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 iAnnotatePDFDragon 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?

Using Wikis with English Language Learners

Looking for an appropriate collaboration tool to use with ELLs?

A Wiki is an excellent resource for students to develop skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.   Wikis encourage students to collaborate with each other without having to be in the same physical place.  It’s also a great opportunity for teachers to provide individual feedback on their students’ work.

There are many resourceful ways in which Wikis can be utilized in the classroom with ELLs.   Here are just a few innovative ideas:

Writing Projects - Wikis allow students to work on group projects for essays, reports and creative writing projects.  Students will be able to write drafts that can be edited by their peers and teachers.  For example, a student can upload a report while other students in the group can upload images and videos to the project.  A Wikispace can become a repository of work that will track an ELLs’ growth in writing by allowing the teacher to see every draft of a document.

Online Glossaries - Use Wikis to encourage students to create interactive online glossaries for academic vocabulary. Students can work individually or as a group to create, post and edit information.  Explanations of glossary terms can include native language translations, video clips, illustrations, audio recordings and web links.

Listening- Speaking Project – Students create their own audio clips by recording themselves reading their essays and posting them to the Wiki.  This project allows students to practice pronunciation and rerecord themselves as needed.  Students can then listen to each others recordings and share comments.  This Wiki activity permits ELLs to work at their own pace in a safe and low anxiety environment.

Discussion Boards – Teachers and students can upload texts, videos or images to further develop communicative competence in an online forum.  ELLs will discuss, develop and produce high quality texts while emphasizing language skills and technology skills.  They can create book clubs or study groups as a virtual class activity. Students no longer need to rely on e-mails to share their comments.

For more information on using Wikis and other Web 2.o tools refer to Empower English Language Learners with Tools From the Web by Lori Langer de Ramirez.

Reinventing the Flashcard

Technology’s Touch on a Time-Tested Teaching Tool

Flashcards have been around since the stone age but now let’s take a look at a technology tool that will help ELLs learn metacognitive skills while practicing vocabulary.  We recommend that ESL teachers use electronic flashcards on their iPods to help reinforce content and at the same time teach students valuable study skills.

Why iPods?

Everyday, teachers and students are discovering that iPods have a use beyond downloading music, movies and entertainment.  When used creatively, iPods can bridge the classroom with the outside world. This has tremendous appeal to today’s tech savvy students- aptly named, Digital Natives. 1

There are several ways to create flashcards that can be used on your iPod. One quick and easy way is to use digital photos (jpeg, gif, or png) and create a photo album in your iTunes library.  Take pictures of labeled objects in your classroom. After selecting the photo album, view the photo album as a slideshow by simply hitting the play button on your iPod.  Go to the settings menu to add music from your iPod and to adjust the timing and transitions.

Through the use of iPod technology, English Language Learners can increase and reinforce academic language proficiency and content area knowledge.   The capability, versatility, and popularity of iPods among the school age demographic make it the perfect crossover teaching tool between learning in the classroom and embracing the outside world.

1 Presky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5).

NYSABE-New York State Association of Bilingual Education Conference

Encounter with an ESL “Rock Star”!

We were at the New York State Association of Bilingual Education Conference (NYSABE) on Thursday and Friday and had the pleasure of meeting Keynote Speaker, Ana Uhl Chamot, the co-designer of the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), an instructional model for English Language Learners. (if you haven’t heard).  We were like groupies, got our books signed and took lots of pictures. We even got to talk shop a little.

Of course, we discussed the use of technology with ELLs and how it aligns perfectly with the CALLA model.  Many tech tools encourage metacognitive development and reinforce the use of differentiated learning strategies.

E-Book readers are good examples.  They make it easy for students to practice their reading skills with links to additional content, one touch access to word definitions, instant highlighting, and note-taking tools.  iPods are great too, as you can teach study skills with electronic flashcards and applications such as iQuiz.

We know that our students learn best when they have a repertoire of learning strategies to draw from and when they are reflective, critical thinkers.  As Ana Uhl Chamot mentioned,  the CALLA model encourages showing students how to practice vs. practicing more, breaking down tasks and modeling what the outcome will look like.

This allows students to practice strategically and identify the thoughts and actions that they use to help them complete a learning task, especially when they are struggling with a concept.  Having many learning strategies means more use of higher order thinking skills which equals more success for our students!