Scribble Press: Great for Reading and Writing

When I got Scribble Press it was a free app. It now cost $2.99 but is worth every penny.

This app is excellent for introducing young children (and even older ones) to creating their own books. The app offers the choice of starting with a blank book, where you do all the writing, to a number of template books where students can read and then fill in the blanks with their own words to personalize their stories. I know a grade 1 class that used this with grade 6 reading buddies. They took turns reading the book and the older student did the typing for the younger student as they dictated what should be in the blanks.

Once the blanks have been filled in, or the writing completed, it is then time to illustrate the book. You can import pictures, use the drawing tools that are provided or a combination of both to finish off your book.

Some of the templates categories include: About Me, Aliens, Family, Fantasy, Holiday, Humor and School. Within these categories there are a number of templates to choose from.

The finished copy of the book can be saved in iBooks, viewed in the moderated Scribble Press Gallery, shared on Facebook, Twitter or you can email a link to the book just to the Mummy and Daddy of the child who created it. You can also order a printed copy of the book or make something with the artwork from the book. This gives families the option of creating their own keepsakes of their child’s work.

It costs $2.99 and is available at:

ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard

This  intuitive app has applications in any subject area. It allows you to create tutorials,  record voice-overs and illustrate whatever you want on a whiteboard surface. There are 7 choices of pen colour and two different erasing options. You can upload photos onto the board, or take photos while in the program and then draw on the photos to fully explain your ideas.

I used this app with grade 1 students. Independently, they were able to take and import screen shots of their work on the iPad, import photos of work that they had done without the iPad, and record and illustrate their understandings of different math concepts.

In a WiFi environment, the ShowMes are automatically sent to an account that you create. You can access this account and the ShowMe files from any computer. This was terrific for the teachers I was working with. The students created their ShowMes and the teachers could view them from their classroom or home computers. The ShowMes could easily be shared with the class through the media cart projector.

The accounts are free to create. Teachers have the option of creating a class or individual account. The ShowMes can be kept private or shared with others. The teachers were able to email links to the ShowMes to the parents of the students in their class to share the work that the students had done. Since students were not having to write their answers, they provided more detail to their responses. We did need to provide opportunities for the students to practice and to  become clear and concise in their responses. Our students’ ShowMes provided evidence of learning not only in math but also in oral and visual communication.

ShowMe is available for free at:

This is a link to an article on how we used ShowMe with a class and a student created ShowMe:


Tell new stories or re-tell stories with Puppet Pals

Puppet Pals HD has been a popular app the grade one classes that I have worked with. It is an app that allows you to create simple animations using backdrops and characters.

The free version comes with a collection of characters (a fairy, a dragron, a crow, to name a few) and 3 backdrops (a castle, field and cave). It is easy to select which characters you want to appear in your puppet show and what backdrop you want on the stage. To create a puppet show, you tap the record button and begin moving your characters around the stage while narrating your story. Press stop when you are done. Your puppet show becomes a video that is available to be viewed again within the Puppet Pals app or to be exported to your camera roll where you can save it or share it with others.

The paid version costs $2.99 and provides a lot more characters and backdrops to choose from. Another very nice feature in the Director’s Pass version is that you take your own pictures of backdrops or characters to use them in shows. It is easy to take a picture of a person and cut out around them to create a “puppet”. Students can take pictures of each other and their classroom and create stories about themselves, re-tell stories that have been told or read in class, create fairy tales, public service announcements, etc. You can begin with the free version and upgrade to the Director’s Pass version at a later date.

Puppet Pals is available for free at:

The Director’s Pass $2.99 version of Puppet Pals is available at:paid puppet pals

Why I Love iBooks

iBooks has become one of my “must have” apps on my iPad.

I don’t use it to purchase books, although that is what it is really designed to do. I use it to store all the documents that I need to do my job. It allows me to have all the curriculum documents, Effective Guides and a variety of other documents with me all the time. I even have a shelf for all the Tech Times.

Once the document is loaded into my iBooks, I can use it even when I am offline and not on a network. Having a document like the OCDSB Schools and Staff Directory available to me all the time has been a lifesaver when I am visiting schools. Now I always have school addresses, phone number and admin information with me.

Any document that is a pdf can be downloaded and stored in iBooks.

