Twitter + Tales = Twales

Ever since I first set up a Twitter account, back in 2009, I’ve thought of ways to incorporate this form of social media in the classroom. Please refer to my earlier post: Twitter.

Over the years, I’ve created a class Twitter account where my students and I have interacted with our approved “followers“, aka other students, teachers, classes and parents. (I’ve always protected our class tweets, for privacy reasons.) My students have also created “protected” accounts, with parental permission, and have tweeted about their learning. This has really supported the home-school relationship as parents have been able to see what their child has been learning at school.

We’ve engaged in question and answer type activities amongst ourselves, as well as with other classes and teachers. We’ve also responded to tweets by those we follow. Like an activity I was involved in during a Professional Learning session, we’ve used Twitter to communicate out in the yard in “An Amazing Race” kind of way, i.e. meet me here at this time, take a photo of where you are now, etc.

I’ve mentioned to other teachers the possibility of writing collaborative stories through Twitter, similar to the activity where you write one sentence, then pass the piece of paper on to the person sitting next to you, but we’ve never really acted upon this. I’d love to trial this with another class or two… or more… Please let me know if you are keen to connect! 🙂

I plan to start “Twales” with my class this week. I’ll write a post about this soon to update how we went 🙂

Feel free to follow us: @6MichelleMegan.

Kids Collaborate

When I first started this blog two and a half years ago, I also set up a wikispace and Facebook page that shared the same name – “Kids Collaborate”. I registered a business with this name as well. For me, at that time, I was very keen to establish a space for educators around the world to “connect, create, collaborate and communicate”. This idea was put on hold back then, as I started a new venture, integrating iPads in a 1:1 setting. Now that I have that under way, I am very keen to pursue my initial plan 🙂

Today, I spent some time updating the Kids Collaborate wikispace. I’ve listed some global projects my students are keen to be part of. If you and your students are also interested in participating, please get in touch with me. More details can be found at the site.

At present, five projects are listed. I call them the “My School” series 🙂 They include sharing images about:

  • your school
  • your classroom
  • a playground in your school
  • the items in a student’s lunch box
  • the view from a window in your classroom

Inspiration for the projects have come from my students, as well as Professional Learning sessions I have attended in the past.

My students are keen to create presentations using the images shared.

This space is available for you to list your own global projects too 🙂

Learning with iPads

Last year, my colleague, Jessica Gallagher, and I were extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to present at ULearn, an international learning and teaching conference held in New Zealand. We presented how we integrate iPads in a 1:1 setting. Our hands-on workshop was booked out. Throughout the conference, attendees thanked Jess and myself for inspiring them and suggesting purposeful ways iPads can be integrated. They loved our list of free apps too.

This year, Jess and I are presenting a similar session at the ICTEV conference. Shortly after our abstract was accepted, we were approached by ICTEV to write an article about our session for a publication about mobile devices. We are flattered that we’ve been recognised as innovative educators who promote student voice and student choice through effective ICT integration.

Please read our article below.

 

Learning with iPads – By Jessica Gallagher and Michelle Meracis

Manor Lakes P-12 College is a government school in Wyndham Vale, a rapidly growing residential area. The school opened in 2009 with 450 students. Today, the school has approximately 1600 P-11 students and 200+ dedicated staff. The College is set amongst large grounds with numerous active and passive play areas.

Manor Lakes P-12 College strives to provide a personalised learning program through a rigorous curriculum that integrates the use of Information and Communication Technology. Currently, students in years Prep, 1, 6, 7 and 8 participate in a 1:1 iPad program and students in years 9-11 participate in a BYOD model. This allows for learning to take place anywhere, anytime. Mobile devices have not simply replaced pen and paper; they have rather enhanced student creativity and collaboration.

iPads were first introduced to grade 5 students in late 2010 when the college was asked to take part in the DEECD iPad trial. In the very beginning, apps were mainly used to support and reinforce concepts covered in classes. They were introduced during warm-ups as a way of tuning students into learning and, in some cases, to front load students. Now, iPads are a tool used to support the learning process when and where students see fit. Teachers set learning tasks and students choose how to complete and present them.

