Thursday, November 29, 2012

Technology in the Classroom CAN Benefit Students

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with our school's Literacy/Numeracy Teacher, Paula Windsor. Paula came in to my room to support me around a "Blended Learning" Pathway that is being created to assist my students with their preparation for the sacrament of Reconciliation. While Paula was in my classroom the students were working on Math using the iPads and iPod Touches. I asked Paula if she wouldn't mind providing me with some of the things she observed/heard while my students worked on their Math using the iOS devices.

Here are Paula's words:

"I was quite amazed to see children in your class remain engaged and collaborative for over an hour while using the iPad & iPod devices to explore math games.  I noticed that often times the children each had a hand on the devices and the control of the device flowed from one child to another.  One group of three had 2 boys and a girl.  I noticed that the girl in the group verbalized a strategy that she noticed one of the boys use and then the other boy shared his strategy along with why he thought that it was easier.  The biggest thing that I noticed was that they were talking with each other and engaged in ensuring that their ideas were heard and understood.  The devices seemed like a focal point at the onset but they were not solely absorbed with the technology to the detriment of peer interaction.  Rather the peer interactions seemed to be driven by their engagement in the games and their shared schema relating to the strategies and problem solving skills essential to navigating the technology.  One boy was drawing conclusions about the data that he was collecting and he was referring to both the numeric data on the t-table and the pictorial data proportionally represented on the circle graph.  He was excited to share that two of the three hockey teams were tied and that he interpreted this to mean that they were equally liked among the group that he had surveyed.  Later he concluded that one team was more supported in the class then the other two but that it was only a single vote that made this so which he decided meant that there was not a single team that was the obvious favourite (much deeper conclusions than the typical “shamrocks win” that many gr.2 kids claim)"
I am happy that Paula was able to witness the level of engagement and focus that the students demonstrated. Their capacity and interest continues to grow. They are fully aware of the responsibility that comes with using the technology collaboratively, demonstrating their thinking/learning, and creativity.

It is such an exciting journey that I am on with my students! Please do check back to see how my students and I are doing with the integration of technology in our class. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making Math Fun: Using iOS Apps and Devices to Solve Addition and Subtraction Problems

Today my students used an app called "Space Mathematics: Addition and Subtraction" with the iPod Touches and iPads. Here is the iTunes description for this app:

"Space mathematics: addition and subtraction — it is an interesting (step by step) method of experiencing addition and subtraction within the limits of 100. Your child will learn quickly and fail-safe mental calculation. The child gets into a fun space travel: SAVING THE EARTH FROM METEORITES! The better he counts, the more precisely rockets fly!!! The game allows the child to be trained in the correct execution of tasks, and in the speed of finding an answer, because he will have to shoot quickly using rockets at meteorites flying towards the Earth. During the space travel your child is accompanied by an animated cheerful 3D personage named Cosmic, who helps in the game." (

It is a good thing that we used the "Mathopolis" app first because this app can stress out the most seasoned math student! Mathopolis provided the students with the option of solving problems without the use of a timer - which allows the students to take as much time as they need to solve the problems. With Space Math, meteorites fly across the screen and if you don't get the answer right the meteor will crash into the earth. Here are some screen shots to give you an idea of what the game looks like and how it works:

This is what the main interface looks like. The planet on the left is where the answer is provided for the students. The planet on the far right hand side is the planet that you have to save.

In the picture below you will see that the meteor comes into the field of view (from left to right). As the meteor travels across the screen to the planet on the right the student has to figure out what number added to 4 (the number on the meteorite) will equal 18 (the number in the planet on the left).

The student selects the number 14 missile and fires at the meteorite. The answer is correct so the meteorite explodes and the app shows you the correct addition sentence. When the student answers incorrectly, the missile fires toward the centre of the screen and the meteorite crashes into the planer. After a certain amount of errors the game ends and you have to start over again!

