During my visit to St Ursula, Horn, Netherlands, I saw some fantastic examples of how to use iTunes U incorporating Google Apps EDU in the classroom. The focus of these courses was to assist in making very clear and cohesive links between subjects allowing students to focus on one project yet achieving the outcomes for each subject through inquiry, challenged and problem-based learning.
The first iTunes U course I was introduced to was concentrating on the integration of Physics and Music. The focus was on ‘sound’. Students investigated the relationship between the two subjects. During physics students focused on the pitch of sound, the
sound waves and frequencies produced and how they transmit. During music students also focused on pitch but also what different instruments make different sounds, the creation of music and composing music. This relationship between the two subjects allowed for students to become immersed in the subject, therefore, developing a deeper understanding of the subject. Some of the milestones students needed to reach through the projects include the creation of videos, and short books using book creator. All of this information was then submitted to the teacher through Google Classroom and then stored in Google Drive.
It was very effective, easy for students to submit work and allowed the teacher to provide immediate feedback.
The second project was still continuing during my visit to the school. It was integrating three different subjects, Mathematics, Physics and PDHPE (Gym). The focus was on movement and velocity with many different subjects being taught incidentally. I was very lucky to speak with two of the teachers involved in creating the iTunes U course. One of my focuses was to see how the content was delivered especially in Mathematics. This subject often leads to teachers explaining a skill or concept and then helping the students to practice this newly learnt skill.
The periods or lessons at St Ursula last between 40 and 45 minutes. During this short period of time, for students to work on a challenged based task and be taught explicitly the skill of each lesson would make for a very rushed lesson.
Ruud, the Mathematics teacher described to me the process he used
to overcome this. It was very exciting to hear this as it reflected what I do in my classroom. It seems within the Active Learning Model St Ursula has adopted Bruner’s 5E has been employed as a lesson or unit sequence. Ruud would provide the focus on the lesson or milestone to the students through the use of the iTunes U course. He would then allow his learners to explore the mathematical concept they were learning through videos he had created, searching on websites and through collaborative discussion and learning. He would then help students to consolidate their learning through providing a more instructional based learning approach and working with individuals or groups who needed extra support. Ruud said after taking on this approach he has seen huge changes in his students’ marks and motivation to learn. He found that students were more willing to complete the task at home due to easy of access and were happy to remain after lessons to continue working.
Vivian used a similar method to Ruud during her Physics classes. I was lucky enough to see the next stage of the project where students had learnt, interpreted and coded the information they needed. They were to then apply this information to the task of creating an informative iBook about the topic using book creator. Students were constantly referring back to video’s created by Vivian, new clips they found on YouTube and finding
informative websites. This allowed students to continually consolidate they understanding of the task becoming independent learners. Through this whole process, each group of students were at different stages on the task allowing for a differentiated approach.
I spoke with a couple of students to see what their thoughts were on using iTunes U, Book Creator, YouTube and iPads in the classroom. Most students had a positive attitude towards the use of this software. They found that the software and devices empowered them as learners and provided them with the opportunity to explore parts of their learning that interested them deeply. One student, however, did not enjoy using the iPad in class as she felt it distracted their learning. They were happy to share that they could not control their ‘want’ to play games such as Call of Duty, watch Netflix or YouTube clips that were off topic. To assist this Vivian used an app called Meraki to help this student. This app is part of an MDM suite and can be controlled by both teachers and parents.
This does seem to be a continuing challenge for many students. Using other apps such as Casper’s, Focus app and Apple Classroom can assist in solving these challenges. In my own experience, I have also seen students become distracted by ‘choice’. That is, when using apps such as Book Creator and Comic Life 3 students have some many different options of colour font and design to choice from that often this can distract them.
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet the PDHPE teacher, however, one app, which I saw being used during the Physics class that related to PDHPE, was ‘Technique’. This app seemed very appropriate for Physics, PDHPE and Mathematics
. At the stage where I saw students using the app, they were creating angles of their limbs while
running and then comparing these angles with a professional runner therefore allowing
them to improve their own skills and to become a faster (please see the appdate blog post on Technique). To further extend students, I think it would be interesting to compare the running styles of long distance and short distance runners. An investigation could be, how does the angle of runners limbs change when running different distances. Another idea could include students studying the change in limb angles over the distance of a race. Students could create graphs of this change and the compare different athletes.
Some hints I learnt during my visit
– Bold and capitalise the action verbs through out the task. This brings students attention to the word quickly and explicitly tells them what skill they should be using
– Creating your own content. It is a lot easier to create your own videos, images and so on. Even though this may be more time consuming it removes the concern of copyright later on down the track.