Examples of Practice: Using iPads to Document Student Work

I just finished reading aloud The One and Only Ivan to 4th graders. We participated in the Global Read Aloud, where schools from all over the country and world heard the same story. Classrooms connected through Edmodo. It was a very innovative way to communicate with other learners about topics related to the story, such as gorillas, the author, and special projects classrooms were doing.

One project that caught my classroom teacher’s eye was a writing project posted by another teacher on Edmodo.


She took this unique idea and made it her own with her students. Students picked an object that Ruby might have wondered about, and then answered her hypothetical question with an answer as if they were Ivan responding.



All of their responses were posted on a bulletin board in the hallway.

So where does an iPad come in? I took photos of some of their writing. After cropping them with Snapseed, I pulled some of these photos into another app called Frame Magic. You can choose several different frames to create a collage of all of the students’ work in a matter of minutes.


What’s great about Frame Magic is I can share this collage through a variety of online tools, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. As well, I can embed the photo onto a blog post like I did here. Parents and educators in other schools and districts can now see what excellent writers our students are!

Reading Aloud at the Secondary Level

About a month ago I had the honor of writing a guest post for the Nerdy Book Club blog. The title was Top Ten Tips for Reading Aloud. It was just one of many topics that are posted on this excellent literacy site. In the comments I had a great question from another educator: What recommendations do you have for secondary administrators? Below is his question and my response.

How would you add to this conversation? Please share in the comments.

David E. October 6, 2012 at 6:54 am

It’s encouraging to hear that an administrator GETS it and can be seen as a literacy leader–not just a disciplinarian– in his building. Great ideas in this post. Do you have any recommendations foe middle school principals?

renwickme October 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

David, I have given some thought in the past about that, being a former middle school AP.
  • One idea is to share a relevant and engaging news article about a two-sided issue with a classroom. Then, after reading the article, open up a debate by doing a value line up and have the students pick a position and verbally support it (Checking for Understanding, Fisher and Frey). As we know, adolescents love to argue, and this formative assessment technique gives them the perfect forum to do that in a constructive way.
  • Another suggestion would be to pick an excellent piece of student writing and read it aloud to a classroom. It can be anonymous, or you could get permission from the author. After reading it aloud on a document camera, instead for giving your initial opinion and praise, have the students assess it on their own using a writing rubric. Then have each student get together with another student and share their results with each other to try to reach consensus. If the discussion is strong, have pairs pair up and follow the same process. At the end, groups share with the class how they assessed it and why. This is the “Think-Pair-Share” formative assessment, also from Checking for Understanding.
  • One final thought is just get into a classroom and read aloud a great novel. There is a misconception out there that just because older kids can now read means they don’t like or benefit from listening to a story read aloud. If you need a recommendation, I suggest Avi’s Wolf Rider. It’s a murder mystery/thriller, and it starts with the perpetrator calling the main character to tell him he killed someone. You will have the kids’ attention immediately and they will be asking when you are coming back next.

Did I just write a whole new post? Just as well, as your question is a very good one. Take care, -Matt

David E. October 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

Thank you for taking the time to write a “whole new post.” I am constantly reading aloud to my 6th grade students. (Every teacher knows that the best praise he can get is, “The book was boring when the sub read it yesterday. You do it so much better!”) I know my principal has TONS on his plate and that making time to push in to a classroom is a challenge. Still, I feel that it is worthwhile and would help establish him as a literacy leader in the building, give a chance for the students to connect with him and vice-versa, and influence the culture of the school.

I guess me offering an invitation would be a good start.

#kinderchat is where it’s at!

