CBL Grant Project: Draft Unit

Thank you so much to everyone for your emails, comments and tweets responding to the previous post (about our upcoming Challenge Based Learning unit). After discussing some ed policy with colleagues and blog readers, I began to realize that I needed to retool the set up for project.

Instead of focusing on the inequality of funding, I’ve decided to change the essential question to be, “Can funding equalize our education system?” I hope that students will see that money alone is not the answer; it matters how the money is spent and what is done with the resources procured with this funding.

With this great feedback, I have revised and completed a draft of the unit as well as some supporting documents (the grant requirements and the presentation rubric). They can all be found here. Again, and as always, I welcome feedback, comments and suggestions! Many thanks!
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Challenge Based Learning: Students Write a Grant to #EqualizeOurEd

My students are always asking me, "How come we have iPads and other classes don't?"

I reply, "I wrote a grant."

The inevitable questions are, "What's a grant?" and "What can you get with a grant?" and "How hard is it to write one?" and "Can I write one to get ______?"


In 2 weeks we will have finished our 12 units of the Everyday Math curriculum (Woooo! We did it all! Love it!), and we will have about an extra month to extend math learning. What to do? What to do? Ah ha! An awesome CBL (challenge based learning) project!

I have decided to have my students write a grant. Not just any grant. Our cycle is studying equity in education (we even have a hashtag - little used as of yet - but just you wait: #EqualizeOurEd). My teaching partners in SS and ELA are working on units about the history of education, current policy issues and some ideas for redefinition of the system. As the math teacher, I am going to supplement this by looking at school spending and finance. After looking at school budgets and per-student funding by zipcode, I began to wonder about fundraising schools do to augment these budgets. I was (and wasn't) shocked to find that the average dollar amount raised through parent donations or fundraisers in more affluent CPS schools (I polled about 11 schools... not exactly a scientifically sound number, nor indicative of what I'm sure is universally true... but a good starting point for my kids nonetheless) is $100,000!!! Wow! So I'm going to present this challenge to my kids:

Imagine our district decides to "equalize our ed" by giving all schools $100,000 to augment their budgets, regardless of parent financial situation and ability to fundraise... how should schools spend it to improve education? Write a grant proposal to share your idea.

Kids will have to:
- identify an essential issue in their school (by conducting peer, teacher and parent surveys, etc.)
- write a grant to propose the best idea to respond to this issue
- create a detailed budget using spreadsheet software (Numbers App) and equations to back this grant
- create a Keynote presentation to persuade "investors" that their grant idea is sound
- Here is a draft of the "grant" outline that I will present to my students.

Throughout the student-driven experience, my kids will blog their thoughts, reflections and ideas for the public to comment, support and inspire.

At the end of the project, peers will evaluate the grants and choose one to "fund". Following the project, we will reflect on the experience and decide if money is a possible lever to improve schools - or not? Or is it a lever in and of itself, or are there other factors? All of these conclusions will be driven by my 4th and 5th graders.

I have yet to begin... we will start on May 7th. I will post my unit plan on this blog once I'm done finalizing it... all of these ideas are still up in there air. I have some ideas that I think *could* be cool: i.e., kids walk around using QR codes to find out how much items in our room cost (after creating a "Price is Right" style spreadsheet in Numbers guessing their cost). As we progress, I will post more info on how it's going. Until then, I welcome feedback, ideas, etc!

Thanks, as always.
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Free Bookshare App For Android

Bookshare recently released Go Read for Android devices. Go Read is the Android version of Bookshare's app for iOS call Read2Go.  The app is free and compatible with a number of Android 2.2 or higher phones and tablets. Features include direct access to Bookshare's library of accessible books, text-to-speech with synced sentence by sentence highlighting and the ability to read ePub books. To learn more about how to become a Bookshare member click here. To download Go Read click here. Click read more below to view screen shoots of Go Read in action.

