Content taken from ComputeEd Gazzette….
Tablets in the Classroom
Computing has taken on a new face, due to the popularity of mobile devices which Steve Jobs referred to as post-PC-era products. Some researchers feel the new tablet devices* represent a change in consumer behavior: It’s not just the device, it’s the social behavior; it’s a social trend.
School districts intending to use the new technology must decide between the two market leaders: Apple’s iPad (running Apple iOS) or the Google Android tablet (from Samsung, Motorola, Hewlett Packard and others). Proponents for digitizing classrooms believe it could eventually save schools as much as $3 billion a year in textbook costs, etc. Others caution that drawbacks exist, such as ongoing software and/or hardware support; surviving ownership by toddlers and teens; infrastructure costs, e.g., replacing broken tablets…
On the assumption that integration of digital technologies into the learning environment and embedding these technologies into a teacher’s pedagogical practice can have a positive impact on student engagement, motivation and attitudes, we have selected two iPad entries that merited awards in this year’s EDDIES:
For teachers struggling to select from among the thousands of educational apps for the iPad, eSpark Learning has a solution: The program, designed for ages 4-12, offers personalized learning plans embedded with links to relevant third party educational apps (available/downloadable from the iTunes Store).
Students are given “quests” to complete. Assessment tools enable teachers and parents to see reports and recommend areas for improvement. eSpark’s approach is the following: Diagnose learning level; enable academic goal setting; recommend the best educational games, apps, podcasts, & eBooks; challenge students with daily quests; report & celebrate success.
The apps that accompany the learning plans are graphically appealing, comprehensive and creative. For example, in the Language Standards Grade 4 unit:
- BrainPOP provides daily movies that are designed for kids, using multimedia, educational cartoons to teach Science, Social Studies, English, Math, and more
- iTooch English Grade 5, which is comprised of 44 chapters/lessons, has examples, illustrations, practice questions and tests, and utilizes 3 thematic units – grammar, verbs, vocabulary & spelling.
Children will find the design of the learning plans easy to follow, and much is to be learned from the multi-subject, interactive educational activities provided by the apps.
This week’s release of the “Race to the Top” (RttT) District Competition guidelines have given teachers and administrators a lot to chew on. RttT, a program sponsored by the Department of Education, offers a 4-year grant to winning districts in an amount ranging from $5 to $40 million, depending on student population. According to the Department’s press release, one key facet of a quality district proposal is the demonstrated attempt to “personalize learning, close achievement gaps and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and their careers.” Sound familiar? We think it does.
The Department’s emphasis on personalized learning and acknowledgment of the transformative effect of digital learning has the eSpark Team positively tickled. On the competition’s scoring rubric, several components perfectly coincide with our mission here at eSpark. Out of a 200-point scale, these are: personalized learning (40 points), a vision for reform (40 points), and continuous improvement, which includes having a strategy and performance measures for long-term improvement (30 points). We believe eSpark’s program can aid districts in improving quality in each of these components– which comprise over half the total grading scale.
eSpark’s innovative iPad program enables students to learn at their level, creating a personalized curriculum for each student based on diagnosed learning needs and aligned with Common Core standards. Our platform’s dashboard allows teachers and administrators to actively track student progress throughout the program with ease. Once a student completes their first eSpark mission and demonstratively improves in their goal domain (typically growing 1.4 grade levels in only 8 weeks), their work isn’t over— they can start a new mission at a higher level, or shift focus to another academic area that needs improvement. The use of the iPad not only easily engages students in rigorous work, but also gives them a technological upper-hand, allowing young students to become confident experts in the technology.
As the Department’s release mentions further, “The program also offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work.” So, why not partner with eSpark? We’ll help personalize learning for your students, track improvement, and improve your chances in the RttT competition. Best of luck to all applicants, it’s an exciting opportunity for blended learning advocates and education reformers alike!
eSpark team members Shuaib, Sarah, and Elsbeth took to downtown Chicago this past week to exhibit at the 2012 Midwest Conference on Differentiated Instruction hosted by SDE (Staff Development for Educators). The conference ran from Sunday to Wednesday and was a gathering place for over 1,600 teachers and administrators from all over the Midwest.
Educators attended morning and afternoon sessions including “An Introduction to the Differentiated Classroom: How It All Comes Together,” “Using iPads & iPods in the Classroom,” “Using Technology to Encourage Early Readers & Writers,” and “Common Core State Standards in a Nutshell.” In between these informative and enlightening presentations, the eSpark team was able to meet many of the attendees and learn about their schools’ current usage of technology. It’s always great to meet teachers from all over the country who are eager to learn about new programs and methods of improving their students’ educational experience.
In our previous post on this series, we talked about ways to nurture your kids’ creative side using just an iPad, some cleverly-made apps.
Why have kids do creative projects? It gets boring for kids to just do worksheets over and over again; it’s important to have some sort of creative outlet through which they can think critically about what they learn. Creative projects can simultaneously challenge young kids to apply disparate concepts to specific scenarios and also synthesize situations where it could be applicable.
