1:1 iPads and Student Centered Classrooms

And no, we don’t know where it will lead.  We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here. -Steve Jobs

It never gets old.  Even after 3 years of 1:1 iPads, the magic and wonder of my students’ engagement and learning excites and motivates me daily.  Having a student-centered classroom makes my job so much more interesting and meaningful.

Trent's photosynthesisWe have been learning about fall and fall leaves this week. Living by the ocean in the south, we have about 2 weeks of fall.  The leaves are green, then they are a little yellow, then brown and on the ground.  We don’t get to enjoy the rich colors of our northern neighbors.

Today,  I was reading a non-fiction book about leaves and it briefly touched on photosynthesis.  Knowing this concept was a bit advanced, I kept reading, and didn’t stop to discuss photosynthesis.  However, just like our recess snail episode, the children were fascinated with this large word and had many questions.  We started a wonder chart on this concept.  How does the tree live through the winter if there aren’t leaves on it to make food?  Is the sugar that the leaf makes during photosynthesis the same as the sugar we eat?  We looked at other books and found pictures on the internet.  We talked and wondered, wondered, and talked.  During their free choice time today in centers, several drew pictures about this concept.  Some chose drawing paper, some our Drawing Pad app. (See drawing at the top of this post.) Some even put their drawing into Explain Everything and talked about it there.  Here is one of those examples:

The only planned part of this day was the reading of that initial book.  The rest was courtesy of my curious children.  By being in tune with my students, I was able to go with their flow (which, by the way, was far better and more meaningful than anything I would have had them do.) As I look back on our fall unit in previous years, before iPads, the learning wasn’t nearly as rich or in-depth.  Of course, the iPads alone didn’t do anything.  They have served as a conduit of change for ME.  Over the last 3 years, I’ve changed and in turn, my teaching has been transformed.  It’s not about the iPad, but it is about a shift in the way my classroom works.  The learning environment is completely different and it continues to evolve.

Just like Steve Jobs, I have no idea where this will all lead.  I just know there is something bigger than all of us here…and THAT is exciting!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

 

The Choice is Yours!

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand. -Chinese Proverb

Would you want to work in a place that gave you no voice? Would you want to teach in a school that allowed you no autonomy in how you teach? What if your every day was prescribed as to what you would do, what you would say and how you would say it…

medium_2699584043As professionals, we become offended when the “higher ups” in education make decisions that affect us without including us in the decision making.  Even professional development is terribly ineffective when we just “sit and get” without any input.  Would an artist paint very often or very well if the subject of the painting was always assigned? Of course not. So why are we so reluctant to give our students choice in how they learn?

Choice.  It’s meaning is clear: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. Choice.  It’s not just for adults.  Alfie Kohn writes a good article here about choices for children in learning.

To be clear, there is a difference between choice and free reign.  Without some control and teacher facilitation, it can be pure anarchy. Setting up the learning environment to allow for student choice is critical.  You would never open a closet to a 3 year old and ask them what they want to wear.  You would ask, “Do you want to wear this or this?”  In my room, we begin with simple choices and through a gradual release of responsibility, students eventually have multiple choices all throughout the day.

Last week we were working on the pumpkin life cycle.  By Friday, everyone was ready to show me what they had learned.  They were given 2 choices.  They could show me in Pic Collage or in Explain Everything.  Later, they will have other choices, but for now, 2 is all they need.

photo

Instructions were on the Smartboard and everyone was hard at work!

photoThis is one of the examples from Pic Collage.

This is one of the examples from Explain Everything.

When given choices, students engage and take ownership.  By learning how to make choices and make decisions at a young age, they are better equipped at these skills as they get older.  When children learn to think for themselves, they are also less likely to be easily led by others whose choices may not be as desirable.

We want our students to love the content…to love learning.  By giving choices we lessen the chance of burnout (for both students and teachers), and we increase the chances of engaged, independent thinkers.  None of us like to be told, “You have no choice in the matter.” Instead, let’s work toward, “The choice is yours!”

