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2010-2011 Elbow Valley - iPad Research Findings

Reflections of Thea Morris

I am fortunate to be able to work with the iPads in my classroom for a month fulltime. Each student has their own assigned iPad. The plan is to have it sit on their desk during the day and use it to support the learning. The big inquiry question in this action research study is: Do iPads enhance learning and if so, how much and in what ways?

Following are daily reflections about the positives and negative, new learnings and discoveries along the way. The different apps that are being written about will be underlined. I will write about how they were used and how effective or ineffective they were. The opinions shared are from the students and myself.

Getting Started

Hours have been spent on preparation. Everything from researching apps, selecting apps, downloading apps, synching apps, documenting apps to coordinating schedules and identifying common goals for everyone on the team has been very time consuming and a considerable amount of work. There have been a number of expected and unexpected hurdles and challenges even before we get started. This has certainly been a huge learning curve.

Challenge

Downloading and synching 30 iPods off of one computer is a very long process. It takes a full day to do this. Some teachers have been taking the iPods home and other teachers have tried to do it at school while teaching.

Solutions

1. Invest in a new apple synch cart that not only charges the iPods but also updates and synchs them at the same time.

2. Plan to synch and update once a month and each team member takes a turn doing it.

Challenge

There are so many apps to choose from. It is very daunting and time consuming to find the quality apps among the thousands of available ones.

Solutions

Lots of research on websites recommending apps, talk to others, download what you think will work and try them out with the students.

Challenge

There’s lots of information available about recommended apps but nothing concrete about how to actually apply the apps to ensure quality learning.

Solution

Trial and error. Expect to start from ground zero. Expect the plans to change many times. Expect to learn something new everyday.

I first started exploring many, many, many different types of apps and got to know what was available. Then I looked at what I needed to teach and designed the learning based on the outcomes and which app would best facilitate meeting those outcomes. There was a natural switch from focusing on the apps to focusing on the outcomes. Another criteria was how to keep it engaging by not simply playing games but by having the students participate in quality multi-level holistic process learning producing quality projects.

Day 1 –

Students received their ‘3Ms iPad Action Research Project’ binder. It contains their instructions, checklists and reflection pages. It is also divided into two sections. All of the contents will be posted in this Wiki.

One page was for the students to jot down some of their thoughts, questions and wonderings for this project. Afterwards the students interviewed each other and taped their interviews using the video function on a Canon Power Shot camera. Some of these interviews are going to be added to the iPad Project iMovie the students and I will be progressively creating. That was a mouthful.

Day 2 –

Students were assigned their iPad today. There was lots of excitement and enthusiasm in the room. There is the range of familiarity with the use of iPods because some students have access to one at home compared to others who do not. Not surprisingly, those who are familiar with iPods are focused on the games.

Literacy Learning

I chose the app Anteil because I thought it had possibilities for having the students create ‘word splashes’ using text and inserting images. They were to select a base word such as ‘light.’ Use the apps Dictionary and Dictionary! to explore the various definitions as well as different word forms by adding suffixes and compound words derived from the base or root word. The students could just double click the mouse on the iPad to go from one app to the other. After working with the app Anteil I realized it has possibilities but not great potential because it does have limitations. There are limited instructions, inconsistencies where some of the features worked on one iPad but not the other. I am not sure if this is an app issue or iPad issue. When we insert the text and images, there is no way to lock the work up other than take an image of the final project. I also quickly realized that the students could only email 5 pages at a time and I suspect would be email as individual documents. That means that I would be opening up about 100 attachments, which, is not effective use of my time. Tomorrow we are going to use the app Pages.

Math Learning:

I had a conversation with the students about how it was absolutely impossible for me to know about every app and how they worked. So I am the ‘knowledge broker’ and they are the investigators. For now during Self-Directed Math/Building iPad time the students are investigating different applicable apps. They have criteria to look for. Is the app: Engaging, Doable, Good visuals,Evidence of learning,Multi-level, Lots of variety, Allows for differentiation.

 As I write this entry the room is silent and every student is totally engaged. They are busy investigating the math/building apps and making notice in their project binder as to whether of not the app meets the above criteria. They have their headsets on and I suspect lots of skill practice going on.

