If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow: John Dewey, American psychologist and education reformer.
Last week I spoke to Andrew Wood and Chrystal Sumpton about the iPads@Kew program. This week I met with a group of students to get their perspective on the program: Chelsea and Ahmaey (Grade 3), Ethan, Daichi and Caitlin (Grade 4), Irfan, Alison and Danna (Grade 5) all took half an hour out of lessons to give me the inside story on the iPads.
I started by asking each member of the group to give me an example of how they had used their iPads at school and this led on to a discussion about their favourite apps, both for school and home.
Ahmaey: I liked doing research about the sun. I used Google and Safari and I typed in certain things about the sun. I wanted to find out about the different layers, and about the sun’s life span. I use Pages a lot – it’s good for spelling words – and I really like Keynote – you can animate – and my favourite app for home is Clash of Clans.
Caitlin: We made our portfolios using Creative Book Builder. We wrote about the things we’d been doing in class and showed it to Andrew and then we presented it to the rest of the class. I really like Keynote, which is like PowerPoint and has different layouts for presentations. iPads make it really easy for you to work by yourself. You don’t have to say: ‘I want to use this now. Can you move please?’ There are no arguments. My favourite app for home is Dragonvale.
I did a project on black holes which is a part of space where there is a lot of gravity and I searched for information using Safari. It’s much faster having your iPad to do your work and do research. I like Keynote and Garage Band.
Ethan: I did a project on volcanoes. I looked up volcanic eruptions on Wikipedia – and I also used Safari to do research. I looked at the top sites on the list that came up because they are always the most relevant. We use Dropbox in class; Andrew uploads work for us to Dropbox and it’s just there quickly and easily. I really like Creative Book Builder and at home I use My Brushes Pro which is an art game.
Alison: I did a presentation with a group using Keynote. We used Safari to do research, and then we wrote text and added pictures and presented the information. I like Creative Book Builder and Keynote. The good thing about having iPads at school is that it’s just more fun!
Irfan: I’ve been writing a narrative on Creative Book Builder. I typed in the text and then added media – pictures and video clips – to create the whole story. It’s really easy to use. I like to read newspapers and books on my iPad. At the moment I’m reading the autobiography of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (No, I didn’t know either; European soccer player, apparently). And you can email your homework to your teacher. I like Garage Band and Keynote and my favourite game is probably FIFA 13.
Chelsea: I like using Creative Book Builder or Scribble Press for creative writing. Once you’ve learnt how to use them, it’s really easy and it doesn’t take long. Sometimes I write an outline longhand then I use the iPad to make a book which you can publish and put on iBook. I really like iMovie and Draw free.
Danna: I really like to use my iPad for maths games; there are lots and they are really fun. I also like making iMovies and using Garage Band. There are lots of good things about the iPads: you can do research more easily, there are great apps for maths, you can do presentations in lots of ways, and I like typing more than writing. At home I play Minecraft – everyone is playing it now – boys and girls. About a year ago no-one was really playing it, but now everyone does.
When I asked whether the iPads made school more fun, there was a loud and unequivocal ‘yes!’ Ethan said that the really good thing about them was that you didn’t have to stand in line and wait for a computer any more. You could start straight away and use it as long as you needed to. It was much quicker and a lot less frustrating. Irfan said the iPads made it easy to have lots of new research experiences and it was a lot easier to do projects. They were much quicker than the old computers which were pretty slow. Sometimes the internet dropped out – and you couldn’t get it in Room 7 – but mostly it was pretty good.
I put it to the group that some parents were a bit worried at the start that kids would spend all their time at school playing games and doing things on their iPads they shouldn’t and I asked them (in strictest confidence, of course ) if they knew of anyone who had ever done this.
Sometime kids do go ‘off task’ I was told. There was one time during silent reading that someone tried to play Minecraft, but they had the volume up so they got caught. And sometimes kids use a feature called Multitask where you can do up to five things at once and you can move really quickly between each one – but the teachers know about it and they check.
And what about at home? Are there rules for when you can and can’t use your iPads?
Ahmaey told me he’s not allowed to use it after school in the week but can at the weekend and Chelsea said she’s not allowed to use in the mornings or she doesn’t get ready in time, (there was general consensus on this one). Someone told me they occasionally hide in their dad’s big cupboard full of stuff and play on it in there, and someone else had been known to play under their covers at night.
After the kids had gone back to class, I sat for a while and thought about everything they’d said. I have to say I was impressed; they spoke with such ease and confidence and were very articulate. They have a very broad knowledge of the apps and programs and of the technical aspects of these devices, but they also have a sophisticated understanding of how they can use them as a learning tool. Yes, you can play games on them and that’s fun, but they are about so much more, and these kids recognise that.
It’s a very far cry from how I learnt, and it’s certainly taken me some time to get used to the idea, but I’m really glad my kids are doing this program and I think they will be very well prepared for high school and afterwards because of ipads@Kew.
The principal goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what older generations have done: Jean Piaget, French psychologist and education pioneer.