond apps and instead focus on workflow fluency.

If you look up the definition of workflow, you find:

  1. The flow or progress of work done by a company, industry, department, or person.
  2. The rate at which such flow or progress takes place.

The flow of progress…how can my students demonstrate the flow of progress?  Just because they are interacting with an app does not mean they are learning.  iPad activity should be purposeful and connected.  It should also be personalized to what that particular child needs.  

Workflow and iPads allow students to redefine their work.  The technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable.  It is transformative.  After our recent thematic unit on penguins, my students created their own books in Book Creator. workflowThis started with their own illustrations in Doodle Buddy which were imported into their book in Book Creator.  The students wrote sentences to go with their own illustrations.  Taking this a little further, students took some of their individual illustrations and labeled them using Explain Everything. They were able to record themselves explaining their work.  While the apps I used in this are great, there are others that do similar things.  Some of them are free.  Pic Collage is another way to demonstrate workflow and it’s free. The take away here is that students are able to use the iPad to demonstrate what they’ve learned and can use apps to explain in their own words what they’ve learned.

As we are striving to make learning more personal, we should teach our students about workflow fluency. By using the iPad to demonstrate workflow, our students are engaged, thinking critically, and are using skills of a 21st century learner.  Even the youngest among us can do it.

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Cooperative Learning and iPads

The things that make me different are the things that make me.- A. A. Milne

collaboration 3When it comes to tattling, I have the “blood, fire, vomit” rule.  You know, don’t come tell me unless there is blood, fire or vomit.  This generally works very well.  They’ve learned what is important to tell me and what is small stuff.  Cooperative learning isn’t always smooth sailing.  5 year olds have a casual relationship with sharing and taking turns.  There are many times group activities have the potential to turn into a major disruption unless the activity is set up just right.

With iPads, cooperative learning is a breeze.  My kids look forward to working with others.  They love sharing, watching what their friends are doing and they love being “an expert” and showing others how to do things.  Each child has something unique to bring to the group. Because they feel confident, they all participate.  Today, we paired with another kindergarten class and my students worked with those students to teach them how to make books.  This is the second time in 2 weeks 50 kids have come together in one classroom to learn from each other.  There was plenty of conversation but there was no whining, tattling, or complaining.  One hour of no tattling in a class of 50 kindergarten students is nothing short of a miracle.  collaboration 2

As we begin to personalize learning and students are excited about what they are learning, it seems natural that many negative behaviors will go by the wayside.  As learners actively participate in the design of their learning and have a voice in what they learn, they take ownership.  They build a network of peers, teachers, and others to guide and support their learning.  Think back to the last professional development training you had that really engaged you and spoke to you…you were focused and energized, and hopefully excited about the possibilities of what you learned.  In contrast, think back to the last training you had that was not so engaging.  Did you stay focused or were you more inclined to check Facebook on your phone or talk to those around you?  Our students are no different.

As we here in the US move through our winter doldrums, let’s find ways to connect with the passions of our students.  It all starts with them.  The more we give them a choice and voice in their own learning, the less we have to use the “blood, fire and vomit” rule.  I, for one, am ALL for that!

group collaborationI’d love for you to leave a comment, subscribe to my blog, and/or share this post with a friend.