Tuesday, July 8, 2014

End of School Reflections Part 3: 1 to 1 Learning

This is a continuation of a week-long series of posts reflecting on the 2014-2015 school year, and directions for next year. Previous posts include:

End of School Reflections Part 1: Flipped Learning

End of School Reflections Part 2: Project-Based Learning

1 to 1 Learning
Although I have had a classroom set of lap tops for about three years, this year I had a cart of iPads in my classroom during the last few months of school.  This was intended to be a "trial run" for our 1:1 initiative for the 2014-2015 school year. Students used the iPads regularly for research and accessing Schoology. However, I was determined take advantage of the unique features that the iPad offers to help extend my students' learning to a deeper level. In two months, here are some of the things my students did:

Stop Motion Operons: Students used Stop Motion Studio to film how different mutations would affect the function of the lac operon (control area on a chromosome). This was THE ONE project this year that worked exactly as I envisioned. The students were engaged, thinking deeply, and the technology helped them to understand the process better. And it took as long as I thought it would! Win!

Augmented Reality (AR) Scavenger Hunt and AR Lab Equipment: The technology for both of these projects worked okay (with a few hiccoughs like wind blowing away the triggers and insufficient volume on the videos), but what I need to rethink before using this tool again is if it really encourages deeper learning. Engagement - yes, but I did not see any better understanding of the topics because of the use of AR.

Biome Movie Project: Student groups created "Mystery Biome" videos for each other and then we watched them as a class, trying to guess which biome each movie depicted. The students used Loopster to edit their videos. I left the format of the video completely up to the students, but they had to submit a storyboard before filming. Almost 100% of the students struggled with the storyboard. In the end, two of the eight videos were really excellent. I think I need to show examples of student work next time I do this.

DNA Comics: This was actually a project designed by my student teacher. Students had to show their understanding of DNA replication, transcription, or translation in a comic. They used various iPad apps to make their comics. Many students struggled with the concept of a comic not being just a diagram and/or text. Some comics were nothing more than a duplication of their textbooks. If I do this project again, I'll need to be more specific in the description of what a comic is so that students actually have to think about and communicate what they know in a different way.

Non-Mendelian Genetics Videos: Students researched different inheritance patterns and made tutorials using Educreations to teach each other about the topic. Each video also included a sample problem. To make these more effective next time, I need to do a better job having conversations with the students to critique the videos before they are posted.

I really enjoyed seeing the students exercise their creativity during these projects, but next year I need to be watchful that the iPads aren't relegated to a tool solely for research and word processing, or a method of filling time, or a shiny new toy. I don't feel like that happened this year, but I want to continue to strive for uses that allow my students to think critically, communicate, create, and connect. 

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