Today I was able to spend a well planned day of learning, networking and connecting with the staff at Monsignor Fee Otterson in the southwest of Edmonton. This new school prides itself on its use of technology within the learning environment, but I must say, my visual and emotional sensibilities were heightened everywhere I turned. The hallways and classrooms showed off the amazing student artwork, great books being read, student reflections, and collaborative learning areas.
The infamous M & M admin team and 100 Voices teachers and hosts, Danielle and Jennifer, took good care of us in this well-planned day. We had time observing students in classrooms, speaking with teachers, having an IT/ET overview of ipad setup and accessories, and playing with new-found apps.
At Otterson, all teachers have an ipad of their own to use as they please. As well there is a cart of ipads and a set of 10. The young staff are ambitious and discerning as to how they see the ipads infiltrating the classroom environment. In one Kindergarten classroom, there were three ipads, each with different sets of apps and only about 8-10 apps in total. In another grade one classroom, a literacy station had an ipad where students were scanning a QR code from a page in a binder which took them to a leveled reading book from Scholastic.com. In another, students had created artwork and then had their explanation of their work tied to a QR code.
Teachers here like having a Master iPad in which they can choose a few apps relating to curricular content that can easily be uploaded to their classroom iPads. Most of them noted that they changed their iPad apps on a monthly basis. As well, they looked for apps that can be used ‘on the fly’ to collect evidence of learning easily. Such apps shared in this category were:
- Videolicious – combine some images and a basic video clip to make a simple and quick movie.
- QR codes – readers like BeeTagg or Bakodo and QR code makers from Kaywa and Linkstore. These are all quick and easy to use and make. Putting QR codes on student artwork or in a binder is simple. For further uses of QR codes in the classroom, I refer to the crowd-sources document started by Tom Barrett as Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom.
- Pictello – create talking books and talking photo albums or even a digital portfolio. I like its ease of use but it does cost $18.99 so that may deter some people.
- Book Creator – costs only $4.99. Create books, add photos, import speech and music, send books to email, Dropbox, etc. Good getting started tutorial included.
- Camera/Video – these original apps on the iPad 2, really are important in gathering evidence of learning throughout the school day. Teachers here noted that they are getting better at taking pictures with the iPad or with a digital camera and then using a Camera Connection kit. They also are using the pictures with apps to have students’ reflections captured via audio or text. This is key, to be able to capture learning while learning is occurring, not after all the students have left the building.
What I really like about this colorful, family-like and inviting environment is that each of the teachers were very open to sharing what works and what hasn’t worked in utilizing ipads in their classrooms. They really know their students and place high, yet attainable expectations on them.
I leave with many ideas to share with the teachers and Learning Services team members that I work with in PSD. I hope to have an opportunity in a year to come back for a visit to see where the staff takes these digital learning experiences. Thanks to ERLC and Monsignor Fee Otterson for a memorable day of learning!