Back to Blokify

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. – Roger Lewin

So, Blokify has turned out to be quite the hit in our room.  I wrote about using the app last time. It has been amazing what has transpired in just one week! We Skyped with Jennifer at Blokify last Friday.  The kids wrote out their questions ahead of time for her.  They had very thoughtful questions and she spoke to them in a way they understood.  She was printing out one of the structures in her office on the 3D printer and she sent us a couple of samples.

Blokify structuresThese arrived in the mail today at school and you would have thought it was Christmas with all of the excitement.  The kids made observations on the objects.  One is heavier, one is with color blocks, and one has more details on it.  They speculated about what the material looked like before the objects were printed and some even drew sketches of the objects on their Drawing Pad app so they could use them in writing.  In the math center, some took wooden unit blocks and tried to re-create the structures.

One of the best things that has happened as a result of using this app is the collaboration between the kids working together to problem solve to build the structures in the app.  One student grabbed some drawing paper, drew squares to represent the blocks and gave it to a friend.  “Here’s your blueprint” he said. That friend then worked in Blokify to try and build what the friend drew for him while the other child made it with unit blocks.

unit blocksIn a recent Kinderchat about Math on Twitter, several of us lamented how math was hard for us in school and that we struggled with it.  We realized that through those experiences, we work harder to make sure our students don’t have those some experiences.  Whether it’s hands-on or virtual activities or a combination of both,  we are working to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills with our students.


Tucker is trying to recreate the pirate ship in Blokify from the 3D model.

Listening to their conversations, I find even I am impressed…”I need to do more research on how the 3D printer works.” “I can help you make that.  You have to see it in your mind first.”  “I will take a screen shot of my structure and then you can try to make it look like mine.”  “I can’t draw in 3D on paper but I can create in 3D on my iPad.” “Ask (Child’s Name)…he is an expert!

When another colleague found Blokify and suggested we download it, I had no idea the depth of thinking, problem solving and conversation that would take place.  This is definitely not a flash-in-the-pan app for us.  I see my kids sticking with it, building, problem solving and thinking critically for some time.

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!

A Bet’s a Bet!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

A recent conversation between 2 of my students went something like this:

“I saw a python in my yard over spring break.”

“No way! Pythons don’t live here.”

“Yeah huh I really did. I bet you $10.  Have you ever seen one?”

“No. Only on tv.”

“Dude, come look on my iPad. I will show you one.”

At that point, they went over to their iPads. They promptly opened up Safari, Google-searched pythons and went straight to Wikipedia.  They started reading what pythons eat and looked at pictures of pythons.  Then, a terrible, awful, discovery…pythons do not live in Charleston.  Oops.  *Silence*   Well, this is awkward.

Haven’t we all insisted something was right and we were oh-so-wrong?  We all have misconceptions and young children are no different.  Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of those misconceptions.  In this case, the students solved their own problem.  They were forced to look at something in a different way.  Problem solving and discovery often mean a change in thinking, a change in how we look at something, a paradigm shift.

Many school districts are looking at a change in how they do education.  Decisions are being made about whether to try iPads or some other tablet.  Discussions are being had about what is the best way to proceed.  Arguments are taking place about whether teachers and students need this technology. The misconception exists that young students can’t handle iPads.  I have taught for 22 years without iPads and just over 1 year with them.  In the past, I’ve had as many as 4 desktop computers in my classroom and as few as 1. (I currently have none.)  The problem with the desktop computers was lack of access.  There was no way all 30 students could get on the computers in a meaningful way on a daily basis.  How many times a day do you use your smart phone to look up something, get directions, make a reservation, look up a phone number, text someone, send an email or take a picture?  Accessibility to information is a critical part of learning. The students in the verbal exchange written above would have either argued their way through the python dilemma or they would’ve come to me to solve it.  I am not a paid Apple representative, nor do I play one on TV…but what I know for sure is the accessibility and convenience of the iPad allow students and teachers to approach learning in a whole new way…with a new set of eyes.

“Dude…you owe me $10.”

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Problem Solving and Math Apps

Before beginning a hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.-Winnie the Pooh

Problem solving is a critical skill and a large part of the foundation for early learning.   Opportunities for problem solving exist in everyday life.  By exploring their environment, manipulating objects, thinking critically, and building on existing learning, students can strengthen problem-solving  skills.

We have been using our iPads to create story problems in our Whiteboard App.  Students draw the story problem then type the number sentence to represent the picture.  We have even had a story problem exchange.  Students create the picture to represent either an addition or subtraction problem.  Then they pass their iPad to a friend who looks at the picture and figures out the appropriate number sentence.

Another activity my students have enjoyed is taking objects in our classroom such as unifix cubes or pattern blocks and creating a pattern.  They use their camera on their iPad to take a photograph and trade iPads with another student.  That student identifies the pattern and re-creates the pattern using Pop Beads app.

Using these manipulatives, students can make visual representations and I can model for students.  The iPads create another opportunity for practice and integration.  It can serve as a calculator, a notepad, an information resource, and flashcards.  It keeps score, tracks progress, and many apps monitor and adjust content.  iPads allow me to also integrate content.  The word problem in the above picture was created by a student after we studied seeds and plants.  She typed a science journal entry in Pages and then created her story problem.  The iPad allows for seamless integration of subjects that makes sense to students and increases their understanding of new concepts.

Other apps my students enjoy using in math are Math Bingo, Park Math, Monkey Math, and Flash to Pass.

By providing sustained opportunities for students to solve problems in a variety of contexts, they begin taking responsibility for their own learning.

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