Mobile Monday: Two apps that can help students in an individualized math classroom

March 18, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

App info: Khan Academy for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad / Cost: Free (No official Android version, but many 3rd party equivalents exist)

App info: Wolfram Alpha for the iPhone, iPod and iPad / Cost: 4.99$ (Android version available too)

Kkhanhan Academy: If you haven’t heard about Khan Academy, please read my earlier blog post. Khan Academy now has an iPad app that students can use to view hundreds of math related videos recorded by Salman Khan. The benefit of the iPad app (compared to simply watching his videos on YouTube) is that the majority of the videos are broken down into small “one sentence chapters” which allows students to skip back and forth to any part in the explanations. This app could work well in an individualized classroom when you may not have enough time to re-explain a concept to one particular student, he may benefit from another explanation, and/or learns better at his own pace. While they are lots of sites that have math tutorial videos, these videos are all recorded by the same person (i.e. – consistent) and Salman Khan’s explanations are considered by many teachers and students to be top notch. Definitely worth checking out.. Free!

wolfWolfram Alpha: While I covered Wolfram Alpha in an earlier blog post, this amazing iPad app can bring a whole new dimension to problem solving in a math classroom. In a nutshell, Wolfram Alpha is a very advanced calculator, which you can see in these examples. Not only does the app allow you play with a plethora of real world statistics but it also allows you to solve algebraic math problems too. If you notice that a student made a mistake on a traditional paper worksheet, you can ask him to plug the math problem into the app and then use the “step-by-step” problem solver. With the assistance of the tool, the student may be able to figure out on his own (or with your help) at what step he made the mistake on paper. You can then sit down and work on the problem area together. (Thanks to Cathy Hortop for exploring these two apps with me at New Horizons, ETSB)


Mobile Monday: 6 neat ways you can use Apple’s “Siri” with your students

January 21, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Siri is the name of Apple’s artificial intelligence assistant that is built-in to Apple’s newest iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Much more than just a gimmick, did you know Siri can be a useful tool for your students too? No app purchase required.

How does it work? If you hold down the home button on a newer mobile Apple device and a Siri voice prompt will appear. Simply ask your question by talking to your device. It may sound like science fiction but it works surprisingly well!  Here are some things your students can ask Siri:

1) Ask Siri to define any word in the English language: Not only will Siri give you a definition of the word, but she’ll provide you with the spelling too. This is a neat trick when know how to pronounce a word but aren’t sure how to spell it! (You would say: define conjunctivitis)

2) Ask Siri to perform simple or complex mathematical calculations: Siri can do mathematical calculations or provide students with comparisons of statistical information sourced from Wolfram Alpha. (You would say: What is 18% of 934? plot 4x + 12, compare the GDP of Canada vs. Sweden, what is 4.2kg in pounds? What is the boiling point of lithium?)

3) Ask Siri to show you any geometric shape or an image: Ask Siri to show you an isosceles triangle, a circle, or even a velociraptor! You’ll get an image along with other pertinent information (You would say: What is an isosceles triangle or What does a velociraptor look like?)

4) Ask Siri to transform your voice into a written e-mail or note: This is what Siri does best. Students can dictate and Siri will transform their spoken words into text. (Talk to Siri in a regular speaking voice but include all punctuation.)

5) Ask Siri to translate individual words from English into any other language, such as French: Use Siri for on-the-fly translation.. (You would say: What is Breakfast in French?)

6) Ask Siri for important dates:  Yes, Siri does history too! (You would say: When was the battle of Hastings or when did the Beatles break up?)

Can I see an example? Watch the following video (make sure to set YouTube to full screen or you won’t see much) if you’d like to see Siri in action:

Should I let my students use their iPhones or iPads in-class with Siri? Absolutely! However, there’s a time and place for everything. Just as you wouldn’t allow your students to talk to friends while you’re teaching, they shouldn’t start “speak” to Siri either. The idea is that perhaps we can start using mobile devices to help with lower level blooms (i.e. – remembering facts, dates, or calculating by hand) and start using more class time to do activities that promote higher order thinking skills. At the end of the day, I’m not saying Siri is THE reason to start using iPads in the classroom (far from it) but I feel that it’s one way to show how mobile devices can provide students with almost instant access to information.

Benefits and limitations: I think we’ve covered the benefits in this article. As for limitations, Siri requires an active Internet connection to work. She also won’t work well if you student has a thick accent. Last but not least, it takes a little getting used talking to a machine. Whenever I talk to Siri in public, I often get more than a few stares!

Mobile Monday: A roundup of the best iPad “notetaking apps” for both students and teachers

October 8, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

App #1 info: Notetaker HD for the iPad / Cost: 4.99$

Quick overview of app #1: A notetaking app for the iPad which simulates a pen and paper. Students can also import photos, draw perfect shapes, and move around handwritten text as one would in a word processor. Notetaker HD automatically sorts notes by date and time to keep students organized. Notes can be edited at a later date, e-mailed, or printed on a computer.

How can app #1 be used in the classroom? I always find amusing whenever someone compliments me for being organized. Back when I was in high school I had one binder for all my subjects (imagine torn loose papers falling out from all sides) and I constantly scribbled my notes anywhere I could find a spare page. I only became more “organized” when I started storing all my files, calendars, contacts, and notes digitally. If you have students that also struggle to keep organized and they have access to an iPad, you may want to suggest they experiment with this app too.

Are there any other advantages to app #1? Typically, one of the disadvantages of writing on the iPad screen is that it’s hard to hand write at a “normal size” with a stylus or your finger. i.e. – Letters tend come out much bigger than if you were writing with a real pen. This particular app addresses this problem with an ingenious zoom mode which reserves a space at the Read the rest of this entry »

Mobile Monday: Brainscape enables students to create their own flashcards

September 24, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

iPad version: Link / Web version: Link / Cost: Free

Quick overview: An iPad app that allows students to create their own sets of flashcards to be used as a study aid.

