DocAS App and the SC EdTech Conference

Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life-Henry L. Doherty

I’ve just returned from presenting at the SC Ed Tech conference.  I went to share how I use iBooks Author in my classroom.  I have written about it here previously.  It was great to see a standing room only crowd and have so much positive feedback from the audience.  However, while I went to share my knowledge, I also went to learn something new.  What better place to do that than a technology conference?

One of the apps I saw is DocAS.  It was presented at the conference by a colleague of mine as “Pages on Steroids”.  It is regularly $4.99, but right now it is on sale for .99.  DocAS DocAS lets your take notes, sketch your ideas, annotate your PDF, do your presentations, read your documents, record your classes or meetings, and share your ideas on your iPad, All in one.

Here are some highlights of the app:

Access your documents from any sources: Mac/PC Desktop (Wi-Fi), Dropbox, Box, Google_Drive, Email, FTP, WebDAV, build-in browser, other Apps and more.
✔ Built-in viewer supports reading PDF, MS Office (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) and Apple iWork files (Numbers, Pages, Keynote), RTF, Text, photos…
✔ Merge, Clone, Move, Sort, Export , Rename your documents
✔ Powerful file manager with sub-folder support
✔ Password protect for your document and folder
✔ Trash bin support – double-protect your document
✔ Documents downloading indicator and new document indicator

✔ Highlight text with different colors to emphasize your important sentences
✔ Fill and Sign your PDF forms with beautiful handwriting ink
✔ Add text notes and picture in your PDF
✔ Add Bookmark
✔ Reorganize your PDF page
✔ Insert new page in your PDF
✔ Add comments on your PDF
✔ Sign your email attachment with opening your PDF from Mail App
✔ Text search in PDF
✔ Audio memo and stick note for PDF
✔ URL link in PDF

Multiple audio memo is supported
✔ Insert audio note anywhere in page
✔ Move the audio note location along with your annotation

There are many more highlights!  I am excited about having my students use this app to download documents from my class wiki and then work with the documents in DocAS.  Since Pages doesn’t currently upload to PaperPort Everywhere and DocAS does, this is particularly attractive.  I’ve used GoodNotes previously, but like DocAS better.

I will be sharing a few other conference ideas in coming posts.

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PaperDesk App for iPad

I’ve been writing in notebooks for 40 years or so.-Frank McCourt

I’ve always loved different kinds of paper, notepads, note cards, journals, etc…I love to own them, but I’m stingy about using them.  I’m also a list person.  I have Post-It notes everywhere to remind me of things.  I’ve started putting a lot of notes and reminders in my iPhone for convenience and I love having it all in one place.

I recently  found the PaperDesk app.  PaperDesk is the best way to take notes without dragging around loads of paper, notebooks, pencils, and pens to your next class or meeting. PaperDesk is a fun, easy-to-use notebook replacement made specifically for the iPad.  PaperDesk allows you to keep a “desk” full of your notebooks. You have unlimited notebooks with an unlimited number of pages in the full PaperDesk app! You also have all of the most popular exporting options, including Dropbox, in the full PaperDesk app. Autosync to Dropbox to ensure your notes are at your fingertips anywhere you go.  The app is $4.99 but there is a lite version. In the lite version, you are limited to 3 notebooks with 3 pages per notebook and no exporting options.

Here are some highlights:

Typing:
• 58 Fonts, colors, bold, italic, and underline formatting options
• Custom characters built into on-screen keyboard
• Automatic bulleted and numbered lists

Drawing:
• Color picker with thousands of colors
• Rest your wrist on screen while drawing
• Smooth, gel ink
• 20 level undo support for text or drawing

Importing (not available in PaperDesk Lite):
• Import PDFs from other apps, Dropbox, or iTunes (up to ~180 pgs per PDF)
• Insert images from photo library or camera

Exporting (not available in PaperDesk Lite):
• Dropbox
• GoogleDocs
• Email
• Twitter
• AirPrint

Organization:
• Bookmark pages to navigate easily
• Search all of your notebooks in seconds
• Keep a task list in each notebook, with in-app notifications
• Organize notebooks and folders by name or date
• Animated folders for notebooks

I haven’t used this in my classroom yet.  I’ve just downloaded it for myself.  However, I see it as particularly useful for students in keeping things organized, for science or math journals, observations, taking notes or drawings.  PaperDesk gives you all the benefits of a simple pad of paper – with all the benefits of note taking on the iPad!

