Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reflections from Summer Users

The summer is ending and it is time to reflect on the experience of using an iPad for several months. My summer iPad users agreed to blog and share their thoughts, so I asked them to think of three discoveries they made. What follows are their reflections. It is interesting to see the similarities in their responses.

One note I will make is that our plan for the iPads in the classroom is for small group work. That means a teacher is nearby or participating in the work students engage in, just as she/he would be if they were making art, learning math concepts, or practicing reading and writing. There is little doubt in my mind that any work in school is strengthened with the presence of a teacher who encourages, notices the student's approach and process, and is aware of their accomplishments. This is true whether technology is involved or not. The question we are continuing to ask is whether this particular technology can enhance the classroom experience for young learners, and improve the note-taking and ability to share student work for the teachers.

The reflections:

The one thought I do have for the ipad student use is how to how easily a student can exit out of a given program
when things get challenging. how they manage frustration. how we teacher use the ipad to encourage perserverance.
i was watching my daughter play around and granted, she is not even 3, but if a given program is not easily intuitive and responsive to her actions, she will exit. i suppose there is something of a skill there but...

Zarya, Kindergarten

Kids love working on the iPad. It is habit forming and has to be rationed. Kids can intuitively figure out how to use the programs, which are engaging for the most part.

Puppet Pals and Story Patch invite creative story telling and thus foster writing and reading skills.

Motion Math was a fun, interactive way for an 8 year old to practice his knowledge of fractions. Turning the screen to direct the ball was exciting for him.

Alpha Tots was engaging and interactive for a 3 year old. She stayed with it for all 26 letters.
Diane, Early Childhood

1. Teaching children, especially younger children, how to interact with the screen is important.  Younger children may get easily frustrated by having to tap very specific areas or drag objects around very often.

2. Questions about reward structure of some games/apps.  Winning gold stars or trophies raises the question of external versus internal motivation.  LIke some games, but wanted the ability to turn OFF the rewards.

3. Navigation through apps - many of the apps I found the strongest allowed the participant to navigate through the activities/tasks easily, the method of navigation was clear (not just some random indecipherable icon) and integrated into the screen layout.  Also, the strongest apps afford the participants the ability to tailor the game to their abilities (moving between activities freely within the app, selecting the "level" you wish to play).

Brian, First grade

I still feel strongly that iPads should only be used in limited amounts as supplementary math stations...never take the place of the children experiencing hands on counting and work with manipulative materials including blocks, tangrams, cusenaire rods etc.......
I am also concerned that every game/activity has bells and whistles, applause and superlatives when the student has success. It isn't that children don't deserve positive feedback,it is just that they can't depend or should not learn that this is what learning entails...because how will they ever develop there own sense of accomplishment and satisfaction...and how to just feel content doing and learning as well as making mistakes...
I was working with a K graduate this summer who enjoyed the iPad but really wanted the interaction with me as a teacher and I honestly think he enjoyed the iPad more because I was sitting right next to him.
Materials and gadgets are great but the bottom line is face to face interaction, discussion and personal specific feedback make for the best learning conditions.

Merry, Math Coordinator

Dragon Dictation might be an interesting tool for older kids.  We often sit down one on one with the kids that have trouble writing.  It usually is the case that they just need to talk it out to get started.  With Dragon Dictation, I think a teacher could work with 2 or 3 kids at a time (each with an iPad) so we could talk as a group, then when they have a solid idea, they could go "talk it out" with the iPad.  It might be worth exploring.

- I LOVE the "stack the states" and "stack the countries" apps.  My kids do too.  They are really a fun way to learn about geography and spatial relationships.  If you haven't tried them yet, you should!

-Recording movies on an iPad is really easy.  I can see situations where teachers record certain lessons or kids working together or alone, then have the ability to review it later for report notes, or show the video to parents at conferences as an example.  It could be really useful.
 Eve, Fourth grade

1. I need to test all apps with students before assuming that they will/will not like it.

2. Great tool but for chinese for elementary school students I am still struggling to find super apps. I feel sure that some will be developed over the next year or two as it grows in popularity in China.