Day 3 -

My thinking right now is that we are fortunate to have this project money to stumble our way through exploring how iPods can be used in the classroom and what apps to use. My thinking right now is to not waste time on the multitude of apps out there but rather just go with a collection of solid and proven apps. The Mac computer has a limited collection of quality applications that meet our needs quite nicely. I am realizing that this can be said for the iPad. I am also realizing that the app Pages is brilliant and a gem. I can see this app being one of the main apps the students will use in a number of their projects.

I downloaded a 5 minutes video off of YouTube that gives an overview of the app Pages. I just had the students watch it and then sent them away to work on their ‘Word’ Web’ work. As I predicted the students started coming to me with new things they had discovered about what you could do in Pages. For example, Malcolm found out there was a dictionary built into the app. Finding this out took several steps because it is embedded in Select/More./Definition. He was not shown this feature at all. This is only day three so I am curious to see how far they will come using this app by the end of the month.

Two students in the class downloaded the videos the students made into iPhoto and then imported them into iMovie. I viewed them today and interestingly; there were a number of common themes the students talked about while on camera. Many were excited (especially that they get their own gmail account) but many also expressed that they were nervous. Nicole shared that she is anxious about using the keyboard. This is something I am going to explore with the students as to why. It will also be interesting how the midway and post interviews will be different.

Note to self: Do a better job teaching the students how to make an interview. Tell students to: keep camera still so the viewer does not get seasick, point camera in landscape mode and not flip it during an interview, practice centering the interviewee in the middle so the head is not cut off, not stand so far away that the voices cannot be heard and you can’t tell who it is and lastly, not stand in front of a bright window because all you see is shadow.

The students had their weekly spelling test today. They meet with their spelling buddy and test each other on their individualized words. They used the app UHY Gold. Excellent app, highly recommended and the students love using it.

Met with Scott Mahan today and he set up all of the students’ Rocky View Gmail accounts. We also brainstormed how best for the students to email their project work to me using the iPad. This took some thinking because the iPad works like an iPhone will your email address and phone number are highly personal. This is not practical in a school setting. The problem was solved be setting up a generic grade three Gmail account. Each iPad will be set up with this account’s username and password both of which are very easy for the students to work with and transferable to the following school years. At the end of their project work they will email their work. They can also send it to their own account so they can show it at home. This is all being done in Google Docs, which is another learning curve for me.

Day 4 -

I am absent to day and have a substitute teacher covering the class. This is an interesting thing to think about because there is not an expectation that the substitute teacher would have knowledge at this early stage as to how the iPad works. However, I did leave instructions with the students yesterday that they were to work on the checklists in their binder for their literacy and numeracy learning activities.

Day 5 -

I got a great report from the substitute about how the students conducted their iPad self-directed learning. She even had the students teach her some things. She also commented how ‘engaged’ the students were. I think this will be a common theme throughout this project.

In math we are starting to learn about time. I taught the students how use the app Calendar. They spent time inputting the upcoming events and activities for April. We have to have a bit more time doing this. Then I am going to teach some of the outcomes from the grade three math curriculum for teaching time using this app. I have to admit, this is a brilliant idea. When observing the students work with this app I saw a lot of intuitive behaviours and risk taking (willing to push buttons and experiment). I think this is going to be another common theme throughout the project.

Day 6 -

Today I asked the students for their recommendations on the math apps that have been downloaded to the iPad. A unanimous recommendation was the app Math Bingo. The reasons given by the students were:

There are different levels and you can do adding, subtracting, multiplying and division.

You can make your own account by choosing a figure

It goes from easy to medium to hard

There are built in rewards which are fun

It has pleasant sounds when you are playing

Another highly recommended app was Math Magic and these are the reasons given by the students:

It is very auditory (yes, I use this language with the students)

It gives you positive feedback with a checkmark and a compliment

When your answer is incorrect it make a funny sound which, is not too unpleasant and discouraging

It has good visuals

It is multi-level

It has lots of variety

These two apps met the criteria previously given to the students as to what made a good ‘skill and drill’ app. The students were able to eloquently and precisely critique these apps using the criteria language. Evaluation and reflection are very high levels of thinking. My grade three students were able to participate in this type of thinking in an authentic learning setting.

