Guidelines for teachers in exploring iPad Educational Apps

   In my pursuit of integrating technology and iPads in the classroom, I have begun to identify the associated problems. On my previous blog I wrote to the problems involved with providing effective and useful Professional Development.

      Another problem associated with integrating technology into the classrooms is providing useful and effective exploration time for teachers and iPad Apps. When exploring iPad Apps for the classroom, it can be helpful to provide guidelines for what and how to look for quality educational apps, tried and tested, that are connected with curriculum learning outcomes. 

  Here are some guidelines and questions that currently help frame my exploration of iPad educational Apps to be more narrow and purposeful in my App selection:

  1. What does the iTunes App Store say? What are the reviews?
    • are the reviews from teachers- are they positive, tried and tested, what is the reception
  2. What kind of internal motivation does the App provide?
    • this will show how long the App will last in my class, and how rewarding
  3. How many levels of difficulty are contained within the App?
    • to meet the levels of each student in a class, or across different grade levels, personalized learning
  4. Do I think the graphics are engaging?
    • this is a subjective measurement but still matters for level of student engagement and fun, and whether the students will want to use the App or not

       In any case, iPads are built to be a personalized tool that can be designed to meet to needs of each individual user. The use of my class set can and will look differently than a class set of iPads at a different school. Our class set is shared across kindergarten to grade 5 classrooms and I am currently not spending any money on any Apps because of the multi-user licencing issues. (In Canada, there is currently no arrangement for multi purchasing of Apps, and I am waiting before multiplying every paid app X30)

      On top of looking in the iTunes Top Education Apps catalogue bestsellers, I also look at different iPad app blogs. Here is my current shortlist of websites that I have found through Twitter to provide useful feedback and recommendations for iPad educational Apps for K-5.

Also, here is my Educational iPad App catalogue that shows all the Apps that are currently on our K-5 iPads.

Re-designing Pro-D

After attending, and running two sessions in Kelowna at #acsiwc I started learning how to design effective Professional Development. Hosting effective ProD is difficult.  With money being at the core of so many difficulties across the educational landscape, it is made more difficult with the combined expense of ProD, planning and design which is crucial for its success. Two key questions helped guide my planning for this ProD:1. What is the goal of Professional Development?
2. What are teachers expectations for ProD?

But whether teachers are collaborating with other teachers, expanding teaching paradigms, integrating subjects, or training on new technological tools, ProD takes money.

My first session titled, blogs, glogs, and other stuff,  was designed to offer teachers hands-on opportunity to learn and build both blogs and glogs, as well as other 2.0 tools for students. In preparing for this session, I felt uneasy in creating a Keynote for an audience I did not know. So I did not prepare a Keynote, and walked into the session a little blindly. I did a few quick polls, and found that 1/3 of them run their own blog, and under half of the attendees had a computer with them. So I was able to adjust and re-evaulate how we were going to spend our time together. I understood the attendees position, that hands-on time, with an “expert” assisting did not feel like a good use of my resources. So I changed my session to go through as many web 2.0 programs that I had spent time on with students. It developed into a useful session, but I also felt very new and that I had a lot to learn.

In reflection at lunch, I decided to re-design my afternoon session on iPads in the Elementary School Classroom to begin with a quick chat in small groups to frame “driving questions” for our session. First I gave a quick introduction to who I am, and my context and experience using a class set of iPads. The response after their quick chat was “please tell us your experience, and share what you feel is valuable.” This statement showed me a few things. First that they trusted me, and second,  that they value my subjective teaching experience.

On breaks, my own most robust professional development was chatting with other presenters and sharing our session lead experiences and stories.

This let me to being to think about new alternatives for Professional Development. With money spent on hardware and wifi, money needs to continue to put into ProD, but ProD needs to be re-design to be maximized for effectiveness. “Useful” ProD for me in on Twitter in a conversation around #ipaded or #edchatbc. Or a conversation with others around a table. But in more of a challenge, I think sharing a conversation with non-likeminded people will help round out teaching philosophy, quality of integration across subjects, and using technology in classrooms.

Earlier this week, I emailed Ted Pennell, who is the Director for Educational Technology in School Distict 61 to propose a Professional Development position on iPads district wide. This position who involve me visiting classrooms around the school district to observe teachers, suggest technology tools and tips, and provide technology leadership for other teachers to break through barriers. Ted Pennell responded by stating that he was going to bring the Director of Learning Initiatives to observe me teaching and to have more of a conversation.

