Friday, November 18, 2011

Students using Showme to show the world.

My friend Kip introduced me to the Showme App this summer and right away I feel in love with the ability to capture screen annotations and voice narrations as the user is demonstrating something on their iPad.
Now in class I can demonstrate solving and graphing an inequality using Showme, and instead of not being able to hear or see that explanation again, the captured vodcast can easily be linked or embedded in a classroom website for later viewing and reviewing.
As my familiarity with the app grew I thought "wouldn't it be great for students to use this to help their classmates with difficult problems and demonstrate to me what they truly know." We distributed the free app to students and literally watched and listened as they showed me and their classmates what they knew.
However, an interesting thing happened the other day. Being curious about how I could use the showme website to support student learning I started clicking through some topics. After selecting Learn by Topic > Geometry I was blown away by what I saw. Here it is:

You see up until now students have solved problems for basically two people: themselves and their teacher. But now students are solving problems for an audience of millions. When I projected the website for them the other day and showed them how their works was showing up in just two clicks of the mouse their mouths dropped. They were blown away by the fact that their work was published and freely available for anyone to view and use. I wish I could have take a picture of their faces you could see the sense of ownership and pride in their work take on new meaning.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feedback from Parent-Teacher Conferences

Recently parents and teachers congregated in the Zeeland East gymnasium and cafeteria for the time honored tradition of conferences.  Like most teachers, it is a time great excitement and a little bit of apprehension.  The vast majority of conferences go very well and are positive and productive exchanges about the learning that is taking place under the teacher's direction. 

Why would should this year be any different?  At the high school level, each student has used the Ipad as a new tool for learning.  In some classes, this has greatly transformed the way information is delivered and how learning is assessed.  But a time honored question was certain to be raised by some parents in conference with teachers; is new necessarily better for learning?

I had several parents ask questions about the Ipad and how it has been used in class.  This is a question that is fair to ask and one that I was prepared to answer.  Parents were directed to class web pages that I have set up for students to access materials that we use in class on a daily basis.  While I have been doing this for several years, parents now took a more keen interest in seeing how materials could be accessed and then manipulated by their student on the Ipad.  Many parents were amazed at how easily students could download files, open them in different applications, and produce work that could be submitted electronically. 

Beyond this use of the Ipad in my class, each Civics students in my class has created a blog using Blogger or Wordpress.  Student Blogs are being utilized for students to share opinions on a variety of topics ranging from the death of Mommar Qaddafi to their stance on gun laws.  Both parents and students welled up with pride when I pulled these up in conferences.  A lasting comment from conferences that stuck with me was when a parent turned to their child after reading their blog and said: "I didn't know you thought about these types of things.  That is so cool."  The parent then proceeded to write down the blog URL so that they could read it regularly.  What a neat way for parents, students, and teachers to connect with the Ipad and share thoughts on topics that may not have come out in a traditional class discussion.

On a side note: this practice has been a wonderful time and money saver for me personally.  I have saved countless hours not running off as many papers for students.

Real Reflections from the Principal turned Teacher

Principal of Zeeland East H.S., Marc VanSoest, traded in his principal hat for one hour a day to get a taste of teaching in a 1:1 iPad U.S. History class. Here are his words to his staff following the experience:

"Last week, I had the opportunity to get back into the classroom in Matt's 3rd Hour US History class. Going into it, I figured I knew what I was doing....I had taught US History for the better part of 8 years previously...and it's not like anything really changes in history. I was dead wrong. I cannot get over the way that little glass and metal device (iPad) changed almost all of my thinking. As I sat to plan the week, I figured I could do a Keynote, watch a movie clip or two on YouTube (it's Social Studies...I had to show a few movie clips...), maybe we'd do a little survey using eClicker, and I'd have them do some .pdf note taking stuff as we went along.

That was all well and good in theory. Then my old Powerpoints didn't translate into Keynote, YouTube blocked a clip, and eClicker didn't work cause the kids and I were on different networks. I even found an app I wanted the 30 students to download. I'm sure that was useful for the 26 of them that were actually able to download it. Frustrating....

Then I remembered something. I was only doing this for one hour, for one week. 5 hours of my life. In other words, one of your teaching days. I wasn't even toiling with this...this thing...for the 25 hours a week you all are doing it.

It's not that I didn't understand that the iPad was changing us. I knew that. What I didn't understand was the profound level of frustration that accompanies its use in the classroom. But having said that...when things work, it's an amazing thing to watch students create, explore, and drive the learning process in new ways."