Lingt Language

Our Chinese teacher Wendy Liao has been at it again – she’s found another excellent site for language learning – Lingt Language.

Here’s what the website has to say about the potential uses of Lingt Language:

Create online assignments that make engaging and assessing student spoken performance as natural as giving out a worksheet.

Make oral exams that take a fraction of the time to administer and assess. Perfect for IB and AP preparation.
Offer targeted feedback to individual responses to maximize student improvement.
Incorporate video and images to create media and culture-rich exercises.
Archive all your assignments and student responses to reuse next time and track individual improvement.

In our elementary school context, Wendy has come up with a unique way of marrying Lingt Language with Voicethread to create a multimedia reflection and learning experience.

Wendy wanted the students to learn and remember the Chinese Characters for various countries, and do this in a way that helps to contribute to the learning of others.

The students selected a country, then tried to come up with a story to create a mental picture, or visual association, that will help others remember the Characters in that country name. They recorded their explanation on a Voicethread, which included all the countries they were studying.

[As an aside, Kim Cofino has a great blog post explaining how making connections to visual cues helped her when she was learning Japanese, which is worth checking out]

See example below:

Following that, students were then directed Lingt Language to answer some comprehension-style questions. A specific link is created for each class page, so you can link directly to the task. In order to answer the questions, students needed to view  the Voicethread as a whole, and learn the country names that their classmates had investigated.

Students could either type or record their answers in the Lingt Language site. The other great thing was that Wendy could either type or record her feedback to the students – isn’t that fabulous?

Here is a copy of the  Lingt Classroom page that Wendy created for the Grade 4’s:

Lingt_1Lingt_2Lingt_3

Highlights

  1. It is a user-friendly interface which is easy for the students to understand
  2. No log-in is necessary for students to enter responses
  3. The ability to record voice or type – this is fantastic for students and teachers alike.
  4. Teachers can mark and give feedback online, in both oral or written form.
  5. Responses can be organised either by student, or by question, meaning teachers can analyse results and check for group understanding.
  6. The potential for learning becomes 24/7, not just limited to the hours you are in a classroom.
  7. Great way to assess and support children according to their individual needs.
  8. It is an excellent way of collecting evidence of student-learning, particularly for student-led conferences.

Things to think about

  1. It requires the latest version of flash, so school/home computers may need updating
  2. Feedback is emailed to students, so students will require their own email address, or an address of a parent to receive feedback from Lingt Language.

Games – What exactly are kids learning?

[Cross-posted at U Tech Tips]

Games and the value of game-based learning has been a hot topic for me lately, so I was thrilled to come across Tom Chatfield’s article, Why playing in the virtual world has an awful lot to teach children in the Guardian on the 10th January 2010 (hat tip to @paulmaglione for the link). Tom argues that there is more to games than meets the eye.

For perhaps the most remarkable thing about modern video games is the degree to which they offer not a sullen and silent unreality, but a realm that’s thick with difficulties, obligations, judgments and allegiances. If we are to understand the 21st century and the generation who will inherit it, it’s crucial that we learn to describe the dynamics of this gaming life: a place that’s not so much about escaping the commitments and interactions that make friendships “real” as about a sophisticated set of satisfactions with their own increasingly urgent reality and challenges.

Super Mario BrosKatie Salen, professor of design and technology at Parsons The New School for Design argues that traditionally, games have not been seen as challenging realities, but rather as time-wasting activities:

There is a long history of understanding games as sort of leisure activities, as a kind of waste of time. And that when we see kids playing games that maybe our first reaction is to say, “Oh well they’re just playing, they’re just kind of wasting time.” There isn’t a sense of even sitting down with the child and asking them… “What’s going on in your head right now?” Because if you sit down and talk to a game player about what they’re doing, an incredible narrative will come out of their mouth about the complex problem they’re working on. A set of specialist vocabulary will spew out of their mouth…
[see the full video here]

From my reading on the subject, there are a number of key learning areas that games help players develop. Here are a few of the main ones.

