Old Post- using iPads

Doing some house cleaning on my blog- OLD POST: CREATING A LESSON THAT UTILIZES THE iPAD

In PBI (a course in project based instruction @KU UKanTeach Program) we were asked to create a 30 minute lesson plan that incorporated some form of technology on a topic of our choice. My partner Joleen Shove and I struggled to think of a ‘great topic’ so we chose one we thought would be difficult to teach in a PBI manner, the quadratic formula. [In the end, I don’t think we did a good job of making our lesson very project based or even inquiry based because of time constraints (30 min lesson) and we got distracted by the technology, but there’s always next time].

The technologies we used in the lesson were all ipad related:

-iBooks Author and iBooks

-Socrative Clickers

-Educreations (whiteboard video app)

Our Intent

In general technology can be used as a way to engage students, increase collaboration, present multiple representations of material, provide data and also perform complicated procedures that would not be possible in a normal classroom. For our lesson we chose to use create a section of an iBook with iBooks Author to let students explore and assess their understanding of the quadratic formula. As an option for students that mastered the content quickly we gave them the option of creating an instructional/ tutorial video using the Educreations app. Lastly, to get the students to discuss the content and to gain a deeper understanding of quadratics and how the quadratic formula relates we used the Socrative Clicker app. The clicker portion was probably the most beneficial section of the lesson from my perspective as the teacher. After hearing Kelly Cline’s talk on clickers at the UMKC Math Technology EXPO, we knew to structure our questions in a way that they would provoke discussion and challenge the students’ understanding. It was neat to see the students trying to convince each other their answer choice was right and see how they were able to better understand the material through that process. I should probably mention too, that we were not able to download the most recent version of the iBook we created because of a file size-limit on Dropbox. That was very frustrating, but we just had to make do.

My Thoughts on Instructional Technology

When it comes to looking at I learned it’s important to keep three things in mind:

1)      What am I trying to accomplish? What’s the best way to teach this concept? I found myself time and time again thinking, ‘that would be a cool way to use the technology,’ but what are the students going to get from that. I think that it’s easy to get caught up in using the technology; being so, it’s important to always be aware of what it is I’m trying to accomplish in my lesson and with the technology.

2)      Does the technology enhance the lesson? Is it the best way to present the material? There seems to be an understanding that the mere use of technology will enhance a lesson. I do not agree with this. I think that every lesson is a different case and that in some cases technology might complicate the concept or not be beneficial to the student. For example, instead of watching a video on how some process is done in the business world, why not take the students there, or have a speaker come in (if resources are available). I found myself trying to redo the lesson over and over because I thought of better ways to do it.

3)      Think outside the box. It’s too easy to think on the perimeter of the box, and I think that’s what I and a lot of my classmates were doing with this lesson. We did not fully embrace the technology and it’s capabilities to transform our classrooms into true inquiry or pbi classrooms. Specifically, I think that I could have done much more with the iBook. In writing it I didn’t think out of the box and the end product looked like a book with text and examples and a ‘real life problem.’ This is thinking on the perimeter. Had I thought outside the box, I might have used a video to draw students into some intriguing question then structured my book in a completely different way. (I’m not sure how yet, but I do know that the way I used was too traditional). I think for math especially we need to use the technology (iPads) to help students manipulate variables and access data- and much more. What’s important is that I don’t fall back into how I was taught. I need to embrace Apple’s motto and “Think Different.”

Where I’m at Right Now

I feel like I am still trying to figure out my system how I will teach- which sounds ridiculous saying because I haven’t even started yet! But in my mind I think about how I would want to present a subject, the media I’d use to introduce it, the structure/ activities I’d use to guide the students to deeper understanding, and then how I’d go about assessing them. When it comes to adding technology into the mix, I know that I will/ should integrate it in, but don’t know the best way to teach the concepts yet so it is difficult for me to apply the best technology. This will hopefully become clearer with experience or it might haunt me the rest of my career… Regardless of this concern, the following are other concerns I have based on the experience of planning this lesson:

  • Time: it took a very (very) long time to create the iBook and I didn’t even like the finished product- I wanted to revise it again. Would my time be better spent in developing the book/ technology aspect or studying the concept more or doing something else?
  • Troubleshooting/ back-up plans. What if in the end it doesn’t work?
  • It’s almost too easy to get caught up in the technology and forget about teaching. Hopefully this will get easier as the technology becomes more familiar.

In the end though, I’d like to leave you with the three reasons why I’m going to overcome these concerns,

1)      Learning technology makes teaching more challenging and fun for ME, the teacher. By changing lessons with new technologies, I won’t get in a rut and I bet I will discover better ways to present concepts. I hope I never lose my fire to try learning new things. I hope I never settle.

2)      Technology allows students to interact with the material more, it draws them in. One of the things I fear the most about teaching is ambivalence, students not caring. Technology has an extraordinary power to get students engaged and involved.

3)      It’s real. Students constantly ask “when am I going to use this.” With technology we can better simulate real life and also allow students to solve problems like they would in a business setting. You are not going to find companies say “do it the long way” they are going to buy the best, most efficient technology to accomplish their tasks. I’m supposed to be closing this blog, but this idea makes me ask: why do we teach students what we teach them, do they need to know 4 ways to solve the quadratic formula, do they need to know how to complete the square, or about factoring? Why not just let them use the technology to graph it and find the zeros? Are we wasting our time with what we teach in our curriculum? More importantly, are we wasting our student’s time with what we’re trying to get them to learn?

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