Helping Faculty Rethink with iPads

At Roycemore School, lifelong learning is a value that is shared across our community. We encourage our faculty to seek new knowledge in their field throughout the year. As Coordinator of Academic Technology and Professional Development, I am here to help teachers meet their personal learning goals and to provide meaningful ways to do this. We feel that learning about technology, and how it fits into our classrooms, is a key part of an effective teacher’s professional development.

Launched last spring with a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation, we began a three-stage professional development program for our faculty called iPad PRoS. Each Roycemore teacher received an iPad Mini, and each classroom an Apple TV, so that they would have a simple and portable wireless way to share information with students in the classroom.

The three phases of the iPad PRoS program are Play, Rethink, and Share:


When you receive a new technology tool, you need time to play on it! The first phase of the iPad PRoS program gave teachers a few months to simply use their iPad Mini in whatever way they thought best. Most began using their iPads right away for email, web browsing, and taking notes. Others discovered great content-area apps to use in their classrooms.


Ultimately, we wanted to help teachers rethink their teaching. During the summer, we hosted three professional development seminars led by well-known education experts. Almost every faculty member attended at least one session, and many attended all three. The emphasis of these sessions was not so much on how to use apps and devices, but on how to integrate them into our curriculum. Teachers were encouraged to promote student creativity, communication, and critical thinking using the iPads. Our last session was focused entirely on “flipping” classroom instruction.

Here are just a few of the apps and tools our teachers learned about:

Right before school started, I conducted a few more sessions for teachers – on building a classroom website, iPad basics, and Google Drive/Calendar. This provided follow-up and helped teachers start the year excited about using technology in their classes.


We are now in the midst of the Sharing part of the iPad PRoS program. Teachers are encouraged to share the new things they try in the classroom with one another. We share during faculty meetings and through informal conversations, email, and social networks. We share our successes as well as our trials – not everything goes perfectly every time, and that’s OK! Sharing what we try with one another helps us discover new ideas and creates connections from Lower to Middle to Upper School.

Since all our students have access to iPads and other devices, it has been easy to implement the many things we learned over the summer in to our classes. Here are some of the things happening as a result of the iPad PRoS program:

  • The 2nd grade class uses Kahoot! to check for understanding in many subject areas
  • 3rd grade students wrote an iBook using Book Creator
  • 6th and 7th grade students created movie trailer-style book reports
  • iPads are used every day to show graphs and problem-solving in Upper School math
  • Middle and Upper School French classes are taught using a flipped model

Our teachers will continue their learning throughout this school year, and beyond. We are always focused on improving our own teaching to better help students learn.

Mayan Pyramid Erosion Project

I have been working with the third-grade teacher on a very exciting project the last couple of weeks. The teacher approached me with the idea, and shared the lesson plan link that she had found with me (Archaeology and Erosion). This is not, in itself, a tech project, which is why I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s not a project where a teacher came to me and said “I need help with tech.” It’s a truly STEAM project, and the teacher just had a feeling that I would be helpful, whether we used technology or not.

The third-graders have been studying the Mayan culture. The third-grade class has studied this topic for years, but this is the first time they have done this particular project. The project involves building a pyramid out of sugar cubes. The kids did this part with their art teacher – there’s A in STEAM for you! You can see pictures of the third graders building their pyramids in art class here and here.

Next, students were split up into four groups: wind, rain, sun, and all of the above. Then came the fun parts. Each group conducted an experiment that modeled erosion on their sugar cube pyramid. Groups used a spray bottle of water (rain), a hairdryer (wind), an overhead projector light (sun), or all three. Again, you can download this lesson from this website.

Throughout the experiment, each group used an iPad to take pictures and videos of their pyramid. We put the pictures into Book Creator, a fantastic kid-friendly app for creating interactive iBooks. After each day of erosion, students put the pictures and videos in to Book Creator, and recorded their own observations in writing. When the experiment was done, we had four Book Creator books, detailing each experiment. The four pyramids each behaved a little differently but, as you might guess, the ones that were “rained” on were the most eroded.

I combined the Book Creator books into one book (with help from these instructions), and exported it in several ways for parents and others to see. Want to take a look? Choose one of these options:

  1. Download as an epub or iBook
  2. View as a movie
  3. View as  PDF (no video or sound)

The third grade students really enjoyed this project. Every time one tiny speck of sugar came off of their pyramid, they were ready to record it in Book Creator and share their thoughts with the group. If we had not been using iPads, I think their excitement level would have still been high, but I believe they may have lost interest after a day or two of doing the same experiments each day. I’m glad I got to help with this project, and I look forward to helping teachers find ways to do more projects like this soon.

Next up: having the third graders re-create the pyramids in Minecraft!

Chromebook Tools

We recently gave each of our 6th grade students a Chromebook. I am working with the teachers to integrate the technology into the curriculum. Here are a few tools I shared with the teachers at a recent meeting.

  • Padlet: Easy way for kids to collaborate. Create a “wall,” share the address with students, and start putting up ideas!
  • Mindmeister: Collaborative brainstorming or mind-mapping site.
  • Select & Speak: A Chrome extension that lets you select a portion of a website and have it read to you.
  • Typing Club: Free online learn to type program.
  • WeVideo: Free online video editor and maker. This is integrated into Google Drive.
  • Kaizena: Leave verbal feedback for students on Google Drive documents.
  • Pear Deck: Present a Google Slides presentation (or any type of presentation), share it easily with students on their devices, and interact with them through Pear Deck.

We will meet again, so more tools are coming soon!

Screencasting Tools for Chromebook

Several teachers are using screen-casting apps like EDUCreations and Explain Everything on our iPads. Others are using Ink2Go to record flipped lessons. These apps allow students and teachers to create a video of what is on the iPad or MacBook screen while recording their own voice narrations. Teachers have used them for flipping lessons. Students have used them to present projects and explain their work, among other things.

But we don’t have iPads for everyone. So many teachers have asked me to look for an alternative to apps like this for the Chromebooks. This is especially important because we’ve recently given each of our sixth graders their own Chromebook, in a 1:1 pilot program. And since they are the Acer C720P Chromebooks, with touch screen, a screen-casting app makes a lot of sense.

Here is what I’ve found so far:

  • Web-based app that lets you record yourself while displaying presentation slides or documents. Allows uploading of PPT, Keynote, Google Slides, and more. Easy and fast to use. There is a limited free account for educators. There is a Chrome app for it, which means I can easily install it on our Chromebooks. This is the closest Chromebook-friendly tool to Ink2Go.
  • TechSmith Snagit for Chrome: I have not used this myself yet, but I have been hearing lots of good things about it. There is a Chrome app and a Chrome extension (you need both – check out the website to learn the difference). More details coming soon.
  • Clarisketch: Lets you record your voice while drawing, including drawing on top of an image. This is probably the closest CB-friendly tool to Explain Everything or EDUCreations. Good news: There is a Chrome app for this. Bad news: The app ONLY works on Chromebook and Android, so it isn’t a solution that will work for all platforms.
  • Pixiclip: I just discovered this one, and it seems like the most user-friendly of all! Like Clarisketch, you can draw on a blank canvas or on an image. There is no Chrome app for this, but it’s a simple web page that teachers and kids can get to easily enough. I will need to experiment with it more to see how easy it is to save and share from this tool.
  • This website has more tips and tools for screen-casting in general, and a few specific to the CB.

Let me know if you know of any other Chromebook-friendly screen-casting tools! I will update this page as I find more suggestions.