Adventures in Programming

It’s amazing the effect summer has on curriculum long range planning.  Perhaps it’s the increase in sunshine that brightens moods.  Maybe it’s the long hours that allow us to believe we can conquer any challenge.  Then again, it could be the relaxed hours releasing the creative juices.  Whatever it is, this past summer I decided I truly could handle anything and proceeded to add a significant amount of computer science to my K-8 curriculum, even though I’m fairly clueless about programming myself.  And now the time has come to “embrace the challenge.”

Two weeks ago I jumped all in with my 7th grade students to learn App Inventor by MIT.  Granted, these students had never been exposed to any kind of programming in my class before, and from my perspective App Inventor is a little more elaborate and complex than Scratch (also by MIT), so when I walked out of my first class, the desire to bang my head against a wall was very strong.  To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear my students felt the same about me and my grandiose plan to teach them to make apps.  But together we persevered (ha, look at us using our school’s lifeskills) and before long, it seemed to click.  Each student, even the strugglers, created a basic Magic 8 Ball app, packaged and ready to download and install on any android device.  And they were HOOKED!  A week after our first app, each student easily have another app in the book and are working on a third.  Some go so far as to respectfully state that they would much rather design their own apps at this point.

After my initial success, I figured it was time to spread the love.  So I’m working out how to teach 2nd graders Scratch (previously taught in 8th grade), teaching myself how to use Teaching Kids Programming (TKP) so I can assist 5th graders next week, and desperately trying to stay in the ever widening programming info loop, including teaching myself so I can in turn “teach” (I’ll use that VERY loosely) others.

Tonight’s programming adventure involved breaking out the BeeBot I ordered in August to see what this little bugger could do.  My own 3 kids – 9, 7, and 5 – could not get enough of it!  They enjoyed having me tell them where the BeeBot should end up, and I got the biggest kick watching the wheels spin in their heads as the made their calculations and then programmed the device.  The fist pumping “yessss” of success combined with the groan of “it didn’t listen to me” was enough for me to know that my students would be just as excited.  Finally a tool that pounds the message home – technology will only do what you tell it to!

I know I’ll have many more brick wall moments this year when I’ll think back and wonder what they hey-day I was thinking that glorious summer day.  But they’re just growing pains.  Imagine when those same 2nd graders who learn Scratch this year, go on to other programming tools in each successive year to become app designers 5 years later!  So when those moments occur, I’ve got this image to keep in mind, why technology, and now computer programming, matters.

Happy New Year!

Educators should consider themselves lucky!  Not only do we get to celebrate the New Year’s holiday in the dead of winter, but we get to say Happy New Year in the summer too.  It’s like the Christmas in July holiday AND with presents (if you’re like me and all the goodies you ordered in May finally arrive).  So in honor of our double-holiday, here are my New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Take time to enjoy my PLN again.  Job responsibilities end up taking over life so easily, and unfortunately, I’m the one who suffers the most.  I miss the connections with other like-minded educators, share ideas, be inspired, and most importantly, bring that inspiration to life in my classroom.  So I’ve spent more time on Twitter than I have in recent months and working at rebuilding neglected relationships.
  • Try something new.  Fear of the unknown can be scary.  It could fail, a whole unit and weeks of lessons plans need to be rewritten, the students could be unenthusiastic, what have you.  BUT the unknown can also be pretty darn exciting.  The kids might know more than me, the kids could LOVE it, the kids could be re-energized as much as I am.  So my something new this year is adding a computer programming thread to our curriculum.  Already I’m trying to figure out App Inventor, but I have SO much MORE on my list for the year.  So I’m choosing to be enthusiastic rather than scared.
  • Enjoy my new goodies!  Just like in January, our August New Year comes with presents too.  A new phone has brought me more in touch with my news feeds and social media connections.  A brand new addition for our school has brought new space to furnish and explore.  Brand new technology systems have blown my mind on what I know now that wasn’t even on my radar six years ago (who woulda thunk a 5th grade teacher would be where I am now).  New computers for our students to utilize.  New schedules in Middle School along with a new Bring Your Own Laptop program.  New is good, new is different, new is scary, and new is exciting.  My resolution is to enjoy the newness while I can!

