We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Advantages of Mobile Technology

Nothing could have prepared Dorothy for the events that were to take place during her journey to see the Wizard of Oz; but, what if Dorothy had GPS to guide her home? What if her smartphone had allowed her to make a few calls? If only Dorothy had the capabilities of WiFi or Bluetooth, she would have used her small, portable device and found a quicker way of getting home.

In today’s world, information is ubiquitous and students are accustomed to fast-paced easy access to information – when they want it and wherever they want it.  Mobile technologies maximize communication in environments never before imagined. Just like Dorothy, our students are in a new world and need to use technology to navigate their journey.

Smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, and laptops allow teaching and learning to take place inside and outside of the classroom. These technologies strengthen interactions between students and teachers and support differentiation of instruction for English Language Learners.

English Language Learners bring the world into our classroom. As Milton Chen explained at the 2011 Celebration of Teaching & Learning Conference,the key to educational innovation is to make School life = Real life.  As educators, we must provide our multicultural English Language Learners with authentic learning experiences that provide “real life” communication and relevance to their own lives.

Here are a few apps that allow students to access information whether they are inside or outside of the classroom.

Dictionary.com app delivers trusted reference content from Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com. No internet connection is needed to search nearly 1,000,000 words and more than 90,000 synonyms and antonyms in the thesaurus.

SAT Vocabulary Visuals and Audios app includes unique illustrations for thousands of SAT words and explains their meanings using audios from professional narrators. This app translates words in Spanish, French, Chinese and 50 other languages.

iTranslate app translates words and whole words in sentences in 52 languages, and uses text to speech with 43 voices in 16 languages. iTranslate now includes voice recognition and an exclusive conversation and 18 free voices.

Star Walk app allows the user to point the iPad or iPhone at the sky and see what stars, constellations, and satellites you are looking at in real-time. Star Walk also allows you to find information on stars, planets, and satellites.

Leafsnap app is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

Moon Globe app turns your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad into a precision instrument for viewing Earth’s Moon.  Hold the Moon in your hands. Satellite imagery and topographic laser altimeter data are combined to render the Moon with realistic lighting in realtime 3D.

 

 

 

 

iPad Training for Teachers: It’s all about the Apps

We recently conducted a three-day workshop for teachers who are using iPads with kids in grades K-12. Although all of the teachers worked with ELLs, some of the teachers were ESL teachers, others taught ELA, Math, Social Studies, or Special Education.  You get the picture. We were all over the map as far as our audience was concerned.

So, the obvious question is how do we train teachers from such a wide variety of settings to use the iPad effectively in their classroom? This answer lies at the very core of what makes the iPad so unique: differentiation through apps!

Once the initial how-to session about the functions and features of the iPad is completed, the emphasis must switch. Professional developers must model differentiation for the teachers, just as they would do for the students in the classroom, through the use of solid apps.

This begins by exploring applications that are truly educational and useful for each teacher in their subject area or focus. First share the apps that are basic tools for instruction such as reference tables, calculators, readers, and dictionaries. Introduce apps like iBooks, Stanza, Periodic Table of Elements, Google Earth, and CalcMadeEasy.

If you are part of a district wide initiative using iPads, there should be one set of student tools for managing notebooks, submitting classwork and studying for all students. You must decide as a class which tools you will all use.  Index Card is a great app that allows users to customize flash cards and organize them into categories for studying.

Ideally teachers should create a paperless system. (Can you imagine a world where you do not have to carry home 5 classes worth of assignments on Friday night?) By allowing students to submit their work via the iPad, teachers begin to model one of the true 21st Century learning protocols.

The buzz at ISTE 2011 was that Evernote works very well for this and is a robust app for creating, storing, and sharing documents. The native app Notes is a simpler note-taking tool. Of course, you always have the option to print out assignments when necessary.

As for instruction, remember that oftentimes the best apps cross over into many disciplines. For example, after we distributed our best apps list for ELLs, a teacher shared with us her best apps for Special Ed and we discovered a whole new bunch of apps that can be used with a variety of students.Apps for brainstorming and mindmapping such as iThoughtsHD and Popplet are universal tools for differentiated instruction.

Finally, teachers have to establish a classroom routine that works for them and their teaching style. Whether you have an iPad center a few times a week, or each student uses an iPad every day, the priority must be to set up classroom rules about how and when the iPad is used to achieve the instructional goals the teacher has designed.

The iPad Revolution!

Using iPads with ESL students

So, by now I am sure that every teacher reading this has gotten his or her hands on an iPad, right? Well if you haven’t, you have just been given your summer assignment.  In my opinion, there is no other tech product currently available for teachers that can facilitate teaching and learning like this one.  I think you will find that the iPad is a revolutionary educational tool.

