Tuesday, January 24, 2012

iPods - Amazing Power in a Small Package

So, a while back I wrote about the grant I received - about 30K devoted to professional development.  35% of the funds could be used for materials.  Our team used the 35% to purchase an iPod Touch cart with 20 iPods.  We have managed to wrangle up nine more through workshops that come with iPods.  So, we almost have a class set.  (I am working on another grant to hopefully to fix that problem.)

Our teacher team of three has been working to figure out the best ways to utilize these devices in meaningful, relevant, and innovative ways.  It's slow-going when you have a bazillion other things you have to do in teaching.  One of my personal faves combines Google docs and QR codes.  In my Google account, I create a quiz for the students using Google forms.  (And it only took me four months to realize that there is more than one page of templates for these quizzes..... but I digress.)  Once your quiz is done, you click on the link at the bottom of the page and you are taken to the actual site of the quiz.  Cut and paste that link into a QR code generator (I like QR Code Stuff: http://www.qrstuff.com/).  You can download the QR code image once it is generated; I print mine out and put it on the board.  Students use a QR code reader on their iPod Touch (many free apps for these) to read the code.  They are taken to the quiz site.  Once they take the quiz, they click 'Submit' and all of their answers go into your Google form.  You now have a database of all of the answers.  Soooooo much easier to grade, and the kids love it.

Now, I could have died happy right here.  But then I discovered Flubaroo.  Flubaroo is a script in Google docs.  Flubaroo grades the quizzes.  Did you hear me?  It grades the quizzes.  I am telling you, the heavens opened up and the angels were singing when I used this for the first time.  Amazing.

Moving on to another fave.......  A huge student need in our classrooms is reading fluency.  I have students who read with 100% accuracy, but are only reading 60wpm.  It is painful to listen to them read!  The iPods have been wonderful for this.  iTalk allows students to record themselves reading, then they can go back and listen to themselves.  This has been quite the eye-opener for students.  After doing this the first time, one of my kiddos said, "Wow.  I really sound terrible when I read!"  Ha!  He doesn't anymore.  :-)  Students can save these recordings and the recordings can then be saved onto a computer if you'd like.  Next year I think I will do this - give each student a piece of text, record it, save the recordings, then repeat this process with the same piece of text every trimester.  This can be a time-saver as well; if you do not have time to pull students one at a time and listen to the them, have them do it on the iPod!

There are so many amazing apps for the iPod Touch, it is hard to know where to start.  What is really nice is - so many are free!  So if you don't like it, you can dump it.  We have found many apps that are great for math fluency, and the students love them.  Next up for our team is digging into some of the digital storytelling apps.  While the three of us have learned how to use them - being proficient enough to teach the students is another matter.  But we are ready to give it a go!

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