The students also worked on the Self-Direct Learning literacy activities. They continued to work on their Word Splashes. It is going more quickly as they are more comfortable with the expectations, instructions and familiar with the app Pages.

We started out unit on Tunisia. The students met me on the floor and we learned where the country was located by exploring Google Earth. It was interesting watching them work with the touch screen on this app. Eventually, they got the hang of it and could find Tunisia quite easily. The touch screen capability of the iPad is brilliant for young children. It allows for one less step to work with when compared to working with a computer and a mouse.

Two of my students are quite immature and are struggling academically. They also seem to initially be having trouble working with the iPads. When it was SDL time they used their time to go to a game rather than follow the very specific instructions. I took their iPads away. They got them back later in the afternoon. One of the students came to me with a ‘frozen’ iPad when working in Calendar. I had to explain to him that if you keep treating it like a pinball machine (banging every key randomly at warp speed), it will not know what to do. Doing a complete shut-down rectified the problem. Showing the boys proper keypad technique will hopefully eradicate the pinball typing technique. These two same learners are also having trouble listening and keeping up. It will be interesting to see if they improve. The students happen to be identical twins. The point of this entry is to share that all teachers can regularly expect the unexpected when working with such diverse learners.

Day 7 -

They did their spelling test in UYH Gold again today. I tested Kennedy on her words. She typically is a very slow and precise worker. It takes her a long time to complete the work but when it is completed, it is accurate. She is not a slow learner or a perfectionist. I think she just needs more time to get it all together. Watching her use this app was enlightening. There were no issues with speed and I observed a confident learner with intent.. in other words ‘I know what I am doing’. I asked Kennedy afterwards how come she did so well and she said it was because of the app and all she had to think about was the words she had to spell. This is something worthy of further observation.

The students were instructed how to do the ‘Juicy Word’ study as part of their Self-Directed Learning. Now that they know Pages it went very quickly. The students are using the Thesaurus feature of the app Dictionary to find their four synonyms and they are finding three images that represent the juicy word on Google Images. Brett chose the word ‘launch’ to investigate. His three synonyms were catapult, eject, fires, toss, throw. His images were of a catapult, a man being fired out of a rocket, and a boy tossing a ball. This took him minutes to do with instant access to this information. When I asked him if he knew what catapult meant before doing this he said he had no idea. I would confirm that some pretty deep innovative learning was going on with this simple little research task using the iPad. Brett was pretty engaged and pretty proud of himself. Aidan chose the word demolish, his four synonyms were break, defeat, dismantle and obliterate. His images were of buildings being demolished.

I am learning some new tricks and capabilities with the iPad, which help with the management and convenience. They seem to have a lot of battery power so we are not plugging them in everyday into the Mac cart (which is a bit of a hassle and takes some time). At the end of the day I ask the student what their battery power is and if it is below 50%, their iPads get plugged in for the next day. The rest are shut down completely and get stored in the class in an inconspicuous location.

Lots of time is saved and jumping from one app to another is a whole lot easier by double clicking the mouse and the apps being used show up on the lower dock. The dock can get pretty loaded with lots of apps. The way to clean it up is to press your finger on one of the apps in the dock. The app will start to shake and a red circle with a minus sign will show up on the left hand upper corner. Click on the red circle and the app will disappear off the dock but not in the iPad location. Apparently, having a lot of apps holding in the dock can make the iPad sluggish. This is a good thing to know.

I went to visit Kim Serhyenko at Bow Valley High School after school today to see what her iPad set up is and how she is using them with her high school English classes. WOW! She has 35 iPads, her own Mac cart, external keyboards and a printer that is exclusively hooked up to print off of the iPads. WOW! What an incredible set up and opportunity to be able to use the iPads in this intense and deep manner. She is doing some amazing things with her students with a few but very high quality apps. I am going to investigate how we can set up one of our printers so the students can print some of their iPad work. Kim’s set up seems so much more comprehensive and user friendly than what we have at our school. As I learn about, plan and work with the iPads I am always looking for the most low maintenance and most user friendly system for busy teachers. What we are working with is more high maintenance than the system Kim has set up. I am a firm believer that if it is too much work for teachers, they are not going to use it. We definitely have some make work systems in place because of some support devices that were not provided.

