App-Smashing in Fourth Grade – Sound Waves



Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with some amazing 4th graders who had just finished up a unit on Sound. They were looking for an engaging and creative way to show their learning, and their teacher was looking for a great digital product to share with parents for our upcoming Instructional Fair next week. Mrs. Connor, another 4th grade teacher, had the great idea of combining these apps (on our newly purchased Google Nexus 7s) to let students share with a wider audience all that they had learned. Here is a step-by-step guide to our process in case you want to try this with your students as well.


Step 1 : Use the WAVE app to play an even tone

Kids enjoyed exploring this tone generator, although the adults (myself included) were a little frazzled when the frequencies got too high. The students were able to discuss pitch, frequency, amplitude, and volume in detail as they partnered up to experiment with tones. Once they found one in a suitable range for human ears, we opened up the SoundWave app.


Step 2: Use the SOUNDWAVE app to show a waveform and take a screenshot

For this step, we paired up two students (or groups of students – we had 18 Nexi and 23 kids, so a few had to share). One student opened the wave app and generated a tone, while the other student used the SoundWave app to show a tone. Many of the tones produced waves that were so tall or close together that you couldn’t really get a look at the parts of a wave, so it took some experimentation to get that “just right” wave. Once they were happy with the wave, the student took a screenshot and saved to the Gallery on the Nexus. Then, they switched apps so the other student could get the screenshot as well.



Skitch is a great photo annotation tool that kids really love to use. Many of the students had used it before, but for some it was the first time. I am used to using it on a full-size iPad, so the Nexus controls took a little getting used to. I like how the app is optimized for different devices, but it took awhile to find some of the buttons. Of course, I had to show them the most important button of all, UNDO, along with the arrows, drawing tools, and other features. They really did a great job of dealing with the miscues and getting a good finished product.


Here are a few of the student samples in case you want to take a look. This plan could easily be replicated on an iPad or even an iPhone – Skitch is universal and there are lots of free sound wave apps for every platform. Please feel free to share this idea with any teachers at your school who teach sound. As for me, I’m on the lookout for my next app-smashing adventure.


Sample 1


Sample 2


Sample 3




Beginning the Nexus 7 Adventure

The New Google Nexus 7

In December, my school, a K-5 elementary in Georgia, purchased 42 of the new Google Nexus 7 tablets to supplement our schoolwide BYOD program. We have been primarily using iPad minis in grades K & 1 with a mix of older tablets and laptops in grades 2-5, but this purchase will allow grades 2-4 to have large sets of tablets to share. As the technology coordinator, I am responsible for setting up, maintaining, and conducting PD on facilitating the use of the tablets in the classroom. Although our teachers are somewhat familiar with Android devices due to the BYOD program, most have never owned or used one in the past.

The Learning Curve

As an iOS user, I found that Android devices were a little hard to get comfortable with in the beginning. Many users are tripped up by basics, such as locating the all apps button and how to connect to WiFi in the settings icon. I’m hoping to get our teachers past these bumps quickly, so we can move on to how to have students use them in the classroom. The ideal situation would be to let each teacher use a Nexus as their primary way to connect to the internet for a few days, just to figure out some of the basics and to understand some of the frustration their students might initially feel with a new device. But, I don’t believe that every teacher needs to be an expert with each piece of technology in their classroom. They only need to be expert facilitators, not expert users.

How do you help get teachers comfortable with new technology in your school?

What are some strategies/structures you have in place to support this?

Initial Setup


Here is the initial screen setup for a 4th grade device. Although we are technically a GAFE school, we don’t have permission for individual student accounts using their district IDs, so for now I have 5-6 devices set up on one generic Google Apps login. This gives us access to Drive for cloud storage and integration with many other apps, but still leaves us short of the ideal solution.

I chose to focus mainly on versatile creativity apps for the initial setup instead of content-specific ones. The ones in the picture above are the free ones that are on so far. Based on budget, the picture below shows my wish list for paid apps. I would love any suggestions on other free or paid apps that you use with elementary students.


Going Forward

We already have scheduled monthly technology staff development sessions to help teachers learn about new hardware, software, and web tools. I am hopeful that these sessions will give teachers what they need to help them feel comfortable using the Nexus 7 as another tool that help them facilitate engaging, personalized learning experiences for their students.  I want to ensure that we always focus on technology as another tool, as a means to an end and not the end itself. I know that in a few years that these tablets will be obsolete and we will have moved on to other things, so I’m not deluding myself into thinking that they are the answer to every problem in education, but I do believe that they can be an important tool to teach a curriculum that prepares our students for middle school, high school, college, career, and beyond.

Have you used the new Nexus 7 in the classroom yet? 

Any suggestions for apps or settings that would help an elementary student be successful?