As I walked around the class and observed the students I had a few of them approach me and tell me that they were able to apply (their word, not mine) the strategies of "doubles" and "near doubles" to solve their problems. Some of the students would pause the game when the meteor would fly across the screen in order to provide them with the time needed to think about and solve problem. When I asked them why they were pausing the game, they responded by telling me that they "needed" more time and that they would be able to answer the questions if they had more time. I could not be more proud of them! I am pleased to know that some of them were aware of what they needed and found a way to differentiate in order to be successful.

After some time with this app I brought the students back to the carpet to debrief. They said that they liked the game and that it took them some time to adjust to how fast it worked. We talked about the strategies they used to lead them to success. The students listened to each others logic and we had a good discussion. They seem to be more comfortable with the counting strategies we have been talking about for the past little while - they know where to find them and are experimenting with them. Moreover, they are starting to talk more about their thinking in solving addition and subtraction problems.

I invite your feedback about what I have written about. Please feel free to comment here or to drop me an email at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Students Demonstrate their "Thinking" in Mathematics using an iPad/iPod Touch Application

My students are learning about number sense and numeration at the moment, specifically around addition and subtraction. We have talked about and explored different counting strategies they can use in order to help them with addition/subtraction. Here is a photo of our anchor chart:

My students are working towards 1) explaining their thinking to myself and/or a classmate when they talk about how they solved a problem and 2) being able to solve any particular problem in a variety of ways.

When my students and I create learning goals and success criteria, we always talk about the 4 areas of achievement that they must work towards: knowledge/understanding, thinking, communication, and application. Generally speaking, it is the 'thinking' component where they are getting stuck right now. The ability to communicate the processes they followed in order to solve a problem or complete a task is beneficial for both them and myself. They are simply not 'going the extra mile', even though the tools they require to do so are right in front of them.

With the above information in hand, I decided to set things up for them using technology as a tool to engage them in becoming a little more excited with the work we are doing and to allow them to better 'connect' to our learning in mathematics. I decided to use the iPads and iPod Touches to help me get the students excited and focused on learning more about addition and subtraction and to provide them with another opportunity to share their 'thinking' in how they attempt to solve computational problems.

Using an app called Mathopolis, in combination with the the "Counting Strategies" anchor chart and a graphic organizer created to guide them through the process, the students were expected to solve addition and subtraction problems by choosing appropriate strategies and communicate their thinking using pictures, numbers, or words AND conference with the teacher about their experience.

I chose the Mathopolis app to help with this challenge for a number of reasons - it allows the user to select the operation they would like to use (+ - x / ), the factors they would like to work with (1's, 2's, 3's, etc), and the difficulty level (easy, medium, hard, not timed) they will work at. Moreover, it seemed like a fun game where the students become Math firefighters in a fire & rescue game. When I showed it to them and demonstrated how it worked they told me that they wanted to try it and that it looked like it was fun and 'challenging' (their words, not mine!). I have provided you with some screen shots of the game:

I created a graphic organizer to guide them through their work. It allows them to record their addition/subtraction problem, the strategy(s) that they will use to help them solve the problem, and show their work using pictures, number, and/or words. Here is a photo of what it looks like:

Their task was to play Mathopolis and to use the worksheet to guide them in formally recording what they did for at least 3 problems. All my students have unique needs, but I have a few who have great difficulty with writing. Their job was to seek me out for one problem and take me through it.

The students got to play a cool math game on the iPad/iPod Touch, use an anchor chart to help them with counting tasks, a graphic organizer to systematically lead them through their task, and work with one other classmate. As they journeyed through this task I circulated the room to listen to their conversations, observe them, and conference with them.

It was a lot of fun and it was very productive. The students were focused on their task and they were enjoying themselves! Here are some of what they produced:

Some of the students chose to identify more than one counting strategy! I loved hearing them talk about their work - very proud of themselves. What's even more exciting is the rich conversations we had about what they were doing. Some of the students even delayed completing the third problem because they were worried that I would take the devices away. After a brief "teachable moment" about honesty and making decisions that would "lead them towards Jesus" (part of our classroom philosophy) I assured them that because they were working so hard I would allow them more time to enjoy solving addition and subtraction problems by thinking out loud.

