Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tablets in the Classroom

digital bling

What is thin, shiny, and popular? It isn’t the outdated fade of wearing “bling-bling.” Instead, it’s "them-there" smart phones, tablets, and eBook readers.

With the advent of the wireless Internet, it was only a matter of time before the Internet became mobile. Now, all the telecom companies’ commercials are promoting their 3G/4G capabilities. Too often, teachers, parents, and society have looked at teenagers with disapproval as they network, surf, and play games with their mobile devices.

Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. It was only a matter of time before schools started to look toward using this once distracting technology. To better enhance our Personal Learning Networks, we, as professionals, need to “plug into” the same tech students interact with on a daily basis. Instead of mindlessly surfing and texting, let's make meaningful learning and creating experiences out of these mobile devices.


Smart Phone

Of course there are more "smart phones," but the iPhone4S and Android-based phones standout among the rest. According to Consumer Reports, the iPhone 4 had some reception problems and now the version 4S has fixed this static. They went on to state, "the newer phone did not display the same reception flaw, which involves a loss of signal strength when you touch a spot on the phone’s lower left side while you’re in an area with a weak signal." Consumer Reports also stated that the iPhone5 with iOS 5 will fix the iPhone4S "bugs."

As a result, Android-based phones are the performing better and receiving better reviews than the iPhone4S. Two phones that score higher with consumers are the Samsung Galaxy S II phones and Motorola Droid Bionic. Apparently, battery-life is an issue with the latter; as a result, I would suggest the Samsung Galaxy S II phone through AT&T, which is priced $50 dollars cheaper than the Droid through Verizon.

Samsung Galaxy S II



Tablet Wars I is a video-podcast from the blog website netbooknews. This website provided a decent amount of information on a wide variety of tablets.



  • Operating System: iOS
  • CPU: ARMCortex A9 2-core 1.0 GHz
  • Memory: (512 MB) 16 GB/32 GB/64 GB
  • Display: 9.7”
  • Price: $499-$829 from Amazon 4/5 stars (425 reviews)



This is the champion. It has proven itself as a powerhouse with great educational potential.



If your not a Mac person, this product might bug you. One issue many people have with the iPad 2 is the lack of a USB port. Adapters have to be bought to connect another out of the ordinary.

Verdict: This tablet provides one stop shopping. Students can use a word processing app, video apps, recording apps, note-taking apps, science apps, geography apps, dictionary apps, etc.


HP Touchpad

  • Operating System: Palm WebOS
  • CPU: Qualcomm SnapDragon Scorpion 2-core 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: (1024 MB) 16 GB/32 GB
  • Display: 9.8”
  • Price: $229-$274 from Amazon with 4/5 stars (566 reviews)


HP Touchpad has mixed reviews that add up to 4 out of 5 stars, and it is fairly cheap.


Released in July, it seems a little too new for me. Additionally, on the TouchPad’s homepage, there is a section entitled Five ways to get your webOS table working again . So, this tells me there are issues, which is almost always the case with new products. The initial round of a new product usually has problems. That is why there are versions like 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, or even 4.0S. These versions usually work out all of the “bugs.”

My Verdict: Again, too new to buy on a large scale.


Kindle Fire

  • Operating System: Android 3.0
  • CPU: ARM Cortex A9 2-core 1.0GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Display: 7”
  • Price: $199


It’s cheap small and easy to use for reading and Internet usage. As compared to the iPad2, USB ports are always a plus.


However, Kindle fire is not out yet. Again, I would not want to wait for the first round of Kindle Fires. Instead, I would wait to see how this tablet performs. Sure the Kindle Fire has popular apps like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, but these apps don’t have educational value. Nook is making a comparable tablet that may be cheaper and better.

My verdict: These tablets from Kindle and Nook have the most potential for educational use, but they are theoritcal right now. In theory they have the many perks. Without real-world reviews, it is difficult to trust this product.


