Promethean + iPads = ???

Today my Promethean Board was installed! I spent long hours after work trying to figure out how to operate this newest addition to my digi-classroom. Thanks to the aid of my good friend (and co-worker) Autumn Laidler and my other good friend, Google, I began to learn the basics. As we explored the different features of the board, we wondered aloud about what effects it could have - positive and negative - on our students' learning.

My Worries...
As a math teacher, I love to have miles of whiteboard space so as to allow students to work out problems without erasing... this way they (and their peers) can see the journey of their thinking, find mistakes and amazing pathways to solutions. I worry that this board will cause us to lose out on this facet of my math classroom.

Also, will I be "stuck" in the front of the room?

Will the technology become my focus instead of the math?


My Hopes & Ideas...
In response to my worry regarding the room becoming too teacher-centric, I turn - once again - to our iPads. I plan on using the Splashtop app (currently on sale for $4.99 for a limited time) to not only untether myself from the front of the room, but also allow to students to interact with the Promethean Board from their seats. Imagine we're investigating a math problem as a room, and a student wants to share his/her work. In a few moments, they can take control of my computer and show their work on the board. Moreover, they can then screenshot that work and email it to me so I can have a visual record of their participation.

As Autumn and I talked, we discussed the great opportunity in capturing lessons that occur on this board. I am hoping to experiment with Quicktime Screencasts to achieve this goal. When the lesson begins I'll start the screencast so that as I teach the lesson, I'll capture the student interaction, teacher/student modeling, discussion, work, etc. on the board... then upload this video to Dropbox for students to view. Absent students can see what they missed and present students who need a second look could also access this resource. Moreover, teachers from other grades (or in schools with more than one math teacher per grade) could see this lesson to consider vertical alignment and strengthen our PLC.

Finally, there is the simple plus of having a projector and board in my room at all times now. Now I can easily display student Keynotes, share annotated PDF files, Toontastic projects and ShowMe videos for our class to view and discuss!

All in all, I feel a bit like I did when I started the iPad grant: excited and terrified... though perhaps on a smaller scale. I have lots of ideas but also lots of worries. Of course, I'll continue to post as I try things out, inevitably make mistakes... then try something new.

Teachers who are already doing amazing things with interactive whiteboards... I beg you to share your ideas and expertise below!

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Students "ShowMe" Their Math Work!

Examples of Student Math Work on the ShowMe app!











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Accessible Combination Locks


Many combination locks are hard to use for people who are blind or have cognitive challenges. Master Lock has a few locks that are more accessible then conventional combination locks.

The first is the 1500iD lock which can be opened without looking at the lock. Conventional combination locks use a number dial that makes it impossible for blind users to open the lock. The 1500iD also only requires one hand to open so people with physical disabilities can more easily open the lock.

The 1525EZRC lock is designed for people with cognitive disabilities. The 1525EZRC lock features easy to remember combinations. The 1525EZRC lock looks identical to other locks so your valuables will be kept safe.
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Student Reviews of Annotation Apps

Today I had several students try out Explain Everything, Noterize and one continue with neu.Annotate PDF. They used these apps to complete their unit review practice at their seats. Below are examples of their work and reactions (as well as my final determination on which app to use).




Using Noterize





Unfortunately there are no screenshots of this app in use because if the app window closes accidentally (which happened to BOTH students using it), you LOSE ALL OF YOUR WORK! They were so upset about this, but being resilient scholars, they were both happy to start over with a new app.

*****
Student Reviews of Apps
(From above)
Reviews on Noterize:
"I like that you can change the pages and you can do what you want to do on that page."
"I don't like the size because when you are in the middle it is humongous and I don't like the marker and pencil because I don't know which one is which." -5th Grader

Reviews on Explain Everything:
"I like the colors and the questions."
"I dislike the eraser, the movement, the buttons on the side, another things I don't know the name of. When you zoom in, it messes up your whole thing because all the pieces of my writing move around for no reason. It is really hard to erase because sometimes you don't get to erase things after awhile. I hate it and I never want to use it again. I like noterize or newannotate better." - 5th Grader

"[I like] That you get to do all of your problems just like noterize and i think it's cool."
"[I dislike] how you erase. It it's very irritating to me about that app. also like when you try to answer a question all the stuff moves and it's so annoying and irritating to me." - 4th Grader

