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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Educational Applications in the Classroom

For this entire course we have spent a significant amount of time exploring and researching applications for mobile devices that can be used in the classroom in varying capacities. Our assignments for this week included selecting ten mobile learning applications for our students and the. Creating a lesson plan or presentation explaining how we would implement at least two applications in the classroom. After significant research I decided to create a lesson plan using the  application STEM Curiosity School and Google Drive. The idea is that I (the teacher) would supply the kids with the materials necessary for any of the seven lab assignments. The students would select which lab assignment they would like to complete in their small groups using the STEM Curiosity School application. As they work, they would all access a shared Jigsaw worksheet in Google Drive. In my classroom I like to give the students as much choice as possible so that they take   ownership of their learning. 

I have always been a supporter of an increase in the amount of technology integrated in the classroom. One way to increase technology use is to put the devices (mobile or otherwise) in the hands of students as often as possible. Through this class I have gained insight on different ways I can use my iPads on a more regular (and structured) basis with my students. I loved that the final project provided me with the opportunity to create a lesson plan that I can use in my classroom that will use my iPads in a more structured manner. If I were to tweak this course, it would be to add more assignments or discussions like the final project. While the application of the week discussion was valuable, it would be nice to know how everyone would use or could use some of the apps in the classroom. Same with the assignments of top applications. I would add a section for us to note how an application could be used in the classroom. All in all i found this to be a valuable course and I look forward to applying what I have learned in y classroom during the 2013-2014 school year. 

PS: This blog post was done on my phone from the BWI tarmac. My plane was SIGNIFICANTLY delayed and I figured what better use of my time and mobile device!  I apologize for any typos since they are hard to locate and correct. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Are There Educational Appls For My Learners?

This week in my graduate course we are exploring applications that can be used in the classroom with students.  At this time I have downloaded a number of applications to my student iPads for my students to use and explore, but I have yet to create any significant lessons or activities around any particular application.  My hope is that at the end of this assignment I will have a few ideas of how I can do just that and a list of ten easy to integrate and use STEM applications for iPads (and middle school students).  

During the 2012 - 2013 school year I used the iPads with my students as much as I could, which was still not as frequently as they should have been used.  First, I did not have an Apple ID or the ability to download applications until January (half way through the school year).  Second, I was limited on time when it came to exploring and previewing applications for the classroom (content and safety) and then cloning my iPads (we are talking at least 8 hours of work.)  So ultimately I found a few applications that I felt were appropriate for my classroom, cloned the iPads, and then created an opportunity for the students to explore and play.  During the second semester I created rotating STEM centers for my students to participate in when we were between units.  These centers (click here to read all about them in a previous post) allow the students the opportunity to explore ANYTHING related to STEM.  For the Game On! center the students can sign out an iPad and play/explore with any of the applications on the iPad.  Normally I like to have more structure to an activity, but by allowing the students the freedom on the iPads I was able to observe what they used the most and what they liked about the different applications.  This way I will be able to determine what I can turn into a lesson activity and what I may want to remove all together from my iPads.  

As for my thoughts on iPads in the classroom...
I recently took a class called iPads in Education and read a variety of interesting articles (they were not journals and were not based on research).  Many of these articles slammed the iPad as a classroom tool, labeling it as a distraction from learning.  One article in particular compared it to a hammer.  They said that the iPad is no more valuable than a hammer (a very expensive hammer).  To that I responded with my students' thoughts.  I asked my students (since we were learning about simple machines) if they would rather look at a picture of a hammer or be given one and sent out to fix some things in the courtyard and report back on what worked and didn't work with a hammer.  My 7th graders immediately wanted the hammers.  Now if I were just laying the hammers on the tables for the students to pick up and look at (a visual aid) or allowing them to hit stuff with no educational meaning, then they serve little purpose.  Just like an iPad is not serving a significant purpose in a classroom where it is used only to search the Internet.  However, when a teacher uses the iPad to ENGAGE learners with MEANINGFUL activities and CONTENT driven by the Common Core, the iPad becomes a very valuable tool.  While technology will continue to change and the needs of our students will adjust, in today's classroom there is definitely room for the iPad.  Anytime our students are actively engaged in important content and taking ownership of their learning, it is a very good day!