Digital Parents

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook – Everyday there’s some new thing for parents to figure out. Getting up to speed – plus giving kids guidance and limits – is a daily challenge.

You don’t have to become an expert to help kids make good decisions. Just get involved in their media lives. By engaging with them, you can help them use these tools responsibly, respectfully, and safely. Here are some great ways to be a media-savvy parent:

Check out your kids’ social sites. From videogames to apps – even music – nearly everything has a social component these days. Kids may enjoy posting status updates, uploading photos, IMing, commenting, gaming or any number of online sharing activities with friends. Ask them to show you where they visit, what they do there, who they talk to, what they upload. Make sure they know the rules for safe, responsible, respectful online communication.

Take their games seriously. Give their favorite game a try – or just ask them to recount their gaming experiences. (In fact, once they start, you may not be able to get them to stop). Use the opportunity to ask kids questions about the game, such as choices they made, puzzles they solved, or strategies they tried. You may be surprised at how much thought goes into their gameplay.

Share music. With MP3 players and headphones, music is often a solitary experience. But it doesn’t have to be. Download some of your favorite oldies, but goodies for kids. Then ask them to play something for you that you’ve never heard. Have a conversation about the music.

Use YouTube’s advanced features. Every kid loves YouTube, but there are plenty of videos that aren’t age-appropriate. Telling kids to stay off probably won’t do any good, so learn how to manage it. Take advantage of YouTube’s built-in content filter, Safety Mode, which blocks mature content. Then set up Channel Subscriptions, Playlists, and Watch Later feeds which give you greater control over what kids watch.

Take control of your TV. There are lots of ways to exert more control over what kids watch. You can use a digital video recorder, on-demand programming, and websites like Hulu to watch what you want when you want it. This allows you to be choosier about what kids see. You can preview the shows, fast forward through the ads, use the mute button, and avoid the stuff you don’t want kids to watch.

Research your kids’ apps. It’s kind of amazing what apps can do. But you have to set some rules around downloading or you may wind up with some age-inappropriate apps. Always read through the app description and check the reviews before installing. Play with your kid a few times so you know what the app is capable of — some offer in-game purchasing, connect with other people, or use your location.

Establish a digital code of conduct. When you give kids digital devices – cell phones, computers, and other personal electronics – set rules around responsible, respectful usage. Check in on where kids are going online – look at browser histories, set appropriate age filters, and check out the parental controls. Teach kids the basics of safe searching. Don’t let them figure it all out by themselves.

The Importance of Keyboarding

Schools tend to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to making improvements.  First it was, “Cursive is a dying art.”  Then it became “There is no need to teach spelling.  We have spell check.”  And with the explosion of mobile technology, the latest argument is “We don’t need to teach keyboarding anymore.”  I believe keyboarding is necessary, although not the drill and kill version that I remember learning in high school.

My approach is that keyboarding instruction actually starts the minute a kid uses a computer since it requires kids to look at the letters in a different order than what they are used to.  I divide keyboarding into informal and formal.  Informal keyboarding for my school starts in preschool (age 3) when the kids start to learn to recognize the letters on the keyboard.  They continue with keyboard letter recognition through prekindergarten and kindergarten.   We use a variety of games and programs to teach keyboard letter recognition, so boredom isn’t a problem.

In first grade, I implement two handed keyboarding.  This is also the first time that we regularly keyboard as part of our tech class, about 5 to 10 minutes at the start of every class.  We talk about the dividing line on the keyboard, which letters are on which side, and then when kids practice keyboarding, they are expected to use two hands, although which finger they use doesn’t matter to me.  My reminder to them is that if I come around with my “KC Chiefs chopper” (allusion to our city’s football team) I might “chop” off hands that are on the wrong side of the keyboard.  We tend to use the same program, but since it has different games and activities, and it is such a short amount of time, I try to keep the boredom to a minimum.