Games Develop Literacy SkillsMoshi_passable

Many people underestimate the amount of literacy involved in game-playing. Instructions and other comments on the website require reasonably sophisticated levels of reading. James Paul Gee, an Arizona State University professor and leading figure in the field of games in education, argues, “Some people even say that games are killing reading and writing – far from it! They’re actually engaging kids with reading and writing more than ever.” [See the full video here]

By way of example, in Moshi Monsters – a game students at my school have been playing with gusto – your monster tells you how he/she is feeling, with quite a wide vocabulary. My monster has been elated, effervescent, marginal, and sunny lately, but the other day he was just passable. One of our K2 classes created their own monster, and play it as a class first thing in the morning. What a great way to discuss and develop new vocabulary!

In the context of Moshi Monsters, the “specialist vocabulary” that Katie Salen speaks of, includes Moshlings and Rox – both of which I am extremely confident all players would be able to explain clearly.

mystMessage boards are also popular with students as a way of communicating with others. On my message board, students have asked me how to get a particular Moshling, commented on my room and so on. It is great to see the dialogue that it generates, and the buzz in the ICT lab is electric, to say the least!

Tim Rylands, often credited as one of the forerunners of  gaming in education,  brought the computer game Myst into his classroom to develop literacy skills, with great success – he won a Becta ICT in Practice Award for his work in 2005. Since then, projects have been developed by schools and learning institutions around the world, including Learning & Teaching Scotland, who use games such as Guitar Hero and Myst to  stimulate creative and descriptive writing. They have been receiving positive feedback from teachers and students alike.

Games Develop Creativity

Scratch_001Gee states in his video for Edutopia, “Kids want to produce, they don’t just want to consume.” This is certainly true of the Playstation 3 hit, Little Big Planet, which has user generate content as a major part of the game.

At my school, the Grade 2-5’s are devouring Scratch, the MIT-developed computer programming software for kids. Scratch provides an extremely user-friendly platform where users can upload their own games, or download and make changes/improvements to other people’s games and upload them again for the community to try. One of our Grade 5 students contributed a game which he has translated into 3 languages – Chinese, Dutch and English! The code behind this game (and others that the students in my class produce) is extremely sophisticated, and more often than not, beyond my comprehension!

Games Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Samorost_1Players need to use critical thinking skills when playing games. Problem solving and decision making skills, together with logical thinking, sequencing and strategy-making are all reinforced. James Paul Gee argues that playing a game is like a continuous stream of assessment. If you fail to work out what steps need to be taken, and in which order, you will not progress further in the game. Games such as Samorost (and other games created by Amanita Design, including Samorost 2 and Machinarium) are fabulous for all the skills mentioned above. Kids love to play them together, and thrive on the challenge of coming up with possible solutions to rather daunting problems.

Zoombinis is a very popular computer game (and has been since its release in the mid ’90s), requiring complicated mathematical thinking skills. According to Amazon,

Zoombinis Logical Journey challenges children to employ such basic fundamentals of mathematical thinking as organizing information, reasoning of evidence, finding and making patterns, and systematic testing of hypotheses.

zoombinisWe loaded it on some computers in the lab, and had a games focus for our most recent Wired Wednesday professional development with staff, and it was funny how many teachers remembered it from 10 years ago when their kids played it. One teacher even asked to take it home, because it was that engaging! 

Gee, in an interview with Gamezone, argues:

…people are too hung up about learning “content” in the sense of facts. What we need people to learn is how to think deeply about complex systems (e.g., modern workplaces, the environment, international relations, social interactions, cultures, etc.) where everything interacts in complicated ways with everything else and bad decisions can make for disasters.

The thinking skills developed in gaming are transferable across a range of contexts, which will be of great benefit to our students in the workplaces of the future.

Gee explains in the same interview,

Good games stay inside, but at the outer edge of the player’s growing competence, feeling challenging, but “doable.” This creates a sense of pleasurable frustration.

