Here’s what we’ve been up to!

  • Google Earth: Google Earth has some really neat features. Students can check out images and videos taken at the location they are viewing. Virtual field trip! It really helps to get a feel for the daily life of people in the area.
  • Edmodo: Edmodo is awesome! We recently started using it in our class, and the kids love it. I add polls, quizzes, and homework on Edmodo, we are becoming paperless! The kids love the “playground” group, where they can chat with each other and just be social. The “Homework Help” group is great because students can post their questions *and* answer their peers’ questions. We just started our next round of Literature Circles, and each group has their own Edmodo group where they can chat about their book and ask each other questions.
  • Kindle: The kids love it when I show our read aloud book under the document camera. When there is a word they don’t know, they ask me to click on it to learn the definition or see a picture. About half the kids are reading books on their tablets with Kindle. The only tricky thing is the page numbering … wish they’d fix that. :)
  • Astrid Tasks: To-do lists which allow you to set multiple alarms. No more late work!
  • IXL: Woo hoo! We love this site! Students are practicing math more than they ever have before! Students are practicing their math facts, current and past math topics, and they are even extending their math learning by clicking on topics that they are interested in learning about. Talk about individualized learning!
  • WordWithFriends: The whole class plays WWF! I currently have 23 games going … exhausting! Perfect to play anytime there’s a down moment, on the bus ride home, or from … anywhere!
  • Evernote: Note-taking, password storage, voice recording!
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Your Tablet is Only as Good as the Network Its Connected to …

Many kids were complaining of frozen screens, apps suddenly quitting, and a painful slowness when using their tablets. The love of the tablet was quickly disappearing, kids weren’t bringing their tablets to school and if they were … they weren’t charged. Frustration levels were at an all time high. It was sad.

Super Marie, as my class likes to call her, suggested that we do a complete wipe of the tablets, and that we ask permission from our district tech guy to use the password-protected network.

Now, if this were a movie, I would enable slow motion and some seriously intense music:

Tech Guru: Affirmative. Bondi class, you’ve got the go ahead.  Now fall in line, and I will plug in the 64-number code, one at a time, to each of your tablets! Soon, my budding techies, your problems will be a thing of the past.

A line of students quickly form a line behind Tech Guru. Panic and excitement are palpable.

Students: “What if Tech Guru’s fingers get tired and he stops the job right before he gets to mine?” “Will my tablet work again?”

Tech Guru: Hush! I can’t think with all this chatter. I need complete silence.

64 numbers later, Tech Guru finishes one tablet. 

Tech Guru: Okay, let’s test this baby! Let’s connect to the super-secret-super-speedy network.

A student selects the network … it connects … and the students cheer! Tears spring to some of their eyes. Will their tablets work for them again? Yes, they will. Life will be very different now, thanks to the super-network and thanks to Marie’s quick thinking. 

Students: Thank you Tech Guru and Super Marie, thank you!

THE END.

Ha! Okay, so it pretty much did happen that way … with a few lost apps and needing to set up email accounts again. But, a small price to pay for a renewed sense tablet awesomeness.

Now, like in any good Hollywood movie, the kids are bringing their tablets to school and charged! We’re back in business!

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What’s the Buzz, I’ll Tell You What’s Happening

Wow … it’s been awhile since I’ve written. I’m ashamed to admit that keeping up with blogging is not my forte — though you’ve probably guesses that.

What’s been going on with our tablets?

Field trip!

The kids went on a field trip to the zoo to look at animal adaptations, and the tablets tagged along! The students took notes on three different animal species, along with their behavioral and structural adaptations, but the most exciting use for the tablets was to take pictures and video of their animals in their *habitat*.  As the kids say, “The tablets are so carryable!”

Twitter!

The Fantastic 5th has decided to explore the Twitterverse! We are hoping to learn about cool and useful ways of integrating our tablets into our daily learning. Through our daily tweets, we would like to share our experiences in the Fantastic 5th grade, and communicate with other 5th grade classes, and find out what they’re doing in their part of the world! Pretty cool, huh? Every two weeks, a new pair of students take the role of Master Tweeters. Using the tablet and the Twitter app, the two students discuss the events of the day, determine what is “tweet worthy” from the day, and after getting the tweet checked by me, it’s set free in the Twitterverse. Another cool aspect of Tweeting, is the ability to add pictures to the tweet. It’s nice for students to capture, not only in words, but in pictures what *they* find interesting and want to share with others.

Click here to follow the Fantastic 5th on Twitter!

