Archive for March, 2014

Stick Around – Latest Addition to My List of Favourite iPad Apps

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by Chris Loat

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.38.17 PMI just finished the tutorials for the app Stick Around and after learning how to use it, I added it to my list of favourite apps for the iPad. This $2.99 app allows students or teachers to make interactive diagrams / pages in which students sort words or label diagrams with draggable stickers. These stickers and diagrams are custom made so teacher or students can tailor their creations to any lesson being taught in class. While I was learning how to use the app, I thought that this is very much like a smart board activity, except instead of one or two kids doing the work in front of the class, all students can participate at the same time.

IMG_0734So how does this work, and what can you do with it? In a nutshell, you make a background (the fence, the flower, the lines and the written instructions), and then you make the stickers (the labels and photos of plant parts). The next step is to create the answer key by placing the stickers in the correct location on the diagram and outlining the location (this outline designates the correct answer for that label). Press play and drag the stickers from the right hand tray to the correct location on the diagram. Once all stickers are in place, press ‘Check’ in the upper right hand corner and see if your answers are correct. To see the app in action and watch the video tutorials, you can go to the developer’s website.

I followed the video tutorials for the flower diagram and it took me about 30 minutes to complete. This could be the best 30 minutes a teacher spends as this app lends itself to virtually any situation and is easily integrated into any curricular area. Ideas for using this include:

  • labelling diagrams (e.g. water cycle, plant parts, provinces)
  • ordering numbers (e.g. fractions, decimals)
  • sorting words (e.g. parts of speech, syllable count, powerful vs. weak)
  • sorting objects (e.g. rocks by type, activities by aerobic / anaerobic, solid/liquid/gas, living or nonliving)
  • sequence events (e.g. War of 1812, Confederation, bill to law, life cycle)
  • venn diagrams (e.g. whales and fish, Canada and China, quadrilaterals and triangles)
  • ordering smallest to largest (e.g. animal speeds, population of countries)
  • matching (words to definitions, shapes to lines of symmetry)

Ideally, we would want our students creating these puzzles as it would require more thought than simply recalling of facts / ideas. Having the students make the puzzles forces them to think more critically about the information and shows a higher level of understanding of the information (synthesis vs. recall of info) if they make the puzzle rather than just complete it. Of course, when they finish creating the puzzle, they would share it with others in the class.


Learning From the Students

Posted on: March 11th, 2014 by Chris Loat

One of the best parts of being a teacher consultant is when I get to learn new technologies, new approaches, or new ideas. Although the purpose of my role is to share ideas, approaches and technologies with others in our district, I often find myself on the receiving end of this learning. It is especially gratifying when it is a student who is doing the teaching, and today at Kingswood Elementary was a time when I learned 3 different things from students.

On the iPad, the keyboard usually appears as a solid keyboard across the bottom of the screen, but once in a while, it appears as a split keyboard. I knew that in Settings>>General>>Keyboard, there was the switch for displying the split keyboard. But did you know that if you put two fingers on the solid keyboard and separate them, it will turn into a split keyboard? I didn’t until a tech savvy grade 4 showed me today at Kingswood. The opposite is true for turning the split keyboard into a solid keyboard; tap either side with a finger and then slide your fingers together.

Using the two finger pinch to turn a split keyboard into a solid one

Using the two finger pinch to turn a split keyboard into a solid one

In this same class, we were using the app ‘Pic Collage’ to document some of their art work they completed during the year. While explaining how to put text on the screen, I mentioned there were 8 different fonts. A young grade 5 girl beside me ever-so-quietly pointed out that you could swipe left for more pages of font styles. Little did I know that THERE ARE FOUR PAGES OF FONTS IN PIC COLLAGE!!! I was ever so thankful, as were the kids in her class, otherwise they would have been ‘limited’ to 8 font styles. I have shown Pic Collage on many occasions and never noticed the 4 dots below the font menu (indicating more pages). Time to start noticing a little more carefully.

