Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Discovering Edcanvas

Using technology to engage my students in independent learning is a huge humongously big deal. Independent activities and self guided learning, because of my students learning weaknesses, is extremely challenging and often not possibleA consistent goal of mine is to provide them with tools that allow them to independently access information of taught materials and tools that allow them to independently practice and improve a given skill completely independently.

This week I discovered Edcanvas and oh momma the potential and awesomeness is ridiculous!

Edcanvas is an online resource that allows teachers to collate resources into a single page for students to access.  Edcanvas's easy to use fomat allows you to easily drag and drop  resources from sites like Flickr, Google, YouTube and even your Dropbox.  It also has the flexibility to allow you to add text.  Not one to waste a great tool, especially when I know it will be excellent for my students I could not wait to try it.  To say I was excited to try it would be an understatement!

. . . . . . 

My Math students had taken notes on Changing Decimals to Percents and had done a few practice problems.  Using Edcanvas I made a Canvas with YouTube videos on how to do the concept, a copy of the completed notes (in case they needed to access how to do the concept during the activity), several questions to check for understanding and reinforce important steps and ten practice problems. One more ensure that my students could be as independent as possible when they used Edcanvas I also created an Edcanvas worksheet/ note sheet to go along with my lesson.
'CLICK' picture to go to link 
where you can download a PDF of the worksheet
The worksheet would make sure my students knew they were going to be held accountable for their work, it would kept them on task  (expecting them to note what type of information was being presented), it would keep them an organized and give them a space to record their answers.  More importantly, using a consistent, structured tool every time we used Edcanvas would increase my students independence and success every time they used it.  The next day my lesson was ready and I shared the link for my Edcanvas with my students via Edmodo (super simple to do with Edcanvas's share option that allows you to share using multiple social media tools with just one click)

The lesson was a huge success and quickly became a part of our weekly Math lessons! 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Week #2: Perfecting Student Access

The iPads where in full force this week. This week the expectation was that class work, assignment notebooks and homework would be done on the iPads.  With my students, teaching assistants and the iPads ready, (and state testing almost done) we were ready to put  the iPads to work! 

Monday- my students were still learning to navigate the Goodreader software. We continued to focus on teaching them to organize their materials in it ex. Labeling worksheets and putting them in the right folders. During my language arts lesson I introduced the drawing tool in Goodreader. Teaching my students to realize and identify that they do not always have to type, sometimes using the technology to hand writing is the better and more efficient choice. 

Tuesday-  This day brought me the question...What do I want materials do I want my students to type on the iPad?  Do some of their assignments/work have stay good old paper and pencil?  If my students take notes on the iPad for Math and do their Math homework on the iPad how can they can not have their notes right in front of them while doing their homework (something they often have to be able to do to remember the steps/information).  I had to seriously think about what would and would not be completed on the iPad and again contemplate... Do some of their assignments/work have stay good old paper and pencil?

Wednesday- Hump day proved to bring some solutions. First, I decided that notes and information gathering during class would be the primary support the iPad.  A decision I was just ok with, but not completely satisfied with.  Next,  it was time for me to start thinking out of the box...especially if I didn't want to settle on just using the iPad to take notes.  

For example...
When completing their Social Studies homework, if a student needed to look at their notes to help recall information they had to close the homework document they were in,  open the notes, find the information they needed, remember the information, close the notes, reopen the homework sheet and typed them in their answer...ugggg This many steps proved to be too challenging for students who were using their notes to help support short term memory weaknesses.  How could I make it so they did not have to close and open documents and so that I didn't have to cave and have them go back to printing out their notes?   
Solution: using adobe I was able to merge (import) both the notes and the homework documents into one file. This will give my students the ability to move between both with just a swipe and not have to close, open, close, and open. I was able to use this same solution  with our paragraph organizer.  I was able to merge (import) the paragraph organizer with a blank document. 
This way my students could continue to use the organizer to manage and organize their paragraph ideas and only need to swipe between the organizer and the space they typed their paragraph on.  

