Saturday, June 25, 2011

Combining Apps For Creativity, Problem Solving, and Authentic Learning

Many teachers using iPads in the classroom have discovered some very good drill apps to help support the classroom learning. The apps that I'm thinking of would be those apps that do not encourage much more than the lower levels of thinking...basic comprehension, recall. I have found apps such as MathNinja and PearlDiver to fall in this category.

While they aren't really high on the learning levels, they still fill an important role in the classroom. They are helping our students to review information that is definitely needed to be successful at higher levels. And, they are accomplishing it in a rather fun manner.

However, if we are only using this level of apps in the classroom, we are truly missing out on the power of the iPad. I've previously discussed those creation type apps that give our students a forum for expression, synthesis of information, and creation of new knowledge. These apps include everything from Keynote to DrawingPad to Toontastic, and so many in between!, next step. How do we encourage students to use combination of apps to truly ramp up the use of the iPad? Well, I say 'encourage' very loosely because I found this level of use almost by accident in my room this year. It was a very cool side effect from my students using the iPads, and I didn't have too much to do with it!

By combination of apps, I mean this...

A student creating a keynote presentation to share a lab experiment and results uses:
-drawing pad to draw lab work area and pull in from photos
-dictionary and thesaurus apps for writing presentation
-idea sketch app to create a concept web to pull in from photos
-strip design app to create a cartoon to pull into presentation

Another student using toontastic app to create cartoon of their project uses:
-garage band to create a new sound track for their cartoon (created on one iPad and recorded into toontastic on another through microphone...choppy method, I know.)

And, so on. By not limiting their use of apps, I found my students naturally pulling in a variety of apps to accomplish goals as they went! PROBLEM SOLVING! The discussions between students and with me included the phrase, "I want to do this, so I'm going to try this.". And, isn't that were we want our students operating? Solving problems as they go!

Also, another phenomenon occurred. My students were creating even more personal works. They were always jumping straight to google to grab pics for their projects (like I did in the pics above). They were drawing their own pictures, or they were grabbing the class camera and pulling them in to work with. I didn't see as many clipart pictures with labels over them...obviously just taking someone else's work. This was giving their projects a more original feel. The original music created for the toontastic project that was recorded by just setting one iPad next to another...not the best music track I've ever heard. But, wow...that kid was PROUD!

And, finally...authentic learning. I think most educators can recognize the value in students creating the foundation for their own learning. Students will remember what they have MADE, what they are involved in. The student that created the keynote presentation about metal corroding will remember her results, her conclusions, and her ideas for future study much longer than a multiple choice or short answer test would have instilled.

How did the students get this good? How did they know to use this app or that with their projects?

By allowing my students time, access to various apps, and control of their learning, I found they naturally will problem solve, be creative, and develop products that promote authentic learning. Let go. Become learning partners. And, watch. It is amazing!

(This picture is just added for effect. This kid is a cutie!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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