Day 8 -

We spent a lot of our time today working on our Tunisia study. The students have 21 inquiry questions to investigate. To get the unit started we are doing the beginning questions together so I can model and guide the process and the expectations. We investigated the inquiry questions:

Where is Tunisia located?

How far is Tunisia from Canada?

How big is Tunisia compared to Canada?

What is the population to Tunisia and Canada?

What time zone is Tunisia in?

What is the time difference between Tunisia and Canada?

We also wanted to find out how far Tunisia was from Canada? I’ll explain how this question was answered in the next paragraph. The students are documenting their learning in Pages but are seamlessly and instantly accessing the answers to their questions using the apps World Atlas, Wolfram Alpha, Time Zones. These are excellent apps with loads of instant information and very easy to use.

This is the first time I am writing about Aiden. He is an eight year old grade three student who is the epitome of an iGeneration learner. Aiden has access to an iPad at home and spends hours working with it. I have to say that he is the most capable, inquisitive and naturally intuitive student I have ever worked with when working with technology. I recently attended the conference ‘The Brain and Learning Conference’ in San Francisco in February 2011. There were many things I learned including the notion that the teacher is no longer the knowledge expert but is now the knowledge broker. I used this notion today with Aiden. While the rest of the class was busy inputting their information I had Aiden research independently the answers to how far Tunisia was from Canada and he on his own thought it would be neat to find out what the currency was in Tunisia and how it compared to ours. He was successful in finding out how far the distance was between the two countries but it was in miles. Before I could say that we needed the data in kilometers he had already realized this and proceeded to investigate how to figure out the conversion. Minutes later he had it figured out. Granted the website he used was the Vietnam Travel Bureau, but it worked. When he investigated the currency question he was not quite as successful. He was proud to have found out what Tunisian currency is equivalent to British currency. This did not really help us with our Canadian currency. However, it showed me that he had the process and ‘know how’ to find out the information but was missing some key relevant understanding. This is something to watch for when working with the students as they immerse themselves in instant access to an infinite amount of information via the iPad. Is it true understanding and authentic learning? Or is it ‘wikified’, inaccurate information leading to misguided learning?

Another issue I am noticing when working with the students while working with the iPads is listening skills. Normally, the students demonstrate very good skills when there isn’t an iPad in their hands. I can understand that with an iPad in their hands it is hard to listen to ‘hows’ and ‘whats’ and ‘content learning’. I think it is the way my students will learn and it is something that will work itself out as we muddle our way through this innovative 21st century way of learning.

Day 9 -

It is the end of the week and we spent most of our time continuing our study about Tunisia. We spent some time reading information about the Tunisia’s environment and the students worked independently on answering their inquiry questions. I sat at the table and called students randomly one by one to review their work on Pages and helped some of the students with some of their work (I call this giving them a boost). These are my observations:

Students were engaged and on task for a long time

I did not have to address any off task behaviour

Students are getting a lot more work done quickly compared to if this was a pencil and paper task

Students are showing more initiative. For example, once they were finished their inquiry questions they immediately went on an image search and started collecting pictures for their research project. Aiden who I wrote about earlier still wanted to learn about Tunisian currency and compare it to Canadian. I helped him find a more quality website. Within minutes he had found the information, copy and pasted it onto the app Notes and will report his findings to the class later in the unit. This is an example where the teacher has become the ‘knowledge broker’ rather than the ‘knowledge’ deliverer’.

The app Pages lends itself well to helping the students ensure their work is edited. The students know immediately that they have misspelled a word because of the wiggly red line. When I reviewed their work, I saw little or no spelling errors. However, I am seeing punctuation errors including missing capitalization and I have to remind the students to put a space between a comma and/or a period. The notion that a question mark has to go at the end of questions sentence is still a foreign idea to some of my students.

We are now in a rhythm of focusing on the deeper learning in this project. The iPad apps are facilitating the learning and providing the students with immediate access to information in the form of text and images as well as a forum for representing their learning.

I promised the students time at the end of the day to pay a game of their choice. They were their headsets and the room was absolutely silent for 20 minutes. This allowed me to work one to one with the students uninterrupted. The students know that this type of iPad use is a very rare occasion in the class and something that is earned for hard work completed. At the ‘Brain and Learning’ conference I attended a couple of sessions that provided research looking at how gaming affects the young brain. Brain scans show that gaming is actually good for brain development and further developing higher level thinking skills as problem solving and decision making. These are skills that are transferable into other learning and life skills. So it is my belief that there is a place for games whether it is via the iPad, other technology or other games in an instructional day.

