Self-Paced Professional Learning – Part I

Who Dares to Teach, Dares to Learn

Image courtesy of Ana Cristina Pradas /

I have always loved professional learning. I realize that the popular term is “staff development”, but to me that sounds like an all-knowing instructor waving the magic wand and dictating how the staff will be developed. As we move (hopefully) into an era of more choice in teacher professional learning, I have been inspired by edcamps, tweetups, and other events where educators themselves are asked what they want to learn and what they want to share. Although job-embedded teacher learning is an essential element of any successful school plan, many teachers still need time on their own to dig deeper or to experiment with something they have learned.

With that in mind, I have decided to create a website dedicated to teachers at my school in order to give them resources that they can use at their own pace, in their own way. I know this has been done before, but my hope is that this site (it already existed, but I didn’t really have a vision of its purpose at the time I created it) will become a place for teachers to use the self-differentiated resources to learn more about specific apps, web tools, questioning strategies, and creative ideas to use in their classrooms. Enjoy Part I of “Favorite Apps & Web Tools” and feel free to explore the rest of the site!




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