New Trier High School: Mobile Learning Update.

19 Dec

I am a technology staff developer and anatomy and physiology teacher at New Trier High School.  We have implemented a 1:1 iPad pilot this year with 700 of our 4,000 students.  Below is an update that the director of technology wrote for the board of education.  It outlines our program, it successes and some of the hiccups we have had along the way.  I have also embedded the video that our technology department created to help illustrate some of the way students are using iPads in the classroom.

Board Memo:

The Mobile Learning Initiative is off to a strong start as we conclude the first semester. Our evaluation and research show that several features of a tablet mobile device have been critical to the program’s success, including the availability to instantly record, edit, and integrate audio and video; access to resources in pilot and non-pilot classrooms; a plethora of easy-to-use apps; increased digital communication with teachers; improved student organization and management of work and learning; efficient feedback about learning from teacher to student; and improved classroom routines and practices. The progress in the initiative can perhaps best be viewed from the perspective of students and teachers. The following classroom examples emphasize that student/teacher perspective and the key success factors are embedded in these examples and in the video we will present at the Board meeting.

In our Anatomy and Physiology classrooms, students are constructing their own knowledge of complex scientific processes and demonstrating that knowledge through embedding pictures, audio, and video into presentations and written documents. As an example, rather than simply reading about the process of muscle contraction, students create and narrate an animation of the various steps of this intricate process. These animation tutorials also serve as a study aide all students can use later through whole class sharing on YouTube.

In Biology, the student lab report has been re-envisioned, allowing students to create a multimedia product that demonstrates their learning. In the past, students completed hand-written lab reports. Now, they can use the Pages app to author their reports, which allows them to incorporate actual images and video with the simple click of a button. Data and charts, once written out by hand, are now quickly entered in the Numbers spreadsheet application and embedded into the report, which allows the student to focus on sophisticated and in-depth analysis of data rather than just producing the graph and chart.

In Physics, students often study concepts, such as the movement of waves in water, which are difficult to see. In past years, students used a water tank, which is an imperfect process that produces inconsistent results and is difficult to observe. This year, a brief demonstration was presented in class, and students used a wave simulator on the iPad with a virtual tank to observe the phenomenon in more depth, outside of class, leading to great understanding and comprehension. Having access to the wave simulator for all students through the iPad allows the teacher to construct a lesson where he or she can decide whether the clarity of a simulator or a physical lab is most appropriate for the learning goal.

Each year, students in Sports Medicine learn about ankle injuries, and complete a corresponding lab where they learn how to tape an ankle. Previously, the instructor would demonstrate ankle taping, and then spend the rest of the period demonstrating the same concept to each lab group on an individual basis. Now, one student tapes the initial demonstration, and the instructor posts the file so students can review it and watch it at their own pace, both in and outside of class. Rather than repeating the same demonstration a dozen times in class, the instructor can now provide more meaningful and in-depth feedback to students.

Students in Sports Medicine also now take electronic notes on their reading assignments, which are submitted to the teacher. The teacher can then provide immediate feedback and review, and reports that this has increased student preparation and participation, allowing him to cover more material at a deeper level in class.

In Social Studies classrooms, students can immediately access primary source documents, which can be used for their research or in small group activities.

Students in AP English read The Awakening by Kate Chopin in the iBooks app on the iPad. The teacher reports that there were increases in comprehension and understanding of difficult vocabulary, since students could simply click on a word to see its definition. They also use the annotation features of the app, which allows them to highlight text and take notes that can easily be accessed later. The search feature allows students to spot trends in language in phrasing, and to better understand when similar words and phrases are used throughout the book.

Also in AP English, students create a visual essay, which allows them to link images and text to make an argument about a particular topic. In the past, students used a web-based program on a computer to complete this assignment. Now, students use an easy-to-use book creator app that allows them to easily combine text and video to create a professional looking product, which can be shared with the teacher, presented to the class, and is archived in a class library.

As Junior English students prepare to write their junior theme, the iPad has become an integral part of the process, bringing the resources of the library to their fingertips via the iPad in the classroom and at home. They have access to New Trier’s rich array of journal subscriptions, eBooks, and other publications. They also use apps like Flipboard and Longform to locate long form journalism articles on subjects related to American Life from such publications as The Atlantic or The New Yorker. They can also access resources like TED Talks, as they work to incorporate sources beyond the written word. As they find these resources and progress towards finding a topic, they use the iPad to annotate and create reflections about how their interest is shaped into a more defined topic area. These analyses are shared with the teacher via Google Drive, which allows him or her to monitor progress on a continuous basis and provide feedback, which is an improvement over the traditional method of submitting written drafts on a set schedule.