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The Joys of Children and Technology

The few wonders of the world only exist while there are those with the sight to see them.-Charles de Lint

This post isn’t technical or about favorite apps.  It’s Friday, and it’s been a tough week for me.  My sister has terminal cancer and the family has been called in.  Even amidst the sadness, my 2 year old great-niece has provided us all with some relief and smiles.

Children have a way of doing that.  They have a way of seeing things that the rest of us don’t.  Earlier this week, one of my students asked, out of the blue, “Mrs. Meeuwse, does Jesus use FaceTime on his iPad?”  *crickets*  Well, um…you see…I looked at a room of 25 inquisitive, dead serious little faces.  And then, deliverance…another child piped up with, “Jesus is a superhero.  He can do anything.” And so, there it is.  Wisdom, innocence and simplicity all in one package.

Teaching has so many golden moments.  Some are amusing, some are profound.  I love my job.

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A Simple Way to Get Work Off of iPads

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify-Henry David Thoreau

One of my biggest challenges with the iPads is getting student work off of the iPad.  Our emailing ability has not come to fruition as I had hoped and many apps just don’t work with Paper Port.  I keep thinking it just shouldn’t be this difficult to get the work off of the iPad!

Enter my new favorite app…Simple Transfer. This $1.99 app is the easiest way of transferring your Photos and Videos to computer and other iOS devices via WiFi. No need for cable, iTunes or extra software.  Yesterday, I transferred a student video from the iPad to my laptop.  It took mere minutes.  Here are the highlights:

View all your photo albums and videos on your computer and download them as zip file via WiFi

★ Send multiple photos and videos from your computer to your device

★ Transfer any number of photos and videos between iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), select an album and tap on “Select All” to transfer all your photos/videos

★ Ability to create new albums and transfer to photos/videos to other albums

★ Photos are transferred with full resolution including metadata and videos transferred with the highest quality

★ No limit on the number or size of the photos/videos you transfer between devices or computers

★ Slideshow photo albums on your computer’s browser

★ Pay only once to install the app on all your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch)

Ahh…for a Monday morning, I could use a little simplicity.  Couldn’t you?

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You Can’t Handle the Awesomeness!

Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I love my job.  Most days.  I work in a great school and have great kids and great parents.  Don’t get me wrong, there are days I could put a knot on every head.  (The kids that is, not the parents.  Maybe. ) The best part about teaching kindergarten is the never-ending enthusiasm of my students, as witnessed by this recent exclamation:  “Whoa! There’s a new app in the ABC folder! I can’t wait to play it! Oh man! This is so awesome!  I could do this every day it’s so awesome!  I  can’t handle all the awesomeness!” I’m not sure, but I think he liked it.  One of my students missed a day of school recently and during his absence, I added a new app.  I forgot to tell him about it but as soon as he opened his iPad and opened the ABC folder (I categorize my apps into folders), he immediately saw the new app.  What’s amazing to me is that there are 20 apps in that folder and he knew instantly there was a change.  Observant and enthusiastic!

When was the last time you were so excited at school that you couldn’t handle the awesomeness? As I’m typing this, I’m trying to think of the last time I was so excited about anything that I couldn’t handle the awesomeness…and I’m still thinking…anyway, the app that created the excitement is Starfall Learn to Read.  At last, all the content from Starfall.com’s Learn to Read index in an app!

I’m still pondering the unabashed love of learning.  Children innately love learning. They are curious and want to find out the what, where, how, and why of everything around them. Where does that curiosity and enthusiasm go?  Are we drilling and testing it out of them? Are we using best practices and showing our own enthusiasm as an adult learner?  I mean, if a $2.99 app generates more awesomeness than a child can handle and he enthusiastically exclaims he could play the app every day, it’s a worthy question.  Obviously, we can’t play apps all day long, just as we can’t sit at a desk and do worksheets all day either. iPads are definitely a game changer.  My kids think they are, well… awesome and I think they are pretty awesome my very own self.  I want them to be excited about learning and I don’t want them to lose that enthusiasm.   By examining ourselves as educators and taking a long hard look at what we are teaching, hopefully we can take a cue from my young student and channel our own inner awesome!