 

Literacy

Staff and students at Manor Lakes P-12 College use a number of apps to support and reinforce literacy skills, particularly in the areas of vocabulary building, note-taking, planning, drafting and publishing. Many of the apps have been suggested by staff, but most have been discovered, tried, tested and shared by the students.

Some of the apps we use during the first 10-15 minutes of literacy lessons, our warm-up/tuning-in time, include Chicktionary Lite, Whirly Word, Story Spine, Mad Libs, Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends. All of these are free. Chicktionary Lite and Whirly Word are both anagram based games. They require students to create a number of words out of the given letters. Story Spine and Mad Libs both focus on the strategies and skills required for creating an interesting narrative. Mad Libs reinforces parts of speech too. Words with Friends is a game similar to Scrabble and Hanging with Friends, as the name suggests, is similar to Hangman. In our classrooms, we alternate between using the Apple TV to explore these literacy apps as a whole class and giving students quiet time to work independently.

Many students prefer to take notes on their iPad using apps such as Popplet Lite, SimpleMind+, Corkulous and Lino. These apps allow students to record notes in a speedy manner, move them around and alter where necessary. They are also popular for planning written texts, as are Bamboo Paper and Idea Sketch. Sound Note is another great note taking and planning app as it allows students to verbally record their ideas, as well as type and draw them. As teachers, we love that our students are planning and organising their ideas using these apps, but we encourage them to write in their books too. There is a time and a place for writing straight on the iPad; it is all about the purpose of the activity.

In terms of publishing, iMovie, Storyrobe and Explain Everything are at the top of our students’ lists. Students find it easy to import text, images and photos into these apps and voice record over them. Toontastic is another app that students enjoy using. Its layout complements the 7 Steps to Writing Success program and reinforces the sequence and strategies necessary for composing a correctly structured narrative. We have heard some students say that they like how Toontastic has clear steps for them to follow, making the process of writing and publishing so much easier.

Another great publishing app is Wattpad. This app allows students to publish their work to a global audience and read the published pieces of those also signed up to it. We have noticed that students who generally refuse to write anything are suddenly motivated to write and publish their work. The published pieces are sorted into genres, making it easy for users to locate something of interest.

During independent reading, students have the option of selecting physical or digital texts to read. In many cases, students read pieces from Wattpad. They also read iBooks, eBooks, online books and material from web sites, such as newspapers and history based texts. As teachers, we roam and engage in conversations with our students to ensure the texts they are reading are appropriate for their reading level and age group.

 

Numeracy

Similar to literacy, we use a number of apps to support and reinforce numeracy skills. Many of these apps are discovered by students and shared on a daily basis. In most cases, these fun and addictive games are played during the warm-up/tuning-in time at the start of each lesson. Currently, the most popular math apps include MathBoard, Mathletics, Math Dragon, Math Ninja, Math vs Zombies, Number Battle, Pick-a-Path, Shuttle Mission Math and Speedo Math.

One particular app we have found to “stand out” from the rest in terms of supporting and reinforcing student learning is Virtual Manipulatives. This app is an interactive fraction wall that can be viewed in fraction, decimal and percentage form. Students can drag tiles out to a main working space for simple comparison and manipulation. Equivalent fractions, decimals and percentages are all in the same colour too, making the connections easier to see and make. Students of all ages and abilities have benefited from this app.

Drawing apps have been useful during small teaching focus groups. Rather than students writing on paper or a small whiteboard, students complete equations on their iPad in a drawing app and save their work directly to their camera roll. This image is then inserted into their digital portfolio or used as the background to a voice recording that outlines the steps undertaken to complete the problem. In the beginning, students used Reel Director, Splice, iMovie and Storyrobe to create their tutorials. Over the past two years they have moved onto screen recording apps like Explain Everything, Educreations and ShowMe Interactive to produce the same result.

