At the beginning of the project, the Teaching Team spent a day working with Cathie and Nerida in at MacICT. The teachers shared their professional experience and described the strategies they use to teach mathematics in their classroom.
Working together, the teachers explored a range of maths apps available for Year One students to use on iPads and investigated how to use the camera and microphone to record conversations and capture screen activity.
Having decided on a suite of twenty apps, the iPads were updated and delivered to the schools where they were used for five weeks. During this time, the Teaching Team kept a journal recording their classes experiences and also shared with other teachers and classes at their school some of what they were discovering about learning and teaching with iPads. Nerida and Cathie also had the opportunity during these weeks to visit the classes and spend time observing and talking with the students.
The Teaching Team returned to MacICT where a further two days were spent sharing and reflecting on our project question:
Can teachers support and strengthen young students’ ability to work mathematically and build their mathematical competence through the use of educational apps on an iPad?
As the Project Team examined the students’ experiences of learning with iPads, our discussion soon highlighted that the students and teachers had been using the iPads in two distinct ways in their classrooms.
The first way involved students interacting with a specifically selected app to explore and gain confidence in their understanding of a particular mathematical concept.
The second way students were using iPads for learning did not involve maths apps. Instead, students were designing and creating videos and screen casts to share with their class using design apps and the iPad’s camera and microphone.
The Project Team was able to identify that both of these approaches provide teachers with the opportunity to support and strengthen their students’ ability to work mathematically.
Using Specifically Selected Apps:
When they made use of content specific apps, the Teaching Team identified that:
- Students who had expressed a dislike of maths enjoyed learning using apps on the iPads
- They had greater confidence that all students were engaged and participating during the activity
- Apps could allow for each student to work at the appropriate level while providing the opportunity for them to progress to the next level when they wished
- The apps could be used as “conversation starters” between partners, or for valuable class discussions about mathematical concepts and strategies
In their words:
“I had a division lesson where we were using the Lady Beetle app. Two of my weaker students were debating whether is was a fair share. This never would have happened in to “normal” lesson.”
“Most of the games based apps were of excellent for reinforcing concepts that had already been taught. Students began using mathematical language to discuss their strategies at the conclusion of the lessons.”
“It was special to see the excitement and joy on the faces of some children that are usually quite shy and reserved and dread the thought of doing maths.”
“It was much easier to spend time with a student asking him or her to explain a maths process when the rest of the class were engrossed in their iPads rather than them sitting in front of a text book.”
“The iPads allowed children to work to their individual capability while pushing themselves in a safe environment. Once they were shown how to use an app and they became comfortable with it, they would progress to the next level if they felt confident.”
Designing and Creating with iPads:
When students were involved in tasks that made use of the camera, microphone and a design app, the Teaching Team identified that:
- Providing students with a design task using an iPad promoted discussion and reasoning as they work together to create a response
- iPads enabled students to design ‘on the go.’ Young children could easily master design apps and the iPad’s camera and microphone to creatively capture their ideas
- Showcasing and sharing the students’ design projects encouraged quality responses
- Using video and voice recording, along with screen capture features could help students demonstrate ideas that they might not have been able to articulate
- Observing students working with iPads and carefully examining their design tasks provided teachers with new ways of gaining insights into their students’ thoughts, strategies and mathematical abilities
In their words:
“Since starting the study, Year One students are all using mathematical language to question and communicate with each other on a regular basis. I was inspired by the level of reasoning and talk coming from our students and we are regularly discussing the different strategies we have used. Any of the apps that used screen capture and the camera tool were excellent at evoking quality mathematical questioning and reasoning from my students.”
“The iPads helped me discover the reasoning side of their working mathematical abilities. This is a side of my children I had never or rarely seen.”
“Students worked well in pairs and used mathematical language using the apps that recorded their thinking. Because the students knew they would be played back in front of the class, they all put in their best efforts and really put thought into the questions they asked their partners as well as their responses.”
“When given free time two students found the drawing app, and made up number sentences of their own, which they then took turns answering.”
“Kindergarten borrowed the iPads outside and took photos, then went in and edited them using explain everything and recorded their findings. These students couldn’t necessarily write this concept down but by using this app and recording their drawings and voice they were able to explain the concept.”