Here are some cool ways to motivate your kids to tap into their creative side:
- Animations with Toontastic (FREE)
Toontastic makes it fun and easy to make short, animated movies.
Project Have them create a film that features a similar theme to what they’re reading in class. For a more mathematically-inclined project, have your students create a film explaining a concept in math with their own words.
Example: Jose is reading Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes for his 3rd grade class. The overarching message he identifies in this book is hope in the face of daunting adversities. He makes a Toontastic relating to a similar situation in his own life.
- iMotion HD (FREE)
If you’ve ever seen Chicken Run or Wallace and Gromit, you’ve likely seen some cool claymation going on. These films are usually created using a process known as stop motion capture.
Project Create a movie about a topic they know a lot about/are passionate about and ask them to connect that topic to something they’re learning in school.
Example: Fourth-grader RJ loves to learn about cars, the different models of cars, racing cars etc. In school, he’s learning about calculating rates. He made a movie in iMotion about the rate at which his toy cars move.
- GarageBand for the iPad ($4.99)
Jazz up their learning time a bit by having them create a song about something they learned.
Project This will probably work best with topics/concepts that might require a lot of rote memorization (like Latin suffixes/prefixes, state abbreviations).
These are just some creative projects you can do with your students or children to get their thinking gears going.
Have any other projects to add? Leave your feedback in the comment form below.
As a child in elementary school, I looked forward most to doing creative projects for class. It’s a lot of fun making videos, writing stories, drawing scenes, coding a simple web site to show what you’ve learned, after all.
Kids today get all the fun with so many cool tools at their disposal to create projects for school, with HD cameras, high-quality mics, iPads, editing apps.
In this part of the series, we’ll go over some ways to tap into their inner writer/illustrator:
1. Use Doodle Buddy (FREE) for brainstorming
As a visual thinker, I normally brainstorm ideas with little doodles and light illustrations.
Doodle Buddy is great for this very purpose: free-hand sketching of story ideas.
Kids can draw free-hand, add text, add shapes, even stamp their doodle buddy creations with clip art if they want to (though why you’d want to do that in a brainstorm session is beyond me, but that’s besides the point).
If they’re working on telling a story through a more motion-oriented medium like an animation, they can use this to create a preliminary storyboard.
2. Use the Writers App ($0.99) to flesh out ideas
Most stories have a few elements in common: a plot (unless you’re a modernist), some characters, a premise, etc. The Writers App makes it easy to organize story ideas with its well-designed interface.
Your student or child can type in the synopsis of the story they’re writing, include the premise of the story, and plan out characters as well. They can be as detailed as they want to be in describing the characters as there are several options (Role, Strengths, Weaknesses, Biography, etc.) in which to flesh out the persona of a character. It’s useful for both aspiring young writers and writers who are a bit more seasoned.
3. Making a story book with StoryBuddy ($7.99)
After they’re done planning out the story, they can finally put it together using the StoryBuddy app.
StoryBuddy is an easy to use app that lets kids make a storybook using the iPad. They can arrange the elements of the storybook to their heart’s content, everything from text to pictures they’ve taken using the iPad camera.
After they’re done putting together the book, they can then share it with their teachers, friends, and other people.
In the latest edition of The NMC Horizon Report, several emerging technologies are highlighted that are projected to enter into the mainstream education world in the next few years. Based on the continual increase of the capabilities of modern technology, these tools and services must be harnessed and implemented in the classroom to “engage students on a deeper level”.
The report remarks on the newly widespread expectation of being able to work, play, and study anywhere at anytime. Learning is no longer confined within the walls of the classroom, as the increase of mobile devices and tablets such as the iPad have extended the realm of possibilities concerning how and where learning can take place. Previously, the use of mobile devices in the classroom has been frowned upon. Although bans on cell phones are still in place, “K-12 schools are increasingly seeing the potential of mobile devices—and noting that not only are the devices themselves less expensive than most laptops, they need less infrastructure to support them. All of these changes have moved mobiles to the forefront of technology planning for many school districts”.
Additionally, iPads are now being viewed as innovative tools to enhance 1:1 learning as suites of apps and books can be chosen and utilized differently according to each student’s unique learning style and skill level. The report remarks on the high demand for personalized learning “as one-size-fits-all teaching methods are neither effective nor acceptable for today’s diverse students. Technology can and should support individual choices about access to materials and expertise, amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching”.
Another emerging technology, game-based learning, incorporates the potential of tablets in the classroom with the proven success of utilizing games as educational tools. Students’ high level of engagement while playing educational games is because “they are motivated to do better, get to the next level, and succeed… On the surface, what makes games like this more engaging to students is that the end goal of learning is packaged in the form of an exciting, alternate reality”. Recently, the release of educational games in the form of apps has further increased the capabilities of tablets as instructional instruments.
The concerns of mobile devices providing distractions and disturbances in the classrooms are finally beginning to melt away, as “the vast potential of these devices for learning will begin to outweigh concerns”.
Source: “The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition.” New Media Consortium (2011). Web. 26 May 2011.