Engaging all learners through the use of digital technology at Calwell Primary School
Throughout 2012, Calwell Primary School Executive, Teachers and Learning Assistants worked together to investigate the use of iPads in engaging students in their learning and in improving outcomes. Renee Berry (Executive), Warren Brompton (Teacher) and Belinda Scargill (Learning Support Assistant) worked collaboratively to utilise iPads in the classroom with a focus on working with students with identified learning difficulties (Integration Support students) and engaging year 6 students in Mathematics.
Students were encouraged to be active participants when investigating the effectiveness of iPads in the classroom. Teachers utilised student surveys, visual checklists, assessment data, daily journal reflections and discussions to gather information around the use of iPads and make adaptations accordingly.
The iPads were integrated into everyday learning and teaching rather than seen as an extra add on. They were used to support students with a range of learning needs to access the curriculum, understand difficult and challenging tasks and as a ‘calm and cool down’ resource for Integration Support. Teachers and students worked together to support each other to apply the technology effectively – with a focus on students owning and understanding their own learning.
The use of iPads in the year 6 classrooms resulted in improved learning outcomes. In particular, student’s improvement was evident in their willingness to attempt and engage in mathematical tasks. Results also indicated that Integration Support student’s engagement in curriculum tasks increased when an iPad was utilised.
As a result of the projects more iPads will be purchased with financial support from the P&C and further work in utilising iPads across the school will continue. The work in 2012 has provided teachers with an effective model in engaging all learners through the use of digital technology at Calwell Primary School.
How we used iPads to support student engagement…
The ‘general features’ that are already installed on all iPads are easily accessed by students and teachers and were used on a daily basis at Calwell. The reminders, calendars and cameras were integrated into daily use to support students who required an overview of class routine, a list of tasks for the day and visuals of activities or experiences that they will be involved in. Students could organise their own work quickly and easily and ‘mark off’ when they had completed tasks. Teachers could further support students by providing additional information in the notes section e.g today you will be in the group with… or use ‘pop’ up reminders when a change of routine is approaching.
Speaking, Recording and Playback Apps
Speaking, playback and recording apps are a fantastic way to engage students and support a range of learning abilities and needs. Explicit teaching lessons can be recorded by the teacher and played back to students. These apps allowed students to watch the lesson as many times as needed. This was particularly supportive when teaching concepts in mathematics. There are many apps available that do this. We used Educreations and Showme.
Problem Solving and Strategy Games (Jenga)
Problem solving games were utilised to explicitly teach social skills and guide positive interactions with others including turn taking, winning and losing and listening and responding appropriately. Apps like Jenga were used by the LSA to guide conversation, encourage students to work in small groups and as a ‘brain break’ when students required some ‘time out’.
Curriculum and Calming Apps
We found a range of apps that supported students when accessing the curriculum. Apps that appeared ‘game or comic like’ were the most popular with year 6 students. We used both curriculum and calming apps to support student engagement in classroom tasks and for a ‘break’ if students were feeling anxious or unsettled. This also supported re-engagement and we found that students were willingly to ‘give work a go’ following the use of iPads.
The notes app was used for written tasks. Students felt confident to write without the fear of ‘getting it wrong’. The notes page also supported students with fine motor difficulties and allowed them to get their ideas down on paper. Students were confident and comfortable to take risks when writing.
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