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

One Way Sign Photo Credit:  Creative Commons

 

Engaging Students with Explain Everything

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. -Albert Einstein

The blank stare…You know, the one that either says, “I have no earthly idea what you are talking about.” or “Why are you telling me this? I already know it.” I suppose there is one other possibility. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?… Utter and complete boredom. Misconceptions and lack of engagement can both derail the learning process.

IMG_2265One of the apps we use really gets to the heart of both of those concerns.  I’ve written about Explain Everything before. It really is a robust app.  The best part is that it is easy enough for my 5 year olds, yet just as relevant and engaging for older students.  I’ve even seen a few adults having a great time creating a screen cast in this app. We used this app weekly last spring.  This past week was the first time we used it this school year. We’ve been learning about Spiders in science.  My students all drew a detailed spider picture in our Drawing Pad app and saved it to the camera roll. Then they uploaded it to Explain Everything.  We’ve been working on labeling like a scientist in our Writing Workshop so they labeled their drawings and then they recorded themselves telling about their work.  As I was showing this app to a small group, their eyes widened and they were immediately interested in doing their own.  They were very excited and had great conversations amongst themselves as they discussed the length/width of the arrows used to point to their objects.  Should it point this way or that? What if they moved this over there? Noticeably absent were questions directed at ME.  Even though this was their first time using this app, they were busy figuring things out themselves and working through ideas, thoughts and questions with their peers.

This first time with Explain Everything was very successful.  After completing their assignment, they uploaded it to Showbie where I could then see and listen to each one.  As the year progresses, Explain Everything will always be one of their go-to apps to share with me what they have learned.  As we work on unpacking standards and demonstrating learning, my students have voice and choice in how they want to document what they know.

While iPads are often thought of as a consumptive device, through the use of creation apps, students are able to create their own content.  Explain Everything allows students to create both simple and complex presentations in an engaging way in any subject. Our first product this week is more simple but they will become more complex as the year goes on.  This is Caitlyn’s Explain Everything:

Want to lose the blank stares? Engage students, get to the heart of what they know and don’t know, and stimulate their minds and their conversations.   Any takers?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Come See Us!

Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death-Albert Einstein

group pic collageIn a recent post, I talked about raising the bar with iPads.  One of the best ways to raise the bar in education is having teachers learn from each other.  By seeing what is possible…truly possible, one can return to the classroom with a renewed sense of energy and purpose.  It is one thing to hear about something, but it is another thing entirely to see it in action.

My school, Drayton Hall Elementary, is an Apple Distinguished School.  We host visitors from all over.  These site visits have been very beneficial to those who have come.  Apple is hosting 2 such tours at Drayton Hall in the coming weeks.  The first one is March 28th and there is still space available on that tour.  The second tour is April 16th from 8:30-11:30. Click here to see the invitation. Drayton Hall April 16th

I’ve talked about the importance of kids learning from each other and it’s no less important for adults to continue to learn as well.  We have had teachers, administrators, board members and technology folks visit.  They have seen 1:1 iPads across all grade levels and across the curriculum working to personalize learning for our students.  When you can come away from a learning experience as a teacher and take it back to your classroom, the ripple effect has begun…not just with your students, but with your colleagues and their students.team work

Have you ever been to a workshop or professional development and walked away with a new idea?  It is an exciting feeling to try something new and fresh.  As an Apple Distinguished Educator, I am connected to some of the best educators in the world.  As they share what they do, I find myself raising my own expectations and in turn, raising the bar in my classroom.

Many of my readers live in other countries and I realize a site visit isn’t very realistic.  However, make a point to find a way to connect with other educators.  Twitter is a great place to build a professional learning network.  Teaching is hard enough…connecting and learning from others makes it worthwhile.

As we say in the South….y’all come!

Today, we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!