Thursday, March 24, 2011

A week with the new apps

I must say that at the end of last week, I did go a bit crazy with purchasing and uploading a big number of new apps to the iPods.  I was so enthusiastic due to the children in my class really taking on board what I was saying about the purpose of the iPods in the classroom and how they thought they could impact or improve their learning.  I had already gathered a list of apps that I was quite keen to get (while on the ICT Conference) along with some other tried and tested apps.  I spent the majority of the weekend syncing and updating the software on the iPods, then got completely carried away with arranging the apps into different folders so that the children would be able to locate what they needed immediately, rather than sifting through 53 apps!  I sorted them as follows:  Spelling, Maths - Basic Facts, Maths - Decimals and Fractions, Infusion Learning, Publishing Tools, Music and Utilities.  I immediately saw the benefits of this on Monday when I was working with the children because it streamlined what I was doing - there was no fumbling!

During our language time, the children discovered many features within the apps, including a voice activated tool that they could use when researching their animals for their information writing task.  This is incredibly useful if they are unsure of the correct spelling.  It also emphasised the need for speaking slowly and clearly.  Secondly, the Dictionary was equally useful - finding the meaning of unknown or unseen words as well as 'saying' the pronunciation which is a real bonus!  I also have a number of word games, including 'Boggle' and 'Scrabble' which can be multi-player games.  Another aspect is for the children to become self critical on their written language work - they need to read aloud using the 'Voice Memo' function, word for word, then listen to it, make any amendments and try again.  They quickly saw that this was a very effective way of immediately recognising missing words or sentences that simply don't make sense!  (we are all pretty good at skim reading and adding words as we speak)
Checking the meaning of unknown words

Checking the meaning of unseen text

Listening to the pronunciation of the word

Using the TVNZ app to summarise National and World News

Skimming, scanning and summarising

Checking the meaning of unseen text when working independently

My maths class was equally impressed with the new apps - Fractions and Decimals is one of the hot spots that I have been working with my children on.  Not only that, I have been teaching exponents and square roots with two of my groups - the scientific calculator in the utilities is truly unbelievable!  The children had no idea that when you turned the calculator 'landscape' it changed from a standard calculator to a scientific one!
Using a scientific calculator

Decimals and fractions

Decimals and Fractions

Basic Facts

Basic Facts

Scientific Calculator

Finally, I simply cannot get over the level of engagement in learning (especially those who have seemed unmotivated or not productive with their time) - the photos really do say it all.  After the planning of the logistics is done, the implementation makes it all worthwhile.  My aim for the week was to have the iPods fully utilised all day, every day - I have achieved that goal!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The First Day

As you can probably imagine, the children in my class were overwhelmed with excitement when they were finally allowed to 'touch' the iPods.  My first step was to observe the children and see what they thought of the basic apps that were installed.  They discussed and rated each one.  This gave me the starting point of which direction I was heading in as far as apps and the usage or purpose of them.  The part that amazed me was the focus that the children had.  They took it very seriously and were brutally honest about the apps (which was really great for me).  The part that I thought was really great was that they were so concerned with 'damaging' them, that they took it upon themselves to get clean towels to cradle the iPods.  Just look at the smiles on their faces!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The big idea and the BIGGER questions!

In 2010, I viewed a short media clip about a school in Escondido, California, that had used iPod touches in their school with inspiring results.  After much discussion and preparation for my BoT presentation late last year, it was approved that I would be able to run a trial of iPod touches in my classroom to see the impact that it would have on students learning.  15 were purchased in February 2011 for this purpose.

The next stage was to ensure that logistics were organised.  This meant finding a means of storing, charging and syncing these.  The first step was to get them laser engraved for security purposes.  I purchased multi-USB chargers and protective covers, and set up one of our old laptop storage facilities with the iPods.

The next question on my mind was 'How do I logistically update the apps and what copyright ramifications are involved?'  I searched EVERYWHERE on the WWW only to discover that there were different views and opinions on what was 'allowed'.  I then phoned 'Apple' and they assured me that syncing the devices from one centralised laptop or computer was the way to go.

My next question was 'How am I going to do this?'  I spoke to the IT Technician at my school and he set up an itunes account on one of the older laptops, so that itunes gift cards could be used as a means of purchasing apps and it could be easily monitored.  The biggest issue that I was concerned about was that I wanted to start with a system that wouldn't fail if for some reason I was no longer working at the school.

So, the next big question was 'How am I going to implement this effectively in my classroom?'   Luckily, I was able to go on an ICT Conference in late February, where my primary focus was to source as much information and ideas related to this.  I think I succeeded!