My colleagues have been playing with the Handouts app and they’re simply loving it. It isn’t exactly earth-shattering or paradigm-shifting, but it’s simple, to the point, and elegant. The process is easy: create a handout (either make a PDF or take a picture of something), import it into Handouts and send it to your students. Students use the now-familiar method of joining a class via code, receive the handout and fill it in and send it back. Students can “write” or type their response. Simple and elegant.
My teachers are most excited for this in terms of its potential for a digital portfolio. That and the whole paperless part. Very cool!
One of my professional goals is to determine our course of action regarding a 1:1 initiative. We began this year with 3rd and 4th grades after a pilot of sorts last year with increased accessibility in 3rd grade. Each of the students in those grades has access this year to an iPad all day, regardless of class. The iPads stay in school.
This year we’re piloting using iPads in language arts in 5th grade. Week one brought the question of “where’s spellcheck in the Docs app?”
We’re also dealing with the issue of sharing iPads in 5th grade, since there are two carts for four sections. Students have to remember (and their teachers have to remember to tell them) to log out of the Docs app at the end of each session and to make sure they’re the one logged in at the beginning. It no doubt is cumbersome for the teachers, and I’m sure chaos will ensue at some point when that procedure isn’t followed.
So I started thinking about my own digital life.
I am not 1:1. I’m more like 3:1, with laptop, iPad and iPhone as my 3. I instinctively move from device to device, choosing the device based on the task I need to perform. If I need to do heavy word processing I reach for my laptop. If the laptop isn’t available (or, more likely, in the dining room and I don’t want to get up off the couch to retrieve it), the iPad is a suitable stand in, but only as a second choice. On the other hand, there are definitely things for which the iPad is better suited, like quick movie making. Apps like Show Me or Explain Everything are much more useful for video tutorials and much faster to use.
Is 1:1, defined as one specific device per child, realistic? Or does it make more sense to define 1:1 as the ratio of total devices available to the total student body as a 1:1 ratio, without assigning specific device to specific children?
Buy a couple iPad stands. Once you have them you’ll find dozens of ways to use them. For our yearbook this year we took iPad photos of the graduates’ baby photos rather than scanning them. It was much faster and the quality was great. My teachers use them in class as document cameras, too. We bought the Justand brand – they’re really durable and versatile.
Here’s a video from the company:
The folks over at LearnStuff.com tipped me off to their rockin’ infographic on tech use in the classroom. I’m actually kind of shocked that, with 70% of students entering school knowing how to use a mouse, only 40% of elementary school teachers are using technology. What do you think?
Once again I’m traveling with Centropa for their annual Centropa Summer Academy. This year I’m excited that it’s Germany: Mannheim, Frankfurt and Berlin. I really can’t believe that I’m doing this again – it’s a phenomenal opportunity and a wonderful, educational and stimulating way to spend ten days, but simply exhausting! I’m glad I have three weeks after I return before school begins to recuperate. Oy – only three weeks?
Are we there yet?
Of course I’m worried about how I’m going to entertain myself while I’m on the plane. I’ve already been to British Airways’ website to scope out the in-flight entertainment (excited to watch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen!), and I sprang for the iTunes Essential George Gershwin collection, but I want to put some movies on my iPad too. I mean, what if my video player thingie doesn’t work? Or what if I’m bored at night (yeah…right) and need to have something other than German TV to watch in the room?
Unfortunately, season two of Downton Abbey only got me through my last three trips (thank you, Downton Abbey – that was six blissful flights!), and there wasn’t another TV season I wanted to download. I do have some DVDs, though, that I want to watch but I’m not bringing my laptop – just the iPad (it’s so much lighter and easier to get through security!), which, of course, does not have a DVD player.
Now…I know you’re not supposed to do this. I would NEVER suggest my students do this…But if you already own the movies you want to bring on DVD, and let’s say you wanted to watch them on your iPad…you could rip the movies using Handbrake. Be sure to choose the iPad preset. Then you end up with a .m4v file that you could throw in iTunes and transfer when you sync. Easy peasy.
The only problem is that those movies can be pretty heavy – reaching 2 gb. That’s a lot of real estate on an iPad, so…
You might want to bring them along on an SD card. If you have the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit, you can do that. You just have to set them up in a way that your iPad will recognize them and know to import them as media. This post on CNET will be very helpful if you’re thinking about doing that.
Finally – I decided to spring (amazing how these trips cost SOOOOO much!) for a really good set of earphones. I wanted good, I wanted noise canceling, and I wanted small. I also didn’t want to spend more than $50. This is not as easy as it sounds. I researched a lot of companies, and finally settled on Thinksound. What got me were the reviews on Amazon. Now, many of those reviews mentioned having cable separation problems, so the big question is why did I pay $50 for earphones that could break? It’s simple – every single one of the reviews also stated that as soon as they contacted the company, they were immediately contacted by the company (in many cases, the president) to arrange for a replacement. I also really loved that they’re made from wood, and that the product has a low footprint packaging-wise. I appreciated not having to dig out the scissors and deal with those nasty plastic clamshell packages which fill up my recycling bin. They came in a lovely little brown box, with their own little cloth bag for storage. I was using them in about two seconds after receiving the package and they rocked. Pun intended.
