Screen Reading versus Real Books

The beginning of the school year is always a busy time for administrators but it is also a time when many of us look forward to being able to discuss with our colleagues workshops and training we have experienced or given over the long summer break, or reading we have done during the period away from our classrooms and offices. Two reports that have appeared in shortened form in the education Press were hotly debated in the first week back – at least if the e-mail exchanges I was copied in on are anything to go by.

The first of these reports appeared in the national and education press in August and discusses research led by Anna Mangen from Stavanger University that suggests readers of a short story were better able to respond to test items that demanded certain mental reconstruction skills such as sequencing if they had read the story in traditional print form than if they had done so on a Kindle. Mangen observed that her study appeared to support the findings of an earlier study in which 73 tenth grade readers in a Norwegian secondary school were divided into two groups and required to read a short story. The control group read the story in traditional print form and the experimental group read the same story in pdf form on a computer screen. The experimental group performed significantly worse on test items that measured immersion constructs such as empathy, transportation and narrative coherence.

The Kindle study that attracted such attention in August 2014 appears to have been extremely ill-structured. One report claimed only two individuals constituted the entire experimental group, but Mangen, whose recent work has also included a study that explored phenomenological reflections on the digitization of literature in early childhood learning contexts, concludes from the earlier Norwegian study that reading comprehension is significantly impaired when students read on a screen. She postulates that haptic elements such as the compression of the pages and the sense of progress internalized by the reader’s feeling the amount of reading already completed, as measured by the increased number of pages held in his or her left hand (assuming the reader is reading left to right), may contribute to the superiority of the printed form over the on-screen form for fomenting reader immersion. The study has clear implications for policy forming and the development of technology resources to support reading programs in schools. It also, rather neatly, provides a modern-day context for Jane Austen’s observation in Northanger Abbey that the physical presence of the book in the reader’s hand constitutes an interplay between text and textuality and limits the ability of the writer to control the reader’s assumptions.

                 The anxiety which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.

– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

This is the sort of research that all of us can relate to and extend to ourselves. Following Nicholas Carr’s famous example of self-study described in The Shallows, I began to reflect this summer on my own screen and paper reading habits.  Although I am not a Kindle owner I do read books on my iPad fairly regularly, and I have even read one or two entirely on my iPhone.  More frequently, I begin reading in one form and continue switching between the two depending on where I am when I find myself with time to read. For example, when I read Moby Dick last year it happened to coincide with a month I was travelling quite frequently. Although I did not want to lug my heavy hardback edition of Moby Dick around with me on trains and planes, I did prefer to read the novel in that form when at home. I, therefore, read about half the book on screen and the other half on paper.

However, a year on, I find I cannot remember which sections of Moby Dick I read in which format. This contrasts sharply with my memory of reading from the time when all my reading was done in traditional printed form. For example, I last read Northanger Abbey in 1984. However, thirty years later (i.e. just now) when I needed to quote a passage for this blog post I could remember that the passage lay on the left-hand side of the page towards the end of the book. A few minutes ago before beginning this post I went to the high school library to get the same Penguin paperback edition to quote from and there it is – top half of the left-hand-side on page 234, some two and a half pages from the end. It took me literally three or four seconds to locate the exact quotation I needed.  I doubt I will ever be able to do that with an eReader – although I accept there will be electronic tools to assist me when I lose that faculty.

