iPals

Grade 6 students + Prep buddies + iPads = iPals

Grade 6 students have often paired up with prep students as a way of providing prep students with an older friend to turn to in the playground should they have a problem. It has also been an opportunity for grade 6 students to demonstrate a greater level of responsibility within a school, to be role models, to prove they truly are leaders. This year, rather than run the usual ‘Prep Buddies’ program, the year 6 and prep teams decided that we wanted to maintain the focus of the buddy program, yet incorporate the iPads and student to student coaching.

I have been fortunate to work as an ICT Peer Coach in the past. I loved the experience and came to see peer coaching as taking on many forms – educator to student, student to educator and student to student. I found student to student coaching quite powerful. From my observations, students responded better to what I call “kid speak”. Sometimes, “teacher talk” was just too complicated and frustrating for them to grasp and understand. I noticed this to be the case with student to educator coaching too. Students had a different way of explaining to educators how to use certain programs and create things. Many educators responded better to working with students as well. In my opinion, this pairing was very effective for the professional growth of some educators too because it opened their minds to learning with students, moving them beyond the mind shift that they had to be the bearer and instructor of all knowledge and skills.

My class paired up with Prep Kim. Kim and I decided it would be best for my students to meet in her classroom so her students were in their comfort zone. Meeting and working with “big kids” can be a daunting experience for preps.

From the moment my students entered the prep classroom, the prep students’ eyes beamed. They knew the grade 6 students were bringing their iPads and they knew they were going to have a chance to play on them. I say play for a reason here because I believe it is really important to have play and discovery time in all areas of learning, whether it be looking through new books, decoding and writing new words, using a calculator, playing a musical instrument, experimenting with new pastels and paints or exploring software and mobile devices.

It was amazing! From the moment the iPads were in the preps’ hands, they knew exactly what to do. They were sliding their fingers across the screen, as well as turning and shaking the iPad around. Many students opted to play games, whilst others chose to draw pictures. A few even decided to create a little movie in PuppetPals, including voice recordings. I was particularly blown away by the excitement level of one prep student who made a PuppetPals movie. He jumped up and down and giggled when he played the movie for Kim. Afterwards, he clearly articulated his experience and what he learnt. It became very clear then that the iPads not only provided opportunities to support the prep students’ interests and preferred learning styles, they also provided opportunities to support their oral language and reflection experiences. This was evident during the session’s share time too. Many prep students not only recounted what they did and what they played, they also clearly explained what they liked and what they learnt.

Now that the preps have had their discovery time, Kim and I hope the grade 6 students can work with their iPals to create little movies to support what they are learning in class. We will still allow for discovery time at the beginning of our sessions, to tune the students into learning, but our main focus will be on reinforcing concepts covered in class. I will provide some guidance to my students prior to our iPals session, but in most cases, it will the grade 6 students working with the preps to create something that incorporates a number of apps and skills.

I, personally, want to see the iPads used at the transformative level, not just as a substitute… even with preps. I believe the devices are more than just a game console, word processor and web browser… they are true multimedia devices. It just takes some vision, creativity and risk taking to see this and make this happen… and we, at Manor Lakes College, will make this happen!

Please click on the following links to see some movies created by the preps and their buddies:

Rob Vingerhoets

Rob Vingerhoets is a well-renowned educator in Melbourne, Australia. He has taught in many school settings and was a Principal for a prestigious Melbourne private school for a while too. He is an author of many educational texts, presents to educators on a regular basis and works with schools to help schools and educators improve the delivery of math classes, as well as the engagement level and understanding of mathematical concepts of students.

Last month, I was fortunate to have Rob visit my classroom and work with my year 6 students. My class isn’t the easiest class for visiting educators to work with and engage, but within minutes, Rob had my students eating out of the palm of his hand. He introduced my class to a game called ‘Date Maths’, where you create equations to equal the numbers 1 through to 20 using only the digits in that day’s date. The activity is timed and if all 6 digits are used in an equation, a bonus is awarded; that being 30 seconds off the total time. My class had never played this game before and within minutes, they were applying order of operations across to equations so all 6 digits were included. Some students also noted that if you multiplied or divided a number by one, the total remained the same; however, if you multiplied a number by zero, the value was wiped.

I was amazed by the deep level of thinking this game promoted. Each student shared an equation. It is definitely a game that caters for all mathematical abilities.

The one thing I admired whilst Rob was playing this game with my class, was that whenever he could, he would relate a score to a mathematical concept, i.e. “You have completed 5 out of 20 equations. How do you write that as a fraction? percentage?” These incidental teaching points provided concrete examples for my students to relate to. I truly believe my students will remember fraction to percentage conversions now as a result of this game. It was fun, it was challenging, there was a clear purpose and it involved the class working together as a team.

It was a pleasure to meet and work with Rob. My students adored him and we look forward to working with him again in the future.