Samsung Galaxy Tablet(s)

  • Operating System: Android 3.0
  • CPU: ARM Cortex A9 2-core 1.0GHz
  • Memory: (1024 MB) 16 GB/32 GB
  • Display: 10.1”
  • Price: $499 from Amazon 4/5 stars (312 reviews)


Android app market place offers 150,000+ apps. Many people swear by the Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system. After watching a few demonstration videos, the system looks extremely easy to manipulate. Websites, windows, and apps are easily stored in the Honeycomb organization system. It has a USB port that can connect to several devices. So, an external keyboard would easily connect to the Samsung Galaxy. Finally, it is compatible with Adobe Flash. This means, many Flash-based educational websites that are off limits to Apple operating system are completely open to the Samsung Galaxy.


Tiger Direct provides this sales pitch video on YouTube. Of course, they are trying to sell the Samsung to you, but it is a fairly informative video and website.

I found the following video entitled Top Tablets for 2011 on YouTube without commentary. This video reviews the tablets based on hardware and features in a table format. Try to overlook the geeky music and watch for the differing features.

There are more and more companies creating their version of the tablet. The proceeding list is not an exhaustive list of tablets, but it lets you know that there are options.
  1. ACER Iconia Tab A500
  2. Apple iPad 2
  3. ASUS eeePad Transformer
  4. DELL Streak 7
  5. EXPOC
  6. Hewlett-Packard TouchPad
  7. HTC Flyer
  8. Kindle Fire
  9. LG G-Slate
  10. Motorola Mobility XOOM
  11. Nook Tablet
  12. Notion Ink ADAM
  13. RIM BlackBerry Playbook
  14. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
  15. Toshiba Tablet


eBook Reader

Kindle is owned by the Amazon company and is limited with its capabilities. The Nook is a Barnes & Noble product, which has kept there business alive. Unfortunately, Border's CEO didn't get the eBook memo. Let me just say that this just demonstrates how much the world around us is changing for the 21st Century. Again, these eBook readers have limited capabilities. Nonetheless, these two eReaders are cheap compared the iPad2's $500 ($499) starting price. There is a version of the Kindle selling for $79, which a little over $1400 could get you a class 20 Kindles.

iPad i-book is one of the most expensive versions of an eBook reader, but it offers much more than the regular Kindle and Nook. The iBook app provides much more than the regular eBook readers. The iBook app offers readers more text manipulation features. Of course, like all tech items it isn't perfect. A problem with the iBook app is compatibility with PC products. The following article by Consumer Report's provides a wish list for the iPad, which hopefully these issues are corrected with the iPad 3.

Because the first two eReaders have been out for a while and they are cheap, some people have all three of the above products for digital reading, but the lack of compatibility between eBook files can be frustrating.



If I had to choose one from each category, the following is a list of what I would buy.

Smart Phone = Samsung Galaxy S II

Tablet = Currently, I would recommend the Apple iPad2. That doesn't mean that other tablets are horrible. At the moment, it is one of the best I have experienced. iPad 2 offers a veritable mountain of educational potential. Like a fine cheese, it seems to get better with age.

Because of its price, the Kindle Fire seems to have the potential to engage students in an eBook with more dynamic capabilities. I would like to try the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet; however, if you are a PC-type person sent to destroy Apple's business. Then, Samsung Galaxy would be more beneficial to your taste. The Samsung would be my second choice.

eBook Reader = Kindle if looking at price, but iPad 2 if money isn't an issue. The iPad 2 provides one-stop shopping for tablet features. There is probably an app for just about anything you want the iPad 2 to do.

Thinkfinity: The Never-Ending Teaching Tool Linked to Content Partners

Verizon must like teachers. Unlike the makers of the movie Bad Teacher, Verizon has done teachers a favor by creating Thinkfinity. Thinkfinity has around 10,000 lesson plans for teachers in the K-12 school setting. Thinkfinity doesn't just use their resources. They also partner with several other reliable websites for the teaching profession. If you do a keyword search and click the little red plus button, Thinkfinity will expand their search from their partners to several "reviewed" resources on out-of-network websites. Look at the picture below to find the red plus sign that reads, "INCLUDE PARTNER REVIEWED RESOURCES."

thinkfinity search resultsWhen I clicked on this feature my search grew from 25 to 175 resources. As you can see, the first resource was from the tried and true National Geographic organization. From this, Thinkfinity attempts to provide teachers, parents, and learners with a myriad of opportunities to locate worthwhile resources. In its most basic form, Thinkfinity is an amazing search tool for educational resources and information on the web.