Northanger Abbey

An equally interesting study was reported in the Times Educational Supplement last month that appeared to show high school students in the UK are showing less enthusiasm for working with iPads in schools than in previous years. The study, conducted by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) surveyed more than 600 British schools in an attempt to explore the extent of investment in iPads. According to Vaughan (2014), the study found that there are currently over 440,000 tablets in British schools with the number set to double by 2016. However, the study also surveyed teacher’s perceptions of interest in iPads among their students. This reflected a decrease from 89% in 2012 to 78% in 2014 of teachers responding that their students did have at least some interest in tablets. This pattern is indicative of the same product adoption life cycle as that observed in tablet use in the commercial world. A further analysis of the BESA data reveals a gap between the high levels of engagement teachers perceive being demonstrated by students at elementary school and the much lower levels of engagement teachers perceive are typically displayed by students in middle and high school. The existence of this gap is supported by more robust research (Marks et al., 2011) and suggests the possibility of social factors affecting the data. It is, for example, possible that tablet devices are now so commonplace in the lives of some middle and high school students that there is no special attraction to their presence in the classroom. Younger students, on the other hand, often appreciate being given opportunities to use devices that are possibly monopolized by older siblings at home. Although unexplored in the BESA report itself, this idea, in my humble opinion, would be worthy of pursuance.

 

References

 

Flood, A. (19 August 2014). Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study     finds. The Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2014 from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/19/readers-absorb-less-kindles-paper-study-plot-ereader-digitisation

Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R., & Brønnick, K. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal Of Educational Research5861-68. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2012.12.002

Vaughan, R. (8 August 2014). Once it was “wow”, now it’s “whatever”. Times Educational Supplement Connect. Retrieved on 13 August 2014 from http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6439349

 

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Apple, Lemons and Bananas!

It’s Thanksgiving, and although I happen to be in Tokyo this week I’m surrounded by Americans and the team I’m with (visiting Tokyo International School) has a strong US-component.  As a result I’ve been hearing a lot of American English of the sort that hasn’t become that hybrid of British and American that you hear from Americans who have lived in the UK for a while, and who form my usual company.  Consequently, we have had a lot of fun with that “divided by a common language” notion that Winston Churchill famously noted. When one of my fellow team members used the phrase “When life gives you lemons…” I noticed that she wasn’t intending to complete the sentence.  She assumed we’d all know the next part was “make lemonade”.

As I took in the blank faces from some on the term wondering what lemons had to do with anything I remembered hearing the phrase a couple of weeks back when a teacher at one of our sister schools was responding to another teacher’s complaint that there weren’t any good iPad apps for teaching mathematics.  I often wonder what lies behind assumptions like this.  Clearly an app cannot actually teach a subject like mathematics.  It can at best provide an opportunity for practice – or a real world context for using mathematical skills to achieve other tasks.  Many of the apps that the teacher was complaining about were simply content consumption apps that framed mathematics skills practice in a games format or a simulation.

These are fine as far as they go but there are plenty of apps that come with the iPad straight out of the box that can be used to practise mathematics too.  It was these apps that ACS Hillingdon teacher Sue Rankin wanted to explore further with us at a recent Apple forum.  Thanks must also go to Sue Wakefield, another ACS Hillingdon teacher who had organised the event – to which school administrators had been invited from the London and Home Counties area.  Each of the schools represented had implemented an iPad initiative over the past year or two.

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Over the course of the next hour Sue (pictured above) demonstrated how apps like Clock, Maps and Camera that come free with the iPad can be used to enhance lessons in lower school and middle school mathematics.  For example, Clock can be used not only to tell the time but also as a timer, a calculator of elapsed time and a reference for World Times (we were using iPad 2 devices and iOS7)

I’m currently sitting in my room in Tokyo at 6:48 in the morning and this is what I see on my iPad when I tap World Clock in the Clock app.

Clock

Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities to explore how the current time varies across the time zones of the world and work out time differences between distinct locations.  Similarly, using the stopwatch function I can time different activities, compare and contrast the durations of each and possibly even present that data in another form – on the iPad or elsewhere.  Looking around the room it was easy to spot the administrators and teachers making mental lemonade with these Apple lemons.

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The Maps app has perhaps been overlooked since the well publicised problems associated with its re-release in 2012 but it offers an impressive degree of functionality to the maths teacher too.  Here I’m viewing two different views of my current location (satellite and standard – a hybrid option is also available) and varying scales to cover more or less land in the same screenshot.