In French Cinema, students quickly access information on cultural topics related to the movies they are watching. Students then prepare presentations to demonstrate their knowledge using the KeyNote app, which can include video and audio recordings of interviews with fellow students. After researching questions on cultural knowledge, students use the iPad to verify comprehension using the Socrative app, which provides immediate feedback to students.

In French 4, the teacher authored several short stories he distributed to the students in iBook. These stories align closely with the curriculum of the class, and utilize the features available in the iBooks app, such as embedded video, audio, and pictures. Students read and annotate the stories, and use functions such as the dictionary to better understand what they are reading.

Students taking Chinese classes must learn the difficult process of writing Chinese characters, which previously could only be done using paper and pencil. Using the touch screen on the iPad and a stylus, students can practice creating characters and receive immediate feedback from the app, or submit the files to the teacher for assessment. Students in Chinese also can practice the language and pronunciation easily using the built-in microphone on the iPad. The recordings can be uploaded for the teacher, who can give immediate assessment.

Previously, this type of practice was only available once every ten class days in the language lab. In both cases, the feedback from the teacher to the student occurs more quickly and is more meaningful.

In Spanish, the use of the iPad complements the use of the TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling) methodology, which teaches the language through reading and storytelling. Students are now able to author and produce short videos of skits, which demonstrate their writing, speaking, and grammar skills. Previously, this process was cumbersome, using cameras and complicated editing software in a computer lab. Now, this process can occur in the classroom and at home, and the focus is not on technology, but rather on language learning. This method has resulted in stronger student engagement and comprehension.

In the Principles of Engineering class, students can use apps that analyze pictures of structures, such as bridges. The app immediately provides measurements that can assist in calculating load or other important factors.

Topics of Psychology and Sociology students demonstrate difficult situations through the use of puppetry and voice recording apps on the iPad, which provides a less stressful experience for presenting on topics that may be uncomfortable for the students to discuss face to face.

One of the most common and significant themes from student and teacher feedback is the improvement in organization and efficiency in learning and the higher rate of work completion. Many students use the iPad for class notes for all classes, keeping track of worksheets, communicating with teachers, and completing assignments. They indicate this efficiency ties to an improvement in their performance in class and reduces stress. This efficiency occurs both in participating classes, non-participating classes, and in their other work at New Trier.

In a survey this week, over 80% of participating students indicate they use the iPad beyond their pilot class in a variety of ways, including:

  • Typing papers for non-participating classes or the college application process
  • Recording Kinesis dance practices for coaching and critique purposes
  • Researching chemicals used in a chemistry lab
  • Using electronic textbooks for other classes
  • Creating flash cards for language learning
  • Submitting assignments via Blackboard or Canvas (learning management system)
  • Completing homework assignments during free time, anywhere on campus or at home
  • Organizing their assignments, due dates and files
  • Communicating with teachers via email
  • Research in Science Olympiad
  • Organizing notes and sources in debate
  • Read sheet music and scores in music class
  • In theater, write light cues, mark scripts, control lighting and sound equipment, and edit CAD drawings.

This increased efficiency is possible in part because many of the participating teachers have shifted their practices and organization. Many participating classes are now paperless, with students receiving assignments electronically from teachers, completing them on their iPad, submitting them to teachers, and receiving them back with feedback in a timely manner with grades that are automatically entered in the teacher’s grade book and viewable online. This streamlined process has led to increased homework completion rates, a reduction in time for providing feedback to students, and has allowed for both teachers and students to add audio or video notes to assignments. For instance, a student might indicate unexpected results in a science lab, or a teacher could record a quick video explaining how a student made a mistake in a science calculation. Students and teachers report this type of feedback is more meaningful and significant. Many teachers now also complete a cursory review of assignments and homework before class starts, so they can make adjustments on the fly for a concept the students may not have understood the previous day.

Teachers also report that this efficiency has led to increased student preparation for class and a reduction in the time students and teachers need to spend on organizational tasks. In some cases, teachers have indicated that this has led to being able to cover more content, or to explore topics at a more deep and meaningful level.

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