Forget the Net: Rediscovering Some Offline Apps

Continental Drift

My Ed Tech topic for rumination today is the around an entry point for teachers who find themselves facing the dilemma of insufficient or inconsistent access to the internet.

Searching for a “Forget the Net” approach I began to look at the offline capability of our devices  and rediscovered the camera app and voice recorder. In fact, viewed through the lens of Common Core Speaking and Listening development these two humble apps can be very worth the classroom time.

The Power of Reflection

The ability to capture static images, live video, or simply audio, lends itself nicely to helping young readers and writers with self-reflection. For example, when students are reading for comprehension they may not attend to punctuation, fluency, and tone. Likewise, they may be unaware of how they sound because they are in the moment. They may be able to evaluate their peers, but not themselves in the same 3rd person manner.

Recording not only fosters self-awareness, but also gives a purpose to repeated readings. So if students are asked to read three times with a partner and record, they are more likely to see repetition as a useful endeavor.

Reflection is deep thinking. Reflecting helps you make a plan for future projects. You evaluate what works and what needs improvement. If you fail, you fail forward and make changes toward success. If you succeed, you feel great and have a process or tool that helps you achieve. Both outcomes help you dream about how to make something even better next time.

Reflection is reshaping experience by evaluating, reprocessing, and ultimately creating new ideas and deeper knowledge.

Pull YourSelfie Together!

With this information and a vision for designing a 2 hour workshop for teachers, my colleague, Adrielle Aldrich, (@Adriellealdrich) and I created a class we called: “Ten Ways to Use the Android Camera App”. Adrielle, along with colleague, Derek Suzuki (@suzukiderek) recently presented some of our thoughts at the SDCUE Tech Fair in October 2015. Here is a link to our presentation website:

The Short List:

  1. Reading Fluency: Teacher reviews a student rubric. Partners take turns reading and recording a few pages from a leveled book. They review each video and using the rubric, think about what they did well and how they can improve. Partners record their reflections.
  2. Collaborative Conversations: Students work with vocabulary words that are appropriate to the content being taught. Partners or small groups are given a word, they brainstorm objects that could show that word or the concept behind that word. Using the camera app students are working with diverse partners, having collaborative discussions as they negotiate decisions. They take pictures and then present their image and thoughts to their peers.
  3. Book Talks: Once students have mastered “book talking” without the camera app, you can add another level of complexity by having students take a photo of an important part of the story, the part they liked best or a part that showed the main idea. The image is available as a talking point when they are presenting their book talk. Students could use a partner’s device to record and share their presentation.
  4. How To (Procedural Text): Students can complete a procedure, at each step they take a picture. Then they can use the pictures in sequence to discuss and ultimately write about the steps they took. Students could use transition word labels (first, next, then, last) as they take pictures to help move their writing a more cohesive piece.
  5. Documenting a Process: Students use the camera to document an experience. Then students use the pictures to reflect on the process as the experience as a whole. Many times, students are so involved in completing each of the steps of a process that the process itself gets lost over time. Documenting with the camera app can help students strengthen their understanding of the utility and importance of the process.
    1. Steps in the scientific process
    2. Steps in design thinking
    3. Steps in a complex math problem
    4. Steps in the writing process
  6. Storytelling: In her Units of Study for Primary Writing, Lucy Calkins suggests creating “predictable opportunities” for students to tell stories about their daily lives. Rather than replacing writing time-which I would never suggest-have a recurring time each day when students can practice the art of telling a small moment. The sound recorder or video capture could be used to remind them of the story if they were only able to capture it in pictures. Instead of recounting the story as “That’s me, that’s the dog. That’s the water.” They may hear themselves saying their original thoughts: “It was so hot yesterday at the beach, my dog and I jumped into the water. He splashed me when he shoot his fur!”
  7. Know Thy Selfie: Students create various portraits to demonstrate knowledge or share ideas. Self-portraits can help students communicate their interests through a visual representation. Biogra-selfies can allow students to capture a moment when they dressed up like a famous historical figure or a favorite character. Culture-selfies help students express their own culture or compare themselves to pictures of other people from other cultures found online.
  8. The Best Part of Me/The Best Part of My Work: Students take pictures of a part of themselves or something they accomplished at school. Then, with a partner they can explain why they took that picture. Ultimately, they could create a written reflection from their image and discussions.
  9. Video Diaries: Students reflect about an assignment, experience, or interaction. They speak off the cuff, unscripted, to document their current state. Hearing themselves describe a recent experience can help you think it through.
  10. Scavenger Hunts: A great way to build vocabulary and speaking skills, you would give students a concept or a list of objects to go out an find. They document their findings with the camera to discuss later.

Building Agency:

The seemingly simple camera app and voice recorder app allow for student reflection. The whole point of reflection is to create a plan of take action that builds on your strengths and improves or changes your previous action when they were not so successful. To me, agency is where metacognition meets action. To build agency, students need time to reflect and own what helps them learn, understand what gets in the way of their learning, and through this process determine a plan for future learning experiences.

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