Reviews on neu.Annotate:
"I like this app because you can do math boxes on the iPads and you can learn in a different way."
"The thing i dislike about is how the way you have to write and it's really hard and the eraser doesn't work sometime when you try to erase things." - 4th Grader

*****

Based on the students reactions and performance on the apps, I think I will use Noterize for the foreseeable future. While the screencasting function in Explain Everything is very cool, the lack of functionality for my students makes it impractical to use. I also tried PDF-notes 2.0.0, but again - the functionality (and ads) once again leave neu.Annotate in 2nd place and Noterize in 1st. Thanks again to Steph Meewes for showing me that Noterize is free!


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Whetting your APPetite Vol. 9: Update on Screencasting & Digital Math Workbooks

Two new screencasting / annotation apps have caught my eye, one free and one paid. Both offer solutions for some of the problems I addressed in the cons section of the post "Pros and Cons of Digital Workbooks." Many thanks to Stephanie Meewes in Chicago for pointing out that Noterize is free. I was under the silly impression that it was $3.99. What a happy surprise!

Below is an overview of each app so you can decide if the free version will work for you. (Sadly, I think I'll have to cough up the cash for the paid version... but am not too sad because it offers some amazing opportunities for my students!)


Noterize, FREE
Noterize shares many of the same features as neu.Annotate PDF, and many more! This handy little app - which costs the same $0.00 as neu.Annotate - but also has palm protection and the ability to include voice recordings to your slides. Furthermore, it allows users to upload their annotated pages through email, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Box.net and Dropbox (neu.Annotate only allows for email). When saving the document, you can also annotate the file name, which is great when you have many students turning in the same file.

Downsides: You can't do a full screen recording with video on Noterize. You can only do audio - which isn't half bad, but the visual annotation capture can be incredibly powerful when students are working through math problems (see below, in review of Explain Everything). Also, the audio can only be shared through Docs Folder (which you access through iTunes) and cannot be uploaded to Dropbox. This makes it difficult to access these recordings from a class set of iPads. After this reflection, it seems that Noterize is parallel to to neu.Annotate in all aspects except the fact that the upload function is much better. If choosing between Noterize and neu.Annotate, I would definitely choose the former.




Explain Everything, $2.99
($1.49 through volume purchase if you buy 20+ units)

Explain Everything has, well, everything. It has all the features of Noterize and neu.Annotate PLUS all the features of apps like ShowMe and ScreenChomp. Yes, that's right: Students can screencast their work as they write! As they solve mathematical problems, work through misunderstandings, and persevere towards a solution, they can now capture their thinking both through live recording of their writing but also as they think aloud!

In the previous post about digital math journals, I mentioned that I don't want to watch 93 videos of my students' work daily. Well, that is still true - however now they are available in case I want to. Students can record their work as they work, but simply send me the image. If, while grading, I decide I want more information about how the student came to this answer, I can go to that child's iPad and watch the screenrecording, or request that they send it to DropBox. Explain Everything doesn't require a document to begin writing, so I can also use this app to replace ShowMe. One app, two applications! Love it! As with Noterize, this app allows a myriad of upload options: Photo Roll, Email, DropBox, Evernote. As mentioned above, the user has the option to upload only the image, only the movie or the entire project.

Downside: This app costs money :(. Also, there may be too many features. I like how simple ShowMe and neu.Annotate are - they allow kids to get in, do what they need to do, and get out. Explain Everything allows students to very easily delete the actual PDF image, rotate it, shrink it, etc. This may cause issues for those with some motor disabilities. However, I think I can overcome this latter downside through careful modeling and practice with my students. I can overcome the first mentioned downside through careful begging.

Downsides, continued: After working with app some more, I have found two more issues: You cannot change the file name as you upload to DropBox. Not terrible, since I can have kids write their names directly on their work, but it would be helpful if you could change it. Also, when uploading the image, it only uploads the image you can see on the screen. So if the kids are zoomed in, that's all it will upload. I will have to train my students to zoom out. 



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What does iPhone 5 and iOS 5 Mean for Assistive Technology?

