Friday, July 15, 2011

How Do You Keep Them From Playing?

I've had the incredible opportunity to work with a plethora of people this summer regarding the use of the iPad and other technology in the classroom. From twitter connections to district admins to teaching partners, my airwaves are full of conversations! There are many different levels and perspectives. Ideas that I would have never thought of are being shared all the time...thank you! I'm learning so much. Awesome!

I recently worked with a teaching partner on her use of the iPad in the upcoming school year. She will have the opportunity to use a class set of iPads that will be shared amongst her team. Ugggg...shared cart? Right? I know. I am NOT a fan of a cart system between a grade level. But, in this economy, I think we have to thank our lucky stars for anything! In any case, it is some tech and the students that she will be working with are all my former students...I like to think of them as muppet masters (ipad personalities as muppets...get it? Funny! Ok.). So, they will definitely help with the learning process IF the teachers are willing to become partners with them.

So, in the brainstorming session with this teacher, we are talking everything from grammar apps to keynote presentations to recording students answers with DragonDictation and proofreading to google app possibilities. Really good stuff. She has great questions, and i have some options for her to consider. And, I recognize the developmental level of this teacher...she is ME a year ago. Really! Just looking for ideas, scribbling them down like mad, pausing with some confused moments, and then back on track. Now, I recognize this level, and my philosophy here is to allow the learning coaster to begin. Recognize the full plate moment. Allow any mistakes that need to be made. Support. Don't push! Because really, the use of the iPad or any other revolutionary technology is a learning coaster. There will be ups where the use is just rocketing the level of your class. And, there will be other moments that you see/feel/cringe at the failure. It happens in spurts (like most growth). Also, you will learn the most when answers are NOT given to you. There is something to be said for the process.

In the course of our conversation, my partner teacher asks me the golden question that I have heard before, "How do you get students to stay focused and not PLAY with the iPad?". Hmmmmmmm? What is your first reaction? Think about it before you read on...

Well, in MY learning coaster I did have to go through that. I had to learn...what did I do? I went through a process that helped me identify some key ideas:

1. There are some craptastic apps out there that encourage a student to PLAY (and not in a productive way). There is money in app creation, and apparently a lot of people wanted to capitalize on that...ha! I had an early learning ride on the coaster where I had to figure out what my students needed in the ipad use. So, it went from asking my students to work with encyclopedia type apps that had too high of a reading level to unlocking the potential of apps like StripDesign or Keynote. Apps that are geared towards just pushing information aren't going to be the most engaging for very long...especially of they are poorly created. Also, important, there can be some craptastic ways of implementing apps.

2. students needed time. They needed to get good at just moving around the iPad, basic navigation. They needed to get good at working with a specific app like StripDesign. They needed to have time to work through the creative process. There is much to be said for this time, patience. It will be frustrating for you and your students if you try to do too much, too fast. Give them the time, and look away when they are still zooming in and out on everything...haha.

3. Conversations...this is where become learning partners is really important! Students needed to have the floor some of the time. They needed to share their observations, stumbling points, and AH HA moments. They were ON the coaster with me, so I had to give it up sometimes for their ideas, conversations, and critiques!

And, most importantly, how do you get students to stay focused and not play on the iPad?

4. Design an authentic lesson/lab/learning experience that will keep them rolling, focused. This goes back to inquiry based, problem based learning. If you have designed a truly authentic learning experience, the 'play' will take care of itself. Students get so engaged in their work, you don't see 'play'. (Although, I would argue that the fun they are having with learning with the ipad is pretty close to 'play'.) But, I did see a transition in my teaching over the year. I went from being worried about students playing, finding all the best apps, and I did not really address the ENGAGED were my students in the content? How INVESTED were they in the science? The lessons didn't reflect THEIR questions, ideas, and problems. So, consequently, they didn't buy into it. Shocking? Not really. Once I started being honest with myself, I had some serious conversations with my students and got them on board as partners, and we really evaluated the classroom.

So, to wrap up another LONGGGGG post, I didn't give my partner all these ideas. I think there is value in making your own path, learning your own lessons, and having those conversations with yourself, your students, and colleagues. I hope the transformation I felt in teaching is what she and other educators feel in utilizing technology.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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