In second grade, I start teaching  formal keyboarding using traditional typing software, one that systematically teaches touch typing.  Again, still just 5-10 minutes per class and I really monitor that they are starting to use different fingers to type.  We also start looking at accuracy and WPM, mainly so that kids get the idea that they are improving in both areas.  The kids really get into the idea that they are learning to type just as their teachers do, and they love hearing that glorious clickety-clack noise throughout the classroom.

Third grade is what I consider to be the official start of formal keyboarding.  I regularly monitor keyboarding behaviors, accuracy and WPM as well as which lesson kids are on – I want to see them making process.  We tend to lean more towards the 10 minute side of things in class, and I sometimes devote an entire class period to keyboarding depending.  This is also the first year that keyboarding is included on grade cards.  By the end of third grade, I expect kids to be able to type 15-20 WPM with at least 90% accuracy.  I find most kids hit 15 WPM by mid year and just about everyone hits 20 by the end.

In fourth grade, I switch to more advanced software, one that still focuses on touch typing, but has so much more than just learning to keyboard.  The favorite place to visit is the arcade!  I keep the approach the same as third grade – about 10 minutes at the start of each class with regular assessments.  By the end of fourth grade, I expect kids to type 25-30 WPM with at least 90% accuracy.  Depends on the group and kid on when they hit this point.  I have a group of kids this year that are really struggling across all academic areas, so I expect they will be lower on the scale as a group.  That being said, I have 2-3 kids who are already hitting 35+ WPM.

In our middle school (fifth through eighth grade), we spend less class time on keyboarding, but the kids are keyboarding much more as part of their other classes.  I assess keyboarding about twice a quarter.  Expectations are kids will type 30-35 WPM with 95% accuracy.  It’s a struggle for 5th graders to hit 30-35, but my 7th and 8th graders regularly hit 35+.  I find that kids who have been with me for several years do just fine.  I have a brand new 5th grader this year who hunts and pecks, very little formal keyboarding instruction.  For comparison, this student comes in around 60-70% accuracy with about 15 WPM.  Take it with a grain of salt though since attitude plays a huge role in how you approach keyboarding…if you get my drift 🙂

In the end, I find by harnessing students’ excitement and enthusiasm early on, I have less push back as the kids get older.  Believe it or not, year after year, the grade that groans the most about keyboarding practice, is fourth grade – unless I let them go to the arcade!

Why Do I Do What I Do?

The reaction I get when I share what I teach at what grade level never ceases to amaze me.  It’s gotten to the point that I wonder if I’m missing a boat (a steamroller?) somewhere along the way.  Have I been hiding in a SCIF?  Or is there a possibility that I’m ahead of the curve?

In January, I had the opportunity to meet with other individuals who are in very similar positions and school settings.  After round robin sharing of who is doing what and when, I hesitated to speak up because my experiences seemed so different.  Dedicated technology class time AND technology integration in the classroom are the norm around my school along with dedicated technology classes which start at the age of three.  In these classes, students in early childhood are learning how to navigate technology and by early elementary, they are learning to create presentations and word processing.  By the time they reach fifth grade, students are working on podcasting, digital camera usage, and digital storytelling.  Technology learning is furthered by our classroom teachers and specialists who have students blogging, creating presentations, word processing, and designing spreadsheets as well as apply skills learned with me.  Is this Mars or educational nirvana?

Other schools do what we do, but they start in third grade or more shocking, middle school or high school even (yikes!).  Am I pushing too hard?  Did we miss some game-changing, transformative, sweeping reform?   Or is what we do on a regular basis the sweeping reform that is missing in other schools?  After spending a month in a mode of personal reflection, it’s finally come down to one question – why do I do what I do?

When I look at our youngest students, our two and three year olds, they have already been exposed to technology.  They are fearless, willing to try anything, and don’t view a mistake as failure.  Why not harness that enthusiasm and run, not walk, but RUN with it?!  If a six year old came to kindergarten reading at a second grade level, would you want him reading kindergarten level books?  Or would you want his teacher to embrace his knowledge and skills, and continue to expand his learning?  So why do schools treat technology differently?  Why not have kindergarteners using technology in realistic applications instead of playing computer games?  Kids come to school knowing how to play games on a vast array of technological devices.  Our role as educators is to take that technological foundation and build on it, teaching additional skills needed for their future success.

