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Available for Purchase Now!

In “Innovate with iPad: Lessons to Transform Learning in the Classroom” primary teachers Karen Lirenman and Kristen Wideen provide a complete selection of clearly laid out engaging open-ended lessons to change the way you use iPad in the classroom.

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Connect, Collaborate and Create with Twitter in the Classroom

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of ETFO Voice.

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Course Description

In this grade two 3-D Geometry iTunes U Course, students will explore attributes of 3-D objects using concrete materials and drawings. Students will also build and construct 3-D objects and models as well as develop language to describe geometric concepts.

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One Best Thing

Discover how to keep parents informed, connect globally and link to your curriculum. This One Best Thing leads your primary classroom students through the creation of a learning network on Twitter.

Monday, August 26, 2019

6 Ways to Transform Learning with iPad Integration

6 Ways to Transform Learning with iPad Integration

Imagine this scenario. You’ve just been given the opportunity to use an iPad with your class and you have no idea how you should use it. I mean really, you are already doing great things in your classroom without technology, so what’s the point of adding technology? In fact, you’ve heard children already have enough screen time and more can’t be good for them. You even have colleagues who are already using technology for engaging drill and practice games yet they aren’t seeing any benefit from having kids pinch, swipe, and tap on consumption apps. With so much negative information surrounding the use of technology in schools why were you given an iPad to use with your students?

Well, leadership knows and agrees that using technology to replicate what you’re already doing without technology adds very little value to student learning and achievement. In fact, it may even negatively impact learning so obviously that isn’t why it’s been given to you. So how can iPad integration in the classroom help support your learners in a positive way?

Capturing the Learning

To begin with, having an iPad to use does not mean that you have to change everything you are already doing. Your engaging lessons and student-driven inquiries continue to be excellent teaching practices and technology isn’t going to change that. However, by adding an iPad into the mix you are making that good practice even better. An iPad allows your students to capture and document in images, text, voice, and video. Take for example what is happening in the image below. This student has created a house for a bear using hands-on materials. He then took a photo of his house and is measuring the dimensions and recording them onto the image on his iPad.  Later he’ll be able to add his voice to this annotated image to document his thinking and learning from this task.  

  • An iPad allows you to create and capture learning in images, text, voice, and video 
  • An iPad captures and enhances hands-on learning 

This student has created a home for a bear and is using an iPad to capture and record the dimensions of the home.

Make Learning Accessible

An app such as Draw and Tell allows even our youngest learners to take pictures of their work and annotate that work. For example, a student can take a picture outside their classroom door, outline the shapes that they see on it and then record their voice explaining what they have done. It allows the teacher to hear the thinking of the student even if they were busy with another student while the thinking was captured. It’s a far more meaningful task than asking your student to find and colour in shapes on a piece of paper. 

  • An iPad supports personalized learning for each individual student.
  • An iPad offers a low entry point for all learners, yet also provides a high ceiling for those who require it.
  • An iPad gives each student the opportunity to record their voice and explain thinking.
  • An iPad allows the teacher to hear a student’s voice even if they were not there when it was captured.

This student has utilized annotation tools to capture and show their understanding of shapes in their environment.

Flexible Learning

In addition, an iPad is a portable device which means it can capture learning wherever it is happening. It can be brought on a forest walk to document different types of trees, used on the playground to capture shapes in the real world or come along on a field trip to the science museum to capture the highlights. An app such as Popplet can help a student create authentic artifacts of learning of what has been captured outside of the classroom. An iPad allows your students to capture their learning anywhere.

  • An iPad allows any environment to become a place to create and capture learning.

An artifact of learning created by a student using personal images they captured in their environment.

Document the Learning

An iPad also allows a student to document their learning in images, text, voice, and video in an ongoing manner. The documentation doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around because mistakes can easily be fixed on an iPad. Yet, the work can easily be captured from the beginning of a project and stored in an app such as Book Creator. Book Creator allows a student to keep their self created artifacts (and the thinking behind them) organized and in one place. 

  • An iPad is a safe place to make mistakes as they can easily be fixed.
  • An iPad is a safe place to capture and store on-going documentation of learning.

These children are using the Book Creator app to create an artifact of learning. They know that with this app they can personalize their pages, add text, shapes, images, voice, and videos to make a high quality finished product. 

