My year with iPads – part 1

Forgive me if I’m feeling a bit defensive.

This past academic year we piloted a 1:1 iPad program with the seventh grade, and it was generally successful. Actually, considering the scrutiny that we were under, the general lack of professional development, and the fact that we were not allowed to fail, we did spectacularly.

I attended the CPS iPad Academy last week, and I came away from the keynote address by Dr. Rueben Puentedura feeling more positive about the work that we did. Initially I felt that I had not had time to innovate curriculum and learning, and I still think that I can do more, but I was able to craft some assignments and explorations that were significantly enhanced by the presence of an iPad in the hands of my students.

I’m just going to break this down, book by book.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

What is a Corvair? Who was Paul Newman before he was the salad dressing guy? What do you think is tuff or tough?
We were able to quickly get visuals of some of the more 1967 moments in the book. Clothes, cars, drive in movies. But we also created Prezis comparing tuff and tough and showed them in class. In previous years I have had kids make a collage; we’ve tried collaborative ones and individual. And no, they can’t create a Prezi with their iPad because it is flash based, but what it did was insist that students create a path through their ideas, connect them, decide if some ideas were more important than others. This is a bit further up the taxonomy of critical thinking, and I would not have tried it without the presentation and graphic possibilities of the iPad.
Next year? iBook version of the text.

145th Street: short stories by Walter Dean Myers
This is a collection of interlocked short stories. They don’t create a narrative arc, but they do give us a full picture of a neighborhood in Harlem.
Google Maps helped my students see that this is a real place. This was important as the book required enormous amounts of inference, and grounding it in a map made it easier for some students to imagine the setting and the characters. We used SketchBookX to create better book covers for the collection of stories. This book has (arguably) the WORST cover, and I challenged students to look at the overarching themes of the book and create a better book cover. Many began with a photograph that they found that had been published under the Creative Commons license and augmented it or turned in into a graphic. Truth: the girls were better at this than the boys (in general) because this assignment was way up the taxonomy of higher order thinking. Identify themes, analyze for importance, synthesize a new cover. Seventh grade girls are just (generally) ahead of seventh grade boys developmentally at the beginning of the year. This was as hard as flying to the moon for some students, and I would never dream of a one size fits all assessment tool, but they did some thinking. And they created cool things. And I would have NEVER considered it without the iPad.
Other goodies: they created a character and populated our own fictional world, shared the characters, and wrote stories- each story needed to include a character created by someone else. They used Keynote to create character biographies (we could not record narration using the iPad version – boo) and Pages to word process their stories. These became our anthology for the year. This is a project that I have done before, but I hope to augment it still this year by publishing their anthology as an iBook or epublication. Next year, I think I will create a Ning or something like a Ning for our fictional characters.
Next year: iBook etext . I am psyched about this because this book will come to life with shared annotations.

Enough for one post: coming up – visual storytelling, blogging, Romeo and Juliet, the Daily Edit, To Kill a Mockingbird , and Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

Image by my student, Nikki. Her Better Book Cover.

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