  1. This is a summary of the excellent chat I had on Twitter tonight with kindergarten teachers and administrators. The topic of tonight’s discussion was building relationships between principals and teachers. If you have never participated in a chat on Twitter before, this is a great one to start with. I use the TweetDeck app to follow the hashtag #kinderchat so I can see the chat feed, mentions and messages all at the same time.
    I also saw this chat as an opportunity to try Storify. It is a web-based tool that allows you to document a conversation you have on social media. This can be very helpful, especially when you cannot keep up with the frenetic pace of a lively conversation online.
  2. MauiMickey
    Q1 what do you appreciate most about your admin…or your teachers? #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:06:36
  3. mattwachel
    A1 I appreciate Ts that have passion and dedication to do what is best for Ss, even if that means challenging the status quo #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:07:37
  4. glaweezy
    @MauiMickey as a first year teacher I appreciate that my admin has been open with me and approachable #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:07:38
  5. maninkindy
    I appreciate when my admin step up and take the slack for me. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:07:49
  6. timlauer
    I appreciate the professionalism and commitment that they show in their work and the care they have for their students… #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:07:58
  7. AntionettePayne
    My admin are very approachable. They also join us for choir practice on Fridays! #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:08:01
  8. Matt_Gomez
    @mauimickey I appreciate trust and willingness to try new ideas. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:08:17
  9. HowePrincipal
    I appreciate that my teachers are there for our students. All the other stuff comes second. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:08:44
  10. happycampergirl
    As PT admin/curric coach, I appreciate teachers who don’t bat an eyelash when I come into their rooms. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:12:55
  11. Matt_Gomez
    I appreciate admin that read and follow @toddwhitaker He has the perfect philosophy IMO #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:17:08
  12. What I am impressed with is the participants’ various backgrounds and experiences. This is what makes a Twitter chat such a powerful learning tool. You cannot recreate this in the school setting alone.
  13. MauiMickey
    Q2 Teachers…Do you like it when your admin visits your class? Admins…do you like visiting during the day? #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:16:29
  14. maninkindy
    A2 I love the visits. It gives the Ss chances to show their learning and bring them into the play. It is awesome. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:17:56
  15. MmeHibou
    #kinderchat Q2 – I love to have admin visit during my lessons! I love their feedback; it’s helpful as a pre-service to have that support.

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:18:46
  16. timlauer
    Q2 I greatly enjoy visiting rooms. Spend most of my day there. Take my laptop &/or iPad and hangout for good parts of the day… #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:18:53
  17. JenFriske
    #kinderchat hi all! Jen from Alberta.
    A2: LOVE when admin comes into my room. Invited him into my room today to discuss recycling w/ K’s

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:19:17
  18. KelliB12
    A2 I think a relationship of trust has to be built then all the merrier but come in and play don’t just watch. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:19:32
  19. HowePrincipal
    A2: My goal this year: Be in classrooms 25% of the time. Mostly by reading to kids and instructional walks. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:20:10
  20. Vendram1n
    A2. I love visiting. @jpulvers sends groups of sts 2 visit, read&take funny photos using photo booth-Gr8 2 build relationships #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:20:27
  21. VillageSr
    I love visiting classes…Kg in particular. MUST make more time for that! For me, personally, it’s energizing…. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:21:35
  22. principal_kelly
    Q2 – divide responsibilities with vp so that part of each day is spent in classrooms – iPads with Evernote is awesome for this! #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:21:49
  23. muffydm
    #kinderchat. It’s important for Kinders to see admin. It makes admin seem like real people to them. LOL

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:21:55
  24. One of the biggest benefits of #kinderchat is, as a principal, I get a teacher’s perspective on things. It helps me put myself in their shoes.
  25. MauiMickey
    Q3 What is the best way to build community at the school between staff members…and/or students. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:25:08
  26. timlauer
    Q3: We hold our staff meetings in different classrooms. Allows teachers opportunities 2 share with one another. less isolation #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:35:40
  27. Fr_Immersion98
    Agreed RT @KelliB12: Nice touch @mattwachel RT try to leave a sticky note addressed to the class about something I observed. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:36:56
  28. teachermeg
    A3: Also think it’s important to include support staff (kitchen/janitor/engineer/office/etc) as part of the school community. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:33:01
  29. happycampergirl
    My boss connects us to learn from ea other. Someone needs help w/lit groups, she sends them to observe tchr w/great lit groups. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:32:43
  30. timlauer
    Q3 I think community is built on relationships. Getting 2 know your staff & students is key. Also helpful when challenges arise #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:32:15
  31. KelliB12
    A3 -Food always works. Building a school community through Pete the Cat. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:32:11
  32. teachingtammy
    A3 knowing people’s names – especially support staff building community. Pictures on wall? Def time outside of school together #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:31:08
  33. What I am trying to do with Storify is curate the tweets that resonated with me, ideas that I may want to apply to my own practice. I can then come back to it later, as well as share it with another group of educators.
  34. MauiMickey
    Q4 What are the greatest obstacles for building positive relationships in schools? #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:39:13
  35. glaweezy
    @MauiMickey A4 in our school its almost too big 600 kids more staff than I can name and 4 admin communication breaks down #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:42:04
  36. Vendram1n
    A4 our school is huge and complex with inner city challenges. 515 kids, 40 staff. Lack of time is my biggest challenge. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:42:50
  37. HowePrincipal
    A4: Getting caught up in the things that have no bearing on student learning. Try to keep discussions on what matters. #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:43:14
  38. VillageSr
    A4. Time, how our buildings are built, more ‘open space’ needed or the licence to get out of our own rooms. Buddy Classes Rule #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:46:44
  39. MmeKathleen
    If all staff members TWEETED and VALUED it, it would be so much EASIER to share IDEAS!!! #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:45:53
  40. mrsmelva
    #kinderchat our wellness committee plans we pick & choose – progressive suppers, ladies/men’s night baby showers fish Derbys BBQ games nites

