Saturday, July 5, 2014

Documenting Learning with iPads

Sarabeth Asis, Teacher, Bridlewood School

This year, my grade 5 students and I learned the value of using mobile devices, such as the iPad, to document our learning during a problem-based learning activity. While exploring the question, How can we use our imaginations, prior knowledge and research to create an electrical toy car model?, my class used iPads and a workflow of productivity apps to make student-created artifacts representing their learning. Our pre-planning stage involved using Popplet Lite, a mind-mapping app, which students used to brainstorm what they already knew about electricity and what questions they needed to ask to help them to build an electric toy car. These questions guided their research and students used Safari and YouTube apps to help them find information. Their research notes were recorded on Notability. Later, they used the app, Idea Board, to draw their electric car designs. Throughout the building and testing stages, students used the iPad’s camera to take photos and video. Finally, when the electric cars were complete, students took all their digital artifacts and created a reflection video using Explain Everything.


The first benefit I noticed while using the iPads during this problem-based task was increased student engagement. Most students were focused on the task at hand throughout the majority of the project, with minimal reminders to stay on task. After each learning activity, an artifact was created to represent thinking (mind maps, design drawings, notes) or be used as a topic of discussion (photos of building the cars). I also noticed the increased speed in student ability to get their ideas down into a digital artifact that was legible and visually appealing, whereas traditional paper and pen activities might have proved challenging for some students with fine motor difficulties or would have taken a longer period of time to add visual appeal.

Some affordances provided by use of the iPads with my students included multi-modal features and a streamlining of the documentation process. The iPads provided for various multi-modal methods for students to represent work, such as drawings, voice, text and video. All available tools and creations were stored in a single, portable device. Students could take the iPad to various classroom or school locations conducive to group work and building throughout the learning activities.
The apps we used in this inquiry were open-ended to encourage creativity in the students but also revealed levels in their ability to think critically, problem solve and reflect. For example, differences in the Popplet webs, prototype designs, and reflections in their Explain Everything videos gave me insight into a particular group of students’ thinking and learning. Through use of the iPads in this process, I felt I learnt more about my students’ learning and thinking processes through these artifacts, rather than using traditional paper and pen assessment methods.

Sarabeth (@Sarawa81) has a passion for using EdTech to support learning. She looks forward to new adventures as LL at Royal Oak School next fall.

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