3. I can see using ipads in class as a nice way to have students review using a different tool. For example sometimes we would have students do their work on little white boards and then hold the boards up to show us. This use of a "cool tool" was a great way to engage students and keep things different. So for ipads I could see in third grade it would be a great way to work on memorizing the US states, and for math review.

Thanks or xiexie
Edith, Chinese 

I am excited about using evernote to document student work

I really like the idea of the iPad replacing the hand held whiteboards that students use for handwriting practice

I want to know if an all ebook listening center is something anyone else uses in their classrooms and would like to move our listening center to the iPads.

Denise, Kindergarten

In terms of the kids vs adult ease of use, I agree with someone ( I forget who) who blogged that sometimes things that seemed cumbersome or unwieldy to us as adults are really  not bothersome to the kids. One app in particular ( I think it was Fish HD) seemed very visually confusing ot me, with the fish forming the letters and swimming in and out of the letter form to do so. It did not seem to bother my little six hear old friend who was experimenting for me. Having said that, I do think it would be visually confusing for many of my students, who may not be as visually secure as some of their peers.

Some of the apps seemed a bit like glorified video games to me, while others seemed good as reinforment tools for material already taught and still others actually helped with critical thinking. One of my very favorite apps is the Coin Math!

As far as a teacher tool, I can see alot of good uses here, as well. Also, just as far as logistics are concerned, it is certainly light weight, easy to pull out quickly to use and the battery seems to last a good long while. The touch tone key board is extremely sensitive and sometimes frustrating in that sense. I know there is a key board that one can purchase to use with the ipad, but then it seems like you might as well be toting your laptop around. Still, I loved using it! There is something absolutuely fun about it!

Louise, Learning Specialist

1. I think there is good potential with the ipads, but I am wary of them replacing real world experiences, especially those that are tactile.  With that said, I am starting to see some ways, and imagine that there are far more than I have realized, that the ipad can give students and teachers unique or improved experiences.  I am interested in continuing to search these out.

2. Motion Math.  I like how there is such a quick connection with the game developer, plus all the things I like about this game.  I plan to email Jacob about ideas I have that could create a fraction game that would work for younger children as well.  I like how the technology both lends itself to such a multi-intelligent and interesting game while also creating a direct link with the creators--not necessarily all ipad specific things, but interesting to me.

3. The ipad is changing my thinking about how to document, collect, and organize classroom notes, plans, and ideas.  Right now I am thinking about this through Evernote.  I have already created a notebook for each student and am envisioning using the simple photo and voice recording features of the ipad to assist in my note taking and collecting insights about kids.  I could see discussing a detail with parents at a conference and then pulling up a picture of it actually happening since I was able to take it with the ipad.

4.  Thinking far beyond game apps.  When I started with the ipad apps I was mostly going through games, which many of them are and most of which I did not care for.  But then I started to think beyond and using other apps.  Interestingly I found an entire textbook of sorts focused on Jamestown.  It has great images, videos, and well written and researched text.  Some is too advanced for my students but I can see using this app in class.  By reading some pieces of the other blogs that you connected to ours, I have also seen some really interesting ideas, such as creating photo albums where studnets can flip through and record their thoughts, tell a story, answer questions verbally, and so on.  Overall I realize there is a much larger world of apps and possibilities out there and would like more time to search and think through them and to try some ideas out in class.

5. Games.  Despite looking beyond games, I also think having games for kids to play connected to basic skill practice once and a while on the ipad can be fun and engaging.  I actually bought a magnetic dart board for a similar reason, fun fact practice.

6. I could see using the ipad as a convenient recording device of sorts to use in student assessments and to help conduct student interviews, but I have not worked through this much.

Overall, I hope I will be able to hold onto the ipad throughout the year and to experiment and keep searching.  It continues to be worthwhile.

Maurice, 3rd grade

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