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:48:39
  41. rbellw
    I meet with all teachers weekly. Sometimes for PD sometimes for team building. Always for relationship building and culture! #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:48:14
  42. timlauer
    @VillageSr we have made an effort to let our classrooms spill into the hallways… benches and reading nooks, also a garden… #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:48:03
  43. happycampergirl
    @tiahenriksen I have known admins who were afraid of K. FACE YOUR FEARS! Come learn what we do! #kinderchat

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:55:46
  44. After the chat was done, I exported the tweets I curated to my blog here on WordPress. It was an easy way to create a quick post.
    I think Matt Gomez ended the chat well with his tweet below. I agree that we are only as smart as the people we surround ourselves with, and #kinderchat will definitely raise your IQ!
  45. Matt_Gomez
    @mauimickey The smartest person in the room IS the room. #kinderchat peeps have a large room full of smart people! #globalteam

    Mon, Nov 19 2012 18:49:08

Being Present

If you had one guess about where this photo was taken, what it would be?


Hint: It was not at a school, but couldn’t it be? It is a great example of what a vision and mission could look like in any educational setting. In fact, I plan to share it with my Leadership Team in the near future.

It was captured this weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin. My family was celebrating both of my kids’ birthdays. Activities that interested our four- and six-year-old include pizza and arcade games, an indoor water park, bunk beds in the hotel, and playing with new toys until they passed out.

To be as present as I could be for my family, I made it a point to not check my smart phone very much. In fact, it was used mostly as a GPS device on the way to our destination and back. The only reading device I brought with me was of the paper variety (and a good one at that: 11/22/63 by Stephen King). Email was purposefully ignored. Whatever the message was, it could wait.

The phrase “Filling the Well” seems to be used often by writers and artists. My understanding is it is the process of removing outside distractions from one’s life in order to allow the mind to have new experiences and appreciate the world around us. Whole retreats and other events are hosted for this type of creative renewal.

Teachers and principals are also artists in a sense. We try to connect the known to the new and translate the complex into the concrete for our students. One of the best ways we can fill our wells and teach with consistent success and creativity is to be present as much as we can in our daily lives. For me, this means having a life outside of school and taking part in experiences that make me a more well-rounded person.

Now, I am as guilty as anyone for getting sucked into the Twitter vortex for time unending. I need periodic reminders to put down the device du jour and pay attention to what matters at the moment. Even this weekend, I checked my feed a few times and found some interesting articles and posts. But instead of reading them at that moment, I took advantage of a 21st century tool by saving those articles and posts to Instapaper to read later.

If I hadn’t been present this weekend, I may have missed a lot of important things. Like the bald eagle sitting in the middle of a barren corn field, spotted as we drove to our destination. Or the opportunity to show my kids how to use their new telescope and view the crescent moon tonight. Or even the great mission statement I took a photo of at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

The Day I Forgot My Laptop

7:20 AM: Realized I had not packed my laptop in my bag, left it at home. Already half way to school, so just kept going.

7:30 AM: Took attendance at morning study center using a spreadsheet on Numbers on an iPad. Able to walk around the room and greet the students while I noted who was present.

7:45 AM: Prepared pictures using Photos on an iPad. Put them into an album to share with students at our all-school Jumpstart, a PBIS celebration activity.

8:00 AM: Walked morning study center students to breakfast. On the way, snapped a photo of student work on the walls with an iPhone.

8:05 AM: Took another photo with iPhone of students walking laps in the gym during our morning exercise program. Shared photo on school Twitter account using Tweetbot.

8:15 AM: Went pack to office and checked Photo Stream on iPad for photo of student writing I took with iPhone. Moved it to Jumpstart album so student could read it to peers.

8:20 AM: Checked Aesop for absences on Safari on iPad.

