Monday, December 9, 2013

1 year on - 26 devices, 26 kids 1 busy teacher.

"If a child can't learn the way we TEACH, we should teach the way they LEARN"

I had know way of knowing 4 terms ago how things would pan out, work out or fall out. But 4 terms on I can see just how iPads have become a vital and valuable part of learning and teaching in a class, NOT in the future but in 2013 NOW. 

26 students walked in on day 1 of the term and the spark in their eyes has not faded or tarnished after seeing just a glimpse of what the iPads could do that day. The way I teach and the way they (the students) learn everyday has changed significantly from that initial meeting. 

My Pedagogy - 

The way I teach will always be changing and evolving (as any good teachers should) but it had to change rapidly to keep up with what the students could now do. As much as a teacher is seen as a driver in the bus that is education and the students are just the passengers, the students are getting closer and closer to that driving seat. Occasionally they have even snatched that wheel and gone for a joy ride. This is scary at first and nothing that any teacher is used too but this year it had to happen. The students had to be allowed to grab the wheel and put their foot on the gas. Decide which road they were going to take. The iPad opens up their roads too. No longer do we have to wait for library time to get a certain book out or POD time to research a particular point because the device that was in their hand gave them this access any time of the day no matter what subject we were doing. 

Teaching freedom is the most difficult thing in the world. Trying to get 7, 8 and 9 year olds to understand that they had the freedom to explore when and how they liked was almost impossible because students are not used to this environment or way of thinking. Too often curriculum areas are blocked between walls of time. Students know that we start maths at 9 and finish at 10. Any work not finished gets looked at again tomorrow or forgotten about. The iPad allows the students to continue to learn a subject even when it is not being taught. It allows those students to extend themselves in areas that they love and also continue to work on areas that they need more time in. No blocks of time just freedom to learn. Again how do you teach this ?

We experimented with days when the timetables only set tasks were morning tea and lunch and the students just had learning goals. This had its pluses and minuses and I could see how it could be hugely successful when it is established and becomes the norm. Students could continue to work on the tasks of their own choosing and get help when it was needed. I found that the students are  still very dependant on YOU (the teacher) to provide them with reassurance and guidance. Not all but some. These students will always struggle to know what or how to learn independent of the teacher. BUT I also believe on the other hand that it could work. If clear learning goals are established any student could, given the freedom find a way to work towards it. 

 Breaking a habit is always hard and for the students who rely heavily on us to support and guide them, freedom can be too big of a concept for them when the expectation is to still learn by exploring and guiding themselves. Again though when it becomes the norm and the whole class environment is just this way any student could adapt and change. My slowest, lowest students become some of my best independent workers when clear goals and tasks were established for them to work on. They choose how they would get there, what they would work within, which app was best for the task and just worked away until it was met. 

As a teacher the habit I found hardest to break was stepping back and just watching, not intervening when I thought a student needed help. Locust of control...

Talking to those that have tried a similar approach to learning needs (with and without iPads) they have all had success. Keys - Set it up early in the year, don't give up, expect a battle, expect a few tears, expect parents to worry, keep working away on it and allow the students to see what it should look like and how it could be done, start small, stay clear, work together. 

I never gave set tasks that had to be done a particular way or had to completed on a certain App. The students had the choice to use what they were comfortable with. This coupled with the students understanding that they could continue to work on  any learning area that they wanted to see completed or finished or just passionate about was successful, to a point, but needs refining like most things. Not a bad effort for a first attempt at relinquishing control. 

Environmental Changes - 

Walking into any classroom and you will see kids working quietly. Walk into an iPad 1 to 1 classroom and you will see kids collaborating, interacting, cooperating, learning and for the most part being quiet. The device puts learning in any curriculum area in front of them at any time of the day, breaks included. Some of the best learning has occurred during wet lunch when no teacher has been in the room. The iPad also allows for the learning to happen with others. Students can ask for help, respond to questions, post new info, comment, correct, change, collaborate and send the work when they want.  
The biggest change that I have seen is the way work is done organically at anytime. When a math book is put away that is the ned of maths learning but with an iPad the ability to work or continue to work or just complete a task can be done at any stage. The students will often finish work in their own time, at breaks, when other tasks have been finishes, at home or just when they have a spare 5 mins. 

Data Changes - 

Have the students using the iPads improved more than their cohorts? Has using the devices meant more learning success ? Have students shown huge shifts in their own learning?

Success can and should be measured in many ways. 

iPad Survey

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Minecraft in Maths - Geometry

"If a child can't learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn."

Teaching the way the students in Room 8 love to learn. We have tapped into their passion and enthusiasm for Minecraft. Our current Geometry unit has lent itself nicely to rotation, reflection and tessellation of the blocks in the Minecraft environment. 

The kids have created shapes and signs with instructions for a buddy to either rotate, translate or reflect. Having to learn each concept first was a piece of cake because they just wanted to get on with the constructing in Minecraft. So concepts sink in quickly or are leant much faster. 

What I saw - full engagement from all students, quicker understanding of the concepts, collaboration and concentration to complete the task and do the assigned work, better understanding, sharing of their knowledge with their peers and all students having success.

The students were also able to share what they had learnt visually to the whole class. Talk about what they had done and look at what others had achieved as well. 

Tessellation - Repeating patterns that can fill a wall or floor area.

Rotating a shape through a turn.

Signs used for instructions as well as peer reviewing and marking.

Quarter turn Anticlockwise.

Half turn.

Quarter turn clockwise.

Tessellation using 1 shape that has been rotated to fill a wall.