Using Keynote + Angry Birds for Authentic Formative Assessment

kinetic energy

This is my fourth year teaching high school physics.  As you become a more seasoned teacher, you learn to adjust your instruction based upon the needs and interests of your students.  When I taught physics for the first time I would present a concept by creating a keynote that introduced the academic vocabulary to my students and I would have them take scaffolded notes on their iPads.   However, I realized this was not best practice because it was boring.  My students would complete the guided notes out of a sense of dutiful compliance but they never really achieved high levels of engagement.

Flipping the Keynote

Fast forward a few years.  Not only do I discover that my students have a great love of game based learning but they also enjoy authentic formative assessment as a means of grappling with new content.  My students love doing project based assessments (formative or summative) on the iPad.  They really enjoy using the Keynote app.

negative acceleration

This year I started using the game Angry Birds as a tool to teach physics, this has been done and well documented by many other physics teachers.  One day I had a series of content related vocabulary words and I wanted to dipstick and see how familiar my students were with these vocab words so I could adjust my instruction accordingly.  I put the 10 vocabulary words on the board.  I asked my students not only to define the words in their Keynote, but to find a picture of the game Angry Birds which clearly demonstrated the physics concept.  I was truly impressed with the results of this formative assessment.

Potential Energy

I never want my students to wonder how something we learn in school applies to their own world.  Games like a Angry Birds are quite popular with this demographic, part of the Gen Z reality.  Thanks to Keynote and Angry Birds, my Generation Z students were able to show how physics works in Angry Birds Land and apply that knowledge the real world as well.

Using Sphero to Teach Elementary ELA

Those of you are fans of this blog have read about how I have used Sphero as a educational tool in my math and science classes during 2014.  Sphero is an educational friendly robot with many companion apps plus website that features a bunch of Common Core aligned lessons as well as STEM/engineering inquiry based projects that can be connected to the Next Generation Science Standards. 

However, one of my favorite international educators is fellow Apple Distinguished Educator Alberto Pian, who is from Italy.  When Alberto and I first started to compare and contrast our use of Sphero in our 21st century classrooms on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, he told me about how he was using Sphero to teach in humanities classes.  He used Sphero the Robot to have the students create anthropomorphic characters in iMovie as part of an anti-bullying campaign.  This is a sample of what the student work looked like:

Speaking with Alberto about his work over the summer led me to imagine how I could use Sphero to encourage my students to write.  This fall I had the good fortune to work with a group of 3rd graders twice a week and focus on reading and writing.  This month we were working on the following Common Core Grade Three Writing Standard:

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
One day I decided to bring in Sphero the Robot to help my kids with their creative writing.  I find with the elementary age group that the most difficult aspect of writing can be getting them started.  Well, play is a powerful tool:  it was a powerful tool that allowed them to put pen to paper.  There are a series of apps that you can use with Sphero, but for this particular exercise I had my students use the app Sharky the Beaver to help them with their writing process.  Here is a link to the app in the iTunes Store:
This particular app uses Augmented Reality technology where a digital computer generated image is superimposed in 3d.  While the students manipulate the robotic ball around the classroom, the iPad screen tells another story.  There is an image of a Beaver that needs to chase the gold coins.  While the students gleefully took turns playing I gave them a brainstorming paper.  I had them fold the paper into four sections 1- characters 2- setting 3- problem 4- resolution.  They used the manipulation of the robot in the classroom environment and the Augmented Reality to write their own stories from scratch with the four aforementioned elements of a story.  What amazed me was that each story was completely different and my young students were able to go into vivid detail in their writing.  There was something about the kinesthetic experience of manipulating Sphero within their classroom environment that sparked their written expression skills.  I know that Sphero is something that is associated with STEM so I had to share this wonderful ELA Common Core aligned experience with the robot and my young learners.
Sharky the Beaver

Using the colAR Mix to Teach Common Core Writing

I recently was able to use the app colAR Mix as a way to teach the following Common Core Standard to Third Graders.

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
AR bird
colAr Mix has a series of coloring pictures that you can download on their website.  Some of the coloring pages are free and some of them you have to pay for.  Here is a link to their website:
I had each child in the class color in a different trigger picture.  Once they had completed their drawings they used the iPad and the app colAR Mix to scan the drawing and watch it come to life in 3D.  Then based upon the Augmented Reality that was superimposed on the 2D drawing I asked them to brainstorm characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.
The Common Core allows for the young writers to work with imagined experiences and the Augmented Reality really stimulated the imaginations of my third grade writers.  The Common Core also wants third graders to be able to introduce characters and sequence events in a story.  The Augmented Reality provided a scaffold which allowed for the students to brainstorm characters and allowed them to sequence events.
Also, the students were so full of ideas that it was hard to get them to put down their pens and leave the classroom, the ultimate indicator of success in any teaching/learning activity.

Talking About AR + Gen Z at #edcampnyc

I love Ed Camps.

I had not had the chance to participate in one in awhile but yesterday I dragged myself to Manhattan for edcampnyc.

I led a conversation about Augmented Reality and why we need to use this type of technology with Generation Z (the students who were born after 1995).

What I love about edcamps is the format.  I posted these topics on the discussion board and was joined by a wonderful group of educators who were passionate about these two topics.