9:00 AM: Tried to access email on iPad, but wireless in building is spotty. Asked my office assistant to send a message to staff member on my behalf.

10:00 AM: Did an instructional walkthrough using a stylus and Notability on iPad.

11:00 PM: Wireless still spotty. Asked assistant to send another email on my behalf. (Hmm, maybe I should forget my laptop more often.)

12:00 PM: iPad now able to send and receive email. Quickly realized I didn’t miss much.

1:00 PM: Started to draft a thank you letter to all the families who maintained a bed for the school garden. Used Pages on the iPad, emailed it to assistant to check grammar and print.

2:00 PM: Checked progress of tasks on Priority Matrix on iPad.

2:30 PM: Read aloud Pete the Cat to kindergarten students, then created a story board using Felt Board on the iPad. Used iMovie to record audio of student reading the text from the story board, then uploaded movie to Vimeo to share with class and parents.

3:00 PM: Sat in a 1st grade classroom to help with a science experiment. Took pictures with iPhone of students involved with each step of the process, as well as the posted learning target. Put all the images together in a collage using Frame Magic on the iPad and emailed it to teacher.

3:45 PM: 1st grade teacher stopped by my office after school to inquire how I made the collage. Gave a quick tutorial on the iPad.

4:00 PM: Updated school’s Google Site using Chrome on the iPad.

4:15 PM: Left work, questioning how much I truly needed a laptop as a principal.


The other day I noticed two staff members laughing at something on their computer screen. Having the distinct feeling that I was the possible source of their amusement, I peeked at what they were reading.

My minutes from the last Instructional Leadership Team had three different acronyms…within the first agenda item. Yikes! In my effort to keep my notes brief, I almost made my minutes unreadable by anyone not current on the present day buzz words. In fact, I didn't even know what DOK (Depths of Knowledge) was until another administrator sent me a packet of information about it this week.

No wonder teachers and administrators feel like their heads are swimming lately. I can hardly keep all of these initiatives straight. With the current climate in education, I need to try to inject some humor when my staff gets together, as well as let them know that I am treading water sometimes, too. I think this video could be used to start our next meeting on a lighter note and poke some fun at all of these acronyms.



Examples of Practice: Using the iPad to Model Writing

In a recent post, I wrote about using everybody books to teach content. The example I provided focused on hurricanes, a timely topic right now. I ended the post by suggesting the classroom could use their new knowledge and summarize their learning through writing.

Since then, my very efficient technology specialist installed the Reflection app on all of our classroom workstations that are connected to the SmartBoards. This allows the teachers to mirror what is on their iPad to the screen. Excited, I decided to try out this new technology and model how to use it for the students and the teacher.

Model It

After finishing reading aloud a book on hurricanes, I wirelessly connected my iPad to the computer through Reflection and opened up Notability. With this app, I was able to use a stylus and write important information they suggested about hurricanes. Then the students asked more questions they had about hurricanes. We highlighted which questions we thought we could answer with another print resource.

Here is what we developed today.

So how does using the iPad augment this activity?

I can face the kids while teaching. I don’t have to go between the paper and the students. This would be true even if I was writing under a document camera. In fact, I could have sat with the students on the floor while writing, maybe even allowing them to do some of the writing and make it interactive. I believe combining the technology with my proximity to the students enhanced my instruction when compared to writing on chart paper or the board.

I am also finding that just using the technology while teaching increases the engagement level of the students. It’s not the novelty of the device either; this teacher has had an iPad in her classroom for almost a year. For instance, as I wrote today, the second grade students were very quick to tell me when my writing defaulted to my native cursive. I have had similar experiences when reading aloud a book that is digitally projected on the SmartBoard. Why they clue in a bit more when technology is part of the instruction is a question I am still trying to answer.

Celebrate It

After we were done, I emailed a copy of our writing to the teacher. She can print it off and post it in the room, or make several copies and put the writing in their book boxes to reread later. I have noticed students really enjoy reading text they created themselves or as a group.

I also want to recognize the teacher for being a learner along with me. One way I do this is sharing what they are doing in their classrooms in my Friday Focus, a weekly staff newsletter initially developed by Todd Whitaker.  For example, tomorrow I will describe the second quarter writing goals the second grade team is developing with their students to personalize their learning…

…and tie in how we took our instruction to the next level with the help of technology.

Second grade team is working with their students to set personal writing goals. This can help them become more self-directed learners. I even got involved in their studies, by using the iPad and the Reflection app to model writing.