Little did I know there are 4 pages of fonts in Pic Collage

Little did I know there are 4 pages of fonts in Pic Collage

Lastly, when we were cropping the photos of their artwork, some students were struggling using the scissors to clip the photo. I showed them how to crop the photo in the photo album, but one student pointed out he uses a ruler to help guide his finger when clipping the photos in Pic Collage. He placed his ruler on the screen, slid his finger along the ruler’s edge, and ended up with a nice straight crop of his photos.

photo 2

Using a ruler to make straight clips in Pic Collage

What does this tell us? That we should allow our students to explore and learn on their own. That with a little bit of guidance around the big ideas of a lesson, students will easily figure out the details. That teachers should not be afraid to learn from the students, especially when it comes to technology.

Thanks to the students and staff of Kingswood for their enthusiasm towards learning about and teaching with the iPads and making me feel welcome each week I was there.

Using Minecraft to Model School Playgrounds

Posted on: March 9th, 2014 by Chris Loat

The excitement at Blair Elementary is growing with the news that they are going to be installing a new playground in the near future. Fundraising is in full swing but one thing remains to be decided – the plan for what features will be in the playground. April Chan, the school librarian, teaches a gifted group each week and she proposed that the students make a plan for the playground.

Students in the school were surveyed to find out their favourite parts of both the existing playground and the playground at a nearby community centre. Students then brainstormed materials and ideas for making the playground and sketched it out.


Brainstormed list of materials

Then they created a model of the playground with various materials, including wooden skewers, pipe cleaners, plasticine, paper towel rolls and more. Students used problem solving, cooperation, creative thinking and communication skills while working on their models. One aspect that was reinforced throughout was the processes used during the project. Students wrote reflections in their ‘Inquiry Journals’ and used these to help guide them through the process.


Model playground using various materials

Two groups took the planning stage to the next level and created a minecraft version of their playground. To create these virtual models, students used cooperation, a lot of problem solving, spatial sense and creative thinking.


Physical and virtual Minecraft models of the proposed playground

For teachers who want to take the leap of using Minecraft in the classroom, there are countless online resources – ideas of how to get started and ideas of how to integrate Minecraft into your curriculum. A great starting place is the recent post on Edutopia. Another great starting place is with your students – ask them how many kids play on Minecraft and ideas of how to get started. It won’t be for all students in your classroom, but providing this as an option for students might create an engagement level never before seen in some of your students.


Formative Assessment On the iPad

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by Chris Loat

Students highlighting their work and recording their reflections with 30Hands

Today at Maple Lane, I taught a lesson on formative assessment to a group of grade 6/7 students from Sarah Beairsto’s class. What was unique about this lesson was that instead of using a pencil, students used the iPad, and specifically the app 30Hands. The students were in the midst of a project on extreme environments and Sarah asked me to do a lesson that allowed the students to do a reflection on the processes used to date for the project. As 30Hands allows students to attach audio recordings to photos, I thought this would be the right tool for the job. I taught the basics of the app to the class, then had the students take photos of the work they completed to date. This included all rough draft notes, any unfinished pages, completed pages, and any other evidence of work that was completed for the project. We then chatted about formative assessment. We brainstormed ideas for sentence starters that could be used in their verbal reflections and wrote these on the whiteboard. After this, we asked the students to record their reflections for each part of the project. In the end, each student had a 4-5 minute video of their photos and of their verbal reflections of the processes used in the project.

Formative Assessment Sentence Starters

Formative Assessment Sentence Starters

This lesson was a hit on many levels. Firstly, it was a collaborative effort between myself and Sarah (the classroom teacher). Secondly, if focussed on the process used in completing the students’ work. Focussing on the process (instead of the product) is so valuable for students, and bringing it to their consciousness is paramount in them understanding the importance of it. Thirdly, the iterative process of students recording their ideas further strengthens the understanding of processes used in thir project.

Will I do this one again? For sure! It has so many positives that I hope to model this lesson to every class I go into. Thanks to Sarah for the great idea and to her students for their thoughtfulness in completing these formative assessments.