i Love It! Using Electronic Devices in Class
The goal of bringing any new innovation into the classroom is to improve the quality of learning in that classroom. Innovations can help lessons be more fun, encouraging students to become engaged with the material. Innovations can make lessons memorable, leaving students with a better recollection of the material later. Innovations can also make a teacher’s job a little easier by encouraging active, student-led learning rather than passive learning. The innovation trend we are talking about this week is using iPads and other electronic devices as learning tools in the classroom.
As many schools are realizing the benefits of using these devices to take students beyond the classroom walls and create richer lessons, other schools are realizing the frustration of not being able to spare enough money, planning time, or IT knowledge to tap into this amazing resource. I love the idea of using handheld digital devices in the classroom, but I know that the cost and know-how involved has kept it from being a reality in many classrooms. My original goal in this post was to compare some good educational iPad apps with more traditional manipulatives and activities that you might already have in your class. As I began researching (read: as I began downloading and playing with) some really neat apps, I realized that the task was harder than I thought. Many of these apps filled a niche that was hard to reach with more traditional activities. They were taking students inside bodies or out into outer space, showing reactions at a microscopic level, and translating text to different languages with the swipe of a finger. Instead, I will discuss how using innovations can help you shift your lessons from a teacher-centered to a more student-centered environment.
In a fully teacher-centered environment, you are at the front of the classroom teaching your students through lecture. Traditionally, students are taking notes to review for a test later. With an electronic device like an iPad, students can be more actively involved by taking notes or videos on the tablet, participating in a live class-wide Twitter discussion during the lecture, or even answering questions throughout the lesson with a polling app. Without these types of electronic devices, teachers can still help students actively listen by creating advanced organizers for notes, and including active question and discussion time. Changing between these strategies for different lectures could keep things fresh for your students.
Students usually become more engaged with a topic and more invested in their learning when they can get hands-on with it. For example, students who are learning fractions can learn a lot about fractions by working with slices of pizza. Using real food or play doh is fun (and messy!), so you might want to search “pizza fractions app” to find a free app to allow students to get hands-on with fractions without the mess. I personally think that the mess and the senses involved with working with real food is more memorable for students, so a combination of the two activities might be nice.
In primary math, there are lots of other tried-and-true manipulatives that have been imitated in apps for the iPad and other devices. I would love to hear your opinion on which you prefer using in your classroom. Search for apps that recreate tools like an abacus or Cuisenaire rods to help students with basic math and place value. Look for a free tangram puzzle app to help students with problem solving and geometry. These are some very basic ideas for starting to make lessons more hands-on with digital devices. I started with math for simplicity, but the amount of free quality apps available in all subjects is amazing. For more math lesson ideas, look at the following math learning stations from Apptivities.
Once you find good apps to use in class, it can be challenging to integrate them seamlessly into a lesson. A good set of examples can be found in these elementary iPad integrated lesson plans cataloged on the Gateway. This document has good suggestions of apps with lesson plans to go with them. Easy, right? Try out this iPad lesson plan template to create some of your own. If you are looking for a specific plan, try searching for “iPad” on the main page of the Gateway. There are so many neat ideas; I couldn’t include them all here!
Combining the use of your class electronic devices with traditional methods and activities can create the best experience for all different types of learners. In a science class, for example, you can’t easily recreate the aha! moments that come from mixing two chemicals and seeing a reaction happen before your eyes. After you complete an experiment, though, you can cement that discovery by viewing 3-D models of the actual molecules on the devices so they can see what is actually happening in the reaction. Another neat idea for science is to use the devices for comparative anatomy. If you only have time for your biology students to dissect one type of animal, you can have them virtually dissect other animals to note the similarities and differences.
I will leave you with those ideas for now. If you haven’t read it yet, please read Joann’s companion column (linked below) for more insight into the topic. If you have used specific apps or if you have lesson ideas, please share them in the comments section. If you have other topics you would like Joann and me to cover, please leave your suggestions here as well. We hope to see you all week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, where we will be sharing more ideas every day.