Mock up of possible iPhone 5 design


Apple's next iPhone is rumored to be announced in a couple of weeks. What will the new iPhone mean for assistive technology? The iPhone is a powerful tool for people with a variety of disabilities. It has built in text-to-speech, support for braille displays and much more. How will Apple's announcement effect you? Read on to find out.

At the event Apple will most likely unveil at least one iPhone with a faster processor, more RAM and a better camera. Apple may surprise us with more features as well, but we'll focus on those three. A faster processor means that apps will run faster enabling apps such as Read2Go and ZoomReader to work better and faster. The faster processor will also open the door to exiciting new assistive technology apps. A better camera will benefit people using OCR apps, magnification apps, money reader apps and much more. The new camera will be able to recognize text more accurately and magnify printed text with higher resolution. The new iPhone will run iOS 5 which includes many new accessibility features.

iOS is the most accessible mobile operating system to date and with iOS 5 it will get even better. iOS 5 will run on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Apple has said that iOS 5 will available in the fall. iOS 5 will include many new accessibility features to help make the device easier to use. Hearing aid compatibility will be built into the iPhone allowing people to hear the iPhone better. Another new feature allows users to select text and then have it read back to you using a built in text-to-speech voice. Another rumored feature will convert a users voice into text for easier text input. iOS 5 will also be able to use the iPhone flash as an indicator light which will be helpful to deaf users. Custom vibrations will allow users to set their own vibration patterns to quick identify who is calling. Yet another cool feature called assistive touch will help users with low motor still access their iOS device. To learn more about assistive touch click here. There are even more accessibility features coming in iOS 5. iOS 5 will include a feature for every type of user and will be a free upgrade. To learn more about iOS click here, here and here.

Apple's announcement will be many new exciting bring new assitive technology features to users. Click read more below to see a video about iOS 5. Stay tuned for more information about iOS 5 and the new iPhone.


For a captioned version of this video click here.

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More Support for Bretford PowerSync Cart

Earlier this year I wrote about my struggle with the Bretford PowerSync Cart. Well, my friend Bruce Ahlborn shared this incredibly helpful resource for those who are trying to wrangle a cart of their own (from Julene Reed, Director of Academic Technology at St. George’s Independent School). Many of her syncing suggestions are the same as those shared in my previous post, however she offers a plethora of other helpful tips -- such as disabling automatic updates (and thereby halting 30 annoying popup windows when you connect your cart). That tip alone made my day - and this document is overflowing with other amazing tips! Thanks to Julene for creating this awesome document and Bruce for sharing it with me!

One tip I would add: If you don't need the iPads to be individualized (i.e., they can have identical images and identical content), then don't rename them after the backup (as the document linked above suggests). I left all of mine named "NTA313"; now when I buy a new set of apps through VPP or want to upload a video to all, I just plug them in and they all sync simultaneously without me having to do anything. Just be sure to select "sync new apps automatically" on the apps window and "sync 5 newest movies" on the movies window. 
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Pros and Cons of Digital Workbooks

For the past few weeks, our class has been experimenting with digitized versions of our math program's workbooks. After gaining permission from the authors, and having already purchased print materials for each child, we began to create PDF versions of the student lesson pages. Utilizing the free app neu.annotate PDF, kids scribed answers directly onto the page and were able to zoom in to gain extra workspace. Then they emailed the files to me using a generic email address programmed into the iPad. (This way kids do not ever have access to this account aside from within the app; they cannot send other messages or check email from this account.)

After two weeks of experimentation, here are the pros and cons we've experienced:


*******

PROS
- More workspace on the page - since students can zoom in, they can complete a lot more calculations in a lot less space.

- Students are able to change colors as they work. This way they can denote fractions more clearly, change colors to represent place value or operation, and are being more cognizant of how color can have a symbolic role in their math communication.

-  I am able to get all of their work via email, give feedback on the same page using neu.annotate PDF and return the work to them via iDisk or Edmodo. This way I don't have to take home STACKS of workbooks / journals to grade at home -- or collect the journals from student bins to stay late and grade at school.

- Students LOVE it.

- Since neu.annotate allows you to add pictures, students can add photos from the web to illustrate real-world mathematics. i.e., In a geometry lesson, students could find examples of concentric circles, etc.

