Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Weekly planning using Planbookedu

Last year I decided to see if I could find a digital planbook that would work for me.  I tried a variety of planbooks - free and paid but my favorite and the one I will be using again this year is

Why I love it:

It is easy to use.

Enter in a few bits of information and start planning. It even allows you to block off holidays. Very customizable - I choose the number of blocks in a day and what goes into those blocks.

Keep track of PLO or Standards. Some are pre-entered... but they are also customizable. Add your own. It makes answering - what did I cover this term or in this lesson very easy!

No need to re-enter repeated routines.

I can repeat templates daily or weekly. This makes scheduling in routines and repeating blocks much simpler.

Save file attachments right in your planbook and insert links too!

Planbook allows me to attach all sorts of file formats. Keep my smartboard files or PDF files or handouts with my lessons. No need to open different folders to find what I need.

It is easy to send to Teacher on Call and Admin if needed.

My whole plan book can be shared or I can share only a part of the book as a PDF, Word file or online. Because links and attachments can be added directly into the program my TOC's had easy access to the files I wanted them to have when I wasn't there.

Bump Lessons to another day. 

Unexpected assembly? Didn't get a lesson done? No worries. Planbookedu allowed me to bump my lessons by one day.

Search any planbook!!

It is a great tool for my terrible memory! I feel a little like searching was a special gift planbookedu put in just for me! When I first started using it it was not included. I contacted planbooks awesome customer support folks and within a few months the feature was added. Planbook is evolving and adding features and that is great.

There are still a few features I would love to see added  for example although I can use planbook on my iPad not all features are available there. They haven't created an app for that yet... and really they should. In spite of that overall this is a great solution for me.  The program costs $25 dollars a year.  For me it is money well spent.

So what did I learn at school today? Well I learned that even I can be organized with the right tool. What are you using for planning? Why do you love it? What is important for you in a planbook?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Apps to keep your kids busy and learning this summer.

As the school year ended I had more than one parent ask me for some apps to add to their iPads to keep students learning this summer.  I thought I would share some of the apps I  came up with here. This is a mix of apps for students from grades 1 to 6. 

One great reading app for iPad is J'aime Lire. 

It is free to get and gives you access to 3 free books but you need to pay for individual books after that. The app has books for ages 3-12.

Rover is an app for ipad that lets students access educational websites with flash content. The app is free. Unfortunately most of the websites are in English but there is some great content here. 

To access French web content you might want to consider getting Puffin.
Puffin isn't free but it also doesn't limit which sites your can visit so that means you can access any website online.

Then you can have kids visit my Listen to reading for places to read online in French.

If your child likes comic books there are a lot of them on the itunes store. Some are in French others aren't. Just look on the side of the page and look at languages. This will help you find out what language apps are listed in. 


Another app to check out Educreation. It is free. Kids can watch lessons other teachers and students have created. They can also createthere own lessons on something they is interested in. They can add pictures record there voice, write and type and just goof around with it. Many of the lessons are in English but there are French lessons too.

You might want to check out this list of book creators too. They are fun to use and encourage kids to write and create all summer long.

Got a math kid on your hands? Here are some math games:

Sudoku is great for building concentration. There are lots of different sudoku apps on the iPad and if you search you will find some others but here is one in French that uses images.

Another app that is free but more challenging is:

Another great one for concentration is Guess Who. Kids gets to play, and listen to vocabulary and need to pay attention to details too.

Atlas du monde

In the not free but cool section there is the joue avec series that lets students explore and learn about various artists. They can to search for items, find details and listen and read to author biographies. 

Atlas du monde is also a very cool way to explore the world. It is available in English and French. 