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Giving Students Choices in Reading

Readers without power to make their own choice are unmotivated. -Donalyn Miller-The Book Whisperer

I’ve stated before that I’m a voracious reader.  I have always loved books and the ability to be transformed by a story.  I particularly love Southern writers.  I’ve never quite understood how others aren’t “readers”. They read only when required and almost never for pleasure.  In order to create readers, we have to identify ourselves as a reader first.  We must “brand” ourselves as readers.  When I read to my class, I share what I like about that particular author. I tell about other books like that book.  I make connections with myself to the text, to others, and to the world.  My students know how much I love to read.

But what about those who struggle? Or those who don’t like it?  Getting to the root helps determine which way to help the child grow.  What don’t they like?  Are there books available that interest them?  How many informational texts are available on their reading level?  I can tell you that as much as I love reading, I would not be as enthusiastic if I were forced to sit and read instructional manuals all day, or books on mechanical things. Those are not my interest.  Taking an interest inventory helps know how to fill your book center or your iBooks shelf on your iPad.  Building an early foundation of excitement about books, whether paperback, hardback, or electronic, helps build an appreciation and love for books.

My students have a variety of genres available throughout the day.  We work to build enthusiasm for our classroom library and for our eBooks on our iPads.  By demonstrating authentic reading behaviors, doing away with worksheets, engaging kids in building stamina when they read, and giving kids choices about what they read, we can develop life-long readers.

Reading is so much more than phonics, sight words, and mechanics.  It is about building discovery, wonder, and awe around the written word.  It is power.  It is peace.

So what should students learn from us about reading?  That drill and practice worksheets aren’t making them better readers.  Reading makes them better readers.  iPads give me the opportunity to practice the mechanics of reading with individual students on their own level, but they also give them a choice of what they are reading.  There are leveled books in their iBooks libraries.  There are high interest books as part of their apps, plus all of the traditional books in our classroom.  The best part of all is that the choice is theirs!

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Montessori Crosswords

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.-Henry Ford

Learning to read begins with learning to talk.  Children listen to their parents and mimic sounds.  They eventually begin to associate these sounds with words that represent things and actions. From there, vocabulary increases as parents read stories, sing songs and rhymes. As children learn the alphabet and letter sounds, they soon learn that words are made of combinations of several letter sounds merged together.

While easy to write about, it’s not so easy to accomplish.  It is also a complex task to meet each child where he/she is and personalize their learning.  We immerse our students in a language-rich environment all throughout the day.  Part of that immersion involves using iPads.  One of the apps we like to use for associating letters and sounds is Montessori Crosswords.  Montessori Crosswords helps kids develop their reading, writing, and spelling skills by building words from a set of 320 word-image-audio-phonics combinations using a phonics-enabled movable alphabet.  Montessori Crosswords allows you to select words according to their difficulty or sound categories:
➜ Level 1 displays a three-letter word with no difficulty for beginning readers (CVC words)
➜ Levels 2 and 3 offer more complex words that contains more complex phonics (as long vowels sounds or blends), and also offer the option to automatically create multi-word crosswords in tens of thousands of different combinations
➜ Alternately, you can choose from 44 sound categories (i.e. choose words that contain a specific sound.  This app costs $2.99 and is worth it!

As my students work on their emerging literacy skills through a variety of ways, I love that I have a tool that gives my students the ability to personalize their learning.  We have to be willing to look at our students as individuals and give them what they need as they need it.  Learning is not one size fits all.  Just because our lesson plans say we are teaching a certain skill this week doesn’t mean all of our students will master it in that time frame.  iPads give students the ability to practice just what they need.