The iPads were used throughout the instruction today for about 3 hours Very easy. Very integrated. Very natural.

Day 10 -

I have noticed the students’ keyboard skills and their navigation using the iPad has improved significantly. I have a theory as to why. The students became quickly comfortable with the touch keypad. Furthermore, the keypad has fewer keys than the typical keyboard. There is a lot less for the students to navigate through as they look for the key they want. They are also getting very proficient popping between the letter and number keypads. Plus, their other finger work such as pinching, stretching and finger scrolling and swiping, one finger presses, double tapping etc. are becoming a natural way of maneuvering through this device.

Day 11 -

I introduced some new apps today for the students to use when working on their Self-Directed Learning work SDL or as the students call it ‘Super-Dooper Learning. They are using the app My Lists to collect examples of different types of punctuation and how they were used. This seems to be working well. We tried using Notes and Penultimate to make collections for the different types of grammar. Penultimate is extremely easy to use and the students create a notebook. I forgot to tell the students that neatness was important and two of my students presented very nice scribble work using this app. They were sent to do a redo. This is where the pens would be nice to work with. The Notes app is very easy to use and I use it a lot on my iPhone. But something funny occurred when teaching it to the students. I will revisit it tomorrow with the students because I can see this as a great app to use multiple ways.

Tunisia research work is coming along nicely. The students were making lists of the ‘Services’ and ‘Goods’. It was very easy to teach them how to make their list into a bulleted list. Of course, I had an inquiring mind ask me “Why they were called ‘bullets’.” I suspect he was thinking of the kind that came out of guns.

I decided to try something different when having the students answer the inquiry question “How are different words spelled in the spoken languages in Tunisia?” Instead of showing the students how to use the app iTranslate for this information, I taught how to use this app to five students. Then these five students are each teaching another five who in turn teach another five until everyone knows how to work with it. I challenged the students to choose five English words and translate them into Arabic and French. All they have to do is select, copy and paste the different words into their Pages document. They discovered that the Arabic words showed up on the right hand side and were able to infer that this language must go from right to left. This app took minutes to show how to use, yet provide instant vocabulary and information. Having the students teach each other also elevates the learning experience to a more cooperative level of learning.

Day 12 –

Two totally different things happened today with two different students while working with the iPads.

I was noticing that one of my students had not brought up any of his SDL work for me to look at and check off on his checklist. So I called him to the table to take a look at his work. Nothing was completed. For the past two weeks, working for about 20 minutes a day, he had nothing completed. I asked him if it was because the iPad and the work he was asked to complete was too hard for him or if he could not be bothered and did not care. He answered with the latter. The lesson to be learned here is…. having an opportunity to work with an iPad does not guarantee a motivated learner. The teacher still has to closely monitor and motivate and at the end of the day, the student has to want the learning.

Yesterday we were trying to work with Notes, which is a very simple app to learn and use. However, we were all getting multiple notes show up. For example, there were fifteen noun pages showing up on each students’ iPad as well as the same for verbs, adjectives, pronouns and adverbs. It was very perplexing for me because I use Notes all of the time on my iPhone and could not understand what was happening. When starting our noun collection I had the girls put in the word ‘girl’ and boys put in the word ‘boy’. The only problem was the girls were getting the word ‘boy’ show up on their iPad and the boys had the word ‘girl’ show up on theirs. It was Aiden (remember, this is an eight year old boy) who figured out what was going on. He figured out that all of the Notes were synching with every iPad and we had to turn this off. So I had him teach the class how to do this.

This had me thinking of the possibilities of co-collaboration using the iPad. With the synching feature turned on, the students can brainstorm together by contributing their ideas and reading everyone else’s right on their iPad. For example, watch a movie or read a chapter. Have very student record the main idea in Notes and some supporting details. This would be one hundred percent participation at its best.

I showed the students how to use the app Keynote today. I had prepared a sample Keynote presentation that was an example of the Predictable Book Project the students will be preparing (I’ll explain this project further tomorrow). I intentionally gave a quick overview and sent the students off to experiment on their own. The reason for this is that a lot of the features are the same as Pages (which the students commented on) and I wanted the students to discover things on their own. I am curious to see how things go tomorrow when we get going on this project.

