iPads in the Math Class – Eastwood P.S.
One of the most pleasurable parts of my job is having the opportunity to visit classrooms across the system to see the ways we are using technology to support student learning.
Today, I had the pleasure of visiting Eastwood Public School (@eastwoodeagles) at the invitation of Mrs. Wideen (@mrswideen). I was there to see some of the ways that the Grade 2 students are using iPads during their math block (for more detail on this, visit Mrs. Wideen’s blog).
There were some things that were immediately obvious as I walked into the open-concept area where the three classes are located. Firstly, the students had a level of independence in all that they were doing that was giving them a distinct sense of ownership over the work being done. Secondly, there was a high level of purposeful conversation and collaboration amongst the students (I later found this was true of the teachers in this area as well). It was also obvious that nothing the students were doing was about the technology itself. The tasks that they had been assigned were purposeful and deliberate. I spent time talking to the students about their work and at no time did any student reference the iPads. Their responses were always based on the math they were exploring.
The students were engaging in ‘math centres’ at the time of my visit. To give an idea of what some of these centres were, I took a few pictures.
These students were given the task of measuring books from the classroom using dominoes and then to use “Explain Everything” and the camera app to explain what they had done and how they had done it.
The next student I talked to had been absent the previous day. She was working on an assessment using the app “Educreations”, which is my personal favourite app, to show her work and explain her thinking.
The most impressive part of this was observed once the task was finished. The student (again, with total independance), took the embed code from her ‘Educreation’ and posted it into her personal blog.
When asked how many people would read her work, the student named at least seven (which is six more than me, but I did not share that!).
The next student I talked to was working at a listening centre. She was watching an animated version of the class shared math text on YouTube (the hard copy of the book was also available). The task was then to use “ExplainEverything” to answer some math prompts based on the book.
Two other centres were equally as engaging for the students. One involved hunting for QR Codes in the classroom to uncover a series of mystery numbers, the other using the “Motion Math” app series to put a game-centric slant on some basic skills and number fact recalls.
Obviously a significant amount of explicit instruction and modelling preceded the work I saw today. However, I noted some of the conditions that needed to exist for technology to be used effectively in this classroom:
1. The technology allowed the students to create things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
2. The technology gave the students a voice beyond the classroom.
3. The technology was used with very precise and intentional aims.
4. The technology allowed for student collaboration and conversation.
5. Many tasks were open and involved student exploration, investigation and decision-making.
I know this list could go on, but you get the idea. What became apparent when talking to the teachers after the lesson was that, however much the technology helped create these opportunities for learning, it was an understanding of how students learn that was most important. This was evidenced by the students who were involved in activities that did not use technology – when I asked them why this was, the answer was perfect – “I can do this work without the iPad”.