Monday, April 27, 2015

The One Where I Share All Things OSMO

I've been aware of the Osmo for about a year and watched its development from afar. About 6 weeks ago, I saw this video and knew I had to have one in my classroom:

Osmo was designed with the idea of playing "Beyond the screen". It is a really simple idea and product but it transforms the iPad. So the Osmo is basically a white cradle for your iPad to sit in and a red reflector clip that attaches at the top. Inside the clip is a mirror. This mirror takes the video camera of the iPad and projects it down to the table space in front of it. This allows for the iPad to "see" what is going on and respond. 

There are currently 4 Osmo Apps for the iPad:

Words: Students use letter tiles and slide them in front of the iPad to correctly spell words. This can be done cooperatively or in a Versus mode. The best part is that teachers can upload their own pictures/word lists for their students to use. I recently uploaded pictures of the class and they played in Versus mode, trying to spell all their classmates names correctly. My next big project will be to upload Words Their Way lists and Pearson Reading Street Vocabulary lists.

Four of My Students in a Spelling Challenge in Versus Mode

Tangrams: In this App, students use included tangram pieces to create the various shapes they see on the screen. While this seems fairly basic it gets a lot more complex as the student continues through the levels.
A Cat Made with Osmo Tangrams

Newton: In the Newton App, tiny little balls drop from the top of the screen. Students try to get them to hit targets elsewhere on the screen. To do this, they can draw lines and shapes on paper, the app will "see" them and the balls will bounce off them in different directions. The app will also see any items they put in front of it and the balls will move off of them as well (pencils, erasers, keys, books, their own fingers, etc.) This one develops spatial relations, cause and effect, and problem solving skills. 
The Newton App in Action
Masterpiece: This brings us to the app called Masterpiece. The App I bought the Osmo for (in the first place, at least). The App we have used most in my classroom of 4th graders. Masterpiece is AMAZING. Take a picture of someone or something OR search for something online and import it in. The App takes the photo and turns it into a line drawing which it then projects down in front of the iPad. Put a piece of paper in front of the Osmo and get drawing! I've had students draw everything from wolves and snakes to Groot, Thor, and the Tardis. And, maybe best of all? The entire time you are drawing, it is recording you (well - your hands, the pencil, and paper) and when you are done it creates a 20 second video file that's about 6MB in size (very small) that can be saved and shared (See some examples below)

A Student Drawing a Picture of an Ocelot

Another of my Students Drawing a Picture of Her Mother
While all of the Apps are very inventive and amazing, the rest of my post is going to focus mainly on the Masterpiece App. I know some people might look at it and think, "What's the big deal? They're just tracing." I met with some veteran art teachers and asked their thoughts on Masterpiece. This is the response I received. Masterpiece.......

  • Builds fine motor skills.
  • Helps develop stamina for doing tasks that are longer and require more attention
  • Builds fine motor muscle strength.
  • Teaches students to pay closer attention to details of art such as thick and thin lines, shape, shading, shadows, composition, size. All of which are some of the elements and principles of art. The core foundation to a beginning artist.
  • Students learn so much from this type of observation and tracing that it helps with overall memory and drawing from the brain in years to come, rather than only working from images.
  • Through tracing, students are emulating other art works/artists and thus learning to draw in the style of a particular image. Which helps them to begin to understand art styles and learn multiple ways to draw.
  • Tracing is a stepping stone to being able to draw free hand and independently. It promotes line control and quality

And with the video recording component:
  • Students can record their drawing and it would help us and the students analyze their drawing in order to see where changes need to be made such as pencil grip, movement and much more. A great way to show process and growth in fine motor skills and muscle strength. Not to mention just a great teaching tool to use as demonstrations and as a critique. 
What do students think of it? I had some of my 4th graders eMail me their thoughts and here is an unfiltered sample of them:
  • My experience with the Osmo was amazing. The Osmo is an attachment for the iPad or iPad mini. There are four apps you download called, Tangrams, Newton, Words, and my favorite, Masterpiece. When I drew with the Osmo I was stunned at the work of art I made. I never knew that with help from the Osmo, I could draw a husky like that. Doing it your first time can be difficult, but the next time you try, it gets easier. I think this is educational because it helps you become a better artist if you practice it. It also helps you to focus and pay attention to what you are doing. That was my experience drawing with the Osmo.
  • I LOVED using the Osmo! Since I am a great drawer, I think it was very educational because it will inspire you to draw more. I have been drawing a lot since my turn, WAY better that I used to be able to draw. (Thx Osmo!) My parents are very Impressed. The Osmo can help my little 5 year old brother draw, my 8 year old sister, my dad, me, and my mom. My grandmother too! The Osmo is an awesome IPad add on. I believe that the Osmo is great for classrooms, science fairs for drawing your project animal, thing, e.c.t. I believe that the Omso should keep up the good work!
  • My experience with the Osmo was great! I had a great time drawing Thor! It was really cool when I was done to see what I had drawn. I was very happy with how it turned out! One of the hard parts about it is following the lines. It was hard looking at the iPad but drawing on the paper. Another hard part was when it would get moved or bumped, I would have to try to put it where it was before. That was really all the hard things though. I think the masterpiece app for Osmo is educational be cause it brings out your inter-artist. It shows you that you can draw even if you think you are bad at drawing. Another way I think this could be educational is for young children. I think that you could use this to show numbers and letters on the screen and the kids can trace them. I think that will help them learn their numbers and letters.
  • I think the Osmo is super awesome! Some things I loved about it was how you could choose what you wanted to draw and it would show you the shading button and how many lines you wanted. But it was challenging because it was hard to keep your paper In place and keep the lines with your paper. It would make your hand hurt it would fall asleep and it would tingle but other than that it was amazing. Thanks for letting us use the Osmo.