Differentiate the Learning

An iPad also allows students to create their own evidence of learning and this fits in very well within a student-centered differentiated classroom. Each child can be doing a similar math activity at the same time and yet the activity can be personalized to best meet each students’ individual needs.  For example, an app like PicCollage can be used to create a poster that shows an understanding of measurement. One child may focus on the tools used for measurement and focus on using the image search feature within the app to create their artifact of learning. Another student may focus on units of measurement and use the camera feature of the device to capture some images and use the image search feature within the device to create their personal artifact of knowledge. Differentiation is made much easier when you use an iPad to support that differentiation. There is an entry point for all.

  • An iPad supports student content creation.
  • An iPad supports student differentiation.
This student has used both the iPad camera and the image search feature of PicCollage to show his understanding of units of linear measurement and when it would be best to use which unit. 

This student used the image feature in PicCollage to create an artifact showing their understanding of tools used for various types of measurement.

Collaborate and Learn

An iPad is also a social tool that supports creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.  Each child doesn’t need to have their own device to gain from the value of an iPad. Students can co-create artifacts of learning using an app like  Book Creator. For example, they can use it to write non-fiction texts, create interactive stories, document the process of playing a sport, and capture positional language just to name a few ideas. They can use it for stop motion animation to document the life cycle of a salmon or to retell a favourite fairy tale. Learning together often supports creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking as two brains are better than one.

  • An iPad supports creativity by the various ways it can help students create their own content.
  • An iPad supports collaboration through working together to co-create an artifact of learning.
  • An iPad supports critical thinking by being a tool that has so many options and variables to create with. 

These children are working together to create a story with images drawn by other students. They are talking about the story they want to create using the iPad. They know that they can easily change fonts, add their voice, and create a polished finished product.

With open-ended creation apps such as PicCollage, Popplet, Draw and Tell, Book Creator, and Explain Everything anything is possible with iPad.  To learn more about how you can use an iPad in an elementary classroom check out Innovate with iPad: Lessons to Transform Learning written by Karen Lirenman and Kristen Wideen.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Spatial Reasoning Inquiry

Download Task Card Here
Spatial reasoning has long been an area of interest in the development of mathematical understanding for young children. Researchers are just beginning to understand the interplay between spatial reasoning and mathematics learning. In my role as a Math Coach this year, I got the privilege to work with 4 Kindergarten Educators who were interested in exploring how spatial reasoning tasks could support their students at a diverse, multi-cultural school. Educators at the school were looking to explore mathematical tasks that could provide entry points for all students, create opportunities for mathematical discourse and would support the development of conceptual understanding of important early mathematical concepts.
We decided on the following factors: 

  1. Pre and post assessments using Leaps and Bounds (Number Sense) and in Taking Shape (Perspective Taking observation)
  2. Specific and intentional math spatial reasoning tasks with at least 1 centre at all times available for students. 
  3. One guided spatial reasoning lesson a week. 
  4. ‘We Share Math’ during Whole Group Circle to support vocabulary use and procedural instructions (I built this by …).

Many tasks from the book Taking Shape were used in the classrooms.  We also had a collaborative Pinterest board that we pinned spatial reasoning ideas to.  If you are interested in seeing the pins, check them out  here.  Teachers also documented what they saw by using the app Pic Collage.  Here are a few examples:

All educators noted that this Collaborative Inquiry led to more student mathematical language, more student interest in math, and increased use of manipulatives. Students were more engaged and reported that they enjoyed the centres and often asked if they could engage in the spatial reasoning activities. Educators observed that there was more focus on math in general in their classroom and consequently more mathematical discourse. They noted that an intentional focus on math definitely led to more student participation and use of language ( I used these rectangles and triangles and turned it (flipped it) to make the shapes.).Because educators provided more challenging and more variety in math tasks, students had the opportunity to problem-solve and be creative and innovative in their learning. Educators participation in the inquiry and their personal professional learning led to the creation of a library of resources to support spatial reasoning.  Over 70 different spatial reasoning learning activities were collected.  

Participating in this inquiry has only brought up more questions to ponder about this fascinating topic.  I can't wait to continue this journey in September!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Check out Vicki Davis' New 10 Minute Teacher Show!