Map 1

Map 2 Map 3

There is an abundance of scope for problem solving with scale, distance measurement and compass directions for the maths teacher to explore here.  It could also be an excellent opportunity to create app workflows using compass apps or apps like iSpy that allow you to screen grab photographs of various places via local CCTV cameras.

By the way, I have no personal preference between Google Maps and Maps, and I’ve also used paid for Maps apps over the years too although I have yet to see one worth the money.

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The camera and Photos apps bundled with iPads can also be used in creative ways beyond the simple function of viewing photos in the camera roll or photo stream.  For example, students can be sent on a campus (or school corridor) walk to capture images of geometric shapes, Roman numerals, instances of bases other than base 10 or the Fibonacci Sequence or similar number patterns.

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The session I’m describing didn’t actually finish with our making lemonade, but we did have a go at making banana smoothies!

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Maths teachers have long recognised the opportunities inherent in cookery classes for practising maths skills such as measurement, conversion and timing.  Our training day added a tech layer to these activities that involved using Book Creator to make an interactive book that captured the stages involved in making a banana smoothie.  This was engaging and involved the use of the Camera app as well as Book Creator.  As we debated which stages to photograph – and from what angle and with whom in shot, it became increasingly clear that we were internalising maths skills such as staging and process almost without knowing it.  The lesson returned to my mind a week or so later when we hosted an IBM visit at my own school at which the presenter was at pains to impress upon our high schoolers that regardless of what their degree course was it was important to gain skills such as systems thinking and problem solving.

As the banana smoothies neared completion and the room filled with the smells of mashed banana, honey and spilt milk we prepared our books for presentation back to the group.  We had been instructed via the directions in the QR code suck to our desk to use Book Creator.  I happened not to have this app on my iPad although I have Creative Book Builder.  My partner had Book Creator so we used her iPad.  Neither Book Creator nor Creative Book Builder is a free app, but there is no reason why other apps could not be used to do something similar.  Apple’s offer to bundle Pages free with all new iPads is obviously one potential answer to the ever-present budget problem schools face, but even Notes could be used to create a document for the banana smoothie activity.  Teachers will principally be concerned with capturing the most essential pedagogical elements of the activity, and the choice of app is in that sense less relevant.

Getting Started with Programming using Hopscotch

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We’re lucky that the recent drive to increase the exposure our students get to programming has coincided with the release of a plethora of coding apps and programs designed to be user-friendly for young coders.  I’ve mentioned Scratch 2.0 and Raspberry Pi in previous posts, but for younger children it is difficult to overpraise the designers of Hopscotch for having pulled off that difficult balancing act of simplicity, engagement and effectiveness.

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Hopscotch allows even young children to get started with programming.  My 5-year-old son shown here could genuinely contribute to our shared dabbling in the app as we whiled away a six-hour ferry journey (above) by writing codes that made the cartoon figures on the screen trace numbers and shapes.  It sounds simple, but essentially, Hopscotch gets its users working on all the basic aspects of coding that professionals utilise: drafting, experimenting, checking, modifying, redrafting. Or, as my son puts it, “getting it wrong and never mind we can trying again”.

The app allows users to choose between a collective of robotic and monster-like characters who can be required to move, rotate and leave a trail behind them as they traverse the iPad screen.  They can, therefore, spell out letters and numbers or trace geometric shapes.  The users need to take into account the direction of travel, angle of rotation and when to begin and stop leaving a trace.  The width and colour of the trail can also be programmed.  It’s simple but beguilingly engaging.

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This morning my son decided he wanted to make a café in the kitchen to serve the family toast.  We used Hopscotch to create the logo for his restaurant (Thomas’ Toast Café).  This simple logo is shown below (along with pictures of Thomas’ first draft and his reaction to seeing the code work for the first time). Also shown below is the code we used. Admittedly, Thomas needed help with this; I doubt any pre-kindergarteners can understand concepts like reflex angles and 180 degree rotation, but his eleven-year-old sister can – and this brings in all kinds of opportunities for collaboration.

