Thursday, 3 January 2013

Ever considered using your iPad in class?

Using iPad in class
Found yourself on the nice list this year? Finally got that iPad that you’ve wanted for a while now?

You don’t need us to describe the excitement − if you’re anything like me then you would’ve spent most of Christmas Day loading all of those games and goodies you’ve had your eye on.

After playing around with it for hours I began to consider the ways that the iPad could help me in my lessons.

I’m an English teacher at an academy school in London and although my students show great enthusiasm in my class, their attention does waiver. Unfortunately, the current batch of school iPad resources are restricted to the ICT suites, but what if they weren’t, how would I use the iPad for teaching and learning…?

Within the wonderful world of English Literature, discussion and debate are integral to the learning process. Up to now I’ve found index cards with students’ names to be most effective; selecting students to chair discussions, answer questions and perform a variety of other speaking tasks at random and without volunteering.

Over time, I adapted this format to simplify and expedite the selection process, replacing cards with dice. The problem in most classrooms comes down to participation. It’s a well-documented fact that students learn more effectively and retain more when they are active participants in the learning process. Using the dice-roll technique, I’ve managed to overcome several barriers:

  1. establish a convenient avenue for looking past overeager students who dominate classroom discussions
  2. remove the repetitiveness and potential awkwardness associated with calling on non-participative students
  3. create a sense of anticipation and attention as any student could be called upon
  4. generate a wider variety of student responses.
There are many techniques we use to encourage participation but consider the possibilities of using an iPad or iOS device.

Using Twitter in the classroomTwitter, for example: what if every student had their own twitter account and connected to their fellow students in their class. Tweets could be sent in real-time, providing a platform to share and comment on content related to their lesson. Students could then connect with other learners at schools in their borough, in their county, across the country or even globally. Twitter could also be used to create discussion threads or a method of running polls to generate ideas and questions that arise in class. Using specific hash tags, their tweets can be archived, enabling the teacher to track progression and the level of involvement from each student.

As well as social media networks, blogs are fast becoming an invaluable source of information for many online users so it seems strange that we’re not using them in the learning process. Imagine if at the end of each lesson a student was allocated the task of recapping the day’s learning and posting the next lesson topic and homework assignment on a central blog. Their peers would then be able to comment on the post and add anything they felt was relevant from the lesson, but also discuss key points and answer questions that they may have been reluctant to ask in class.

Blogs can also be a way of engaging parents, enabling them to involve themselves in their child’s education. By summarising the key sections of each lesson, parents can follow their students’ progression through the syllabus, helping them to encourage their children once they’re out of the school environment. Parents may also want to consider the use of an online classroom supplement − in a similar way to hiring a personal tutor but at a fraction of the cost, students can access online video tutorials via their iPad or iOS device, at a time that suits them (here’s an example for GCSE revision). 

iPads can serve as a hub that you as the teacher can use to share, monitor, and track content. So, whether you have a classroom full of iPads or just the one, think creatively and try something different this New Year!

Get involved!
Technology is quickly becoming the future for our younger generation; the way they consume information has changed dramatically so it makes sense for our teaching techniques to change too. These are just a few ideas but I hope this article will serve as a point of interest to widen the conversation and encourage you to share your ideas and comments.

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