iPads and Clicker Apps are having a big impact on learning at a little school in northern BC. A few years ago, the highly collaborative staff at Kitwanga Elementary began assembling a bank of iPads and experimenting with apps. During these first attempts at implementation, they felt they were using the iPads simply for the sake of using the technology. However, after beginning to work intensively with literacy educator Adrienne Gear, learner support teacher Melanie Millar and grade 3 / 4 partner teachers Amy Brockmeyer and Jennifer O’Hara began to realize that iPads could be a powerful tool to help their students learn reading and writing strategies. With this important learning goal in mind, they made a successful application to receive one of Coast Mountains School District’s Tier 2 classroom-based project allocations. The technology they felt would best support their learning goal included an Apple TV for sharing, copies of the Clicker 6 software for their teachers, and a complete suite of Clicker Apps for each of their existing iPads.
While continuing their training with Adrienne Gear at the district level, the team has received iPad and apps training from SET-BC consultant Mallory Burton. In January the Kitwanga team spent two days learning Clicker 6 and the Clicker Apps. In April, the team was able spend another full day creating activities to use in the classroom. District and school administrators were extremely supportive of the project, supplying technical support and release time for learning and implementation. This enabled another classroom teacher, the Gitxsan language teacher, and several educational assistants to also participate in training.
The team implemented the new technology very quickly! The week after the January training, Amy’s reading group collaboratively brainstormed and created a word bank to retell a chapter summary. Amy used DropBox to make the word bank available on all of the iPads. The students have also used Clicker Docs in Social Studies to write about the Mongol peoples. A digraph matching game created in Clicker 6 was used as a SMARTBoard Centre. Recently, groups of students chose a school in a foreign country to research and used Clicker Books with embedded word banks to write a persuasive essay about the advantages of their chosen school. Although they have a class set of iPads, the teachers more often use a smaller number of iPads in a collaborative or centre-based activity.
The team agrees that iPads and Clicker Apps are helping students to master Adrienne Gear’s reading and writing strategies. Amy reports that the technology has enabled a greater degree of success for all students. Previously, only one of her students could typically produce an entire page of writing during the allotted writing time. With the help of the Clicker word banks, all of her students are able to produce a page of writing and complete the assignment. The students’ use of content-area vocabulary has also increased thanks to the word banks.
Enthusiasm for iPads is also spreading to other classrooms in the school and district. Bulletin boards in the hall outside Doreen Brown’s classroom are covered with student work produced in apps such Comic Life and Skitch. Students in her grade 2/3 class are now creating Clicker Books. Rob Oldershaw’s grade 5/6 class have used Clicker Docs for persuasive writing. Melanie and Amy’s recent presentation to the Coast Mountain School District’s learner support teachers was well-received and has already generated more district-wide interest in using iPads to support literacy.