A few weeks ago, I met my substitute teacher for the day at my door. I was on site for meetings, but would not be in my classroom. In my plans and in our chat, I told her about how my kids would be using the iPads to work on two different projects that were in progress. She said, "oh we won't be needing those, I have other things planned."
Later that day I saw her and she seemed pleasantly surprised by my students ability to use the devices to meet their learning goals. It seems that despite her 'other plans', my kids knew what they needed to do and use to finish their assignments.
This week I'm out for a whole week for professional development. I have never, ever been away from my class this long and was quite worried about it. I made sure I had a sub who was comfortable with technology. She has been amazed by what the kids can and do accomplish.
It got me thinking about the first sub's initial reluctance to use the devices. I thought it was a generational thing. Although I am over 50, I've found most teachers my age are less likely to be flexible and adaptable to including technologies into their practices. I am an anomaly due to my first career in high tech. ( I really did work for a company that helped invent the Internet.) I realized it wasn't that my first sub was afraid to use the tablets.
It was more that she thought of iPads as a toy, something a sub might use to fill time, like a game of 7-up or a seasonal crossword puzzle. She hadn't thought of them in regards to their educational value. My kids use their iPads to create, collaborate, problem solve, communicate, research, and yes, to play games. But when they play games, it is with a purpose.
Their new favorite game site is SumDog. Sumdog's learning engine adapts its questions to each student's ability helping teachers deliver Common Core State Standards. It is a group of math games that help students learn and practice math concepts. To use the site with ipads, they need ro go through Rover since it has flash animation. I can target the kids activities to concepts we are working on in class. I am also able to gather data on their activities to see which concepts they are struggling with and where they have mastered concepts. they collaborate with each other and strategize how to play the games. They can play against and with each other. Last week we won a city wide contest! I actually had to tell my kids, "stop doing math and go outside to play!"
So yes, they do play games on the iPads, but there is always a learning objective at the heart of the activity.
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