Friday, November 19, 2010

SpellBoard Spelling Words Made a Difference.

One iPad App has made a difference in my child’s school grade. My daughter who is a part of a Title 1 program came home today with her midterm spelling grade with an E for excellent. This was an amazing feeling for my third grade daughter who had to ask me what E means. She had never received an E before. I know I have to give a large amount of credit to one simple iPad app, SpellBoard for Spelling Words.

Now I know she has a fantastic group of teachers who work well with her. I have also spent time with my child working on spelling and using strategies like phonemic awareness, word walls, and spelling patterns. Today what has made the breakthrough difference is simply using the SpellBoard App. The first week my daughter used the app she earned 100% including the 5 challenge words in the spell test. Then over the next couple weeks she has done outstanding work without any setbacks or disappointing spelling test results. Now this app doesn’t have any magical strategy for instruction. I believe what made the difference is she has fun hearing herself say the words and creating sample sentences. She enjoys using technology for learning. But the most important aspect is it has made learning time convenient and easy. She just grabs the iPad and gets to work. She eliminates distractions herself because she likes to hear herself. Instead of me trying to keep the kitchen quiet when we work on our word wall, she finds her own quiet location to study and only focuses on spelling. She eliminates distractions herself.

My daughter and I enter her spelling words into the iPad at the beginning of the week. She could do this all herself, but I want to make sure they get spelled correctly. We type the word in, then using the built in microphone it is really easy to say and pronounce the word. My daughter loves to hear and use her own voice. Then we use the microphone to create a sentence for word context. Enter the words once and that’s it. I can easily track her progress and study times as she studies and tests herself through the week.

The really cool part of SpellBoard application is that teachers could use this app with their students and track progress. Love this App and wanted to share it!

From iTunes App Description:
And possibly best of all, you can share your quiz with other SpellBoard users (via email, or iTunes File Sharing) that means only one person needs to enter the weeks' spelling words and then share it with other iPad SpellBoard users or iPhone/iPod touch SpellBoard Buddy users.

Additionally, SpellBoard allows for multiple student profiles so you can track the performance of any student across any number of quizzes. You can also track how well multiple students perform against a particular quiz.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SJ3's Three Degrees of Measurement: TOP

SJ3’s Three Degrees of Measurement : TOP
T: Target
O: Objective
P: Perspective

So you have been given an iTouch or technology tool to use in your classroom and you need to provide documentation on how it impacts the education of your students. You are left wondering what type of data or evaluation you use. I am going to suggest not to just use one single method, but to look at three ways to measure for success. I use the TOP strategy for thinking of assessment views.

Measurement 1: T is for Targeted
Our school district currently uses MAP assessment data tested in the Spring and Fall. This is one piece of information that will be an easy data collection to use. Once you have determined what your academic goal will be with the technology tool, you will be able to align your goals with the correct ‘Strand’ on MAP for measurement. For example if you are going to use a language arts application on the iTouch to increase vocabulary throughout the year. MAP assessment breaks the Reading test measurement into ‘Strands’ which assigns a number score tested by the student. The comparison between the start and end of the school year data on your targeted strand will show the amount of growth that the new technology may have had on academic impact. The FAll Strand can be used to determine at what level your student is currently being challenged. This may give you a starting point with your student to address their vocabulary needs and skill level. Using this information can provide you a level that the student can be moderately challenged and yet provide attainable success. It may really help to use this information for the first time using the tool to know a level that a student will experience success and become engaged with technology tool. For some students it can be critical the first time using a new tool to find success with using it. Immediate frustration with too difficult of a task can have a lasting impact for sustained implementation. Remember the student is not only being challenged to increase their academic skills, but also learning how to utilize a new tool.

Measurement 2: O is for Objective
My second suggestion for measurement is a more frequent assessment using a type of benchmarking or task specific objective. The frequency of using this form of measurement will depend on how you integrate the technology tool into your classroom. Creating a process of implementation with the new technology that is consistent and can be replicated will give more validity to the data you measure. For example if you use the tool to strengthen spelling skills and have an established plan for frequency of use along with how the tool will be used, you may decide to use a method of measurement on a weekly basis. Some tools provide pre-test and post-test data already within the device and this information can be documented weekly. If the tool does not have a method for comparing data you could create short assessment methods to determine improvements on the more specific objective within your class. My suggestion here is to create the assessment that makes real connections to the targeted goal and as similar to the integration technique of the tool. This type of measurement should reflect both your targeted goals and be similar to the learning strategy used within the technology tool. A couple of important considerations are to determine goals and timeline expectations. Select the way you use the tool to integrate with your academic goals and make a consistent plan for implementation.