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Snap&Read by Don Johnston

Don Johnston recently introduced a new product named Snap&Read. Don Johnston describes Snap&Read as follows,
"The simple one on-button toolbar that reads any text on-screen as it floats over any application."
 To use Snap&Read just press the selection button and drag to select the text you want to be read aloud with high quality text-to-speech. Snap&Read can read text in Flash, PDF and images files along with plain text. You can purchases Snap&Read on a USB flash drive and use the program on any computer. Snap&Read works the same on Macs and PCs. To watch a video about Snap&Read click here. To learn more about Snap&Read and its features click here. 
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Print From an iOS Device to Any Printer with the xPrintServer

iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch are great for many tasks. One downside is that it is difficult to print documents, pictures, spreadsheets, emails and notes. One solution is the xPrintServer from Lantonix. The xPrintServer allows you to print to up to ten network printers. Just plug in the xPrintServer and you are ready to go. It allows you to print directly from apps to non-AirPrint compatible printers. The xPrintServer is perfect for schools and bussnisses that need to print from iPads or iPhones. The xPrintServer cost $149.99. Click here to learn more.
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Kids Dream up the Future Classroom

Our students are beginning a CBL project on equity in education (follow our hashtag #EqualizeOurEd !). Today we began by envisioning the "future classroom." I asked kids to write a letter to the teachers of the world and "paint a picture" of the future classroom, explaining what they hope it will look like.

Not surprisingly, every child discussed how technology should look in the classroom. They talked about devices -  mostly iPads - and how they should be used in the classrooms. I plan to have them do this same prompt again after we discuss school budgets, access to opportunity and curricula. However, as their initial responses were so interesting (and funny) I wanted to share a few of my students' thoughts with you. I asked them if they wouldn't mind having their letters posted on this blog and they were overjoyed at the thought that you would be reading their ideas. Please share your comments and I'll relay them to the kids. They love feedback (as you can see below)!

So, without further ado, here are some of room 313's dreams for the future classroom (as of 4/19/2012)....

Dear Teachers,

        My name is Johnnie and I am in 5th grade and in Ms. Magiera's class. I want to talk to you about the future classroom. In the future there will be lots of technology to help us make life easier, just like the iPads make learning easier and more fun. There are some reasons to back up my theory. One reason is that instead of buying all of those books you can just get iPads. Kids can write in the iPad books and look up words and stuff and you can’t do that with real books. Also the iPad books have movies and better pictures in it to help us understand.

Another reason is that the apps they have are so helpful. Educreations has slides so you can create your own lesson, and keynote is used for an important presentations that can help you with meetings, and other business like things. I feel like I can create more interesting work with iPads then before when I just had construction paper and markers. Now I feel like I’m doing the same thing that grown ups do on TV.
           Over the years humankind has been going through an evolution and so has technology. Now technology can help us with everything we need to get done.  So I encourage you to have iPads in your class because you can learn so much more than what you already know. iPads can do so much more than they show on TV commercials. iPads have changed my life because I'm learning more and my all my skills are increasing. Thats why I think you should have iPads. They will change the way you teach and learn.

Sincerely, Johnnie

Dear teachers,

My name is Maleyah I am in 5th grade in Ms. Magiera's class. In the future I think that kids will all have iPads and I think that they will have technology in all classrooms for students to learn off of without the teachers having to teach you each little thing. Instead we can help ourselves and the teacher can be there to help us do cool projects and try new things with what we know. For example, iPads have changed my life. When we are doing our work and and we get an answer wrong when we submit our responses on the Google Form exit ticket then Ms. Magiera get our response and she can see what we don't understand. Then she will teach it to us over then we may get it the other way they want to teach us. I always get to know how I did and get help before I leave class and that’s amazing.

iPads are going to make classrooms better because if all classrooms have iPads students would want to come to school more often. Like our class has iPads and a lot of students want to come to school  even if they are sick. We even wanted to come back early from Spring Break.
Teachers should use iPads because they show the students how much they are learning and give them feedback on their work. Teachers can use apps to presentations like keynote, educreations, popplet, and toontastic. Teachers should have their students do creations on iPads because on paper you can't take a picture or movie but on iPads you can. Also the teacher can put our work on her homepage to show other teachers how hard we worked on our creations and show them what we know how to do.
iPads can be fun and helpful at the same time because you can play math games and still be learning. It can also be helpful because it shows you the right way to solve the problem and the correct answer to the problem. If I was in your class I would want to use iPads and have iPads because they are a lot fun and they are helpful to me.