- I can add my own PDF activities to the iPad for students to complete without having to make photocopies! Saving paper!


CONS

- As a math teacher, I LOVE to see erasure marks. They tell me a kid is being thoughtful about their math process, checking their work, finding mistakes and fixing them. If I look carefully, I can also see what original mistake they made and how they fixed it. (Or sometimes, they started with the right answer but changed it.) When students use digital tools to write, I lose this step. :( Screencasting on apps like ShowMe can help me see students' thinking, but I won't want to watch each child's entire process of completing a workbook page or activity on a daily basis.

- The turn in system isn't perfect. I have to open 92 emails to see all of their pages. This is A LOT easier than going through 92 100-page workbooks, but it is still cumbersome. I am hoping that I can find a work-around for this (or that publishers just create a digital platform for their curriculum that embeds a sleeker teacher-student interface).

- One can't guarantee that everyone will get permission to do this with their curriculum (due to copyright laws, etc.). However, if that is the case, supplementary materials - especially those teacher-created - are ripe for the iPad and this app!

*******

As we continue to explore, we will share more pros and cons. Until then, please add your comments if you've tried this. How has it worked for you?
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Signed Stories Helps Deaf Children


Signed Stories is free service that provides sign and read aloud books. The books are signed for the deaf child and read aloud simultaneously for the non deaf parent or vice verse. There are many stories available for young kids. The stories can help parents who do not know sign language to read with their child who is deaf, or for deaf parents to have a book read aloud to their hearing child. Signed Stories are also helpful for kids learning sign language.
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WikiSummarizer Gets New Features


WikiSummarizer is a free website that summarizes Wikipeadia articles. WikiSummarizer can summarize any Wikipeadia article in seconds. Recently WikiSummarizer was updated to allow users to view the summarized article in a visual tree view in addition to the old bulleted list visit. The new view makes it easier to gather key information from the summarized articles. To try WikiSumarizer click here. To learn about summarizing  iOS apps click here. To learn about Microsoft Word Summarizer click here. To watch a video of WikiSummarizer in action click read more below.

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Many Google Services Become More Accessible


This week Google announced a number of accessibility upgrades for various services. Among the services that were upgraded were Google+, Google Docs and Google Calendar. 

The Google Docs and Google Calendar update improves their compatibility with screen readers. Now it is easier to use these services with VocieOver, Jaws and ChromeVox. Google Docs and Google Calender now have more keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation. To learn more about the upgrades click here and here. Google Docs and Google Calendar are free for anyone with a Google account.

Another Google service that received accessibly upgrades is Google+. Google+ is an invitation only social network. One of Google+'s standout features is hangouts. Hangouts is a group video chat feature that supports multiple friends. When chatting, Google+ recognizes who is talking and brings their video to the front of everyone else's screen. People that use sign language were previously unable to get the floor of a group chat. Because people who sign language do not make noise Google+ was unable to recognize that they were talking. The update in Google+ gives deaf users the option to press shift+s during a chat to get them self recognized.

To watch a video about Google+'s hangout feature click read more below.




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Quick iPad Management Tips!

Here are some helpful hints for your classroom iPad device management:

- If you want to see what recent apps your students were using (to make sure they were on task, etc.) - simply double click on the home button (the only button on the face of the iPad) and a dock will appear. This dock lists the apps that were opened in chronological order (with the most recent being the one farthest to the left).

- If you want to multi-task between several apps, you can double click the home button from within an app and tap an app from the bar below. This app is still "running" and therefore none of your progress will be lost. (This is helpful if students are filling out an exit ticket and want to switch screens to look up a word, or use a calculator -- when they switch back to Safari, their form will not have reloaded and they can continue from where they left off.)

- If your student is trying to type in a Google form and the keyboard keeps disappearing this means that there are too many windows open. Tap on the icon on the top left of the screen that looks like a box with a number inside of it. This will show you all running Safari windows. Close all of the unneeded windows and you'll be able to type again.

- If your students are accidentally deleting apps: Go to the settings, tap "General", then tap "Restrictions". Enable Restrictions and toggle "Deleting Apps" to the off position.

