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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Engage and Differentiate

I was able to attend an Apple Leadership and Learning workshop last week in Indy.  We heard about visionary leadership from three Indiana superintendents who have successful 1:1 programs in their districts.  We heard about innovative teaching and learning from Apple Distinguished Educator, Jim Harmon (@jimharmon), and Apple presenter, Chad Reynolds.  The workshop was not iPad specific, but the educators who shared had a lot of good to talk about regarding iPads in the classroom.  I am already a believer in the iPads creative potential.  I am a firm proponent for differentiation for personalized learning. What I didn’t consider was the ability to differentiate learning for students through the apps teachers assign for them to use.  Don’t have every student use the same app.  Huh – innovative?  Not really – pretty much common sense.  I just needed someone to point it out to me (apparently).

I haven’t done a straight out app review and recommendation list in a while.  Here are some I have recently discovered that I think could be great in the classroom.

  • Subtext: This app would be fantastic for any content area (okay, math might be a stretch).  Teachers set up classes or groups and assign books or articles for students to read.  You can connect through gmail, Edmodo, and/or Renaissance Learning.  Teachers can interact with their students while they are reading the assignment.  Students can access Google Drive from the app, convert the text to speech, highlight and make notes about what they are reading.  There are many open resource books already available (i.e. Lord of the Flies, Alice in Wonderland).  It’s very easy to search for or download specific articles to assign, as well.  This app engages students in reading and aids in their comprehension of the material.  It comes highly recommended by Jim Harmon who uses it with his high school English classes.
  • TapQuiz Maps:  Learn the countries of the world through a fun and engaging game. Just tap the answer to each question on the map. Students can keep track of their progress through the statistics page. Each country can be broken into regions, as well.  Students can replay each regional game to improve accuracy.  Confession: I went from 33% accuracy to 94% accuracy by playing the US Southern region twice.
  • Zondle: Allows the teacher or the student to create and play games that support class content and individual learning needs.  It looks fairly elementaryish, but I found some fun games that review Romeo and Juliet.  The content is vast and easily searchable.  Teachers can even manage the assignments and creation from their laptops.  User can create their own sets of questions or choose from thousands that have already been created.  Zondle games and quizzes allow students to practice, review, revise, and memorize.  Great for any content area and age level.


I’m going to stop with these three hoping that you will take time to check out at least one of them.  As always, these apps are all free.  Enjoy!

For your viewing pleasure…

A Parent’s Wishes for His Child’s Teachers: Chris Kennedy 

Whatever Happened to Joy in Education?: Dean Sharesk

Our Voice: George Couros 

Hackschooling makes me happy: Logan LaPlante

Differentiation vs. Standardization

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Last week I received this email from a teacher in our district:
I need some advice! Since January is pretty much a wash for instruction, and ISTEP is looming near, how would you suggest I most effectively prepare my students for ISTEP? (A big question I know!) Here is my dilemma…I do NOT want to just focus on test prep for 4-6 weeks. That’s boring! I’ve always wondered why teachers are told to differentiate instruction and then kids are assessed with a standardized test. Makes absolutely no sense to me! I don’t just want to teach to the test…that’s not why I became a teacher. I don’t want to give up authentic teaching for test prep activities, but that being said, I know I will be evaluated on how my kids do.
I guess I just wanted to pick your brain on test prep…
This passionate teacher is fairly new in her teaching career (brand new to teaching in our district), but has worked in education for a long time.  I love working with her.  She’s passionate, she’s enthusiastic, she’s a self-initiated learner, and she loves her students.  That being said, I don’t think she’s the only teacher to face the dilemma about test prep.  Here was my email response to her:
I am highly anti-test prep as research has shown that it does not increase performance.  I do believe in exposing students to the types of questions and tasks they will encounter on tests, though.  I think if you keep teaching the standards in authentic and engaging ways, then your students will be prepared for ISTEP regardless if you spend the next 4-6 weeks in the test prep books.  My opinion…  Keep doing what you know is best practices for your students.
Which brings me to her original question, if we want to educate students based on their personal needs, why do we [typically government officials] continue to insist we assess them with a one-size-fits-all standardized test?
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