Take Your Apps Outside

About Lori H Rice

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading as well as kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade for the past 19 years. Her students read books that are held together by tape, and because of budget cuts her school does not have a full-time librarian, art teacher, technology teacher or music teacher. As a result, she says, “our schedules are limited and cannot be arranged for what is best for students.”

I grew up in the 80’s with Atari, pong, and floppy discs.  I learned to code on a computer that actually took a tape.  I love technology and even though I have been in the classroom for 19 years I try to stay current.  There is something about “old school” though.  Holding a book in your hand.  Creating with paper and clay.  Going outside to play.  Here are some things you can do with your students that allow you to link activity and technology.  These apps can be used outside!

Before taking technology outside, just like starting any activity, you want to clearly state your expectations for behavior.  Remind students to be careful with the iPad, not set it down on anything dirty or unsafe, watch where they are walking, and set parameters for exploring.  These activities can be done in small groups while sharing an iPad, in small groups with each student having their own iPad, or individually.  They all require students to be active and moving as they explore their environment.

Walkmeter GPS App will allow students to map their movement.  There are many GPS apps available, this one was free and simple to use.  Runkeeper is an option from Google Play for android users.  GPS apps that track your activity can be used to introduce students to the idea of GPS.  These are also great mapping activities for cardinal directions, location, spatial sense and general direction.  Students can use this app to record a walk and measure distance and elapsed time.  For more advanced students, they can make shapes or write a message using their motion.  Many measurement and spacial standards can be pulled into activities using this app.  And while using technology, students are active and moving.
Runbit for android or iOS  is an amazing app I discovered recently and used with kindergarten through fifth grade students.  For this activity, it is best to have an older (or adult) group leader.  The app simply runs itself though.  Using Runbit your location is selected and the app puts stars for you to “collect”.  Virtually following the map and getting in the vicinity of the stars, you will hear a small ping and your total collection (on the bottom tool bar) will grow.   My group of boys walked around town for over an hour collecting stars.  As we started to see the star collection grow, their excitement grew as well.  This app allows for active exploration with directions, measurement and number sense.  You will need to explore off campus to collect more stars, but this would be a fun way to motivate students while walking to a field trip destination or to use at the end of the year for a fun activity.

Research on bird life can be brought to life with iBird Lite for android and iOS (there is a paid version as well).  Students can search for birds around them by selecting their location (then hit the back button) and view a slideshow of birds.  This allows them to learn about species in your area, or any area, and then try to see if they can find a living example.  Pulling learning into their world makes the science and writing possibilities endless.

Research on plant life can be brought to life with Leafsnap.  Students explore to find plants in their area and then take a picture of the leaves.  The app will help them identify that plant.  This is another way to teach science and writing standards using movement and increasing motivation through the use of technology.

Students love animals and what is more motivating when learning about animals than scat?! iTrack Wildlife Lite (there is a paid version as well) allows students to search for animals in any location and learn.  The information includes pictures of the animal, their prints, and their scat.  My students could not find animals fast enough to explore and see what their lives were like.  This can be used in the classroom as a writing and research activity, but it is also fun to then apply the knowledge by going outside and searching for evidence of animal life.  An interactive way to bring life systems and environment into the classroom.

Today it can be a challenge to grab students attention, keep them motivated and stretch their learning.  Using apps and incorporating movement outside of the classroom allows you to incorporate all three.  At the end of the school year when attention is short, during the summer when “learning” is a bad word, or at the beginning of the year when students are used to the activity of a summer schedule you can take your apps outside and have fun learning!

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About the Author:

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading as well as kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade for the past 19 years. Her students read books that are held together by tape, and because of budget cuts her school does not have a full-time librarian, art teacher, technology teacher or music teacher. As a result, she says, “our schedules are limited and cannot be arranged for what is best for students.”

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