It has also been described as ‘hard fun’. I’m sure many of us have been in the situation where a game has  been too easy or too hard. Those just-right games really hook us in to the point where our concept of time melts away – or as Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Hungarian professor of Psychology famously refers to it – the state of flow. According to Wikipedia, flow is:

the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

Games are SocialMachinarium in the Lab 002 (Medium)

The old-fashioned notion of gamers in seclusion, having no human contact is a thing of the past. The majority of games today have a huge social component, including sophisticated discussion forums. Tom Chatfield again suggests:

Visit any website devoted to hosting player discussions of games like World of Warcraft, for instance, and you’ll find not hundreds but tens of thousands of comments flying between players who debate every aspect of the game, from weapon-hit percentages to mathematical analyses of the most efficient sequence in which to use a character’s abilities. It will range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and will be riddled with private codes, slang, trolls, flames, and everything else the internet so excels at delivering.

What you’ll find above all, though, is a love of discussion almost for its own sake; and an immensely broad and well-informed range of critical analyses. It’s not unknown for doctors of economics or maths to wade into the fray – and find themselves bested by other still more meticulous chains of gamer reasoning.

Participation in the social communities surrounding games, interacting with friends in multiplayer games, and contributing to discussion forums all help develop communication and collaboration skills. The ability to communication and collaborate with others is increasing in importance – take the ISTE Nets for example. Being able to establish a rapport with others, in a range of situations will help today’s students in future contexts.

Game-playing provides leadership and peer-learning opportunities for students. Games can level the playing field. Tom Chatfield notes that, “A virtual world is a tremendous leveller in terms of wealth, age, appearance, ethnicity and such like…” It means a child can be an expert, a student can be the most knowledgeable source of information.What a powerful concept for a student in a classroom – I have something of value to offer my peers and my teachers.

playstation_FlottenheimerAs Joseph Joubert, the French essayist famously said, “To teach is to learn twice.” In the context of the lab, the students I see playing games are a very supportive community, keen to help newcomers develop their understanding of the game. This fits in beautifully with  Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice theory of learning, where,

“It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally.”

Face-to-face friendships develop through similar online  interests, and this is certainly evident in my ICT Lab.

James Paul Gee speaks of these communities of practice as “passion communities” constructed via social networking, where members are usually held to quite rigorous standards in their area of passion. To the novice, feedback is given, support is provided, but standards are not be lowered.

Rachel Williams for the Guardian, notes that according to a government-appointed expert,

Children spend so much time in front of the television and computer games, and so little time with adults that one child in six has difficulty learning to talk…

parent with kids & playstationIt is easy to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the television and computer game industry, instead of focusing on the role parents and other adults have to play in a child’s language development. Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, this is a powerful opportunity for parents to involve themselves in the lives of their children, and play games together. The discussion arising from shared game-playing would surely help children develop those crucially important communication skills, and create a nice shared activity for parents and children.

In Summary

I truly believe gaming and game-based learning has a lot to offer our students. I hope this has provided an alternative perspective on gaming, and an insight into what our kids are learning through game-playing.

I would be interested in hearing how other educators have used gaming in their classrooms, and to what effect. Please share your expertise!

People to Watch

Tom Barrett‘s blog features a lot of great game-based learning information

James Paul Gee

Tim Rylandswebsite has writing samples and videos of work produced by students using Myst and other games.

Katie Salen

Further Reading

Background to Games Based Learning – Learning & Teaching Scotland

Using the Technology of Today, in the Classroom Today – the Education Arcade

Unlimited Learning – Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association

Photo Credits:

Mario – Nahuel31, Playstation – Flottenheimer, Parent & children with playstation – sean dreilinger, Myst image – ldrose,  Zoombinis image – matt.agnello, Images from games captured using Jing


iPhone/iPod Touch Wired Wednesday

As so many teachers came back from the Christmas holiday with a new iPhone/iPod Touch, I decided to make the first Wired Wednesday for 2010 focused on apps.

CIMG3025 (Medium)

We had a great turn out, and there was a real buzz in the lab as people talked over each other to share their favourite apps. I found it amusing that although we had a bunch of more than 10 educators, the apps that received the most attention were the games! Here are the apps that made the rounds…

Singapore

SG_Buses
SG BusesFree – All the info you need on the Singapore Bus System

Carpark_@_SG
Carpark @ SGFree – Find parking rates & parking locations in Singapore

Laylio
Laylio Free – an app which allows you to listen to Singapore radio stations (I love that the name of the app is how some people pronounce radio here!)