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Hopscotch is set to develop from its simple origins. We haven’t yet begun to experiment much with using multiple characters on screen at the same time but this is certainly possible – and a new collision detection feature means the characters can even interact with one another to a degree. For a free app, this is an excellent way to use iPads to introduce primary age children to computer programming. Hopscotch Technologies is clearly one to watch.

 

The iPad, Scratch, Raspberry Pi and Computing in the National Curriculum

ICT and the UK’s National Curricula

Information (and) Computer Technology (ICT) is in a state of flux in UK schools, and this backdrop forms an important consideration for those of us engaged in school-based research.  The absence for a number of years of computer science as a discrete subject within the National Curricula of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland was famously used by Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, (pictured below) as an example of the weakness of UK computing education in his 2011 McTaggart Lecture, a speech that drew an enormous amount of comment across the ICT world.

Eric-Schmidt McTaggartSchmidt argued that for the UK, a country with a rich ICT heritage that includes the inventions of both the electronic computer and the Worldwide Web, to exclude computer science from its National Curriculum was a huge mistake and one that should produce misgivings in those responsible for designing schools programmes.  Schmidt appeared not to acknowledge in this speech that computer science is widely taught in schools across the UK. He focussed on its absence from the National Curriculum and seemed to assume both that the four countries of the UK shared a common National Curriculum and that teaching in schools in the UK is described solely by the content of the National Curriculum documents.  He also failed to acknowledge that the United States lacks any sort of National Curriculum and that its nearest equivalent, the Common Core (in its infancy at the time of his lecture) also lacks any provision for computer science.  However, some states do publish computer science standards, and it is reasonable to suppose that Schmidt took the presence of these state standards as proof that US computer science in schools is ahead of its UK counterpart.

Schmidt’s comments, made in August 2011 were used by the UK’s education secretary, Michael Gove (pictured below), to launch and fuel a debate about ICT in the National Curriculum.  In a January 2012 speech at the BETT Conference (the acronym used to stand for British Educational Training and Technology, but the word BETT is now used as a proper noun in its own right), Gove advocated the replacement of ICT with a new curriculum subject called Computing which would introduce children from primary school upwards to computer programming.

Gove BETT 2012Gove’s comments caused a considerable amount of controversy.  His apparent assumption that computing was not previously being taught was demonstrably untrue.  Many commentators observed that the speech was disingenuous in that it failed to acknowledge that the UK stood second in the latest school rankings of any country in Europe (Finland was top) and sixth in the world – far ahead of the US, whose model Gove – at Schmidt’s seeming behest, was holding up as the example the UK should follow.

Moreover, analysts had observed that the UK’s leap in the worldwide school rankings from twelfth to sixth had been because of the inclusion of science (an undisputed strength in the UK) in the international rankings for the first time.  Gove’s agenda on computer science change was perceived as being driven by a need to justify reforms in other areas of education that he wished to pursue.

What was overlooked in the politicking was Gove’s identification of computing as an area of the curriculum that had become ill-defined and left for schools to interpret as best they might.  In many UK schools, computer science was at the cutting edge.  The Raspberry Pi, for example, is widely recognised as one of the most exciting developments in computing in schools since the invention of BBC Basic.  However, in other UK schools computing could be left to teachers to define themselves, with less confident teachers able to ignore the subject completely without any consequence other than a prick of conscience that they were not preparing their students adequately for their futures.

This state of affairs is set to change with the publication of the new National Curriculum document on computing, and this month’s Optimus conference Delivering an ‘Outstanding’ Primary ICT Curriculum (a secondary schools conference is planned for later this year) provided opportunities for attendees to debate issues associated with the anticipated changes in computing in UK schools for the 2013-14 school year.  The Optimus Conference was organised for ICT (Information and Computer Technology) teachers and administrators at schools across the UK that subscribe to Optimus.  Optimus is an education think tank that produces a fortnightly e-bulletin covering various legislation items of interest to those responsible for schools’ compliance with education law, employment law, health and safety guidelines and other directives and programmes (environmental law, security, privacy, human resources, parent contracts and so forth) that concern schools.  As both the Compliance Officer for ACS Cobham International School and a professional teacher interested in the future of ICT in the school curriculum, I attended this conference with a number of different perspectives and questions in mind.

