Code Squad

I’m always on the lookout for great apps…and great apps that allow four kiddos to play and learn at the same time…KILLER!
I’ve been a huge fan of Operation Math.  With a secret agent code-cracking format, Operation Math is an awesome and engaging place to practice math facts for students at the elementary level.
Just when it couldn’t get any better, the same folks at Spinlight come out with a new app, Code Squad!
The format is a bit different.  We’re still practicing our facts, but with four agents seated around a single iPad, more kids are touched and the practice becomes a bit more competitive…in an interesting way!
Each agent is allowed up to 5 errors in computation.  A fact is flashed in the center and each agent gets the opportunity to answer it.  All four agents are really working together to keep facts flying and crack the code, but agents are “cut off” of play when they reach those 5 errors.  If at least one agent can keep rolling with the facts, play continues and a round can still be won.
With 20 secret agents and only 5 iPads in my classroom, you’d be amazed at the level of engagement and excitement in my classroom! 
Differentiation, engagement, and hands-on play for everyone…even with a minimal amount of iPads!  
If you are a teacher with 1-to-1 mentality but a 1-to-5 reality, Code Squad is the game for you!
I’m so hoping more developers/designers jump on board with a similar format!
Check out Spinlight here.  This app is also available for purchase on Nook and Android devices, so it opens up a whole great world of high-quality learning beyond the iPad!  Spinlight’s site has great info and is also a place to purchase these apps.  You can also purchase the apps at the App Store!
It’s the best $2.99 I’ve ever forked over for an app.
Give it a try…and share your feedback!  I’d love to hear what you think!

Show Me You Know Math!

For those of you familiar with Sal Khan over at Khan Academy, you know the power of “screencasting.”  Screencasting is basically video footage that includes what you are doing “on the board” with your voice.

I’m “clear as mud” here, so I suggest you take a look at Sal’s work at Khan Academy to really get a feel for the power of screencasting.

I use Khan Academy for so much in my classroom:  flipping, concept reinforcement, reteaching, preteaching and enrichment.

With Show Me, a free app, I can harness the power of screencasting and create my own screencasts…simply…easily.  Better yet, my fourth graders can also create their own screencasts.

The Show Me app, available at the App Store, is easy to use, with a minimal amount of bells and whistles.  This makes it easy for the teacher and student alike to create screencasts.

As a teacher, I can create accounts for each of my students to post screencasts.

I’m loving Show Me as a way to have my students share their understanding of math with me.  I send each kiddo out to a quiet space to record their understanding of a math problem while I’m teaching in small group.  I can sit down later in the day and watch/listen to each child’s Show Me and evaluate the child’s understanding of the concept.

I can also sit down with the student later and have him/her evaluate the work on the screen.  It’s amazing what my students catch when they sit down and listen to their own thinking!

Click on the image to view the Show Me on lattice multiplication.
The kids love it…I love it…and parents enjoy seeing their child’s work emailed to them versus looking over a report.  
Communication and understanding have never been more interactive…or engaging!
I’d love to hear how you are using Show Me!  

Talking WeeMee

Using the Talking WeeMee App to Record Student Reading Fluency

I was looking for a way to provide ways for my students to record their reading in order to build fluency.  As we all well know, one of the best ways to “drive a point home” in terms of students and their reading is to have a student LISTEN to how they actually sound when they read aloud.  Case in point…I had a student who had a “Happy Swede” thing going.  When she’d read aloud, she’d insert an “a” into her words.  It sounded like this:  “aOnce upon a timea, a littlea girla wasa walking…”  (You get the point!)
Anywho, having my student really listen to what she sounded like did worlds of good…and the problem was corrected quite quickly.  In order to do this, we used Garage Band on the Mac to record her read-aloud.
Now, with iPods and iPads, there are more portable options to record my students read-alouds.
I’ve used the AudioBoo App to record my students reading and AudioBoo is really quite effective, however, it lacks a bit in terms of “kid appeal.”  
Enter Talking WeeMee.  This App can be purchased on iTunes for $0.99 and is designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, however, it works great on the iPad as well!  The great thing is that you can email the final “video” to yourself or your student’s inbox or you can post it to a FaceBook page easily within the App.  I’ve actually sent these to a few of my student’s parents and have received rave reviews.  An added benefit:  parents actually watch and LISTEN to these clips.  This is, in my opinion, a much better way to present feedback to parents….at least better than a paper report!
The student can choose an “avatar,”  a background and a “voice” for the personalized WeeMee.  In order to have the student really “hear” his/her reading, I insist on using the “Normal” voice.  Try the “Chipmunk” voice just for fun, but a student should really hear himself/herself in order to get the most out of this App.
Talking WeeMee only records 20 second clips, but in 20 seconds you can really get a feel for how a student sounds and how fluent he/she is with their reading.
My fourth graders love the interactivity of using Talking WeeMee to record their reading and the clip gives a quick taste and a wonderful snapshot of student reading fluency.  All 23 of my students have grown at least 2 reading levels since I started using Talking WeeMee with them during our Reading Fluency stations.  It’s kid-friendly, easy to use, and easy to access as a video clip.
There are bunches of these Talking WeeMees on youTube.  Check them out!