January 13, 2011

Toy or Tool?

Toy or Tool?

I was given the iPad later on in the year. I am still playing with
this tool and deciding/exploring its advantages and/or disadvantages
when compared with laptops, which I do have and use in my class. When
I spoke with colleagues and peers at other schools there was a mixed
bag of reactions. Some were thrilled and excited. Some thought it was
just a toy and not a tool. I tried to be as objective as possible in
my exploring of the gadget. The following are my observations that I
have noted during the first two weeks of iPad integration.

1. Talk about teacher and student friendly. As our schools
administrative functions are all online, having a super portable and
accessible piece of technology makes my job easier. Often times the
load of keeping notes, writing lessons, creating lists, checking
email, ancedotals and research can be very disjointed and difficult to
manage. This tool is very effective in managing the other wise "paper
work" aspect of teaching. Furthermore, some of the aps are incredibly
teacher efficient.Laptops can be too disorganized and cumbersome for
quick note taking and forms. For instance, I could have files and
files of groupings. But with the iPad I can use an app that organizes,
stores and allows me to access groups quickly. Teacher's pick is one
such app. It allows me to record and create groupings. I think I
actually may have squealed when I saw this. That brings me to point 2.

2. Differentiation. If one has ever wandered into a Bronx classroom
(or a classroom, anywhere for that matter) and really, truly gotten to
know his or her students it would become blatantly clear that every
student is different. Every student learns, processes, creates,
assesses, and expresses differently. There are different kinds of
learning styles,different levels, comfort zones and interests. I am a
firm believer and advocate for differentiation. I spend a lot of time
getting to know my students so that I can create projects that
addresses these differences. The iPad has aps and advantages that
addresses many of these styles and has many remedial aps that can help
with lower level students. I was initially searching for various
applications that
would allow my students to imitate or create a piece of art
(music,poetry or drawing) that was inspired by one from the Harlem
Renaissance. I was able to find Jazz music stations, poetry archives,
art applications, music making applications and of course a plethora
of history trivia aps. However, on this one platform I can pull up the
original piece of art via Internet then allow them to process the
themes of the piece in an interactive, differentiated and student
friendly medium. Through this tool I am able to provide a means of
expression that addresses the talents and interests of my students.
When my students are engaged they are learning. Perhaps this
technology is a tool for teachers.While laptops can have music and art
software and poetry archives, the apps seem to be cheaper and more kid
friendly. Furthermore, they are more fun and better displayed. Our
kids are kids. You can teach them anything if presented the right way.
The iPad's display and presentation is an advantage over the lap top.

Next Steps: 100%

As mentioned in prior blogs, we need to see that 100% of students can
have access to this tool. I think I am going to attempt this goal with
a rotating research schedule based on my differentiated groups my
level/ readiness. Let me extrapolate. A few times a year I challenges
my students with an egocentric, reflective, research paper called the
iSearch. Students pick a topic they want to research and undergo steps
to uncover information and how it effects their understandings and
connections. Previously, we used laptops. I would group students
together based on level and provide guides that were either basic,
intermediate or advanced. Some would use basic research techniques
like who, what, where, when, whereas others had to make inferences and
connect to present day. With 5 lap tops and 30-ish students I would
let each group have a lap top for a period and they would rotate over
the course of a few weeks. In the mean time, some were creating
accompanying art, reading related materials, drafting, editing or
revising. Now, I can an the iPads to the rotations to increase
engagement regarding research skills.

3. Research. I would be doing my students a disservice if I did not
teach them how to use technology with research. Every paper I've
written since 2003 has been dependent on technology. I had to learn
how to read journals, articles, access information, decipher validity,
decode opinions and editorials and then compile the information
overload. If we are intent on equipping our students with the life
skills to compete in a global scene then research is definitely a
skill they need to master. It is clear that we are only moving
forward. Technology is getting faster, more accessible and is ever
changing. We need to keep up with the current research technology to
insure that our students are ready for the tasks high school and
college will ask of them. If we were still using the Dewey Decimal
System how would they fare with all of the online libraries using in
leading universities? Using the iPad as a research tool can only
further their technological literacy (something I hope to touch on in
a later blog).Thus, I propose to get the iPad in 100% of my kids hands
via research. We will add it to our research tools rotation. When I
devise this schedule I hope to post it as well and track its success
as a tool of research.


The iPad could also serve as a great anchor activity/ station. An
anchor is a task kids can do when they are complete with their daily
work. Most kids take their sweet time to avoid additional tasks.
However, the iPad can increase motivation. Who doesn't want to use it?
With certain newspapers and current events available immediately via
apps and the internet I hope to strengthen my students non-fiction
reading with centers
where students can read and create connections between historical
content and current situations.

4. More on research. What I love most about teaching is that I am
always learning. Teachers are lifetime learners. There are
applications that one can use to track findings and organize research.
One app, Mendeley is a reference manager. It allows people interested
in publishing works to organize their papers and create a library of
sources which helps track down sources and organize citations. If one
has ever written a thesis he or she knows how daunting the research/
citation process is. I wish I knew about this in grad school!! Still,
it is a great tool for those of us educators interested in research
and publication. Furthermore, with common core standards asking that
students create citations and learn the format MLA aps like iSourceMLA
is a much more organized manner to learn the format. Teaching MLA can
be confusing and daunting. On a gadget with a nice platform and an
organized software it makes much more sense.Laptops have more space
and function for the actual typing of papers (at least for me) but the
iPad is a great resource for research, citations and organization.


I am pleasantly surprised with the iPad. My head is spinning with
possibilities. It far exceeded my expectations as a tool. I have the
iPhone. It's my toy. I am generally technologically bored. I don't
really care about high tech things. I just like the nice graphics and
that my music is always available. I love books, the tactile sensation
of paper and pencils. Still, as a lifetime student, "differentiator"
and researcher the iPad has blended research and creative outlets into
one tool; a tool for teachers.

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