This is a post that I wrote almost a year ago and thought I had lost it!
[image courtesy of techreviewer via photobucket]
During this summer I had the pleasure of working at an international language centre. I taught English to young people of varied nationalities aged between 13 to 18 and in classes of 15 to 17 students.
This gave me the opportunity to get to grips with using iPads in two different situations; the first involved following the app which had been created by the company with the students in pairs, and the second was an exploratory task in which the children were in groups of 3 or 4.
The first problem I experienced, even before my first lesson with the iPads was a logistical one. The iPad app lessons required 9 iPads for one class, and a flight case holding 9 iPads is heavy! I had to carry this along with textbooks and folders up a flight of stairs and through various doors – which was tricky to say the least. Other issues outside the classroom were; starting a lesson and only having around 3% battery power left in the iPads, iPad memory being full and missing iPads.
Being in the classroom, with all the iPads in the students’ hands and fully charged was pretty good. Although the dedicated educational app read similarly to a textbook, and felt rather linear at first, it was surprisingly fun! The students were able to listen to as well as create audio and video relating to topics such as sport and shopping. I will say that during the first session I allowed the students around 15 minutes to play around with the iPads, taking morphed photographs of each other to get it out of their systems. I definitely think this helped but there were still some instances where the students weren’t following the app.
The exploratory task was where it became obvious to me why iPads are such great learning tools. In groups of 3 or 4 mixed nationality students per iPad, their task was to create a short film about their time in the UK. They used the iMovie app to add video clips, images and music. The results were excellent but the journey was where it mattered; the children had to use their knowledge of English to communicate how they wanted their videos. This task carried on over their 3 week course and by the end we had built up a huge bank of vocabulary just from those sessions. I think the reason this was so successful was because it was up to them how much they wanted to speak to the others in their group and they decided how much they wanted to develop their language.
This private education setting was very different to teaching in the classroom. The teaching had already been structured so that all ‘customers’ received the same service, so there was very little room for me to make it my own. However throughout my experience with the iPads I was always thinking of how it would work in the primary classroom and which things would be easy to replicate and which things maybe I would change.
Firstly the logistics; for a larger class a teacher would need some sort of trolley to transport them from one room to another. The memory needs to be wiped and any projects etc saved to some kind of cloud storage to ensure that the iPads are ready at the start of each lesson. This is something that, after some time the children would get to know and be able to do fairly quickly at the end of a session. We say things like ‘create video then upload to blog’ but there are many steps to take with this and it could take some time before the children know how to do it on their own.
The way the iPads worked best in my experience was when the students were given a goal, or a finishing point and allowed to explore the iPads and work out how best to use them to achieve, or indeed exceed that goal.
Using the iPads in a linear way, ie following instructions and steps during a lesson may be useful for younger children or those that aren’t familiar with how to use it, but I found that some students would follow things a lot quicker than others and then resort to taking photos of their friends.
Main bad point: After finishing the iMovie projects there was a long process to upload them to youtube which involved exporting to iTunes, then dropbox, then signing up for a youtube account, then uploading the video to youtube. The files could then be deleted from the iPad. Obviously this is a longer process than would be in a primary classroom, however organising children’s work will take a lot of time. A possible solution to this could be (and I don’t know if this is possible) some kind of GPS tracker for each iPad so that it can recognise which classroom it is in. This would mean that saving projects or work would automatically go to a cloud storage folder (such as dropbox) related to that classroom. App idea there for someone!
Main good points: Where do I start? Collaboration, creativity, development of language, the possibility of feedback from people all around the world. These points a often related to using iPads, but until you see them in action you can’t appreciate just how powerful these things can be!