The most interesting comment I read (and it appeared many times in different student's thoughts) is that they are drawing at home more now. Masterpiece has inspired them to try their hand at art again.... to become a better artist. You know... as opposed to playing video games or watching television. 

So... what uses do I see for Masterpiece in the future? I have to be honest. Even if I only had a single Osmo in my classroom, I'd probably be content to run it as a center all day, every day - running Masterepiece and have the students draw what they'd like. 

However - here are some other ideas I had:

  • Draw self portraits and use them as autobiography book covers.
  • Make a "Teacher's Gallery" at our school and have the kids draw pictures of all the staff
  • Use it in math to work with certain specific geometric concepts like symmetry, rotational symmetry, transformation, reflection, and other "geometry in motion" ideas.
  • Portfolio Covers
  • Use the ability to combine multiple images on one "Masterpiece" to have students create murals, or other artwork, that summarizes weekly reading stories or vocabulary concepts.
  • In Social Studies use it draw masterpieces of famous historical figures 
  • In Science it could be used for sections on the Solar System to draw planets or Sci-Fi planet landscape for discussions on "If there is life elsewhere in the universe"
  • To illustrate student work when writing stories.
  • To create a wall of imagery out of masterpieces that have been shrunk down and drawn on sticky notes.

So - What do you think? Can you see possibilities for Osmo in your classroom? What ideas could you add to the list above? Do you already have an Osmo? I'd love to hear from you and ways you are using it in your classroom.

I leave you with a link to a page that has a compilation of all of our Osmo Videos on it. There are a few sample below a many more if you follow the link. Enjoy:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The One Where I Share 10 Random Thoughts About My 1:1 iPad Experience

Our iPad Classroom:

Ten Random Thoughts, in no particular order whatsoever:

10) One of the most difficult things I've had to deal with is time management. I think it might have to do more with the group of students I have now, but teaching since 1995, I have an good idea of how long certain assignments should take. Many of my students this year take *much longer* to do *creative* assignments on the iPad. This would be things like making an iMovie or Keynote to show understanding of a concept or using Minecraft to help demonstrate comprehension of certain story elements. Balancing what I "have to teach" Vs. "Giving them time to create" is a tough task and it is always something I am mindful of.

9) The opportunity for differentiation is amazing. Last year I let my top Math students work on Khan Academy during Math class. They were still accountable for taking the topic and benchmark tests but would be working on other lessons of their higher ability during actual Math class. This was a huge success. By the end of the year, my top two 4th graders had MAP scores that were in the high school range. They were learning about math concepts like graphing functions and parabolas. On their own. At their own pace. The biggest lesson I learned through this is sometimes I need to get out of the way so that my students can fly. Trying to control everything they were learning ended up being the biggest roadblock to their success. Once I stepped aside, they were absorbing knowledge at a tremendous rate.

8) The iPad is NOT a magic pill that will save education. IPads are great and have transformed the way I teach. There are many amazing projects my students have done with them that would not have been possible without. However two years in and I still have high, middle, and low students. Two years in and I still have students that are sad/angry/emotional when they come to school. Two years in and I have many students who can't do basic multiplication. No, the iPad is not a cure-all for education. But then again, it wasn't meant to be. 

7) How much paper have I saved over the past 2 years by doing so much digitally? I know it has to be well over several cases. Students take all of their weekly, topic, and benchmark tests using Drive/Notability combined with Clickers. It is a GREAT combination that I highly recommend to anyone who gives a lot of multiple choice tests.

