Ed Tech In the SpEd Classroom

Using Technology to Help Bridge the Learning Gap

You win some, you lose some…


Being a Resource teacher (we call the class Extended Core in my building), my job is not only to help my students with their IEP goals and objectives, but to help keep them caught up in their core classes.  Today, we worked on Social Studies review.

Let’s rewind 10 hours, shall we?  The Hubs (who teaches 8th grade Social Studies at my school) can testify that I spent a really long time trying to come up with a fun Social Studies activity.  To me (personally), “fun” and “Social Studies” don’t really go together (no offense, honey).  I eventually decided to forget about the “fun” aspect so much and focus more on having them get the content down.  They are just about to get into the period of Andrew Jackson’s presidency so I figured I’d give my students a sneak preview of the material so they’d have a little advantage going into the chapter.  I didn’t really want to do a vocabulary activity, so instead, I chose the first three parts of the chapter to focus on.  I recorded myself reading each section aloud using Chirbit.  Section 14.1 took me 2 minutes to read, section 14.2 took me 5 minutes to read, and 14.3 took me 2 minutes to read.

Why the heck would I do that? Yes, my students can read.  Can they read well? Not so much.  I wanted them to be able to listen to the recording and follow along in their books at the same time so they could focus on the content rather than the reading process.  After I recorded the readings, I took the link from Chirbit and created a QR code out of each one.  Then I downloaded the code, and copied and pasted it onto a Word document.  After each QR code were 3 questions from each section reading.  I didn’t make them too difficult, but tried to ask questions that would get them thinking about the main idea of each part.

Sample Question


There were three sections total with three sections each, so nine questions total.  It was a little eerie as they did this–the classroom was completely silent.  They all had their headphones plugged in and were listening, reading, and answering questions as they listened.  Overall, however, it was pretty awesome to watch.

Following along in the book as he listens…


Unfortunately, I had to stop them before they were able to finish completely.  Most made it to the third section.  However, I’d been dying to use a new tool in my classroom–PollsEverywhere.  This website allows me to post a question (or several, if I wanted) in the form of an open question or multiple choice.  Students can answer the “poll” by texting in a code with their cell phones or by going to the website and answering it there.

Screenshot of what the students saw.

You can see from the picture that it shows students both options for responding.  You’ll also notice that only 1 person responded.

Yeah…about that…

Sooo, it turns out we ran into a little problem when it came to having those students who were answering the question via iPads or laptops.  My one student that had her cell phone on her was able to text her answer and it showed up immediately.  The other students were led to some sort of error page.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why, either.  I made sure the poll was “active” but it was still being weird.  We did, however, have a crazy network connection today at work, which may or may not have contributed to this fiasco.  It would work and then not work in random spurts today.  Yeah…I’ll just blame it on the network.  Regardless, I like the tool and plan on using it, but will test drive it a few more times before using it again in class.  We ended up just verbally going over *what would’ve been* the poll questions.

Tomorrow I plan on giving them more time to finish their questions, we’ll go over them as a class, review some Algebra for Math class, and call it a good day.  I’m also getting in touch with all my students regarding their Innovation Day 2013 projects to see if they’ve made their decisions yet about what they want to create.  I’m excited to hear more of their ideas.  Still trying to figure out some last minute things, but I’ll make it work. Keep your fingers crossed! 🙂

Test Results and Class E-Pets


So, my students took their tests today in Social Studies via the iPads while listening to the test recorded.  They did better than I thought they would, to be honest. 🙂

It could’ve been the review game.  It could’ve been the QuizRevolution I created.  It could’ve been them going at their own pace because it was a recorded test.  It could’ve been the fact that I posted it on my student Facebook.  It could be none or all of these reasons combined.  All I know is that they did better than I thought they would’ve.  Granted, we had the small percentage who still did craptacular on it because they didn’t put forth any effort.  But I had two students get only 2 incorrect on their test.  ONLY 2.  That’s angel-choirs-singing worthy.

On a completely different note, I haven’t talked to you all about our class pets.  Or should I say e-pets?  My students are absolutely obsessed with the app Pocket Pond 2.  It allows the user to build a pond and maintain koi and other pond creatures.  It also encourages users to maintain their ponds/fish by giving points for keeping it clean.  If you don’t keep up with it, your pond becomes dirty and your fish die.  I got it at first because it has relaxing water noises.  Plus, if you touch the screen, it’s as if you were touching real water, with the waves and ripples it creates.  I thought it was cute.  Until I really started playing with it and now am just as obsessed with it as my students.  Which reminds me–I should go check on them right now and make sure they have a late night snack before I go to bed.