It is free and available at:

Here is a little tutorial on how I use iBooks


All Spun Out

Centre #4

Last week we had the students create and test their own spinners. The first centre was Creating Spinners and involved the iPads and Spinner App. The other task was Let’s Make a Colour Spinner! and the children had to use paper, markers, and a paperclip to create their spinner. The concepts were basically the same; one involved a skewed spinner and the other one had equal segments. The purpose of these activities was to allow the students’ time to practise with creating spinners and to begin identifying the likelihood of something happening when we alter the variables. The ability to communicate their understanding and the level of engagement of these activities differed considerably. It took longer for the students to complete the pencil/paper task and it appeared tedious. The students were required to write their findings and for many this was difficult. For some, we were able to scribe their thoughts but due to time restraints, we weren’t able to scribe for all students. I don’t believe the students were able to demonstrate their true understanding. Those using the ShowMe App to present their thoughts and understanding, were able to do so and save the file so the teachers could access the information later. The students have become very proficient at navigating the various apps on the iPad to demonstrate their learning. Below is a child reporting on the results of the task.

Patience is a virtue

I remember a poem that my Grandmother used to say,

Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace. Grace is a little girl with dirt upon her face.

That poem was going on around in my head the other day when I went to the computer lab with Paula and Jodi’s classes. The students were great. They each went to their assigned computers and began the process of turning the computers on and  loging in. This is where patience comes in.  It takes a desktop computer a while to get up and running, a little over a minute and a half. Once on, the students then need to press “control alt delete” to get to the login in screen. Each student has a card with the number they need to type as their user id and their password. The userid, student number, is the letter S followed by 9 numbers e.g. s432569876. It takes a long time for grade one students to type out their userid. Then they need to type a password. This also takes a long time especially since they are not very fast using a keyboard and have to look for every letter and number. Often they would get an error message saying that something was wrong with their login credentials. Back to the drawing board…Since they can’t see the password it is hard to know what they typed incorrectly. For me, getting everything correct and typing quickly, it still takes 2:30 minutes to get the computer ready to begin my work. It was a lot of work getting the students ready to go in the computer lab. In the end we also had two computers that wouldn’t work at all no matter what we tried.

This activity really highlighted for me why the iPad is a great way to put technology into the hands of emergent readers and writers. It takes no time to be ready to use, even if starting from being shut down. We have the iPads set so that they don’t require passwords. The students simply go the app that they need and get to work. The students in the lab needed help troubleshooting when the computers did not log on and help typing in long numbers. The students on the iPads were self sufficient and on task.  While I do think that patience is something that we should all learn I am not sure if a computer lab is the place where we have to learn it every week or every time we go.

The photo is a creative commons licensed photo from Flickr.

Rhombus, Hexagon, Trapezoid…

Each week we endeavour to offer the children a variety of activities that will help them to explore the properties of chance. Today the students participated in two different centres using Pattern Blocks. One centre we used the Pattern Block App, a paper spinner and the ShowMe App. The second centre involved paper spinners and actual pattern block manipulatives (click here to see task cards). The ideas for the two tasks were taken from the Math resource “The Super Source – Pattern Blocks” and one was adapted slightly for use with the iPads. To begin the lesson, we created Anchor Charts for student reference, to assist them when using the vocabulary. We are impressed with their ability to use the correct math language when naming the pattern blocks.

Jane bought us a Video Cable which allows us to attach our iPad to the computer and have its screen displayed through our projector and onto our chalkboard. This small tool allowed the students to ‘see’ the steps for completing the activity. After outlining the expectations of the activities, we felt very confident that the students would be able to independently navigate through each one. We were not disappointed.

Not only did the students gather the data from the spins, they then took photos of their results, and the spinner, uploaded them to ShowMe and explained the results from the experiments. Below is an audio clip of a student explaining his findings.

Would he have been as thorough in his explanation had he only used the paper version of this task? Maybe, however we marveled at how well all students were able to express their results using math words. We also note that there has been an increase in confidence when using the ShowMe app. The children are more often pracitising what they are going to say and then pressing record.

At the end of each ‘Mrs. Smith day’, we reflect on the lesson/centre that was used. Again today we were exhilarated in the outcomes and it offers us inspiration to create more exciting activities each week!

A new “spin” on understanding

Today the grade ones were working on probability using spinners. There were two centres that the students rotated through. One used the iPads and the other was a pencil and paper assignment with a spinner made with a pencil and a paper clip.

We used an app called Spinner. This app allows you to use pre-made or make your own spinners. For this project the teachers had created a spinner that had two segments called red and one segment called blue. It would have been great if the spinner app had allowed the segments to be coloured the correct colour but we haven’t found one that does that yet.