Our students’ future is still developing, evolving into something our world hasn’t seen yet. One thing we can all agree on, is that technology will play an overwhelming role in it.  Students need to learn how to be safe when they use technology – to search effectively, keep information private, respect copyright laws, and demonstrate appropriate digital citizenship behaviors how to troubleshoot problems.  Students need to learn how to manage technology – to understand and use technology systems, select and use applications effectively and productively, troubleshoot systems and applications, and transfer knowledge to new technologies.  Students need to learn how to communicate and collaborate with technology – to interact with others using a variety of mediums, connect effectively with multiple audiences, and develop cultural understanding and global awareness.  Students need to learn how to create and innovate with technology – to apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, create original works as means of personal expression, explore complex systems and issues, and identify trends to forecast possibilities.  Students need to learn how to think critically with technology – to identify authentic problems and questions to investigate, to plan activities, collect and analyze data, and use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.  In reality, these are things that all digital citizens should know.

I refuse to be deterred by socially imposed artificial barricades to technology use – “it’s too scary,” or “it’s too overwhelming,” or “the kids won’t understand,” (says who?) or the myriad of other excuses I hear from teachers and in schools regarding technology integration.  By embracing students’ knowledge now and taking them as far as they can go, even when it’s beyond my own knowledge, I am fulfilling my role as education – preparing my students for the future.  This is why I do what I do and value the support of my entire school community.

Missing the Boat? Or Ahead of the Curve?

It never ceases to amaze me, the reaction I get when I share what I teach at what grade level.  It’s gotten to the point that I wonder if I’m missing a boat or perhaps a steamroller somewhere along the way.  Have I been hiding in a SCIF?  Or is there a possibility that I’m ahead of the curve (highly unlikely, but possible I guess)?  Or am I immune to the flavor of the day kool-aid running rampant through education?

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet with several other individuals who are in very similar positions and school settings.  After round robin sharing of who is doing what and when, I hesitated to speak up because my experiences seemed so different.  Dedicated technology class time AND tech integration in the classroom are the norm around my building.  Not only that, this said dedicated tech class starts at the age of three.  So students in early childhood are learning how to navigate technology and by early elementary, they are learning to create presentations and word processing.  By the time they reach fifth grade, students are proficient at podcasting, digital camera usage, and digital storytelling.  And this is just in my dedicated technology class.  Classroom teachers have students blogging, creating presentations, word processing, and designing spreadsheets as well as apply skills learned with me.  Is this Mars? Or nirvana?

So what are we not doing that other schools are? iPads and SMART Boards.  We don’t have a single school issued iPad or SMART Board in the building.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to them.  My own young kids use my tablet and phone on a regular basis.  But what I don’t understand is the transformative-ness (is that even a word) of their widespread use.  So yes, other schools have class sets of iPads for their Kindergarteners.  But what do they do with them?  Are these apps “better” that the games, activities and hands-on manipulatives that are more “traditional?”  Is it “better” to have a teacher behind a screen monitoring each child’s progress on an iPad (or heck, even a computer in a lab setting)?  And what about those SMART Boards?  How is having a student (or worse, teacher) manipulating the board while other students watch any different than markers and whiteboards?

So here I am now, stuck in reflection mode.  Other schools do what we do, but they start in third grade or more shocking, Middle School or High School even (yikes!).  Am I pushing too hard?  Did we miss some game-changing, transformative, sweeping reform?   Or is what we do on a regular basis the sweeping reform that is missing in other schools?

Wiki Wiki What? – A View into our Technology Classes

With temperatures well below freezing, it’s comforting to focus on the warmth of Spring Break. For some, it can’t come “wiki wiki” enough. “Wiki wiki” what? In Hawaiian, “wiki wiki” means very fast. But in the world of technology, “wiki” has another meaning.

