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Wednesday, June 25, 2014



Hello, All.

I have appreciated those that have visited and used some of the resources and I ideas that I have posted here.  But this Blogger account was created with my school Google account.  I recently took a new job as a Technology Integration Specialist at the Keystone AEA in Elkader, IA.  This means I will be losing this Google account and possibly this blog.

So I have moved all of my blog contents to a new web address...bormannbytes.wordpress.com

Please join me there.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

When is Technology Too Much? #edchat #ipaded #edtech


There is a video going viral right now.  It appeared originally on my Facebook feed, but a student felt it was important enough to share it directly with me as well.  She is pro-technology and knows I am too, but the video made her think about the repercussions of too much technology, and she wanted to share those with me.

This video is worth watching by all...

A Bicycle for the Mind...

The late Steve jobs built his company on a profound idea that was widely accepted and drove the use (and sales) of personal computers. There is a clip of him describing computers as a "bicycle for the mind."

I would agree with Steve that the computer, Internet, and other widely used pieces of technology can be a bicycle for the mind. I have seen it happen in my classroom. With the use of iPads and other web tools my students are able to connect, collaborate, and create with other students worldwide - a feat that would not have been possible pre-Internet days. Technology has made learning more efficient. However, the poem posted at the top addresses something completely different.

Human Connectedness...

The poem delivers a compelling message of technology getting in the way or even inhibiting human connectedness. Notice how I didn't say social connectedness.  As a part of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as humans, we need a sense of belongingness.  We need to feel that we are a part of something, and social networks are hubs for this.  When a person feels that their immediate environment does not provide that need, then he or she finds others like them online. However, a social network doesn't nurture human connectedness.

Too Much Technology Too Young...

Before I started grad school, I found it amazing that my 3-year-old could pick up an iPad and intuitively navigate it.  He began to show an interest in dinosaurs and soon knew more than I do.  I had drunk the Apple flavored kool-aid and thought the iPad to be truly "magical."

But part of my grad school course work also focused on the dangers in which too much technology can cause when used during the first years of child development.  One text in particular sparked much discussion.  Jane Healy's book Failure to Connect (1999) gave multiple examples of children exposed to too much technology before the age of seven.  What she found was scary.  Over exposure to technology before the age of seven can cause severe and irreversible social behaviors in children when they get older.  This was due to a lack of human connectedness.  After reading this, I immediately took away the iPad from my kids and focused more on puzzles, blocks, Legos, and board games.  Activities that involve talking, seeing, and touching another human being.  THIS is the human connectedness that is necessary for healthy social development.  Do my kids still use an iPad? Yes, but in limited segments of time, and I'm usually sitting right next to them in order to provide social interaction during the iPad activity.  

Look Up...

So to sum up what the poem is saying, in my own words, while technology can be a bicycle for the brain, it can be a tranquilizer for human interaction.  To better contrast the above poem, Apple's latest advertising campaign does a good job of giving examples of how technology can make understanding more efficient.  Notice in almost every example how the person who is holding the iPad is using it while talking to another human.  The iPad is being used as a TOOL, not a catalyst for social networking and a false idea of human connectedness, which is what I believe the poem at the top is attempting to address.

Final Thoughts...

If technology is treated as a TOOL to help solve a problem, then I believe it can be a "bicycle for the mind."  If people treat it as a hub for filling the need of belongingness, then it can cause social repercussions.  I hope, through my classroom, my students understand the difference.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S.  I realize this post leaves a lot of holes for debate, so what are your thoughts about too much technology?  How do we determine when IS too much? How do you teach your students to use technology as a TOOL and not not a social hub?

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Sunday, February 23, 2014



My blogging has become less frequent as of lately, only because I have become more busy (see my last post as to why).

But this post addresses something else.  A change is about to occur for me, and this post is my attempt to explain WHY the change.  I firmly believe writing is the best way to reflect, and I feel there is some need for that here.


