Friday, November 9, 2012

An Interview with @Gtwitsims on a Paperless Paper

Well, it's over.  The project has come to an end.  If you'd like to read my previous posts on a paperless paper, just search those words.  There are 7 previous blogs on the project.  How I wish we could have just left the iPads with Mr. Sims, from Fairview Elementary, and his awesome 4th grade students.

I do however, want to give our readers a different perspective on how the project turned out so I asked @Gtwitsims to provide us with some feedback on what he thought about using iPads to create written works with 4th graders.  

Jenny:  What were your initial concerns with the beginning of the writing project?
Mr. Sims:  The time it would take to initially teach with the technology was a concern. Most of my students have never used Dropbox or sent an eMail and I think it is safe to say that none of them had used Notability before.

Jenny:  What technical skills have your students learned during this project that they wouldn’t have otherwise learned?
Mr. Sims:  My students have learned the general use of a touch device - 

  • How to manage, run, and utilize multiple apps in the same session - How to log into and utilize DropBox for file sharing - 
  • Cut/Copy/and Pasting (both on an iPad and a PC - Battery/Power Management on an iPad as well as how to shut off programs not in use - 
  •  How to send an eMail using Safari and their gMail accounts -
  •  How to find and insert a picture on an iPad (via Google and Noteability) - 
  • General use of Notability- 
  • iPad tech skills like screen orientation and locking, keyboard spliting, charging the iPads, use of Photobooth and the Camera/Camera Roll feature - changing the home and lock screen pictures and more.

Jenny:  In thinking about your students’ attitudes towards writing, how would you describe their attitude about writing on an iPad vs. paper and pencil?
Mr. Sims:  They were extremely enthusiastic! I had *MANY* parents comment to me all their children had told them about using the iPads in the classroom - I am positive that doesn’t happen for ordinary writing assignments.

Jenny:  Is there anything that your students miss when writing and using an ipad vs. paper and pencil?
Mr. Sims:  Not really - I get comments from parents all the time wondering why we still teach handwriting and how “in the district we came from, they didn’t. So my child doesn’t know how to write.”  Pencils are messy, they break, and students get hand fatigue often (so do I!!).

Jenny: Can you foresee in the future, using ipads indefinitely for the writing curriculum?
Mr. Sims:  Yes - If my students had 1 to 1 iPads in the classroom, I would utilize them every single day. It would completely transform my teaching - they would use the iPads to create, edit, revise, and publish their writing to a larger audience than they do now. Students get *VERY* excited when they realize more people than just their teacher(s) or classmates will be seeing their writing samples. That enthusiasm transfers into their writing.

Jenny:  What for you was the best way to provide feedback to your students during the writing process?
Mr. Sims:  I wanted to keep this project entirely paperless so due to time constraints, we ended up having students copy/paste their Notability writing into an eMail they composed and then they each sent the eMail to me. I am in the process of writing notes in each eMail sample to mail back to them. They will then be using the Lab computers to open the eMail, make the changes, and resend it to me for final evaluation. After that, we will most likely publish them online using a blog site - possibly Yaptime, which I used many times before.

Jenny: What was your biggest frustration during this project?

Mr. Sims:  The initial learning curve was tough - especially using an immersive app like Notabilty, that I am not completely comfortable with. The time constraints, coupled with everything else we have to teach, also was a challenge.  However, we adapted to the situations and I believe the students are turning out great samples and I am going to be able to provide much better feedback than I might using a red pen as I am so much faster and more comfortable typing than I am writing.

Jenny:  What was your favorite part of the project?
Mr. Sims:  I am *always* looking to try new things in the classroom. Especially things that energize and excite the students. I recently told my student teacher (in regards to classroom management) that, when a student doesn’t like your class, sending them out to the hall or to the office, etc. for misbehaving is not a punishment for them - it is a reward. Teachers *need* to make their classroom a place *each* student wants to be. It provides a lot of leverage with the student. I’ve often tried to do this with Science and Technology, and Educational Games - tried to have fun, different, educational experiences that they enjoy so that they will *WANT* to be in my class. The iPads have definitely helped with that through this project. Most kids don’t like to write or struggle with it at some level. This added technology element provided that excitement for the student.

Jenny:  Anything else you want to add for others considering running their writing this way?
Mr. Sims:  I’d be interested to see if there were any noticeable differences in a class that used iPads to write every day and a class that didn’t (in their overall writing ability). I wonder in 4th grade state writing test scores would be any different.

Wow!  It sounds like these kids could give us some lessons on using an iPad!.  As our district moves towards a 1:1 environment with tablets and or laptops, I feel it is critical to share out our results and processes that we have used.  A HUGE thank you to Mr. Sims for allowing me to invade his classroom and work with his wonderful students!  

Written by:  Jennifer Krzystowczyk

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