Monday, May 13, 2013

Hear it from the classroom!


This post is wordy - Much more wordy that I usually write, but well worth the read, I HOPE!

Lately, I've really noticed a lot of interest from teachers that are just getting into using iPads in their classrooms or have them in their school and are wondering how they might use them.

I have been showing how we use them in our school and most of those projects have had me helping in the classroom or learning commons. However, some might say, "that's all and good but you're non-classroom based and it's easier when there is more help". I must admit this is true, but in our building a major part of my role is a learning coach for teachers (in an informal way). I help teachers integrate many technology applications into their students' learning tasks.

So, to keep it real and to also speak to the power that the iPad has for learning, I have asked our classroom teachers to comment on their experiences with using iPads for learning:

Grade 1-2 

My grade 1/2 class has not only had the pleasure of having access to multiple iPads but we are also fortunate to have a technology expert in our building who has helped us to maximize our time using them. We have found that using iPads in a small group work makes for an optimal learning environment. For the most part, students are able to navigate educational apps with little coaching from an adult . We began with a simple app called “Skitch” that allows the student to take a photo and then make a labelled diagram, ie. body parts, parts of a plant, etc. We also used the iPads for making short swimming videos that we shared with parents at interview time and then the kids created stories using Comic Life and Book Creator. The iPads are much easier for the younger children to use than the laptops and the interest and excitement surrounding them is always high. Introducing this type of technology at such a young age has helped our students represent their learning in a dynamic, innovative way.


While the Kindergarten students first viewed the iPads as a tool to play games, they have quickly realized that they can also be used in various ways to demonstrate their learning. We have had the opportunity to use the iPads on a fairly regular basis. Lucky for us, we have an iPad “expert” (Mr. Steve Clark), who has supported me with finding new ways to use these in the classroom. We have used the iPads for various activities with individual students, small groups and whole class learning. Some of the apps that we have found most useful for this age level are Comic Life; which we used back in September to take photos of ourselves and type our name, Book Creator; in which we created a class book focusing on the season of Spring, Skitch; where students had the opportunity to take a picture of themselves and label their body parts, and Doceri, a recordable whiteboard app, which we used with our Grade 6 buddies to draw and label different parts of a plant. We also used Aurasma to showcase videos of the Kindergarten students swimming and the parents were able to view these during interview time. Needless to say, the parents were most impressed not only with seeing their child swimming but also that their child was using an iPad at school. The students are always very excited to use the iPads and I am thrilled that they now view them as something they can use to demonstrate their learning rather than just for playing Angry Birds!

Grade 5 & 6 

I teach grade 5/6 and have used the iPads for various activities. So far, my classes favourite and most useful activity was using Doceri for doing self-assessments and peer-assessments on some opinion writing that we did. The students were able to help themselves and each other made adjustments to their work so they could have the best final product that she can!

Grade 5 & 6 

Hesitation. Excitement. Steep learning curve. Defending this tool amongst skepticism of its application to education. Battling the gaming mindset. Researching apps. Filtering these said apps. Controlling the flurry of ideas. Troubleshooting glitches and misunderstandings. Experimenting and collaborating alongside my students in order to maximize their educational potential. Repeat.
    I have been through the above cycle many times in the year we have had iPads at Marlborough School. Despite the step I am going through in this cycle, two constants remain – that students are engaged and motivated in their learning. They are invested in communicating their understanding, they are eager to continue delving deeper into the subject matter and they continue to amaze me with their proficiency in using this tool to expand their inquiring minds.
    My personal journey to believing in the educational necessity of devices in the classroom was not always easy. The primary concern I had constantly lurking in the background, was time. How much more time can I squeeze out of our day to devote to learning this tool, experimenting, playing and finally applying their understanding to communicate the curriculum outcomes? What else do I have to give up to provide adequate exposure to each application? These were concerns I had to wrestle with and eventually let go of due to the positive feedback I received from my students in their ability to accurately prove their understanding to me. No longer were they regurgitating a series of outcomes, turning to me for feedback and affirmation of their success or failure, or completing a project to simply ‘get it done’. Students now have access to a multitude of ways to inquire, collaborate and prove their understanding.
    What I’ve come to realize throughout my uphill battle or success story is that it’s not about sacrificing precious time but investing in the the time now with the digital natives we have before us.

Grade 5 & 6 

I admit to being a bit of a technophobe. I get easily frustrated with technology when it does not work (which is all the time) and wonder if we are using our brains less because we have "an app for that." Well, this year I've been converted. The main reason for this is that I like to push my students to be creative when they show their thinking, and ipads allow me to see more of my students' creativity than when they use pen and paper. My students use animation apps to demonstrate what they understand about the properties of air, for example, and each animation has an original twist to it even though they are about the same topic. Even reading is made more creative with this technology. In my classroom, I record students reading and then file it in their own folder in the ipad. Other students can then listen to their classmates reading and comment on what they should be working on and what they have improved on. The comments they make are specific and creative, I think, because students are working with concrete data. This former technophobe can't deny that ipads have provided each of my students with a tool to be creative and represent their thinking in an original way.

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