I have accepted the Technology Integration Specialist position at the Keystone AEA in Elkader.  I will be traveling to schools in the Keystone district and working with teachers on how to effectively integrate technology in order to reach the levels of all learners in their 21st century classrooms.  With more schools in Iowa implementing digital learning initiatives, the demand for Tech Integration Specialists is growing and not going away.

Before people begin to speculate as to why I have chosen to pursue this career change and possibly look at the new balanced calendar that our school is investigating for next year as the reason for my decision, let me explain the real reasons.

Why Technology?

One of my first blog posts I wrote explains why I chose to pursue teaching English rather than another subject area.  And for the last eight years, that is what I have done.  Everyday I have truly enjoyed walking into a school and witness the "lightbulb" moment that students experience.  That's my favorite part of my job, just like any other teacher.  

But over the last few years, I have been able to experience something else.  I have been presenting at tech conferences, leading PD tech sessions within my building, and even working shoulder to shoulder with some of my colleagues on integrating technology.  And in doing all of this, I have witnessed the same "lightbulb" moments among teachers.  I see a new excitement for a project they have done the same way before, but now they attempt to approach it differently by using technology.  I hear a teacher come back to me with positive feedback from the project saying, "My students really liked it, and to be honest, I thought it was fun too!"  To hear this from a teacher is equally gratifying as hearing it from a student.

The Classroom...

When weighing my options, one nagging thought kept creeping into my mind - "I'm going to miss the students."  This has been the singular reason why I got into the teaching profession in the first place.  Their energy is boundless, and I enjoy helping them deal with hardships that come with tackling middle school and high school.

I also enjoy creating an environment that attempts to offer a "place of most potential."  This is something that came up in my methods courses at Iowa State.  With students being exposed to various environments, how could I possibly make mine to be the most conducive to learning?  I really take pride in trying to provide students a comfortable and safe learning environment that allows the best opportunity to learn.

Packing up my room at the end of this school year will be VERY difficult.

The Big Question...

So if I enjoy teaching, if I enjoy the students, if I enjoy the staff I work with, and if it's NOT the proposed calendar, then why make the change?  It really came down to one question...How can I have the greatest impact on education?  I firmly believe that education will always be the area I wish to pursue.  However, in my years growing up through the Ed Tech boom during the turn of the millennium, I grew frustrated with the way I was learning.  I believe education CAN and SHOULD move forward into the 21st century.  The context in which students learn and exist in is always changing, yet a lot of teaching methodologies are not keeping up.  By being at the AEA versus in the classroom, I hope to have a larger impact by assisting teachers who are wanting to move forward with their teaching methods in order to provide students the best means to learn in the 21st century that they exist in.

Things That Won't Change...

Even though I won't be teaching in the classroom next year...
  • my family will continue to live in Elkader.
  • my kids will continue to go to Central.  
  • I will continue to attend sporting events and community events.
  • I will continue to help coach the little kids wrestling program.
  • I will stay in contact with past students when possible.

Final Thoughts...

I've never really been one to be fearful of change.  I do embrace and look forward to the challenges that change can bring.  

Through those struggles, I feel I am truly learning.

Mr. Jarod Bormann
English Rocks!
Technology Rocks!

P.S.  I will attempt to continue this blog and use it as a platform to hopefully share teaching methods that integrate technology.  At the end of school, the title will change.  Not sure to what though.  Any suggestions?  Leave them in the comments below.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

The Last Hurdle #eits12


When preparing for the 400 meter hurdles in track, my coach would tell me, "The last hurdle is always the hardest.  It feels like you have a 400lbs. gorilla on your back when trying to go over."  That analogy has been applied to several aspects of my life, but none like grad school

Reflecting Back...

Since this isn't a race, I do have a little time to reflect back on my learning.  This blog serves just that.  Over the past year and a half I have seen my posts shift from a focus on the technological tools and how to use them, to more of a focus on a shift in pedagogy.  Look back at my previous posts to see.

The LAST Hurdle...

This semester will be my last for grad school...but it certainly won't be the easiest.  In order to graduate I have:
  1. 3 credits of classwork
  2. A portfolio of my work from the last two years.
  3. A 1 credit course to complete a project.
  4. AND, the 30-page Lit Review (which needs to include 30 sources).
The gorilla feels as if it just doubled in size.


