In today’s Middle School classroom, the subject matter is often similar to what Country Day students learned in previous decades—after all, grammar is grammar. But the opportunities for creativity, real-time self-assessment, collaboration, and self-expression have greatly expanded thanks to our use of technology. Here’s a look at three ways teachers are using the iPad to deepen understanding.
Socrative Assessments—The Socrative app allows teachers to create multiple choice and true/false quizzes that students complete online. The program provides students with immediate feedback allowing teachers to instantly connect with students as learning happens. In fifth-grade language arts, Patti Daniel uses Socrative to reinforce grammar lessons. For example, after a lesson on the three kinds of verbs—action, linking, and helping—she wrote a 10-sentence assessment in which students had to identify the type of verb used. After every question, students receive immediate feedback, which either reinforces or corrects knowledge. “Students really like receiving that immediate, real-time feedback,” says Mrs. Daniel. “It allows them to build on their skills and really own the knowledge. I also can very easily see classroom patterns, so it’s a great assessment tool for teachers as well to know if we need to review certain material.”
Presentation apps—In sixth-grade science, students are using a variety of presentation applications with names like Explain Everything, Google Slides, Toontastic, iMovie, TouchCast, Book Creator, Canva, and ThingLink. These applications allow students to show they know the material in a way that they feel most comfortable expressing themselves. Science teacher Adam Lawrence explains, “By allowing choice paired with guidelines, the students complete the assignment objectives while also inserting their own personality into the project. This helps students to internalize the information and makes the lessons more meaningful.” He also adds that the ease of collaboration can’t be overlooked as the iPad makes group projects and group effort an easy, yet vital part of learning.
Digital Storytelling in French—Applications like Book Creator and Toontastic are helping students to perfect their oral skills in new and creative ways. Using storytelling to hone skills in a second language is not new. But iPad apps allow students to perfect their speaking skills in a way that a paper booklet never could. For instance, students in Diane Farrug’s French classes recently used Toontastic to retell and rewrite their own versions of a story Mrs. Farrug told in class. “The ability to be creative and have fun makes the learning that much more enjoyable, but the recording aspect of these programs are the real benefit,” she says. “Students are able to listen to themselves, self-assess, reflect, and re-record to get the pronunciations right. They take real pride in their finished product and want it to be polished.”
Mrs. Farrug, who taught at Country Day more than 10 years ago, and returned this year after living in California, added that she has never worked at a school where the educational technology has been so intentional and well-planned. “The access to technology and the support of teachers and students in the classroom is truly fantastic,” she says.