Motion Math- Zoom and Hungry Fish

       I have found Motion Math to be a great Educational App developer for play-based math Apps for the iPad. I am currently using Motion Math Zoom and Motion Math: Hungry Fish with my K-5 Elementary School classrooms. Both Apps offer a free trial that provides enough of a range of difficulty that suits all elementary school skill levels.  It is play-based learning that turns math into a visual game where math skill development is a by product.
Motion Math Zoom is an interactive number line where students need to nagivate through tens, hundreds, thousands, etc. to place the missing number. With two fingers, students learn to recognize the place value and zoom within place values. The trial app offers a taste of various types of number lines- negatives, decimals, and fractions. Students can also save process and earn points with this trial. The in App purchase is $3.99 for all the levels, but the trial has been sufficient for my needs.
Motion Math: Hungry Fish app is a mind math adding game that has 18 different difficulty levels. The great graphics allow students to engage with instant addition to feed a hungry fish which lead to fun awards. The in app purchase is $2.99 for all the levels, or some of the levels can be purchased in pieces.
This app was used in a study, in the first experiment ever to study an iPad app, and was shown to help improve student knowledge and attitudes towards math. I found it at ABC7 in San Fransico. Take a look at the article here.

There is also a built in motivator for students- the more math you do, the more you can customize the fish colors and fins.  This iPad math App offers personalized learning, that offers various difficulty levels to meet students at their skill level. The interactive nature and beautiful graphics engage students in a way that is exciting and empowering.

Twitter, PLN, and Useful Education Hashtags

           Social media site Twitter has offered a new type of online conversation and the development of Professional Learning Network, or PLN. Although teachers are engaged with students in class and teachers in the building, in comparison to time spend in professional development, teachers are isolated and alone. What could really make a difference for teachers is to create an open dialogue about learning across all levels of education. A conversation with other people that we respect at a time that we choose on topics that are self directed and in a way that does not take teachers away from the classroom. In an ideal world, educators would be part of an interactive community that all contribute to a conscious stream of ideas, opinions, experiences, resources that have been tried and tested, links to good websites, teaching techniques and reflections. A community where questions and be asked and feedback given based on real life experiences. This type of learning community would be very useful. And it can be found on Twitter.

          While more online conversation is happening, educators are sharing more and trying more things based on the recommendations from teachers around the world. Davis (2010) in her article “Social networking goes to school” references Steven Anderson, the well-known #Edchat co-creator, in regards to the use of Twitter as part of a Professional Learning Network. In the past, professional development was formal and rigid. You went to events scheduled by the district because this is what they think you need. With social networking allowing teachers to connect to one to one to many, teachers have the professional development they really desire on a daily, even hourly basis. The buzz and inspiration felt when going to the professional development seminar or conference, can be felt constantly online on Twitter. Questions posed at any part of the day can be answered by a variety of educators all offering a different perspectives and techniques.

         This week I hosted a professional development workshop in School District 61 in Victoria BC. I had 30 teachers and EAs (educational assistants) watch how I function on Twitter. I introduced to them the value of saving lists and hashtags. instead of strictly following people on Twitter. The value to following and searching for topics is that the conversation become more personalized and focused. Here are a few hashtags that I feel could be useful for your personal learning network.

#hsc (Homeschool)                        #edu                                   #iPadChat                                      

#cpchat(connected principals)        #kedu (Kindergarten)                      #edapp  

#kinderchat                                  #GlobalEd                                       #1stchat                          
#k12media                                      #midleved (Middle School)             #2ndchat

#edadmin                                       #lrnchat (Learning)                           #3rdchat

#elemchat                                      #4thchat                                    #titletalk (Librarians – Books)

#edchat                                         #smchat (Social Media)                    #5thchat
#spedchat (Special Ed)                #edtechbc                                           #6thchat

#edtech                                        #tlchat                                                  #k12
#education                                  #edbc

– Mr. Shortreed

My top 5 free iPad apps for Intermediate (3-5) Classroom use

Here is my current list top of  free apps that I think are most useful in a classroom to engage students in learning using iPads.

Google Earth – holding the world in your hand at a whole new level. This app can be used to teach geography, directions/orientation, map reading, landforms, etc.

Toontastic – Such an amazing way to engage students in the elements of story writing, characters, setting, conflict, sondtrack, and narrative. Students can create cartoons with this app, using pre-set characters and settings or their own, set it to a soundtrack, and record their own voice to each slide. It is simple, guided, and offers a beautiful finished product.

Dictation – Not typically seen as a educational app, this business app is an easy to use voice recorder that records your voice and types it into text. I have been pleasantly surprised with the apps ability to capture even the most casual language delivery and quick speech, and would be an amazing app for students who have trouble writing down their ideas or have typing difficulties. It can also be used to help student use a clear voice and be excited to share written stories.

MathBoard Addition – One of the many iPad math learning tools, this free app only covers addition, but offers a great space to try doing math on a digital chalkboard. For quick assessments, or private math work, this app offers various settings and problems for students.

2X2=4 – This app is new this month and has climbed the educational free app charts quickly. The app works on various multiplication levels and a pirate game platform. Learning your multiplication tables is an amazing bi-product of this game.