How to Locate Activities Aligned with State Standards

An interesting "new" feature on Thinkfinity is the the ability to search content by a state's standards. Since my class is currently working with products, factors, and multiples, I decided to search resources using the 4.2.5 (Use a standard algorithm to multiply numbers up to 100 by numbers up to 10, using relevant properties of the number system) state standard that drove my instruction. This search resulted in 19 different online sources from the Illumination website. I enjoyed the times table tool, which allows students to find products from 0-9. Another cool tool was the Primary Krypto that was within the listed resources. The rules for the Krypto are as follows "Combine five number cards using the four arithmetic operations (+, –, ×, ÷) to arrive at a "target" number. This online version of Primary Krypto uses the numbers 1–10 only" (NCTM, 2011). These would be great tools for an interactive white board. In addition to these tools, there were many multiple-lesson units related to this standard as well. Here is a list of the units aligned with this one Indiana State Standard.
Within each of these units there are student objectives, activity sheets, interactive games, and links to other sites for more information. Just think of what materials you can find regarding any particular state standard.

Content Providers with Integrity

I have been using two of Thinkfinity's partners for the past several years. Read Write Think is one of them, and this site was developed by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). On Read Write Think's website, teachers are given research-based lessons, Web 2.0 tools, and other resources, which aid in distributing quality education across the country. Illuminations is the other partner I turn to for professional advice on math instruction. Illuminations was designed by The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), which is an extremely trustworthy source of information. Again, this website also provides research-based lessons, Web 2.0 tools, and other resources. Both sites' Web 2.0 tools will work perfectly with an interactive whiteboard. But wait there is more! Thinkfinity provides a direct link to these interactive games under their Games & Tools tab. All these games will work well perfectly with interactive whiteboards.

games and tools

Just take a look at all of Thinkfinity's content providers/partners. In an age where anyone can create a website overnight, these are all reliable websites to follow.


Professional Development for Teachers

It is crucial that teachers become familiar with this free site. If professional development is what you crave, register with the site. Did I mention it's free? Oh yea, I did. Clicking on your state will provide you with Verizon Thinkfinity's State Educator Partner, which is The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). Since 2009, the IDOE has aligned state standards with Thinkfinity online resources. Additionally, you can email Meri Carnahan for information on more information on Thinkfinity and professional development opportunities. Below is a picture of the tabs associated with professional development opportunities.

professional development tabs

I started touring this website with a quick Webinar on the ins-and-outs of Thinkfinity. The webinar was prerecorded and taught by Mark Moore. At the time of the webinar only 5 people were present, but at least it was recorded to share with users until the end of the year. Especially because it makes you register, signing in for a webinar would be a great starting point for someone new to Thinkfinity.

To Thinkfinity and Beyond

I'm sorry Mr. Dewey but gone are the days for hunting through a library with little success. To add insult to injury, Mr. Dewey didn't have a single search result on the Thinkfinity website. It does have the following information and resources.
  • In the Classroom (Lesson Plans, Student Interactives, 21st Century Skills, Today in History, and Standard Alignment)
  • At Home & After School (After School Activities, Parent & Kid, Games & Tools, Literacy)
  • Professional Development (In your State, Online Courses, Live/Recorded Webinars, Trainer Recognition)
  • Get Connected (Community Tour, Blog, Widget Library, Newsletter, RSS Feed)
Does Thinkfinity have everything, no. But, there are a lot a valuable resources for teachers, parents, and learners.

Blogging and Podcasts

The following information, links, and videos were compiled after attending the Indiana Computer Educators (ICE) conference. Take a look at what is written below. Investigate what makes you want to advance as a professional and leave the rest for later.

