SKYPE In The Classroom

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Since May my students have participated in 3 Skype calls with a primary classroom in Singapore, a teacher in Alaska and one of the founders of Toontastic. It has been a very memorable experience that I would like to share with you. 

MYSTERY SKYPE 


During Mystery Skype students from our school called another school in Singapore. Both classes did not know where the other class was calling from. To begin the lesson each class took turns asking and answering questions about their countires. On our side my first graders used Goolge Earth to narrow the possible locations of their school. Unfortunately, the students in Singapore guessed our location after only a few questions. However, we continued the Skype call with more questions about our cultures. 

After  the Skype call my first graders wrote about what they learned and what they liked about the Skype call. For future Mystery Skype calls I would like to spend more time preparing my students. For example, I would like a better program than Google Earth, because we weren’t able to save different locations or markup the maps. Explain Everything would be a better app for this. 

ALASKA FIELD STATION 


In late June my two first grade classes spoke with Regina Brinker a teacher from California who was stationed at Tulik Field Station in northern Alaska for 2 weeks. My students asked Mrs. Brinker all about life in Alaska and want the researchers were doing at hrs field station. After answering our questions Mrs. Brinker snowed and explained photos of her experiences at the field station. What was great was that she adjusted her presentation to fit my first grade students’s level. Unfortunately, we had a few minor problems with our camera so we were only able to capture a few pictures. 

ANDY RUSSELL TOONTASTIC 

For our latest Skype call I didn’t go to the Skype in the Classroom website. Instead I contacted Andy directly. I’ve been using Toontastic since it arrived on the iPad and I thought it would be great to learn more about the app from the creators. Andy was kind enough to speak to us even though there was a big difference in time zones. 

Andy told us a little about how his past jobs and how he and his team came up with the idea for Toontastic. The best part of the call was that Andy was genuinely interested in the new ideas my students had for Toontastic. My wife who is also teaches at our school asked Andy about his dream as a child. In his response Andy talked about how he loved to play with toys and dreamed about making toys for a living. Before parting Andy gave my students some great advice. “Sometimes the jobs you really want don’t really exist right now. And you kind of have to go and make them yourselves. And if there is something you see now that doesn’t exist go and make it yourself.” Great advice for kids especially for Korean students who struggle with creativity because of strict standardized education. 

FUTURE SKYPE CALLS 

In the next few weeks I’ve lined up a couple of Skype calls for my primary and upper elementary students. Next week we will talk with Lisa and Michael Cohan, a mother and son team who write children’s books. Lisa and Michael will help our students learn about story writing and she will write the story they brainstorm together. 

Near the end of July we will meet the Night Zookeeper. The Night Zoo Keeper will help students explore their imaginations as well as their artistic abilities. Students will also create their own animals and learn how to care for them. 

 

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Book Creator a Review

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Since integrating the iPad into my classes this year my favorite apps have been the ones that had unlimited potential to draw out student creativity. Apps like Garageband, iMovie, Explain Everything and Toontastic (Review coming later) allow children to express themselves in ways subject specific or drill and practice apps do not. A few months ago I was looking for yet another open ended app which would promote writing with my students. It didn’t take me long to discover Book Creator from redjumper.net.

APP OVERVIEW 


I see this app as a mini iBooks Author. You are able to create books in three different layouts, portrait, landscape, and square. Once you’ve selected your layout adding information to the book couldn’t be easier. By clicking on the plus sign in the top right corner you get a number of options of what you would like to add. For example, you can add photos or videos from your camera role, take photos and import them directly from the camera, draw your own illustrations with the pen, add text, and finally add sound to your book.

After adding different content to your book editing that said content is pretty simple. By clicking on the content and selecting the inspector button you can easily adjust the size of a photo or text, change font size or color as well as manipulate the color of your pages.

When you complete your book you can share it by exporting it to other apps such as iBooks, Dropbox, Evernote, Edmodo, and Google Drive. Or if you have an iPad Air you can Air Drop the book to someone.

IN CLASS 

One of the best things about Book Creator is that it appeals to students of all ages. As an EFL teacher in South Korea I teach students from first grade to ninth grade. I’ve used Book Creator with all of my classes. With my primary students I use Book Creator to support their understanding of story telling. We brainstorm stories together, share the pen when it comes to writing the story and students also create videos to add to their stories. Check out a sample here. https://www.dropbox.com/s/2th9sbf7vokg482/The%20Stolen%20Diamond.epub

My upper elementary students are using Book Creator to show their understanding of the novel we are reading (Hunger Games) I’ve asked students to retell part of the story but to change one of the major events. With my upper elementary students I do not need to give as much direction. The best thing I can do as a teacher is let them go. As I mentioned before because Book Creator is so easy to pick up and use my students only needed about a minute of instruction before they were off creating their books.

DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION 

“Differentiated instruction allows all students to access the same classroom curriculum by providing entry points, learning tasks, and outcomes tailored to students’ learning needs” (Watts-Taffe et al., 2012). Technology in the classroom provides teachers the opportunity to work smarter rather than harder  (Stanford, Crow, & Flice, 2009). Book Creator is an app that allows students of all different learning abilities to use their individual strengths. For example, in my elementary classes where students are beginning writers, using the add sound option to narrate their books provides them with a sense of accomplishment rather than failure they would experience if I were to ask them to struggle with a pen and paper story. Furthermore, gifted students with an knack for technology can incorporate different apps while creating their books, or as Gregg Kulowiec from Edtechteacher likes to say App-Smash.

FINAL SAY

With technology becoming a more promement tool for teachers in the classroom we need more apps like Book Creator to bring out the creativity in our students.

References

Stanford, P., Crowe, M. W., & Filce, H. (2010). Differentiating with technology. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 6(4), 2.

Watts-Taffe, S., Barbara Laster, B. P., Broach, L., Marinak, B., McDonald Connor, C., & Walker-Dalhouse, D. (2012). Differentiated Instruction: Making Informed Teacher Decisions. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 303–314. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01126