- If you want to disable built-in iPad apps (i.e., Safari, YouTube, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes) that can't be deleted from the normal home screen: Go to the settings, tap "General", then tap "Restrictions". Enable Restrictions and toggle the unwanted apps to the off position.
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ShowMe More Math Metacognition!

As we continue to explore how to increase students' math metacognition (see previous post on this topic), I am finding my iPads more and more invaluable. I've been working with two similar apps shared with me by the great folks at the ADE Institute: ScreenChomp and ShowMe. I started with ScreenChomp as I preferred its interface for my 4th and 5th graders, but have been recently learning towards ShowMe as it has a larger workspace.

Both apps offer the same basic audio and screen-recording features. I've been folding a routine into my differentiated math group time in which students receive a real-world math problem and solve it orally and visually utilizing one of these apps. They then post their response to my page on the app's website (set to private) and I am able to assess them at a later time as well as send their responses to classmates to view, evaluate and respond.

Here is an example of one student's thinking. I love how she starts, backtracks, gets a bit confused, regains her thinking path and perseveres through the problem. This authentic think-aloud paired with a visual workspace gave me an amazing assessment opportunity; it allowed me to accompany this young lady on her mathematical problem solving process and understand what she does and does not understand. Now consider the fact that I have 7 such videos from this period - created simultaneously while I was pulling differentiated math groups. There is almost no way I could have sat in that single 60-minute period and listened patiently to each these students think through this problem. Yet now I can listen and re-listen to assess their thinking - then archive that thinking to track their problem solving progress throughout the year.

My next step is to tie-in Edmodo. I plan to have my students embed these videos - or at minimum link them - on our class page for their classmates to view and leave comments. One of my professional goals this year has been to increase student self-efficacy in the classroom; I want to see each child take more ownership of his or her learning journey. I think this is a great way to make more transparent their own thinking - and the thinking of their colleagues. Once thinking becomes more transparent, they will be better equipped to understand how they think and how others may think differently - or similarly. Through this understanding I believe my students will be able to set more thoughtful goals from themselves as mathematicians.

As a part of this effort, one of my student math groups has begun to brainstorm ideas for rubrics with which we can assess this activity. As we work together to develop this rubric, I will definitely post it here!
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Read2Go App Gets Updated



Bookshare's Read2Go app was recently updated with more features and better performance. If you are unfamiliar with Bookshare click here. The Read2Go app allows Bookshare members to download books directly their iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Once books are downloaded you can read them using built in text-to-speech. For more on Read2Go click here and here. One new feature in the update enables the app to handle larger books including text books. Another useful feature allows the audio to keep reading even if your device is locked or Read2Go is in the background. Yet another feature enables schools to transfer books to Read2Go via  iTunes. Read2Go is available in  the App Store for $19.99. Read2Go is a must have app for Bookshare members who wanted a portable way to read their books. To read the release notes click read more below.
  Notes from Read2Go iTunes page.

What's New in Version 1.0.1.1

• Playback while locked – allows you to continue Read2Go audio while your screen is locked. Turn on Playback while locked in Audio Settings.
• Background playback – allows you to continue reading with Read2Go audio when you exit the app. You can use the audio controls to pause and resume playback by left swiping the multitasking bar. This feature does not apply when using VoiceOver to read the content of books and periodicals.
• Improved stability – book reading is more stable, particularly for larger books. Further enhancements are planned for the next release.
• Page-by-page content loading – allows you to reduce memory usage and improve performance. Users can still revert back to section level loading. Turn Display by Page on and off in Visual Settings. Playback while locked – continue reading with Read2Go audio while screen is locked.
• Transfer books from computer – Organizational accounts can now transfer books, particularly books with images, via iTunes.
• Auto Play – allows you to set books to automatically play upon opening them via Read2Go audio. This setting is available only from the main application Settings and not from the book settings.
• Improved operability with VoiceOver - among the many fixes, you can now navigate to any section, page or bookmark and begin reading via VoiceOver. We are evaluating other improvements for future releases.
• Fix for audio issues with iPad mute switch. 