Also as part of my induction into the last semester, I have used a new app that has really changed how I view storyboarding as well as video.

TouchCast is an app that allows the user to overlay live vApps over recorded video.  The feature I really like is there is a built in teleprompter.  

It took me a while to figure it out begin thinking how I can put this pieces together.  I think my first is still rough, but it's worth looking at for classroom use.

Here is the video, but in case it's not interactive, go to my original posting on TouchCast.com.

Final Thoughts...

Although this semester will be the most challenging aspect of my life thus far, it's like my track also said, "Be sure to lean hard into that hurdle and really attack it."

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S. What has been the "gorilla on your back" when it comes to teaching?  What have you pushed to learn more about your profession?

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Search Like a Bloodhound on the iPad #ipaded #edchat #engchat


Photo by Kerry Marion on Flickr

A single moment of enlightenment struck me the other day...

As we were reading Huck Finn, we got to the chapter where Jim and Huck leave the wrecked steamboat and continue on.  But Huck could not let the men get away with murder, so Huck jumped aboard a ferry and told a lie to the watchman.  In his lie, Huck says a man (Miss Hooker's uncle) named Jim Hornback will pay for the ferry.  The ferryboat watchman shows a sudden sense of urgency when Huck gives this name.

One question a student had was, "Who is Jim Hornback? Why did this all of sudden persuade the watchman to turn up river?"

"Great question," I reply.  "I'm not sure either.  Let's search it."  I wasn't about to spoon feed them or pretend I knew.

I expected them to all of a sudden highlight the name, Search, and do some finding.  But instead, students just highlighted the name, Copied, and jumped over to their Google app.  The minutes began ticking away as students attempted to sift through dozens of hits including someone on Linkdin named Jim Hornback.  There was another one on Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other sites that, of course, did not relate to Huck Finn.  There was even a post on WikiAnswers where someone posed the same question and someone replied..."I think it is Miss Watson's slave."

Search like a Bloodhound...

Bloodhounds are known for their keen sense of smell and are used to track down the missing link.  However, they start with very little -  a scrap of evidence, an old article of clothing, anything that may have a scent.

Once they have the scent, they're off blazing a trail to their destination - one clue from the next.

Google is NOT a Bloodhound...

I use the Bloodhound analogy with my students only because when students have a question, they go straight to Google.com and punch it in.  Why?  That's like giving your bloodhound the scent, taking him to a different location, and then having millions of directions to go in (much like the hits that pop up in Google).  It's more work, and possibly could result in more confusion..

Track 'em Down, iPad...

On the iPad, you can start at the source.  In the case above, I demonstrated for the students the following:

Digital Literacy

Teaching students how to search within the device of their choice is all about digital literacy.  According to Wikipedia, digital literacy is "the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies."  Jumping straight to Google and combing through thousands (or less because most students don't go past the first page of hits) isn't the most effective way to search.  It's not linear.  They don't make connections.  They can't begin to see how things relate.  And when asked how they arrived at their answer, they simple answer..."I found it on Google."

Practice Searching Daily...

I now like to do this activity that I call a Blitz Search.  
  1. If a question is posed, I simply say, "Blitz Search," and I start my watch.  
  2. Students then use the methods I demonstrated above to come to an answer.  
  3. First one who reaches the answer and reflects to the Smartboard (I have the Reflector App for my laptop) gets a piece of bonus candy (food is the greatest motivator for high school students).

Final Thoughts...

It is my goal to teach my students and demonstrate for them more frequently effective searching techniques and how to decipher information to see if it relates to their question.   Inquiries need to be acquired through self-driven searching - NOT handed to them by Google.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S.  How do you teach students to search effectively on the device that you use?

P.S.S.  Are there any Twain scholars out there that can tell us if we are even right about "Jim Hornback"?
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Commenting" Takes Google Drive for iPad to Another Level #edchat #engchat #ipaded


Google Docs has been around for a few years, and it didn't take long for the education world to harness this powerful tool.  With its ability to save as you type and the ability to collaboratively write, Google Docs was a student AND teacher's dream.  But when we started our 1:1 initiative with iPads at the high school level, Google Docs was the biggest thorn in my side.  But not anymore.

