Learning app-ens: Schools take to the small screen with iPods, iPads to enhance education

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Seventh-grade student Jacob Brueggen uses an iPod Touch to research mushrooms during Sarah Moll’s science class at Harrison County Middle School. Photo by Amy Wallot
Seventh-grade student Jacob Brueggen uses an iPod Touch to research mushrooms during Sarah Moll’s science class at Harrison County Middle School.
Photo by Amy Wallot

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Teachers are often tasked with bringing something new to the classroom, whether it’s a new concept to an existing lesson or a new lesson altogether. Especially now that technology is routinely offering new ways to learn, teachers are always on the lookout for a better approach.

But will students like it? Will they benefit? Will the technology be a big fail?

Sarah Moll, who is in her second year teaching at Harrison County Middle School and has more than 10 years of teaching experience, doesn’t have to worry about that when her students use the school’s iPod Touch technology.

“(iPods) make it easy to implement lessons and take the anxiety out of implementing something new,” said Moll, who regularly incorporates the iPod Touches into her 6th-grade classroom. “When students see the iPod cart at the front of the room as they walk in, they get very excited.”

Harrison County Middle stores 70 iPods in the school’s library, and any teacher in the school can check them out. Moll said one teacher at the school uses them in her special education class, and another uses them with Study Island for test preparation.

She chose them for her 6th-graders because of the “easy access to simulations and models to manipulate with touch-screen interaction,” Moll said. “It’s also great for motivating the students and fostering self-centered learning.”

Christine Garnett has taught mathematics for seven years at Harrison County High School. She has a set of 32 iPod Touches in her classroom. She said the iPods are more in tune with 21st-century learning.

“My students love them,” Garnett said. “After we get finished with the lesson, we usually have a competition within the class involving being able to order number (all types, fractions, decimals and percentages). It’s neat to see students get so excited and competitive over math.”

Garnett recently had two successful lessons with the iPods. In one, students researched and compared the iPhone and the Android. They compared price, phone plans and qualities of the phone.

“They used the information they found to create graphs and write a paper comparing them,” Garnett said. “The main use for the iPod was to do individual research, and we didn’t have to go to a computer lab. They had the Internet in the palms of their hands.”

“We also used the iPods recently as a review tool,” Garnett added. “I found some applications that cover different math topics. The applications give students examples and practice problems. For example, one application covers slope, and another covers solving systems of equations. They are able to choose the topic that they need to work on and practice the topic at their own pace. It allows them to work on what they need to work on and work at their own pace. The apps will actually help the students through problems if they get stuck.”

Shanna Smith is a National Board Certified Teacher in her 12th year. She teaches 2nd grade at Cub Run Elementary (Hart County). Her class uses iPods daily, and she uses an iPad for instructional purposes. She has one student with special needs who also uses an iPad.

“I use my iPad to model apps and other activities that the students will be accessing on their iPods and iPad, such as YouTube videos,” Smith said. “I use various apps to introduce, support and assess student content and knowledge. They discover information and formulate their own questions by viewing these apps and videos.

“There are apps that support most content areas, and we can even use them as an answering tool to answer multiple-choice questions as a class,” Smith added. “I am discovering new ways to use them all the time. I use them for every content area from literacy to math to science.”

Smith said the devices help level the playing field among her students.

“I have a wide array of abilities and needs in my classroom and using these tools allows for differentiated instruction that helps all of these students be successful and become great thinkers,” she said. “All levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy can be achieved for all students this way.”

Even younger students like the ones in Smith’s 2nd-grade class know that they have to use the devices properly or their privileges will be taken away.

“My students request apps and YouTube videos for me to search for, but they know they have to be content-related and appropriate,” Smith said. “They know we monitor what they do and are very responsible.”

Smith has incorporated student requests for apps into an on-demand writing prompt.

“In order for me to have them downloaded, they have to convince me to download it knowing that they have to give reasons why it is educational and has academic value as well as being appropriate and fun,” Smith said. “They also have to relate it to content we have learned and list a learning target that it is connected to. If they convince me, then it is downloaded.”

All three teachers said they have personally benefitted from their students’ technology advanced abilities.

Garnett said her students routinely show her different approaches to apps, and “they also have ideas for (introducing) math and other educational applications,” she said.

“They have taught me shortcuts to complete tasks within applications and have revealed features of applications that I had missed even after I explored the application for a while in preparing the lessons,” Moll added. “They help each other out, too, and feel good about helping out a less tech-savvy student.”

Smith said her students are her “driving force” for every lesson and activity.

“I teach the kids how to use the iPods and then they usually teach me how to do all of the fancy tricks or use it in a more efficient or advanced manner,” Smith said. “Knowing your students and what they might like is so important.

“One of the most important factors of any lesson or unit is allowing student choice,” Smith added. “Believe me, they choose activities involving technology. I have to keep up with them if I want to engage them.”

MORE INFO…
iPad
iPod
Christine Garnett, christine.garnett@harrison.kyschools.us, (859) 234-7117
Sarah Moll, sarah.moll@harrison.kyschools.us, (859) 234-7123
Shanna Smith, shanna.smith@hart.kyschools.us, (270) 524-2925

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