Saturday, February 16, 2013

Choices and Options

Today I was at Holy Cross School in Papatoetoe. They have  2 e-Learning classrooms.
Diane has a year 5/6 classroom with 8 standalone Windows computers and she can book 15 iPads. Sarah has a Year 7/8 class with 12 standalones and 8 iPads. We spent a day in the holidays talking about what e-Learning could look like in their classrooms.
As with everything at the beginning of a new school year there are still a few problems that need to fixed.
  • wireless issues in one class
  • iPad apps that were recommended still need to be downloaded

Diane was going to teach her whole class how to make an Inspiration mindmap; they had to find dictionary meanings to some words and then explain how that related to the topic they had been talking about. First thing we discovered was that Inspiration was not on all of the iPads. So I suggested taking a small group and using my 2 extra iPads. I demonstrated how I teach students Inspiration which takes less than 5 minutes. Soon the students were all buzzing away and I moved amongst them showing one student how to change shape and colour and suggested they group their ideas. This travelled like osmosis, and soon all of the students were expertly moving between 2 apps, finding meanings and then adding how that meaning related to their topic. They then went on to teach other students in the class how to do it. Once I saw that those students were independently working away, I noticed that other children were on computers typing up information. I suggested to them that they might try SmartArt on Word or PowerPoint...once again in less than 5 minutes those students were independently creating Mindmaps. After a few minutes I showed one student how you could change colours, look or diagram, and before you knew it each child had a different look to their diagrams.
This lead to a discussion on different options for mindmapping

    • Inspiration on iPad
    • Word or PowerPoint using SmartArt on computer
    • large piece of paper with vivid feltips using colour to organise ideas
    • coloured post it notes on the window or on a large piece of paper
    • window writing pens
So rather than having all the students doing the same thing, give them the choices of how they might like to record their learning.

The students had been working on Narratives and the teacher wanted them to make a short Puppet Pals movie that showed a problem, solution and consequence, all based on their R.E (Religious Education) topic. The students already knew PuppetPals quite well and of course wanted to get straight into it. They were encouraged to storyboard their ideas onto paper and then they proceeded to make their movies.

One boy who is a reluctant writer quickly completed his storyboard, explained it to me and then created his PuppetPal movie (with a friend). About 5 minutes later they came over to show me very proudly. I said how well they had worked and asked them, after watching it a couple of times, was there anything else they could do to it...he replied 'Improve it!' So off they went together and they found themselves a quiet space and worked on it again. Diane said this boy would normally never say that and would pass the work in finished.

Another boy who stood out when using SmartArt for the mindmapping (his mindmap was very creative and showed off the extent of his learning) didn't want to make puppets from photos of other students, he decided he wanted to draw his main character with coloured pencils on paper, photograph it and remove the background. This whole morning session was the most engaged she had ever seen him. He was making his choices using what tools he had available to him.

Sarah's year 7/8 were doing a variety of activities. Some were working on magazine covers for their fortnightly magazine, others were making PowerPoint presentations about what they had learned in Health.
I moved over to one group who were doing the usual PowerPoint one picture and text box to a slide. I suggested they try out using Inspiration Maps as part of their presentation, again in just a few minutes I showed them how to use it. They made all of their slides using Inspiration. The students aren't setup with emails yet so they couldn't email the maps to the computer and insert into their PowerPoint, so in less than 2 minutes I showed them the basics of Book Creator, they made their book in just a few minutes, shared it to iBooks and then they were able to show it as a book at presentation time.

Another group of girls were working on the IWB in Word. They had put their Weemee picture in the middle of the page and were making textboxes all around the image. I showed them how they could put that information into SmartArt and they came up with this.

What I particularly liked about Sarah's room was how there was no 'front of the room' and no teaching station. Sarah moved around the room and sat down in lots of different areas to work with the students.
Some of the pointers I gave her were
  • self managing tip...tell students they have X amount of time to do______. They have to work out their time management and manage it themselves. (Sarah did this with the students and it was interesting to see how conscientious they became once they knew they had only a limited time and that they were not going to get any reminders.)
  • try not to be so explicit in what you want them to 'produce', let them know what tools are available and let them choose. Set up a rubric with expectations.
  • add Inspiration Maps, Smart Art in Word/PowerPoint and Book Creator to your Student Digital Toolkit. Sarah is going to create a Visual Digital Toolkit that will remind students what tools they have available to them for their learning.

Sarah's final comments for the day was that it was cool to see all the kids engaged and doing different things. 

She came up with this statement that she is going to use with her students
' What could you use? rather than 'This is what you have to use!'

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