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Action Words Anchor Chart

Action expresses priorities. -Mahatma Gandhi

Action is something that is never lacking in a kindergarten classroom.  Something or someone is always in motion. In other action news, my students are very interested in action figures.  There was a fairly intense discussion going on at one point about who was more powerful-Spiderman or the Dark Knight. Of course, everyone had an opinion and several offered other action figures that were more awesome than the original 2 being discussed.  How does this impromptu conversation fit into the Common Core Standards?

By taking action, we can turn a random classroom discussion into a learning opportunity.  One of the kindergarten Common Core Standards is that students will participate in collaborative conversations about kindergarten topics with peers and adults. We turned their interest in that topic into an anchor chart.  Afterwards, they used their Whiteboard App to illustrate an action they could perform.  This activity involved using our sight words to construct a basic sentence and an illustration.

The following day I was reading an Eric Carle book, “Rooster’s Off to See the World” as a part of our Eric Carle author study.  As I was reading, without prompting, the children began calling out action words they heard in the story. Our discussion from the day before had carried over into a new activity.  Higher order thinking skills?  You bet.

By being alert to everyday situations, we can take action and turn them into meaningful learning activities.

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Exploring Science

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Young children are curious about the world around them and eager to explore it. This curiosity is reflected in the numerous questions that children pose in everyday conversations at home and in school. However, at the beginning of school, young children are afforded few opportunities to engage systematically and thoughtfully in learning science. On average, less than 10% of instructional time is spent on teaching science in the early grades.  Time is a precious commodity in the classroom…so how do we fit it all in?

One of the ways we incorporate science is through our thematic units.  We also explore science themes through informational texts.  One of my reading groups was reading a leveled book on weather.  The informational text was written on this group’s reading level.  After reading the book and discussing different kinds of weather, we used our iPads as both a reading response/science journal.  Using our Whiteboard App, the children wrote about weather.  Kaylee wrote about a sunny day.  This was their first experience using the iPad keyboard.  They were excited about creating this assignment on their iPads.  There was a lot of good discussion among the children about which type of weather they would choose and how they would represent that on the iPad. One of the best ways to incorporate scientific skills in young children is to help them verbalize what they have observed.  Doing this activity in the small guided reading group made it very manageable.  The children already knew how to use Whiteboard in its basic form, how to change their colors, draw, erase, and save…but had not used the keyboard function before.  We had to discuss a few keyboard basics-space bar, backspace to erase, and how to hide the keyboard when finished.

Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer and writer, said that all children start out as scientists, full of curiosity and questions about the world around them.  We can tap into that natural potential by engaging students in hands-on activities, and in class discussions that help students discover simple but amazing facts about the world around them. The iPads serve as a tool to facilitate and extend the learning.

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Engaging Students in Learning with iPads

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. -Henry Ford

One of the best parts of teaching young children is their ability to be excited about just about anything.  They still love to learn and try new things.  Their eyes light up when I say we are going to do something new.  They are not at the eye-rolling and teeth sucking stage (yet.) The other day, I said, “Ok…it’s time to get ready for Writer’s Workshop.  I have something I want you to see.”  I got fist pumps and “YESSS!” Excitement.  Enthusiasm.  Their reactions energize me and never cease to amaze me.

A key component to student achievement is without a doubt student engagement.  Using outdated techniques, while perhaps “tried and true”, can also be seen as uninteresting or even boring to our students.  Outdated tools are ineffective and inefficient.  I mean, when was the last time you used an abacus to solve a math problem?  If we want our students engaged, we have to use currency they understand.  Just switching from hand-held flashcards to an app that teaches the same skill on the iPad instantly increases engagement.  It’s fresh.  It’s interactive.  It’s engaging.  When I have 2 students working together on a skill, they learn through interaction, shared experience, trial and error, and joint success.

Over these beginning weeks of the school year, we are getting to know each other. My students are learning classmates’ names (still!) and they are learning more about themselves and what they are capable of.  In our 21st century classroom, we learn through a mixture of traditional and digital means.  Whether we are using crayons, pencils and paper or iPads, Smart Boards and laptops, we know that our success lies in working together.  iPads allow me to up the engagement factor and meet the various needs of my students.  That is definitely worth a “high five”!

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