Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alphabet, Art, Teeth and Technology

Here is a preview of an innovative unit that our first grade teachers, Sally Laha and Laura Carew, will be teaching later in the year. The objective is to help the students learn about good dental health while applying their knowledge of the alphabet. The assessment includes image creation and application by having the students write a sentence using their dental knowledge with their assigned letter of the alphabet.

Technology supports the learning with the students using the tablet computers and Windows Journal to draw their image and write their sentence. The teachers print each Journal page to create their alphabet book. A digital version is posted in Prezi for parents to view from home. You can take a look now to see what the last year's students created.

As a follow up activity, the students use Kidspiration to create a diagram where they pull image symbols on to the canvas, one for each letter of the alphabet (e.g., T for a tiger image). An additional learning objective is to have students further their understanding of how we categorize information using the library categories in Kidspiration
 (e.g., Ocean Life, Transportation).

It was something with the first graders last year to hear the collaboration as the students searched in the different categories of the symbol library sharing “I found a ‘P’ picture in the animal library! Has anyone found a Q?” It was also something to see the students who did some lateral thinking as they went into the US States category to use state names to make their letter matches. Too bad their is no state name that starts with “Q”. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Will the iPads and other Technologies Affect Teaching and Learning at ACDS?

Laptops and tablets become powerful learning tools when the teacher designs lessons that have the students gathering and analyzing information working to make meaning to then create products that demonstrate that understanding. These experiences where students make cross disciplinary connections using a variety of media sources while using critical thinking skills naturally motivates students to be independent and active learners. This approach to instruction involves what we call project and inquiry-based learning that engages the students in higher order thinking skills (HOTS). It is standard practice for our teachers at ACDS to design instruction and assessments that stretch out students to use higher order thinking skills. The hardware, software and collaborative Web 2.0 tools we already are using will be enhanced through the individualized 1:1 nature of the iPad pilot program. It should be noted that while we use the term "1 to 1", we also should say "1 to Many" as students use their iPads to collaborate and create together. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Pilot with the iPad?

The keyword is pilot in that it is important to try a new technology before fully adopting it. As for iPads, they fit our need for mobile devices that give users the ability to collaborate, access information and create. The price, instant on nature of iPads and the rich variety of applications makes iPads a good choice for our pilot. We already have experience using tablet computers and laptops so the iPads will give us new data from which to make future choices as we expand our 1:1 mobile program.

While the iPads are exciting and engaging tools for our teachers and students, they really are secondary to how we teach and assess our students. Many schools have struggled with implementing 1:1 mobile programs because they haven't changed how they teach and how they engage students in learning. Mobile devices used incorrectly can become very expensive digital notebooks for recording information with students passively receiving lectures and then returning the information in the form only of papers and tests.

We use technology to not only gather information from teachers but also from many other sources as part of our research curriculum. Our students use multiple methods for expressing and communicating their understanding of key concepts and skills. The iPads along with our other computers, software, Web 2.0 sites and audio/image recording devices give students the tools to creatively build their understanding in ways that can be assessed by their teachers.

Image Source 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guide to the iPad Pilot Resources

iPad Pilot Blog – - This is where you are now. You will find updates to the pilot as well as links to all the other portals and services you and your student will use. Checking this regularly will keep you informed on the activities in the classroom and will give you insights into the philosophy and pedagogy of the pilot. This blog does not require a login.

PCR – PCR Educator – - is where we post grades and report cards. You should check this periodically to ensure all assignments have been turned in. Teachers will update PCR by Thursday each week so you have the weekend to catch up on any missing assignments. You can also update your household information such as changes in email, phone or address. Your login for PCR will arrive in an email before Back to School Night. If you need help, please email or phone Maurice McMillan at the main school number or

Haiku – Your child will use Haiku every day. Teachers will post announcements, calendars of upcoming projects, assignments, downloads of worksheets, discussion question, etc.
Students have created login accounts at school and may share that with you. Student households are offered an invitation code that you will find below. You may also just sign in with your student, you will see the same information either way.

Go to:
Child’s Name: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Invitation Code: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

5th Grade Blog City of 5th Grade – This blog is intended for Ms Cook, Ms Weaver and the 5th grade students to post questions, answers, reflections and photos. You are encouraged to ask your child to show you the site. It is located at

Web Resources – Your child will be using online resources at school for research and for honing technology skills. Mr. Carpenter has created a link page for convenience. WebResources is located at

ACDS Library Catalog – another fabulous resource that is newly available online for you and your student, the library catalog holds information about all the books in the library and also makes suggestions to students about their selections. Link and login info will come later in the fall. The catalog is located at

Note: All of these links are on the right side navigation area of this blog. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Essential Questions for Solar System Unit

We spent several days this past summer reviewing the 5th grade curriculum to determine what is most important for the students to learn. To guide us in this process, we developed what are called "essential questions" for each unit. These questions are a centerpiece of inquiry-based learning. The essential questions are shared with the students at the introduction of each unit to engage their curiosity and to spark further questions on their part. 