Travel

tripit
Trip it Free – Organize your flights and travel plans with this handy app.

Kids

tozzle
Tozzle $1.99 – An easy app which helps develop touchpad skills. My 2 year-old loves it. There’s also a free version – Tozzle Lite.

facegoo
Facegoo
$0.99 – Photo app that lets you manipulate photos in funny ways. There is also a free version available.

shapes
Toddler Teaser ShapesFree – Simple app which helps kids recognise shapes.

Build_a_Word
Build-a-Word$1.99 – For those fans of Word World, an app which gets children to grab letters to build words. There is also a lite version available.

Preschool_adventure
Preschool Adventure$0.99 – This is a good-value app for preschoolers. There are puzzles about numbers, colours, shapes, body, matching and sounds. A little something for everyone.

Games

Topple
Topple
Free – My 4-year-old’s favourite app of the moment. Stack the blocks and try not to let them topple over. See also Topple 2 Plus+ (free) and Topple 2 ($0.99).

NFSU
Need For Speed Undercover$4.99 – A car racing game that is apparently deserving of its price tag!

eggs_away
Eggs awayFree – Keep your egg balanced by tilting your device.

Trace
Trace Free – app where you have to get your little stick-figure person to the other side using gravity and any lines you make.

Bubblewrap
BubblewrapFree – Enjoy popping bubblewrap as a kid? Relive your childhood with this app!

Waterslide_extreme
Waterslide ExtremeFree – Slide down a giant waterslide in this addictive app.

Unblock_me_free
Unblock Me FreeFree – Slide the blocks of wood around to free the red block.

Cooking_dash
Cooking Dash$2.99 – Manage your restaurant by making sure people are at tables, have what they ordered etc. A Cooking Dash Lite version is available, and there also appear to be other in a similar theme: check out Dinner Dash and Wedding Dash, if you feel so inclined.

Cooking_mama_lite
Cooking Mama LiteFree – This app had us all in stitches. You cook different food, and literally do things like melt the butter in the frying pan or chop onions by moving your device around (as you would if you were cooking), to complete a meal.

Monkey_Swing
Monkey SwingFree – Swing from tree to tree to get your monkey through the jungle.

CIMG3026 (Medium)

CIMG3030 (Medium)

iPhone/iPod Touch Wired Wednesday

As so many teachers came back from the Christmas holiday with a new iPhone/iPod Touch, I decided to make the first Wired Wednesday for 2010 focused on apps.

CIMG3025 (Medium)

We had a great turn out, and there was a real buzz in the lab as people talked over each other to share their favourite apps. I found it amusing that although we had a bunch of more than 10 educators, the apps that received the most attention were the games! Here are the apps that made the rounds…

Singapore

SG_Buses
SG BusesFree – All the info you need on the Singapore Bus System

Carpark_@_SG
Carpark @ SGFree – Find parking rates & parking locations in Singapore

Laylio
Laylio Free – an app which allows you to listen to Singapore radio stations (I love that the name of the app is how some people pronounce radio here!)

Travel

tripit
Trip it Free – Organize your flights and travel plans with this handy app.

Kids

tozzle
Tozzle $1.99 – An easy app which helps develop touchpad skills. My 2 year-old loves it. There’s also a free version – Tozzle Lite.

facegoo
Facegoo
$0.99 – Photo app that lets you manipulate photos in funny ways. There is also a free version available.

shapes
Toddler Teaser ShapesFree – Simple app which helps kids recognise shapes.

Build_a_Word
Build-a-Word$1.99 – For those fans of Word World, an app which gets children to grab letters to build words. There is also a lite version available.

Preschool_adventure
Preschool Adventure$0.99 – This is a good-value app for preschoolers. There are puzzles about numbers, colours, shapes, body, matching and sounds. A little something for everyone.

