Starting Fresh

Let’s rewind to the start of the year… many of my students entered my classroom with very little experience with iPads. A number of students had received their iPads for Christmas, some had only received their iPads the week before school started. A handful of students had managed to install a few of the free apps from the list they received at the end of last year, some students hadn’t set up an iTunes account so they didn’t have any apps, other than the default ones, installed. Then there were a couple of students who didn’t have an iPad yet. This was very different to my experience at the start of 2011 where my students had been using school owned iPads for 4 to 5 months with all apps required to support learning installed.

At the start of this year, as a way to cater for these different entry points, my students spent a lot of time exploring apps, working together, sharing discoveries and peer coaching each other. When it came time to complete tasks, we discussed possible apps to use and how to use them. We established class experts, that is, students who were familiar with particular apps and were happy to share their knowledge and skills. Students created tutorials, or rather “how-to” guides, for particular apps, to document this. We also had a daily “share time” where students communicated something they’d learnt about an app. It was fantastic to see my class establish a collaborative work ethic from the very beginning where they accepted we were all learning together, including me. I think that is one of the most important things to accept and value when establishing a 1:1 mobile device learning environment – that the teacher (adult) isn’t the bearer of all knowledge, that we can only build on what we know if we are open to learning together.

Please find attached the list of apps we use in our 1:1 iPad program: 1-1 iPad App List 2012

Tutorials

Screen shot 2011-09-02 at 9.07.18 PMThis year, my students have created a range of tutorials to demonstrate their learning and understanding of concepts covered in class, mainly for mathematics. To begin with, my students used a number of apps to create a short movie, i.e. a drawing app and ReelDirector. They would take screen shots of their work as they progressed through the equation, then import their screen shots from their Camera Roll to ReelDirector. In ReelDirector, they’d place their images in the correct sequence and voice record over them the steps they took to complete the equation, eg. Addition and Subtraction. This process proved to be quite time consuming, but it displayed my students’ ability to use a number of apps to create an authentic piece of work they could embed in their iPortfolios. This tutorial also revealed any problems and misunderstandings a student had regarding the concept/s and the calculation of the equation. What a fantastic form of assessment!

Screen shot 2011-09-02 at 8.53.32 PMShow Me Interactive Whiteboard is an app my students now use to create tutorials. It is a simple drawing app that integrates the steps the students had previously taken, as outlined above. Students are able to record their written and verbal explanations at the same time, similar to a screencast. There are now quite a few apps similar to this one available. I suppose it is up to you and your students to find the one that best suits your needs. I was actually involved in trialing the beta version of this app, so I am a little biased… hehehe…

iSnack

Last term, the grade 6 students asked if they could have a time during recess to remain inside to ‘play’ on their iPads. A number of recess activities had been organised for younger and older students at school, but unfortunately, the grade 6s missed out on many of these – these activities weren’t available to them. This could be because, as grade 5s, they were seen as a difficult cohort. Oh, how things have changed… So, in listening to the students, the grade 6 team decided to open up our classrooms twice a week during a morning break.

To date, the numbers have been consistent. Around 20 to 30 students remain in class during recess, eat their play lunch, socialize with their peers and play on their iPads.

Based upon my own observations, the boys like to sit alone, in pairs or in a group of 3. The girls, on the other hand, like to sit in large groups on the floor, mainly in a circle. Some of the girls use apps with a chat facility, even to chat to friends sitting opposite them. This has me wondering why, as educators, we ban instant messaging in class. I am a supporter of social networking and truly believe we need to model correct use of “chat” in classrooms.
Sure, the students will test the waters to begin with; they need to get the novelty out of their system… but after a while, who is to say that they won’t use the feature responsibly? Why spoil the opportunity for all based upon the chance that only a few students may continue to abuse the privilege? I actually wouldn’t mind if my students used ‘txt speak’ during such chat sessions too. Chat is a part of many people’s lives, whether it be through instant messaging or texting. In today’s age, it is part of our students’ lives… it is a part of our lives. If we, as educators, embrace this feature, who’s to say that the students won’t remain on task? Like all activities, there would need to be a purpose behind its use and inclusion. The session would need to be monitored, if not by the teacher, then by a responsible student. I know that many of my students take screen shots of inappropriate chat comments after school and share them with me the following day. So, if my students know right from wrong outside of school, what makes one assume they are going to do wrong during school hours? I’m going to give my students the benefit of the doubt. I’ve added the chat app to my class’ Ultranet Collaborative Space and plan to trial chat sessions next term both during and after school. Stay tuned to see how things go.

Learning Tree

Last year, when I found out I was teaching year 6 and co-leading the iPad trial, I wondered how I could draw together my students’ learning goals, their wonderings and discoveries, as well as app reviews. I thought back to the times when I had a ‘Learning Tree’ in my classroom. I remembered my students posting their wonderings and discoveries just with sticky notes on the tree’s trunk. They loved it… as did I 🙂 My classroom looked fantastic… but my students didn’t actually publish their learning goals back then, nor app reviews… so what was I going to do? How could I incorporate these?

Then I remembered seeing a picture posted by a bookstore I “like” on Facebook, Enchanted by Books. They posted the following photo of a visiting author… standing in front of a tree.

learning tree

In the past, I used strips of tissue paper to create the effect of the canopy. As you can see, this bookstore actually cut out paper leaves and hung them from fishing line from the ceiling. Wow! I thought to myself. That is it! Our school’s logo has leaves in it. I could get the students to write their learning goals on leaves, the same shape as those in our logo, and hang them from the ceiling 🙂

Hmmm… but what about the students’ wonderings and discoveries? Another idea came to mind 🙂 My students could write their wonderings on butterflies, or rather, “wonderflies“… and they could write their discoveries on ladybugs, or rather, “discoverbugs“. My ‘Learning Tree’ was coming together 🙂 I was thrilled. Then, a day or so later, another idea came to me… my students could also write app reviews on apples and we could hang these from the ceiling as well. This is exactly what I wanted. My vision had finally come together 🙂 I now had in mind a ‘Learning Tree’ that incorporated everything I wanted – my students’ learning goals, their wonderings and discoveries and app reviews 🙂

It’s amazing where you find inspiration and how one thought sparks another 🙂

Grade6LearningTree

Learning with iPads

This year I am co-leading the iPad trial within my school with Corrie Barclay, my school’s ICT Leading Teacher.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to effectively integrate iPads in my learning and teaching program. I want my students’ learning experiences to be more than just using the stand alone apps. I don’t want my students to just type up stories in Pages or play games. I want my students to reflect on their learning, to track their progress, to think at a deeper level, to become creative authors and to transfer skills across different apps. I believe in the benefits of gaming, I just don’t want that to be the focus for the use of iPads in my classroom. I want to encourage discovery learning and peer coaching… and I want to promote student voice as well. I want my students to know that I value and acknowledge their thoughts, opinions and ideas. I also want my students to choose the app/s they feel best enables them to complete the learning tasks set.

Seeing I wasn’t part of the iPad experience last year, I wanted to hear what my students liked about the iPads, how they used them last year and how they would like to use them to assist their learning this year. To my surprise, my students’ responses weren’t all about playing games:

“I love using MathBoard because I love setting my own problems.”

“Touch Physics helps you with your thinking.”

“eBooks make reading fun!”

“I like Brain Quest because you answer questions and learn new facts.”

“I like how the games help me with my hand – eye co-ordination.”

These statements will help my team and I plan lessons our students will enjoy and be engaged in because they will feel a sense of ownership over the lesson design.

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