Sunday, March 23, 2014

Avatars, Tellagami, and Vokis

Last year, when I was teaching written expression, I used to create avatars to introduce new topics to my students. Come on...learning about prepositional phrases is a little more interesting when heard from a cartoon character!

My students loved them, and soon I began incorporating them into my lessons regularly. My students would work really hard brainstorming and writing paragraphs knowing they would be able to create their own character and share with the class.  Here is an example of a voki one of my students created about why she loves homework so much (seriously, this kid LOVED homework).

I really liked Voki, but sometimes all of my (4) computers were in use, and I had 8 iPads and needed a way to do something similar with an app.  That's where Tellagami comes in!  Tellagami is a FREE app that allows students to customize an avatar (knowns as a Gami) and background, then either type in up to 440 characters or record their voice to create a short video.  I like it because the app will store the video in your pictures/video on the iPad, as well as creates a website specifically for that video.  Therefore, you could create a QR code for students or parents to scan and view the video.

Here is a voki I created for a science class to use this week on acids and bases:

Acids and Bases Gami

There are so many uses for these awesome characters!  I'm excited to continue exploring!Have you guys used any of these programs?  Is there another one I am missing?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's App-ening Wednesday: Splash Math Bingo App

As a technology coordinator, it is my job to show my staff members how to integrate technology into their lessons.  As a former math teacher, my love for all things math-y is strong and I am passionate about teaching children math fluency.  I don't believe all children will be fluent in math.  However, I do believe that in order to be successful in the upper levels of math (even pre-algebra, which, thanks to Common Core, is introduced in 7th or 8th grade!), you need to be fluent with your basic facts.  I've had many parents argue that little Johnny doesn't need to know his multiplication facts if he can use his calculator (which is mandated by the IEP), but that calculator will really slow him down, and cause a problem that could have been solved in 15 seconds by a student fluent in math, now takes Johnny a full minute and a half because he needs his calculator to solve 2x3.

But alas, I digress!

I'm here today to discuss a pretty cool app that I have used in my own classroom: Splash Math Bingo App.  It is a FREE app that helps students practice their basic math facts (it includes addition, subtraction, multiplication and division!) without breaking out those boring flash cards or tedious "Math Minute" worksheets.

One of my favorite things about this app is that students input their name, so the app remembers what they have done, so they don't have to continually start back at the beginning.  This saves to much time and frustration (especially when students get 5 minutes to practice and are always stuck with 1x__).

I also like that you not only choose which operation to practice, but also which level.  There is easy (both are single digits), normal (two digits by 1 digit), and hard (two digits by two digits).

When you click start, your problem shows up at the top, and you simply touch the box where the correct answer is located.  A cute little graphic shows up. Then your next problem appears.  There is a box at the bottom that indicates how many you got correct and incorrect.  There is also a timer, which would be great to use as an informal assessment (rather than those pesky flashcards that make everyone nervous!). 

I really love this app and can't say enough good things about it.  My only criticism is that nothing happens when you get the question wrong (not buzzer, no 'Try again', no nothing!), so sometimes students will keep hitting whatever squares until an animal shows up.  But when something is Free - it is hard to be critical:)

Do you have a favorite app to practice fluency?

Sunday, March 2, 2014


As teachers, the one thing we need the most is what we seem to have the least of - time.  Any teacher would love an extra hour in the day or an extra day in the week.  This lack of time is the number one reason I hear from my staff members why they can't implement a new activity, whether it is using QR codes or a particular app.  They simply don't have time to learn how to use it, and subsequently, how to teach their students how to use it.

As a technology coordinator, it is my job to demonstrate new technologies and inspire my staff members to embrace technology and incorporate into their daily lesson plans.  This year, I have implemented an App of the Month at my school.  Each month, I pick one app (Scan (for QR codes), Edmodo, Puffin, and ShowMe have been among the apps so far this year) each month as a focus.  I offer optional staff development training, at multiple times to fit different schedules, and offer my help throughout the month getting comfortable using the new app.

I hope this new method is just enough to get my staff comfortable with the technology available to them, and creates a bit of buzz around the new app each month.  I hope my staffers use this little bit of time to learn something new, and see something that excites them enough to try something new.  So far, I feel that is is successful.  I got really excited when I saw a Poe scavenger hunt featuring QR codes posted around the school.  I was thrilled when I was invited to join a group of our teachers on Edmodo.  I love when teachers come to me and complain that an app isn't working (because I know it means they are trying something new).

I love this technological world we are living in, and kids love it too.  We need to harness the technology, put it to use, and engage our students in learning!