Snow Day Math App

I have a love/hate relationship with math. I cannot do mental math to SAVE MY LIFE. Being a bartender in a ski resort during apres was a nightmare for me. I just never solidified basics in my head. On paper, however, I can kill it. Ironically, my mom has her PhD in Math. Go figure. I had to take my Calculus 2 final exam verbally with my professor in his office because I could explain it and do it step by step, yet somehow when I went to paper, I couldn’t do it. I would get messed up in all the little basics that by the time I reached an answer, I was way off. Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.24.11 AM

This brings me to an absolutely AMAZING app called Snow Day Math by Beth Stade, who works at CU Boulder and also for many small grants. She is one of those people who gets math and knows that everyone else can get math if they just know the fundamentals. This is one of the coolest apps out there. (no pun intended with the snow…cool…get it?)

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Snow Day Math helps you learn place value, something that many kids (and adults) struggle with. The app allows you to touch the numbers, stack them, pull them apart and repel. The app is not set as a game, there’s not right or wrong, which is imperative for those who have had a bad experience with math and feel incompetent. As you move the numbers, you notice that you can’t add numbers that add up to more than ten on top of each other without splitting them to first reach the decade and then add the rest. Same with 100. I’m not the most eloquent with math terms, so I’m sure I’ve messed up already (sorry math aficionados).

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We piloted the app with first graders last year, and with some we scaffolded it and had them use real counters next to their iPads while with others we just let them “figure it out.” We also worked with students to have them verbally share their explanations of why they could add certain numbers and not others. Beth worked with second graders this year for her research and came up with incredible findings on how kids were able to use the app in their head to help answer tough problems. Another amazing finding was that without introducing subtraction, students were able to immediately transfer their understandings from addition to subtraction when using the app. Amazing.

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Puffins…not Penguins

Not supporting Flash is one of the main downfalls of the iPad (I could list MANY, but I’ll keep it cool). A few years ago I had tested out the free Rover App, which crashed incessantly. I then found this sad looking Puffin.

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Puffin, although still a bit buggy at the time, allowed students to use Raz Kids and watch flash animations on Discovery Education and National Geographic Education sites. It took up a lot of bandwidth, which was an issue for us back then, but it worked. The dark side was that it cost $3.99, which for one iPad is fine, but I manage 200+ iPads. I thought it was worth it, and luckily so did my boss. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve used it personally to watch Broncos games online (shhhh).

And then I read a post by +Dan Gallagher who mentioned using the Puffin Academy App, which was free.

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Same sad little Puffin, but this time, revamped. The Puffin Academy app is a curated space for educational sites, and it is restricted. When you try and go to YouTube, it says “No Result!”…which also means if I tried to watch my Broncos games, it would have the same response. Phooey.

Why is Puffin Academy so great for education? For starters, it’s FREE. Thank you, CloudMosa, Inc. Second, educational publishers or content providers have to apply and be approved before being curated. That means that no icky sites can appear, so in theory, if your district is controlling over allowing Safarai or YouTube on iPads, this could be a fantastic alternative. You could Restrict Safari, but still be able to access educational websites AND be able to view flash animations.

Who knew this sad little Puffin face could bring so much joy?

iMovie with First Graders

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Yes, you read that correctly.

iMovie with first graders. We sent 3 classes of first graders to the Apple store in the fall to learn how to use iMovie. What does that look like? Well, it looked kind of chaotic and kind of awesome. The kids were amazing. The teachers and parents who accompanied us were amazing. Some of my favorite moments revolved around the students just playing with sound effects and giggling uncontrollably. Yes, the words used by the Apple Trainers were way above the kids’ heads, and above most of the adults as well, but that didn’t really matter. And yes, the kids were more excited about getting t-shirts and wrist bands than editing film, but it didn’t matter. They had a blast while learning a new tool.

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Fast forward to March. Students will now be using the iPads to create their videos for their PBL unit on beautifying the playground.

Each group of 4 students has created a drawn out plan of how they would beautify the playground, incorporating their learning from FOSS Pebbles, Sand & Silt, New Plants and Solids & Liquids. They’ve also written a persuasive letter to community members to contribute either money or landscape materials to their idea.

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They will be using iMovie to videotape themselves reading their letter and showing the drawn plan while describing how the playground will be changed and why. The groups will compete against each other within their classes and the winners will compete against the winners from another class, and then will be submitted to local companies. Hopefully they will receive money or supplies or both, but if not they will need to go back and revise their plans, budgets and strategy and try again.

The kids and teachers used iMovie on the computers at the Apple store, not on iPads. So now the trick is to have them transfer information from one device to another. Good thing they look so similar…ahem. So for the teachers (and students if they’d like), I made an intro video tutorial for iMovie 2.0.

Zydeco Inquiry App

This is hands down one of my favorite apps. It was designed with science inquiry learning in mind, but the awesome thing about it is that it can be used for ANY content area. The teacher (or student) creates an investigation with a guiding question and possibly add a hypothesis or supporting questions, then users in the investigation collect data and observations in the format of audio, movie, photos, or text which is all stored in the app. Once the students are in wifi, all their data is collected together so they can see what each other collected as well. They then type in their claim (which may or may not be the same as their hypothesis), and are able to tap in any piece of evidence from the investigation- regardless of file type or the person who collected the evidence. Once they’ve pulled in their evidence, they must write in their reasoning for why the evidence supports their claim. Genius. I mean, genius.

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This can be used for literacy, social studies, music, etc. What is so great is that curriculum and assessments are continuously striving towards students showing their understanding through evidence…which is why this app is so perfect. It provides enough basic structure for students to support their thinking with evidence and reasoning.

For more information regarding Zydeco, go to their site http://zydeco.soe.umich.edu/ You may notice that the site says UMich…aka the University of Michigan. Yes, this app was designed by science educators from the University of Michigan and it was funded by an NSF grant. Which means it was fairly well thought out. Also, the developers are really nice guys who are always trying to improve it and are open to feedback and suggestions.

You can also access the app through the web at https://www.myzydeco.com/users/sign_in which is awesome, especially if you forget your iPad at work, or a student is using it.