I used the new class set of iPads for the first time on Friday with two of my Spanish 1 classes. I felt a little like it was the good, the bad, the ugly experience. Thankfully, what started out as a frustrating experience ended on a good note.
First the bad: My plan was for the students to use the SockPuppets app to write a 3 question interview. I wanted to keep it short for several reasons, one of them because the free version of the app has a 30 second limit.
The previous day I acted out/taught Episode 10 of Cuentos de Ensalada. At the end of the episode the father and son say they need to get a/another job to support the family's new twins. I had given the students a sample interview to use for a recording while getting to know the app. Then they were supposed to write 3 questions and responses. I allowed them to make minor changes to my questions and answers, but some students didn't limit themselves to that and really allowed their creativity to show. The lady from tech support was there most of the class period, which was very helpful, but after one class of that experience I decided I was not going to go through that again.
The problems were:
1 - With 22 students in the class, it was too noisy for them to record in the classroom. I sent them out to the hall which helped, but it wasn't the ideal situation. (On a bright note: The superintendent happened to be passing through when they were recording and she was intrigued and asked two girls to explain what they were doing. They impressed her and she was pleased to see the technology that the school bought being used by the students.)
2 - I should have had them do the writing the previous day. That was my plan, but we ran out of time and I didn't want to reschedule the date for the iPads since the tech lady was also scheduled to be there to explain the expectations to the students when using iPads. It would have worked smoother if the students were ready to record right away.
3 - The free version of the SockPuppet app on the iPads. Only after students had made the recordings did we find out that the free version will not allow you to email the recording. That meant we had to share all the videos they made before class ended. There were 3 or 4 groups that we didn't have time to go over.
4 - A few of the apps made screechy noises.
Before the second Spanish 1 class of the day, I had changed the assignment. First I asked them to tell me, in the TL, what happened the previous day in the episode and I wrote the sentences on the board. I erased the sentences (because I didn't want them to copy them). For the assignment, they had to work with a partner to think of 4 things that happened in the episode that they could sketch and then write on a paper two sentences that explained/described each sketch. After I checked their sentences, they used the Educreations app to recorded themselves reading the script as they paged through the sketches they made on Educreations.
This worked better. The only trick was the only way they could email it to me was if they created an account on Educreations. Instead of asking them to do that, I uploaded them to my Educreations account and then embedded them on to Edmodo so they could share it with their parents online.
Personally, I felt it was an unsuccessful class because it was all production/output and no input. The students enjoyed it, but they didn't advance their Spanish knowledge or skills. It sort of reminded me of my "old school" way of teaching in which I would play a review game with them and they liked it, but didn't really learn anything new from it; in other words - ZERO language acquisition taking place. :(
Now for the good: Two boys were working in a group. One of them was absent the previous day so he took control of the iPad and was working on sketches. The other boy is one that rarely volunteers in class. He was more or less in charge of the writing. When I checked their first 5 sentences, there were only 2 small errors. The quiet boy had written them by himself with no use of a translator. I told him, "you are one of those students that don't participate in class often, but obviously all those hours of hearing the language in context and reading class stories and Cuentos de Enslada was sinking in or there is no way you could have written these sentences." They were great sentences! Spanish 1 - less than 92 class hours - and he wrote beautiful, grammatically correct sentences. That...was the brightest part of my day on Friday and I'm smiling now, as I relive it.
I know I'll use the iPads again, but I'll have to try a different approach the next time. Please share with me how you have successfully used iPads with your beginning levels, and at the end of the class, still felt that it was a productive, learning environment.