Blogging and Podcasts

In my first 60 minutes at the ICE conference for 2011, we created a teacher blog using Google Blogger and a brief podcast using Photo Story 3 software. It was extremely easy and I can see these skills being especially useful in the classroom. Utilizing Blogger through the Gmail service, people within the ICE workshop were engaged in creating an easy to construct and manage Blog. It doesn’t hold much information, but the ease of use would allow more teachers to access the site’s functions. The trainers Tim Wilhelmus and Jerrad Gleim and Playground Advocate Blog

If you want to engage your students in responded on a blog, students can first watch Tim and Moby's BrainPOP video explaining blogs.  Before, during, or after the video, ask your students to engage in this graphic organizer provided by BrainPOP.  There are several suggestions on using blogs within the classroom.  It is a way to extend teaching writing skills after school hours. 

As for the podcast, attendees were asked to engage in pre-production techniques. Because of the lack of time, pre-production involved compiling various pictures from the web for a story. Then, we narrated a slideshow of photos that were supposed to tell a story (digital storytelling). Again, we used Photo Story 3 software, which was extremely easy to use. The software is free and guides the user through the production process.

I have been actively researching digital storytelling. With a podcast, pictures, and video clips students can create Ken Burns-like storytelling. If you have ever seen Ken Burn's Civil War PBS special, then you have watched a digital story. Of course, Ken Burns is a professional filmmaker, but with free video software students can create basic published stories. Check out Bernajean's Digitale website.

This is an ABC Digital Story or report on mammals. It sounds like an older student's project, but a project like this could become a class production (elementary level). The next was completed by an adult; nevertheless, it is an excellent example. Her video was completed as a tribute to her father, Calvin.

Digital projects facilitate higher order thinking processes in classroom instruction. I encourage you to research this highly engaging publishing technique. Students are able to present to a larger audience than their teacher.

Podcasts in the Classroom

google image

To podcast or not to podcast? That is the question. Podcasts are an easy way to integrate technology into the classroom. Through the regular use of a class podcast, teachers can incorporate digital literacies in their 21st Century classroom. Many schools are allowing their students to create podcasts as news program. This might be a scarey thought for a not-so-tech-savvy teacher, but podcasts don't have to be created by the students or the teacher. There are so many already created that students could benefit from subscribing to educationally appropriate podcast programs. From these episodes students could learn valuable information from their coveted iPods. Instead of going deaf with pop-music's leading Lady Gaga, students can review information being assessed on a test. The following is a list of benefits to using podcasts in the classroom.
  • Promoting reading fluency
  • Creating a sense of audience by posting to the Internet (more meaningful purpose for writing)
  • Retelling and summarizing literature and content area information
  • Reviewing/Evaluating books systematically
  • Sharing directions for a project
  • Sharing a student's experience on a field trip
  • Narrating their writing in a podcast adding sound effects to enhance the listeners experience
  • Reviewing content area information prior to testing (absent students could review)
  • Interviewing students on what they have learned in class
But, what is a podcast? A podcast is a recorded episode similar to a radio program or television show (without the video). Warlick likens podcasts to radio program created from home, which use nothing more than a computer, microphone, sometimes free software, and a website to post the program. The program can be listened to through the Internet or MP3 player (i.e. iPod). Who knew an iPod could be used to promote knowledge. Check out the apple website for a quick tutorial on finding and subscribing to podcasts.

With the Power to Learn website, Jim Lengel (2010) posted an article entitled 50 Ways to Make a Podcast. On this site, Lengel also posted several additional articles on podcasting. One tutorial demonstrated how to upload these podcast files to Blackboard, which is according to Lengel (2010) the most popular Learning Management System in schools and colleges.