With so many educators looking for new apps, I am sure this list will evolve tomorrow. With over 400,000 apps, and thousands of lists and spaces for educators to coolaberate, it is only getting easier to share resources. Ipadannie is particularly one of my favorite app search lists right now. Check out her top education apps- here.

My Top 5 free iPad apps for primary (K-2) classroom use

I am involved in an iPad pilot project in SD61 and have been reading blogs, exploring and purchasing apps, and organizing them in age appropriate home screens. Here is my top 5 free picks for iPad apps that are age appropriate for primary age students (K-2) in classroom settings.

1. School Coloring book – Get 72 free educational coloring pages for different subjects including the following coloring books with pictures: Lower Case Alphabet Upper Case Alphabet, Numbers, Continents, Planets, US Presidents, zodiac Signs, Occupations, Great Inventions, Ethnic Wear and more. There are other free apps from the same developer are a very useful too.
2. Motion Math Zoom – have fun with a number line and help students understand place value in an interactive way. Students learn side to side scrolling and precision pointing.

3. Doodle Buddy – Have students finger paint, write their name on it, insert backgrounds or even photos in this app.

4. Shape Puzzle – a great jigsaw puzzle app that says the object once completed and adds it to a whole scene.

5. SpellingMagic-  this app is great for the early speller. Various levels are settings can expend this app across a variety of letters, words, and difficulty levels.

Flipboard and my top 5 Ed Tech blogs

My favorite app on my iPad 2 right now is Flipboard.  I am using it for my own blog reading, but it can be easily extended to students who could use an alternative way of reading.

Here are my top 5 Ed Tech blogs that I am following on my Flipboard. I’ve included their twitter feeds as well, since I am now aware of the necessity of twitter for my learning.
As an aspiring administrator, Steven Anderson’s blog plays an important role in my professional development.  On his blog and his Twitter, @web20classroom, Anderson sees ed tech in the bigger picture.

Written for the most part by Kelly Walsh with a sprinkling of guest blog posts, EmergingEdTech focuses on new and innovative technology tools.  One of my favorite things about this blog is the Weekly Tweet Wrap from@EmergingEdTech that offers links to tools and stories from the previous week in ed tech.

Originally started by a teacher in pursuit of a paperless classroom, TeachPaperless is now a blog detailing new tools in ed tech through the eyes of over ten talented writers.  The fact that this blog has so many contributers means that you get regular stream of updates.

The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness
Michael Zimmer’s blog, like all of these others, keeps up with the latest trends in ed tech.  What I like most about it, though, are the resources broken down by subject area.  He also posts a weekly roundup of subject area resources to keep core-subject teachers up to date with the latest tools.

Free Technology for Teachers
If you’re interested in ed tech and haven’t heard of Richard Byrne, you must be living under a rock.  This is the best ed tech blog around.  His blog and his Twitter, @rmbyrne, are chock-full of the latest ed tech resources.  If you don’t read another blog on this list, read this one.

– Mr. Shortreed

Online Research Grades 1-5

I have had a difficult time finding age appropriate and engaging research material for primary and intermediate students at my elementary schools. I have recently found one useful website that helps engage students in possible research topics. It includes easy to follow tabs that include sound and audio, maps, easy printing features, photos, and facts.

Here is the website and I am focussing the study on animals:

Hope this helps! Please let me know of any other kid friendly research websites!

Using a Youtube Channel in School

Teaching in two schools that are K-5, it is mostly my grade 4s and 5s who request to go on Youtube. I have made a school rule of no Youtube, or social media sites (Facebook and Twitter) because of potential inappropriate content exposure. But I also feel that Youtube offers many positive oppurtunities for students. There are many songs and videos that students can explore that are age appropriate. Also, I feel that this type of media is important to share within an educational setting because it is such a huge part of our world.

So recently I have found a solution: the creation of a Youtube channel.   Typically at the beginning of each class I show a playful Youtube video either just for entertainment.

Here are a few tips and rules:

1.Make playlists: I have found that making playlists inside the channel are very useful. I made a playlist for myself, for teachers, and for students. Take a look!

Mr. Shortreed’s Youtube Channel

2. Clear student rules: no searching, no going outside the student playlist. I placed this playlist link on my website:

Mr. Shortreed’s Student Youtube Channel

3. Have a request sheet in the computer lab for students to write down requests.

Mobile, Tablet and SMARTboard learning

As my first entry of the year, I want to share a website that I have found useful for ages K-5. It is a project that PBS has begun as the people at PBS have recognized the need for engaging educational platforms that can be used across mobiles, tablet computers and SMARTboards. The link is

Feel free to contact me about any more questions. I am currently using this website with grades 1,2 and 3.

– Mr. Shortreed