Katie Specht, a fellow teacher, and I are preparing to lead a workshop at the TCEA 2016 Conference in Austin, Texas. We have both been trained by the people at the Buck Institute (the gurus of project based learning) and have led many sessions on the topic, “PBLs +iPads.” For this conference, we’re trying something new. Our goal is to take over 50 teachers through the basics of planning their own PBL, using the BIE Planning Form, while showing the correlation between the planning form and the new Gold Standards of PBL. Quite honestly, we thought we’d be doing this workshop with about a dozen teachers – not 57!
Katie and I like to give the teachers information to take home. There’s just no way to share everything that you’d like to in 90 minutes. Since TCEA is a technology convention, we’ve put together an infograph on some of the apps our school uses for technology integration. The first set of apps/websites have to do with ways to find information or “research engines.” We’ve found that Kid Rex, a safe kid friendly search engine, is a great place for student research to begin. Photos for Class is my favorite website to search for images. In fact, at the beginning of the school year, we have the kids add this website to their iPad home screen. The best feature of this site is that when a picture is saved to the camera roll, the citation is automatically placed across the bottom of the image. What an easy way to reinforce the ideals of digital citizenship. Our history teachers love DocsTeach. This site has thousands of primary source documents that help bring the past alive. Newsela is a way to find current events on different reading levels. This is perfect for student differentiation.
In this inforgraph, “research tools” means ways to take notes or methods of showing sustained inquiry. Inspiration and Popplet are excellent mind mapping tools. Both can be used for Need to Know lists, note taking, and outlining. Notability is one of our premier evergreen apps. It enables you to type or hand write your notes while also adding photos. Beginning in 3rd grade, we help our students set up notebooks for each subject area. We also require that they have a notebook for passwords. As you can image, this saves us a lot of time and tears! A favorite of our 7th grade History teachers is Noodle Tools. It provides “Integrated tools for note-taking, outlining, citation, document archiving/annotation, and collaborative research and writing.” Several of our teachers use Live Binders as a place to save and organize research sites.
“Product Technology” is list of tools that can be used to create final products. In the “video” category, we’ve listed iMovie as one of the most used movie producing apps. It’s a very simple tool that can help you create videos and tell stories. If you have access to a green screen, Doink is a tool that the kids love to use. They place a picture into the app, stand in front of the green screen, and hit record. This enables them to create a video or image that places them anywhere in the world or even in a galaxy far far away. Shadow Puppet Edu is my favorite movie making app for the younger kids. Even our first graders are able to create short movies using this app. This app also creates a URL for the video which can easily be turned into a QR code and shared with families. We have found that we must first look at how an app’s product can be shared before we ever decide to use that app.
Located within the “Story Creator” section is my favorite all time app – Book Creator. Our students, from Pre k through 8th grade have all used this app at some time or another. Our 4th graders actually wrote a non-fiction book on salt water aquariums and published it to iTunes using Book Creator. This allowed our authentic audience to become global. You can drop pictures and videos into Book Creator. You can also record your voice on individual pages, create comic strips, draw, and add text to each page. Comic Book and Strip Designer are both apps that allow students to create multi-framed comics. This is great for teaching dialogue and sequencing. Puppet Pals is a free app that allows you to make puppet style videos. The free version gives you a minimal number of characters to work with. In app purchases grant you access to a great many characters from different eras plus you can trim your own photos to create characters. Our students enjoy using this medium to tell a story.
While many of the above mentioned apps can be used during a presentation, the apps listed under the “Audio/Visual” heading are often used for group presentations. Keynote can be a simple slide show or it can incorporate videos, animation, and transitions. Our goal is to apply the rules of design to each slide. The same rules apply to Prezi. According to the Prezi website, “Unlike static slides, Prezi combines motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to engage your audience and help them remember your message.” When given a choice, many of our older students will choose Prezi for their presentations. Thinglink is a great tool for teachers as well as a method for presenting material. I’ve seen teachers use an image with links embedded within it that take students to videos, websites, instructions, and assignments. On the other hand, students take an image and embed content to meet the project’s goal. A simple way to take your images and turn them into a slide show is to use the SonicPics app. You can record your voice over the slides. This is an old favorite of mine that has been replace by Shadow Puppet Edu because the finished product is easier to share with parents.
Katie and I have listed two apps that allow you create an actual publication, such as postcards, newspapers, travel brochures, and infographs. Lifecards has a price of $1.99, before an educational bulk purchase discount. This is a small price to pay for such a multipurpose app. Katie uses this app with her first graders and I know several of our middle school teachers who use this app to create a variety of publications. In one of our third grade classrooms, the students used one of Lifecard’s templates to publish individual newspapers on natural disasters. As I’ve stated in other blog posts, Canva is the app/website I use to create blog posters, headers, and infographic designs (like the one above). I have yet to use Canva with students but I do have plans to do so in the near future.
I know that there are bigger lists of apps/websites that allow for technology integration but I think our list shows our commitment to using our devices simply as a tool. We’ve learned to search for evergreen apps, the ones that can be used across the curriculum with varying age groups. After being a 1:1 school for several years, we’re now able to give our kids a choice as to the apps they use. Many of our teachers can give the kids a rubric, a set of goals, or standards for a project and then allow them the option of using any tools necessary to successfully complete their project. After all, this is why we teach – to enable the kids to learn and to showcase their knowledge in the manner that best fits their needs.