“Wiki” was coined in 1994 by Ward Cunningham as a name for the application he created allowing users to share ideas on web pages that are quick and easy to edit. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, an online, editable general reference work. Wikis are extremely beneficial in education as they allow for collaboration, simple editing and sharing, and are easy to include video, audio, pictures, links and much more.

Oakhill Day School Technology Department has a wiki allowing the community to access lesson plans, links, and student work featured on the Student Showcase page. Since wikis are interactive, our students are looking forward to receiving feedback on their work.

You do not need to be a member of our wiki in order to comment on what we are doing. Simply go to the Student Showcase and view some of the projects our students have created.To leave a comment, click on the Discussion Tab.  Click on New Post.  You create an account by clicking Join.  Then, you are free to leave comments!

Now you might be asking, what should I be commenting about? So glad you asked!

  • Preschool students practiced basic mouse skills and keyboard letter recognition using Toddler Time software and internet links.
  • Prekindergarten students practiced mouse skills and letter recognition using Jumpstart Preschool and Kid Keys software.
  • Kindergarten students worked with email, reinforced math skills using the internet, and were introduced to internet searching. They are currently working on their second word processing project – the Snowball poem.
  • 1st grade students were introduced to the basic parts of the computer, and reinforced math skills using internet links and Math Missions software.   They are currently working on their Hawaii Power Points.
  • 2nd grade students were introduced to the inside parts of the computer.  They reviewed how to use Power Point to create the “12 Days of Recycling” and are currently working on their Revolutionary War Chain of Events project.
  • 3rd grade practiced word processing skills using Power Point.  They created flippers about the Midwest states, researched information and typed their facts.  They were introduced to the concept of citing sources after finding a related picture on Google images and citing it on their project.  They are currently rewriting the Bill of Rights in kid-friendly language.
  • 4th grade students learned how to create a poster using Excel.  To integrate with Mrs. Fulop’s social studies lessons, students created a poster about the culturally unique cities they researched.  Students were required to find three images for their posters and had to correctly cite their sources.  Students are currently working on a Westward Expansion webquest to continue our social studies integration.
  • 5th grade students learned some specific ways to evaluate websites.  Using a scaled 14 question evaluation tool, students reviewed several websites.  Then they worked in small groups to share their knowledge with others.  Using false websites as the subject matter, students created podcasts demonstrating how to evaluate the site.  Their completed projects are on the Student Showcase page of the Oakhill website.  Students are currently working on creating a timeline of slavery in the United States using new online software,www.timeglider.com.
  • 6th grade learned about wikis using wikispaces.com.  As a class, they created a Midwest Influential People Biography Wiki.  Each student researched an individual and created a wiki page illustrating their research.  Other media (pictures, video, and audio) was a required component of the project.  Students also had to correctly cite their sources.  Students are in the process of building their own wiki about important innovators from the Industrial Revolution time period.
  • 7th grade learned about podcasting.  Using their information abouthistorical changes in the Midwest learned during Social Studies, students wrote scripts to answer the 5 W’s about one change.  Students learned how to use Audacity software to record and edit.  Their podcasts included downloaded sound effects and how to apply the fair use policy and copyright law to their project.  They have just begun their MAJOR project – a video about a World War Two topic of their choosing.
  • 8th grade spent second quarter working with Scratch computer programming software.  After creating an initial “cat dance” to learn the basics of the program, students were tasked with creating their own project, animated story, interactive game, etc.  The parameters of the project required students to do some independent learning and troubleshooting as well as collaborate to learn from peers.  Students are currently using new software, www.scribblemaps.com , to “write” on Google maps in order to identify and describe important locations during the Civil Rights Movement.

Great iPad and iPod Touch Apps

Was Santa extra good to your family this year – leaving a new iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone under the Christmas tree? Although the Roche house wasn’t quite as lucky, I do have a few gifts to share with you. Below is a great collection of education related apps, many of them tested by teachers and students alike in classrooms around the world. I hope you take time to check them out and put them to good use. And Cupid, can I count on you for a Valentine’s Day goody?

