When staff at my school were introduced to the iPad late in 2011 I was one of about half the staff NOT too already have an iPhone or any sort of smart phone. My phone was, and sadly still is, an older flip open phone on a prepaid account… Most of my students have better phones! My iPod was/is a 4th gen nano containing the latest in children’s music courtesy of long annual road trips with 2 boisterous cherubs. So my idea of what an iPad could do was limited to gimmicks and advertising. And I am not one of the old members on staff!
As we filed into a meeting room to be ‘workshopped’ I was lucky to have one other language teacher with whom to consider things… The others were in the other half of the alphabet and in another room. We were simply told to search the App Store for things to use in our subject area. Despite the facilitator assuring us we should keep looking, my colleague and I lamented the shortage of anything we could use to teach our students either Japanese or German. Language specific apps were either babyish or too advanced. We felt we were wasting precious time! Given we knew only a handful of our Year 8s would have an iPad each term that feeling was doubled.
Until we had two lightbulb moments…
The first was later that day when we were sent out to make a short film in iMovie. How do two German teachers amuse themselves? By narrating in German and attempting to use as much complex grammar as we can in a single sentence of course! Lightbulb on!!! We realised we needed to find apps that allowed students to create and to demonstrate what they could do. We started to make the shift from teaching to learning and demonstrating learning.
The second lightbulb moment was early this year…
“We could get the kids to work in groups and record a role play in that Puppet Pals app”
“Yeah but then they’ll just read the script off, they won’t actually learn it off by heart”
“Yeah but what are we assessing them on anyway? I just want to hear their pronunciation really”
Considering what students could create meant we needed to get back to what is at the heart of every assessment task; ask ourselves what evidence of learning we actually needed. In language classes it is communication rather than a student’s ability to memorise lines that is important! The humble role play could be left to shrivel and die quietly because it essentially skewed our attention away from the real learning!
These two lightbulb moments have propelled us into the possibilities we have as teachers and learners in this age of digital tools. And that was just the start!