The National Curriculum document on computing came out of public consultation on April 19th and is currently being prepared for publication in the summer.  Some of the contributors to this document, from organisations such as Naace (National Association of Advisors for Computers in Education) made keynote addresses at the Optimus conference, and some leading figures in programming from UK institutions such as Roehamption University also contributed to the programme.  My own involvement included a seminar on tablet computing and many discussions with peers on which programming languages could be best combined with a tablet ethos in school ICT.

Scratch 2.0 and the iPad

Scratch 2.0It happened that the conference fell on the very day that the long-anticipated version 2.0 of the popular programming language Scratch was released.  The time difference between London and MIT meant that we could not look at the new version of this ubiquitous programming language during the conference itself (I took my first look at midnight that night), but it was clear from the MIT website that the dispute between Apple’s commercial interests and MIT’s desire to have as many users as possible use Scratch to write programs had still not been resolved.  A Scratch app had once appeared on the iTunes Store, but it was removed in 2010 and Scratch 2.0 remains unusable with iPads for all practical purposes – although a simple Scratch maze game is still available to download.  There are a few signs of optimism that the gulf between how Apple sees the future of the iPad and how MIT would like to see Scratch developed and taken up might be closing.  Certainly if the long-running Flash vs. HTML 5 saga could be brought to a close, that would help but at present there are few real indications that the two sides’ (i.e. Apple’s and MIT’s) arguments might be converging anytime soon.

Gaming, Coding… and Raspberry Pi

We commonly look to the success or failure of previous (and more or less similar – although that’s always tricky with technology) initiatives to guide us in pursuing new technological innovations or innovative practices.  For example, the lessons learned in one-to-one laptop roll-outs informed our one-to-one iPad implementation; the experience of providing teachers with IWBs informed our decision to introduce Apple TV and so forth.  In the matter of computer programming and the iPad we have a useful but overlooked pattern to consider in the form of the PlayStation – or, since I’m writing this on the day the XBox One was revealed, the XBox.

My last year of full-time teaching, 2006, coincided with Cambridge University’s identification and articulation of the twin problems of declining numbers of students applying to do computer science degrees and declining skill levels in those who did apply.  According to programmer and author Kevin Partner, one of the contributory factors to this state of affairs was the switch in emphasis seen in school ICT lessons.  Students were spending less time learning programming and more time learning to become competent in their use of packaged programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint.  Fewer and fewer were arriving at university with any significant experience of coding.  Partner contends, however, that another contributory factor was the arrival of gaming consols such as PlayStation.  Although in many ways the PlayStation (and the Wii and XBox that followed it) represented an improvement in gaming experience, they could not be used to create software.  In this regard they differed from earlier game platforms such as the ZX Spectrum, BBC Model B and the Commodore 64, all of which could be used by gamers to program as well as to play.

There is a parallel here with the iPad and Scratch.  As the iPad cannot currently be used in any meaningful way to program with Scratch, much of the momentum built up in student engagement is dissipated the moment the teacher wants to introduce Scratch coding because the iPads have to be set aside and the students have to switch to the desktop computers (or laptops) for their programming lessons.  This subtly sends the message that iPads are for the fun stuff and desktops are for programming.  Or that iPads are not serious computers (which is a school of thought among some, but that’s for another day).

It is commonly remarked upon that products are often less useful as they become more sophisticated.  I’m old enough to remember Microsoft squashing Sun Systems’ Network PC idea back in 1996 when it seemed cheaper, simpler computers that allowed users to download programs for temporary use were on the verge of becoming reality.  For the then behemoth Microsoft, such a prospect constituted a threat to a core business.  It made more financial sense to make increasingly sophisticated operating systems that cost more, even though most users did not require the sophistication these machines offered and might have preferred the option of buying a cheaper, less powerful PC.  A decade or so later in the mid-to-late-noughties Nicholas Negroponte and others would point to the same trend as being responsible for hampering the development of the OLPC Foundation’s XO laptop, a $100-device developed for use in the Third World.