Playing with the Big Boys...

Google Docs for your laptop or PC is powerful.  But when the iPad boomed in popularity, people soon realized that they couldn't utilize the same Google Docs features on the iPad.  It was a feeling as if you couldn't play or hangout with your older sibling, a sense of being inferior.  Slowly, but surely, Google has continued to enhance their Google Drive app for the iPad, allowing users to harness some of the same useful features.  Now the iPads in our high school 1:1 program can hang with the big boys.

The Writing Process...

In my Creative Writing class, we are beginning to draft our short stories.  But this year I am able to have the students do something with their iPads that they have never been able to do before - COMMENT!  In years past a student would simply draft their story and not receive comments until the end when we do peer reviews.  But now, with an update to Google Drive, students follow these steps:

Begin pulling in elements from our free writing activities that may fit together in the 7 elements of short story fiction.

  • Once the brainstorming is done, begin drafting.
  • Then at the end of every class that week, the student shares their draft with a different student who will read what they have so far and provide comments.
  • A student provides a comment by selecting text and hit "Comment."

  • The original author can view these comments or suggestions as they continue drafting to see if they need help clarifying and taking the story in another direction.  They can then "Resolve" the comment or "Reply" back to the reviewer.
  • The students love this process so far and have started to understand how to leave meaningful comments that can actually help the author.

Of course I join in on the commenting, and real conversations can occur regarding the writing.

Literacy is ALWAYS changing, and this time, Google Drive for the iPad has changed with it.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S. Do you have iPads in your classroom?  Have you used the latest Google Drive update?  Tell me how in the comments below.
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reach Your Full iPad Potential #ipaded #engchat


The TIC Conference was held this last week in Dubuque, IA.  It was at the Grand River Center located right on the Mississippi River.  The two day conference featured keynote speakers Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) and Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) and brought in 750 area educators in just its third year!
The Grand River Center right on the Mississippi River

I was fortunate enough to present both days.  But this post is in regards to one presentation in particular.

iPads in the English Classroom

On day two of the conference, I led a session titled "iPads in the English Classroom."  Really, the session focused more in literacy than anything else.  I was hesitant to even name the session what I did, because when you hear "iPad" and "English," you assume the session will be about a bunch of apps for that content area.  And I wanted my session to be anything BUT that.

TPaCK and Bloom UNITE!

I started the session with the TPaCK framework.  I wanted the educators to see how there are three types of knowledge an educator can have: Content, Pedagogy, and Technology.  More and more, college education programs are realizing the technology piece of effective teaching and incorporating that into their program.  

From there I introduced a revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy.  The purpose here is to show that if I simply threw out apps at the teachers and gave demos, I would only be reaching the first two levels.  Using an app for skill and drill is NOT how I use it in my classroom, and I wanted the educators in my session to maybe start thinking the same way.  

So I combined the two!

This video is basically the introduction to that session.

Think Like a TPaCK Teacher...

From there, I gave the educators a chance to put into practice what we have just discussed.  I provided a Google Doc that laid out two possible classroom scenarios for Reading and two for Writing.  I also laid out my go-to apps for both areas.  I then had them work in small groups, choose a scenario, and then reply with what apps they would use to tackle that problem area.  If they didn't know about a particular app, then they could explore it further with the embedded links.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW THAT DOC!  

My Point is This...

The point that I wanted to leave my attendees is simply this...using iPads in a classroom is more than just apps!  It's about using the device to solve teaching conundrums that have plagued education and maybe brought it to a standstill at some points.  It's about using the device to reach those higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.  

It's about utilizing the device to its fullest potential...so the students can reach theirs!

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S. Do you use iPads in YOUR classroom? If so, how do your students use them to reach the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy?  Or, perhaps after reading this post, how would you like to start?  Leave comments below.
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Friday, May 10, 2013

Is it Worth it?