App Description
Dragon Dictation

by Nuance Communications

FREE. Dragon Dictation is a speech-to-text app listed in the Business category.  There are lots of possibilities for kids who have difficulty writing. It would also be a great way for kids to practice speaking clearly and articulately.
SonicPics

by Humble Daisy

$2.99. It’s easy to make slideshow movies using your own photos and recording your own narration. Upload one or more pictures from your Photos. Record your narration for each photo. Share your new enhanced m4v file via YouTube, e-mail, or by WiFi.
123 World

by KidCalc

$0.99 on sale as of October 2010. 123 World is perfect for younger kids who are learning the continents and getting to know the shapes and locations of countries.
Writer’s Studio

by miSoft

$0.99. Wonderful for digital storytelling and publishing student-created books! This terrific app gives you everything you need to write and create pages or books, with art, text, music, and narration. Kids can draw and add text, add shapes (such as circles for Venn Diagrams), and do their own narration. They can import photos or graphics from their Gallery and create books. Great for publishing poems and stories, along with original artwork and the student’s voice reading his/her creation aloud. Have fun with your spelling or vocabulary words!
BrainPOP Featured Movie FREE. Short, fun educational videos starring Tim and Moby. Play the movie, take the quiz, see your scores. Every day there is a different Featured Movie, which you can see for free. BrainPOP is a subscription website, but there are always some free movies and related activities.
Math Bingo

by ABCya.com

$0.99 Lots of fun. Solve 5 equations in a row, just like Bingo. Choose from addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 3 levels of difficulty. Choose from 8 cartoon avatars. Collect and play with BINGO Bugs when you make a high score.
123 Color HD Talking Coloring Book for iPad $3.99. Your kids will think they’re coloring a picture, but they are really matching numbers and letters (uppercase and lowercase) to fill in the picture. There are 4 categories of pictures–shapes, cartoons, world maps, and more cartoons. There’s also an option to hear the numbers in Spanish, French, or German. When kids color the World Map, the name of the continent pops up.
World Book’s This Day in History FREE. This iPad only app is easy to use and shows 3-4 events for each day. There are links to short articles for each link. Up at the top there is a calendar icon, where you can select any month and day. See what happened in history on your birthday! Would be great as a research center activity in the library or classroom.
TypeDrawing

by Hansol Huh

$1.99. Create pictures with your own words. You can choose the font, size, colors, and put in your own text. Backgrounds can be black, white, or a photo.  I think students could use this app to play with spelling words, write poems, etc.
Doodle Buddy

by Pinger

FREE. Great for any age. Draw with your fingers, use stamps, change colors and effects (brush, chalk, glitter, smudge) and erase. There are also several background options, including tic-tac-toe, hangman, and dot-to-dot, black, white, and photos. Drawings can be saved to Photos or e-mailed. Easy to use. Useful for hangman and other game options. Shake to clear your drawing and start over.
PopMath Basic Math,by PopSoft $0.99. “Pairs of bubbles float on the screen and your goal is to pop each pair” for example “7” and “3+4”. Once you’ve popped the pairs, you can move on to the next level, or keep practicing. You can adjust settings for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, or a combination of all. You can also limit the numbers for each function, for example if the child is learning multiplication facts up to a certain number.
123 Color, by KidCalc $0.99. PreK and Kindergarten. Most of them caught on how to color the pictures by matching the letters or numbers. For some students, the navigation was tricky for them, or their fingers were just a little too clumsy to touch the right area. They were happy when they completed a picture and the music played. It is easier to use on the larger iPad.
KidCalc 7-in-1 Math $0.99. A great first math app. Number recognition, counting, and some easy math. The students can solve math problems on flashcards to reveal a puzzle picture. Writing numbers. Quantity recognition. Counting by increments. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division. Reading numbers spelled out.
Stack the States Lite,