We made maps of the setting of The Cay which takes place in the West Indies. It was super cool! twitpic.com/7tqw3z

Today we had our last Lit Circle meeting for The Cay! It was amazing, we cried, we laughed and everything in between. twitpic.com/7sx15m

Today we had 3 false alarm fire drills. One happened in the middle of Spanish. Ay caramba!!!

Polls!
Today I was a little shocked at some of the responses to my open-ended polls regarding the tablets. I shouldn’t judge the responses … just take them for what they are — an insight into how my students think about the tablets after 3 months of use, but yikes, I actually felt kind of hurt after reading their answers. Let’s just say, the honeymoon is over. While most of the kids still like/love their tablets, many of them are so annoyed with the “freezing” and “glitches” that they seem “over” the tablet technology. How could they?! *shock & awe* A couple of kids made the comment, “It’s only good for telling time.” Ouch! Seriously, that’s all they could come up with? Do they despise their tablets that much … or … *breathe* … are they just venting? They are preteens after all …
Either way, I refuse to believe they would rather go without them altogether. That would just be … crazy!

Check out their poll responses here:

Poll #4: Would you mind giving your tablet to another 5th grade class to use for term 2? <—-  My way of seeing if some of the *annoyed* students were as serious about their dislike of the tablets as they proclaimed. I know … kind of manipulative. Fail. :(
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Growing Pains … Labor of Love

Growing pains? Yea… a few, but it’s part of the process, right? Some issues that we’ve encountered in class this week: virtual note passing (via email) and playing games that aren’t educational, during school. A conversation, a list of acceptable school apps and activities … voila, problem solved!

The first couple weeks were time intensive. Anytime we took out the tablets, there seemed to be a variety of connection and access issues, along with questions like, “How do I turn off the autocapitalization?” or “How do I add our blog to my favorites?” or “My screen is frozen, what do I do?” It reminded me of a DMV line, one person helping a frustrated, impatient mob.

This week, however, the clouds have parted, and a rainbow of tech-savvy students have brought happier and brighter days!  Questions and issues are being quickly taken care of  – students are helping students!  It’s quite remarkable to watch. Not only that, but the students are coming in with user tips and tricks, which helps all of us avoid unnecessary annoyances and time lags.

Cool things this week:

  • Student book talks are being recorded with the tablets and uploaded to our class YouTube account, allowing the whole class to view them, give comments and feedback, and watch them over again if we need a book recommendation.
  • Math discussions are being filmed with our tablets (more students want to talk when they are filmed, believe it or not), and it’s great for parents to be able to learn what we’re doing in class through student discourse.
  • Spelling tests continue to be taken on the tablets (paperless and fun).
  • Google Maps and Google Translate were a hit this week when the Japanese exchange students came in to visit! The students looked up Kitakata, Japan and learned some cool facts about the city. Using Google Translate, the students translated phrases they wanted to say in Japanese and were even able to hear the correct pronounciation! Wow!
  • During free time, many students chose to play Words With Friends (Scrabble) with me or their classmates! What a great way to build vocabulary, think critically, and practice their spelling!
  • Many students are giving Kindle a go! It’s fun to be able to push on a word and have the definition pop up or push on a place and have Google Maps bring you there virtually!
  • Blogging — the kids have been writing quite a bit on our blog. Paperless writing and reflection that is shared with more than just me, but with families and peers feels way more real-world! Parents and peers have begun commenting on the students’ writing.
As I sit here, at the end of the week … I smile and breathe a sigh of relief at how much we’ve grown this month. These kids are turning into savvy problem-solvers and generous, patient teachers.
What have you been seeing or hearing about at home?
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Wednesday, October 19

Today in class, we took another step in our adventures in tablet use and blogging! The students learned how to create a bookmark on their tablets, so they can easily access frequently-visited webpages – a HUGE time-saver. Then, paired with their learning partner, the students took notes on how to access and navigate the admin page of our class blog. Very exciting! Access to the behind-the-scenes part of our blog is a big step for the students, as they are moving closer to being ready to manage and author their very own blog. To practice adding a blog post, student partners worked together on their tablets, reflecting on their reading habits in 5th grade so far, an area of tremendous pride for the students. One partner typed, while the other shared their thoughts, advice, successes, and goals. This allowed some support to the new experience of blogging, and also the chance to brainstorm and peer edit. It’s pretty inspiring to see what came of today’s lesson.  Tomorrow, the students will switch roles and more posts will pop up on our blog. Take a look at some of the student posts, and feel free to make comments!

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