What makes for great instruction that has educational technology involved? I have designed lessons this year to my K-5 students that answers this question. As a classroom teacher who taught 3rd and 4th grade for 20 years, I love to equip my students with tools to help them communicate clearly. In my opinion, technology enhances students’ experiences with communicating. There are endless digital options these days for students to use to create and to write, but I will focus on just three apps in this post. Stay tuned for future posts on Tellagami app, Collins Book Creator app, and Book Press app.
After doing an Interactive Read Aloud with my first graders using “A Chair For My Mother” by Vera Williams, I asked students to collaborate while drawing three pictures that showed the beginning, middle and end of the story in the Doodle Buddy app. Next, they took screenshots of their drawings and placed them in the Comic Maker app where they added speech bubbles with text. They clearly communicated their understanding of the story while designing a creative digital product. Could students have retold the story by drawing on paper? Yes. Did my students need pencil or paper to do this assignment? No. They drew on the iPad with their fingers and typed using the iPad’s keyboard. I gave them a way to read and respond to books while adding to their ever growing repertoire of digital writing strategies.
In December of 2013 I gave 4th grade students iPads with the “Write About This” app. They could choose their own picture with three levels of prompts to promote creative thinking. The student who wrote the story above articulated her thoughts while composing vivid verbs, inserting internal thoughts and approximating proper use of quotation marks. This image inspired her. If I had just given her this prompt to write about with paper and pencil, I don’t know if she would have been able to write with such creativity. Asking learners to type while composing is different than having them write with a pencil. This learner was not only inspired by the picture, also also embraced the opportunity to type on the iPad screen. She published a piece of writing that looks like one she could read in a book with a type font and beamed when she shared it with the class.
Learners communicating their thoughts is nothing new, but with the ability to use technology, students can design and dive deep into engagement! Teachers can show leadership by modeling how to use the apps with their students by using the Airplay mode on the iPad and an Apple TV. My students love to get their hands on iPads. As I demonstrate the steps of app smashing between Doodle Buddy and Comic Maker or show the components of the “Write About This” app to students, they appreciate the tips and are ready to start their projects.