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Voice Recording in Office 2010 & 2007

A feature in OneNote 2010 and 2007 allows users to take audio or video content while taking notes. The feature allows a student to make an audio recording of a lecture while still taking notes. The audio or video notes are then available for playback from within the notebook. The audio and video notes are time coded and allow you to hear what  the teacher was saying when you wrote a particular sentence. The functionality is similar to the function of Word for Mac 2011 and the Livescribe pen. OneNote is included in  Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 and 2010. Watch the videos above to learn more.
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Digitize to Improve, Not Just Because You Can

As we travel down the road to a digital school, I find that I frequently need to stop and reflect on the decisions we are making. A recent mistake I've discovered is digitizing just because you can. In this I mean that I have caught myself teaching an entire lesson, creating a new routine or utilizing a new app simply because it is "cooler" than the old fashioned method. However, upon further inspection, I find that the end benefit for the students is no greater than the "old" method. In fact, there are times I read a tweet or get an email about a new app or new use for the iPad, Promethean Board or laptop in the classroom - but then realize that this new method provides no improvement on what had been done before aside from novelty. Therefore, when making a decision on whether to digitize a component of my students' experience, or purchase a new app, I am continually reminding myself: If it doesn't make things better, is it worth it? Additionally, just because it's digital, doesn't necessarily make it better. While thus far most situations have proven that digitizing content and delivery yields improved learning experiences for my students, I know that this is not always the case and therefore a moment of evaluation is warranted.

This comes into play greatly when reconciling our curriculum with our iPads. In many ways, I have found that not only can iPads coexist peacefully with our school's curriculum programs, they often enhance or evolve them. As written in previous posts, I've used apps like Screenchomp (or ShowMe) and Keynote in concert with websites like Edmodo to push my students' mathematical thinking to new heights. However, there are times in which I come across into a fork in the road. These are the times when I have to decide between the curriculum and the technology. In most cases, I can envision a way in which they could be combined to improve each other... if the publishers and authors could create a digital enhancement of the program. However, I am separated from this solution by time (for the program to be developed and released) and money (to purchase this program). In the immediate meanwhile, I must determine how to best educate my students sitting in my classroom today.

One such example are the Everyday Mathematics math boxes. These practice problems, found in the program's daily lesson structure, have been carefully created and structured through years of research on math education. They serve the purpose of spiraled practice throughout the curriculum so that students receive repeated exposure to important concepts throughout the years. After I received the iPads, I found that differentiating spiraled practice opportunities with them could be extremely effective - using web-based programs such as Study Island and mathematics apps. Yet while I received the gift of expanded technology resources in my classroom, I did not receive the added gift of an expanded math block. Therefore, something had to give. Sadly - this was math boxes.

Recently I started worrying that by sacrificing the math boxes I was fatally wounding the integrity of my math program. Was my replacement activity - iPad-based spiraled differentiation - equal to or greater than the impact that the math boxes could provide? My selection of the apps and website targets was not research based, but did offer a level of differentiation and immediate feedback that the math boxes could not. I have experimented with the concept of using PDF versions of the math boxes and allowing students to use a program such as neu.Annotate PDF to fill them out and submit them - but then I am faced with yet another question. Would digitizing the math boxes improve them somehow, or would I be doing this solely to make them iPad-friendly? Once again, as I explore these questions I  keep the simple thought in mind: If it isn't making it better, is it worth it?

I haven't finished grappling with this question. I am going to try both for the time being - a mix of iPads and digitized math boxes -- mixed with some paper and pencil math boxes. I am going to look at variances of student performance, student engagement and my ability to provide meaningful feedback. I am also going to weigh the benefits of any successes or improvements with the time and effort it takes to digitize these experiences (vs. simply opening a math journal). I am working with my professional learning community / network to explore these questions, and more. My end goal is of course to ultimately effectively utilize the technology in my classroom and create the best possible learning experience for my students.
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List of Free Assistive Technology

The National Center on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has a compiled a list of free assistive technology devices and services. To see the list click here. The list includes information about free text-to-speech, voice recognition, audio books, writing tools and much more. The list is perfect for parents, students and teachers looking for free assistive technology. 

You have read this article apple / assistive technolgy / at / blind / dyslexia / free / giveaway / Google / iphone 5 / iTunes / no cost / parents / speech recognition / students / text-to-speech / udl with the title September 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://fieldecho.blogspot.com.ng/2011/09/list-of-free-assistive-technology.html. Thanks!