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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

iPads in English Classroom

This past fall I experimented with expanding the use of iPads with my 7th grade English class.  We used the iPads in a number of ways: as a communication tool within the class, as a reading/annotating tool, as a tool to share ideas during class, and as a tool for creating projects.  The students each borrowed a school iPad and during our study of Before We Were Free and our Myth/eReader project.  Students borrowed a single iPad, which they used in school and at home.

Communication tool:
            I posted class assignments, handouts, and other resources on our class website.  Having the iPad at their fingertips allowed students to access these materials at anytime at home, in class, study hall, etc.  Aside from saving trees, the iPads proved to be a great way for seventh graders to keep these materials on hand and organized. 
Reading/ annotating/classroom sharing tool:
            Active reading and annotating are skills central to our English teaching in the Middle School.  Students had always practiced these skills in their traditional paper texts.  With this novel, however, students had both the paper copy and eReader on the iPad. I asked the students to read at least the first two assignments in the novel, complete with their active reading, before they chose which form of text to use for the unit.  They did their active reading using the tools available on the eReader itself.  Without exception, students chose to read and take notes on the iPad.  After the initial “Cool” phase, followed by the “Wait, this takes more steps than on paper” phase, they saw real benefit to notating on the iPad.  The active reading “sticky notes” could be as long and detailed as they chose, and they invariably wrote much more; they could easily highlight in a range of colors, thereby color-coding the topics (yellow is characterization, pink is foreshadowing, etc.), and the page remained neat and easily readable.  In addition, the iPad allows them to list and search their notes for easy reference later.  Perhaps the best benefit, from my point of view, was that the students could project their annotations on the Smartboard, and we could discuss their note-taking strategies and ideas as a class.
            We used Notability as their tool for taking notes in class.  Again, students loved the easy organization.  And again, we could project their class notes on the Smartboard to discuss note-taking skills as a class.  During one particular lesson, students used Notability to make a character chart illustrating the complex relationships between characters.  They were creative with the app and projecting their work on the Smartboard made sharing and refinement of ideas much easier.

            We did three projects using the iPad:  Trujillo research/Timeline using Timeline Maker), Flyers using Infographics, and illustrated myths using Book Creator.  The students conducted research online and illustrated with Drawing Pad, Scratch, and other online tools.  With few exceptions in converting online illustrations onto Book Creator, students found the process for these projects pretty easy to master.  

Betsy Canaday
English, Department Head

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