Don’t judge me.

Social Studies, Teched Out…


I’m not gonna lie–Social Studies was my least favorite subject when I was in middle school.

The teachers lectured and lectured, and every so often I’d get called on without having the slightest clue what the heck he was talking about.  My recollection of class would most accurately described as this.

Fast forward a few decades and here I am now teaching, or should I say re-teaching, my students with IEPs the material they’re learning now in their Social Studies class. Taught, ironically enough, by my fiance.  Back then I wanted to do well but had teachers who were (cover your ears, honey)…well, boring.  Now, these kids have access to all this technology and just lack the motivation.  I’d kill to have someone like me back then.  But then again, that’s why I do what I do now.  I’ve experienced the ugly before.

So they’re wrapping up their unit on the events that led up to the Revolutionary War.  I found this app called American Revolution History.  It’s an interactive timeline that lets students scroll through some of the events.  There are interesting tidbits as well as some awesome pictures that the kids can click on to read more about.  Right upon opening it, one of my students said, “Aw, cool!”

The students seemed to enjoy using this app.  While I did ask them to focus mainly on the points they were going to be tested on, they did check out the other interesting tidbits this app had to offer.

One other task I was finally able to do today was to record the test into an audio format using Chirbit.  If you’ve read my earlier post, you’ll remember that I had recorded an audio file on an app that I had downloaded onto the iPads.  It worked for the one student taking the test, but then I thought to myself, “What about the times that will inevitably come up where multiple students need to have a test read aloud to them? How do I transfer that recording onto multiple iPads?”  I did some research and found Chirbit. So, today I connected the Go Mic by Samson that I bought over the summer to record my (upcoming) flipped videos.  I’d been so antsy to finally use it.  One thing about Chirbit:  if you record from their website, you are only allotted 5 minutes of recording time.  I needed more than that, since it was a multiple choice test with 22 questions.  However, if you record from your Mac or PC and then upload that file onto Chirbit, your audio file can be up to 2 hours long.  Yeah.  So I recorded my test in around 13 minutes and uploaded it to my Chirbit profile.  Dunzo.  I’m excited to see the kids take it.  🙂  I so wish I had iPads to help me with Social Studies when I was a kid.  Maybe I wouldn’t have found it so boring.

Maybe.  Sorry, honey.  😉


Learning experience…


Ok, so just to reiterate from yesterday, here was the plan for today: the students’ warm up was for them to use their Google Form that I made for them while they went on a gallery walk around the classroom, reviewing material from all four of their content area classes. I was really excited about it this morning. Here’s how it went down:

Issue #1: Fire Drill
As antsy I was to get started, we were e-mailed about the fire drill we were going to have at 0900. No worries. We went back inside fairly quickly. I explained to them that they were each going to go to each of the “stations” that coincided with the numbers on their Google Form. There were nine questions total. The rule was, there couldn’t be more than one person at each station. Finally, I said, “Go at it!”

Issue #2: They Didn’t Know How To Go At It
My bad. There I go assuming again. I thought I had explained the directions fairly clearly, but that’s subjective. They didn’t understand how to use the Google Form. I was almost instantly bombarded with, “Wait, Miss! I don’t get it. What are we supposed to do?” They didn’t realize all they had to do was tap on the box for each number and input their answer. If it was multiple choice, they simply had to tap their choice.

Issue #3: Twitchy Fingers
I keep forgetting that for most of my students, this is the first time they’ve ever used an iPad before. I had embedded the form onto Edmodo as a post, so when they clicked on the link, the form came up as a pop-up window. A lot of the students kept grazing their thumbs on the screen, bringing them back to Edmodo, which was greyed out in the background, and losing their work. A few of them had to upload the form again and couldn’t figure out why they were getting kicked off. I had to explain that the screen is very touch sensitive and to use the holding straps located on the underside of the iPad covers to hold their iPads.

