1:1 iPad – Week 3: Broadening Horizons

Week 3 of using the iPads, where necessary, in lessons and building their introduction gradually across the curriculum. My Maths class have now been regularly using the iPads for 3 weeks and have come accustomed to their integration. My class are most of the way through the desensitising process although I do still have to be quite firm about when and how they use them and my R.E. project is underway. I believe I am already seeing the positive impact of these devices in the classroom. As I said in my last post this week I wanted to begin introducing the iPads into Literacy lessons and by the end of this week we had been using them in most lessons – where directly planned to assist learning.

The week began, like all others, with a Maths lesson. This week’s topic: Division. My first lesson with methods is always a ‘see how they do it’ lesson so I had no plan to use the iPads this lesson, just the children working on whiteboards to show their understanding. After assessing their understanding I began giving the children almost impossible questions to see how they tackled them and what strategies they used. Probably around half way through the lesson I was asked by a group of children if they could use Padlet. Why? I asked, there is a room full of children doing the same question – what’s the point? They replied to me that they were finding the question challenging and wanted to see how others did it. With such a learning-focussed response how could I refuse? So I quickly threw together a wall and they set to it. Next something happened that I didn’t expect, especially after the first week where they all forgot how to talk (see week 1 post: here.) They started supporting each other by seeing what they uploaded and questioning each other. What have you done here? Why have you done that? They then started moving around the classroom to sit next to other people so they could talk each other through what they’d done!

After this maths has pretty much stayed the same this week, the children have used the iPads for quick and easy access to a calculator (I genuinely don’t have a class set of calculators in my classroom) to check their own work and also it means I print less sheets for extension activities. As these activities do not directly benefit learning they’re only getting a brief mention here. I guess it’s also worth mentioning Friday, where I gave the children the extension challenge of an Nrich problem called X Marks the Spot: When the number x 1 x x x is multiplied by 417 this gives the answer 9 x x x 0 5 7. I didn’t really think anyone would solve this but as I say to my class, the LO isn’t to finish the question, learning generally happens through the process of trying to answer the question. Anyway, about 3 minutes before the end of the lesson one of my girl’s thought she had cracked it, she brought me her answer, I checked it, and she had. As I was now trying to get the rest of the class to pack up (surprisingly difficult as many don’t like leaving before solving the problem ESPECIALLY if someone else in the room has solved it!) And I didn’t really have time to get to the bottom of what she’d done – I asked her if it was strategy or luck, she said a bit of both. Then I gave her an iPad and told her to make a ShowMe explaining what she did which I could check later. Meaning I could really understand what she had done, and she wasn’t having to try and remember a whole day later! You can see her video here:

This week in Literacy we were focussing on writing descriptions and knowing the range of abilities I have lack of vocabulary can be the trickiest part. Everything is either described through colours or size and without a word bank of words some children are left out of their depth. Obviously, teachers create word banks all the time and that was something I considered, however, from recent experiences with children they listen far more to each other than they do to me. Things I suggest are seen as something they might be able to do when they’re an adult, whereas ideas from their peers they could use now. So once again I turned to my good ol’ friend Padlet and created a wall for them to store their ideas.

Created with Padlet

Now, I didn’t actually teach this lesson as it fell on my PPA time but the teacher who did was impressed. As someone who had not used the iPads before she said she was surprised at how seriously the children took using them and how they didn’t use them unnecessarily. She also suggested that she felt it impacted in their writing (which they did with a normal pen/pencil and in their books) as you could see phrases being MagPied that those children wouldn’t normally have used. I found this really interested, especially as I am potentially bias to their impact.

One thing I did feel about their writing was that there wasn’t a great deal of it. They were only given 10 minutes or so on it but I wondered if the time it took getting on to Padlet, writing posts and getting mildly distracted might have effected the volume of vocabulary they produced. Because of this, I decided to try it again but this time give the children an amount of time to write their vocab in notes being aware that we were going to look at each others after and discuss. This gave them the motivation of impressing their peers, and the focus of a time limit just for writing. Following this I gave them a couple of minutes to copy and paste what they’d written into Padlet. We did have some technical issues here where if you didn’t type anything (i.e. just copy and paste) the post didn’t stay once you tapped off it, so some did lose their work but on the whole this was a lot more effective. If you’re interested, the picture they’re describing is this:

