[iPads+Classrooms] Inside a 5th Grade iPad Classroom
Every time I ask around in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter about who is using iPads effectively in their classrooms, many different names come up... but one that keeps reoccurring is Leah LaCross, a fifth-grade teacher at Huron City Schools in Ohio.
So, I connected with her and asked her to write about what she's been doing. (By the way, if this isn't a testament to the power of a PLN, I don't know what is.)
Leah, over to you!
For my fifth graders, using iPads isn't a novelty; it is our way to learn and to show learning each and every day.
The school year begins with the simple understanding that we (my students and I) are partners. We will explore content, share ideas, and learn together. The iPad is one tool that we will specialize in from Day One.
So, we have fun exploring the iPad in the beginning days with introductory activities such as app hunts, where students learn the quick search methods and get exposure to the high-use apps. We create diagrams including food chains and photosynthesis drawings to get familiar with the drawing app. The students will use the DrawingPad app many times during the year because I really encourage original work, not just borrowing images from others.
We also use apps such as Edmodo and Socrative, along with Safari, for student responses, research, and sharing. And, we even explore apps such as Popplet and StoryKit for some simple content-building activities. I try to give my students activities that will build familiarity and ownership with the iPad while accomplishing content-specific goals. We even utilize the iPads when Skyping with our science partners around the United States. We are frantically checking the map app, Googling clues, and back channeling in Edmodo while we are trying to find where our Mystery class is from! All the while we are learning to drop work into our class DropBox for later use in ePortfolios.
The real fun ramps up with iPad app integration. After students are familiar with drawing, completing diagrams, and managing app learning, it's time to explore apps such as Pages, iMovie, Keynote, StripDesigner, LifeCards, ShowMe, and Toontastic. These are apps that allow students to build in more depth. They can show their understanding of the content by combining their original drawings, concept webs, and ideas into creative projects.
I ask students to work together and to "figure it out." I do NOT teach apps. I do select apps for my students to use that have logical processes, ease in importing and exporting, and depth. The apps mentioned above allow for that. For example, a student can build a Keynote presentation about their Lego Exploration Vehicle with original drawings, pictures, and content. And, they can work collaboratively with other students by transferring files through DropBox, which they are already familiar with.
I also ask my students to pull it all together. I ask them to problem solve, work as a team, and build accurate representations of their learning. The iPad just happens to be the slickest tool around to do this with! We love building with our iPads, and it is rare to see us NOT utilizing such a powerful tool.
For ways that I've explored using Apple TV, the iPad, and a projector, visit my blog.
Interested in using iPads to build postcards? We made ours from another planet in the solar system. Check it out at http://leahlacrosse.blogspot.com/2012/01/making-postcards-in-science.html.
Interested in book building with an iPad? There are plenty of ways to jump into that with your students, and here's more on that: http://leahlacrosse.blogspot.com/2011/12/more-than-one-way-to-skin-cat.html.
In summary, here are some key ideas:
- Start with your students being your learning partners. They will give you amazing ideas if you allow them to collaborate with you.
- Start with your content. What do you want to accomplish?
- Utilize the full power of the iPad by extending yourself and your students beyond the drill-type apps. While there are some great apps out there that can support your learners in that area, you will be doing your students a huge disservice if you limit it to that. Go with CREATION-type apps!
- Allow your students and yourself to make mistakes. Build. Learn. Grow.
Leah LaCrosse has been a teacher for Huron City Schools in Ohio for the past 13 years. After spending the first six years teaching World Geography to sixth graders, Leah obtained a Master's Degree in Education Reading and Literacy and became a National Certified Teacher in Social Studies. Switching over to teaching fifth grade science for the past seven years has brought about new opportunities and challenges. Writing grants for a SmartBoard, Legos, Mac minis, video equipment, iPods, and iPads has been a way Leah has enhanced her classroom instruction. With the iPads, Leah has worked with her own students and teachers around the country to effectively integrate content and technology. Presenting at Ohio's eTech conference, WVIZ's Apps Fest, the CATIIE Conference, and to various schools around the nation, Leah has worked to help others see the power in having students use the iPads to create projects that show content understanding. You can see the exploration by visiting her class webpage at bit.ly/huronlacrosse and her professional blog at leahlacrosse.blogspot.com.