In my January blog, I described a structure I had devised to support a classroom investigation that made use of the tools provided by an I Pad. I have been sufficiently encouraged by the results of this investigation to expand the idea into other lessons.
One unit in my current year nine scheme of work focuses on fair trade, and is titled “There’s Nothing Sweet About Chocolate”. I decided to modify my plans to give the opportunity to students to display their understanding of this topic in a different way, making use of our new tablet technology.
After some ‘background’ lessons that looked at cocoa farming in Ghana, I framed the new investigation with an open question – “Can Fair Trade make Chocolate Sweeter”, and introduced the work by getting the students to log onto a freshly created Padlet Wall (www.padlet.com) and record their initial thoughts and ideas about the subject. We then completed a short class quiz about fair trade using the Socrative app. The Padlet wall and quiz results gave us a lot to discuss, and also gave me a really accurate idea of what prior knowledge existed within the group. We also shared ideas on how we might present the findings, and which of the ‘killer apps’ were to be used as the main vehicle to record our findings.
It is always a dilemma trying to strike a balance between offering some structure for the learners while not restricting their outcomes to a certain formula. I decided to stick with the ‘must, should, could’ structure that was used to guide learning in the previous investigation – mainly because this group was relatively inexperienced with the new technology, and I felt they would benefit from a degree of prescription. Their structure included suggestions of different apps that could be used in their work – and I explained to them the term ‘app smash’, and how they could consider combining different applications in order to display their understanding clearly.
All learners had access to a range to a ‘mini library’ of geography textbooks, photocopies, and reference books in the classroom to support their research – but, as before, I used this investigation to introduce the students to the idea of QR codes. Many learners were, of course, already familiar with these – but still enjoyed using the QR Reader app on the I Pads to access a selection of web sites to search for information on their chosen topics. I favour this method strongly, as it allows the learners to make their own selections and choices of information to use, while also reducing the inordinate amount of time wasted by fruitless searches of the vast array of web resources available.
As the students become more familiar with working with I Pads to support investigations like this, I will be able to pull further and further away from a supporting structure. Ultimately, they will make entirely their own choices of methodology and also their own choices of appropriate apps to incorporate.
We have only just started this investigation, but students have already impressed me with the their thoughtful comments made as an initial response to the main question. Most of them have recorded these thoughts using the excellent Tellegami app, but others have chosen text, short videos, and sound recordings. I look forward to helping them with their research into the support materials, and know I will be impressed by the depth and creativity that will result from me taking a step to the side to let the learning flourish. As the students’ work progresses, I pop in my ongoing assessment comments and advice using the recording tools. This is much easier than writing, and can include a lot more praise, constructive criticism and suggestions for future direction than I could ever hope to offer through written notes.
The completed results will be stored in our Dropbox account for final assessment, and will also then be available to use to model the task for future groups.