6) I don't ever have students type long passages on their iPads. Well, at least I don't any more. The iPad just isn't a good keyboard and it takes waaaaay too long to have students type out journals on them. I save the typing for 1-2 paragraph responses..... otherwise kid frustration rises. Of course I figured this out through trial and error. In the beginning I had students typing in lengthy responses into KidBlog and found what I thought should have taken maybe a hour tops, was taking 1-2 days.

5) I know a great concern for all involved is how iPad classrooms will perform on tests. How can they do well if they are just "playing" on an iPad?  For two years now, my students have continued to perform well (in some cases, extremely well) on all of the standardized and benchmark tests they have to take (MAP, NeSA, Reading & Math Benchmarks). Even in the NeSA Writing test. It was of particular concern because they weren't doing as much pencil/paper writing. Despite that, last year I had 96% of my students meet or exceed the state standards in writing. That was my highest class percentage ever for this test.

4) It amazes me that I have had students in both classes who don't realize just how good they have it. These are students who don't realize they are part of maybe 3% of all 4th graders in the country that are using iPads on a daily basis. These are the students who have repeatedly dropped them, "goofed around" on them, and not followed directions regarding their use. Maybe I need to revisit the idea of a "Privilege Vs. a Right".....

3) Student's Favorite App: Minecraft. Sadly, I don't implement this as much as I should. I need to work on that.

2) I am a strong believer in the way my district implemented the iPads. To be considered, teachers had to undergo several days of training and then apply. In the application process, teachers needed to outline some of the various ways they planned to use them in the classroom. I've heard too many stories of students in other districts (where they did a 100% implementation) solely using them for research and to take notes. 

1) The iPad is a Tool, not a toy.  This is our motto in class. It takes a lot of time and effort to get the students (and parents) accepting of this idea. At home all most kids ever do with their iPads is play games. However in class we make movies, create presentations, film video, take pictures, draw animations, research topics, take tests, and compose music (among other things).

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the comments above!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The One Where I Notice Teachers are Miracle Workers

Every year it seems expectations increase as does the amount of content teachers have to cover. Like most teachers, I've shuffled things around to make it work. However, try as I might, there are some things that there never seems to be time for anymore.

Out of the things that I've had to push aside... the one I miss the most is talking with my students and getting to know them more personally. While I still know each one fairly well, it is not the same as it used to be.

With inspiration from +Sue Gorman  (@sjgorman on twitter), I decided to make a simple Google form each day so I could get an idea of how my students were feeling each morning. I've been doing this for about a month and the results I've gotten back each day have made me realize something about teachers.

We are miracle workers.

I'm not necessarily using that as hyperbole either. The very last graphic below shows a sampling of some of my students' responses in one day. Notice the roller coaster of emotions: "I'm tired because my parents let me play on the XBox until 11pm", "I'm angry because my brother beat me up on the way to school again", "I'm happy because we are taking a math benchmark test today", "I'm nervous because we are going on a field trip and the bus has no seat belts", "I'm excited because I'm seeing grandma this weekend", "I'm very sad because our dog is sick and at the vet. They might have to put him down"

Those are a sample of some very real responses I received on one of the days I've been doing this. The fact that teachers are able to get anything done with the wide range of emotions is, in my humble opinion, AMAZING! If you are a classroom teacher, pat yourself on the back for the miracles you work each and every day with the wonderful, beautiful, emotional children you have been assigned. Below is a step-by-step for how to get started making a simple Google Form to do the same thing. It literally takes about 2 minutes.

Go into Google Drive. your screen should look something like this:

Click on the red CREATE button and then select FORM from the list:

I usually title the form with the date, followed by a quick saying. For example, "April 30, 2014 - How Do You Feel This Morning?" and then I choose a random theme each day. Click OK after you have done this.

The main screen should appear and look something like this. On this particular form, I titled it "Monday, April 28, 2014"

If your screen shows choices similar to these at the top, I always select the top two choices. If you don't, you won't know which student is saying each comment (which sort of defeats the purpose).

I type in the question. In this case "How do you feel today?" In the help text, I usually add something like "Please answer with as much or as little as you want to say. No one will see your response except for me. I read every response each morning.". Make sure for QUESTION TYPE to change it to PARAGRAPH TEXT and check the box the reads REQUIRED QUESTION.

After you click DONE, your screen should look like this. Once here, click on SEND FORM.

Where it says "Send form via eMail" type in the eMail addresses for your class (I already have them in a group, so I just type the word 'class' in the box and all of their eMail addresses show up). Click DONE after that.

As students start to submit their answers, this is how they start to shape up on the RESPONSES spreadsheet that is automatically generated.

