Monday, 11 February 2013

Simple ways to use iPads in lessons

So a few weeks back I blogged about a lesson we'd done using the iPads, and tried to give the impression it happened every lesson when clearly it doesn't! Fraud that I am, I got away with it, to the tune of nearly a thousand hits apparently. Next step: To set up my own religion.

I got several nice comments, and realised that a few people were interpreting this as a failsafe lesson using iPads, which wasn't quite the way I'd intended it. It worked for those students at that time of day. My point about iPads is really that they enhance learning if used as a tool, and in the same way that there are thousands of ways to skin a cat (or eat a horse apparently!) when it comes to teaching a lesson, so the variety of ways in which an iPad can be used is likewise pretty much infinite. Today, I tried another way...

Stage One:

We started the lesson with a quick Socrative quiz to see if we could establish prior learning about some of the concepts they would be encountering during their unit on representations across different media platforms, which yielded surprisingly little. Spot check number one told me I needed to cover the basic concepts and get some definitions first...

Stage Two:
We then divided the class into random groups of four using a fab little app called RandomMaster: I've pre-entered the students' names in there, and it simply randomizes them as necessary, in front of their eyes on the AppleTV, and there's no arguing, and no bloody lollipop sticks! Into groups they go, which they're more than used to by now, and to each group I assigned Expert status. I assigned each group to research and define two key terms for the rest of the class (though I didn't tell them who would be presenting the definitions), and emailed them a variety of documents which were differentiated to help with their tasks, though they were free to search for additional or corroborative material on the internet. One student I kept out of the fray. She is one of the bright ones in the class with a knack for clear, student-friendly explanations, so I gave her the job of putting together the final document which we would share as a result of the lesson. While the students were researching and formulating their ideas and definitions, she was preparing to put the final document together by interrogating each group's ideas, working out if she could understand them, asking questions if she couldn't understand etc. All in all, it helped her clarify her thinking and theirs, by getting rid of some of the vaguaries that they are prone to settling for in Year 10.

Stage Three:
Another random selection picked out the people to present their definitions to the class, and off they went. Some good, some not so good. Time for another little cool app: Traffic Light! A nifty simple little app that lets students tell me whether they understand or not immediately. If they don't, I want a question out of them. Several questions later we had refined the definition, addressed several misconceptions, and had a class full of greens: Huzzah and hurrah, as the writers of Blackadder would have said. We can move on. Our basic concepts covered, my assisting student finalised her note and tweeted it to the class using Evernote, and they then simply integrated it into one of their own notes for the lesson. Evernote is another of those fabulous apps which has been spread ad infinitum on Twitter, but for those of you unaware of its fabulousness and potential, here are a few of the basics it does superbly:

  1. Cloud-based apps, accessible on any device which connects to the internet
  2. Note-taking can be done through typing or dictation
  3. Pictures from the computer, camera roll or camera itself can be fully integrated, as can audio recordings, word documents, PDFs...
  4. Notes can be shared across a variety of platforms, including Twitter, and then integrated into your own notebooks
  5. Notes can be put into specific notebooks to help organisation, or tagged to appear when searching for a number of different topics
And that list comes nowhere near doing it justice.

Stage Four:
Extended learning work: Each student has to exemplify one of the key concepts we've just defined to show how well they understand it, by finding an example and analysing it. They are helped with cue questions which are differentiated so as to provide writing frames for some, and extension questions for others, and again these are emailed out to the whole class. They choose which resources will help them most effectively. Students undertake the task using whatever apps they feel work best for them, and today they went for a variety, from Evernote to Popplet to Explain Everything, all of which I have blogged about elsewhere, and all of which allowed them to show learning in a way which suited them individually. Did they all make progress? Certainly. Was it an easy lesson to set up? Yes. Once the students are used to the tools, I'm finding this sort of thing gets easier and easier as we go, as does the ability to change course in the middle of the lesson. And at every stage, the variety of AfL tools available help me ensure that nobody is hiding, and that everyone has to understand. A quick Socrative plenary, an Exit Ticket today (single thunk question to test the depth of their understanding, plus a feedback mechanism telling me how well the students feel they managed to understand the material themselves), and I'm ready to diagnose the answers quickly, and plan the next lesson...

For anyone interested, here are a few quick tutorials about some of the software mentioned above. If it's not here, it's so easy my mum could work it out!

Socrative tutorial

Popplet tutorial

Explain Everything - Forgive the video: Boring I know.