Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An App(le) a Day...

When I came to this school, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was an iPad lab, stocked and ready with a class set of iPads. I've set a personal goal of trying to implement at least one new app with my students each week. While I'd love to do an app a day, I have to find a work/home life balance, and I want to preview all the apps and have solid ideas for using them with my students. So for now, it's "an app a week."

This week, we're checking out Book Creator and how we can use it during our Writing block. As a class, we previewed the app earlier this week and started working with it today. We decided to make the best of this unseasonably warm Chicago weather and head outside to the playground to create How-To books. First, I grouped students to hopefully minimize personality and behavioral conflicts. Groups brainstormed three possible ideas for their books. Some ideas were: How to cross the monkey bars, how to play hopscotch, how to be safe on the playground, how to play basketball, and how to play freeze tag. We headed to the iPad lab to be sure that all of the iPads had Book Creator installed and that we weren't having any issues with the ios7 update. Then we briefly talked about how to be extra careful with the iPads outside, and off we went.

Groups got to work right away and were very engaged, which was great. I didn't observe anyone noticeably not participating with their group of three. I popped around from each group a few times, taking pictures of course, and observing their interactions and answering questions. Then I tried my best to get out of their way and let them figure things out. It was about at this point when the first class of students came out for recess. This didn't seem to pose any problems as the playground area is quite large and students still had plenty of space. Shortly thereafter, another class came out for recess. This is where things got a little sticky... When we had wrapped up our time and returned to the iPad lab to reflect, my students mentioned both good and bad parts of having additional kids on the playground, which I thought was really insightful. A few of my students mentioned that it got much harder once a second class came out because there just wasn't that much space. A few others countered that by saying that yes, it was more crowded, but the extra bodies just gave them more "characters" for their books. They added the students from other classes into their how-to books. I love that they were able to find the good and challenging parts of this activity. Good reflecting on their part!

So, end result, let's see.... well, the writing was so-so.... but it gives us a great jumping off point for working on revisions. The engagement was awesome. We had a few questions about how to switch from camera to video in ios7 (you have to slide your finger on the right side of the screen). It's a start. We will be using this app for further writing, definitely, as the engagement was tremendous. It also was a great way to get their feet wet with this app. The actual writing quality itself... well, that would have needed work in a notebook, too, so I can't really view that as a negative. A couple of kids did say, "we explained that in the video" instead of adding text, but I view that as a learning curve and something I must not have been clear enough about when frontloading them. Work in progress, on all of our parts.... Here's a few pics. Enjoy!