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Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Desert

During this past school year, I tried something new with the way I teach Science and Social Studies.  Instead of teaching each "unit" in isolation, I began to teach everything all tied together.  This needs some explaining.  Each Friday we "travelled" to a different destination using Google Earth and Google Maps.  The destinations were tied in to different SOL's that I have to teach.  An example of a destination was Washington, DC.  The different SOL's that I taught we patriotism, plants, animals, people and their contributions, seasons, and maps/globes.  The students were incredibly engaged and looked forward to our Friday trips.  We packed our suitcases and used our map reading skills each time.  When the iPads arrived the students were then able to go onto Goole Earth themselves and they got to decide how they wanted to view the destination.  They also went on Safari and did google  searches for the plants and animals.  They loved looking at the pictures and videos when appropriate. So there is the explanation, now on to how we used the iPads.

When we travelled to the desert, we went to Arizona (it's amazing what you can see from Google Earth!).  We then looked at images of the plants and animals found in deserts using Safari and Google images.  I showed the kids how to save an image and told them to save their 3 favorite plants and their 3 favorite animals. Again, their engagement in this activity was so much fun to watch.  Their interactions with each other was also a delight as they found really cool looking animals and plants and shared them with their friends.  It was also amazing to hear them explaining and navigating with each other on how to find all the different images in the site. 

Then we began working on creating a page using both images.  Using the Photo Wall Pro app, I showed the kids how to insert their favorite plant picture from the one's they saved from Safari into the background of a Photo Wall page.  Then the students picked the animal they wanted to put onto their page and inserted it in the foreground.  The background picture fills the whole frame but the foreground picture allows for manipulation.  They could decide the size and transparency of the photo and where they wanted to place it onto the background.  They were becoming page designers.

Photo Wall pro is a versatile app.  You can design with photos and you can type right onto the page.  The kids had already written information they had learned about traveling to the desert onto a graphic organizer they were used to using.  They were also familiar with typing on the iPad from other books we had made, so the transition to this apps typing feature was very easy.  Here's an example of a page: 

The great thing is that as the kids type, the app will show suggested spellings which again opens up a lot of discussions among the kids.  I've taught them to look at the word and read it.  Then they decide if they like the suggested spelling and if they want to use it.  The conversations about this was great and kids were reading and really thinking about the spelling.  I found that they stopped asking me to spell words for them, (which I never would do anyway, but they always asked!).  When they were through with their page, they had a friend edit it for them and then they showed it to me. 

When we were all finished, I had the kids e-mail the page to me so I could print them out and we made a class book.

This was a great app find and I have many ideas for other projects that I will post now that I have more time.  The kids are becoming so independent with the iPads and they are incredibly engaged in their learning.  I am finding that they are becoming very self directed in their learning and they are coming up with new ideas and ways to show their learning that is fun for them. The more I use these iPads in the classroom the more I am convinced that the iPad is a very crucial tool for learning in the primary classroom.