8th graders recently raised $1,100 as part of our One Penny, One Soul project.  CLICK HERE to learn more.

I Think I Want to be a Teacher...

A student, the popular kid who is so confident in himself that he doesn't let anything that others may say about him shake him, sits as a junior in my classroom - unconfident about what he wants to do after high school.  Is he personable? Absolutely.  Does he have social skills? Some of the best.  Is he intelligent? A's and B's.  But up until now, throughout the course of his Iowa I Have a Plan...he has had no plan.

So imagine my surprise when he announces, "I think I want to be an English teacher."

You Hungry?

To see how serious he was, I invited him over for dinner to discuss his new revelation.  This was easy, since he was also my neighbor.

Listening to him talk about wanting to be a teacher reminded me of myself my senior year and coming to the same revelation.  He wanted to inspire, to spark passion for English, etc.  But then he asked me..."Is teaching worth it, though?  I've heard some things that can make it sound...frustrating."  And as soon as he asked that, I immediately reflected back on my last 6 years of teaching.

I'm not sure what I said after that to answer his question, but I always do better when I write it.  So here is my attempt.

Is it Worth it?

The short answer - yes.  But let's be honest.  There have been some really good teachers to get out of the profession in the first five years of their career.  There's a reason why they call it "Teacher Burnout." So there must be something there to scare them away.

I imagine the politics that go along with teaching that NOBODY told me in my methods courses in college might have something to do with it.  Or perhaps the parents that believe their child could do no wrong.  Or maybe the outdated 20th century standardized testing that we have to prepare students for in a 21st century setting.  Or the politicians who push for education legislation without even consulting real teachers.  Or maybe it's seeing stories on the news of BAD teachers doing inappropriate things with the profession and giving the rest of us teachers a black eye in the eyes of society.  All of these may have something to do with it...but I'm just assuming, and that's wrong of me.

But despite these...frustrations...there is still something artful and pure about the profession.  Through the bureaucratic red tape and looming pressure of standardized tests, I believe there is a light that still shines where teachers can still have a positive impact on not just one student's life, but every student that enters their classroom.  Teachers that are ethical and genuinely care can find the greatest self-gratification from the profession.

THOSE Stories...

8th graders finish our mock trial at the courthouse.  The mock trial is part
of The Outsiders unit.

Every teacher has those stories of when a student let them know they made a difference.  Some have more stories than others.

I feel very lucky to teach in a school district where the students are not afraid of letting you know that you made a difference.  From little emails to messages on Facebook to college students returning to your classroom on their time off to let you know, a teacher will take a compliment anyway they can.  It's what drives us to continue in the profession.  It's what pushes past the negative aspects that may come along with the job.  It's the fuel that keeps the spark ignited within us and helps us avoid "burnout."

So to the kindgartner who wishes to be a teacher when they grow up, to the 50-year-old wondering still how they can make a difference, to the high school student who initially had "no clue" what to do but was ignited with the teaching spark...I say YES...it is worth it!

I get up everyday and teach for the students.  The paycheck is the bonus.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Epic Holocaust Writing Project #6 #engchat


This is the sixth of several posts that will talk about an epic Holocaust writing project that we are embarking on.  Too much for just one post, so enjoy.  Click here to read the previous post.

To Recap...

The students worked hard to spread the word.  I even did my part to help by joining Jeff Bradbury of TeacherCast.net on his TeacherCast.tv network and discuss the One Penny, One Soul Project.

And to use a crab fishing term, we needed to "let the pots soak."  The collection jugs collected.  The website and PayPal account collected.  And the students collected from businesses.  Now it was time for the grand total.

The Pay Off

It was our goal to raise $2,500 in a town of 1,500 people.  We knew the goal was lofty, but the students felt we needed to go big - and I wasn't about to stop them.  But after we totaled it all up, it looked like this...

Obviously it's short of our goal, but the students and myself were happy with the response the community gave us during the project.  Together we helped to honor over 110,000 souls lost during the Holocaust.  


I will admit, this is the part that I struggled with the most, but I received some great feedback from my grad school cohort.

