Friday, April 19, 2013

The story progresses....

Throughout this second year of the Westlake High School iPad 1:1, we've begun to wrestle with more complex challenges and assignments that are enabled by the entire school having 1:1 tablets.
Teachers are using iPads in a myriad of ways, whether improving student workflows to using programs that allow them to extend the learning in the classroom.

One app that the campus has integrated into the workflow is eBackpack, which allows our teachers to post assignments electronically, students to retrieve them and return them electronically from their iPads, and teachers to grade them online.   The eBackpack app and website have allowed a smoother process than the campus utilized last year (which involved using WebDavNav and also filters in Gmail to sort assignments).

iMovie has become an important part of some courses like American Sign Language.  ASL Teacher Barbara Vinson uses a combination of iMovie and the new Google Drive app to have her students film video assignments and texts and then submit them to her via Google Drive where she can retrieve or download them.

Junior English teachers are currently working with a new and interesting app, Subtext, which can be used for closer reading of texts.  Teachers or students can embed questions within the text of a work, or have a discussion, tag passages with keywords, and even take polls.    Subtext can either utilize copyright free or public domain materials, or books can be purchased and be imported into the app.
There is a learning curve, but it has interesting possibilities because students can be grouped and share comments within their group or teachers can embed questions into the work.

webinar with Subtext tech support
As part of a Professional Learning Community Project, two of our science teachers experimented with trying a flipped classroom model (using a control group class that didn't flip.)   Because the students have iPads, it was much easier to try that model.  The teacher found that the students in general scored similarly to previous years, but the lower grades were higher than in the past.  And she felt like students benefitted from the increased class time and personal interaction with her as she was able to carve out more time to spend with individual students asking questions and working with them.
And Pre-ap Chemistry teachers have been experimenting with using the Socrative app to informally assess student learning and progress.

English teachers have begun using student blogs for passion-based research and writing now that every student has a device, as well.  Wikis, blogs, Edmodo--all sites where students having continuous access to a device makes teaching with them much more effective because access doesn't have to be "scheduled" when the computer lab is available.  Similarly, the art/ceramics teacher Dawn Delgado is able to incorporate Pinterest into her classroom on a daily basis because students have the device with them--she can build collections of ceramics and technique examples to share with students, organize online collections of student work, etc. and students can either access her collections for examples or create their own boards with examples of pottery and techniques.

Below are just a few of the other apps which teachers have been using or experimenting with this spring:

Prompt Anywhere Plus--turns the iPad into a teleprompter
Geometry Pad--sketching and working with geometrical figures
Texas Reality Check--financial costs throughout Texas
Sketchbook Express--used for mindmapping, for overlaying text over images, etc.
Snapseed--basic Photoshop-like tools for photo editing and color effects
Yahoodash--for economics, stock portfolio app
Shakespeare in Bits--definitions, videoclips to supplement reading of plays
Splashtop--Allows you to remotely access your desktop; making it easy to circulate around room while teaching or while students are presenting
Nearpod--can push out a slideshow to students, but they can write responses which teacher can see and share back out to class via the ipad app
Color Uncovered--science of color for nterior design classes and art classes
iTunes U--teachers are starting to develop some sample iTunes U courses for their classes

Students of course have come up with a variety of creative uses for their iPads as well, from filming their drill team practice dances to photographing their textbooks that aren't online to storyboarding videos to writing their own apps.

It isn't really about the apps used, but about the intentionality of the assignments and how access to information or the functionality of a particular app allows students to work with information in new ways.   What it is ultimately about is teachers willing to investigate, to be learners, and who understand their curriculum and teaching deeply.   That knowledge and experience enriches the use of any software they might engage students with.  

Onward to the remainder of year Two....