Monday, January 26, 2015

Earbuds VS. Headphones

I'm back to tell you more about my ipods!  Let's talk about headphones and earbuds.  If your school has ever had lice, you know that when lice are present, the headphones have to be put away.  So I decided that earbuds would be perfect, especially after learning that they're a dollar a set at the Dollar Tree!  I sent a note home to my families, letting them know they had two options.  They could either purchase their own set and send it to school, or they could send me $1 to buy a set for their child.  I also let them know that I would accept an extra quarter if they wanted to cover the tax and help pay for the hair clips.  The hair clips are to keep the earbuds wound and untangled in the containers.  I just bought three packs of 8 plain brown and black hair clips, medium-sized.

 I also used 20 of the baby food containers with lids from my teammate's stash. Thanks, Dana!   Here is the result...

(For those of who are wondering, my student #11 didn't come to school this year.)

I taught my students how to use the earbuds and put them away.  I found it best to teach them to hold onto the plug while standing to let them unwind.  When it's time to wind them up, hold the plug again, flat against your palm with your thumb.  Then use your free hand to wind the cord around your four fingers.  Put the clip on.  Put it in the box.  Put the lid on, put it back in its place.  Done!  

One of the reasons I love using this tray with the baby food containers is that if we are using them in another area of the room, or even in the common area outside of our room, it's so easy to carry. There are no drawers to slide or dump out.  The baby food containers are easily replaceable, but we've dropped them without damage.  Also, the students never handle any one else's earbuds like if you used a box with compartments and one big lid.

But beware!  Earbuds are not perfect!  Many of my students can't fit the earbuds into their little ears.  And since I'm not available to insert them each time they wear them, we came up with this solution.  Get your book and ipod ready.  Then push play on the ipad, and pick up one earbud to hold in one ear.  Use your other hand to turn the pages of the book.  It's not ideal, but it works!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Donors Choose & iPods for Newbies (Like Me)

No one in my family owns a Smartphone.  Or an iPod.  So when I asked for four iPod Touches on Donors Choose so kids could listen to books, I knew it could be done but had no idea how.  "I'll figure it out if/when it gets funded," I told myself.  Incredibly, it didn't take long at all!

I have to say, Donors Choose is AMAZING!  If you haven't tried it out, take a look.  Take the time to look at other projects on their website, especially those similar to yours.  Then think about your students and the amazing things you'll do if your project gets funded.  I had donations come from my extended family, my students' families, an anonymous person who used a gift card, and the bulk of my project was funded by Cellular One. Thanks again, everyone!

Perhaps you are in the same boat I was in for the past few years.  You have a giant wooden caddy for your cassette/CD boombox, headphone splitter, and six bulky sets of headphones.  Either the tape player or CD player breaks every year.  Girls are getting their long hair caught in the headphones.  Kids can't get the CD or tape to play.  No one ever bothers to rewind afterwards.  Kids accidentally blast a friend when they turn the wrong volume knob.  It's dusty.  There are goldfish cracker crumbs in the corners.  Sad.  So Sad.  Sometimes my students used their entire listening time just trying to get the story started.  Then they'd ask to stay in at recess to listen.  That's how much they love to hear stories.  I had to do something!

I Googled iPod listening centers to look for ideas.  I decided that my best bet would be to get four iPod Touches so the kids could listen independently from one another, AND we could use them for reading, writing, and math apps, too!  So my project included the four iPods, a tape-to-mp3 converter, a charge adapter for four devices, and a headphone splitter (just in case).

Well, I got everything I asked for but had NO IDEA how to use any of it.  I was able to load the apps, since I have an iPad for school.  But I didn't know anything about mp3s, iTunes, or iPods.  After lots of Googling, I emailed one of the teacher/bloggers I admire, Molly at Lucky to Be in First!  I'd seen her blog post about using and iPod for a listening center, but needed more details. ('Cause I was a newbie!)  She responded the same day!  Amazing.  She provided me with a couple of links to try out.  And it was just what I needed!  I am the kind of person who needs written step-by-step directions when trying something new.

I now have over 60 books on my iTunes account with pictures of book covers as the "album artwork."  I've organized the books into monthly playlists with six to eight books each.  When my students go to listen, they grab a bucket containing an iPod, stylus (they make it more fun), and the book for the week.  They add their own set of earbuds and head off to find a comfy spot to read and listen.  We are so excited to have this technology in our classroom!  It's easier for everyone!

Next week I'll share my tips and tricks with you for this entire endeavor, including converting tapes, adding the book cover, making your playlists, and teaching your students how to use/care for it all.