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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

iPad-ifying the Classes


I read an article entitled The iPad Goes To School (from Bloomberg Businessweek, 24th October 2013)... and I was amazed at the usefulness of an iPad in teaching and guiding students, whilst allowing them to take an active part in their learning. Dr Pet's classes aren't about tables and chairs + chalk and talk, anyway. Ummm... we don't even HAVE tables and chairs in the classrooms. Our facilitators don't teach, so they talk very little (and don't need chalk). Instead, they facilitate the children's journey of discovery through the adventures of the given material.

So, after I read the article, I experienced INSTANT lust!

Those Silly Netbooks!
In the past year, I've given the children little Netbooks to work on their compositions. It's a productivity tool really, because we teach writing skill by skill. Each skill is layered upon the next in successive drafts. The composition begins to look halfway decent only by the 4th draft. It needs up to 8th drafts to complete a single composition to my satisfaction. Imagine all the time lost if the children had to copy out the same composition by hand 8 times, each time working on one skill. They would REFUSE to copy, and I would not have the heart to force them to do dumb copying ad nauseum.

The Netbooks were REALLY slow however. They needed forever to boot up. Very often, halfway through typing, those silly things would hang.

These Lovely iPads
The children can now type their stories into the iPads and upload them into a shared Google Drive. I can pop into that drive and get these compositions out for marking. I can then customise the individual children's Writing Lesson Instructions for the following Writing Session, and upload those into Google Drive too. The children come into class, download their document and they each know exactly what to do for the next 3 hours.

The iPad also allows the children to create Story Maps easily. They swipe and they tap and they type... and if they don't like what they've created, they can delete with another tap. There is no rubbing out and copying again. You can move the boxes hither and thither to make space for other boxes (i.e., ideas) in between, as your brain generates ideas from connection to connection. Best of all, it DOCUMENTS their thinking in real time so that as the Facilitator or I pass among the children, we can ask to delete a box (i.e., an idea)... or add another... or change one other slightly. 

In 1.5 hours, we can get the children to generate 5 different story lines... and then we pick the one we like best for the children to write into a composition. This gives the kids much confidence. They won't feel stressed by the thought of receiving back a marked composition only to find that after putting in 3 hours into WRITING OUT a story, they've failed on story content.

In essence, it separates out story development from language use. We can thus critique, guide and approve story development BEFORE the children start writing. This means that the children can focus on doing ONE THING at a time well. First, they get the story right. Then, they focus on wordsmithing it.

That's only the START! I can see so many OTHER possibilities that would thrill the kids. Let's not forget too that some research has shown that when people are shown an iPad, the area of the brain that is associated with Love and Affection actually lights up. The kids are gonna be thrilled to get these iPads....

.... until... errrrrr... they realise that there is No Internet Connection (unless I decide to enable it), and there are no Games Apps. Oh dear! I do hope I don't rewire their brains to hate the iPad.

The iPads have silly names too! Sleepy, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy... etc...

Story Map

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