And I do love Esquimalt High School!
Recently our Technology Committee at EHS came together to plan a morning of professional development. We brainstormed our passions and volunteered to offer workshops based on survey results from a staff meeting. In all there were 10 sessions offered. I focused on 2 topics: the single iPad classroom, and student blogging to showcase their learning. As I have a lot to share about each topic I have decided to focus this post on the iPad workshop.
My approach for the morning was to highlight how a teacher could use a single iPad as a tool to enhance their teaching and support some of our most vulnerable students. I began by sharing my experiences with Explain Everything (see English 12 Writing Reflection with Explain Everything post) and how I’ve used it to support public speaking and reflect student learning in various activities. I then showed how this year I am using the app to create mini lessons or tutorials to publish to my You Tube channel. I want to give my students access to my teaching whenever their learning calls for it so I’ve begun with a thesis statement screencast – a short, concise, and helpful video that summarizes my thesis lesson and provides a few additional examples and activities. To date I have received great feedback from my students. They appreciate the chance to review a lesson at their convenience, be given some additional practice, or to just be able to pause, rewind and restart a tutorial – something they simply cannot do in the classroom.
I then shared my experience using iBook as an adaptation for one of my designated students. My English 11 class has been studying Of Mice and Men and tracking excerpts that reflect the foreshadowing of a major theme in the book. Students are asked to record these quotes in a t-chart and then comment on what the quote could possibly be foreshadowing. These quotes will all eventually be used in their essay at the conclusion of the unit. One particular student’s IEP requires that he receive access to several supports, namely a word processor, spell check support, e-text options, a peer reader, and a reduced number of questions (in this case quotes). His written expression and spelling challenges are a barrier to his learning in the English classroom. To meet his learning needs I provided him with the single iPad and iBook edition of our text to complete the assignment. If you’re not familiar with the functions of iBook then you’re in for a treat. Students are able to highlight passages or words and gain instant access to some amazing functions which include a dictionary, a note pad which allows you to annotate your highlighted work, an online dictionary, and a keyword search function. Furthermore, iBook has a text to speak function to provide an audio rendering of any highlighted passage. This particular student found these tools quite helpful to say the least. As other students recorded several pages of charted notes, this student was able to quickly highlight and paste quotes, type his thoughts (with instant spell check support), search the entire novel for similar quotes (keyword search function), and utilize the text to speak option when he felt like it. His feedback was that he felt at ease and in his element using the technology.
I then included my use of twitter as a means to broaden our classroom environment. I shared a recent lesson to reflect how this can be done. My English 12 class recently viewed a great video by Victoria SLAM poet Jeremy Loveday. Jeremy is an Esquimalt alumni and a talented writer and performer. He recently released a moving piece challenging men everywhere to end violence against women:
We watched the video together and had a lengthy discussion questioning Jeremy’s motivation for writing such an honest and meaningful poem. We then decided to tweet Jeremy and see if he’d connect with us and perhaps answer some of our questions. To our surprise not only did he respond but he actually sent us a lengthy email (so much better than just 140 characters!). The opportunity to invite an author in to our classroom and gain virtually instant connectivity to him was great for the class to witness. The poem, our lesson, and their learning became deeper. Students were able to connect the literature, in this case a SLAM poem, to the real world. I am already adding some of my favorite authors to my twitter feed in hopes that this can happen again in the future.
I concluded the workshop by sharing my experiences with Apple TV. I love Apple TV for several reasons. First it provides great teacher mobility. I am not tied to my desk or at the whiteboard. Where ever I go I can take the device with me and with that I am able to keep my students’ focus a lot longer. I move around the room, between desks, near students and away from them, all to keep them on their toes and keep things fresh. This leads to my second reason for loving this product: becoming mobile I am able to glance over my students’ shoulders and get an instantaneous assessment of their learning at work. There’s no collecting assignments, marking them, and returning them the next day, 24 hours after the meaningful learning has occurred. I am able to snap a photo of their work, mirror it to the front of the class, and share student work as it’s happening. This brings me to my third reason for loving Apple TV, now that my students know that I am mobile and have the ability to celebrate their learning (by mirroring it to the front of the class), they tend to be more accountable for their work. For the most part students are excited about the opportunity to instantly share their ideas and this translates in to increased engagement and motivation. The discussions we generate from looking at their own work in this immediate fashion have been more meaningful and helpful to their learning than in previous years of my practice. Apple TV has been a game changer. The combination of an LCD (with HDMI capabilities), an iPad, and the Apple TV console supports a dynamic learning environment for both myself and my students.
Please do not hesitate to contact me to further discuss this workshop. I had to scale things down due to time constraints. Many colleagues I have chatted with feel that an iPad is only a useful learning tool if everyone in the room has one in their hands. This is not the case. iPads are so much more than a means to access great apps and I feel like my workshop presented a few of these options to educators.