Of course, understanding a podcast is much easier by previewing a few recorded for education. The first has to do with reviewing children's literature. Emily Manning's Chatting About Books is a great series of podcasts that chats with kids, parents, authors, and teachers about children's literature ages 4 through 11. As I write this, she has recorded 39 podcast reviews. Her "discussions include reading tips and fun activities to do with children before, during, and after reading." (Manning, 2008-2011)

An example of utilizing podcasts in a fifth-grade classroom can be found at Mr. Coley's Coleycasts. To extend his instruction outside of the classroom, Mr. Coley records presentations on science, social studies, and reading. In addition, with a podcast, his students review various books they read. It is extremely similar to Emily Manning's podcast series, but it's an awesome example of utilizing podcasts in the classroom. On Teacher Tube, I stumbled upon a similar example of students making a fourth-grade podcast about reading. Within the podcast, there are a series of pictures related to the commentary, which makes listening and watching the information more engaging. The quality isn't the greatest, but I can guarantee the students enjoyed producing the video-type podcast.

The next podcast is Grammar Girl, which provides quick and dirty tips for writing grammatically correct sentences. What's the difference between "affect" and "effect?" Well, grammar girl knows the answer to this question. This podcast can be downloaded from iTunes. Recently, her true identity was exposed by USA today. Grammar Girl is really mild-mannered, former technical writer, Mignon Fogarty. As you may have guessed, her podcast has become her full-time job. So, check out when to use "further" and "farther" with Grammar Girl.

After reviewing education-based podcasts, I was a little disappointed in the selection provided through iTunes. From this selection, nothing really caught my eye. I was thinking about podcasts that would assist in teaching my fourth-grade students. There weren't categories to discrimintate grade-level; instead everything was grouped under the overly general topic of education. However, for me, I really liked the Coffee Break Spanish podcast, which can be found on iTunes under the education podcast section. I subscribed to help review my Spanish.

The last great example for student-based podcasts was constructed by Tony Vincent. His Our City Podcast has allowed several cities from around the country to provide their own description and history. Contrary to having adults produce information on the cities, students (usually elementary level) answer several questions to provide an overview of their city. From Tony's site, I was able to find many other examples of elementary student recording productions. One that I really enjoyed was from Radio WillowWeb. WillowWeb students interview other students about what they have learned. Unlike a traditional news report there are transition sound effects, music, and jokes. After checking out these podcasts, check out Tony's website to learn a little more about podcast production.

In the end, I am not a professional podcaster, but the links provided here should be enough to get you started with podcasing. This digital tool has been around for a while. Do we have to utilize this in the classroom, of course not. But, learning how to integrate new technologies into the curriculum can sometimes make teaching easier. Who knows maybe one day teacher podcasts will be mandated, but you will be miles ahead of the game. Then, you can answer: What has podcasting done for you?

Facebook In Education

Facebook in education can be a scary thought. But of course, it is possible. With lots of preparation and precaution, teachers can include Facebook to extend learning outside of the classroom. According to Karen’s (2009) blog many Canadian students and teachers are using Facebook to extend instructional time.

One way I have used Facebook in the classroom is by using it to provide information.  I have asked my students to pretend certain concepts were people.   What would the concepts Facebook page look like.  Then, students can answer questions like...
  1. Where would it work?
  2. Who would it be friends with?
  3. What groups would it be part of?
  4. What would it "like?"
  5. What is its profile pic?
  6. What would its Info page look like?

The following is a list of potential benefits for using Facebook with K-12 students.

  1. Upload and share educational pictures
  2. Send messages on classroom “walls” or to student/parents inboxes
  3. Chat with students and parents
  4. Watch educational videos
  5. Create and join groups related to the classrooms instructional content
  6. Provide students with questions to answer
  7. Provide students answers to their questions
  8. Provide opportunities to discuss instruction or issues in the classroom
  9. Provide students with links to educational resources
  10. Provide opportunities for social learning
  11. Provide social networking etiquette
      • Teach students about digital citizenship
      • Teach students about cyber-bullying and preventing it
      • Teach students about posting appropriate comments
      • Teach students how to protect their privacy
      • Teach students to use profiles strictly for education (don’t friend everyone)
      This is a fairly long list that could be added to, but it takes a constantly vigilant teacher to monitor the classroom’s Facebook wall. If the wrong content is posted, shared, or liked, teachers can face monumental problems.

      So, regardless of Facebook’s potential in the classroom, it has several flaws that cannot be ignored. The following is a list of various issues with this websites use in the classroom.

