Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Parent's thoughts on Cell Phones in Learning

This year the Learning First Alliance and Grunwald Associates, released Living and Learning with Mobile Devices, which looks at how parents feel about children's cell phone ownership and use.  Some highlights from the research include:

Smartphone ownership

  • 8% of K-5 students own a smartphone
  • 28% of 6-8 students own a smartphone
  • 51% of 9-12 students own a smartphone
Parent's views on learning benefits of smartphones
Overwhelmingly parents viewed smartphones as having many potential learning benefits including the following; promoting curiosity, teaching science, teaching problem solving, teaching math, teaching world languages, fostering creativity and teaching reading.

In schools where cell phones were permitted and used for learning, the parents were more positive about cell phones as learning tools compared to those parents whose kids were in schools that did not allow cell phones on campus.

71% of parents want mobile technology used in learning.  

64% of parents believe schools should teach students how to use devices safely (despite the fact that 45% of parents purchase mobile devices for their children prior to the school recommending it).

Yet, 69% of parents see mobile apps and software as more of an entertainment "add" on for learning, rather than tools to achieve and expand learning goals.  Like many educators, parents need help understanding how a mobile device can enhance and extend learning goals. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mobile Apps for Classroom Management and Assessment

One area of education technology that we do not focus on enough is the ability for technology to aid teachers in assessing and tracking management in the classroom.  Over the last few years a great number of mobile apps have emerged to aid in the process of tracking student management and making it transparent.  Below I will review a few of the FREE options I have come to appreciate.

Class Charts
When you sign up for class charts, it immediately asks if you want to collaborate with other teachers in your building.  For teachers in grades 6-12 where the students often share multiple teachers throughout the day, the collaboration feature is very handy.  This allows the teachers to see the children's behavior with other teachers and to see if there are certain patterns to the positive or negative behaviors.  The image that you work from is a seating chart for your classroom, and each student's image or an avatar represents them.
On the image are the "behavior" points accumulated, the reading level of students, their income background as well as any other statistical data that might help (you can add your own categories such as cultural background or hobbys) give you or another teacher a more holistic view of where the child is coming from and where they are currently at.  While there are ready-made behaviors, you can also add your own.  In addition, you can add notes to the behavior's accumulated easily so that the children, their parents or other teachers know why the points were added or taken away.  This would work well with a PBIS type approach to behavior management.  The system has very detailed graphical data reports that can be shared with students or parents.  There is also a nice system for a parent code.  Class Charts works with any Internet enabled device (iPad, iPod, Smartphone..etc).

Class Dojo

Class Dojo is similar to Class Charts.  It allows you to create a free account and set up all your students with avatars or pictures.  It does not use a seating chart approach, but lists the students in alphabetical order.  You can award positive or negative behavior points.  In addition to individual student behavior charts, it gives graphical statistics on the "class average" for behavior, which would be nice if you are doing a class award for a certain
behavior.  Also there are other features such as tracking attendance and customizing the behavior type options.  Class Dojo runs on any mobile device with Internet access.


A great free app that tracks and manages student's behavior.
In addition to focusing on behavior it also works as a learning management system (LMS), where it includes grades, attendance and evaluation of activities.  You can use your mobile device to assign behaviors and see over time how the behavior correlates with the classroom grades.  It includes seating charts and customizable behavior options.  There are also graphical reports for students and parents to view.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Exit Tickets: Mobile Student Assessments

There is a wonderful mobile resource for teachers called Exit Tickets.   It is free to register and use for classroom teachers.  The resource is similar to Socrative and Infuselearning, but has more data tracking options and advanced features.  There are three levels of interactivity (before class--pre assessment, during  class--in the moment assessment, and at the end of class--exit ticket assessment).  Therefore you can be proactive and develop assessments and information gathering surveys before class, or you can ask questions in the moment and get immediate answers and feedback.  Exit Tickets works on mobile devices like Smartphones, iPods and iPads as well as laptops/desktops.  In addition, the common core standards are integrated into the software.  Furthermore, each student's data is tracked and gives detailed information about their learning and/or weaknesses.  There is even a "reteach" option in the software!  Mighty cool!  Mighty free!  Worth a look!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ClassWith.Us A New SMS Parent-Teacher Communication Tool