For our purposes, I’m going to narrow the focus to the use of the iPad for English as a Second Language Learners. If you haven’t become a devotee of the iPad universe, join me. Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that make the iPad so unique and so useful for ELLs.

iBooks Struggling readers will find the tools available through iBooks absolutely indispensible.  The highlighter, bookmark and note tools facilitate student comprehension and encourage students to use the reading strategies we have taught them to readily access the content of a text.  By simply touching a word or phrase, they have the option to get the dictionary definition, highlight, annotate, or search.  In addition to marking up a page, the student can  find all the notes and bookmarks in one place when reviewing the text. They can also type in and search for key words or phrases within the text.

Students are able to download  and store books and pdf files without breaking their backs with overloaded book bags.  The library can then be sorted by title, author or category.  Upon opening a book, students can browse the table of contents, flip through pages, or advance to any page in the book with one or two gestures. The brightness, font size, or page color can be adjusted to suit the reader’s preference.  If you prefer to use a Kindle e-reader, (I like it too) you can download the app to your iPad and use that one as well.  There is also an app called OverDrive, which allows you to borrow e-books from your local library!

Notes Lisa and I have been experimenting with several different note tools.  I have found that for basic note-taking the Notes application that comes standard with the iPad is okay.  However, several of the apps now available allow students to record a lecture while drawing, writing or typing their notes.  This is very useful for ESL learners. They can play back the lesson as many times as they like while reviewing and revising their notes. Notes Plus is one such app.  inClass is an app that offers audio, video, and photo note-taking, as well as a student organizer. Other writing apps that are being used in school districts include Office2HD, PaperDesk and iAnnotatePDF.  Dragon Dictation is a speech to text application that is great to use with Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). Verbally is an assistive speech application that allows users to communicate by selecting from a word bank. Speak it! is a text to speech application that allows  students to hear what they are typing.  UYH Gold is a good for practicing handwriting with SIFE.

Educational Apps We continue to test out apps that are both fun and educationally useful for ELLs.  There are several good ones.  Flipboard allows you to customize and browse the web in a magazine layout that is easy to scan and fun to read. There are also many good word game applications. I like the traditional Boggle and Scrabble.  There are also lots of flashcard apps, such as Index Card, that help students learn study skills. Apps like Stack the States and Star Walk help with content area studies.

Other Tools But wait..there’s more.  Some of my favorite apps include Google Earth and Translator.   We know that our ELLs benefit from having visuals and the iPad screen is the perfect size to view videos and images – not too big and not too small. You do run into a wall sometimes because iPad does not support Adobe Flash, but you can definitely work around that.

This is just a quick look.  There is a lot more.  I hope this has piqued your interest.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to use an iPad yet, my best advice is to get one and see for yourself.  If you know about some useful apps, tell us!

There are a lot of pilot programs for iPads springing up in schools. Here’s a link to an article from Scholastic.com that highlights an iPad pilot program in a  NY school district on Long Island. Who knows, maybe your district will be next?

Play-Based Learning On The Go

I recently spent 5 hours driving in a car from New York to Maryland with my eleven year-old daughter & twelve year-old son.   Before heading on our journey, I decided it would be a good idea to bring my iPad for entertainment.

First, I had to set some time limits on how long each one would have with the iPad.  It’s no easy task deciding how much time each could play or who will be the first!  Nevertheless, we were on our way.  Besides a few music requests from my music library, they got to play their favorite apps.

I encourage my kids to play educational apps that challenge their thinking and yet are fun.  Two apps in particular that we all like to play are Stack the States and Stack the Countries.  The object of the game is to earn a random state or country for every level completed to create your own personalized map.

The Stack the States app features questions about capitals, state shapes, abbreviations, bordering states, locations on a map, nicknames and other trivia.  The Stack the Countries app features questions about capitals, landmarks, major cities, continents, border countries, languages, flags, and country shapes.

Though some of the questions seem easy such as, “Which state borders New Jersey?”  Others were a little more difficult like, “Which country shares a border with Malaysia?”  My kids find it particularly interesting when I can’t figure out the answer.  Though those times are few, I do enjoy sharing the tips to figuring out the answers.

Educational apps help reinforce what is learned in school, build memory and critical thinking skills.  Why not use them in schools?  What a great tool to integrate in a classroom where English Language Learners can work side by side with their Native English speaking peers.  ELLs are a resource and bring a world of knowledge into a classroom.  Play-based learning with their classmates provides the perfect low-anxiety opportunity for them to use the English language to share their world view with others!