Sincerely, Maleyah

Here is a tip: In order to download apps on the iPads you have to have wifi to work on the iPads. Some of the apps that we need wifi but some of them don’t need wifi. You should think about that before buying your app.

Dear Teachers,

My name is Emani. I am in 5th grade in Mrs. Magiera's class. Today I am going to talk to you about what I think the future is going to be like for kids. I think it is going to be really fancy because I think they are going to create something better than iPads. I also think that they are maybe going to create a new app that kids would get on and do their assessments that their teacher would tell them to do and they would be able to do different kind of varieties that they can do.

Next I think that they are going to learn new things about their apps and what people want and don’t want (that means that the people that create apps are really smart and have good ideas). Then I think they are going to add new ideas to the old things we had at our age, or they would fix it up a little and take things out and add things in. So I think the apps are going to get better and better.

I also think that they are going to make the class rooms into like house or libraries and it is going to look all fancy and clean all the time. It will feel more comfortable to kids because they will want to sit in their house-classroom and learn all the time. For example, if they are going to do a project in the classroom there won't be any paper on the floor, there will be a comfortable carpet and couches and technology everywhere to help them learn.

Last I think the world will be safer so that kids can take the iPads or other technology home. That way we can keep learning all the time and don’t have to worry about getting mugged or something if we take it home on the bus or El or train.

Sincerely, Emani

Dear teachers,

My name is Brittney. I am in 5th grade in Ms.Magiera's class. Today I want to tell you about classrooms in the future. I believe 110% that every class in the United States or anywhere else around the world that there will be iPads in every classroom. I think this because the schools that have iPads now are loving it. I have iPads at my school and everyday I am excited to go to school in the morning. I don’t think I felt that way before.
I also don't think at all that any teacher in the world should be scared of getting iPads because they change kids and teachers lives. They help us work better and they are fun to have around. I can tell that my teacher enjoys teaching with iPads and the Promethean Board. In the future I also think that every class will also have a Promethean Board or at least a projector. I think that it is easier to work with a Promethean Board instead of a white board because instead of erasing and writing over and over again you can just swipe to the next page and keep going until your whole class gets it. Also you can put movies and stuff in the board and also kids can control the board from their iPads. I can write on the board without getting out of myself.
I also think that each student should have their own independent iPad. I think that because if someone has to share an iPad with someone else then they would not be able to show all their work and thinking because the other student has to show some of their work too. If every student has their own iPad we can all work at the same time and show our own thinking but we can still talk to each other too.
Another thing I think would be in the classrooms of the future is laptops if they don't have iPads. I think that laptops could also be a big help because it is easier to type it but also kids get to use technology. Also another thing I think should be in the class of the future is to take test on the iPads. We are always taking test on paper and pencil but I think that it would be more helpful. It would be helpful because when you have paper and pencil you have all these thing around you like a calculator, or a scrap sheet of paper, or notes that you need to look at. When you have an iPad all you need to do is swipe with four finger or double tap the home button and everything you need is there. There is a lot you can do with iPads and I hope you consider taking them into your classroom. It would be a great use of your time during your class. Also your class would be very focused in your class work because they will be doing so many cool and new things. Thank you for reading my letter.
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Educreations + Edmodo + Google Maps = Awesome Student Collaboration + Work + Metacognition

Here's a recent math lesson I did with my kids about rates and my awesome Spring Break trip. My husband and I were lucky to travel to Maui for Spring Break. As it was our first time we didn't realize how amazing the island would be... nor how exhausting sitting on a plane for almost 10 hours would be. On the way home, we started talking in the TSA line with another family about planes that could get us there faster, burning gas and rates. While we chatted, I thought to myself, "Hmmm... my kids could figure this out." So this week, when I returned, I gave my students this problem:

(Note: I wanted to be like Dan Meyer and just take a picture of my ticket stub or online confirmation to make the experience more authentic, but couldn't seem to get it together in time. Had I thought of this ahead of time, I would have most likely taken a picture of myself with my cell phone clock up when we took off, then done the same when we landed so the kids could see the elapsed time... then they could have even figured out the time zone difference! Darn! Next time....)