There is only about a week left before our month long inquiry study ends. I am feeling pressured to have the students move along more quickly to complete their work before my allotted time ends. I clearly over planned and did not get to everything I was wanting to do with the students. Lastly, as each new discovery occurs and new learning develops, new questions and possibilities emerge.

Day 13 –

We worked on the Tunisia project for most of the day today. Many of the students are finished or almost finished. I had a parent volunteer and an assistant work with some of the children to give them a typing ‘boost’. I will post a few student samples. I strongly feel that the students have a good understanding of the concepts we studied based on their written text and supporting images.

I did some net surfing on the iPad last night to see if I could find some interesting and valuable blogs about how they are used in classrooms. Did not find much. I also looked up an iPad glossary to make sure I was using the correct terminology with the students. While doing so, I did find information on how to conserve iPad battery power. I shared this with the students today and this what we did:

Went into Settings and changed the brightness manually. Apparently, the iPad is set at a default to be very bright. We turned this default off and lowered the brightness manually to about half.

Moved the in class storage cart away from the window because sunlight drains the battery. The iPad cases should also shield the sunlight away.

We put the iPad ‘to sleep’ when it is not in use for a length of time and we are doing a full shut down at the end of the day.

It will be interesting to see how these steps will make a difference because it would be nice to only have to plug the iPads in once a week rather than twice a week.

Day 14 –

Most of the students having been working hard to finish their Tunisia research. I say most because I have some students who find learning a challenge and require a lot of support and modifications. The support they have been receiving has been adult help in the form of a scribe and reader. The problem is that two of the students are not (by choice) to complete some of this work with some form of independence despite having had all of this support. This goes back to my entry on Day 11 where I talked about where the iPad as a technology device does not guarantee that the student will be intrinsically motivated to work independently. It truly varies from the individual to the individual. HOWEVER, I have observed more successful learning on a number of levels. I have one student who was just tested as a Code 54 student. One of his learning challenges is paper to pencil tasks. The work he completed using Pages is the finest project work he has completed so far this year. I am sitting here writing this reflection while the students who are finished their project are collaboratively working together to help the students who are not finished yet. I always tell the student helpers that the “highest level of learning is being able to teach and help someone else”. I am also eavesdropping in on the conversations going on between the helpers and the ‘helpees’. I am informally assessing their level of understanding as they share their knowledge. Let’s just say they know what they are talking about. However, I can confirm that for most learners, the iPad is a highly engaging device for learning. They can stay on task for a significant length of time.

I have developed the opinion that when working with iPads, it should be a one-to-one configuration where every student has their own iPad. The main reasons are size and the touch design. The students are learning a repertoire of hand gestures besides working with the touch keypad that require practice to master. The students also seem to be developing their own ‘style’ of technique the more they work with the iPads, which can only be achieved by working intensely with the device. It is like learning how to drive a vehicle where each different type requires the same basic driving techniques but each vehicle has a different feel. Students are developing their own ‘feel’ for working with this touch device.

We are not set up to send their work wirelessly to a printer so the students are emailing their completed work to me. It is best to send it as a PDF if you do not have the application Pages in your computer. If you send it as a Word document, some of the formatting gets changed. The PDF is the most reliable. However, I may be doing something wrong when sending the mails because it is not showing up. The few that have come through have taken hours to end up in the in box. I have sent out some inquiries to Dale our school tech and Scott at the Ed Centre to problem solve this issue.

Day 15 –

The students worked on their Predictable Book project using the app Keynote. They worked on the same book with a partner but both completed their own Keynote presentation. I showed a few basics about how to use this app last week and told the students to get to work and figure the rest on their own. This is exactly what they did. I attribute the success to their familiarity working with Pages because a lot of the operating features are the same and they worked with a partner so they were able to help each other. The students also already knew how to look for a picture of the book they are studying and a picture of the author to add to their presentation. I also showed the basics for using the app Whiteboard HD. They used this app to illustrate the main and secondary characters as well as the setting(s) in the story. These illustrations were then added to their Keynote presentations. Students were on task, engaged, collaborative but also very self-reliant and were able to problem solve on their own. Very few students came to me for assistance. I strongly feel that they have developed a significant amount of intuitive and ubiquitous thinking skills after working with the iPad so intensely for the past thirteen days.