The smartest person in the 21st century is certainly the room.  Those of you who follow this blog know that I love using both LAYAR in DAQRI in the classroom.  However, many people who joined the discussion were able to share the amazing things that they are doing in schools with Aurasma.  I was amazed by the work that tech integration specialists were doing to flip the first grade classroom by creating student videos in Aurasma.

We looked at the use of Augmented Reality at the Avenues school in NYC to foster a conversation about how AR allows students to take ownership of the learning space.

Also, what was great about discussing how to relate to Generation Z in an edcamp setting was the power of collective voice.  We had teachers are Baby Boomers, teachers who come from Generation X, and teachers from Generation Y.  This led to a rich dialogue about what we can do as education professionals to cater to the needs of Generation Z in our educational system.

For those of you who missed it and like Augmented Reality or Generation Z here is a link to the Google Doc with all of the materials we chatted about:

How I Used Foldify and QR Codes to Teach to the Common Core


This is a great Common Core App Smash that I used with a group of third graders to help teach the following Common Core ELA Standard:

Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

I took four basic elements of a story 1) characters 2) setting 3) conflict 4) solution, I made a short Tellagami explaining and each concept.  Then I published the Tellagamis on my You Tube Channel.  Next I made four different color QR Codes that I linked to the Tellagami videos.  Then I imported the QR Codes into the Foldify app and dragged them onto 4 different sides of a cube.  In this case I constructed the cube for my students because I had a short period of time to work with them.  When I use this app with high school students I have them build the cubes.  The students took turns shaking the cube like a Story Dice, and they scanned the colored QR Codes and we had a wonderful class discussion about the various parts of a story.

As a follow up activity I had the students complete a writing prompt in which they created their own characters, setting, problem, and solution.  They produced some really good samples of writing based upon the digital scaffolding provided to them by using 21st century tools to teach them about the parts of a story.

I credit my fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Monica Burns with this app-smash idea.  She does amazing things with both QR Codes and the Common Core, you can visit her blog at:

STEM Lesson Hydro-Hypothesis with Sphero + iMovie Time Lapse iOS8

I recently tried the Hydro-Hypothesis Sphero Experiment in my science classes which reinforces concepts such as density, buoyancy, and engineering design.  Students were given the following materials:

1- cardboard

2- bubble wrap (two different sizes)

3- clips

4- elastics

5- neon duct tape

6- pipe cleaners

The students then had to create a boat that submerged half of Sphero the Robot in the water and did not sink.  You can get a waterproof case for Sphero for this activity.  Students were divided into teams and given a half hour to complete their boat design.  Then we took turns testing if the student designed robot powered boats would sink or swim in a pool of water. This hands on science lesson led to high levels of student engagement and fostered a community of collaboration.

I am also fortunate enough to work in a setting that is one to one with the iPads.  The students had the great idea to use one of the iOS8 features to enhance the experience.  We used the time-lapse feature in Camera to document the entire lesson.  Then we took the footage and put it into iMovie.  Timelapse in iOS8 is a great way to document any sort of scientific exercise that involves the students learning by creating/constructing their own product.

How I Used Puppet Pals to Teach to the Common Core

Puppet Pals

This is an example of how I used the app Puppet Pals to teach to the following Grade 3 Common Core Writing Standard:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3 (parent standard)
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3.a (companion sub standard)
Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

What I like about these new writing standards is that they reflect narratives based upon imagined experiences and we all know that elementary children have wonderful imaginations.  I recently used the iPad app Puppet Pals to guide an activity that supported the writing of 5 elementary students who I work with.  Each student was allowed to pick a character from the Puppet Pals library.  One chose the princess, one chose the dragon, one chose the Prince, one chose the Swamp Creature, and the final student chose the Squirrel.

Once they were assigned a character they were told the sequence of the story and if their character would appear in the story sequence as #1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.  The first child wrote about the story introduction with the princess on an index card, once that child finished the beginning of the story, the second child began to write their portion of the story in response to what the first person wrote.  And so and so forth until everyone had contributed.

Next we took the writing of each student and took turns recording everyone in the Puppet Pals app.  This also connects to the Common Core because students also need to work on their Speaking and Listening Skills and this activity relates not only to the writing standards but to the following Speaking and Listening standard.

Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

Once I listened to the finished product, there was no doubt in my mind that my students had created an engaging audio recording of their written story.

Here is a link to the Puppet Pals App in the iTunes Store:

How I Used Tellagami to Teach to the Common Core

Use of Tellagami to Teach CCSS

As a public school teacher I try to embrace the Common Core Standards and use them as a road map to guide my instruction.  I am also constantly on the lookout for ways to use technology to encourage the integration of 21st century skills and mastery of the Common Core.  Recently I used the app Tellagami to reinforce the following Common Core State Standard with a group of grade three students:

Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

After reading the first two chapters in the book Ramona Quimby Age 8, a group of six students were asked to each write down a specific detail about the plot of the story.  Then we put the six details together as strips of paper on the table and the third graders had to discuss the sequence of the details within the novel.

Once we put the details in order from first to last, the students did a group recording in Tellagami.  They also had a lot of fun taking turns on the iPad to make the Ramona Quimby character.  A great activity for a classes with one iPad or an iPad cart.