November 13, 2010

IPAD AND ELL STUDENTS

My initial reaction when seeing commercials for the iPad was, “How is this going to be any different from my iPod Touch? It’s bigger and costs hundreds of more dollars.... No thank you!” However, that notion was quickly replaced with “Oohhs” and “Ahhhs” as soon as I got my hands on one! Like many others I headed straight to the app store, and already being familiar with some kid-friendly apps I decided to see what the difference would be on an iPad. What was the big deal???

The big deal, of course, is that an iPad is no iPod Touch. If the simple idea of having an iPad is enticing to adults, imagine a student’s reaction at being able to use one in the classroom. And now I have been charged with just that, bringing this piece of technology to life for many of our ELL students. Reservations... I have a few. Ideas & Possibilities.... I have much more.

TEACHING WITH AN IPAD

Upon receiving my iPad I decided to spend a couple of days getting familiar with it first. I needed to become comfortable with the iPad before I could even consider bringing it out in front of my students. So I spent time trying to figure out how to make iCal and Notes work for me. I installed a couple of apps recommended by colleagues (i.e. Dropbox) and organized the home page in a way that would best meet my interests. It was funny to me how having already owned my iPod Touch for a while this was still like playing with a new toy!!!

Then it was time to get serious and turn my to attention to my focus group: ELL students. How could I make this work for them? How could I use this to raise their reading levels and language acquisition? So I started with what I knew best... apps for sight words, word families, spelling, writing, etc. I installed a few of these apps, like ABC Phonics Word Family Writing, and thought that this was exactly the direction that I would head with my students. I would use these apps to build their phonemic awareness and sight word vocabulary. So what am I excited about? I’m excited to see their newly learned skills transferred to reading age-appropriate books. I’m excited for my ELL students to be fully incorporated into the class with their peers, reading what their peers are reading and writing the stories they want to share.

CONCERNS

I have two major concerns: location and will my other students feel left out. The latter is the easiest for me. Obviously, everyone in the class will want to “go on” the iPads, everyone will want their turn. To accommodate this I’ve designed a schedule that will allow all my students to use the iPads. In addition to my ELL students, I plan to use the iPads with the students in my Harry Potter book club. I’m not exactly sure how yet, but I’ve thought they could design their own “Quidditch” game, edit pictures for movie posters, take personality tests, take quizzes on www.bookadventure.org and who knows what else we’ll think up together. I’ve also thought that if my ELL’s used the iPads four days a week and my book club used them after school then the remaining children could use them once a week during the Reading Workshop. I could not exclude any of my students in good conscience. If preparing students for the real world means giving them access to the newest technology then I want to give that opportunity to all of my students.

Location is my biggest my concern. Not having my own space brings all sorts of issues for a person such as myself that likes to have everything “in its place”, whatever I may deem that to be. Questions about storage, mobility and placement in the classroom swim in my head. For the moment I’ve decided to deal with that when the time comes. At the end of the day, it is a very minor issue that is exceeded by all the benefits of working with the iPad.

BENEFITS OF USING THE IPAD IN MY CLASS

One word... TECHNOLOGY. One of the most important things we can do as educators is prepare our students to be successful in the real world. That world includes pc’s, mac’s iPads, digital readers and so much more. Having the iPad in my classroom will at the very least let students become comfortable and literate with this new technology.

With my ELL students, it will allow me to address their needs at a much faster rate. I can set them up to do their word work and track their progress instantly. Little by little they will move to higher level apps and eventually be able to use their newly acquired skills independently.

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