Day 16 –

Laryngitis has hit me so I had do stay home today to take care of my voice. I wonder how the students did working on completing their work with a substitute teacher today?

Day 17 –

Returned to work today. Most of the students completed their Predictable Book project and they are very impressive. They will be sharing these with a Madame Wilkie’s grade one and two class. First they will read the story to the younger student and then share their Keynote Presentation. They are very keen and eager to do this I took a video of the students working today. It is definitely different teaching. I tend to sit at a table and the students come to me to share their work. There has been no issue having the students stay on task and complete their work. I think being able to go on apps of their choice when they finish their work also is a positive incentive. I like being able to work on a project for a longer period of time and observing the students stay on task the entire time.

We are close to the end of the iPad project so the students spent some time recording their thoughts on their post project reflections. The guiding questions I asked them to reflect upon:

What were the highlights?

What were the challenges?

What was the learning?

What were your favourite apps and why?

I also asked the students to respond to the inquiry question for this project which was do iPads enhance learning and if so, why?

They then videotaped each other again using the Canon Power Shot camera. This time I talked to them about keeping the camera still centered and avoid filming in front of a window. We had a little giggle about the ‘wonky’ videos filmed at the beginning of the unit.

Day 18 –

Last day today working full time with the iPads. The students are enjoying a movie right now and using their iPads to write down their key ideas and make illustrations representative of the story. They got to choose which app they wanted to use. After the movie we will share our thoughts and how they were represented on the various apps.

I also asked the students for their final thoughts on some of the math and physics apps they recommended based on the criteria we had discussed previously. From their recommendations they seem to really like apps that give immediate feedback as well as built in positive reinforcement. They also like apps with lots of variety and different levels ranging from easy to difficult. They seem to like working through the levels and challenging themselves. These are the apps they really like that have not been mentioned yet:

Math:

Rocket Math: This is a really neat app. The students have to go through math challenges to earn money so they can build a rocket. The more money they earn, the more sophisticated rocket they can design. If the rocket’s design is too simple, it will not blast into space.

The other recommendations are Math Quizzer, Math Drills, Number Find.

The recommended physic apps are: Toy Physics, Touch Physics, Construction and Cut the Rope.

I also like the above apps because they lend themselves to engaging the students in higher level thinking skills specifically, problem solving, critical thinking and decision-making.

Final Entry -

This is my final entry for this project. The following is a review of the highlights, challenges and recommendations for using the iPad in the regular classroom with all types of learners.

Inquiry Question: Do iPads enhance learning and if so, how much and in what ways?

Answer: Yes. Following are the positives that were observed:

iPad as a Learning Device

Keypad: It is very user friendly for young learners. There are fewer keys for the students to navigate through and their keyboarding skills became faster more quickly.

Less paper: Not all evidence of work was printed. A lot of their work was shared via the iPad and emailed home for students to show-off.

Battery Life: The iPad does not need to be plugged in to be recharged after every use or on a daily basis because it has a strong battery.

Easy to handle: The size and weight of the iPad is very easy for young learners to carry and handle. It is like carrying a book.

Instant feedback: When the students worked with the math and physics games they expressed how they enjoyed getting instant feedback in various forms regarding their choices and progress.

Instant access: Information and understanding that previously took some time and effort to search and collect is now available instantly.

Level playing field: All students have equal access to instant information and accessibility to ease of learning.

Content learning: The iPad has capability for built-in editing and correcting spelling. More time is dedicated to deeper content learning.

Relevant learning: The iPad as a device provides for learning content and learning style relevant to the iGeneration learner of today.

Evidence of Learning:

Engagement: Most of the students were significantly engaged for most of the time. They could stay on task for long periods of time.

Differentiation: Differentiation naturally occurred due to the capabilities of the iPad. It took away challenges for students by providing instant access to information, spell check, ease of using apps and range of types of apps. The stronger student’s work naturally became more comprehensive and reflective of deeper thinking.

Intuitive Thinking Skills: Many of the apps on the iPad have similar built in features. The skills learned in one app are transferable to learning how to work with a new app.

