Thursday, 24 June 2010

Talking to children about using iPod Touches in their classroom

For weeks now two of us have been monitoring a class that are using a set of iPod touches in their classroom. They started off playing lots of games, saying it was hard to type and obviously not having much idea of how the apps worked. After about two weeks – where we sorted out some problems where some of them lost various setting so they would not access the web etc., the pupils used them lots and thought it was easy to type. They were still enjoying the games. After eight weeks the children do not know how they are going to manage without them next term.

As the project is coming towards an end I was given more or less free rein to talk to the children about anything to do with them yesterday. I interviewed each table in turn, just for a few seconds and asked them to tell me how using the iPod touches had helped with their learning.

All said how much they helped in day to day class work, all said that the dictionary and thesaurus was used all of the time and their writing had got better! They mentioned how internet research was so much easier – one reckoned it took 15 minutes to go to the laptop trolley. Get a laptop, bring it back to class, log on to the network then the internet to get some information. With the iPod on the table, or in the case, the longest it may be is to cross the room, pick up their Touch and bring it to their table with instant internet access.
One boy said how he like the maths games it did not seem like learning maths! One said that Word Web had a whole collection of level 5 adjectives and adverbs that helped his writing. They all enjoyed sharing “The Dragon Book” as a class text.

One girl said how the games had challenged them to think more about what they already knew, and that they had become better researchers. Watching an activity later seemed to prove that. The year 5 and 6 classes had split into 9 groups to do a carousel of activities for “Circus” week. I stayed in the class where the iPod touches were and they were studying Seurat in preparation for doing a painting about the circus in his style. The children who were in their own class, with their own iPods were so much quicker at finding the information they needed. Hands went up almost instantly and the quality of information was much better. The teacher waited until many children had found their few important facts then allowed pupils from other classes to say first what they had found, most came up with where and when he was born and when he died, those sorts of simple facts that would start any page of information on his life. The children from the host class came up with information of his style of painting and how he was shunned as an artist in his own lifetime etc.
It was interesting to watch one of the visiting class pupils, instead of writing George Seurat in the search engine, she laughed and changed it to George Clooney, making her friends giggle, I guess that is part of the playing to get to know them issue which the other class had long since got over.

Watching children navigating Google maps and showing me key features of their locality was interesting – can’t imagine children actually taking me to a map to share that information but it was what they chose to show me as I passed.

Others showed me a program called Gears – a logic game that one of a pair was very good at and one could not instantly see. The conversation between the two as the logical one explained to the non-logical pupil how to do something and why was really good! I was left in no doubt about the reasoning skills of the one who saw it – an assessment opportunity!

There was so much going on and so much interest in the iPods, children could not really imagine how they were going to work next term, they have become a part of the repertoire of tools available in the classroom the pupils take them for granted. It was wonderful to see!

A real disappointment was not being able to use Wallwisher! We had made a wall, put it up on the IWB and asked all chidlren to think of a comment to add. Sadly they were unable to post :-(. I asked the Twitter community to test it today but no-one can post to wallwisher with an iPhone or iPod Touch, what a pity, it would have been wonderful!

I have taken miles of video footage, but not sure yet where the final reports, videos etc will go, that is not for me to decide, this post is just anecdotal snippets.

For me the biggest lesson was to take baby wipes to clean the iPods if I have to touch them – once they have been in use in class for a day they are unbelievable sticky and revolting :-)

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