Games

Topple
Topple
Free – My 4-year-old’s favourite app of the moment. Stack the blocks and try not to let them topple over. See also Topple 2 Plus+ (free) and Topple 2 ($0.99).

NFSU
Need For Speed Undercover$4.99 – A car racing game that is apparently deserving of its price tag!

eggs_away
Eggs awayFree – Keep your egg balanced by tilting your device.

Trace
Trace Free – app where you have to get your little stick-figure person to the other side using gravity and any lines you make.

Bubblewrap
BubblewrapFree – Enjoy popping bubblewrap as a kid? Relive your childhood with this app!

Waterslide_extreme
Waterslide ExtremeFree – Slide down a giant waterslide in this addictive app.

Unblock_me_free
Unblock Me FreeFree – Slide the blocks of wood around to free the red block.

Cooking_dash
Cooking Dash$2.99 – Manage your restaurant by making sure people are at tables, have what they ordered etc. A Cooking Dash Lite version is available, and there also appear to be other in a similar theme: check out Dinner Dash and Wedding Dash, if you feel so inclined.

Cooking_mama_lite
Cooking Mama LiteFree – This app had us all in stitches. You cook different food, and literally do things like melt the butter in the frying pan or chop onions by moving your device around (as you would if you were cooking), to complete a meal.

Monkey_Swing
Monkey SwingFree – Swing from tree to tree to get your monkey through the jungle.

CIMG3026 (Medium)

CIMG3030 (Medium)

Life in the ICT Lab: a Moshi Pit

monster_line_up

The kids in the lab have been mad-keen on Moshi Monsters lately. I can only describe the lab as a Moshi pit at break times!
[I am using Moshi Monsters as a stimulus for descriptive writing with our K2’s, so will blog about how that goes when I am finished.]

Moshi Monsters is a neat little game, really engaging, with a great variety of activities and things to do that can keep kids engaged for hours – literally!

I thought their interest would be a good opportunity to have a chat to them about the ways in which the website aims to hook them in, and get them to sign up as paid members.

At the end of last term, I called a Moshi Meeting for all those interested in playing Moshi Monsters in the lab. Turn-out was predictably high!

I got Moshi Monsters up on the IWB, and asked the assembled group two main questions.

1. How does the Moshi Monsters site try to encourage you to spend more time playing the game?

Spend_Rox

Here are some student responses:

They show you things you can buy with your Rox that are the level above you, so you want to increase your level to be able to buy those things.

They unlock different games when you increase your level.

In the beginning, you can increase your level really quickly, but then it slows down and it takes longer to increase the levels, meaning you have to stay on the computer longer.

They have messages when you walk down the street like, “I wish my owner would redecorate,” meaning you start thinking about improving your room and buying more things. To buy more things, you need more Rox, which means you have to stay on longer and earn them.

How does Moshi Monsters try to encourage you to become a paid member?

Moshi_Members

Here are some student responses:

You can see that there are other areas that you can access if you are a member.

You can do more things – you can send gift etc.

It allows you to choose your own house – you get more choices.

The vast majority of the kids had no idea they were being ‘encouraged’ to spend more time online, but once it was pointed out to them, they realized that they had choices to make, and that of course the website wanted to make it engaging for them to want to pay money for it.

The bottom line is that they became more informed consumers, and I’m pretty happy with that.

Images captured using Jing.

Radical Chinese

My colleague, Chinese teacher Wendy Liao, has kindly agreed to co-author the following post, detailing her experiences using the iPod Touch for the teaching of Chinese language. I think she has fantastic ideas for the use of technology in Language teaching which need to be shared!

Wendy works with multiple grade levels, but for these lessons she wanted the Grade 3-5’s to learn some new vocabulary – what she describes as ‘simple Chinese characters’, that will help them understand more difficult characters later on. Wendy explained to me about the importance of learning the root of the character – also known as the radical. As this website explains, “The radical usually, but not invariably, gives a name or clue as to the meaning of the character.”

Wendy gave me the following example:

In the same way that we have bi = 2 and tri= 3 in English, Chinese has root words (or radicals) as well, e.g. 木 = tree, 林 = wood, and 森  =  forest. They all have the root word of ‘tree‘.