Measurement 3: P is for Perspective
My third measurement strategy is more an observation and perception assessment. I suggest this strategy because often we find data conflicting with how we perceive a new tool’s effectiveness. Sometimes it takes time to learn how to increase the effectiveness of a new technology and to quite simply ‘get good at it’. These will measure outcomes that we may and may not anticipate. These things can be measure of a student’s behavior, attendance, and their learning enjoyment. Also measuring a teacher’s perspective or self-assessment can provide valuable information. This data could include such things as how well you feel the tool was implemented, how well the tool affected flow of the classroom, how the tool may have impacted classroom management, and how over time of use their own skills increase with utilizing the tool for instruction. There are several ways to gather this type of data. Some data can be objectively gathered over a period of time, such as classroom behavior. You can effectively measure if certain behaviors increased or decreased and also document if new behaviors occurred. A form of reflection or survey can be used to address several perceptions and the degree to the impact on learning.

TOP all Together
Information analyzed from these different forms of measurement will help you in making data-based decisions for your classroom. Evaluating the technology tool than won’t be putting all your eggs in one basket on any one single assessment to determine if you continue or terminate your integration of a technology tool. Rather you will have a wealth of ability to see how the tool better impacts your students’ academics, your students’ behaviors, the teacher’s perception and the level of implementation. Maybe your tool needs some modification, but has had a positive impact on learning that one of the three measures may not identify. Hopefully looking at data in three different measurements will provide you will valid information for good instructional reflection and impact of the technology tool used to meet your curriculum needs. TOP strategy is a way of collecting and view data in multiple ways.

Monday, September 6, 2010

SJ3-Education Blog
Future Careers Need Technology Integration Now.

Preparing our students for workforce and career planning must include 21st Century Skills along with technology integration grounded in NETS Standards. Most career paths, current employment opportunities, and jobs that haven't yet been created do and will continue to require employees to have problem-solving skills, technology skills, and an approach to self-directed learning. Today's employment rate and the unpredictable future for new job growth places an even higher demand for students to acquire skills valued by future employers.

I want to take agriculture as an example (mainly because it often isn't thought of as highly technical). Farmers are using advanced types of technology everyday to be highly productive and to minimize unnecessary input costs. I'll use my husband's job as an example. He works in the agriculture industry to provide a product to farmers that will increase productivity while decreasing input costs. His company provides GPS auto-steering for tractors. Let me walk you through all the technology tools he frequently uses.

Google Earth:
When planning for tower locations that will transmit a satellite signal to tractors in fields, he uses Google Earth. The GPS signal will transmit a 12 mile radius. He plots all his tower locations on Google Earth along with their coverage area. By using layers and plotting points he can create an interactive map which displays current and future areas in which accuracy for automatic steering to the nearest inch will be available.

Word, Excel. PowerPoint, Adobe Elements, Outlook, Read Atlas, XMap
These list some of the common software he needs to be able to use. Wether communicating with his board and dealerships, presenting at conferences, creating multimedia of product demonstration, and working with several mapping software; he must be able to learn software and do technological trouble-shooting. Not everyone will have a team of technicians available to them, so 21st Century Skills are a must.

Wordpress & Blogging
His company website needs continuous updates of relevant information. He had to learn Wordpress to manipulate the website information. He also keeps a blog for updating on current events and tower construction.

Cloud computing & Digital Dropbox
The company my husband works with is a collaboration of three individual partners, so they do not share a common network. Cloud computing and utilizing services like Dropbox allow for secure document sharing that is easily accessible and editable by the parties involved.

Mobile Device (Droid Phone)
When he is traveling between rural tower locations or out in the middle of fields he still needs access to documents, contacts, email, and internet. He also updates his blog and website by using his Droid. He is able to take pictures of tower construction sites and upload directly to his blog. His mobile device increases productivity, communication, and allows for instant information flow.