After taking a look at the problem (and hearing my sob story about being on the plane sooooo long to get to paradise) they had a silent discussion on Edmodo to share their problem solving ideas. Take note that the students' comments show up simultaneously at times, depending on when they hit "submit." So one student may respond before they notice someone else responded to them.

Then they opened the app Educreations and used it to record themselves solving the problem.

Finally, they shared their Educreation for the world to view! By watching this student's video, I was able to see that while she understood how to find the rate, she didn't quite understand its meaning (miles per hour). Had I just seen her answer, I may not have known this. By watching the video, and looking at the Edmodo chat stream, I had a much better assessment of what she did and did not know to inform future instruction.

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Chicago Public Schools iPad Academy

Hi Blog Friends!

Interested in learning more about the ideas you read here (and some that you haven't)? Mark your calendars and make your way to Chicago for the CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL iPAD ACADEMY! Differentiated workshop, networking, and amazing takeaways! Sure to help you transform your classroom.

This conference is open to all educators, far and wide!!!

Stay tuned for more details!

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Smart eBook Interface Makes Navigation a Breeze

A new concept eBook reader app improves navigation of eBooks on tablets. The app makes eBook navigation more like the navigation of a printed book. This concept is best for sighted users and may not work as well for  the blind and people with physical disabilities. The concept app allows the user to flip  through multiple pages quickly, find pages more quickly and more. Currently this is only a concept but may soon be coming to the App Store. While iBooks has an easy to use interface, this new concept seems to take it a step further. Click here to learn more about Smart E-Book Interface. Click "read more below" to see more images of the app in action.

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Google Self-Driving Car For the Blind

Google has been developing a self-driving car for a two years. Over the two years of testing the cars they have logged over 200,000 miles. The car has numerous sensors and an on board computer that can drive the car to a destination with out human intervention. In the above video the Google Self-Driving Car drives a legally blind man around town. Click here to watch the audio described version. The car can recognize stop signs, red lights, hazards and pretty much anything else. If the car makes a mistake the driver can hit the break or turn the wheel to control the car. In many states self-driving cars are not street legal. The Google Self-Driving Car is not available for purchase but offers a look into the future. Click read more below to learn more about the self-driving car.

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Custom Label iOS Buttons to Work Better With VoiceOver

If an app has buttons that are not labeled well for use with VoiceOver, you can easily edit them to work better. If you are not familiar with VoiceOver click here. For example if an app has a button that is not labeled VoiceOver will just say "button" when you select it. If you custom label the button you can make VoiceOver describe the action that the button preforms. This makes it possible for people using VoiceOver to know what button they have selected. To change the label of a button simply select the button with the VoiceOver curser and double tap and hold with two fingers. This tip will work with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.This will bring up a box where you can then enter in a name for the button. Watch the video above for more information.
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Learning Ally Audio App Updated But Still Missing Key Features

Today, the Learning Ally Audio app was updated to version 2.0.4. The Learning Ally Audio app costs $19.99 from the App Store. You must be a Learning Ally (formally RFB&D) member to use the app. The app allows members to listen to audio books downloaded from Learning Ally on the go. The update adds the ability to download books over the web without having to connect and sync with iTunes. It also has minor user interface improvements.

On the downside the app does not allow users to listen to their audio books in the background. In other words, you cannot listen to your books while you view the printed text in another application. This feature is very important for sighted users who want to read the printed text of an iBook with the audio support. You also can't check your email, browse the web or anything do anything else. Once you close the app, play back stops. iOS has had the ability to play background audio for over a year, but Learning Ally has yet to adopt the feature. 

If you are a Learning Ally member the Learning Ally Audio app is a great buy. If your not a member you cannot use this app. Read2Go, Bookshare's iOS app, is a more polished app. Click here and here to learn more about Learning Ally.
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