Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Using an ipad in science lessons

Back in June, I was loaned an ipad.  Since then I've been trying to use it in lessons.  I'm still waiting for a cable to connect it to the interactive whiteboard, have no wifi in my classroom and all the apps I've tried have been free - hopefully something here will be useful if you are starting out.

This is a really useful app for collecting all those pictures and video clips you see on the internet and want to show your classes.  You add contacts (many of mine have come from twitter) and you can see what they have "pinned", add it to your boards and by clicking on the picture, go through to the webpage.  I know some teachers set up boards that their classes can access and add things too.  I think you need an invite to join pinterest - shout if you want one and I'll try and find out how I can send it to you.

Again, someone on twitter put me onto this.  You set up a teacher account and it allocates you a room number (that doesn't change). Pupils in your class log in using that room number, using a PC or their own mobile phones.  You can then orally ask true/false questions, short answers or multiple choice ones - the pupils respond on their devices and the app sends that information to you - it displays as a bar chart for the true/false and multiple choice ones, and shows you exactly what was typed for the short answers (which you can then ask the pupils to vote on). Using it in this way takes no preparation.

If you have a bit more time then you can write and save your own quizzes. TES also has a collection of them which you can easily search for by typing in "socrative".  A great way to use these quizzes is in the built in Space Race - groups or individuals can be allocated colours and they race space ships across the teacher's screen - the more they get right, the further their rocket moves.  This function will also email you an excel spreadsheet of who said what in response to each question, it even colour-codes it for correct and incorrect.  I got one of my classes to write quizzes for me as part of their revision, which I could then use with other classes, and for them in a later lesson.

There is also an exit ticket section - pupils put their names in and answer basic questions about what they understood in that lesson and what they might need more help with.

iMotion HD
Love this. I've enjoyed using it so much in lessons that it's now installed on the school itouches and lots of other science staff are using it too.  It allows you to make stop motion animations - the possibilities are endless - I've used it to get classes to explain how enzymes work, what happens to atoms in a car engine, phagocytosis, explaining how natural selection takes place....

Lots of amazing apps available, I need a cable to really use these in class. Try Spacecraft 3D if you haven't already.

I use this more than anything at the moment - I like to photograph the work that pupils do - recently year 7 made egg landers, so I took a picture of them before they dropped them, printed them out, and they are in their books as a record of what they've done.

The thing I'm going to be using it for the most over the next few month is to video my own teaching. Up until last week I'd never seen myself teach! It was a bit scary but I could look at it later and I could see things I needed to do to tighten up my teaching (like, how did I not spot that kid doing that thing they shouldn't have been doing?!) It was also good to share with another teacher (who teaches a different subject to me) so he could provide feedback without having to miss his own lesson.

I'm interested in hearing how other people use ipads in teaching and what their favourite apps are.

Questioning and other tips

Way back, earlier in the year, I had some whole school training on questioning.  School had paid for Mike Hughes to come in and run three sessions and it was great! I asked Mike at the end if it was ok to blog about the day, and he agreed, so long as I put a link to his website - here

He talked about a lot of things, and my notes are sketchy, but here are the main ideas...

General things
  • Try and get a balance of open and closed questions.
  • Wait after you ask a question. Answers can take time.
  • Provide advanced warning - "In 2 minutes I am going to ask you about..."
  • Get pupils to discuss answers in pairs and groups before feeding back to the class (like "Think, pair, share")
  • Take three answers and then get the class to vote on the best one.
  • Don't be scared to reword questions to make sure pupils fully understand.

Improving communication skills

  • Demo things to small groups of pupils who then go back to their group and describe or demonstrate it to their peers.
  • Get a pupil to commentate on your demonstration - what are you doing and why are you doing it?

What can you do in lessons to show understanding?

  • Collect information
  • Share information
  • Enlarge on it
  • Explain (make more challenging by removing keywords)
  • Change the form the information comes in (see also active learning)
  • Arrange it into an order or sequence (try hexagons)
  • Reduce the information (What is the most important part/word? (see Marketplace))
Planning lessons

  • Where are they now?
  • How do you know?
  • Where do you want them to be?
  • How will you/do you know?
Writing questions

Mike gave us a table to use.  The first column contains starter words - what, where, when, who, why, how.  Along the top is the next word in the question - is, did, can, would, will, might.

As you go along the top, the questions become more open and demanding, eg what is this compared to what might this be used for?

This has really helped me think about what types of questions I ask, and I've also had some of my classes use it to write questions for each other at the end of a topic (to show understanding).

Another great idea was to sketch a graph when observing a lesson, with time along the x-axis and the type of question on the y-axis (either higher and lower order, or the "is", "did" etc). You can also draw a line on the graph to show where that particular class should be working. During the lesson you plot what type of question is asked and when in the lesson it is asked. I've found it very useful for PGCE students, when we start to focus on questioning skills.  If someone does it for you, hopefully you can start and end on a higher order question to really get your classes thinking.