Because I still wanted to make this academically related (in order to justify eating up 3-4 weeks of school that I did not originally have planned in my curriculum), I still felt I needed to assess their overall work.  But their writing wasn't for me - it was for the public.  How could I assess their work without hindering their creativity to market effectively?

I decided a writing portfolio would be best.  Here was the process we followed during the course of our project...
  1. Students draft publications, emails, documents, or whatever writing was necessary.
  2. Students print it first and brings it to me, the Marketing Director.
  3. I only CIRCLE where corrections need to be made.  I may make other design suggestions, but the focus was primarily the writing.
  4. If there are circles, the student must use what resources and notes they have to figure out what needs to be corrected.  
  5. They make the necessary corrections and submit again.
  6. Steps 2-5 repeat as necessary.
  7. Once polished, they use the publication for whatever purpose they intended.  They print a second copy to go in their writing portfolio.
I gave a score out of 100 overall on their writing portfolio.  This score is based on the grammatical and mechanical correctness of ALL publications in that folder (this includes any printed emails they may have sent out in order to seek outside help).

But I know what you're thinking...You corrected everything as you went through the process! YES!  The PROCESS was the most important thing in this project...at least to me it was.  But everyone had to include one more piece of writing that was not viewed by me until the final submission: a reflection.

Reflection is Key

Students had to reflect on this whole process and answer four essential questions found in this Writing Portfolio Criteria document.

  1. Why did you decide to do these specific publications? I'm asking the student to reflect on traits that he or she processes that led him or her to choose those specific publications.
  2. What was the process you went through to complete this publication? I wanted the student to reflect on the overall process they have just gone through...from beginning to end.  I wanted them to realize the hard work they have put in (or lack thereof).
  3. What was the hardest part?  I told the students, "If you hit a road bump, ask Google.  If you hit a road block, ask me."  I wanted them to struggle through this process a little and feel empowered when they found a work around.
  4. What skills do you feel you will remember and carry with you past 8th grade?  I wanted them to realize that they did learn real adult skills that they will utilize in the future.  
This reflection was only peer reviewed before submitting it with the Writing Portfolio.

Final Thoughts

I feel very blessed that Mrs. Bezdek and her West Middle School 8th graders allowed us to help in their endeavor.  It gave me the ideal teaching scenario for my students and me.  And honestly, I'm a little sad to see it end.  I hope this unit has been one that my students will remember and see the value of it through their adult years.  

"EveryONE has some good in them." ~Anne Frank

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S. Our website will be available for an entire year.  That means anyone can still donate through PayPal.  

P.S.S. Are you interested in helping Mrs. Bezdek and her 8th graders and would like to start your own initiative to help them out?  Email me, and I can put in touch (jbormann@central.k12.ia.us).

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Readng Comprehension Apps for the UDL Classroom #edchat #engchat


In order to reach the levels of all learners, educators need to carefully tailor their lessons to the needs of all the learners in their classroom.  This is referred to as UDL (Universal Design for Learning).  This video does a better job of explaining it...

So as part of an assignment for grad school, and because I teach in a school that is 1:1 with iPads in grades 9-12, I thought I would give a list of 10 apps that aide in UDL instruction, particularly reading comprehension for our current book, The Odyssey.

By the Numbers

Choosing the right apps is not based on app reviews.  They have to based on my students' learning needs, for that's the primary focus of any UDL lesson.  Using Edmodo to poll my 17 students in one class of juniors, I have discovered there are a few needs when it comes to reading comprehension.

  1. 12 students learn best by working collaboratively through something (they just need time and space to work through it).
  2. 2 are auditory learners.
  3. 1 prefers to work independently.
  4. 2 need pictures to better comprehend what they read.
Knowing this, I was able to do some digging and find some apps that (hopefully) meet ALL of the needs listed above.  

It's important to note that one app may not meet all of the needs, but a combination of some should be able to satisfy what ALL students need.

A Toolbox of Apps for UDL (Reading Comprehension)

I will give the app, a brief description, which UDL category it suits, and how the identified students above can benefit from the app.