Learning the order in which the characters are written helps students understand the meaning of characters they are not familiar with – they will know what the character is about, as this example shows:

妈 姐 奶 姨 = Mum, Sister, Grandma, and Aunt, all have the same radical of female 女.

One way Wendy might have previously taught this sort of lesson is to give each child the Chinese characters together with their meanings. She would then show them how to write the character, and try to emphasize the importance of writing each character in a particular order. The trouble was, she tells me, the kids would never remember about writing the character in the right order, meaning they were missing the opportunity to understand more complex characters as the radicals weren’t clear to them.

This is where the iPod Touches came in. She used this free Chinese/English Dictionary app: It is a basic dictionary app which allows you to write the characters, and then provides the pinyin, together with the definition in English.

Wendy gave the list of characters, this time without the definitions. She gave a check sheet showing the stroke order for half of the words, but the rest, students would have to figure out themselves.

Students had to try and use what they knew about the order of the characters (the basic principal when writing Chinese characters is left to right, top to bottom), to try and find the definitions of the characters. Check out the video below to see the students in action:

Using the iPod Touches was particularly motivating for the students – they were absolutely determined to find out the meanings, they were eager to write the characters correctly so the dictionary would be able to find the definitions, and they were great at helping each other and making suggestions for ways of writing the characters.

So where was the learning? I asked Mary van der Heijden, our Vice Principal of Curriculum (who observed one of the lessons), and this is her response:

Every child had hands on experience of drawing the root of the characters. Not just once, but repeatedly. This was because if the characters weren’t  written  fairly well the dictionary couldn’t read it. Therefore the children had plenty of practice in trying to form the  characters correctly.

What empowered children more was that they could keep trying and different characters kept coming up in the dictionary and even at the lower level they look  for patterns and shapes to try and match the correct character with their own attempt.

The language between the children was constantly reinforcing the correct way of writing. For instance they would say, ‘no not like that, top to bottom’, or ‘that’s not straight’.

This application was also very good for hand eye co-ordination and this skill can be transferred to other areas of learning.

In addition, the problem solving skills developed  were very clear. Use of trial and error, looking for patterns to make links with, using prior knowledge were all important strategies.

Collaborating with a partner to assess where each child might be going wrong was very beneficial to improving their attempts and then sharing their findings.

Persisting even when the tool they were using didn’t seem to be able to understand their writing was also a good development.

Knowing how a dictionary works, whether for Chinese or any language was key in the activity and children progressed in their understanding of using it.

Finally the most important aspect was that the children were engaged and motivated. What might have been a tedious dictionary lesson, turned into a very powerful learning situation which would aid children’s memory of characters and vocabulary suitable for various levels of ability.

I hope this approach proves useful to people, and that it sparks some other great ideas. We would be very interested in hearing other ways iPod Touches are being used in Language lessons, so please let us know what is going on in your classroom/school.

iPod Touches meet Kindergarten 2

Man have I been looking forward to this! My first chance at getting into classes with the iPod Touches. My expectations were certainly exceeded and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Full disclosure: I have never taught K2 before. In fact, I’ve never taught kids younger than Grade 2, so thankfully I had an expert to work alongside: Ms Louise is an experienced early years teacher (and fellow PYP workshop leader), so I was in very capable hands.

We worked with groups of 7 or 8 students at a time. The rest of the class was working with the teacher assistant on some shapes work, and another group had play.

We decided on 2 free apps to start with. First up, we introduced ABC PocketPhonics Lite

abc_1 abc_2 abc_game

This app reinforced phonics skills and writing skills. Once various sounds were explored, students played the game, where the programme says a sound, and the kids have to select the letter that matches the sound. They end up making words (e.g. an, it, sit, cap).

What we liked about this app was that we could select lowercase letters (from a menu of uppercase, lowercase and cursive), US or UK English sounds, and even the style of print. Very customizable.

After about 10 minutes on this app, concentration levels were beginning to wane (especially as a menu of other apps was only a click away!). I had planned on doing some more structured letter practice using our next app, Doodle Kids, but Ms Louise wisely suggested we let them draw and play.

