Tag: iPads

Literacy Amplified: Using Technology Tools Effectively

Literacy Amplified: Using Technology Tools Effectively

Technology has the ability to enhance learning with positive results. That said, we need to be careful not to assume all technology is good technology or that just having access to technology automatically equates to higher learning outcomes. Strong leaders in education carefully select technology tools and implement strategies so that the tool will not distract or take away from the learning goals, which can easily happen.  -Elizabeth Moje-

I can completely relate to that piece of wisdom, as we have explored 1:1 iPads in our primary classes. Sometimes classrooms can be overzealous in the use of technology, and the point of its use gets lost in using this “shiny tool”. We’ve had to reflect, is it the app/tool that drives our instruction or is it the curriculum? And I think to refine our choices through this filter (the curriculum) is helping us to make better decisions when selecting technology tools.

Studies by Harold Wenglinsky and other researchers from the US Department of Education have indicated that there are criteria that we must consider in our decisions with effective technology use in the classroom. Educators have to ask themselves the following:

  1. Does it elicit higher-order thinking around the contenttechnology-in-class or just an over consumption of content?
  2. Are their social interactions between students, which help build student knowledge. Collaboration is a key skill in developing digital literacies, so keep that in mind when selecting tools.
  3. Does it provide quality over quantity when it comes to practicing skills so that critical thinking is being developed?
  4. What is the “value-added” element of the tool?  Is instruction more personalized and/or differentiated; and can the students develop a more sophisticated understanding of the content?

 

When it comes to developing literacy skills, we have to remember that whatever the tool we choose, it should augment what we already know is critical in developing good readers. So what do we know about good readers?

  • They are active, with clear goals in mind and a purpose for reading.
  • They are constantly evaluating the text, asking questions and making predictions.
  • They can peruse the text carefully, noticing the importance of text features and structure.
  • As they read, they are engaged in making meaning of the text, constructing and revising their understanding.
  • They are making decisions as they read, reflecting on what to read carefully, what to read quickly, what not to read, what to reread, and so on.

When it comes to good writing, we want to make sure the tool reinforces what we know is vital to cultivate in our learners:

  • Writing that is focused, with an obvious topic or idea.
  • Ideas that are detailed and flow clearly.
  • The student engages in a process of revision, elaboration, and editing so that the writing improves.
  • The student sees themselves as an author and is aware that their writing is meant to be shared and appreciated.

Keeping in mind, what we know about good literacy instruction, then we can use technology to amplify the learning in our classrooms. I love what Eric Johnson says about using technology in his instruction, as he explains how teachers can discern what makes for enhanced literacy teaching and learning with technology.

fullsizerender-50
These four-year-olds work together to create a simple story. Each selected a character and then recorded their characters’ expressions to create a dialogue between them.

Considering this, when we want to amplify the results of our literacy programs, we need to make sure that students aren’t sitting alone, swiping mindlessly through an app or game, but instead, we have a clearly defined purpose for using the tool, and then demonstrate how to use these tools through a Think Aloud or Read-aloud. We may have to model how to work collaboratively in order to apply certain literacy strategies and/or complete a project.  This could include even how students should be sharing their knowledge, and reflecting how well they are doing in meeting the standards of the task.

In our classrooms, we want our students engaged and their learning enhanced as they work with technology. Even at home, I’m a huge advocate for showing students and their families how iPads are tools and not toys so that there is more thought put into the use of this technology. We want our students to be empowered and innovative so that there is a shift from consumption to creation when it comes to content.

So before you start app smashing or sit your student down to a website, ask yourself what impact will this technology REALLY make in the overall learning? And if you can’t identify that, then move away from the “shiny tool” syndrome and take more time to either find a more appropriate tool or use a time-tested traditional method to meet the learning goals.

 

Supporting Inquiry with Apps

Supporting Inquiry with Apps

Our school does a BYOD  iPad program for grades 3-5, and then we have sets of iPads that are shared with EY-P2. Using iPads for learning has been really beneficial but it’s not all rainbows and flowers. It takes experience and thoughtfulness when using apps because sometimes you spend more time on learning the technology vs. actually doing the project you intended. This happened twice last year for me while using Padlet to do a collaborative mindmap as a part of a formative assessment and then keeping a digital journal using Microsoft’s OneNote.  It was a love-hate relationship, and I learned a lot from the experience.

So now as I support teachers with using apps in their classroom I have to think about how long it might take to teach a new application and if the benefits of the learning outweigh this loss of instruction. Here are some apps that I like that I think can support some of our upcoming Units of Inquiry:

EY 4: People can help our communities by working in different ways.

  • Inventioneers and Busy Water. I love these apps because they have a great STEM link for little ones as they learn how to design and build structures in order to solve problems. Busy water is less challenging, in my opinion, but both games are engaging.inventioneers

KG:  Living things have specific needs in order to grow and stay healthy.

  • Virry: This is a great interactive game with “live” animals (I presume in a zoo setting), in which you get to feed animals like lions or meerkats. The free version just lets the kids do limited basic things whereas if you get a subscription, you have more engagement and learn more about the animals. I don’t mind paying for subscriptions when more content is added, but I haven’t seen that yet. However, it is a very unique game and it is worth the .99 USD for a month of its use.

virry

P1: Personal histories help us to reflect on who we are and where we’ve come from.

  • Aging Booth or Old Fart Booth: The kids LOVE these! This apps give them the impression of what they could look like as an elderly person. And the apps are FREE–my favorite word!

aging-booth

P2: Maps can be used to help people locate places.

 Google Maps and Google Earth are the most obvious choices. And although there are other great apps out there , after reading this website, I think that Google Maps is so rich, there is no reason why other apps are really needed. Quality over quantity! However, teachers could recommend other apps like National Girrafic and Tiny Countries for home learning.

smarty-pins

P3: Understanding movement enhances our creativity.

We have had a lot of conversation about which way this inquiry could go. The Arts teachers will obviously focus on dance and expressing movement visually. The last unit was about covered content like body systems and nutrition so I thought Grade 3 could consider movement in terms of exercise and think about apps like Charity Miles to link creative ways to encourage movement. But if you consider movement with a perspective as a scientist or engineer, then that opens up a variety of other applications. Here are some ideas:

  • Scratch JrHopscotch , or Logotacular: coding comes to mind as a neat way to think about programming movement. However, it really depends upon the teacher and their skill level in order to guide students, but there are a myriad of coding apps (more than I listed here), so it would be easy to differentiate for learners.
  • Simple Machines: I am a fan of the Tinybop developer apps. This one is quite nice but I do think Inventioneers could more engaging for this age group; although the Amazing Alex app would be my first choice–if only it was offered for iPads. Sigh..

charity-miles

I’ve already blogged about using technology in the upcoming P4 unit: Getting Modern about Ancient Times. And P5’s next unit (Humans express their ideas and use persuasion to influence others.) focusing on using surveys, which they use Excel for their results; so their technology concentration is on using spreadsheets and converting data into graphical representations with that program.

But hopefully sharing these ideas will help inspire you about what and how you can use apps in your classroom. I really interested in others’ ideas if any other apps come to mind when looking at our Central Ideas for our inquiries. Please share in the comments below!

Happy Apping!

 

 

 

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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