Tag Archives: iPad

mLearn2013: Notes and Thoughts

Having just attended the 12th Annual Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning, or #mLearn2013, It is a good time to write up some notes on three areas that got me thinking. 

Apps vs. HTML5

There was some discussion around the future of apps and whether they are meeting our educational needs. There was a suggestion by a few techies that Html5 based apps would better suit us and there are some merits. Apps need to be designed and written for specific Tablets and their operating systems but Html5 works within web browsers on any device. It seems that this would level the playing field and create more equality. No matter the device, students in a BYOD learning environment could complete the work as their classmates. Another clear advantage is when at the institutional or departmental level in terms of deployment. Apps need a marketplace store from which to download and currently it works off a pull system (but soon to change, probably to a centralized push system). HTML5 is distributed through the open web and allows for less restricted access.

A Tablet for EDUCATION

Several comments revolved around the current crop of tablets are designed for business and profits. What would we as educators want in a tablet designed specifically for teaching and learning for all contexts from cities to rural villages?

  • Alternative power charging capabilities and sources with a longer battery life.
  • Multiple user accounts allowed with transfer of data and apps (small fee only?) between accounts possible. 
  • Open source to create dynamic teaching and learning opportunities quickly
  • Durability in terms of both hardware and software

Device Agnostic Design

When talking about technology in education, a specifically mobile learning, the planning and design of teaching and learning should be device agnostic. That is to say that teaching and learning pedagogy should be planned out and technology serve as a tool to support it. Whilst I myself am an Apple Distinguished Educator and work solely with iPads in my university, I always ensure pedagogy based on evidence underpins the design and then if the iPad adds to it, great! Tablets usually do but in other BYOD environments, device agnosticism is particularly important. This may not pan out for specific content or skills within highly specific disciplines but for the most part, we can all research, communicate, collaborate and create using a multitude of ways. 

What are your thoughts on apps, Html5, a tablet build for us and device agnosticism? Tweet me @digitalemerge

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Looking into Creativity

Would I be right when I think that creativity is easier to see than to measure? In English as a second language classes, this becomes even more problematic because you can see creativity but teachers wonder how much the language influences this, negatively. What I mean is that when using English text, are students able to express themselves creatively as they would in their first language?

I’ve tried to think about this and improve the use of creativity within the tasks, activities and projects that students complete in my class. Not only this, but I have been focusing on assessing it too.

Creativity in Tasks

I’ve found that breaking projects and lessons down into smaller, more manageable tasks of larger workflows better to see creativity in students. To me, creativity includes the process of making something new or original rather than an imitation. I also look at this from an individual basis as I look at the capabilities of the student and to what extent they have been creative.

I often use brainstorming and try to increase a student’s creativity. I try to use English and the student’s first language to promote further thinking of new words they wouldn’t have thought of before. I try to use pair or group work as well as online resources; all to act as stimulus for further thought. This is a launch pad for other tasks so I include this as creative thinking. The iPad’s apps allow for easier communication and brainstorming both in and out of class.

Students are also encouraged to think from different perspectives. It is important for my students, who are a little one-track minded, to broaden their view to promote further knowledge growth and to develop acquisition of language that they may not necessarily come across.  I give students different characters or perspectives of a problem and they need to think as that person. For a unit on interior design, students took photos of rooms or some even did video walkthroughs from their houses and posted them on our learning management system. Stemming from this stimulus, students had to think about interior design aspects from the perspective of, say, their brother or father, their maid (a common person in the house in the Middle East), a teacher, an interior designer etc… Students are using the language we’ve learnt but applying it from a different person. If students are having trouble, I ask them to visit a teacher or a brother and interview them about this interior design photo or video. We owe the iPad as it affords us to bring the outside into the classroom and to document this and interviews all on one device.

Assessing Creativity

So if we look at a project and are trying to assess creativity, I would advocate for the teacher to look at each task of the project. For instance, how much new and original language has been generated within the brainstorm? Often I can see the key unit vocabulary being recycled in a brainstorm, which is obviously good to promote acquisition, but how much was new and created by the activity? When looking at different perspectives, students need to demonstrate using different language and incorporating different ideas from their own into the creation.

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Five Changes I’ve Seen in Teaching and Learning with the iPad

autumn leaves5. Changing the Discussion

Within my teaching context, there is a long institutionalized history of photocopying from textbooks and assessing students with essays, reports, and presentations. Of course, many teachers employed student centered pedagogy within their classrooms but you get the picture.

The implementation of the iPad has moved the goal posts so to speak. Instead of asking which textbook might supplement a lesson, we are now questioning why a textbook needs to be used. Instead of photocopying worksheets, we are looking to incorporate apps and use iPad based activities to get students interacting with the language they are learning. The discussion is exciting and all aspects of teaching and learning are student centered.

4. Connectivity

As a department we are learning more about the apps we have at our disposal and we are integrating them to increase students connectivity with the language they are learning. Students use the language and can make personal connections with it. Need a picture for visual support? Students take photos to make connections. Need to learn a grammar point? Students make videos to outline that grammar structure. When students become teachers of other students, there is a stronger desire to learn more about it so that they have all the answers. There is a stronger connection than just discrete grammar worksheets.

Students are connecting interpersonally in both face-to-face and online environments more than in the past. Of course I used learning management systems in the past in a blended approach in or out of class. But the ease in which they can upload and share their work is amazing. I often see iPads exchanged between hands to share something interesting or to show off their work. I admit sometimes it is to give answers as well…

3. Streamlined

But the ease in which students can produce something on their iPad and then upload is far more efficient than before. Before if a student were to write a report and include images, then a student would need a digital camera with a cord to transfer the picture into word document and upload. The iPad streamlines this as students use the one tool for everything.

Workflows are common for iPad activities and tasks. I find that students realize this and go in and out of apps with ease. They write in pages, find research online or ask questions in our Schoology page. Most students know gestures to get around really quickly too.

 2.Variety of Tasks and Assessments

I have already eluded to this a number of times but I am constantly amazed at the creativity and resourcefulness of teachers in designing tasks and workflows for their students. There’s a growing trend for us language teachers to utilize apps that feed into image-based apps like Instagram. This is not to say we use Instagram itself, but apps that allow users to write text and design their photos are being used to provide authentic ways to use the language.

Assessments are being reviewed and as stated before, no longer are we settling for the essay. Teachers are turning to tasks and projects that incorporate student creativity to produce. I’ve seen this many times; when students have an audience beyond the teacher, they work much harder in terms of quality and quantity. Students love sharing with their classmates and their family. These assessments are providing a real audience that increases student motivation.

1. Student Creation

Students are now creating and producing language within real-world contexts. Before it was just words on a worksheet but now they are words on a picture or e-book that can be easily shared with a larger audience. Teachers (and students!) are discovering apps to utilize. They are finding no limit to supplement the teaching of learning objectives. For instance I teach a unit on interior design and before students might make a diorama or a collage cut from magazines to complete design projects. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these, students invest more time on apps where they are designing and modeling 3D rooms. Students have commented that they feel more invested in the task and feel like interior design is their job.

create

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