iTeach with iPad, Part 2
Since then, I attended an iPad and iPod in Education Seminar presented by Apple. To be honest, I went to the training with a fair bit of skepticism. Because this seminar was put on by Apple, I expected it to be an obviously biased presentation on the power of these tools in education, little more than a sales pitch. And while yes, there was some pitching, I have to admit that I was won over by the potential of tablets and became much more fond of the iPad I've been piloting.
Two things increased my enthusiasm for the potential of tablets in education. The first was the data that the presenter shared with us from Canby School District. Students used iPods/iPads in a variety of ways. Some simply using them to record and listen to themselves reading passages or spent a few minutes during transitions playing math games. The data showed amazing increases in test scores in both reading and math. These increases could be seen in all students- migrant, ELL, students with disabilities, etc. Another study in Escondido School District showed similar results. This data is exciting and very encouraging. Could it really be that easy to improve student achievement?? Maybe....I'd love to see more studies reproduce these results.
The second thing that started to win me over was a quick tour of some of the apps that are available for education. The reading apps alone are phenomenal, albeit perhaps still too expensive for many schools. For example, there's an app called Milly, Molly and the Bike Ride by Kiwa Media. This is essentially a picture book that allows for self-guided learning. While reading the book, students can choose to have the text read to them while the app highlights each word as it is read, swipe over a single word to hear its pronunciation and have it spelled out loud, and swipe over a series of words to just hear that selection read aloud. The book can be translated into several different languages as well, which is clearly great for ESL students of all ages. You can also go to what is essentially coloring book mode and color in all the pictures for the book yourself. (Though this is potentially a distraction for some students.) Best of all, you can record yourself reading the book and have that be what's played back to you next time. As seen in the research above, this is a great way to improve fluency. Kiwa Media produces many different books in this format. Most seem to be about $5.
Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo and Juliet by Mindconnex Learning Ltd. is similar but for higher level readers. This app will also read aloud to students, but will highlight paragraphs instead of single words. You can click on difficult words to have them defined as well as the phrases that confounded all of us in high school English class. There's a common language summary of the story (think Cliff Notes), as well as sections about the history of the period and character charts to help keep it all straight. There are also animated clips that can help students comprehend what they are reading and several other cool features.
There are lots of great math apps as well, though we spent less time on these. Some of them were Math Bingo by ABCya.com, Number Line by Todd Bowden, and NineGaps by QuadionTechnologies. We also talked about Science apps briefly, but spent even less time on those.
Overall, I now have a much more positive outlook on the iPad in the classroom. The potential for kids in core classes is great. Elementary students especially would benefit from having an iPad or iPod at their disposal, as would ESL and Special Ed. students.
Again, this training was put on by Apple. No one mentioned Droid tablets, of course. I am still a huge Droid fan and would love to see what educational apps are available for their tablets and phones. Without a side by side comparison, it's impossible to judge which one would be the better choice for the classroom. Hopefully next year we can have Google come out and offer a presentation as well!