In the beginning, students kept their tutorials on their own iPad, sharing their work with their peers and teachers only when prompted. Now, students export their tutorials to their camera roll and either email them to their teachers or upload them to a shared folder in Dropbox. Our students really enjoy watching and listening to the different ways they each learn. We are currently collecting the student made tutorials so we have a bank to select from to support student learning across the college, as well as to front load students in a way similar to a flipped classroom; the main difference being that these tutorials have been created for students, by students, using “kid speak” rather than “teacher talk”.

An idea we have been looking into is having a student video record their teacher on an iPad during the introduction of a lesson to later post to a shared space, i.e. Dropbox, YouTube. At present, students take photos of the examples completed on the board to refer to, but if someone records their teacher, an immediate tutorial can be created for students to watch and listen to again, anywhere, anytime. As an alternative to this idea, because not everyone likes to be videoed, teachers have started to connect their iPads to an Apple TV and then record themselves using a screen recording app introducing the lesson. A tutorial is instantly created and, during the lesson, it is uploaded to Dropbox for students to refer to. Students are encouraged to view the tutorial prior to the following lesson to reinforce the concepts and skills already covered.

 

Inquiry

For inquiry based work, students select the apps they feel best meet their presentation needs. This may include using one or a number of apps. Over the years, we have seen a big shift from a picture and some text in Keynote to top quality graphic designs created in PicCollage. Some students take these designs one step further by importing them into iMovie to produce digital masterpieces including voice recordings and original music composed in GarageBand. Like all lessons in each learning area, as a class, we discuss the apps that can be used to complete certain tasks, to model thinking about our thinking, as well as to assist those who may be a little unsure of where to start. Ultimately, though, the choice is up to the student as to how they present their work.

A very popular app amongst students of all ages and abilities at the moment is Haiku Deck. It is very similar to PowerPoint and Keynote, yet adding images as backgrounds, positioning text and rearranging the order of slides is much easier. Its simple features make it an effective and powerful app to produce impressive presentations.

 

Collaboration

Since the beginning of the 1:1 iPad program, we have been amazed by the natural transition towards collaboration and peer coaching amongst students. It is common for students to sit on the floor in small groups to assist each other and discuss the tasks they are completing. The design of the devices lends themselves quite easily to students passing iPads around to share and showcase what they’ve done and how they’ve accomplished this.

This has been particularly evident in the iBuddies program, where classes in grades prep and 6 pair up and participate in purposeful lessons that provide students with opportunities to work collaboratively on their iPads. Over the past two years, we have observed the preps learning and practising foundation skills and the grade 6s strengthening their peer coaching and leadership capacity. A bonus from last year’s experience has been the way this year’s grade 1 students have supported their current teachers with using the iPads to enhance their learning by selecting appropriate apps to complete class tasks. This has been very helpful in supporting the grade 1 teachers, many who are new to the college, with effectively integrating the technology in their learning and teaching programs.

It is evident that student voice is a strong component of our 1:1 program. A large part of its success stems from students having the freedom to choose the app/s they want to use for a task and then being able to explain why they chose it and deemed it to be appropriate. This emphasis has really strengthened our students’ abilities to articulate and reflect on their learning.

 

Cloud Technology

With a major focus on digital learning environments, we have needed to explore ways for students to share work completed on their iPads with their teachers and peers. In the very beginning, this was through email. Every student at Manor Lakes P-12 College has an email account. Over the past two years, we have moved across to using Dropbox. Within Dropbox, teachers create one shared class folder that all students in that grade are invited to access. Teachers also create individual folders for each student that only them and that student access. This set up is made possible by students having their own Dropbox account. Managing work this way has proved to be less time consuming as teachers don’t need to scroll through and open copious emails to download attachments, they can rather access student folders and view submitted work on any connected device.

A number of classes are also using Edmodo and Google Drive as mediums to share and submit work. Teachers at Manor Lakes P-12 College work with their students to select the preferred space to use and work within, again demonstrating the college’s focus on student voice.

