I have recently shared some Kids Discover apps to the Cube for Teachers database as a science and social studies curriculum resource.

Kids Discover is by far one of my favourite app companies to enhance science and social studies lessons. Each app focuses on a single non-fiction subject. These apps are extremely interactive and provide developmentally appropriate reading, videos and activities. I would highly recommend these apps for grades 4 to 6 as they align well with the Ontario curriculum expectations for these grades. The website is very informative and provides a great snapshot of what each app has to offer! Please check out the Kids Discover webpage! You can click the image above to take you there.

Here are some of the fantastic features that all of the apps offer: 
  • HD images and videos
  • 360ยบ virtual tours
  • Scrollable animations
  • Audio narration...great way to support differentiated instruction!
  • Quizzes and questions throughout each app to support self-assessment and help students retain the facts they are learning
  • Educational discounts offered
I highly recommend downloading one of the apps for a subject you are teaching and trying it out for yourself! They are truly amazing apps that really take advantage of the multi-modal features iPads have to offer. As an EdTech researcher, I am always looking for high quality apps to include in my own studies and even my future teaching experiences. Kids Discover has gone above and beyond my expectations of a high quality app! 

Here are some personal experiences while using the apps (click each image to go to their specific webpage and see a video of the app!!):

Youth University Summer Enrichment Camp @ Brock University
  • I originally came across the Kids Discover apps while working for Youth University in summer 2014. The camp had just bought a set of iPads and being an EdTech junkie, I jumped on the opportunity to incorporate educational apps into my camps. The two camps that I found a Kids Discover app for were my Greek Mythology camp and Egyptology camp. I had never seen my camps so quiet and engaged than I did when they were reading, watching, and interacting with the Kids Discover apps! They loved the virtual tour of the Parthenon and how it changed view as they moved in a circle. So cool! It blew me away! These apps were so engaging and interactive that we ended up spending the whole morning just reading, clicking, tapping, scrolling, watching, repeating, quizzing, and learning together!!

Brock University Research
  • I have also started to use Kids Discover apps in my own research to study the effectiveness of iPads to foster 21st century skills in science and literacy. While submitting my ethics application to the District School Board of Niagara and Brock University, I had to start finding apps that I wanted to use to teach the Conservation of Energy and Resources. Luckily for me, Kids Discover has an Energy app! I am so excited to start using this app in the next few months with my grade 5 participants. It aligns so well with the Ontario grade 5 Science and Technology curriculum expectations. 

  • While working as a Research Assistant with Dr. Tiffany Gallagher last spring, I was responsible for finding some apps for her own research. These apps needed to align with the Properties of Matter grade 5 Ontario curriculum expectations. I was so thrilled when I found out Kids Discover has a Matter app to provide interactive lessons for students. It aligns really well with the Ontario curriculum. She will now by using this app in her study with the Niagara Catholic District School Board. 

Needless to say, I love the Kids Discover apps and all their multi-modal features. I really hope you check out their webpage to discover all the different curriculum topics they provide apps for! Click the Kids Discover logo to go to their webpage. 

Hope you enjoyed my review!

Rochelle :)

Defining an Educational App with Jayne Clare of Teachers with Apps...Main Points!

So I was looking through some recent Twitter posts the other day and came across the blog, Teachers with Apps. First off, I love this blog and have found it to be extremely useful and current regarding EdTech. Second, I read a great post on this blog about the difference between an effective and ineffective app. It was an interview on what Jayne Clare of "Teachers with Apps" had to say about the topic. This notion regarding 'quality apps' is very close to my own philosophy behind the use of any EdTech in the classroom. I was really intrigued by what Jayne Clare had to say about effective vs. ineffective apps. Overall, I completely agree with her main points! Here is what I learned and will apply while using iPads in the classroom:

  • Make sure the apps you choose are developmentally appropriate. Generate a checklist or rubric for what type of learning you hope to see and have a student test it out. It is better to watch a student respond and learn with the app instead of only testing it out yourself. They will probably teach you more about the app than you can teach yourself!!
  • Ineffective apps are usually slow to load, crash often, and have limited interactions.
  • Effective apps harness the device and really engage the learner. These apps are highly interactive and complement the content instead of compete with it. Strong connections to the curriculum further suggest a quality app. 
  • Avoid apps that are gender oriented to make learning more inclusive.
  • Game-based apps are effective, but use them in moderation. 
  • Effective educational apps should provide students with different options for the same assignment. This supports differentiated instruction. 
This is just a snapshot of what Jayne Clare had to say about effective vs. ineffective apps. I hope my summary was helpful for highlighting some of the key points made! I believe Jayne Clare made the most important point at the end of her last response when she stressed the importance of the digital learner. The students we are teaching today are digital natives and therefore learn differently than we do as adults. It is imperative that teachers understand and accept technology into the classroom to support the 21st century learner.

You can click the image above to go to the full interview with Jayne Clare!