Oh – and I also bought a new suitcase. But that wasn’t interesting.
I hope to post lots from Germany – stay tuned.
Update on learning how to design a digital quest:
I introduced my religious school students to arisgames.org last week. I broke out the laptops and had the kids go to my Interesting Questing wiki page. They watched some movies about using ARIS and SCVNGR and about Global Kids’ NY Haunts game. They are EXCITED!
After getting them excited about the project we played Grow a Game (thank you Natalie from the iCenter for introducing us to this!). I wanted to get their creative juices flowing.
Then we talked about what kind of quests we could send Jewish teenagers on. My students offered ideas like “teach about Judaism to someone who doesn’t know about it,” and “wear a kippah for a day and journal about what happens.” They had some great questions too, like “can we link this to Facebook?” (great idea!)
Then I started spending some time playing with ARIS. The editor is still under construction, and the creators warn you that the interface is shaky, but I haven’t had any problems in my limited testing. The biggest issue for me is that support materials are rather scarce: I like to work through tutorials and read manuals and those just don’t exist. But that’s part of the fun of using emerging technology, right?
I’m totally psyched about using ARIS for this project. I love that you can drop items anywhere using the map interface, so we can create the game from the comfort of our classroom and then just go into the field to test it. Once I understood the basic interface I found creating quests and characters fairly intuitive. I still need to master the terminology and how to logically create quests, and of course, how the game flows will be a big challenge. But I definitely see this having tremendous potential!
1. Design a few quests that kids can experience in the synagogue so they get the idea
2. Create a plan for designing a game flow
3. Design classroom dynamics. There are close to twenty kids who come regularly. How do we split these kids up so everyone’s engaged and productive?
Big questions: what are the educational goals for the activity? How do you blend “experiential education” with mobile devices?
To be continued!
Here’s a fun tip for you:
If you want to take a poll and then display the results in Wordle, try this:
1. Create your multiple choice form in Google. Here is an example of a form I’m creating for an upcoming presentation. Note the tilde (~) in between words. That’s so Wordle will keep the words together in the final product.
2. Once you’ve distributed the form, highlight the column with the selections. Copy that to your clipboard.
3. Paste the clipboard contents into Wordle. Wordle will thoughtfully ignore the commas, and since you used tildes to keep multiple-word entries together, it’ll keep those puppies intact. Like this:
A new interest for me is developing digital quests. These might be digital versions of old-fashioned scavenger hunts, or more complex activities like city-wide activities using GPS navigation devices. When I was in Vienna this past summer with Centropa, we went on part of a geocaching tour that was created by middle school kids. What a great activity, both for the people who are participating and the kids who prepared it.
What’s super exciting for me is that I’m going to getting support from the great staff at the iCenter as part of my iChallenge incubator grant. There are three projects which I’m working on:
- A pretty straightforward digital scavenger hunt to be held in the synagogue building.
- A digital quest for Purim.
- My preconfirmation (8th and 9th graders) “Finding the Jew in You” quest. My students and I will be creating a digital quest for Chicago-area teenagers to use. The quest will include going to various Jewish sites in the Chicago area, performing tasks and collecting student reflections
I’ve started to compile resources on my wiki. Here are a few of my favorites:
SCVNGR is an app which is widely used commercially. It has a clean interface and it doesn’t seem terribly complicated to create challenges. Free accounts are limited to five challenges, but the developers graciously granted me an increase to 25 just for the asking. The editor is online, and the user needs to download an app to play.
ARIS is a platform developed at the University of Wisconsin. The site is impressive and extensive, with user docs and samples. Players can interact with virtual guides and collect artifacts (which can then be annotated using voice or a smartphone camera). The learning curve on this product looks steeper than SCVNGR, but there’s great documentation. Like SCVNGR, the user needs to download a free app in order to play.
QR (quick response) codes are not software per se, but rather digital tools. You create a QR code to encode some kind of data, such as displaying text or directing someone to a website or to create an email. There’s been a lot of discussion on how to use them in education, including digital scavenger hunts, links to podcasts and students portfolios and more. Users with smartphones, laptops or computers with webcams can use QR code scanners to read the code.For a video on how you can use QR codes in school, check this out.
Need some inspiration?
Getting a grip on the tech side is one thing, but there’s nothing like a little show and tell to get you going. Here are a few videos that might help:
If you’d like to share what you’re doing, or what you’d like to do – please let me know!