      1. Possibly lose your job if students do something wrong
      2. Teacher may be held responsible
      3. The wrong picture, comment, or person gets in to potentially destroy the dynamic
      4. Some students may not heed your warnings outside of school
      5. Students can fall victim to online predators
      6. Facebook is a marketing tool that analyzes your personal information
      7. Negative stigma attached to the site 
        • Administration may not agree with its use in the classroom
        • Parents may not agree and would love to provide you with a “I told you so.”
        • Problems could arise from the wrong relationships on Facebook.
      All in all, Facebook could be a valuable tool for the classroom, but it provides many challenges to a teachers responsibilities. With over 300,000,000 (Underhill & Kurit, 2009) users, it’s most well known by parents and students. Unlike other less know social networking and blogging sites, Facebook commands the social networking market. Basically, many parents and students do not need instruction about signing up for a free account. There is definitely a long list of potential benefits for using Facebook, but it might not be every teacher’s first choice for online instructional use.

      Nevermind what I say. What do you think? How can Facebook be used to enhance learning for K-12 students?

      Facebook may be a sore subject for some districts.  Facebook for Educators  organization may be able to provide useful information for you.  Here is a helpful guide for using Facebook.

      Teacher's Guide to Using Facebook (Read Fullscreen)

      Social Networking in Education


      I find Facebook to be a bit of a waste if used personally. Nevertheless, many people use it and that is their prerogative. It is nice to reconnect with old friends, but the site has a very “who is looking at my profile?” feel to it. I think many people like to stalk other user’s photos and profiles. Kids don't get this.

      Recently, my wife found a student's site because there was a strange picture tagged on my niece's wall. His comments and photos were suggestively suicidal. As a result, my wife contacted her sister about the incident. Then, her sister contacted my niece. My niece then called the depressed "friend." He was completely confused by the fact that so many people saw his posts and photos. My niece stated he seemed upset and confused that her uncle and aunt saw his posts. For him, this cry for help became too public. My point is kids and some adults do not understand how public their posts and photos become. As Mary Schmich (2011) states Facebook "multiplies all the problems that come with relationships." Especially if it was a page for my classroom, I would hate for an inappropriate post or photo to make its way onto my Facebook page.

      Facebook isn’t as professional as Linkedin. With many old “friends,” who knows what they want to say on your “wall.” In addition, they may post the wrong picture of you from your past or the weekend. Within the media and community, teachers are constantly scrutinized and can be fired for doing things that are “immoral.” This was just stated at my last union meeting. What is immoral? Each person has his or her own point of view on morality.

      Currently, my Facebook page is extremely limited, and I constantly remove my tag from photos. If being used for my professional life, I would have to create a whole new profile purely geared for educational use. With Facebook personal and professional Facebook profiles need to be miles apart. This is because I cannot trust other people that are considered to be your Facebook “friends.”

      Check out the following link about social networking on Thinkfinity.


      I find Twitter too restricted. With only so many characters allowed, a “Tweet” can only provide a follower with so much information. If I want to find information for research’s sake, reliable information can be tricky to locate. Sometimes, it’s possible to stumble upon a reliable link on someone’s Twitter posting. There are some important users to follow. But, there is a lot of nonsense out there.

      Although Tweets are restricted, this could be used to teach students to become succinct. Students would be forced to respond with a limited number of characters, but still be understood.

      Twitter is great for businesses to get their information on the web, which makes it a valuable marketing tool. Also, it is a great website to provide links to other sites without limitation on the number of characters. Overall, Twitter is a great marketing tool to promote a business, a personal website, or valuable information on other sites.

      I post occasionally , but go ahead and follow me @hoosier_teacher.


      Of the three social sites, this is the one I feel an affinity toward. It is much more professional and provides like-minded professionals to connect with one another. By monitoring your connections, it is beneficial for teachers looking for jobs. If a school system is in need of a well-rounded educator, they might to find one just by browsing Linkedin’s users. Additionally, user’s are able to view local job postings and apply for various jobs. In my opinion, this website provides the most valuable resources for professional gain.