When you are looking for iPad apps in French you will find out that many of them will initially show up in English. Here is an article I wrote on how to change iPad to French so that apps will be in French:

This page is a list of iPad resources for French immersion - this keeps growing as I add to it:

Sylvia Duckworth also has a great blog with reviews of French Apps for kids. Check it out here:

So what did I learn at school today? There are lots of ways to keep kids entertained and learning on the iPad this summer. Hopefully we can avoid a little bit of the summer slide and a lot of the "Mom I am bored!" with the resources above.  What are your favorite apps for students? Do you have a list of apps you recommend for parents? 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Student Conferencing with the iPad.

I am terrible with paper. I lose paper everywhere. When I started trying to conference with students using the "Pensive binder" recommended by The Sisters in the Cafe book it was a disaster. I was losing papers everywhere and never seemed to know what  paper I needed now. Frustrated with the system I gave up and went back to my clipboards and evernote notebooks.

Then one day I read this blog post and my search for a digital iPad Pensive solution began.

The Contenders: 

I love Evernote. I use it to store lesson plans and ideas, documents and tweets. I also kept students notes there. I thought I might be able to use it as a Digital Pensive on the iPad but when I tried to use Evernote as a pensive I found the program was TOO flexible and gave me too much space to write. I needed more structure to keep me in line, keep my notes brief and to the point and to make sure I kept my conference times down.

Pensive from Daily Cafe
Another option I tried was using the Digital pensive on the Daily Cafe website. The program was fairly well designed and easy to use on the computer. I loved the built in calendar feature but wished that it was accessible from the student conferencing button.  I found that the program was not ideal for iPad use. It would often log me out between conferences and there was no way to save your log-in information. I have a really long name and this became frustrating very quickly. Additionally there was no way to get the program to save comments so if you were not using their pre-selected comments you needed to retype them every time.  Additionally the program was pricey with a yearly fee of $39.

Confer App
Confer is an app designed for teacher note taking.  It is the one I am using and I have to tell you that I love it.  The program allows you to enter data in 5 fields. General Information, Tags, Strengths, Teaching points, Next steps.  When you enter data the program saves it to the master list of comments so that you can reselect it for another student if you choose. If the comment is an individualized one you can easily erase it from the master list. The program allows you to sort your data by  any teaching point, tag, strength or next step you choose. You can use this to create on the fly groups. For example, a group of students that are all struggling to remember how to read the sound "oi".  This allows you to easily re-teach skills as needed.  Sorting can also be great for scheduling conferences.  I used the tags box to schedule appointments with students by entering the date I would see them next. I then sort by tag and I can easily see which students I am supposed to be conferring with on any given day. The app allows me to share students with other users so that our learning assistance teacher can also enter data about my students and we can see each other's comments quickly and easily. Additionally the program allows you to email your students files.
Good Reader

There are other options. Good Reader for example allows you to mark-up and type on any PDF so some teachers like to use the PDF files from the sisters site and enter their data this way.

The app store is full of note taking apps that could be adapted for teacher use as well. You will need to try them out to see what works best for you.

So what did I learn at school today?  The good news is that there are many ways to keep a digital pensive and being environmentally friendly has never been so freeing! No binders, no pens, no mess!  I use Confer in reading and writing but it can easily be adapted to any subject - next year I may try it for MATH! 

How about you? Have you found the ultimate iPad digital pensive? How do you record your student conference data?

Some things to think about before you buy classroom iPads.

So you want to buy Ipads for your classroom- Here are a list of things to consider before you buy.

Storage - My Ipads came to me in a blue plastic bin with wires and cords everywhere. When you are thinking about your tablet remember to consider storage.  Where are you putting them when the students aren't using them? They need to be secured but they also need to be accessible. They need to be protected but the solution needs to be portable and inexpensive.

Cases- Originally my Ipads didn't come with any cases. Someone purchased the iPad Smart Covers for my set. They are a flip cover that protects only the front of the ipad. At this time this has been sufficient but I would like to purchase better covers. According to my research there are a few good choices on the market but they will add a lot of money to your budget.

You need to decide what will work best in your environment. What is most important in a cover? How much are you willing to spend?