With a lot of the kinks worked out Thursday and Friday allowed my students to use their iPads throughout the day with fewer hiccups and road blocks.  Class assignments and homework were completed electronically.  Our new grading system (grading on the spot, providing instant feedback on assignments, being paperless) continued to be an efficient grading technique.  Our new grading system continues to save us a lot of time and has taken away a lot of wasted steps we had in place before.  Most importantly, the direct feedback to each student regarding what they did well and need to improve has been highly effective, allowing each student to know instantly what they might need to improve on and even more importantly making them just feel plain old good about themselves and their work when they do well!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Week 1: Unexpected Crazy Perfection

You know those weeks that you walk into your classroom thinking I have everything planned. 

You've checked your ToDo list, your calendar, run through the second ToDo list in your head and think done, done and yes! 

This week was one of those weeks....or so I thought.

This was it. THE WEEK!!! The iPads were going to be handed out. It was finally here. All my prep, hard work, planning was finally going to be unleashed on my class. Little did I realize that my giddy excitement had left me unprepared for one thing.... The one huge gigantic duhhhh thing you fail to remember.   It was ISAT testing (Illinois State Achievement Testing)... Yep!! Happening this week. I had giddily waited for for three weeks.   By the time I finally connected the dots all I could say to myself was uuggggggg what the HECK were you thinking Carrie!!!  Introduce iPads to your students during ISAT week(I was even totally prepared for the testing week)What can I say...I blame my giddy excitement.

MONDAY- It was THE day! It was the day I was going to pass out the iPads and start teaching my students to utilize all their technological goodness. Only I did not prepare for the entire tech team to be out at the ICE Conference for two days. That meant that the iPads were not going to be ready. UGGGGGGGG I thought for sure my students would string me up by my toes and give me a major guilt trip for not having them.... no one even asked! 

TUESDAY- brought us a snowday... wooohooo 

WEDNESDAY- State testing day for our school. An error in ordering had left students on my case load without testing materials, leaving me with a two hour block of time I needed to fill with my students while the rest of the building tested...ugggggg (that word is becoming my mantra) and seriously! I sat at my desk siggghhhing at the situation. Scanning the classroom as if it had answer, my brain tries to process what was happening. Suddenly, my eyes connected with the cart of laptops and iPads. The iPads were ready. They were READY. THEEEEYYYYY WERE REEEADY!!! Before I knew it I was explaining to my students that were we not having testing. After i answered all their questions about why and how and what if I told them that today was the day they were getting their iPads. 

"You mean to take home and use all the time?!!!!!!" 

"Yes!!! To take home and use all the time!!!!" 

 ...Instantly this unexpected... this uuuugggggg moment became two hours of uninterrupted instruction on how to use, navigate and interact with the iPad. 

It was unexpected fabulousness! 

Those two hours gave me an opportunity to flow from one iPad lesson to the next. No interruptions. No passing periods, no announcements. I introduced them to Dropbox. Showed them how to load materials from our Dropbox into Goodreader (if you have iPads and do not use this you are seriously missing an incredible tool. It IS my student's binder). We logged into their Edmodo and Google accounts. We explored and got to know each apps functions and ways. My teaching assistants and I smiled and giggled as we watched our students look at their iPads, realize what they can do, realize the new skills they had and see their eyes widen and their smiles over take their face. It was absolute awesomeness!!! 

As we wrapped up the two hours by asking our students to fill out their assignment notebooks I looked at my class, smiled and waited for it. I watched as a couple of students start to stand to get an assignment notebook sheet. 

 "What ya doing?" I asked waiting for my student to make eye contact with me. 

"Getting my assignment notebooks sheet." 

"Reallyyyy?!" I said, totally over exaggerating my smile.  I held my smile waiting it to happen 

{Wait for it} 

{Wait for it} 

"My assignment notebook is on my iPad!!!!!" 

"Yep!! No papers!" I smiled!

