Now as I've mentioned my students have had access to technology for most of the year. They have used it to show and share their learning in ways that work best for them. Choice has been key in my class and my students have embraced and ran with it. So I knew my approach to learning about animal basic needs had to change.
After seeing Kristen Wideen's grade one and two students create animal research projects I felt it was something I needed to give my students a chance to try too. I modelled the process first with Koala research. I taught them how to find information through Discovery Ed, the Pocket Zoo app, and books. I encourage them to sort the information they were finding into a graphic organizer created by Mrs. Wideen, but modified for my class. My students were given the task to search for information about their chosen animal under the categories can, are, and have. They were also encouraged to find interesting facts, and ways their basic needs were met. They used Discovery Education to find age appropriate videos (you've got to love the filtering system on Discovery Ed). The Pocket Zoo app also provided more videos for my students, along with web cams to look at. And we had library books too of course. Needless to say my students were excited to do research on animals they were curious to learn more about.
My students were told that they could research ANY animal that they were interested in and they could do this on their own or with a friend. It was their choice. Through out this year I have witnessed how powerful it has been to give my students choice in how they learn. I have seen the negotiations and the peer teaching when they work with a partner, and I have seen the independence some enjoy when working on their own. So right from the beginning I never told them that they had to work on their own or with a friend, it was always their choice. Most of them chose a friend.
Before I go any further I think it's important to know that I have a typical grade one classroom with a variety of learning styles and unique needs. I have no additional adult support in my room so these projects were created by my students. It was impressive for me to see my students so engaged and on task throughout the work periods. There were tons of questions asked - both related to the animals they were studying, and the steps that needed to be taken. While I answered many of them, they relied on each other for help too. My room was very active with learning during this project.
After a few days of fact gathering my students started to put their books together in the iPad app BookCreator. The cool thing about Book Creator is that it has a special feature called "combined books". Knowing this was an option in advance each student created their own pages on their own iPads which would later be shared with their partner to create combined book. This allowed me to see what each student was doing on their own before the final book was combined with their parner's.
My students surpassed any expectations that I had for them. I was really impressed with the way they showed their learning. Many used Discovery Ed to find their images while others used Draw and Tell to draw their own. They were all required to have at least one image labeled using the app Skitch, and one graphic organizer created using the app Popplet.
When it came time to get the books out of Book Creator to share with the world on their blogs my students chose different ways to do this. One group used Explain Everything to add the screen shots of their books and record their voice. Most created their "movies" in iMovie. Some recorded their images in Draw and Tell first, while others recorded directly in iMovie. Some didn't record at all and added music instead. I never told them how they had to present it to the world but I did expect them to come up with a way to be able to show the world their creations.
I think what impressed me most about this project was that my students did so much of this independently. I was away from my class a fair bit over the past few weeks and while I have fantastic teachers on call that work with my students while I am away, my students really didn't need them either. They were in control of their learning.
So in review for this project my students...
- Chose an animal to study
- Decided to work independently or with a friend
- Used Discovery Education, the Pocket Zoo app, and books to find facts about their animals
- Recorded these facts on a graphic organizer
- Used the information from the graphic organizer to create sentences and pages in the Book Creator app (each student started their own book, on the iPad they had access to)
- Searched for images in Discovery Ed to add to their books.
- Created images in Draw and Tell to add to their books.
- Some recorded their writing directly in the Book Creator App
- Had me (the teacher) combined their individual books via Dropbox to create one shared book on the same animal
- Edited and moved pages around to complete the combined book
- Sent the finished book to iBooks and took screen shots of each page.
- Imported the screen shots into Explain Everything and added voice OR
- Imported the screen shots into Draw and Tell and added voice (and is some cases tracked the words as they were read and recorded) and put those voice recordings into iMovie
- Saved their final movies into the iPad Camera Roll and shared those movies on their individual blogs.
- Encourage and expect all my students to record their stories orally
- Discourage the use of music in their book videos.
- Ensure that all students send their books to iBooks before they take their screen shots for the voice recordings.
- If using iMovie do the voice recordings in Draw and Tell to eliminate the Ken Burns affect. It really bothers me when their hard work isn't seen because of the Ken Burns affect.
- Expect them to add a credit to Discovery Ed, Pocket Zoo App, and the books that they used for their research.
- Encourage each student to reflect more on the experience. Many did anyhow.