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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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What A WONDERful Idea! Adding A Little "Wonder" To My Student's Summer.

I have been racking my brain on what to give my students for their end of the year gift.  I usually give my students a book at the end of the year, however,

I wanted to give them something that would:

1.  Be an extension of what we have been doing in our classroom.
2.  Inspire them to continue to write on their blogs this summer.
3.  Involve their parents in the project.

One of the major changes in my classroom this year is that I have tried really hard to create a "wonder" classroom environment to let my students explore their passions and continue to foster that excitement for learning.  For too long, I have told my students what they were going to learn about, instead of finding out what they wanted to learn about and figure out how we could learn about it while still covering the curriculum.

I decided I wanted to make and give my students "Wonder Jars."  It would be the first piece of the puzzle for our "Wonder Project."

One of the websites we have visited many times this year for inspiration, fun and to get the curiosity juices flowing is Wonderopolis. I contacted the "wonderopolis" group on twitter and they responded to my request very quickly!

Wonderopolis sent me this wonderful template to use for our Wonder Jars.

I headed to the dollar store for plastic jars, however, I didn't find what I was looking for.  I also looked on the internet but couldn't find anything in my budget that was perfect.  I ended up buying glass mason jars.  I am a little worried about the glass, but they were the prefect size and price ( 24 for 20 dollars).  I also bought mini composition books from the dollar store.  They were 3 for a dollar and I thought my students could write about their wonders as well as storing artifacts in their jars.  My fabulous husband (@mrwideen) made me a template for the cover of the composition book.  All I did was cut the covers out and glued them to the front.

I also found the perfect picture for the gift tag.  I was going to add a quote that talked about wonder or curiosity.  As I was searching the internet, I found this beautiful painting that would make a perfect label.  I emailed the artist, Jenna Milward and asked if I could take a screen shot of the image and use it for our wonder jar tags.  She responded very quickly with a "yes."  You can see her work on her blog noted below. 

Source: Milward Studios - "Emma's Fireflies"

Here is the jar with the label attached and on the back of the label I taped a magnifying glass.
I want this project to become whatever my students choose it to be.  I want to leave it open ended because my students always surprise and inspire me with what they can do and come up with.  I do have one stipulation: They have to bring their wonder jars or notebooks back at the beginning of September to share with the class.  I thought this would be a great way to begin our year.  We can discuss their Wonder Jars and questions and then go from there. I did share some of the ideas I found on the internet to get their wonder juices flowing.  I have grouped them onto a Pinterest board here.  We also created a book on the book creator app titled, "This Is Not A Jar."  Students were asked to finish the sentence starter, "This is not a jar..." and draw a picture to go along with it.  We then added all of the students ideas into one book.  Here are a few of the pages to look at:

I can't wait to see how this project takes form over the Summer.  Will the students be inspired and write about it on their blogs?  What wonderful things will they discover using their jars?  I will update you later in the summer.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Magic of Social Media

The definition of Social Media from Wikipedia is "Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks."  

I think I can say that I do my fair share of utilizing social media in and out of my classroom.  I have my personal blog that you are currently reading, I have a classroom blog, I tweet professionally using @mrswideen, my students tweet using @mrswideensclass and have their own personal blogs.  I use Facebook personally.  I have a class youtube account, we currently have a live webcam set up for our classroom tadpoles and we regularly use Skype and Google Hangout in our classroom.  

What is funny about this story is that none of this story is new.  I am very transparent about what is going on in my class.  I document it on my blog and I share what we are doing by tweeting and collaborating with others.  My classroom is always open and I encourage other educators, parents and friends to stop by our classroom and check out what we are up to.  My students have had blogs for almost 2 years now, they have been tweeting from @mrswideensclass since October and we have had 20 iPads in our classroom for a little over a year.  

What has happened in the last 24 hours has resulted from the "magic" of social media:

Yesterday Beth Holland's article was published on Edutopia titled, "Teaching Toddlers to Tweet? Introducing Social Media to Elementary Students"   I was honored to be included in this well written article and tweeted the article to our school board's Public Relations Officer, Scott Scantlebury @gecdsbpro.  From that tweet, I received a phone call from CBC Windsor asking if I could come in to do a radio interview before school the following day.  I of course agreed!

As I was waiting to speak on the air this morning, I was approached by a gentleman at the station asking if he could send someone out today with a camera to shoot a piece for the six o'clock news.  I was flabbergasted!  I asked my principal and he said, "Of course!"  I finished my radio interview and got to school before the morning bell.

A screen shot from one of my student's blogs.  She was
blogging while I was doing the interview.
The reporter from CBC News, Lisa Xing came while the students were on their nutrition break so we had a few minutes to talk.  She interviewed me, 3 of my students and took shots of us tweeting and blogging.  As she was taping, the office was paging me to tell me that a radio station in Toronto wanted to speak to me!  When Lisa finished up taping I went and spoke to a gentleman from CBC Ontario Morning that wanted to know if I could do a phone interview about teaching social media to my students tomorrow morning at 7:45.  I again enthusiastically agreed! 

