iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking

Here are the highlights from the workshop “iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking” which we co-presented at the 2011 Long Island Tech Summit on October 18th

The workshop focused on three essential questions and provided a brief overview of the iPad and how it can help ELLs reach their full academic potential. 

 How can educational iPad applications strengthen and support critical thinking for English Language Learners?

When the the right educational iPad application is integrated into a content rich lesson, it provides multisensory access to that content, facilitating comprehension and allowing ELLs to participate more effectively in academic discourse. Apps can be used to scaffold activities that may otherwise be difficult for ELLs to understand.  In addition, using multimedia apps to deliver content enhances traditional methods of delivery that are largely text-based.  This opens up the door to critical thinking by lowering the language barrier and channeling the instructional focus to academic content.

The following quote sums up the need to provide content-based language instruction that challenges ELLs to think critically in order to attain academic parity with native English language speakers.

 “Merely using the language and knowing the meaning is not enough. To become proficient in a language, learners need to use creative and critical thinking through the target language.”

 From: Muhammad Kamarul Kabilan. (June 2000) A. Creative and Critical Thinking in Language Classrooms The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6,
http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Kabilan-CriticalThinking.html  

 How can teachers integrate iPads into their classroom toolbox?

Before selecting an app for use with students, educators must first identify the   instructional goals and objectives of the lesson, not the other way around.  Instead of discovering a fun or exciting app and trying to build a lesson around the app, take a lesson that has proven to be successful and find apps that can be integrated into the lesson to scaffold the content, differentiate the instruction and enhance the outcome.

For example an interesting project idea “The Alternate History Project” was showcased at a poster session at ISTE 2011 http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory . Integrating social studies apps such US History Tools or On This Day as well as a graphic organizer app like Popplet and a digital media app such as Discovery Ed Streaming (Mobile.DiscoveryEducation.com) can help ELLs meet the goals of this project successfully.

How can iPads, digital media and Web 2.0 tools remove boundaries and promote academic achievement for ELLs?

Finally, it is important to explore the bigger picture of using instructional technology and to identify the purpose for using iPads in the classroom. Consider the following list of pedagogical goals in order to identify how this device can help promote equitable educational opportunity for ELLs.

  • For Intervention (RtI)
  • For Enrichment
  • For Assistive Technology
  • For Digital Literacy
  • For Reading
  • For Organizing Resources

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/05/27/five-ways-readers-are-using-ipads-in-the-classroom/

If you’d like to read more about how teachers are using iPads with ELLs read “ELL to Go” by Jennifer Demski

http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/05/02/ell-to-go.aspx?sc_lang=en

 

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.

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 2

What if? History Project

During our visit to the poster sessions at the conference, we learned of an interesting project conducted by students attending the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The teacher, Diana Laufenberg, created a counterfactual or alternate history project that focused on the investigation of historical events through research and creativity.

Students were responsible for identifying a point in American History where they would change the outcome.  After reading background information and identifying the point of divergence, students researched three events preceding their point of divergence, and then introduced three new events in history leading up to 2011.

The essential questions addressed three main ideas for this project:

How do the actions of individuals impact the historical record?

How do systemic changes impact the historical record?

How influential can one decision be in the historical landscape?

Students worked independently and collaboratively with their peers in developing their presentation of ideas.  The project included an organizer, a work contract and a journal to record the process. Projects were assessed using a rubric and presentations were uploaded onto the school website.

American History can be one of the most difficult subjects for English Language Learners because of the unfamiliarity with historical events in the U.S.  The research needed for a counterfactual project can help ELLs gain an understanding of the impact these events have had on our lives today.

Just imagine the alternate history that would be created if a student had never moved to the U.S.  How would this have affected their lives, schools, or communities?

For more information on the What if? History Project please visit:

http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory

Bringing a Social Studies Project to Life

11 Multimedia Tools in 1 Great Project!

Thank you to Donna Colavolpe from Half Hollow Hills School District in NY,  for a Social Studies project idea that is a shining example of 21st Century teaching and learning.   Donna’s fourth grade class in NY used e-pals.com to connect and share information with another fourth grade class from St. Louis,  Missouri.

Step 1: The children began by writing introductory letters to each other. Then, they began comparing their lives to the lives of the Missouri students. Students used Google Earth to observe New York and Missouri. They wrote back and fourth to each other approximately twice a month.  They learned about each other’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, schools, friends and even holiday celebrations.

Step 2: The students researched everything about their home state using websites that were teacher chosen and attached to the class e Board. The sites were differentiated according to readability and included videos as well.  As they acquired information, they took notes in an Excel spreadsheet.  They also used digital cameras to take pictures of the plants and animals that they observed in their own backyards.

Step 3: The students used their notes to create paragraphs for a Power Point presentation.  These presentations were shared in class and also attached to the class e Board to share with others. Then the students attached their Power Points to an email to their pen pals.  The children in both classes wrote personal narratives  and published their narratives in Word and emailed them to their pen pals.

Step 4: With the use of Skype and web cams, the students in both classes finally met and were able to speak to each other face to face. They took turns asking their e pals questions and sharing what their favorite part of this learning experience was.

*Another option/modification for ELLs:  Have ELL students connect with students from their home countries so that they can compare and contrast their new home with their country of origin.