What it does...  
- Annotate PDF's
- Record Audio
- A variety of drawing and highlighting tools.
- Customizable for right-handed and left-handed people.
- Insert various media.

How students can use it...
- Can be used as a "whiteboard" to draw and organize discussions in small groups.
- Students can take notes and audio record their own notes.
- Students can insert pictures they snap with their camera or draw their own.
- Notes sync to a shared Google Drive or Dropbox for collaboration.

UDL Principle(s)


What it does...
- Download books from the iBook Store
- Highlight text
- Built-in dictionary to define new vocabulary
- Add sticky notes
- Search the book of Wikipedia

How students can use it...
- Identify confusing parts, parts of interest, discussion starters, etc. with the sticky notes feature.
- Highlight in various colors to organize the identification process.
- Build individual vocabulary with built in dictionary.
- Various reading modes and text options for reading.  Choose one that makes the text comfortable to read.
- Email highlights to a friend for discussion.

UDL Principle(s)


What it does...
- A tool primarily for mind-mapping.
- Import images and PDF's.
- Collaborate and create mind-mapping boards in real time!
- Pan and Zoom
- Create text boxes.
- Organize and link content

How students can use it...
- Organize ideas in small groups in real time to better understand textual ideas.
- Organize pictures of characters to show relationships between them.

UDL Principle(s)


What it does...
- Allows users to draw together in real time on a virtual whiteboard.
- Export in various formats.
- Features for right and left-handed people.

How students can use it...
- Can collaboratively draw out interpretations of text.
- Draw picture interpretations individually and then share out through the export feature.
- Organize ideas through drawing them.

UDL Principle(s)

Odyssey (by Homer)

What it does...
- This is the audio book form of The Odyssey.
- Sleep Timer
- Playback controls (including speed)
- Chapter timings.
- Auto-Bookmarking

How students can use it...
- Any audio version (usually in combination with reading visually) offers good support for auditory learners.
- Speed up or slow down the reading based on how quickly you comprehend.
- Simply pause and rewind for clarification.
*Although this is an audio version of the book we are currently reading, any audio version of any book will serve a similar purpose.

UDL Principle(s)


What it does...
- Create stories with pre-made puppets and backgrounds or draw your own.
- Video and Audio record animations as you move, pinch zoom, and narrate multiple characters.
- Export video options.

How students can use it...
- Either one or more students (on a single iPad only) can move and animate characters.
- Students can create a video that summarizes the events of a chapter in the book.
- Students can use built in characters or create their own.

UDL Principle(s)

Explain Everything

What it does...
- Create how-to videos by importing virtually anything (including video) and annotating over top of it.
- Record your annotations and voice as you explain...well...everything!

How students can use it...
- Students can work independently or with a partner to create chapter summaries.
- Students can literally organize and explain it according to how they interpreted it.

UDL Principle(s)

What it does...
- An interactive story book of Ulysses (Odysseus) through his journey.
- View a map of his journey.
- Turn on/off narration
- Chapter selection.

How students can use it...
- Part audio book, part book.  Reader gets text and audio in one app.
- Interactivity is highly engaging.  Includes a few interactive challenges to keep the story going.
- Although it is a watered down version of the story, it helps to strengthen the comprehension for students from a visual aspect.

UDL Principle(s)


What it does...

- Download books designed for Subtext.
- Students can read the same book.
- Students can essentially do what they can in iBooks, but now they can share these highlights and comments in REAL TIME!
- Small groups can be formed with a single text in order to create small lit groups.
- Teachers can view all comments and discussions, plus add their own to keep book discussions guided.
- Think iBooks meets Google Docs!

How students can use it...
- All capabilities as iBooks, but now they can create these all in the same book.
- Students can add predictions at the end of chapters, further strengthening reading comprehension and engagement.
- Looks to be VERY promising for small or large lit groups.

UDL Principle(s)


What it does...

- Can organize ideas similar to Popplet.
- Move from objects in an orderly manner similar to timeline fashion.
- Can visually present what was organized with the fluid movement from object to object.
- Images can be imported and text can be added. 
- "Frames" provide another way to visually organize ideas.