Issue #4: Not Paying Attention In Class
Each station was in direct relation to the material they had already learned in their core classes. For example, I posted two stations where they had to figure out the slope of a line, which they’ve learned how to do in Math. The Science stations reviewed the different characteristics of volcanoes. The English stations reviewed punctuation and grammar, and the Social Studies asked them about the Stamp Act. Again, stuff they should already know. They didn’t remember most of it. But that’s why we’re reviewing in the first place, right?

Issue #5: Traffic Jams
Sooooo, I had mentioned to them that I didn’t want more than one student at each station, since there were more stations than students. That seemed to have slipped their minds a few times, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I had wanted them to think for themselves so I could see what they remembered without help, but whatever.

1. This was a good practice for using Google Forms on the iPad for the first time. I will have to remind them to be aware of their fingers, since several of them had to start over a few times.
2. Next time I will change the form so that all the questions aren’t “required”. For those of you not familiar with Google Forms, you can make it so that your questions are required, meaning, your students HAVE to answer them and won’t let them submit the form until they all are. This prevented all of them from hitting “submit” at the end, because most of them didn’t know how to answer some of the questions and left them blank. Again, blank answers equals no submissions.
3. Regardless of all the issues mentioned above, I think it was a good exercise. The kids were up out of their seats and moving. They were using iPads. They were reviewing the material anyways, even if they couldn’t input their answers.

The rest of the hour was dedicated to studying for their Science quiz, finishing any homework they had missing from their classes, and working on their paper blog posts. They worked well for the rest of the hour, some with their headphones plugged in, listening to to the relaxing sounds of Pocket Pond. 🙂 So, in the end, everything was ok. This was a learning experience for me as much as it was for my students. It’s a journey we’re taking together, and as long as they can be patient with me as much as I am with them, we’ll be good to go.

Rivas, out……

Social Studies App Review


So I completely forgot that I had planned for Tuesdays and Thursdays to be Core Class Review days.  Meaning, on these two days, we’d review what is being taught in their English, Math, Science, and Social Studies classes.  Today I decided to focus on English and Social Studies, starting with S.S.  I know they are just starting to discuss the 13 colonies, and being that Future Hubby is a S.S. teacher, I asked him for some ideas.  He suggested having the students become very familiar with a map of the United States and what the 13 colonies were.  Being that he taught 8th grade S.S. last year, he had a good idea as to what the kids struggled with then and what he would’ve wanted them to practice more.  I had originally planned to have them look at the map, discuss briefly the Proclamation of 1863, then identify and color the 13 colonies on a worksheet.

Then, a light bulb went off.  Duh–I have iPads.

Out of curiosity, I typed in “13 colonies” in the app search box, and boom:  2 apps that were specific to what I wanted the students to learn showed up.  I was ecstatic! I quickly downloaded JigsawGeo US 13 Original Colonies and Archiving Early America onto their iPads.  They both are wonderful in their own way.  JigsawGeo challenges the students to drag and drop the shape of the state to it’s location on a map in the shortest amount of time.  In addition to this, audio includes a woman’s voice saying the name of each state as it appears.  I really liked that part of the app because the kids were getting a visual along with hearing the name of each state.  This app also has different levels to play, where each level up gets harder. For example, the audio disappears, the clues go away, and the final level gives you the state flag to drag and drop into the correct location.  The students really got into this app.  Best of all, it was free! I kept reminding the students, “Don’t just play the game. Pay close attention to the names of the colonies!” I hoped this would clue them in to the fact that they might need to know some of this information very soon, but it apparently was lost as they continued to play and beat their own score.

Matching each of the 13 colonies to it’s location on the map while simultaneously listening to each colony name being spoken.

The Archiving Early America app offered standard map, satellite, and hybrid views of the 13 colonies.  I really wanted the students to visualize where the 13 colonies were on a United States map as well as where Great Britain was.  The Google Earth-esque component of this app allowed them to do that, giving them a realistic view of those areas.  The students enjoyed zooming in/out of the maps, but were tempted to look for their own houses in the process, so I had to do some redirecting.  This app was also free.  Together, these two apps worked great for their review.

At the end of the class, I asked them to complete an exit slip, which was their ticket out the door.  Their task:  write down as many of the 13 colonies as they could remember.  You should’ve heard all the teeth-sucking and “Aw, man!”s that came out at that point.  Eventually, they all did end up writing down their guesses, with one of my students guessing 6 of the 13 correctly.  Others had 4, some had just 1.  Some of them were correct, some incorrect.

The most interesting guess? New Hamster.  🙂


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