Miss Weaver recently shared the four essential questions for the solar system unit. To help the students start answering the questions, Miss Weaver collaborated with Mr. Carpenter to use the mind mapping software called Inspiration to create digital mind maps. The image above shows the first stage of the mind map that each of the fifth graders created. As the students progress through the units gaining knowledge, they will return to their essential questions mind maps to expand them adding their responses while asking further questions in the provided "parking lot". This assessment method naturally gives students the opportunity to reflect upon their learning over time and to synthesize their thinking into true understanding of the main themes and concepts of the solar system unit of study. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Haiku: Our Learning Management System

A major move in K-12 education has been to provide platforms and tools to support learning once the students  head home after school each day. Several companies provide what are called "learning management systems (LMS)". Our research lead us to Haiku which allows our 5th grade teachers and also Mr. Ros in 8th grade science to have a virtual classroom accessible at school and at home.

Our 5th graders logged into Haiku for the first time this week using their user names and newly created passwords. They found their "My Portal" home page listing the following information:

  • Their classes 
  • Calendar with a listing of important events and tasks
  • Announcements
  • Recent Activity (new assignments, events, added files, etc.)

As the year progresses, the teachers will use many of the tools embedded in Haiku to give students the opportunity to:

  • See their assignments (the same as in their planners)
  • Download files
  • Upload assignments
  • Ask questions for teacher and student responses
  • Post their responses to teacher posted questions
  • Access websites to support learning
  • View media
  • Work on collaborative projects

Image Source

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why Pilot a 1:1 Mobile Device Program?

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide answers to questions. Here are a couple. 

How are the students being prepared to use the iPads? Half the 5th grade are in the technology specials class and the other half are meeting with Mr. Carpenter in study hall. Some of the topics being covered are:
  • Smart password creation
  • Internet Safety and Privacy
  • Acceptable Use Policy
  • Using the apps of the iPad

Why pilot a 1:1 mobile device program?  It is a natural next step for ACDS as we already have a fully built out technology infrastructure that gives all our students easy access to computer labs, laptop and tablet carts along with computers in the classrooms. With our belief that learning should be individualized and that students should have all the tools at their finger tips to access and evaluate information to then produce projects that demonstrate their understanding, it stands to reason that we need to make the next step one to put a computer in the hands of each student. Each 5th grade student will be assigned an iPad that he/she will have access to throughout the school day. The iPads will remain at school with the students using their home computers to connect to online tools for collaboration and creativity.

A second motivation for the pilot is that we are teaching our students the skills to be learners ready for an ever changing world where they will need to be problem solvers understanding how to work in teams ready to innovate and communicate new ideas and approaches. These 21 century skills as developed by a consortium of corporate and governmental leaders outline a skill set that is very different than what was needed in the 20th century factory worker education model. To support this approach to teaching and learning, schools around the world are making the move to change the way they teach and to empower students with devices to support the attainment of these 21 century skills.

As news sources report from time to time, Singapore has been a leading nation for its innovation and willingness to adopt to changing needs. They started a program several years ago entitled "21C" where they incorporated the 21st century skills developed here in the US for their national curriculum. These skills are very similar to the ones we work to have our ACDS graduates attain. 

Image Source

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Welcome to the iPad Pilot Blog

Welcome to the ACDS iPad Pilot blog. The purpose of this blog is to communicate how we use the iPads and other technologies to support and enhance teaching and learning at Alexandria Country Day School. This and future posts will provide information about our timeline for the iPad rollout, examples of classroom learning activities and answers to frequently asked questions. Our Technology Integration Specialist (TIS), David Carpenter, will manage the blog. There will also be posts by our 5th grade and specials teachers as they offer examples of how the iPad, various apps, and other web-based technologies are being used in their respective classes. Please email David ( with any questions.

In the next few weeks we will be working with students on the procedures and protocols for using the instructional software (apps) and educational websites as well as the iPads themselves. Fifth grade teachers will be using their iPads for instruction during many parts of the day. Students will use the iPads during their first science unit on the Solar System. This will give us an excellent opportunity to work closely with the students in a measured fashion to assure their comfort and success with the iPad and other technologies.

Here are some events and "to do's" that we have on our agenda as we begin the process of piloting the iPads:
·         Work with the students to review our school Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to develop a section for their use of the iPads.
·         Teach the students how to create "smart" passwords for the Web 2.0 tools that we will be using. Parents will have access to the tools and passwords so they can easily access their child's work.
·         Set a date and time for the iPad parent orientation meeting.
·         Start sharing examples of instruction and student work supported by the iPad pilot program via this blog.
·         Set dates for meetings with students, teachers, parents, and administrators to gather feedback on the iPad pilot program.

Bookmark this blog site or subscribe to it in your RSS reader. New posts will be added to include FAQ responses, as well as information on how we are using the iPads in the 5th grade. We are looking forward to using this space as a place to celebrate the teaching and learning that is taking place in our ACDS community. And don't forget to email David Carpenter ( with any questions or ideas that can add to this discussion.