How students can use it...
- Organize order of events and present.
- Organize characters based on relationships.
- Create effective timelines that can easily be presented.

UDL Principle(s)

Final Thoughts

UDL is critical when reaching all learners, not just one particular group.  Hopefully these apps (or ones similar to them) help when looking to build reading comprehension in your English classroom.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S.  What do you think?  Should one be added?  What apps have you used for building reading comprehension?  Let me know in the comments below.
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Epic Holocaust Writing Project #5 #engchat


This is the fifth of several posts that will talk about an epic Holocaust writing project that we are embarking on.  Too much for just one post, so enjoy.  Click here to read the previous post.

To recap...

My students had the chance to Skype with the 8th grade class in Muscatine.  We felt like we got some essential questions answered, and now we were ready to really spread the word!

Spread it Like Wildfire

The students came up with a few different ways to get people in the community to donate:
  1. Collection jugs set up in area businesses.
  2. Send letters to other businesses asking for a donation.
  3. Sell wristbands that read "100 SOULS HONORED" for $1.00.
To spread the word about these options to donate as well as our cause, students came up with several different methods (click on each to see a video)...
  1. Press Release
    • Two students worked together to write an article for the local paper.  They even emailed the Editor and asked for some help!  The Editor was glad to come in.
  2. Radio Ad
    • Two students scripted a radio commercial and recorded it.  They emailed the owner of the local radio station and had it aired a few times a day for a week.
  3. Bracelets
    • Three students designed silicone bracelets and got price quotes.  They discovered a website that allowed them to buy 100 for $50 and get another 100 free!  The bracelets arrived early and will be sold for a $1.00 each at school.
  4. Posters
    • Several students designed posters and asked to hang them up in the window of area businesses.
  5. Letters to Businesses
    • Four students used Google Docs to draft one letter to area businesses asking for a donation.  They tailored the greeting to each business.  If a business donates, they get their picture taken saying how many souls they are honoring.  Those pictures end up on the website.
  6. Website (www.1penny1soul.com)
  7. The ad that appeared at the local movie theater
    before the previews.
    • One student is in the process of working with a graphic designer on designing a website using either Google Sites or Wordpress.  The website should be coming in the next week.
  8. Promo Video
    • One group produced a script and storyboard to create a promo video about the project.
  9. Movie Theater Ad (see picture)
  10. Parade
    • The timing of this project was perfect for our local St. Patrick's Day parade.  They created posters and designed the layout for our part of the parade.  A picture of them even ended up in the paper!  We had some students taking donations from the crowd while others passed out 200 flyers with information.

      This picture ended up in the local paper.
  11. Special Days
      A collection jug is set up
      at the local coffee shop.
    • Here at school, two students came up with special days for all students to participate in, including Sunglasses Day, iPod Permission Day, and Hat Day.  For each day, any student that wants to be permitted to participate, must pay $1.00.  The two students even had to talk with the principal to get these days ok'd.
  1. Collection Jugs (see picture)
    • I spoke with the local Culligan dealer to see if we could use 10 empty jugs for our collection at businesses.  He agreed.  A handful of students then had to create posters to put with each jug.
  2. YouTube Channel
    • I, myself, wanted to capture our progress for my own purposes.  But one student recommended creating a YouTube channel to show everyone else what we're doing.  The videos then can be spread through Facebook and Twitter.

A Bump vs. a Dead End

All of these methods were student driven.  I only assisted as a last resort if they absolutely needed help. They way I explained it to the students, "If you hit a bump in the road, Google it.  If you hit a complete dead end, ask me."  We talked about the difference and why it's important in a project like this that they develop independence and responsibility in completing tasks.  

Final Thoughts

As of right now, all publications are out, our website is in the works, and the YouTube channel is up.
The students and myself look forward to the results come April 22nd.

If you would like to donate or purchase wristbands, please email me at jbormann@central.k12.ia.us.

In my next post, I will be sharing how I went about assessing a project like this.  After all, academics need to be at the forefront of all projects within the class.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

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