Back in Google Drive, the form shows up in my list of files along with an auto-generated spreadsheet that houses their responses.

If you click RESPONSES at the top and then select SUMMARY OF RESPONSES 

You will get a screen like this that will show you what your students are feeling like on that day. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The One Where We Switch to Front Row

Front Row Math

My 4th graders have been using the newly revamped Khan Academy website on our iPads since Mid-November. Things have been going great and I have seen a fantastic, better than average, increase in MAP Math scores from August to January.

I read a Tweet recently that mentioned an App called Front Row (or Front Row Ed Math). It is very similar to Khan in many ways but has some thing unique to it that I really like. Both Khan and Front Row are FREE and both give teachers access to "More Data About Their Students Than They Could Ever Use."

I have already written in length about the Khan Academy and it very positive effects in our classroom. Test scores have improved for all of my student (some dramatically). We are now using Front Row as a "Change of Pace" from Khan. Here are some of the "Data" highlights... To the left there are clickable areas like "Insights" (my favorite), Groups, Matrix, Common Core Standards, Class Roster, Report Card, and Printables (My 2nd Favorite). Clicking on the "Insights" tab brings up the screen below. Clicking on the arrows on the right will drop down each section revealing your students "Most ahead" and "Most behind" as well as who is improving the most and the least. The last section reads "What's the Most Important Standard I need to teach next? 

Clicking on that will bring up this screen and you can see what standards students are missing the most.

Clicking on the standard itself will show you examples of the types of questions they are missing.

My other favorite feature is the printables section.....

I've only used the "Individualized Practice". If you click on GENERATE PDF it will generate an individualized worksheet for EACH STUDENT based on their appropriate level of success in that area. Don't worry, it also generates a mini answer key for each child's worksheet. Pretty Slick! 

I don't know if Front Row Ed will ever replace Khan in my class, but ALL students like it right now as a great change of pace!

What do you think? Have you used Khan Academy? Do you use Front Row? If you have tried both, which do you prefer?

The One Where I Storybird on iPads!

I recently discovered that a website I used with my class several years ago has, at some point, rewritten their code to be compatible on iPads! This has been great news for my 1:1 iPad students! Storybird is a site where students write stories and collaborate with artists from around the world. Here is how it works...

As a teacher, I created a free account and was given a passcode for my students to sign up (no eMail needed). The passcode attached each student to my account and allows me access to their stories if needed.

When a student clicks on the CREATE button, they see a screen similar to this one. Each picture is from a different artist and they can scroll through hundreds of artists who have donated their artwork to be used on the site, royalty-free. So, from the pictures below - say a student really likes the "Haunted House" picture. They select it and then....

This screen will come up. On this screen, students get to see ALL of the artwork by this one artist. From here, they select the portfolio of art they want to use for their story. In this case, I selected the Haunted House portfolio but I could choose any thumbnail at the bottom to select a different portfolio of art from this person.

Next, students see their "Desktop" which has their empty Storybird in front of them and all of artwork tossed about on the left and right of there book. Controls are at the bottom for navigation and adding pages. Pictures are switched out simply by drag and drop. 

Hit the Plus sign in the bottom right to add pages. One simple font is used for all Storybirds. 

Another page is added.

This student clicked SAVE in the bottom left corner. As a teacher, this screen shows me my students and their Storybirds. I can share, favorite, comment on, or delete their Storybirds.

When I click on one of their Storybirds, it will enlarge on the screen along with this control panel that allows me to to see some basic data about their 'Bird as well as assign it a grade (viewed only by the student) and notes about their story.

One of the more intriguing features of Storybird is that their books can be purchased as a PDF, a softcover book, a hardcover, or a premium format book. Costs vary depending on how many pages are used. The site also offers fundraising for classrooms or schools. 

Storybird has been a great experience for all of my students. It helps both their writing AND reading skills. We have integrated it into our writing curriculum. I also have several highly motivated students that have been creating their own Storybirds at home.

We have all used it on our iPads using both Safari and Chrome as browsers to access the site

Please contact me if you have any questions or need help getting started

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The One Where I List What iPads Changed For Me

Last September I started using 1:1 iPads my classroom. Over the past few months I've had my share of successes and failures. To say this has been the largest growth of my teaching career would be a tremendous understatement. These are the Top Five ways "Our iPad Classroom" has changed my teaching:

1) Students as teachers! No teacher knows everything. Even me. As much as I like to pretend sometimes that I know the answer to everything, I simply don't. Using 1:1 iPads, I've had many students come up to me with App usage questions. As much as I am able to help them, just as often, I have no idea how to do what they are asking. 

