Monday, March 5, 2012

A Few of our Favorite Things

As I've been tweeting and Pinterest-ing (is that a word?), I got an iPad for our classroom.The reason I didn't jump on the bandwagon earlier was that I wasn't convinced that an iPad could offer my students learning opportunities that they couldn't find elsewhere. A vast majority of the apps I had seen, turn students solely into consumers. Just because you make a worksheet (or textbook) digital doesn't change that fact that it's still just a worksheet. I want my students to be more than consumers...I want them to be producers of  new content. After some research I found enough of  reason to make this purchase for my learners.

They are having a blast embedding the iPad into their learning routine in the different content areas. What I'd like to share today are some of the tools that we have been using to increase our productivity and efficiency of regular classroom routines. With these apps the students take (further) ownership of their learning environment.

Our Favorite Things... Productivity Edition:
  • Confer As we all strive to meet the needs of our individual students, one of the most daunting tasks can be documenting the progress of each learner. Over the years, I have tired all kinds of methods...folders, binders, tables in Word (many of our school computers don't have Excel), but I knew there had to be a more convenient way for me and my students to track their progress in each subject. Not only do we chart their successes, big and small, but my students create personal goals in each content area. Confer does all of this and more. Through confer, you can easily form flexible small groups and you can export your data as a Google spreadsheet or a an email attachment.  You can tell this app was created by a classroom teacher who knows what teachers and their students need to make their conferring productive. Here is a video demonstrating how Confer works.
  • Notability We all have to address what we do for students who are absent from class. How do we keep them informed? How do they know what they've missed and get caught up with their peers? We started using Notability. Each student takes a turn creating a note of the day's activities. The notes can include text (class activities, homework, classwork, deadlines, announcements, etc.), photos (my students take photos of the flipcharts they use, review games, vocabulary lists, science experiments, etc.) and audio (of me or one of them explaining something that needs more than text or photos). When a student is out for a day or two, he/she comes in when he/she returns to school, pulls up the note for the dates he/she was out and discovers exactly what went on in the classroom that day. The notes are also easily emailed, so they can also be sent to parents.
  • Teacher's Assistant Pro Another task that can easily take up precious instruction time is documenting behavior within your classroom. We know how important it is to document everything: good, bad or ugly.One thing that I do with my students when we privately discuss their behavior is that I have them design the consequences and future plan of action for their behavior. It puts the responsibility on them to make any necessary changes. This app is easily customizable to meet your needs. So if you like to send home positive behavior reports like I do, this can be easily done as well. This app comes with a feature where with the click of a couple of buttons, the behavior report can be emailed to parents. You can tell that this app was also designed by a classroom teacher. Here is a video demonstrating the basics of how this app works: 

So although these apps may not seem as flashy as other apps, in the hands of my learners, they have increased our productivity and given us more of that valuable learning time. It's given my students tools to track their progress and take further ownership of their personal learning journey. And that is what all tools we bring into our classroom should do.

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