 

The use of iPads in classrooms at Manor Lakes P-12 College has certainly opened up new and exciting ways for students to create, collaborate, connect, share and reflect. They have allowed students of all abilities to feel immediate success and produce work of an outstanding quality.

Welcome to 2013!

It is hard to believe this term is almost over… I just don’t know where the time has gone!?

I must admit, my students and I have had an amazing start to the year. Being part of a BYO iPad program, I was a little worried during the first week of school when only half of my students had their own device. My nerves soon settled over the following week when all but three students had access to one… Phew!

This is my third year now in a 1:1 iPad program. Each year I am blown away at how easily the students adapt to the technology. My class this year has taken to app selection to complete tasks like fish to water. They have been able to articulate their choices and learning to class visitors clearly, something I truly didn’t expect so soon. They are able to navigate our class site (https://sites.google.com/site/6michelle2013/) and Edmodo group with ease, as well as email me work or upload work to their shared Dropbox folder. All of this in five weeks!!! It is outstanding!!! I am so proud 🙂

We’ve set up a class Twitter account, but it is going to remain protected. We’ve been tweeting over the past few weeks and next week, we’re going to set up individual accounts. Each student will only be allowed to follow the main class account, no one else. I’m purposely putting this restriction in place to allow parents the opportunity to see how we use Twitter as an educational tool to post responses and reflections to lessons to demonstrate our learning.

 

Skype

This morning, my students connected with two classes from Elm Park School in Pakuranga Heights, New Zealand. I met the two teachers of these classes, Sara Melville and Anna Graham, last month at ULearn. We instantly hit it off 🙂

Through our tweets and emails since the conference, we thought it would be great for our students to connect to discuss the similarities and differences between students and schools in Australia and New Zealand. We decided on a time that suited all of us, due timetable commitments and the “minor” time difference, and spoke to our classes about preparing for the Skype session.

My students were so excited. They formed small groups and developed the following list of questions to ask their peers from “over the ditch”.

  • How long does your school day go for?
  • What time do you start school and finish school?
  • How long does your recess and lunch go for?
  • What lessons do you do?
  • What is your favourite thing about your school?
  • How many students are in your class?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your learning tool?
  • Do you all have iPads?
  • As a class have you used Skype before?
  • Do you have a canteen?
  • What colour is your uniform?
  • Do you have to wear hats?
  • Do you have a class mascot?
  • Do you have a class pet?
  • Does your school have any events?
  • How big is your school?
  • Do you have separate classrooms?
  • Do you have portables?
  • Do you go on excursions?
  • Do you go on camps?
  • Have any of you been to Australia?
  • What’s the weather like in New Zealand?
  • What do you do at home for fun?
  • What games do you play?
  • Do you play Minecraft?

In the beginning, we experienced some technical difficulties. I tried to connect through my laptop, but couldn’t log on. I tried through the Skype app on my iPad. Again, no success. Obviously I was having problems connecting through my school’s network. So, my class ended up chatting via the Skype app on my iPhone. Third time lucky, I guess 🙂

Our chat session lasted 45 minutes. Students on both sides of the screen were quite shy to speak at first, but after a while, they became more comfortable. Having questions as prompts really did help to keep the conversation flowing. My students were very keen to explain how they use Minecraft for learning and creativity. Sara and Anna have asked my students to provide them with more information about this so they can share the educational gains for using Minecraft, through the eyes (and mouths) of students, with their Principal 🙂 How exciting!

Overall, the Skype session today was a huge success! The students loved the experience and are keen to connect with their new friends again towards the end of the year 🙂

 

Flickr

This week, the grade 6 classes went on an excursion to Serendip Sanctuary, Lara. It was truly one of the most enjoyable excursions I’ve been on in all of my 14 years of teaching. My students loved the excursion too, especially the ponding experience where they investigated and classified pond life.