Rochelle :)

Self-Directed Math with MyBlee

I have recently shared the app MyBlee to the Cube for Teachers database as a math curriculum resource. 

MyBlee is an effective app to promote self-directed learning in mathematics. I have used this app for the past three years with the student I tutor. Here are some reasons I highly recommend it:
  • The app requires the student to enter in data about themselves such as their age and grade. The app then creates a learning environment with lessons geared towards the grade level that student is at. Lessons are highlighted so that students know these would be a good starting point for them. They can still access levels above or below their grade level. I believe this feature shows how the app tries to personalize learning pathways for students. I have found even as a tutor/teacher that this app helps direct me towards the interactive lessons that would be an appropriate starting point for my students.
  • It provides individual lessons that cover a wide variety of specific curriculum expectations that align well with the Ontario curriculum. The app goes beyond just providing lessons mixed with different math concepts. Instead, it provides many different interactive lessons that narrow in on specific concepts within math strands that students may be struggling with. It really helped me as a tutor because I could have the student work on a lesson that gradually built up to teaching a specific skills.
  • Each lesson is split-up into levels so that students are scaffolded to learn the specific math concept. Before advancing to the next level, there is always an instructional video explaining the concept and then explaining how the student will complete the activity after. In the classroom, these instructional videos would really support independent learning. However, as a tutor, most of my students need more explanation and explicit instruction. This app allows me to pause it after the instructional portions of the lesson and provide more in-depth explicit instruction before the student continues. 
  • It is more than just multiple choice questions. The lessons are usually very interactive and really take advantage of the digital-touch based technology that iPads offer. I have not used every lesson in my tutoring sessions, but here are some examples of how interactive it is: it provides movable protractors and rulers, it allows students to select an answer by moving the iPad to slide a marble into the correct answer spot, or it gives students the opportunity to connect matching answers/pictures, write answers, or tap the correct answer. It has other tools such as a calculator for the student to readily use during certain lessons. This is just a snap-shot of what this app has to offer in terms of interactivity. I highly suggest checking it out based on what grade level you are teaching to see the different interactive lessons.
  • If a student gets an answer wrong, the app immediately explains the concept again to the student to provide even more built in scaffolding. This seems to really support self-directed learning for students and would be a great feature to have while using this app in a classroom setting. As a tutor, I always add to the apps's explanation and provide further explicit instruction. However, if this app is used to foster self-directed learning, the built in feedback to support students is very well done and clear for them to understand. They provide extra visuals sometimes to really help the student understand a concept before they move on and try again.
  • The app has a really unique and motivating reward system. Throughout each lesson as students complete the levels within it, students are given immediate feedback regarding their progress. After each level, students earn puzzle pieces that they can eventually put together to create a fun image! Students can then save their image to the iPad or other device. Students are also receiving badges throughout each lessons depending on how many they have completed or how well they have been doing with earning puzzle pieces. I have found that the student I tutor finds this reward system to be really fun. My student always looks forward to adding to the puzzle and working towards the complete picture!
  • And finally...before I forget...this wonderful app just so happens to be free!
Overall, MyBlee clearly encompasses key features that suggest a quality app. Built in scaffolds and immediate feedback are always huge indicators of an app that was built for the classroom. As a teacher myself, this is one of my favourite apps to help provide explicit instruction in mathematics. Click the app icon above to visit the MyBlee webpage!

Hope your enjoyed this review!

EdTech iHub Niagara

I had a great day at the Educational Technology Innovation Hub today during the Assistive Technologies Open House. For me, the iHub has really turned out to be an amazing spot to connect and network with professionals passionate about EdTech. This may include start-up companies, teachers, professors, or other education professionals. It is such a great initiative to have in the Niagara Region and really shows the commitment the District School Board of Niagara and Brock University have to support 21st century educational technologies being effectively implemented into the classroom.

Reflecting on the showcase today, I found it was wonderful to catch up and touch base with some professors to discuss the future of my M.Ed. research. I am so excited about conducting research with Brock University and DSBN. Only good things to come so check back in the next couple months to view My Research page and see what I am up to! My pilot study will begin in February and will look at how iPads can foster 21st century skills while also enhancing knowledge construction and student motivation.

On another note, I was able to learn about some of the assistive technologies that the DSBN is currently using in the board. I was really intrigued with the Word Q writing tool. Word Q offers word prediction, text to speech reading, and internet reading. I thought it was fascinating how Word Q can actually predict what a student may be trying to say or type. DSBN staff can actually access this software at home for free since it is licensed by the Ministry of Education. This was great to find out as a teacher for the DSBN! Click the image below to find out more about Word Q and other related programs from Go Q Software.

The 21st Century Learner

A couple weeks ago, I was searching for an infographic or picture to depict 21st century skills. I came across this great picture using gears to represent each kind of 21st century skill. The picture actually lead to the Rocky View Schools' webpage and is used to represent learner competencies. After reading a bit on the boards website, I learned that Rocky View Schools is the fifth largest school board in Alberta and provides a wide range of educational opportunities to meet the needs of their students. This board provides learning opportunities that are connected to the real word and inquiry-based. 

