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2011-2012 Elbow Valley 1:1 iPads in Grade 4 Findings

In the fall of 2012 I applied to participate in the Technology Innovation action research program. The proposal asked for a class set of iPads, an Apple Cart to synch and charge the iPads, a wireless iPad compatible printer, Apple TV and $500.00 for purchasing apps. The approximate total was $20,000.00. This proposal was accepted and for five months the grade four students in my class conducted much of their learning using a personal iPad. Following is an overview of the action research in studying the effectiveness of using iPads in the classroom and how it impacts student learning.

 

Going into the project I had already confirmed that the iPad as a one-to-one device was indeed an effective learning tool. I had already established the following:

  • Highly engaging
  • Provides instant access to information
  • Levels the playing field of learning for all learners
  • Provides students with multiple ways of representing their learning
  • Very easy to use with a very easy to use keyboard
  • Very user friendly because of its size and battery life
  • Easily opens up the limitations for all learners

 

At Elbow Valley Elementary the AISI focus last year was Project-Based Learning which intuitively reflects the RVS Professional Learning Model. I wanted to pursue the key elements of this model including Balanced Assessment, Understanding By Design and Universal Design For Learning. I was most interested in the later element because I believe the iPad is a learning tool providing many different options for all of my students to be successful learners.  Last year I had a range of academic abilities in my class including those who would benefit from the assistive technologies that iPad provides but I also have a number of gifted and talented students who would greatly benefit. The opportunities for enriched learning for all learners were very exciting. This was definitely a strength of this action research project.

 

To continue, Rocky View Schools has identified ten competencies that are essential for the students we are working with today. When working with the iPads and my students these are the observations that I made that tie in directly to some of the competencies. These are only a few of the discoveries that I share with you here:

 

Learners as Collaborators – Although this was a one-to-one project, it became very clear that our learners love and need to work with others. It may be in the form of sharing the learning on one device or constructing the knowledge collaboratively on two or more devices.  The conversations and learning were much deeper and the work produced was of a much higher quality.

 

Learners as Critical Thinkers  - Our students have instant access to information. Much of the content is excellent and unfortunately, some of the content is questionable and interferes with the learning process. Using the iPads to navigate through the wealth of online content is a progressive learning experience that requires monitoring and guidance by the teacher and lots of sharing of what looks good and does not look good and why among the students.

 

Learners a Being Self-directed – I see engaging our students in self-directed learning as a ‘leap of faith’. Our role is shifting from the keepers and dispensers of the content to the facilitators and guides as our students construct their own knowledge. However, we still have to set the guidelines and expectations and be masters of teaching pedagogy and the curricula we are teaching. With all of these elements in place, I am in awe at the quality of the learning that has occurred when our students are given the opportunity to be self-directed. I am of the belief that having access to the information and multiple ways of representing the knowledge gained through various technology devices in our classrooms has made this a very doable and user-friendly form of teaching our students that they so deserve.

 

Learners as Communicators – One of the most important things I discovered during this action research is that our learners need multiple and varied opportunities to communicate.  My students used the iPad and their Wiki page to communicate in the form of self-reflection, working in small groups and all inquiry project work was shared and presented with each other. The students were so keen to see what their peers had created and in doing so they were intuitively learning from each other. My students loved and I believe they need to have a voice to express their opinions, thoughts and new discoveries.

 

So what is next? Another year of my own inquiry action research and discovering how the iPads are effective learning devices in the elementary classroom. As with all inquiry learning, new knowledge gained leads to a greater understanding but it also creates new questions and possibilities that are yet to be answered. I wish to continue the work that was started last year by pursuing at a deeper level of inquiry. There is also something to be said about developing an ‘intuitive fluidity’ when learning something new. More specifically I wish to have the students engage in:

  • Inquiry research projects
  • Multiple was for the students to construct their own knowledge with my guidance
  • Multiple ways of representing their knowledge
  • Multiple ways of sharing their knowledge
  • Using the iPad as a ubiquitous learning tool
  • Using the iPad across the curriculum in all subject areas.

 

This report only addresses the key elements in this action research Technology Innovation Project. The ongoing learning is being documented in the form of a blog through Rocky View School titled iPads in the Classroom – Lessons Learned… Lessons Shared. Please visit this blog online for further information as this project continues for a second year. It is hoped that the knowledge that I have gained will be shared with colleagues on staff and other interested individuals.

 

Report submitted by:

Mrs. Thea Morris

Grade ¾ Teacher

Elbow Valley Elementary School

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