IMG_0247

During the day, I took over 100 photos on my iPhone. I wanted to share the photos with my students and thought long and hard of ways to do this. Seeing my students have iPads, it wasn’t possible for me to upload the photos to the school server for them to access. Emailing all of the photos to them wasn’t an option either. I tried uploading the photos to Dropbox, but only 10 to 15 of them loaded. Then I thought about Flickr. I set up an account, looked at the settings and pondered possible privacy issues. I wanted the students to access the photos of themselves, but I didn’t want the photos to be visible to the public. At this point, I hadn’t uploaded any photos yet.

images-3At school the next day, I spoke to my team teaching colleague, James, about my dilemma – our classes went on the excursion together and there were photos of his students too. Together we decided it would be best to create a private Flickr account both of our classes could access, to upload the photos, then email out all of the log-in details to the students. In the email, I reassured the students that nobody, other than us, could see the images. I also shared that the photos would be on the site until the end of school on Friday, so if they wanted any particular photos, they needed to save them to their iPads prior to then.

This idea seemed to work well. The students were able to log in to the account, view all of the photos and save the ones they wanted. At no point were the photos visible or searchable outside of the log-in.

As part of sorting out the excursion experience, James and my classes came together to talk about what we saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted. James and I also shared that now they were to represent their time at Serendip Sanctuary in any way they’d like. We brainstormed ways of doing this, i.e. drawing, writing, performing, creating a presentation on their iPads, etc… It was wonderful to see so many students select different ways to complete this task. Some students drew pictures; others made collages of animals. Many students opted to use their iPads, but in saying this, they chose to present their experience using different apps, i.e. drawing apps, Strip Design, Popplet, Corkulous, Flip It, ReelDirector, Keynote, etc…

I love learning experiences like these, where you set the task and students select how they want to process and complete it. I’m a big fan of student voice and student choice… as are my students!

**Update: All photos including students have now been deleted from the Flickr account.

Twitter

Screen shot 2011-09-02 at 10.38.46 PMIn 2009, I remember attending a training day where the presenter shared how he was using Twitter with his class. Many of the teachers at the training day with me had no idea what Twitter was, nor how to use it. I recall helping many teachers set up their accounts, then encouraging them to follow me… and each other… as a way of forming a Professional Learning Network (PLN). @MichelleMeracis is my personal Twitter account. I follow many people who inspire me and share my interests in the effective integration of ICT, flexible learning spaces, 21st Century learning, etc…

Screen shot 2011-09-02 at 10.39.29 PMAt this training day, I remember sharing with teachers on my table some ideas I had regarding the use of Twitter with my class, i.e. posting a request for my followers to respond to. This thought stemmed from a Marco Torres session I had attended earlier that year, where during our session, he communicated with colleagues from around the world (his PLN) and demonstrated the powerful nature of real time interaction.

images-1Marco also shared a project he completed with his class with the help of his PLN. His class was looking at the environment, so within a 24 hour time frame, he asked his PLN to go outside and take a photo of a leaf, then email it to him. He compiled the images, created a movie and shared this with his students the next day. Marco shared that the conversation he had with his young students was incredible because they noticed the leaves were different, so it opened up the opportunity for them to explore their curiosities, i.e. seasons, northern and southern hemispheres, night and day, etc… Inquiry learning at its best!

This year I discovered a number of classes at my school had set up class Twitter accounts. I thought this was a fantastic way of reinforcing the home-school communication channel. Students could tweet comments during the day to keep their parents and other classes up-to-date with their learning experiences. Within a few weeks of setting up my class Twitter account, @MLC_6Michelle, a number of my own students joined Twitter. I was a little concerned at first, but used this as an opportunity to talk about Cyber Safety and Cyber Bullying. A lot of my students have parent-approved Facebook accounts, so talking about social media and the dramas that can arise, should it be abused, proved to be beneficial. One thing I did stress to my students was to protect their tweets and not follow or allow themselves to be followed by someone they did not know. I also encouraged them not to use their full (real) name.

At present, there are quite a few classes at my school using Twitter. It is wonderful, during the day, to read tweets mentioning the learning experiences and discoveries of prep through to year 8 students. It is also flattering to see positive tweets regarding the day’s lessons by my students.

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