All posts by Sabrina L

Using iPads in the Classroom

Teachers can utilize iPads in the classroom to greatly enhance the learning experience of their students by keeping them engaged and by teaching material in new ways. iPads have several useful features as well as a plethora of educational apps and uses, one of which is airdrop. Using airdrop, teachers can project wirelessly from their iPad what is showing on their screen. Teachers could open a note-taking app (like the free one Notability) and write notes or math problems on their iPad screen for students to see. What they write is projected in real time onto their projector screen. Thus, they can teach and write things “on the board” while walking around the classroom, checking on everyone and gauging their understanding. Also, when students are using the iPads in the classroom, the teacher can require them to turn on airdrop so that all their screens appears on the projector screen, deterring students from surfing the internet or going on apps that they are not supposed to.

Students could also load a powerpoint presentation onto the Google Drive app on an iPad (also free) and more readily present, changing the slides when they want to. The teacher is free to grade and enjoy their presentation, as are all other students (who no longer have to sit and change the screens). 

Furthermore, students can use iPads or even their own phones to play games like Kahoot or participate in e-classrooms like through the Socrative app. Kahoot enables the teacher to make a fun, competitive game online, which students can then access through any mobile device and play together. This provides a fast-paced, engaging way for students to review material and for teachers to gauge their understanding. Socrative is similar in that you can see the realtime student responses and engage the entire class. However, Socrative is probably better for topics that require more thinking; as the upbeat game-showy atmosphere of Kahoot, while exhilarating at first,  could quickly become stressful if you are trying to solve math problems.

With the easy video-making apps available (mostly for free) on iPads, students can make videos in under 30 minutes and send them to the teacher so that the teacher can play them for the class. Our iPads have iMovie and Animoto, which can both be used for entertaining yet educational review or case study. For instance, a teacher could assign small groups topics to explain to the class in short, often memorable videos. No doubt this alternative method of introducing material would stick in students’ brains very readily.

Teachers could also use an automatically graded survey platform such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey to assess or probe pupils, who could use either their phones or iPads to answer the surveys. Since these grade and report their responses automatically, it saves teachers time and is a personal way for students and teachers to explore their understanding.

Another way teachers have used iPads in the classroom is by using them to talk about sensitive subjects like sexting that students might not feel comfortable speaking out about for fear of being judged by their classmates. One teacher used an app like Notability to conduct a class discussion. While she asked questions to direct the conversation, students wrote their responses on the app and held it up for her to see, and even the shyer students could contribute. 

With two iPad carts in AHS and so many interesting and engaging ways to use them in the classroom, the variety of methods which teachers can use to edify their students is expanded vastly. The only thing left to do is to explore all of the tantalizingly easy-to-use approaches to using them in the classroom.

Sources:
Burns, Monica. “Resources for Using IPads in Grades 9-12.” Edutopia. Edutopia, 13 May
2014. 
Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

 

 

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Tools to Make Learning Easier – Google Classroom

With a computer in every classroom and access to one for every student at school and at home, Google Classroom provides a way for teachers and students to stay on the same page, encouraging learning and effective teacher-student communication. The video illustrates just how simple and helpful Classroom is for a student, from receiving the email to join the classroom to viewing assignments and due dates to emailing teachers and classmates with questions.

*For safety and legitimacy reasons, there is no way for a student or someone outside of a school or official organization to make a “classroom” (thus, this video focuses mainly on how Classroom looks to a student).

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Citation add-ons in Chrome: Paperpile and Easybib

Paperpile is a free, easy to use, add-on in Google Chrome (especially in Drive and Docs). Basically, it is a citation device that allows users to research topics in a side bar and then easily make customized citations and annotations. While Paperpile is a highly professional tool and used by researchers and university students alike, it is simple enough and useful enough for high school and possibly younger children to utilize. It could also be useful for teachers working toward degrees (such as a Master’s).

Paper Pile Academic User Stats
Paperpile Academic User Stats, released by Paperpile.

For instance, when Paperpile is added into Chrome, should you need help navigating and using it, it provides a simple guide to help you get started, as well as many other resources.

Paperpile Quick Start Guide
Paperpile Quick Start Guide and beginning instructions in the research bar, screenshot

The simplicity and availability of Paperpiles would be useful both for students prone to forgetting to record their citations until the end of the paper to quickly research and save their citations in just a couple of clicks, staying in the document the whole time. Usually, myself included, students must go through the time-consuming process of researching something (in a book, a website, etc.) and then going to an external website to cite sources. While websites like easybib.com or owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/ make citing sources much easier, it is annoying to have to leave the document and spend valuable time inputting sources. This is why many students forgo this process while writing, only to have to laboriously re-research their sources at the end. Students and teachers can save time by using Paperpiles or even the easybib add-on. Here is what the Easybib add-on bar looks like to the right of a document:

Easybib bar, screenshot
Easybib bar, screenshot

In addition, multiple add-ons can be acquired without cluttering the document. For instance, the bar on the right can be closed when not in use, ready to be accessed with just one click.

Ready to use add-ons
Ready to use add-ons, screenshot

These in-document citation add-ons are user-friendly and efficient, and can be easily downloaded free of charge right into the document. 1,399,188 people are using the easybib add-on at the time of publication, and there are 13,572 users of Paperpile. Both teachers and students could benefit from these Google Chrome add-ons.

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Blog Post 1 Term 2: Independent Project Update

Since Term One, when I was extremely preoccupied with planning things for the Robotics Club, I have in Term Two focused much more on my independent project of learning Python with the aid of Jason Cannon’s book “Python Programming for Beginners.” Still, my progress has been slow-going, because I often spend a long time on new concepts exploring all the applications in attempting to commit the principle to memory. It also usually takes me a while to fully understand the proper usage of each new function or idea, so I try to write as many programs as possible using new concepts. For instance, in my most recent exploration of function usage, I wrote several versions of a basic body of code, each getting progressively more complex and incorporating more knowledge that I have learned so far.