The students were asked to predict which result they would be most likely to get if the spinner was spun 20 times. They then used the spinner on the iPad and tallied the results. If this is where the usefulness of the iPad stopped I would say…”Expensive Spinner” but we found that inf fact having a spinner app went a long way to allowing students to test, revise and create understanding.

Several students told me that they were finished the assignment. When I went to look at their work I questioned them about why they thought they had received the results that they had received. In each case the number of times the spinner had landed on red was greater than the number of times the spinner had landed on blue.  One boy said that he didn’t know…that was that…he just didn’t know. The other boy said that he wanted the spinner to land on red and that is why it landed on red. I took the iPad and showed the student how to create a new spinner. This time I had 7 segments, 6 were labelled blue and 1 was labelled red. I asked him if the spinner would land on red this time because he wanted it to. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t…we tested it out…it didn’t. In 5 spins it landed on blue each time. This lead to a conversation about why. The students then started to create and test out their own spinners that would give the outcome that they predicted. With this app the spinner can have 2 to 10 segments. The ipad allowed the students to create and test their understanding a lot faster and more efficiently than if we had tried to do the same thing with rulers, paper and pencils (especially at grade one). By the end of the time the answers had changed. They still didn’t write them down on their paper but they were able to tell me what was happening and to make predictions and give explanations about their spinners.

The video was created with Show Me and is Chase describing his results. We took a screen shot.

iPads or Pencil / Paper and manipulatives?

Today we taught a math lesson from Nelson Mathematics: Exploring Part-Whole Relationships with Addition and Subtraction. One half of the students used the ideas for representation that were suggested in the teacher’s guide. The other half of the students used the iPads and the ShowMe app. Upon completion of the activity, we brought the students back together and reflected on the usefulness of each tool. Some students observed that using the iPad was better because they were able to use their oral expression to communicate their findings. Others liked that when they erased something on the iPad it got rid of ALL the lines which are usually faded when you erase pencil marks. A few students were frustrated with the iPads because instead of using the eraser button, they erased their entire screen and so had to start over. It was interesting to us that some students would have preferred the pencil/paper option instead.

As teachers, we also reflected. The students who were using the counters and paper, were more hands-on. Each partner was engaged in the task and had an equal amount of ownership. The fact that they had to ‘write’ the number sentence in a specific box, also allowed for them to follow the directions with minimal assistance. With the iPads, often the children ‘forgot’ to add the number sentence, and there was usually one, more dominant partner who did most of the talking and/or most of the drawings. Here is an example when using the iPads did not enhance their understanding or encourage communication, in fact, it actually hindered their communication with one another. This was very interesting for us to consider as we attempt to integrate this technology into our everyday teaching.

Ready, Set, Go!

Lesson #1

We thought we were all set to teach our first official math lesson with the iPads and had carefully planned and created task cards and materials for half the class to use the iPads and the other half to complete a similar task with pencil and paper. Our initial goal was to see the difference in communication for the 2 activities, which were essentially teaching a similar concept. We carefully and thoroughly took the students through each step on the task card for the iPad activity. We were using the Toss Up and ShowMe apps for this lesson. For the other task, we were using a game from Nelson Math that involved flipping coins (click here to see task cards).

Our plan was to have 2 table groups complete the iPad centre and the other 2 table groups would complete the Heads and Tails game. We were then going to trade the centres so that each group would complete both tasks. As the students worked away at the centres, we quickly realized that those using the iPads were independent and needed very minimal teacher assistance. This was NOT the case with the pencil/paper task. The students required teacher intervention and instruction each step of the way. It became apparent that we needed to bring the children together to review the steps for this game before we could switch the centres. Unfortunately, we were out of time and had to postpone the second round until the following morning.

The following day we re-taught and modeled the Heads and Tails activity and reviewed the iPad task. The results were much more positive. Was this due to the re-teaching that happened? Likely this is the case.

Our initial observations include: the students were more engaged in the iPad activity and needed less teacher assistance to complete the task. They were able to keep an accurate tally of the number of tosses and could orally explain their findings. Did using the iPad increase their ability to communicate their understanding of probability language and concepts? At first glance we would say yes since those completing the paper task, were expected to ‘write’ their responses and when using the iPads, the students were expected to orally express their ideas.

As we prepare our next lesson, we are mindful of the growing pains that occurred during our first lesson. We are rolling dice and predicting the likelihood of rolling doubles…what will happen next?