Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Case for the iPad: Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)

Just over six months old, the iPad has already become a viable, sustainable platform. With sales topping over 2 million in the first three months, it has quickly captured the hearts and imagination of teachers and administrators around the world. When considering how to best teach ELD, an iPad comes to mind for four compelling reasons.
The iPad is engaging; the App store is bursting with educational apps; the price is reasonable; and many in education are rallying around it. First of all, right out of the box, the iPad is instantly engaging. Because it's so hands-on, user-friendly and easy to use, the iPad is an instant hit with young people. Teachers resonate with the iPad, too, because they see the potential a device like this can have in the classroom. Forget the stigma once felt by some English language learners as they trudge to the back of the classroom for ELD; with iPads, these students will be counting the minutes until ELD starts.
Second, as slick and popular as the iPad is, it would be nothing without apps. There are literally thousands of educational apps available for iPad, with more being added every hour, and for EL students, this is great news. For example, three apps come to mind right off the bat: Dragon DictationKeynote, and Comic Touch. Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your words as text. With the iPad's built-in mic, students can immediately see what they're saying out loud! Keynote is like PowerPoint, but better, because it’s even easier to pull in pictures from the Internet and add labels and captions. Students can create their own mini-presentations based on the day’s objective. Comic Touch is a fun way to jazz up any picture with text, such as targeted vocabulary words from the day’s objective. A student can analyze and discuss with a partner the content of a given photograph, then using Comic Touch, he or she can add talking bubbles, titles, labels, captions, and more.
Third, the price is attractive to the education sector. Starting at $499, it’s a price-point that competes heavily with laptops but without all the complications and frustrations of a PC. But the best thing about the price is the apps. When a teacher finds an app they’d like their students to use on their iPads, Apple offers the app for half price with their new volume pricing program. Most apps are inexpensive anyway, ranging from $.99 to $4.99 (although some cost a bit more than that), but Apple’s new volume pricing is a big win for education.
Finally, the iPad community is growing and vibrant. Developers are quick to write engaging apps for the device and responsive to user-feedback so updates occur frequently. And what’s nice is that updates are always free; you never have to purchase the next-generation of an app to receive updates. Teachers are regularly posting reviews online of new apps they’ve tried out in their classrooms, so there’s never a shortage of great ideas. iTunes University has almost half a million videos available for free on all kinds of educational topics. And of course, the iPad is an amazing e-book reader and audio book reader. All in all, the iPad is by far the most compelling, best supported, easy to use, engaging advancement in technology to hit the hallways of America ever.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Vision of 21st Century Teachers

Today, my friend, Steve Zurier, Managing Editor for TMG, sent me this cool education video and has been passing it around to his colleagues in education. This is one of those videos where each subject, in this case, teacher, holds up a hand-written fact or thought provoking snippet; as opposed to talking into the camera. This is a welcome style and change of pace, having spent countless hours this weekend editing voice-driven video content.
One teacher shares how many hours she spends searching the web for lesson ideas; another shares how many hours she spends each week maintaining her classroom website. It's nice to just sit back, listen to the accompaniment, and "read" my colleagues vision for education in the 21st century. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chemistry is Cool

Thanks, Mr. Byrne, for sharing such an awesome video by an innovative middle school science teacher from Colorado named Chris Bergmann. He has posted a few, fun videos on his YouTube channel, such as demonstrating colorful chemical reactions and recreating Galileo's renowned gravity experiment. You'll enjoy this highlight reel of some of Mr. Bergmann's wackiest chemistry experiments. Maybe this will inspire you to jazz up your own science lessons like it did for me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Personal Learning Networks for Educators

Just viewed this great video on why participation in a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is crucial for teachers. In the video, Skip Via poses the question: What if your go-to, techie colleague suddenly moves to a different school or moves away? Would your whole technology support network come crashing down? He then explains how one would go about creating his or her own PLN and indicates that teachers shouldn't merely be "takers" of help; but become providers of assistance whenever possible. Skip suggests turning to the Internet for your quick questions-- and not to burden your busy PLN with questions that you can easily find on your own using Google or Wikipedia. He postulates that ultimately, we're in charge of our own professional development; that it's unrealistic to expect a school district to train everyone with their own custom-tailored training. I intend to show this video to my colleagues at our next staff meeting. Way to go, Skip! Great video!