K2LPh

What’s neat about this app is that you can change the background with a 2-finger tap, draw with various shapes, and basically be creative. When we were with the second group, Ms Louise said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could save some of the pictures?”

I remembered that with the Whiteboard Collaborative Drawing app, that simultaneously holding down the menu button and the sleep/wake button took a photo which got saved in the photos folder on the iPod Touch. I had a go, and sure enough, it worked!

From there, we were able to email it to Ms Louise (or anyone!).

** We had previously set up the iPod Touches with a generic gmail account I created for the school, and this function would need to be set up prior to use with the kids **

The kids were really excited about the prospect of emailing their pictures to their parents. One wee girl said to me, “This one’s for my Mum, because she’s going to Germany tomorrow.” How sweet!

Remember, this is day 4 of school for these little guys. Wouldn’t you be impressed with an email from your child’s teacher with a drawing they’d done for you? This one’s by Daniel.

Doodle kids Daniel

I have been asked countless times since purchasing the iPod Touches for the school, “But what are the kids going to be learning on them?” Don’t get me wrong, I totally support this mode of thinking. If we can’t justify to teachers/parents/anyone what kids are learning on the iPod Touches, then they’re just another toy.

So I have been reflecting on what the kids learned during that mini-lesson, and here are some of the skills I saw (using the PYP Transdisciplinary Skills):

Communication skills

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Viewing

Social Skills

  • Accepting Responsibility
Self-Management Skills

  • Fine-Motor Skills
  • Codes of Behaviour

Thinking Skills

  • Acquisition of Knowledge
  • Application

Clearly there is a lot of learning taking place.

I know this is just the beginning, but I hope to document the different ways we are using the iPod Touches at UWCSEA East so we can build a bank of knowledge and ideas to share. We are always looking at unique ways we can use them, so please feel free to share ideas with us.

New Year, New Job, New Toys.

New Year:
Kids start TODAY!

New Job:
Flexible Timetable, k-5 tech integration & support at UWCSEA East.

New Toys:
14 Creative Vado HD Video cameras
12 iPod Touches
11 Digital Blue Microscopes
22 Acer Aspire One Netbooks
1 Visualizer

New Toys 002 (Medium)

Getting Started:
I introduced some of our new toys during a whole staff meeting. I demonstrated (briefly) how to use the iTouch using the visualizer, and whipped through a couple of free Apps to show some possible uses in the classroom. These were the three I showed:

Art Lite

Art Lite app pic

This great little app has 5 major artists, info on their lives, and a photo gallery of their work.

Notes

Notes

Wendy, our very creative teacher of Chinese, discovered an awesome way to use Notes. She added simplified Chinese as one of the keyboard languages, then wrote characters, which can then be emailed to parents

Whiteboard

Whiteboard

The Whiteboard app is one of my most exciting finds. It allows two iPod Touches to connect and work together; two people can draw on the same whiteboard. It has great potential for peer-to-peer work (one person could write above a line drawn in the middle, the other below) e.g maths quizzes where students could compare answers, play games like naughts and crosses, and collaborative drawing to name but a few. Can you think of any more?

Next up were the Video Cameras. I showed the basics of how to record, replay etc, then showed a video our technician (Bernie) had taken earlier in the day of me using the iPod Touch. The teachers were blown away with the quality of the video.

Finally, we put teachers into groups of 4 (each having a leader who I knew either had an iPhone/iPod Touch themselves, or was familiar with them), and encouraged them to have a play. Each group was given an iPod Touch, a video camera and two netbooks.

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The teachers had a great time investigating the new hardware, and the end result was a huge number of questions about where they can purchase some for themselves! That was encouraging! It was great to hear the discussion between people as they discovered and shared new things.

Today is the first day of school, and already the iTouches and Video Cameras are booked to be used with kids. Can you imagine what these kids will be telling their parents about their first day at UWCSEA East?! How engaging will their classes be?!

I will blog more about how they are being used in the classroom, and hope to have some examples to share with you soon.

Let the learning begin!