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:

School Visits

Last week, a few teachers from two schools came to MLC to view the iPads in action… in the hands of our year 6 students. The teachers who came out were impressed with the way we integrate the iPads in our learning and teaching program, as well as how our students interact and converse with visitors. I, too, was impressed with the way the students were able to articulate their learning through the use of the iPads. It never ceases to amaze me how students step up to the mark when placed in a position like this.

School visits are common at MLC. It is fantastic that my school is being recognised for the wonderful programs we run and the innovative and transformative ideas teachers are trialing and delivering. I really enjoy working with such a talented staff and look forward to what lies ahead. I do have one thing to say about school visits though. I think it is important for visitors to take away ideas they think they can use and implement… then adapt to suit their own school setting…

About Me

I am a primary school teacher. I teach at Manor Lakes College (MLC). I have been teaching for the past 14 years and have taught in a range of schools – government and independent… disadvantaged to privileged. Prior to teaching, I worked at The Univeristy of Melbourne and for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).

I currently teach a year 6 class. My school is very fortunate to be part of the DEECD iPad trial. All students in year 6 at my school have iPads. I have co-ordinated and been part of 1:1 laptop programs in the past, so integrating technology effectively is not new to me.

In the past, at my previous school, Dallas Primary School and Kindergarten, now known as Dallas Brooks Community Primary School and Kindergarten, I held the positions of eLearning / Learning & Teaching Leading Teacher and ICT Peer Coach. I taught the equivalent of 3 days a week in a year 6 classroom and then, for the other 2 days, I supported 3 teachers with integrating ICT in meaningful and purposeful ways in their learning and teaching programs. I love peer coaching and would one day love to become a full time eCoach.

I have a strong interest and background in Art, Gifted Education, Learning Technologies and Mathematics, I have a Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Education and have presented around Victoria on a number of topics, including computers in the primary classroom, mathematical software, differentiated curriculum and ICT peer coaching. I have also worked closely with representatives from Cisco, IBM and Microsoft on educational projects.