November 9, 2010

Ipad for data - now what....

So I have an ipad. Cool. Being about to even touch one, let alone customizing it for my needs and the needs of my students is still a bit overwhelming. Even though I am a tech person and always have been I can not help but think of the teachers in my life that inspired me.

I have always had computers. The internet and I have been friends since 1991 before people even knew what the internet was. I still recall writing a paper in 4th grade and using Encarta (yeah, I know I am old) as a reference and my 4th grade teacher needing an explanation about what Encarta was. She was an amazing woman though and supported my learning through technology at a time when even a big old computer station was unheard of in the classroom. She saw that a student like me, one with dyslexia, would reap the benefits of something like spell check helping me overcome repetitive spelling errors. Ms. Barclay went against the norm and ventured into something new because it was what was best for one of her students and I can't help but consider her courage as I am about to embark on a similar path. So with technology in hand, I asked myself what is best for my kids in helping them be the best the can be.

Like others my first stop was apps, apps, and more apps. So many out there. But my focus with this ipad is more than just individual one on one student intervention. Of course being able to hand a struggling kid this amazing piece of technology and help them with phonics or allowing them to listen a read along as a story is being played is an amazing intervention on the path to their ultimate success, but my focus reaches much broader needs - data.

A buzz word in education, data is and will continue to be the first stop for a teacher in assessing and determining how and what strategies each individual student needs in order to reach their goals. So with that task at hand - where to begin.

Scouring the apps store there are endless possibilities in terms of ways in which we can capture and analyze data. Charts, graphs, spreadsheets, are at my fingertips and with little input of student progress I can see, in an instant what students have accomplished and where they need additional support. But I wanted to begin smaller and in a much simpler way in order to see, if this tool can truly be used as a means of collecting and analyzing data.

So I started with the most basic of places - Notes
Informally assessing student reading progress is a must for any English teacher and a task that at times can be overwhelming. Keeping that information in one place and being able to easily access it, often comes down to teacher preference. However, in a time when that information needs to be readily accessible for the Data Specialist, Principal and other school leaders, you also need to be able to quickly turn over the information you have collected on your students. I decided not to scour for an app and use what is already provided on the ipad in a effort to see if the technology that apple provides can be used in the classroom without the need of going to the apps store.

So, instead of creating a new spreadsheet, I created a notes page for each of my students as I assessed the progress of their current independent reading book. I asked each of my students the same questions:
  • What are you reading?
  • What level are you?
  • What level are you reading?
  • Why did you chose the book?
  • What is happening in the book right now?
  • What is one thing you think is going to happen (predicting strategy)?
  • What is one question you have?
  • Why do you think that may happen or why do you have that question (inferring strategy)?
  • Can you make one text to text connection with your book?
  • Can you make one text to self connection with your book?
  • Can you make one text to world connection with your book?
As the student and I engaged in the conversation, I captured what they were saying. Many of them were just so excited that they were able to talk about the book and have their thoughts captured on the ipad that the conversation moved with ease. It is interesting to watch them interact with it because they are so amazed by the technology, they can't help but ask questions.

With data in hand, I my own set of questions and concerns. These conferences, while necessary and important in knowing is going on with my kids also has me thinking about how the ipad worked and didn't work for this type of use.

  • Very easy to move from student to student
  • Labels for each note are by student and date making it easy to see who I last conferenced
  • Emailing the information is as quick as pressing a button
  • Pages are organized by date making it easy to see who is in need of a conference
  • Can quickly pull up a students record with the tap of a button or two

Minuses and/or continued concerns
  • Copying a page so I have the template already set up. It can be quite time consuming to retype in each of the questions for the conversation
  • Not having bold and italics to emphasis certain elements of the conversation, specifically next steps with the student
  • Getting past auto correct - I type fast but the ipad thinks faster and often times the word it choses for me is not the one I am looking for
  • A means in which to store what is collected into a central location without having to do to much back editing
Moving forward I am looking forward to finding a way to streamline this process so I am able to have a clear idea in how to roll it out with other teachers. Ultimately for me, the ipad is as much of a tool for teacher records, student data and other assessment, as it is for student intervention. I can't help but wonder if Mrs. Barclay thought the same things as she encouraged me to use the computer in my house and the one she had in her classroom. If she is anything like me, she must have been filled with ideas and the excitement of endless possibilities in how to integrate this into her teaching practice much like I am.

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