Charging - I thought I had a perfect storage location for my Ipads until I realised that there was no where nearby to charge them. How and where will you recharge the devices? When will you do this?

Installing Apps- I have 10 Ipads in my room currently and due to certain laws we have to install each app individually on each Ipad. I was surprise at how much time it takes to find the app, log-in and download the app. How are you going to manage this? What will you do to make it easier for you?

Paying for Apps-  Although my initial intent was to use only free apps, I discovered that there were some paid apps I wanted access to. Our solution was to use Itunes cards. It was a little cumbersome since I needed to add the cards to each iPad individually. Apple offers a school program that my district has not yet taken advantage of but this gives you apps at a discount and purchasing may be easier with this program.How will you purchase apps? Do you have access to a credit card that can be associated with each account? Will you set-up an Apple School account? Will you use Itunes cards?

Keeping Kids on the Apps you Want- One of the challenges I faced this week was that students would accidently or on purpose end up in other apps on the Ipad. I haven't found a solution to this yet although this article is promising.  How to keep students focused on one App.

Sharing- One of the biggest challenges I have had this week revolves around sharing the Ipads. Who goes first? How will we share them? How do I distribute them? How to we make the transition between one group and another group?

Flash Access- One of the things I wanted to use my Ipad for was Listen to reading. There are so many wonderful websites that allow students to listen to reading and I thought we would be able to access these with out Ipads. Unfortunately because of the limitations on FLASH use on Ipads most of my favorite book sites could not be accessed on the Ipad. I have since discovered two programs that help with that.
Rover and Puffin Web Browser. Both allow viewing of flash content online but Rover is limited to educational websites (most in English) that they have selected. You will need to decide if Flash access is something important to you.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Flipping Ipad and Iphone videos

I was working on a movie project with my students last week when I realised that some of my students had taken their videos upside down. I wanted an easy way to flip them. When I searched for instructions online I found all sorts of complex and convoluted methods. One method for using VLC to flip videos involved so many steps that I never did get through them all.

There are Iphone and Ipad apps that you can download to rotate the video on your device but ratings for these apps were not great and reviewers complained that the apps often crashed.

In the end I discovered that you can easily rotate movies using Windows Live Movie Maker.  I don't recommend using Windows Movie Maker to make movies using Ipad footage because it often does not work but this product is ideal for quickly flipping videos for little or no fuss.

Windows Live Movie Maker is available to download for free.

How to Flip your Ipad (or any other video) using Movie Maker

First - you will need to make sure your video is downloaded from your device to your computer. Find instructions for doing that here.

1) Open movie maker.

2) Add your video by Clicking on right pane that says "Click here to browse for videos and photos"

3) Select your video from the list and click open.

4) Click rotate button in the upper tool bar.

5) The movie will still appear to be upside down in right pane but will be right side up on the left hand side.

6) Your last step is to save your movie.

Tada. Relatively painless and pretty quick once you get the hang of it. You can then take the saved movie and transfer it to use in your projects. 

So what did I learn at school today? Taking videos with Ipads is great fun but sometimes they will end up the wrong way up. Using Imovie or Windows Live Movie Maker for flipping videos is an easy way to save yourself a headache.  Do you have a better way to flip movies around? Any tips for making sure kids are not filming upside down?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Digital Storytelling - Apps for Creating Books on the IPAD

So this week my grade 1's and I have been having fun writing books about each other using the ipads. You should have seen how excited they were to do this.  They took pictures of each other and wrote about the photos they took.

There are many apps that can be used to make books with our students. I tried quite a few before we settled on Book Creator.  All had good points and bad. I thought I would share a little about what I learned so it might be easier for you to pick an app that will works for you and your students.

The good:  Picturebook is available in French. It is easy to use and comes with stock images so students can start writing right away.
There is plenty of room to write. You can use multiple images to create a page, It has a free version.