When I thought the craziness of the day was starting to calm down, Greg Layson @GLaysonCBC tweeted out this story titled "Twitter taught in Grade 1 class in Windsor, Ont. - Kristen Wideen has her kids blogging, making YouTube videos and learning with classrooms around the world."

This all began from an article and one single tweet.  

June 20th, 2013
Update:  The "magic" continues...

This morning I did a radio interview on Ontario Morning (a Toronto radio station).  After I did the interview, I had a call from Luke Simcoe from Metro News, "Metro is Canada’s most read national daily newspaper brand."  You can view the story here.  

I think the best part of my day, happened at the end of the day when the director of education popped into my room to congratulate me.  I was so honored that he took time out of his busy schedule to stop by in person to see me!

June 28th, 2013
Update:  One more appearance....

Last Tuesday, I was asked to do another radio interview, this time on AM 800 in Windsor.  It was replayed on Wednesday and then on Thursday, it was the topic of the radio commentary.  You can listen to the commentary below.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Must Have Apps For Any Classroom

I was asked to go to a meeting tomorrow to consult on an iPad image for our board. These iPads will be going to K-8 schools in our district. I am honored to have been asked to give my input and I have been thinking about how I will answer this complicated question.

I have been blessed with 20 iPads in my room this year.  I decided what apps to put on them.  I have a very supportive administrator, so if I go to him with a request for an app, he trusts that it is a worthwhile app and lets me purchase it.  There has been no red tape, no request forms for some IT guy to have to put the app on my iPads.  There is no waiting, I ask my administrator, he says yes and I download the apps.

I was at Edcamp Detroit last month and heard horror stories from other teachers about having to put in a request to get an app on their class iPads that could take weeks to complete.  Many times, with an inquiry based classroom, something will come up and I will need an app right away.  For example, we have been learning about frogs, I found a couple free apps about frog life cycles and a fantastic book on frogs that was $3.99.  The inquiry could last a day, a week or a month.  If I had to wait for an approval for an app or even worse, someone from IT to put the app on the device, it wouldn't be worth putting the request in because the inquiry might be over before the app was ever installed.  I'm not sure how my district is going to go about this.  Right now it is up to the principal on which apps go on the school iPads and who has the password to load the apps onto the iPads.  I will be addressing my concerns about this tomorrow.

Another topic that I want to bring up is that different grade levels need different apps.  I feel that we need to develop 3 images. An  early years image (junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten), a primary image (grades 1-3) and a junior/intermediate image (grades 4-8).  There will definitely be common apps on all 3 images, however I feel that it is easier to manage 3 different accounts in the school.  I know that the early years classroom teachers have downloaded many phonics related apps that my grade 2's do not need, and I like to download math apps related to what math strand we are currently learning that would not necessarily pertain to the junior and intermediate classes.

I do have a list of must have apps for my classroom iPads.  If we didn't have any "games" on our iPads I would be fine with that.  However, I would be really disappointed if I didn't see the following apps on the iPads we use in my classroom everyday.

Must Have Apps for a Board Wide iPad Image (In My Opinion)

1.  Explain Everything

2.  iMovie

3.  Book Creator

4.  Kidblogs

5.  Draw & Tell

6.  Twitter

7.  Skype

8.  Dropbox

9.  Popplet

10.  Qrafter (or a similar QR reader)

11.  Audioboo

From my list you can see that I value and use apps that are for creation, evaluation, applying understanding and analyzing.   Apps that are needed for practice or recalling information would be up to the discretion of the teacher to download.  I do use other apps that are not on this list. My class frequently uses the math apps Hundreds Chart and a free app called Number Pieces.  However, I wouldn't be crushed if these apps were not on my iPad because I could create similar exercises using Explain Everything and some class manipulatives.

At the end of the day, it's not about the technology, it's about the learning, thinking, curiosity and fueling my students' passion to wonder. 

What are your "must have" apps that you and your students couldn't live without?

Monday, June 10, 2013

What Does Camouflage Mean?

Last Wednesday during literacy, students were trying to figure out what had happened to our three missing tadpoles when the word camouflage came into the conversation. I was surprised to learn that many of my students did not know what camouflage meant. This was a perfect time to learn! On Thursday I read the book, "Animals in Camouflage" and we watched a great video on brainpopjr about camouflage.
I then told them that they were going to create a camouflage picture and explain what camouflage means.

There were 2 Essential Questions: 

1. What does camouflage mean? 
2. How can you show your audience what camouflage means?

The wheels started turning and my students were off!

a) Students had to choose an animal.

b) Draw the animal on a white piece of paper,  colour it and cut it out.

c) Go outside with their iPad and take a couple of nature shots that they could use for their project, to camouflage their animal.


d) Students then uploaded the pictures they took to Explain Everything.

tree bark
wood chips from the playground

e) After the students uploaded the close up nature pictures, they inserted their animal picture on top of the original image.

f) Students then added a title page and a slide that explained what camouflage means.  Some chose to write the definition out on a slide and read it, others video taped themselves explaining what it means.

Now, instead of doing this fun and engaging project where the students owned the learning, I could have answered that question last Wednesday by opening the dictionary and reading the definition of camouflage or had them do a worksheet..... You decide which activity you think your students would enjoy and learn more from.