Version One of the mad libs program
Version One of the mad libs program
Version Three (heavily revised) of the mad libs program
Version Three (heavily revised) of the mad libs program

And, as expected in learning to program and programming itself, it always takes several tries running the programs in Shell to refine the program and to filter out typographical errors: a missing indent, an extra letter or a missing parenthetical pair.

The first time an outside user tested the program by providing input; however, notice that it says to enter "a" adjective instead of "an", indicating an error in running the first function of the code.
The first time an outside user tested the program by providing input; however, notice that it says to enter “a” adjective instead of “an”, indicating an error in running the first function of the code.
Code with a missing parenthetical pair after the first 'if' statement
Code with a missing parenthetical pair after the first ‘if’ statement
Inserted parenthetical pair
Inserted parenthetical pair
Running the program in Shell - from failures to success!
Running the program in Shell – from failure to success!

In the short period of time that has been since Term Two began, my progress in programming Python has picked up in pace significantly, since it has become my main focus. I have learned much about patiently troubleshooting my code, and how meticulous one must be when using functions, booleans, and asking for user input. I hope to finish Cannon’s book by the end of T2, and hopefully start more complex programs.

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The Impact of Computers in the Classroom

With the increase of the availability and applications of technology, the classroom is becoming more and more of an automated place. Students are able to access online tools to enhance their learning experience (using websites like Khan Academy) and teachers are able to quickly input students’ grades and attendance into online systems such as iPass.

Ashland Public Schools, for example, has a ratio of about two computers per student (“Massachusetts School and District Profiles”). In many schools, there is one laptop or device for every student to use in classroom activities and to take notes. This is helpful in the classroom setting because teachers are able to engage students in more activities to help them absorb information. However, many students at APS would agree that the amount of computers is sufficient, and there is no feeling of being cheated from the potential opportunities that other schools with a computer : student ratio of 1:1 have.

Many students are easily distracted by the glow of their computer screens and are able to access other, non-class related applications. Furthermore, countless studies have shown the benefits of taking notes by hand, as students are able to commit that information more readily to memory (Herbert). Handwriting notes contributed to “higher academic performance overall,” scientists found (Herbert). Students who mindlessly transcribed the lecture did not process or store the information nearly as well as the handwriting students.

Moreover, youths from all over the world where similar programs are in force are being faced with charges in stealing these devices, and “in 2008 . . . hundred of thousands of dollars [were] spent to replace equipment that went missing” (Snyder). Some students are not mature enough to maintain their laptops/devices. Hence, in schools where there are enough funds to give each student a computer, there should be a minimum age requirement of at least 10 or 11 years old. Schools would have to limit ownership to older and hopefully more mature students, or determine when students are mature enough to care for them. Another concern scientists have is the positive role handwriting plays in fine motor development, among other things, that would not be learned by just typing things into a computer (Bounds).

Teachers would have to get training in order to fix minor technical difficulties that frequently arise, even in AHS. Training would be essential because the time wasted having people fix minor technical glitches would cause the cost of the devices in time and manpower to outweigh the possible gains.

Additional pluses to surrounding students with as many computers as possible would be preparation for an increasingly automated workplace and college experience. It should be kept in mind that students still need to know how to function without computers, and just because there is a calculator that can add doesn’t mean that students do not need to know how to do arithmetic.

Works Cited
Bounds, Gwendolyn. “How Handwriting Trains the Brain.” How Handwriting Boosts the Brain. WSJ, 5 Oct. 2010. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
Herbert, Wray. “Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking*.” Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking. Association for Psychological Science RSS, 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
“Massachusetts School and District Profiles.” Technology (2013-14). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct.  2 2015.
Snyder, Tamar. “How to Keep School Laptops Safe.” How to Keep School Laptops Safe |      Edutopia. Edutopia, 1 Apr. 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

 

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Google Groups: Classroom Applications

While students regularly use features of Google such as Drive, Slides, and Gmail to do schoolwork and allow them to access their work from home and school, Google offers many other useful apps that have academic applications. Furthermore, the school and district use Google Calendars on their website for students to reference when Orientation Day or Picture Day is, for example. Teachers also use Google sites to make their websites to post homework, upcoming assignments, and helpful links.

However, teachers and students, especially in Ashland Public Schools, do not use Google Groups at all. Google Groups allows users have discussions on forums through presentations and photos, among other forms of media. For example, many other high school clubs and even classes have their own, private discussions which people need permission to access. A teacher could post a discussion question and students could post responses for engaging, easy to grade homework. Even the summer before classes start, a teacher could add all the students in one class to a certain discussion and begin assessing their abilities through periodical discussions. In addition, students could do homework on the go, as Google groups is accessible through mobile devices. Foreign language teachers could also use this feature, because the language of the discussion is easily changed.

In conclusion, Google Groups has countless applications to the classroom in enriching students’ understanding and keeping them engaged in classroom subjects. Teachers are also afforded a better glimpse into the students’ progress and understanding. Students could have a wider variety of homework and extra credit opportunities through discussions, pictures, and videos.

General applications of Groups

General applications of Groups

Examples of academic applications in various classes and clubs
Examples of academic applications in various classes and clubs

—Additional Resources—
To get started: 
Youtube video “How to Use Google Groups In The Classroom”
For more information: 
“Keep Your Classes Organized With Google Groups.” Blattinet. N.p., 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

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