I would love to hear your thoughts/comments on this lesson and the use of the technology. Please feel free to share by commenting on the blog or by emailing me at .

Monday, November 5, 2012

Initial Student Response and Learning - TLLP

It has been about a week and a half since introducing our participating students to the iPad. Here are some learning's based on the journals that their EA's have been keeping.

Our Grade 2 Student:

  • Lots of excitement at first, which caused some difficulty with the following of instructions.
  • It seems as though our student was distracted by the novelty of the device.
  • The student likes to join in where she can (e.g. singing with apps that have music embedded in them) (music is a strength for this student). 
  • Her ability to follow EA instructions before engaging herself with the device is slowly improving. 
  • She is engaged in her learning and it appears as though she requires 15-20 minutes to "get into" her learning and make it an effective time. 
  • Her EA reports that she has the student follow a routine when it is time to use the iPad (e.g. her hands stay in her lap while setting up, listening and repeating instructions before beginning).
  • She shows some frustration when she touches the screen and nothing happens.
  • Really enjoys apps that involve matching.
  • The last entry reports that the student has made some great progress in starting up the device, accessing apps that have been downloaded for her (she has her own folder), and listening to and following EA instructions.
  • She seems to be showing more patience when interacting with her EA and the iPad.  
  • In Math the counting apps are helping the students not over count. In Language letter tracing apps are assisting her in recognizing the steps involved in creating letters. She is learning to follow the steps.
- Seems to be progressing nicely.
- Comfortable with the device and enjoys using it to meet her needs.

Our Grade 4 Student:

  • Difficult for him to stay engaged on one task, seems to like to flip through the apps on the device.
  • Uses the whiteboard app during French class (this seems to be consistent so far).
  • Has earned free time on the iPad - during those times he chose to use apps involved with counting (numbers are a strength for this student).
  • Seems to get distracted by the animation embedded in the apps.
  • Will refuse to do the task at hand - prefers to explore the other apps on the device.
  • He has had some behavioural issues due to his refusals.
- The device seems to be distracting him - more interested in exploring the device rather than focus on his learning. It looks like he needs more time to get over the "novelty" of it.
- Should we remove the apps that are on the device that are not there for his learning as per his IEP?

Our Grade 5 Student:

  • Interested and engaged in using the iPad for his learning.
  • Seems to be enjoying his learning - not discouraged when he makes errors.
  • Interactive apps work best with this student.
  • Loves starting his day with the use of the device (gets him interested and engaged with his school day).
  • Putting pen to paper is difficult for this student, especially in the afternoons. The iPad offers him an alternative that he is much more interested in. Example - when doing a visualization activity the student used an interactive white board app (Screen Chomp) to doodle pictures of characters in the story - allowing him to keep up with the class and the story. This most likely would not have been the case with paper and pencil.
- Seems to be progressing nicely.
- Interactive "game" type apps are effective for this student.
- Looks forward to the use of the device. iPad proves to be useful on many fronts, especially when he becomes fatigued with the use of a pencil.

Interaction with the EA's occurs on a daily basis and I welcome their thoughts and comments as we pass each other throughout the day. They are providing me with valuable information that I need to find appropriate apps for the students. Our grade 2 and grade 5 students are moving in a positive direction with their learning and the use of the device. Our grade 4 student is having difficulty and I wonder if we need to provide him with more time to explore the device itself. Allow him time to get "bored" of the possibilities, if you will. Perhaps he will show us what he wants to do with it and we can find a way to leverage it so that it can benefit him? I believe it is important to keep an open mind and to try and think outside of the box.

What do you think? I would love to interact with you to hear what your thoughts are. Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog or feel free to email me at