Kyrgyz Yurt, Afghanistan Photograph by Mattieu Paley, National Geographic

Kyrgyz Yurt, Afghanistan
Photograph by Mattieu Paley, National Geographic

Here is their next wall:

Created with Padlet

I think you will agree that there is clearly a lot more produced in this time but also that it is quality ideas. From here we then wrote plans for our descriptions, organising our ideas into paragraphs etc. but constantly referring back to the wall for ideas of vocabulary to use. Not only this but as all of their vocab suggestions were digital I was able to quickly copy and paste it into Tagxedo creating a word cloud.

word cloud

If you have not seen a word cloud like this what it does is controls the size of the word it displays by the frequency in which it is mentioned. So the larger words are the ones that lots of children suggested. Now I will admit here, and I did tell the children, that I did tell the computer to ignore certain nouns such as ‘mountains’, ‘clouds’, ‘stars’ which previously dominated the word cloud. What we were left with was a clear picture of really common words, and more adventurous ones, note that 3 of the larger words are colour words! The children were encouraged to use the smaller ones to try and by more adventurous with their writing. I personally was incredibly impressed with the work they created. I’m hoping this week to use Audioboo to get some of them to record themselves reading it. Watch this space.

This week was the first official week of beginning the Great R.E. Project. The first week was all about research so the children were given, 1 between 2, an A4 sheet with 6 QR codes on, these directed the children to appropriate websites for them to find information. On the IWB I displayed the questions they were researching and 4 QR codes, one for each of the religions, which linked to a Padlet wall for them to write the answers which they found. I soon discovered that 4 QR cards, even on a large IWB was tricky to manage, all the children were coming to one space and the codes were close enough that they sometimes scanned the wrong ones! By the end of the week I printed one of each, filling an A4 piece of paper and put them on each side of the room, this helped a lot. The children rose to the challenge of independently researching the information leaving me to focus on their understanding. I did model for them how to copy and paste, as well as how to save images, and after that they were done.

So far the plan seems to be working as expected. Each class now has a wall of information for 4 different religions ready to use apps and websites to illustrate their findings next week! It was during one of these sessions that I had the first person try and download a free app which I had not given them permission to do and continuing to use the iPad after I’d asked everyone to stop. Both of these incidents happened during R.E. on Thursday with a class that wasn’t my own. I would suggest that as they have had the least experience with the iPad they decided to test how serious I was about my expectations for them. As I had previously warned them any incidents like this involved the iPad being taken off them and they being given paper to write their information on from print outs. We will see if this improves with the same class next week.

This week I also decided to use the iPads in P.E.. We are coming to the end of a half term build up of tennis skills and ball control and are ready to begin perfecting our skills. The trouble is the children often see the process as one step e.g. hit it and that is all that’s required. I wanted to combat this to ensure there was more thought and planning involved. We started in the classroom (and also it was torrential rain at the time) with a boy volunteering to throw a large pompom into the air and catch it again. I asked the children what steps he was going to have to do to allow him to complete the task I’d asked and the majority said ‘Throw it and catch it’, some did elaborate a little with things such as ‘watch the ball’. So I used an app called ‘SloPro’ to record his action and then we watched it back at -75% speed. After watching it through once they discussed what they had noticed happen. Now we saw a range of things (after some questioning on my part):

  1. He bends his knees
  2. He lowers his hands slightly
  3. He pushes the ball up
  4. He releases the ball when it reaches head height
  5. His eyes follow the ball
  6. He gets his arms ready to catch
  7. When the ball hits his arms he lowers them
  8. He grasps his hands together
  9. He stops the motion at waist height

All this from a 10 second video clip! I was so impressed with the discussions that we were having because then it led to discussions of why we sometimes miss and memories of missing the ball. By this time the rain had cleared and we got changed and went out for some ‘hands on’ practise. I also took a gamble and took some iPads out with us, in a sealable box incase of rain, to allow us to record some live action. We haven’t had a chance to look at this footage yet but I’m planning to begin next week’s session this way, especially focussing on those who missed.

Unfortunately I can’t show you any of the videos here, as we do not yet have permission from parents for internet usage, but if I remember next week I’ll get the children to record me and then I can share that next week.

My focus for next week is to continue using them in this same way but ensuring the children become more adept at using them. This will mean that they spend less time fussing about functionality e.g. persistently tapping trying to get the ‘Paste’ option and more time reaping the learning benefits. I also have parents evening this week so wonder if they will mention anything about their usage in class.

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