November 8, 2010 far

I have an iPad in my classroom, now what?

The first step for me was learn what the iPad could do that would interest my students. Apps, apps and more apps!

I leaned first toward apps that would simulate learning, but ones that could be more interactive on a one-to-one level than I was able to with 29 other students in front of me (at this point, entire-class instruction with the iPad seems out of my grasp, so I'm sticking with individual intervention). I have a handful of students who are struggling in various areas I thought could be remedied by putting an iPad in front of them and asking them to complete iPad-specific tasks.

The first experiments involved scouring the Apps Store for apps that were simultaneously interesting/engaging and provided some degree of self-functioning (I didn't want a student to run out of math flash cards, for example, then sit there - or worse - and wait for me to attend to them).

I also spent some time thinking about what it is the iPad does that makes it special. And came up with a couple of conclusions - for me. 1) The movability(?) of the iPad & apps makes it lighter than a computer, yet equally engaging; and 2) the hybrid interaction between user interface (touch-screen) and content (everything under the kitchen sink). So how to take the best of the two of those and put them to use to fill an educational gap in my classroom. How, for example to capitalize on the interaction of movable digital pages, while ensuring learning?

iBooks is where I started. Using some of the differentiated Reading A-Z texts from the school site, I created a bank of low-level texts in iBooks (levels AA - M). For one of my students - Brenda - who is an English language learner, I opened a level-A text on the iPad and sat with her during the beginning of class to explain how it worked. One the areas where Brenda struggles is with phonetics. My first attempt at working with her and the iPad was to have her read the level-A text and identify specific phonemes (ee, aye) in the text. Because I wanted her to work independently and there was no way to gauge her success at identifying the phonemes using the app only, I had her make a list of 10 ee sounds and 10 aye sounds.

For homework, I had her make a list of 10 more of each sound that she uses during the day.

As a beginning, I think this will work as she begins to develop the building blocks of phonetic awareness. I have several other students in this class with similar challenges. Ultimately, I see using the iPad with these students to build investment (using the technology) and using that investment to catapult their development of basic skills.

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