Karen and I are so excited to be on Vicki Davis' new PODCAST: The 10-minute Teacher Show.  We are especially excited to be one of the first guests on her new show.  Check out the podcast and have a chance to win our book Innovate with iPad and a chance to win a Maker Bot Mini!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Innovate with iPad is Available on Amazon Today!

I am giddy with excitement that Karen and I's book is launching on Amazon today!  This book has been a labour of love for Karen and I since last year and we are so proud of the completed project.  This book has a complete selection of clearly laid out engaging open-ended lessons in math, literacy. social studies, science and self assessment.  We have chosen a handful of apps that are used for every lesson so you don't have to download dozens of apps onto your iPads.  Another wonderful thing about our book is that WE are teachers just like you and we know that your time is precious.  

Each page is a laid out lesson plan with the majority of them having a finished picture of the project, a link for a task card that can be printed for your students to use (you get the password in the book to unlock all of the task cards at and or a live student sample.  So busy teachers can open to the table of contents, find an idea and run with it.  

Whether you have access to one iPad for your entire class or one for each student, these lessons will help you transform learning in your classroom.  If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave a comment, email me or send me a tweet @mrswideen

Monday, June 13, 2016

Shape Detectives - Pairing Literature, iPads and Math in the Primary Classroom

I love using literature to engage, inspire and make connections in math class. A colleague showed me the book, "The Secret Birthday Message" By Eric Carle. This wonderful book is about a boy who receives a letter written in code.  The boy decodes the secret message by following the shapes in the letter.  I thought it would be the perfect read aloud for an iPad lesson that I created this year for a kindergarten/grade 1 classroom called Shape Detectives.  Students take a photo of somewhere in their classroom that has many different shapes.  They then open an app that they can annotate on the picture like Draw and Tell, Skitch or Explain Everything to name a few.  Students then find the shapes in the picture and trace over the shapes.  Finally, have students record themselves naming the shapes.
A quick tip:  When little ones cannot read yet, task cards can be tricky.  Create a QR code with a sample of what the finished product could look like and sound like.  Glue the QR code to the back of the task card, so if your student needs a reminder, all they need to do is scan the QR code and go!  Here is the video and QR code for the above task card:

If you liked this lesson please check out my book, Innovate with iPad - Lessons to transform learning in the classroom that has many more practical lessons that will fit perfectly into your curriculum! 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

iPads, Worms and Non Standard Measurement

This past week, I was asked to model a lesson in a grade 2 classroom using technology.  They were just beginning non standard  measurement so I decided to use the book, "Inch by Inch" by Leo Lionni.  If you have not read this book, it is a wonderful story about a vulnerable inch worm that is about to be eaten but shows his predators that he is valuable by measuring them.

I read the story to the class and then I told them that we were going to do some measuring with worms. (No, not real worms, I bought rubber worms at the dollar store).   We then talked about how to accurately measure an object.  We specifically talked about how to line the worms up correctly making sure that they were not overlapping and making sure that we lined up the worms with the edge of the object we were measuring.

I then had volunteers come up and measure items with the worms.  I wanted the students to have to do a bit of additional thinking so I posed this task for them to do:

Find 5 items that are between 1 and 2 worms in length.

I was surprised that many of the students had a difficult time finding items that fit the task.  I then had them choose partners and had them use the free app Pic Collage to take pictures of the items they found that were between 1 and 2 worms in length.  I also provided them a task card with the directions and provided an example of what a finished project might look like.

It was amazing to see the collaboration between the partners and the  extra thought that went into the task because of the simple question that I asked.  
Download Task Card Here
Thank you to Mona Paulin we now have the french version of the task card here.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Purposeful iPad Applications to Show Mathematical Thinking in the Primary Classroom

I get many questions from colleagues on how to use iPads in purposeful and authentic ways rather than using drill and kill apps for their little ones.  One way to incorporate iPads is to explore open ended math applications in conjunction with a content creation app that will capture student work and be able to record their thinking as well as record their voice.  When young children are problem solving you can gain a lot of information about what the child can do by allowing the student to defend their answer.  Here are a few new iPad task cards that I have created that are open ended.  I would suggest that after your students save the image to photos that they open up an app like Explain Everything, upload their picture and explain their thinking.  Here is an example of one of my students explaining her thinking.

Here is the task card that goes along with it:

Download Here

Download Here
Download Here

Download Here