Copyright 2015, Rocky View Schools

What I like the most about this image is how all the gears are connected to symbolize how 21st century learning takes place when all these skills are working together. For instance, collaborating with other students is a lot more effective and meaningful if students are also critically thinking and problem solving together. When students are information and media literate, their communication and collaboration skills are enhanced. Check out the Rocky View Schools video demonstrating 21st century classrooms in action! My favourite part about the video is the video itself and how it demonstrates the students' knowledge and literacy of 21st century technology!

Copyright 2015, Rocky View Schools

I very soon realized, after taking a closer look at the gear image, that each gear is a separate link to another webpage describing what the specific 21st century skill is and what it looks like when a student is demonstrating this skill. Take for instance Globally Aware. The webpage states "global awareness is the understanding of an interconnected world and a citizen's role within society." Underneath this statement, the following image of the gear has been turned into a mind map identifying what specific skills students should be using to demonstrate Global Awareness. The specific skills students should demonstrate within the larger 21st century skill are depicted as mini gears working together to make up that larger gear. Such great symbolism! Please click the image below to see the Globally Aware webpage or click the image above to explore all the different gears and their represented 21st century skills!

Copyright 2015, Rocky View Schools

Hold on!! Don't stop reading yet. It gets even better! After clicking into a specific gear, scroll down underneath to find a very detailed rubric to assess students' use of 21st century skills! Here is an example of the Globally Aware rubric. I can definitely see this being very useful to read and familiarize yourself with. As educators, this rubric would be helpful to identify what we should really be looking for when assessing 21st century skills. It may help provide guidelines to make sure your curriculum units are enhancing the big skills and little skills that 21st century learning calls for. You can click this image to go back to the webpage. 

Copyright 2015, Rocky View Schools

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the organization and detailed information regarding the Rocky View Schools knowledge and understanding of 21st century skills. It is so crucial as educators to understand that students not only need to learn the curriculum expectations, but they should further practice and demonstrate the skills needed for their future. I have heard many many times that the current generation of students are preparing for jobs that do not even exist today. Therefore, as educators, WE need to give students the opportunity to practice skills that will be helpful for their success in the future. 

Hope you enjoyed this read!
Rochelle :)

iPad vs. Chromebook

So, you will all soon come to realize that I am PRO Apple and am very passionate about iPads. This is not to say that I am against any other educational technology! I support any EdTech in the classroom. However, my interest was peaked after reading the title of Tim Holt's EdSurge newsletter, OPINION: Why are we Misunderstanding the Chromebook-iPad Debate. A few months ago, I started attending the EdTech iHub through the DSBN and Brock University and actually saw a Chromebook for the first time. I had heard of them when I was in the Teacher Education program at Brock University, but I had never had the chance to actually try one out or see its capabilities. Overall, I love how the Chromebook still has a touch screen. It is also pretty cool that the Chromebook has apps on it just like an iPad does. It further allows students to work within the cloud using Google Chrome. The most convincing part of the Chromebook is how cost efficient it is compared to the iPad. Tim Holts in his newsletter even comments on how his school went with Chromebook because "low bid is the good bid." Holts explains that the Chromebook sells for about $300, which is about 75% of the low-end iPad. 

Now, although the Chromebook does have some interesting features, I still believe that the iPad has more to offer with regards to quality of apps and variety of apps. After reading Tim Holt's EdSurge Newsletter, I am really convinced that the iPad has more unique affordances compared to other EdTech like the Chromebook. Here are 3 reasons based on Tim Holt's newsletter that the iPad provides unique learning opportunities for students:
  1. The iPad is not a laptop. Holt's explains that one of the most important features of the iPad is its ability to change its interface to match the user's needs. Further, Holt's suggests how crucial it is for devices to meet the needs of students instead of changing the needs of the device to fit the budget. 
  2. Portability and Convenience. Believe it or not, but the iPad actually has the same, if not more, features than the Chromebook. First, it has a keyboard! I actually remember when I first got my iPad and how weird it was to start typing on a touchscreen. However, after a couple weeks, it became more natural and easier to type on. I now type on my iPad when I am at school so that I do not have to lug my Macbook around. Second, the iPad camera itself is easier to take pictures with compared to the camera on the Chrombook since the iPad camera has front and/or rear facing. It would be a lot easier to take an iPad outside or on a field trip to walk around and take pictures with compared to a laptop. 
  3. Apps, Apps, and More Apps!!! Google Chrome can still be used on an iPad. There are now Google Chrome Apps for the iPad. On top of this, the Apple App store is house to over 500,000 educational iPad apps. 
To conclude, the Chromebook does offer educational value, but it may not be the most innovative EdTech today. The value of the iPad seems to out way the cost in my opinion. 

I enjoyed this picture at the end of Holt's newsletter. It really puts the capabilities the iPad has for active learning into perspective! 

Thank you Tim Holt's for a great read!

Rochelle :)