In my work as Learning Specialist at the Middle School, I encounter students who often struggle with the reading volume and rigor the curriculum asks of them. They may lack the ability to read for main ideas, get mired in details of the text and miss important themes being emphasized in their classroom instruction. Lack of reading fluency may continuously bog them down. I was intrigued by the possibilities of exploring digitized text on the iPad and how using this technology with my students might make the reading assigned more accessible to them given the interactive design. I wanted to model active reading strategies with this technology in the hopes that students would be more apt to apply these approaches independently. I was also interested in learning about applications that would enable me to vary instruction of certain skills (i.e. mind mapping, organization of ideas prior to writing) based on the student’s learning needs.
I was able to find several of the MS texts in iBooks (some were free.) The ability to highlight and create notes (or post-its) allowed me to model to students in a very concrete way the skill of reading for main ideas – something that is just not automatic for some. The Dictionary function within iBooks only adds to increasing comprehension and the Search function is an instant link to Google or Wikipedia to gain background information on any event, concept the student encounters in the reading. Lack of background information can be costly for a student, creating an impediment to fluid reading and comprehension of the text. Shakespeare Pro is an excellent app, containing over 30 plays, quotes from various works and a glossary function that defines several more words within a passage than the text students read.
Various podcasts are also available to download (and email link to student) of texts Middle Schoolers are reading. A valuable asset, podcasts can take the place of audio books and truly make a difference in reading comprehension for many of our students who learn and process more effectively when information is presented orally. Librivox in iTunes and iTunes U offered some of the texts students read during the 7th and 8th grade English classes.
Both Whiteboard and iThoughts HD are solid mindmapping apps that have the added bonus of exportability. Either can be easily exported to students’ email (Whiteboard via Photos) so that whatever map or visual a student and I create is waiting for them in their First Class email to either view or print at home and work from. I am eager to keep applying these findings to my direct service work and continue to explore this technology. The interactive nature of the iPad forces one to be active with information, which ultimately seems to engage the student more.
Jamie Wallace, Learning Specialist at the Middle School