by Dan Russell Pinson

FREE. Answer questions about the 50 states, and then drop them onto a platform. When the stack of states reaches the checkered line, you win a new state for your U.S. map. Kids can rotate the states before they drop them. Sometimes the states tumble and fall off. This part of the app is very entertaining and will motivate some reluctant students to keep answering questions. Questions include capitals, abbreviations, bordering states or countries, nicknames and more.
The U.S. States & Capitals, by Moatkin Systems $0.99. “Identify the states by shape. Learn the state capitals. Help the states fly to their location in the U.S. map, helping you learn their geographic locations and relative sizes.”
ABC Dinosaurs,

by StoryBoy

$0.99. Practice reading and saying the names of the dinosaurs. This is a great introductory app for K-2 kids since they can practice swiping, tapping, volume control, etc.
Dinosaurs,

by American Museum of Natural History

FREE. A great introductory app to use at any age level to explore pictures of dinosaur fossils, recreations, and natural history. Students can explore the mosaic of real photos. They can practice adjusting image size and orientation: swiping, tilting, double-tapping, or pinch & grab, pinch & spread. They can also learn about dinosaurs by selecting its story–scientific name, pronunciation, locale, age, date of discovery.
Cat in the Hat, Seuss ABC, The Lorax, etc., by OceanHouse Media $3.99 each. Kids could read the story on their own, or listen to the story individually at their own pace or on autoplay. We also played the audio over the speakers in the library.  When kids touch any of the objects in the illustrations, the word for it zooms up. Great narration.
Counting Coins

by K12, Inc.

Counting Bills & Coins

FREE. (Both apps!) Practice counting out money and making change.  Kids can drag coins, flip them over, sweep the board clear, and there are several real-world activities for them to practice.
PennyMe

by Acoco Interactive

$0.99. Great for coin counting math for younger students. There are two settings–easy and normal. Quiz Game and Counting options. There is also a tutorial, and sound effects can be turned on or off.
Cash Cow

by Chillingo LTD

$0.99 for limited time. Great for counting coins in math. 3rd grade and up. The object is to save the farm by counting change in various games. The games get more involved as you advance, and there are lots of options for improving and designing your farm.
ArithmeTick Math Flash Cards

by Pomegranate Software

FREE. Great for practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, or a combination of skills. You can choose the difficulty level–Easy, Normal, Hard, Genius, or Einstein.   The column of apples on the right-hand side show how well you are doing. You get up to 10 points for a correct answer, depending on how long it takes you to answer. More correct answers earn you extra time.
Math Drills Lite

by Instant Interactive

FREE. Great for 3rd grade and up. Students solve basic equations and enter the number, instead of just choosing from multiple answers. The math problems can be customized for the student, selecting addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There are also several problem solving assists for the student: number lines, wooden blocks, facts, and hints.
Whiteboard Lite: Collaborative Drawing

by GreenGar Studios

FREE. A fun drawing tool. It takes a little instruction to show the kids how to tap to draw, tap twice to show hidden tools. Kids can write & decorate their names, draw pictures, save to Photos. Choose from 6 colors and an eraser. There is also a collaborative function. Kids on separate iPods can draw a picture together, even though they’re across the room from each other. Whiteboard Pro costs $3.99 and has more colors and features.

Increasing Tech Integration (part 2)

In August, I started a new plan to help improve the use of technology within the classroom by teachers themselves. Based on an idea I saw on Twitter last Spring, I launched a monthly tech tip using Voice Thread to share useful websites and ideas with my staff. I wish I could say it was wildly received and immediately implemented, but I can’t. The real challenge here is to know my staff, their skill and comfort level, and know that they remain open to suggestions. Just like Twitter, if you don’t put out useful information, no one’s going to know what they’re missing. So in this post are the other Tech Tips I created. If YOU find them useful, please comment either on the blog or add your thought to how you use these tools ans sites on the Voice Thread itself. Who knows? Maybe you will be the one to motivate one of my teachers?!

September Tech Tip

October Tech Tip

November Tech Tip

Poor Neglected Blog

Well, it was bound to happen. As you can easily see, my blog was reprioritized to the bottom of the list of things to do once school started. BUT that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking, reflecting, working, producing and writing. It just took a different form. So for the sake of sharing and making me feel better (after all, who really reads this but me 🙂 ) here’s a few posts highlighting what I’ve been up to!