 {roaring infectious giggle} 


THURSDAY AND FRIDAY our tests showed up and testing happened. Now not having my usual instructional time began to once again make me think uggggggg what was I thinking. This is an awful week to roll out the iPads. As our testing sessions ended and our modified schedule played out I began to realize that this week could not have been more perfect to do exactly what I had done. The modified schedule coupled with the general expectation of reduced, if not any homework, because of testing gave me freedom. It gave me the freedom to break in all the apps I wanted my students to use without the pressure of a full on class lesson. It gave me the freedom to give a worksheet for my students to try doing at home on the iPad instead of a packet or complex assignment. It gave me and my students time to connect with the iPad, my new expectations, their new mind set and the freedom to work through all the ins and outs and what ifs. 

It was quite a week! It was totally unexpectedly amazingly unplanned perfection! 

I'm exhausted!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Getting Ready...Pre-Week #2

Last week was my last week prior to {insert nail biting paired and gitty excitement geeeee} the big day... The day the students get their iPads.

I wasn't the only one excited either!  I heard at least once or twice a day, "When are we getting the iPads (insert blank stare at me... Light bulb going off) Oh yeah next week." Followed by frown and shoulder slump.

We are all incredibly excited and the anticipation was high!!! 

My goals for this week were pretty straight forward... prepare and change.

Prepare... I needed to label each iPad with names and numbers, collect the last of the permission slips/ technology agreements and finalize what apps I wanted on all the iPads.

Change...I realized needed to completely change how I took time to evaluate homework and my mindset about managing itYou see until last week the homework I assigned was collected at the beginning of the period it was due. The time left was dedicated to instructional time. If I was going to go all in and fully embrace being an iPad classroom, which to me also meant almost completely paperless, I needed to seriously change how I was doing things.

The Change...First, I developed a template. I needed to make a  paper template I could use to record assignments on and that could easily be transferred into the grade book. It needed to be easy enough for the teaching assistants I work with to use and record assignments on for their groups. Second, I needed to change how and when we graded papers. I can't exactly collect 11 iPads and grade the papers, nor did I want 10 PDFs times 6 periods plus a day being dropped in my Dropbox. So I had to compromise with myself and give up a bit of class time to grade papers. I didn't, however,  want grading to take more then 5ish minutes of any class period. 

So with these very strong plan in mind, I ran my class as if it was a paperless classroom and prepped my teaching assistants for the changes to come and this mindset.

Here is how things went...
Monday- I payed attention to my habits, reminding myself of what would be paperless and what would not. I took note of places in our classroom routines I would need to leave time for corrections.

Tuesday- I was well aware of the changes I needed to make to my habits. I worked hard to grade papers on the spot. Grading them, collecting them and then...gasp! throwing them away... Paperless yo!  I took mental notes of the routines in our day and the improvements I still needed to make.

Wednesday- By this time my students had become accustomed to having papers graded on the spot. I began to share with them their scores immediately and have them fix errors on the spot (if their was time).  I began to realize that by collecting and grading homework separately, wanting to save precious instructional time I may have been missing priceless re-teaching and reinforcement opportunities. I was also missing chances to share with my students my recognition for their hard work and what they did well on in their work. I also realized that if I was allowing my students to make corrections for better grades (something I have always done, but usually as homework and after the score had been recorded in the grade book) I also needed to record the initial score of the worksheet and the score of the worksheet after correction.  This would ensure I documented my students initial performance on work.  

Thursday- Our usual stack of collected papers was next to nothing. My teaching assistants reported that the template made transferring scores into the grade book simpler then ever. I determined that all of our data collection in relations to my student IEP goals would be done on paper. We would continue to collect it, to ensure we had documentation and record of their performance as it relates to their goals.

Friday-  We were excitedly on our way to a almost paperless classroom. I was happy and proud of the hard changes we made. I was embracing our new mindset and modeling that change can be exciting and well worth it!  I was absolutely giddy with anticipation for the big week ahead!!!
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