Literacy Skills: All of the literacy skills are ubiquitously covered including viewing, reading, writing and listening.

Numeracy Skills: Both skill and drill math practice and ubiquitous numeracy skills are easily integrated.

All Learning Modalities: The iPad intuitively allows the learner to learn kinesthetically, visually and auditorily.

Deeper Learning and Understanding: This element is key. The instant access to information allowed for some amazing learning and understanding as well as many teachable moments.

Time Management: Students were highly engaged and thus were able to stay on task for significantly longer periods of time on one project. The iPad provided instant access to information. The productivity apps are designed to produce work with ease and quickly.

Multiple Examples of Visuals: Going into Google images provides the students with many examples of visuals (rather than just one or two pictures in a book) to reinforce understanding. The iPad’s one-step save image process makes it very easy to insert visuals into productivity projects.

21st Century Learning Skills:

Innovators: The students had many opportunities to be innovators. Evidence is provided through their self-discovery learning and the work they produced.

Self-Directed Learner: Once the students were provided with the instructions, expectations and some basic how-to directions regarding how to use the iPad and the apps, they engaged in their own independent learning.

Information & Media Literate: The iPad is a conducive device for students to instantly access all kinds of information through all kind of media.

Collaboratoration Skills: The iPad became a learning tool facilitating learning with others and teaching/mentoring others.

Communication Skills: The iPad is a device that allows for learning information using text and images. Conversely, it also allows for demonstrating understanding using both text and images.

Problem Solving Skills: Working through all of the apps on the iPad whether they are productivity, information or game based nurture problem solving thinking skills.

Globally Awareness: The instant access to information opened the doors to learning about many different topics not only globally but also nationally and locally.

Digital Citizenship Skills: Daily iPad use reinforces this learning device as a ubiquitous learning tool beginning at a young age. Learning how to work with this tool responsibly and ethically is also reinforced with the daily use.

And lastly, as always, new learning has some challenges and raises more questions...

Time: This was a very time consuming project during the learning, planning and preparation process. A lot of professional time and energy was invested because everything was brand new and there were no references or exemplars to use as a model.Synching and Updating: It was time consuming to synch and update 30 iPads with one computer.

Attitudes: There is a mindset that the iPad is a toy for games rather than the learning. It is a powerful productivity tool and can be used far beyond the skill and drill level.

Printing Capability: Not all work needs to be printed but it is nice to have some of the better pieces in print form to be shared and celebrated. Not having the app Air Print and an Air Print capable printer in the school forced us to first email the work as a PDF and then print. This created extra steps and extra work.Wireless Capacity: This problem is unique to Elbow Valley, but emailing from the iPad was very frustrating and time consuming. Sometimes the email would arrive and sometimes it did. If it did arrive it would take from 3 minutes to 6 hours.

Quality of Apps: Some apps are not dependable. Stick to the highly recommended and proven quality apps. Sometimes it pays to pay for quality rather than settle for free.

Apps in General: Avoid getting caught in the ‘gimmicks’ the app is selling. When purchasing apps, shift thinking from designing the unit and specific learning outcomes to what apps will best provide knowledge and have students demonstrate their understanding? Avoid starting with buying the app(s) and then deciding how it can be used to teach learner outcomes. Ensure the learning is driven by the apps rather than the app driving the learning.Teacher Learning: Do not expect to know how to work with every single app. This is too time consuming and not practical. Pick and choose apps that you feel are most essential to learn.

Teacher Role: Plan for your role to change. Trust the students to learn a lot on their own, teach each other and the teacher.

New learning always produces new questions...

UDL (Accessibility to Learning): Time did not allow for exploration of apps that allowed for learning accessibility including voice to print and print to voice.

Collaboration Capabilities: Time did allow for the students to co-create or brainstorm using sharing capable apps. This has very interesting possibilities. Having all students share their ideas via the app and having these ideas synched on everyone’s iPad has exciting potential!

So Much More: There were many other learning opportunities and apps I wanted to try but time ran out. My students were also disappointed when the month time line expired. We even joked how we were missing ‘our iPads’ when we did not have daily access to them. When was the last time you your students lamented missing the use of a pencil, crayon, notebook, dictionary or any other traditional learning tool?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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