iPads apps: student explorations

I was (am) still feeling a little overawed with the class set of iPads. I am still taking the eight iPads into class every Monday, and most weeks they get used. But I have really focused on letting the students self-direct with using Google translate or images to check any new words or I have continued to experiment with using the app Ask3. Beyond this I was feeling a little stuck for inspiration and a Bit Daunted by the huge amount of apps available.

A chance corridor conversation gave me the nudge I needed I needed. My colleague has been using the iPads with her maths students. She told me she had initially introduced the iPads and spent some time letting the students explore the wide variety of maths-specific apps available. Now in class, she plans a 15-20 slot where students can self-direct their studies and she’s getting an informal idea of which apps they like by which ones they return to. (She also told me she had an evening student that was considering moving to the daytime class, but when she found out the iPads were not available in the daytime she decided to stay in the evening!!)

This gave me an idea. What kind of ESOL-specific apps are available and how could I get my students to research and evaluate them? I did a little research first, going into the app store and searching using the following terms: reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar. I was quite amazed at the amount of (generally free) apps available. I almost went into Being Daunted mode again.

I then delivered the following class:

Lead in: Class discussion on access to technology & what games they like to play. Everyone in the group had access to something; a phone with Internet, a home PC, XBox or Play Station and most of the students played some kind of games ranging from basketball games, fighting games, treasure hunt-type games. (is that the right term??)

We then brainstormed the important criteria when choosing a game: interest, different levels, easy to access & easy to use, free time.

When I asked them if they ever played ‘games’ to learn English, there was an overwhelming ‘no!’. We then discussed how the above categories may change for English language games and we amended Interest to : reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, alphabet (they only needed a slight nudge to get here-honest!)

App research: This provided the springboard into the main task. The students got into pairs and chose one aspect to research on the iPad. I showed them how to get onto the App Store & they needed help with the password (it’s pretty long). For the rest of the lesson the students were predominantly on task, looking at different apps & doing the activities. I’d created a small grid to help them score the apps & they either gave each aspect a grade (1-10) or some kind of smiley face. Some students were able to give some extra info and I would be their scribe.

plenary: Suddenly 2 hours later …… I hadn’t fully thought out how I would conclude the lesson. I had a vague thought about mixing the groups so that they could share what they’d found, but once the students lifted their heads and saw the time they wanted a break & really 2 hours on the iPads is enough so I moved onto something else.

This gave me a week to really reflect on the lesson and what I wanted to do next. But that’s another blog post.

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