GPS Equipment
Global Position System (GPS) is what the farmers' tractors use to communicate with the local towers and orbiting satellites. This technology allows the tractors to set a path and drive on autopilot. GPS is a technological advantage because the exact path can be repeated by the tractor. This will save on costs from seeding, fertilizer, chemical spray, to harvest because the farmer can be extremely accurate on application.

Portable tower with GPS signal
He also uses a portable tower that will reach up to 110 feet that will transmit a GPS signal in a range of 12 miles. This is used with other mobile GPS receivers to test possible permanent tower locations before a tower is even built.

All of these tools (with the exception of a portable 110 ft tower) are easily available for learning in the classroom. The knowledge of learning and utilizing all of these technological tools required quick learning and self-directed learning by my husband. He wasn't taught how to use every tool, but because he values digital technology for it's productivity and collaboration power he has successfully applied them to his work.

You will notice that the tools we teach our students are also tools that can be directly utilized in the workforce. As we use common terminology such as 21st Learning Skills and NETS Standards in our strategic planning. They do have a direct correlation with meeting the needs for our students beyond high school.

Monday, August 2, 2010

iPad Apps for Language Arts: Disney Digital Storybook

iPad Apps for Language Arts

Disney story apps: Toy Story

Objective: Read with Expression and increase fluency.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with two summer school elementary age groups. It was a fun day for these students as I worked with the summer school staff to create a day of technology integrated activities focused on building language arts skills. For many of the students this was their first time working on an iPad and iTouches. We utilized several learning applications. For this blog I will focus on a iPad activity that was one of the students favorite.

During the activities students individually worked with one teacher on a iPad activity. We wanted to focus on reading with expression and fluency. Disney has several story books for the iPad. I choose Disney's Toy Story Digital book for a couple reasons. This application has a great recording feature and allows for individual and automatic page turning control. The story is written to express excitement and exclamation. The reading level was appropriate with a few challenging words for new vocabulary. Also the timing of the new Toy Story 3 movie out this summer added to the fun and familiarity with the story characters.

Each student was assigned to a selected page from the digital story to read. On average each reading selection was a paragraph of about 25 - 35 words and contained a combination of expressive and narrative sentences. First the students listened to the page read to them by the built in narrators voice. They were able to hear the selection read smoothy and able to see visually by the highlighted reading when the narrator read with expression. Then the students were able to practice their reading selection prior to recording their own voice into the iPad. They were also able to rerecord their voice if so needed or desired.

While the students worked on each of their reading selections they did not hear the entire story from the digital book. All of the students did understand the content of the story because of prior knowledge of the characters and movies. All students had seen Toy Story at one time. The fun part for the students is when they all gathered around for the story in it's entirety. Once the digital story with the students own voice recording was played the iPad version provided a unique experience for the class. When the application was put on auto page turning mode with the class recordings for narrations, the story also added theatrical background music and sounds effects.

The students enjoyed hearing their own voices and the voices of their peers. The recording feature and playback gave students confidence for their reading to be heard by the group. It was great joy to see some students who struggled with reading and reading in front of others to be excited for their readings to be shared. This activity and application was a success for increasing fluency, using expression, and building confidence with reading.

SJ3 Education

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

iPad in Careers & Schools

SJ3-Education Blog
iPad in Careers & Schools

This is my first blog post done entirely from the iPad. I am convinced the mobile device world is the direction of the future for productivity. So by default it has it's merit and place in education and our schools.

The iPad is such an easy tool to use and incredibly resourceful it has completely changed my morning routine and increased my productivity throughout the day. Apps in my morning routine are; calendar, email, weather bug, google reader, and Twitter. Throughout the day I may check updates from some of my favorite news apps such as Mashable, Rueters News, and USA Today. Then just to share a few more favorite frequently used apps are Netflix, Ellen, ABC Player, and Pandora. I will discuss more Apps that I find useful in future blogs. There are just too many to list.

