Monday, April 30, 2012

iPad as a personal reader

I got turned on to this really cool tip a few weeks ago. iPad has a setting with its newest updates that allows you to highlight text that you want read to you. It doesn't work in all apps, like Kindle, but it works well through Safari and a ton of third-party apps. And the voice is really engaging. I think it's probably the sister of the guy who does the automated storm warnings. Here's how you set it up:

Go to the "Settings" app and choose "General". Scroll down to "Accessibility". You'll need to turn on two things: First, turn on "Speak Auto-text". Then turn on "Speak Selection".

Inside "Speak Selection", you can change the rate of speech. It uses the classic "tortoise and the hare" rating system similar to lawn mowers. 

Now you're set up. Within your app, highlight the text you would like read. When you lift, you should see options. If this feature is enabled in your app, "speak" will be one of your choices. Choose it, and you will hear your text. Of course, you can change the volume to suit your needs. 

I've suggested this to many teachers who have students who can't read well enough to access necessary information. What a great way to support students through a research process. 

You might be an Apple enthusiast if...

So I turned 33 last week. Nothing too unusual there. One perk for being a four-year old is that you get to choose the type of cake that your daddy might want. In years past, I have received a red bird on a branch (not sure where that came from) and an Atlanta Braves logo (that made more sense). I wasn't sure what to expect this year, and I was right. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Running Records with Evernote

Check out this great use for Evernote: creating, saving, and "notebooking" student running records!

When I was in the classroom, I always wanted an easy way to record students while reading to use for conferences and to show growth throughout the year. I never could find a way. But now, Evernote can do it for you! This is the process that I would use in my virtual classroom:

  1. Create a free Evernote account. Download the client to your laptop or desktop computer.
  2. On the client, create a notebook for each student in your class. These will become your storage location for the year.
  3. Find or write a section of text you would like your students to read. Depending on your purpose, you could choose a 100 word segment to record fluency over time. Or you could have a longer text to see how far they get over a set time period. 
  4. Create a note and copy/paste the text into the note. Then name the file and send to the appropriate student's notebook.
  5. You can then copy the note into each folder that you want and rename it
  6. Log in to Evernote on the iPad. You should be able to see the notebooks you created and the notes.
  7. Open the note you want to use. Then begin recording as the student reads. Evernote saves the recording as an attachment to the note. Save the note
Voila! You have just created an audio recording of student reading. Keep adding notes throughout the year. Students would love being able to go back to hear their reading to see what kind of progress they are making. And it's all online, so you can share the note URL to parents whenever you want. Think about the power of that function: Jimmie's parent could be sitting at work when an email pops up from his teacher. She opens the email to find a link to Jimmie's last reading entry. What a great way to instantly share progress and build community with parents. 

I hope you get to try this out! Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 9, 2012

App Review: Evernote

Some of the best education apps out there are ones you won't find in the category of education. When you visit the education category, you might find some good ones. But you usually encounter a lot of databases or apps to develop rote skills. Which is good for some applications. But we want students to develop higher-order thinking and improved problem solving. There is no better app for blowing up Grapplings than Evernote. And it's FREE!

Evernote was probably designed for business professionals. Basically, Evernote is a web-based note organizer. But when you look at the features and use a bit of imagination, you'll see what a huge asset it can be for teachers and students. Here's some basic information about features and usage:

1. Create notes offline - full-time wireless access is important to ipad deployment, but it's not a must. What makes Evernote so powerful is that you can create notes offline. So take the ipad to your outdoor classroom, on a field trip, or anywhere around the school. Create your notes, and when you get back to a wireless location, they'll sync.

2. Create notebooks for students, groups, classes - Evernote is a powerful tool for portfolios. From your desktop, you can create any number of notebooks for any organizational structure. So you could make one notebook for each student, reading group, class, or anything else. Then store the notes in that notebook to record documents or progress over time.

3. Share - super easy to share notebooks or individual notes. When a student does something awesome, get the URL from the note and share it with parents.

4. Embed images and audio to your notes - This is where the power of the app becomes evident. Students can take pictures with their ipad and embed straight to their note. They can then add their own written notes or (and this is the coolest part) add narration to show their thinking! Think about this: a science experiment completely documented using a series of notes with images and student narration. Powerful stuff.

5. Multiple devices on one account - teachers can create an account for their classroom. Then login to the individual devices so all students have access to class documents. This deployment is perfect for elementary folks. Or secondary students can create their own accounts and share notes with the teacher.

That's just a bit for now. But if you are a teacher (or note), you are missing out if you haven't explored the possibilities of Evernote. Go to the App store now. It's FREE!

Friday, April 6, 2012

App Review: Pic Collage

Pic Collage is a great app that can be used with very young children. It allows users to insert their own pictures or find pictures online to their collage. You can add multiple images and easily change the image size. Text can be added to write captions about the images. There are a number of backgrounds and stickers that are available as well.

Adding pictures from the web is so easy: there is an embedded browser. This feature is what makes this app so great! I was able to observe kindergartners create collages about the Statue of Liberty. It was so cool to see them press the screen, choose the browser, and search. Granted, they needed help with spelling, but once the search started, it was so simple. The search returns pages of images that match. You select all the ones you want to add, and then send them to the page. Then move the images and resize to suit your taste.

Exporting couldn't be simpler. Choose your collage and export to camera roll. You can also email, tweet, or facebook (is that a verb yet).

And that's it! An incredibly easy way for students to show their learning through an annotated picture collage. Check out my collage below!