There are literally thousands of iPad apps for teachers who want to enhance their daily lessons or classroom management with new and innovative teaching strategies. If you are a teacher and are curious what works and what doesn’t work well in the classroom, Spirited Teaching, is the place to learn. I have probably tried just about everything and it is my goal to tell you about all of them. Because I am a first-year teacher, I could probably afford to be a little bit more experimental with Technology in the classroom than most established veterans who would prefer not to gamble with their proven methods. However, even the most excellent, veteran teachers are always looking for ways to spice up the classroom and their profession. The lengthy list of iPad apps for teachers includes more than just classroom management and educational programs. There are also a few things teachers can use to help with their job such as grading papers, organizing seating charts and creating lesson plans. It is my intention to eventually provide an in-depth review on each of the products that I found the most useful, but that will take some time. Meanwhile, I thought it would be helpful to offer a categorical overview of some of the ways that I put my iPad to use in the classroom my first year as a teacher. I’ve grouped these iPad applications into three categories: Teacher Tools, Classroom Management and Learning Tools. One other important thing I need to mention: Throughout this article, I will often mention that I am displaying these iPad apps on a projector screen. In order to display the iPad screen on a projector, you can either use a document camera or an Apple TV. With the Apple TV, you can wirelessly display your iPad to your projector screen from anywhere in the classroom. I will talk about this extensively in my upcoming review on the Apple TV for teachers. Meanwhile, if you prefer not to use technology in the classroom, but like using your iPad, you might find some other ways where it can make things easier for you. Here are just a few of the iPad Apps that I’ve used, both inside and outside, of the classroom.
Below is a class assignment and math literacy lesson plan that I created this year as part of my Colorado Work Sample. The Colorado Work Sample includes an entire Unit Plan comprised of 10-15 lessons based on standards from the Colorado Department of Education. This is an important requirement for receiving an alternative teaching license in Colorado. I chose a math fractions unit consisting of 12 lesson plans. A requirement for completing the Colorado Work Sample unit is to include reading and writing literacy in one or more of the lessons. Prior to beginning this unit, I had not given math literacy much, if any thought. Thankfully, one of my many excellent Regis instructors, taught an entire class on the subject of literacy in math. This had a profound impact me and on the teaching strategies I will continue to use to teach math from this point forward.
Before starting this particular lesson plan, my math lessons were rather dull and dry, full of raw numbers, teaching kids how to do the algorithms, but not focusing much on what it all means and how it is really used. The assignment required me to take a deeper look at story problems and the importance of reading and writing, literacy in understanding math.
Please feel free to copy and paste any portion of my lesson plan and assignment to use in your own classroom. You may alter the contents for your own needs and situation as you see fit.
Fourth Grade Math Literacy Assignment
by Rob Delisa
Step One: Reading in Math Literacy
After losing the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos decided they should have dinner. Only 10 players were hungry. The rest of them were sick to their stomachs from losing. Of the 10 hungry players, 6 decided to go out for Pizza and 4 went out for Mexican food. Peyton Manning was one of the 6 who wanted Pizza and he offered to buy. The 6 hungry players walked into Pizza Hut and ordered 3 Large Pizzas. 1 Large Pepperoni was cut into 16 slices. 1 large sausage pizza was cut into 8 slices and one large, hamburger pizza was sliced into 12 slices. . Eric Decker ate 4 Pepperoni Slices. Peyton Manning ate 3 slices of Sausage Pizza. Wes Welker ate 4 slices of hamburger pizza. Julius Thomas ate 6 slices of Pepperoni pizza. Montee Ball ate 2 slices of Sausage pizza and Jacob Tamme ate 5 slices of hamburger pizza.
Class Dojo represents one of my many classroom management experiments used throughout the year that involved the use of technology. As I was looking around for new ways to tame two ornery bunches of fourth graders, I found Class Dojo listed among the numerous iPad apps designed for classroom management. Class Dojo offered me the most unique experiment of all the technology I tried. As a first year teacher, it was often difficult for me to know if my behavior expectations were reasonable or unreasonable. One thing a first-year teacher does not have is the history to judge and compare one class to another. Before I taught my first day of school I did have one piece of information to consider: All of the previous teachers of these fourth graders from 3rd grade down to preschool warned me that they were the most challenging group of kids they have ever instructed. As one teacher put it, “You picked a tough year to begin teaching.” You might think that this sounded like a death sentence for a brand new teacher, but it really didn’t make any difference to me. In fact, such a warning probably puts a much greater fear into a teacher who has the experience to know what to expect from his/her class. In my naivety, I didn’t know better. I simply figured that what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. Without the experience to compare this to previous classes, Class Dojo, at least gave me a way to compare their behavior internally. Would it be the solution to completely solve all of my classroom behavior issues? No.
To be honest, a highly successful hope of managing my class went out the window with my first day of teaching, but that’s a topic for another time. By the time I got around to signing up for Class Dojo, the most I could hope for was to minimize undesirable behavior by engaging kids and parents to take more of an interest and become more actively involved. Before I explain my own experience with Class Dojo, allow me to explain what this product does.
What is Class Dojo?
Class Dojo is an online, account-driven classroom management software program for computer, iPad, and iPhone. It is an online system shared by parents, teachers, and students. Class Dojo allowed me to monitor and log the behavior of every single student in both classes and generate reports for parents. Good or bad behavior is monitored on a per-incident basis then allows the teacher to generate cumulative reports over days, weeks, and months. These reports can be shared with students and parents either by printed hand-outs or through logging into the system online. Don’t worry, students and parents cannot see the information of other students and parents. This is the first thing my very astute principal asked me when I asked her permission to use the program. The information on Class Dojo is completely private between each student and parent. What you can do, however, is display the behavior results of the entire class on the projector screen, which is a tactic I used several times to get kids to see how well they were behaving among themselves. Class Dojo is very engaging for elementary-aged students. Each student receives their own cute, animated avatar which they can edit and design on their computers or iPads at home. This was the most exciting part for my own students. As soon as I told them about Class Dojo, they were begging me to get started. Class Dojo is free for everyone who uses it.
How to use Class Dojo
Setting up and Getting Started
A teacher gets started simply by going to the Class Dojo website and signing up with an account. Once the teacher has the account, he/she can begin adding their classrooms full of students into their system. I recommend setting up an imaginary classroom with fictional characters to use as practice for a week before setting up your real class. As you can see by the example above, I chose 20 Denver Broncos football players to use as my own fictional class. My classrooms, which are very into sports, really enjoyed this. The Broncos had lost on the Thursday prior to me demonstrating the Class Dojo program. For fun, we decided to mark down a few players for poor behavior on the field (off-task) based on their performance of the previous day. This felt really good! When the teacher has finished creating their real classroom, they are able to print individual invitation codes that can be emailed or taken home by the students to the parents. In order to participate, the parents need to accept the invitation. Once they accept, they are able to sign-in to the Class Dojo website. I was not surprised that some of my kid’s parents did not choose to sign up. Unfortunately, the parents who are most involved and willing to sign up for these kinds of things are usually the ones with the most, well-behaved kids. Still, even without parental participation, Class Dojo can be displayed in the classroom to motivate students to work hard and behave. Once students have signed up with their code, they can begin going online to check their behavior status and modify their avatars. Signing up and getting started is the easy part. The challenge with any of these class management products is that they require action from the teacher.