I find it interesting that so many people are blogging about the iPad. Educational sources such as Edutopia are expecting great uses from this tool. Edutopia blogger Bob Lenz stated that he predicts the iPad and tablet type devices to revolutionize the way students access all types of information like research, media, and books. Even leading technology education expert Kathy Schrock wrote a 4-part blog on the iPad alone and still continues to write and Twitter frequently about it. It isn't so surprising to see educational professionals raving about the iPad, what I find as more evidence that these devices are products that should be used in education is the professionals outside of education that take time away from their usual business to rave about the iPad.

Two examples I want to share are from Rich Karlsgaard, the publisher of Forbes Magazine and from Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway.

Rich Karlsgaard is the publisher for Forbes Magazine and authors the Digital Rules Column. Most of Rich Karlsgaard's articles I would describe as political, controversial, and often focused on America's finance. Recently he took the time to dedicate one of his entries entirely to raving about the iPad. He describes the iPad as a tool he has 'hired' to do the job of bringing him the news. He discusses how the iPad has become his tool of choice for the newspaper, magazines, and blog feeds, along with videos from the web. The very point that he just doesn't use the tool, but compelled to tell everyone about it in a break from his usual job supports the impact tools like the iPad will have in future careers for our students.

Take another example from an interview conducted by Newsweek with Prime Minister Jens Stolenberg. The interview was focused on how Norway stayed healthy during the economic crisis that has hit so many nations. The part that I found interesting was that even the Prime Minister made note to praise the iPad during the interview. He discussed that he bought an iPad in New York when he couldn't fly home due to the volcanic ash hindering flights and how he used it to help run his daily operations for his country. He was also quoted saying, "We are going to start to use it now in my office; it is an excellent tool."

It's one thing to hear how our educational experts view tools like the iPad and it's potential in our schools, but when I find strong testimony for these devices coming from professionals stepping outside of their business as usual to praise these tools, i know this is a direction schools need to take. Not only are our educational experts embracing 21st Century Skills and technology integration, but other career professionals are using and excited about the new technology devices and how these tools can improve their own productivity in the work force. There is always a balance/tug-of-war among costs for resources, personnel, curriculum initiatives, professional development, technology etc. in our schools. Luckily I don't make all of these decisions, I just make recommendations. I place my support for mobile devices and iPads in our staff and students hands.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Google vs Microsoft, Coke vs. Pepsi, An Apple a Day

Competition in technology has created some great innovations. Deciding which tool is right for the job, always keep in mind that technology is changing and often it’s a race to who can brand name it first. At times it can be overwhelming choosing the right technology. Anything from choosing a blog, a wiki, email, web host, to social bookmarking can send us into decision overload.
Some schools have been using Google Docs and Apps within their classrooms. Google has been one of the driving forces to move applications, document storage, and collaboration to the cloud environment. Microsoft recently launched its own extension of applications to offer more cloud environment based features. All of these features require log-in and email hosing service and that can often be the catch. Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail among others want your log-in. Free services always come with a catch. Google Docs is a great easy cloud environment for classroom collaboration. It’s also like putting Coke vs. Pepsi into the schools. If they start using their product early, they are more likely to stick with it in the future. Mac did a great job of getting its computers into schools when schools were first adding computer labs. Now look where Apple is in the market. Who are the biggest demographics for Apple users – the generation that grew up with them in schools.

Delicious once stood on its own, but has recently been purchased by Yahoo. This is why you are now required to have a yahoo account to log into Delicious. Yahoo hopes to gain more web traffic to gain more add space on yahoo. They hope if you have a yahoo account, you will use yahoo news, email, and tools more frequently to drive their business marketing. Microsoft looks to launch a social bookmarking site to compete with sources like Delicious. There are several more out there trying to up each other and get your log-in.

I see several things with competition. Most of it good. Product cost is lower and many applications are free to use. More features, tools, and applications are available to use. This has allowed for more creative options, collaboration, and problem solving tools to reach students. Teachers are becoming great facilitators of meeting digital age instruction and preparing students with 21st Century skills.

We need to keep in mind why tools are free. Students and educators need to understand what public web applications are and how they can use these tools to enrich the education experience. We also need to keep in mind of teaching kids how to keep safe in free and open platforms.

Competition among technology is strong and real estate space for marketing tools especially with social platforms has become a huge driving force for competition. We have amazing innovations all around us in technology. This has created tools that schools have been able to take advantage of for our students.