Thursday, June 9, 2011

Learning Shouldn't Stop When the Last Bell Rings

A few months back Verizon Wireless visited New Milford High School and we had a fantastic meeting. The end result was the formation of a pilot program where students and a teacher would be given a tablet device and then be tasked with developing a plan to extend learning beyond the school day. About a week later the devices arrived at my office. Each of the ten tablets (5 iPads and 5 Samsung Galaxy tabs) came with 3G access for the duration of the pilot program.

For the pilot group I selected nine students that were currently enrolled in Virtual High School courses as I felt that these students would provide the best possible feedback. I then reached out to Jeff Fiscina, one of my tech savvy math teachers, who was to provide a perspective as to how teachers could develop assignments to be completed outside of school and tailored to these devices. Jeff and I then created a Google Group called the “Tablet Ten” to collect information on how the tablets were being used to extend learning beyond the school day, provide feedback, and eventually develop a plan for Verizon Wireless.

Needless to say, the students and Jeff were extremely excited when they received their tablets. On the day that I distributed them I had students at my office door by 6:50 AM. After signing an acceptable use and liability form, each student was challenged to utilize their respective device to improve learning and achievement. As we near the end of the pilot program, I wanted to share some of the student reflections and ways in which they have been using the tablets outside of school. Here are some of their thoughts:

Anita wrote:
My iPad was surprisingly most useful with the defaulted notes application. Since it is the end of the year, I was running short of notebook paper and I actually took notes in English, biology, and Spanish in my Notes app. In biology, we had to read a book online. The iPad helped because I had Internet access and could read the book from my iPad if I didn’t have access to a computer. If I had to look up a word that I did not know, I could quickly go onto my Merriam Webster Dictionary application. I downloaded an application called “free graphing symbolic calculator” which actually helped me more in AP Calculus than my actual calculator. Since an iPad is touch screen, you can pan and zoom as much as you like and control different parts of the graph. I have the “Periodic Table of the Elements” application, which helped me in chemistry. After the AP chemistry test, we started organic chemistry. I downloaded the “organic chemistry essentials” application to help me with new concepts, such as biomolecules and synthesis strategy. My CNN application kept me updated, and I was actually more comfortable using that application rather than the Internet or watching the news. The graphics were very sophisticated and the application was easy to use.

Shanen wrote:
What I love about the tablet is how simple, yet useful, it is. I use the tablet for a variety of things such as keeping myself organized with lists and notes, quickly searching something up on the internet, keeping up with current events, easy references using the periodic table and the dictionary, and more. I also have a couple of apps that supplement the learning done in class through amazing pictures, news articles and even actual magazine clippings. Having the calendar is great because it keeps me organized and helps me to plan what I have to do accordingly. One of the greatest features is simply the notepad that is already installed on the iPad. I keep a “to do” list, prom expenses list, a 'do now' so I don't have to carry around an extra notebook for biology, and more. Also, I use the mail app to check my college mail, yahoo and Gmail accounts and even to converse with Mrs. Keesing about my VHS project. Speaking of VHS and the independent learning opportunity project, I found this app called 'CNET Exposure' which is pretty much an exhibition of professional photographer's photos and the techniques and inspirations behind each photo; this app is especially important to me because my VHS course is called photography as a means of personal expression, and it is good to be exposed to different photographers' shots. As I stated earlier, having reference apps such as the periodic table and dictionary/thesaurus are great because you can access them quickly. One reference app I downloaded is called elementals, and even though it is pretty much an interactive periodic table, it is even better because the interface is fun, yet very informative and you can even understand the periodic trend of atomic radius better. I also downloaded an sat vocabulary app and a geography quizzes app to brush up on knowledge. Apps such as the Discovery Channel app, National Geographic magazine and VideoScience are great apps to supplement the learning done in AP biology and chemistry classes because there are a lot of articles and pictures that make our classes much more real and purposeful. As a student hoping to enter the medical field one day, I found myself in the 'medical' category of the app store. Here I found a couple of apps that were really interesting such as the MCAT Question a Day which was interesting because I answered a couple of questions and to my surprise I knew the answers from my chemistry and biology classes. I also found an upper respiratory virtual lab, which is pretty much a virtual walk through of your upper respiratory system. As Mr. Fiscina said, the 3D brain was pretty cool, but I also found another app called 3D medical images. This app has some of the coolest pictures ever, even if you don't want to go into medicine. Lastly, there are a bunch of anatomy apps and a dictionary for general diseases and syndromes called Eponym.

Alvin wrote:
The Samsung Galaxy tablet is very convenient when it comes to note taking. Sometimes, I've typed my notes on the tab instead of writing them down on paper. This is convenient because I don't have to worry about loose papers. Everything is organized and structured into one application. If there's anything I need to look up, I can use the 3G connection to Google my query right from my desk. ThinkingSpace is a brainstorming application that allows me to list my ideas in a web. I used it recently to organize my thoughts into a research paper. It's a great app for planning and studying purposes as well. I'm thinking of using it to outline study guides for any tests that I may have. ThinkFree Office is an app for the Android tab that acts as a word processor. Whenever I'm away from home but I want to get work done, I activate the app and continue typing up any documents. The app also works well with Google Docs, so I can make sure that my work is saved online if I need to work on it from a computer. ES File Explorer is a great app for managing my files on the tabs. I can manage downloaded content right from the file explorer, which is really convenient if I want to clean up the memory. Another useful app I have used is Google Sky, which maps the positions of objects in the sky according to my location. This application was particularly useful in my VHS Astronomy Course, as I could locate stars and planets from my tab even when the skies were cloudy.

Mr. Jeff Fiscina wrote:
I have downloaded many apps that assist with notetaking, document sharing, and organization. Dropbox can be used to send documents to one another to share assignments, tests, projects, and other assessments. Any kind of pad or note taking app is great for organizing all your notes into one place, and saving on paper. You never have to worry about not having a pen, running out of paper, or losing something. It’s all right there for you to keep in one space. Organizational apps, such as Stickyboard, keep you organized as a person. You can make post it notes for yourself, reminders of dates, tests, and meetings, and lots of other stuff. I downloaded an app called SAT from and it has videos on anything you can think of in math. Very basic, short, and to the point. It’s great for extra help outside the class such as reviewing for tests and doing homework. Another app I downloaded was color effects which takes your pictures and makes you redecorate them in color and black and white and is great for art projects. Other apps I downloaded included 3D Brain in order to help in science/pyschology to identify parts of the brain, CNN which can keep you up to date with current affairs in social studies, and Free Translator or foreign language.

How do you see 3G tablet devices extending learning beyond the classroom?


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