Augmented Reality

My new FAVORITE techy thing is augmented reality! The implications for these apps in a classroom are amazing, so test them out then use them with your students –of all ages.

With Aurasma (see a video at the link) you can use pre-made Auras or create your own. Auras are three-dimensional animations or videos that are captured within a frame on the app. This app is available on IOS or Android. Imagine students for whom English is a second language creating videos of words they are learning so that when they frame the word, the video plays.

The ColAR app is free and some of the coloring pages are free; others you have to pay for. Students color the page and hold the frame in the app over the colored page to make it come to life.

PopAr has a series of children’s books that “come to life” through this augmented reality experience. This is a new way to interact with books and it is so cool!

Spacecraft 3D is put out by NASA. Students learn about the solar system and earth as they interact with them in as an authentic way as possible….without heading into space on a shuttle.

Web 2.0 and Apps….Let’s Get them into the Classroom

 (CC0 1.0)

(CC0 1.0)

I’ve been planning a series of technology learning for my staff. I will highlight some of my favorite web 2.0 and apps to use in the classroom. I like to keep in mind that integration and the process of learning is the most important thing with technology use –not the end product. Here goes.

A student and teacher favorite is Padlet. With Padlet, you, the teacher, set up a wall that you send a link or QR code to students, so they can access it. They can write on the wall, upload pictures, YouTube videos, you name it! You can even embed the wall onto your web page. Students can collaborate on an assignment in class or out of class. If they are stuck at home because of weather (imagine that!), primary students could document what is happening outside their homes. They could respond to a piece of literature of share travels over a vacation. Endless possibilities.

My next favorite app is NearPod. This is great for the classroom –either independent student technology or small group work that you as the teacher want to be in control over. You can have a PDF or a presentation that you display on your computer. The students launch the app and sign in to the session to see what you show them. You have control over their device and what they see, but they have the ability to annotate and add to whatever you share on their screens. So many options with this one! Whatever you are doing, you can have the students follow along but with additional interaction.

HaikuDeck is a perfect presentation app /Web 2.0 for students. It is currently on IOS but is coming for Android soon. It has beautiful Creative Commons licensed pictures for background so students don’t have to worry about copy written Google images. As students type onto the slides, the words get smaller, thus teaching them that presentations are about them talking and not the bullets on their slides. It’s web-based, so they can go from device-to-device and school to home seamlessly without a –gasp–thumb drive. is an easy way to shorten URLs. Go to the site, type in the URL, and BAM! You’re done. Well, you need to type a code to prove you’re a human first. Once you do that….BAM. You’re done.

As Voice Thread puts it on their main page, “text can’t replace you.” This is cloud-based; students can upload pictures or documentations that they in turn collaborate on. This has nice implications but does come with a cost of $79 for a single teacher.

Infuse learning is a favorite assessment tool at my school. It is perfect for BYOT because it is web based not an APP, so students can access it from any device –SMARTphone or tablet. Teachers can prepare questions ahead of time or create them in the moment. It has a draw feature, so math teachers might ask teachers to draw an isosceles triangle, for example. It doesn’t limit to multiple choice. You can pull in pictures like a map for the assessment. It also has language options for ELL or foreign language classes.

In terms of technology integration tools for the classroom, the options are endless. I will continue with more good ones later.

What is our Impact?

MRCPL Children CC BY-SA2.0

As a classroom teacher I tried to bring the best of the models that I had. Some of those models were teachers I had growing up; others were teachers I admired as I went through my program in college. I have vivid and positive memories of sixth grade. At the end of each day, our teachers would have the students in all four classes –the entire grade level–moved into the team room and spent the last minutes of the day reading a novel aloud to us.

We would look forward to one teacher in particular because she would get so involved in reading the novels –the characters, the voices. I distinctly remember her reading The Westing Game to us….so much so that when I taught fifth grade, The Westing Game was one of the novels that I chose to read to my own class. I tried so hard to get the voices just as perfectly as she did. I am quite certain that I did not, and they were never consistent from day-to-day. It was no easy task as there are so many characters in that novel. It made what she did seem even more amazing all those years later.

How incredible, though, that fifteen years after-the-fact, the impact she had on me– therefore on so many classes of students and my wanting to carry on a tradition of reading a treasured novel and sharing that experience with my own students. Now that’s impact.

Digital Footprint…What do our Students need to Know?

Student Engagement….Has it Changed over the Years?

Flickr photo by William Ferriter (CC BY 2.0)

As a young teacher right out of college, I knew I was going to change the world. I was an inner-city teacher and nothing was going to stop me–even if it meant closing my door sometimes to do what was right for my students. I remember one time having a conversation with my principal and telling her that I could use the textbooks (that were two plus reading levels above my students), or I could use trade books and other resources that I had that were written at their level. I assured her she wouldn’t regret it –confident on the outside but a bit nervous on the inside. After all these were second graders who for the most part didn’t know primer words. Innovative strategies were definitely what it was going to take to be successful. Technology wasn’t the same back then; however, student engagement was just as important then as it is today. That was and is the heart of a lesson. Without engaging our students we have nothing. Meeting these second graders where they were, making class fun for them, and being innovative in the process….that’s what it took to bring those students to where they needed to be.

Today we have so many tools at our fingertips. By collaborating and using these to the best of our ability, we can reach our students….every one of them. Sometimes it means throwing one thing out the window to try the next and figure our what it is that is going to engage them and get them to a place where they are excited by school and learning. Most importantly, though, at the center of our classrooms are the students..and whatever it takes to engage them.

1800 or 2014?

Over the years in education we have learned a lot. We have moved from worksheets to hands-on learning; from independent work to collaboration; from tests to multiple methods of assessment. We use formative assessments as we go through the learning cycle. Our classrooms have interactive boards and computers and iPads. But what has really changed in our schools over the past 200 years?

We know that students should be immersed in learning; that they can show what they are learning throughout the process; that the project should be the largest component of the unit rather than THE TEST. We know that children learn through play and by interacting with their environment. We know that their attention span in minutes is only as long as their age is in years; yet we still demand they pay attention to boring tasks for much longer than this. And truly, the classroom today still looks very much like it did 200 years ago. There are a few additional pieces of technology; sometimes students sit in groups rather than in rows; but for the most part, we deliver instruction in the same manner we have for hundreds of years.

What is it that is holding us back in education? We are supposed to be the innovators, the people to change the world, yet we are ignoring basic child development when it comes to making our classrooms meet the needs of those who most need it. What will it take to wake us up?

Innovate * Inspire * Lead Change

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