Welcome to the BGMS Ipad Instructional Integration blog: Thirty iPads, nine teachers, two administrators and 400 students.
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.