ClassWith.Us is a brand new text alert tool that focuses on parent-teacher communication.  The focus is on making sure that the teacher can easily let parents know about a child's progress in school on a daily basis.  I can see this tool being extremely helpful in elementary classrooms, where the teacher can give a quick update at the end of each week.  I also can see how this tool could be helpful with students with special needs or students who come from families where texting is a primary form of communication.  For example a student may come from a family that is more comfortable with text messages than having to speak with a teacher on the phone.  The ClassWith.Us website archives all communication between parents and teacher.  In addition, it makes allowances for non-traditional families, allowing all people involved in the parenting to see the communication about the student.  I could see this portion of the service being helpful for divorced or single parents who may not communicate well with their child's other parent.  ClassWith.Us has a free portion but if you want any "extra" features such as file attachments or multiple messages sent each day, you would have to pay for the "paid" version.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Socrative for Mobile Polling Just Got Better!

On of my favorite free resources for mobile polling, surveys and brainstorming is Socrative.  Socrative can work on any mobile device with Internet access.  Socrative just got better!  Socrative added two new features that allow for more choice in instruction as well as representation in presentation.  You can now add images to quizzes as well as grade short answer surveys!

So how do I use Socrative in my classroom?  Below are a few ways that I have used it with my preservice teachers in our university courses.  
1)  Entrance Tickets
As soon as the students enter the classroom they log into Socrative (via their laptop, cell phone or iPod/iPad) and answer the getting started question.  This helps to focus the students as well as give me some data to work from for the class period.

2)  Collaborative Group Work Feedback
When I have 5 or 6 groups of students working on a project, I often use Socrative to gather feedback and to assess thinking and progress.  Sometimes I create a "quiz" in Socrative beforehand that I ask them to use as a guide as they are doing their group work.  As they progress through the quiz, I can see (in realtime) on Socrative where they are at in their group work as well as their "thinking" around different topics.  I often project the results in real time so all groups can benefit from the efforts of each group.

3)  Attendance
This is a very simple application of Socrative, but useful.  I ask the students to log into the Socrative room and post their name so that they get their attendance credit (since Socrative logs the time in, I can see who was tardy or on time).

4)  Quick Checks
Since Socrative does not require your to "create" a multiple choice question before using the tool (instead you just select Multiple Choice and it just gives answers of A, B, C, D, E), you can ask multiple choice or free response questions spontaneously in class when you feel as though you need to get a better understanding of what the students are learning or missing.  Then I can modify my teaching "in the moment" to better meet my students needs.   I tend to get a lot of responses this way (as opposed to asking them to share aloud) because it is anonymous.

5)  For Absent Students
When students are absent, they can download the PowerPoint Lecture, but they miss the collaboration that occurred in class.  When I use Socrative for group work and brainstorming in class, the absent students can benefit from the exported spreadsheets to see the thoughts communicated in class.

How do you use Socrative?

Monday, March 4, 2013

TextClues...A Scavenger Hunt for Cell Phones

I have been reviewing a new resource called TextClues.  It is a very simple way to create SMS text message scavenger hunts for any cell phone.  What I like about the resource is that it is much less complicated than a SCVNGR type resource and the teacher can preset the hunt and then the students can text into a simple keyword code to begin their hunt.  Simple, simple!  My only negative:  it is not free.  I wish they had an educator version with some free options.  Right now it costs 14.99 for 100 clues (I cannot figure out if this is the number of clues you create or send?).  I hope TextClues will create an "edu" version for teachers to use with their students more easily.  In the meantime, they do have a free demo on their site you can try.
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