The not so good: In order to use your own images you have to pay. Additional photo sets are also available for .99 each. Students can see these sets when they access the app. They are taken to a "buy me" screen if they click on them. Sharing your story involves linking your device to their system.

Update: Picturebook also has a "School Edition" that costs $2.99 and includes more image sets and no in app purchase options. I didn't test this version. If you have used it please let us know what you thought.

Little Book Maker

Of all the apps I tried this is the one I wanted to love but couldn't.

The Good:  It was easy to use. Students could add their own photos. They could record their voices. My favorite feature was that they could also add a watch the bouncing ball feature so that the words were highlighted as they were being read.  It was also FREE!

The Bad:  I tries this app with my students. It crashed 15 times in our 30 minute lesson.  It only allows for 1 line of text. The app acts as an advertisement center for the creators other apps. There are constant pop-ups asking if you want to download their latest product. You must be in the app to read the books.

My Story
This is a great choice. For only $1.99 it is a good bargain.

The Good:  With this app students can create stories using their own drawing and photos and they never need to leave the app to do this. The books can easily be shared with others using the share button. The app is available in multiple languages including French.

The Not So Good:  Although you can read the text inside the app, the text is very small and the font can not be changed. The text is easier to read when you export it into Ibook to read but it is difficult for students to visualize how their book will look when it is published within the app.


The Good: This app allows you to record audio over images of your choice.  Great for retelling exercises or building oral language skills.

The Bad: You can't add text to your stories. It isn't as intuitive as the other apps on this list and it took me longer to figure out. It says you can share stories with others but the only method I found was through Facebook.

As I said in the end I ended up choosing Book Creator for use in my classroom.
Book Creator

The Bad: It is pricey at $4.99 per Ipad. It is only available in English. Students can type in French but all commands are in English.

The Good: It is easy to use. Students can write stories, add pictures and record their voices. The stories are easy to share in multiple formats including PDF and Ebook formats. Students were able to use the app quickly and had few problems. Text, backgrounds and pictures are customizable  If you want students to draw their own pictures I recommend using doodle buddy to draw the pictures and save the images to the camera roll.

For more information and ideas for using Book Creator check out this article from  @langwitches 

So what did I learn at school today? There are lots of options out there for digital story telling. The one you choose will depend on how you want to use it and if sharing your students work is important to you. Whatever app you choose your students love the chance to be creative on the ipads and I think you will be please by how creative they can be.

Are you using your Ipads for digital storytelling? Which app do you use? Why?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Daily 5 Listen to reading using IPads

Our iPad adventures continue and we have started using our Ipads during Daily 5 time. When I first approached the administration about using Ipads in my classrooms this is where I believed we would use them the most.

There are many apps that allow your students to read and interact with books on the ipad. For intermediate students there are endless options for free or nearly free resources. In french immersion primary however the resources are more limited. There are many picture books available for the ipad, unfortunately many of them cost money and only include 1 book per app. There are some other options for getting books of the ipad however. In my class I am using two apps: Itubelist and Rover.

Itubelist Download here

Itubelist allows you to create playlists for students. They can watch videos without commercials and are restricted to the videos you pick for them. Students can then read along while watching books online.

The app is free to download but it costs $0.99 for the full version. It was well worth the upgrade price.

For a few pre-made French YouTube channels to add to your playlists check this blog post by Mme Belle Feuille.

Rover  Download here
The second app we use for listen to reading is Rover. Although the Ipad restricts access to websites that feature flash, Rover allows you to get around that limitation. This means that all those online books that you could not access before can now be uses with Rover.

The app comes pre-loaded with many popular education websites and also allows you to access and bookmark other favorites.

Visit Listen to reading - French on Scoop.It to view a growing list of books students can access online.

What did I learn at school today? You can use Ipads for listen to reading time and it doesn't have to be expensive. Listen to reading is one of my students favorite activities. They love to have the chance to interact with and listen to stories. Do you have any favorite online book sites? Any good listen to reading apps that you are using?