This is where my students have grown into technology leaders. I will usually ask, "Who knows how to (for example) add text to a picture in edit mode in iMovie?". Usually 5-10 hands will go up and I direct the student to seek the answer with one of them. Students LOVE feeling helpful/useful/knowledgeable and "knowing more than the teacher does" is a BIG confidence booster for them! It is a win-win-win situation!

2) Creating Creative Creations! While my students still handle an occasional worksheet (usually digital), my class has definitely moved more towards CREATING products to show their knowledge of curriculum. Geometry in the Real World iMovies, Explain Everything Story Summaries, and Tellagami Vocabulary Videos are just a few examples of my students using multiple levels of intelligence to showcase their knowledge across the curriculum. Once these projects are created, that leads me to the next classroom transformation....

3) Breaking Down Classroom Walls! These projects are great and would be fine just sitting on their iPads. However - students almost always do better and put in more effort if they know more people are going to see the work than just their teacher and maybe their parent(s). Let's face it - the same goes for most adults. A lot of us will put in extra effort if we know a large audience will be seeing our work rather than just 1-2 people. YouTube, eMail, and Google Drive have allowed us to take these wonderful creations and easily share them with parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, and other educators. 

I have a student who is pretty good at Math. She created an iMovie to showcase her knowledge of geometry. She also created music to accompany it using Garageband. Her music was AMAZING and her video has been seen and commented on by her mom, aunt, grandma, classroom teacher (me), music teacher, as well as several other teachers from across America. Talk about enthusiastic! I share this with my class as an example of what can happen when you create something "Worthy of the Web".

4) 95% Paperless! Paper is at a premium and I'm proud to say that we have figured out ways to go almost completely paperless in our class. Google Drive, Notability, etc. have allowed my students to take tests, complete daily work, and display their knowledge of content all without using a single sheet of paper. 

5) From Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered! This is a move that I have been hesitant to make for a long time. It always felt to me like a student-centered classroom involved me giving up classroom control. The iPads have allowed my to act as more of a coach, letting the students work on their projects while moving around and guiding them when necessary. It also allows kiddos the ability to work ahead and move beyond grade level - truly differentiating their learning. Giving more Project-Based assignments allows each student the opportunity to work at the level they are at. With the integration of technology into these projects, it allows some students to shine who otherwise may not have had many chances in a traditional classroom.

So - Where do I go from here? There are several Apps I've had for awhile that I've never used with the students. The top of the list? Explain Everything. There is also a fairly new App called Stick Around (#StickAroundApp) created by Tech Guru Tony Vincent @tonyvincent ( that looks very promising to use with my students to assess what they know about certain content. 

I plan to use the same philosophy I had in the first semester: Slow and steady wins the race!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The One Where We Showcase our iPads

Yesterday I invited parents to our class for an overview of the iPads (which includes our district philosophy regarding them) as well as a question and answer session. During this time, the students were out of the room at specials.

When they returned, students shared with parents some of the amazing work they have been creating in class. Their projects, which included a Skitch/Tellegami/iMovie App Smash involving Reading Vocabulary and a "Geometry in the Real World Scavenger Hunt" which involved Skitch, Photo Booth, iMovie and (for some) Garageband, were simply incredible and (as my colleague Brent Catlett noticed) the kids were SO excited to play their creations for them - most of them turned their heads to watch their parent's reactions to what they had made. Very inspirational!

After the sharing, I gave an assignment to each parent/student team. The assignment was given to them much the same way I now communicate many assignments with the class - as a shared doc in Google Drive. Basically - the families were asked to use Tellagami and iMovie to create a child/parent interview. Children used Tellagami to ask their parents a set of 4 questions (for example, "What is a special memory you have of elementary school?"). Children then recorded their parents in iMovie sharing the answers. They then spliced together the Q&A from each source to make one movie. It really gave the parents a nice understanding of what the children are capable of and how they are continuing to become technology leaders in our school.

One of the questions a parent had that we spent some time talking about was "Digital Citizenship". While it is a topic that I have covered off and on throughout this whole experience - it is definitely something that we will delve deeper into as the year progresses. We heard several parents voice their concerns with their kids at home when they play games online (Like Minecraft and Clash of Clans) with people they don't know and accept them as 'friends' in the game. This worries them. As a parent of three boys myself (ages 4, 9, and 11) it concerns me as well. As we enter the 3rd quarter I will be developing more lessons with the students on what it means to be a good Digital Citizen.

All in all it was a great day. The highlight for me was watching the students lead their parents (and grandparents) in the planned activity. Hosting this also gave me a good idea of the concerns and comfort level of parents of child in a 1:1 iPad classroom.