It’s been an exciting start to the year at a new school, topped off with the privilege of being allocated a trial ipad class of Year 10 students. This post is really an extended reflection of where I’m at, there they’re at and where we might be heading with ipads in an English classroom.
The first challenge was setting up the device. This entailed getting myself online via the school server as well as ensuring it would work at home. This was made simpler by my Year 11 students who completed all of the above in about 15 minutes – how they remember all the relevant settings is beyond me but I was grateful for their help!
The next step was familiarizing myself with navigation. Enter two ipod touting sons who quickly showed me the in and outs of finding my way around the device, uploading apps and creating folders on the desktop. 🙂
So what have we achieved? At this stage baby steps.
My class has access to a dedicated Koodle page via the school website. I update this weekly and promote it visually in class. Having an LMS is one thing but as I’ve learned, getting students to use it is another. To be specific – be explicit. They need to see it to connect with it. I also promoted the site to parents via email. Their page includes an introductory section with a document featuring links to websites I recommend students bookmark on their iPads. This includes online dictionaries, visual thesaurus, reading support sites, writing support sites, search engines as well as grammar and punctuation sites with interactive games – such fun!
Now this might not seem ipad specific yet but hang in there! At this stage my aim was to integrate the ipad with existing technologies in a bid to ensure students could hook into technologies relevant to their needs. I should add they are a mixed ability class. One of the big pluses of ipads has to be helping teachers provide differentiated learning opportunities. Now you’re interested?!
Next I set up a wide reading blog. Initially this was private and I emailed students invites to their school accounts. Part way through the term, take up was just two students out of 24 so I made the blog public to make it easier to access. This blog has examples of wide reading responses, suggested texts, links to sites about reading/books and the odd You Tube clip students could use for a visual response.
Although I later discovered we don’t accept posts as responses (schools have different policies on this – it is permitted in the Achievement Standard), the blog is a good resource if students are stuck for inspiration. I also promoted the blog to parents during interviews, many of whom were unsure what a reading response was.
In the first term we covered creative writing and a novel study. My big goal was to use a web adventure based on CSI investigation for them as a starter to their creative writing assessment. Unfortunately, I planned this unit of work over the summer holidays before I had the iPad so was gutted to learn the website wouldn’t load on an iPad because it needed flash 😦 Note to self: never talk up a digital learning opportunity until you’ve tested it…
I really think the class would have enjoyed a game-based approach to learning about characters and setting, and using that as a starting point for their writing. Similarly, the fantastic BBC Skills website I intended to use for grammar and punctuation doesn’t work on iPads so I had to find alternatives. Moving on (!) I incorporated iPads into lessons for:
1. Grammar and punctuation – Grammar Monster
2. Poetic devices testing– Quia
3. A shared glossy for novel – used EverNote to create and asked students to do the same using Evernote, Penultimate or Scratch. I placed a link to my glossary via Koodle in case students were away/behind.
Term 2 planned uses:
Now that I’m aware of applications and shortcomings, I plan to use the ipad more regularly in lessons. My aim is to do this as seamlessly as possible. At this stage I’ve earmarked the following apps/websites:
1. Quizlet – novel terms and content testing
2. Spell City – interactive games using the glossary created in term 1
3. Prezi – for a presentation on theme for film study
4. Animoto – as above
5. Four Pics One Word – general starter
6. Cartoon Studio – plot summary film/character study
7. Auto rap – turning film reviews into rap.
8. TED – as a start for non-fiction writing
9. Socrative – range of uses but the great thing is it can be used in real time by teacher and students.
Later in the year, I hope to use the ipads for sharing/analysing essays via Drop Box or Noterize. I‘m also hoping to create a private twitter feed for a character study of Romeo and Juliet, and would also like to use iPads collaboratively when preparing for exams.
So has it been worthwhile? I guess it’s early days. For me, the biggest thing has been upskilling in “my spare time” but as with all digital learning, sometimes trusting students to sort out small glitches i.e encouraging them to be the experts is the best way forward. Being brave and giving things a go is also really important. Not everything I planned worked so you just have to move on and find an alterative.
Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge to date is not technological but around appropriate usage in the classroom. If you thought FB was bad, wait until you have to deal with snapchat/tumblr. That’s an issue we’ll be working through this term with discussions underway about developing consistent rules across all subject areas. I’m not sure what that will look like in practice but if we don’t address that issue, the ipads are doomed to become just another device to police in the classroom which would be a real shame.