How can it be used in an individualized classroom? Ask a student to come up with about 10-20 flashcards (i.e. – both question and answers) around a topic you are covering in class. Next, work together in order to validate whether the flashcards are correct or not. The student can then practice with the flashcards in class or at home. For classrooms without iPads, Brainscape is available on the web too! (Source: Sandra Piperni, Readaption Officer at ACCESS St-Lambert)

How can it be used in small groups? Do you have access to more than one iPad in your classroom? If you are interested in exploring a collaborative, student centered activity, place your students into small groups and provide each group with an iPad. Each group would be responsible in creating 10-20 flashcards around a particular topic. Once complete, ask each group to exchange iPads so they can try out the other students’ flashcards. Alternatively, you can connect iPads to the class projector (with an Apple VGA adapter) to discuss and validate the sets with the whole class.

Does this type of activity challenge the students? While I generally prefer to highlight apps that focus on higher order thinking skills, this app is a great fit for students who need help memorizing core concepts, grammar, etc. I believe that asking the student to come up with both the questions and answers provides a better understanding of the material and a higher chance they’ll retain the information.

ICT Tip: Mathboard is an iPad app that helps students with basic arithmetic

March 19, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Info: Mathboard for the iPad.

Cost: 4.99$

What is it? Mathboard is an iPad app that can help students work out basic arithmetic problems with minimal intervention from the teacher.

How can it be used in the classroom? So far, we’ve used the Mathboard app in an individualized math classroom. Before the students arrived, the teacher and I selected which math problems (subtraction, addition, square root, etc..) would be generated by the iPads. We then paired same level students and asked them to work out the problems in the Mathboard app. The Mathboard app keeps a running tally of all the math problems the students worked on. As the students were working, we were able to see (at a glance) which math concepts the students were struggling with. What impressed me the most was how the students worked side-by-side and helped each other out on tricky concepts. Two groups worked together on one iPad, while another group used paper and pencil in conjunction with an iPad. The app also has a “chalkboard” mode which students can pull up and work out with a stylus (or their finger) directly on the iPad’s screen. It also has a “problem solver” mode which will explain how to solve the problems step-by-step, if the student is stuck. (Special thanks to Cathy Hortop and her group of individualized students, New Horizons, ETSB)

Benefits and limitations: The app costs 4.99$ which is relatively pricey for an iPad app. It also defaults to a multiple choice mode when the app is first installed. I’m not a fan of multiple choice as students can simply guess answers and throw off the teacher. Thankfully the settings in the app can be permanently changed so that the students have to manually input the correct answer. As a side note, it’s often difficult to find applications that deal with basic arithmetic that aren’t targeted for young children. Thankfully, the Mathboard interface is free of “cartoons, balloons, and puppy dogs” and is a perfect fit for adult education students!

Video Tutorial: For a video (4 minutes) how to use the Mathboard app, click the play button below:

Mobile Monday: Speech-to-text with Dragon Dictate for the iPad

January 9, 2012

This ICT tip is for the mobile devices category:

Info: Dragon Dictate for iPhone, iPod, iPad.

Cost: Free.

What does it do? The app will transform spoken speech into text. No training required, just speak and go!

How can it help my students? If you are an ESL (Literacy) teacher, this app could be used to help your students with pronunciation. Students could practice individually by dictating short sentences to the app. If the app repeatedly has trouble recognizing certain words, this can be a cue for the students to ask the teacher for the correct pronunciation. Students could also benefit by seeing grammatical errors “written out” that might otherwise slip by unnoticed when they are speaking. Lastly, this app could be beneficial for students with disabilities that may prevent them from typing on a regular keyboard. Text generated in this app can be e-mailed or copy and pasted into other apps. Definitely worth checking out!

Video Tutorial: For a 2 minute video on how to use Dragon Dictate for the iPad, please click on the video below:

Mobile Monday: Using the iPad with ESL/FSL students and the ComicBook! app

November 21, 2011

This ICT tip is for the mobile devices category:

Info: ComicBook! for the iPhone, iPod, iPad.

Cost: 1.99$

Quick overview: Using the ComicBook app in a literacy (ESL) classroom to help students develop basic writing and communication competencies.

How can the app be used in the classroom? Sharon Meehan teaches a literacy level “Building Foundations” course at ACCESS Riverside in Brossard, Quebec. Using the ComicBook app in conjunction with the iPad’s built-in camera, Sharon’s students took pictures of each other to create a simple comic. Students used the iPads to insert written captions to simulate real life situations, such as ordering at a restaurant. At the end of the exercise, the iPads were  connected to a digital projector so students could collaboratively edit grammar and spelling, or rearrange the placement of the written captions.

What advantages did the mobile technology bring to the classroom? The app’s easy to navigate interface (symbols and pictograms) helped students focus on the activity, rather than getting bogged down by a complicated computer interface. It was surprisingly easy for the students to create the comics, even if they didn’t have a strong grasp of the English language. The limited length of written “comic bubble” style captions also ensured that the students wrote short, concise interactions. 

Interested? The activity was closely linked to the prescribed elements of Sharon’s ENG-B122-4 course and it mainly focused on developing writing competencies. Would you like to do a similar activity in your Literacy or French second language classroom? We have enough iPads to accommodate your class and we are booking now for January 2012 and beyond. Contact us to discuss how we can adapt this activity for your classroom!

Video: To see a 2 minute in-class video demonstrating how Sharon’s students used the app in the classroom, click the play button below:


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