However, the Raspberry Pi seems to be ready to strike a blow for simple and inexpensive computers that allow students to program and to see how a few lines of code can make a computer chip generate useful work.  Like the iPad the Raspberry Pi is a smaller and cheaper alternative to the traditional PC and laptop, and those of us on this side of the Atlantic might be permitted to take pride in the fact that also like the iPad it has a British designer.  The Raspberry Pi is also similar to the XO laptop in one respect: it is inexpensive.  You pay either US$25 or US$35 depending on the size, and the dollars pricing, rather than a pricing in pounds sterling, is designed to increase the Raspberry Pi’s appeal to an international market.

pi1lRaspberry Pi

At those prices a class set of Raspberry Pis can be bought for less than the cost of a single iPad – and the device (pictured above) opens the world of coding to a generation whose interactions with computers and games consols have never required them to do anything at all in the way of programming.  Raspberry Pi can be programmed in Python, C or Perl.  It is SD card-compatible and there is an online store called the Pi Store where peripherals such as cases can be purchased.  There is also an as yet small but thriving online community dedicated to the device and its proliferation and supporting new users.

The Raspberry Pi was designed to introduce coding to a new generation of schoolchildren. Teaching coding can be the launching pad to much more than a career in computer programming.  It is a logic-strengthening exercise and it has many of the benefits for the learner that language learning carries.  It is also an intensely personal experience that can lift children’s self esteem.  I can still remember the thrill I felt when I wrote my first lines of code on a clunky desktop in the lab at the University of London and made a Lego crane lift a marble from the desk.  With a Raspberry Pi, the same instruction could be made on a machine small enough to fit in my shirt pocket.

At ACS Cobham International School we are about to purchase class sets of Raspberry Pis for the new school year.  We intend to have children as young as six programming and beginning their journeys into the fascinating world of coding.  This is very much a move made with the future needs of the planet in mind.  If that sounds grandiose and hyperbolic, consider this thought – again, from Kevin Partner.  The computer controlling NASA’s Curiosity rover currently travelling across the surface of Mars is less powerful than a £30 Raspberry Pi.  It is a simple fact that we already have all the technology we need to colonise space, and some of it will shortly be in our primary school classrooms!

i Before E? Outdoor Learning and the iPad

We’re notorious for acronyms in the education world.  We bandy about initials to each other all day and chatter on about LEAs, SENs, the ISI and so forth, finding ourselves having to switch back to normal English whenever we’re dealing with those who don’t live their whole lives in the world of education – like parents for instance.  EL used to mean English Language (in terms such as ELL and BEL) but now it’s gone the way of LOL and changed.  EL now refers to the realm of outdoor learning and can either mean expeditionary learning or experiential learning depending which side of the Atlantic the speaker hails from – and what professional development course he or she took most recently!

In both cases the E refers to the experience of the learner.  Learning outside takes away the physical and figurative ceiling on the learning space and allows the learner to engage with the learning material in new ways.  At ACS we have the most amazing campus it has ever been my privilege to work with, and it would be a crime if we had not long ago put outdoor learning at the top of our agenda.  The introduction of iPads has enhanced our provision of outdoor learning.  Technology being almost as notorious as education for the prevalence of acronyms (iOS, LAN, PS3, Wii etc.) one might say the “i” has in no way compromised the “E”.  But it does come as a surprise to people that this is the case.  It seems we have an assumption that technology is an indoor thing and that the outdoors is somehow tech-free.

Our most recent visiting experts in the world of outdoor education (Julia Robertson, Bushcraft, Forest Schools) all disagree with that assumption.  For a long time now, but particularly since Julia’s visit last fall we have made efforts to incorporate iPads into our outdoor lessons with conspicuous (if nascent) success.  Here are some illustrated examples:

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Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 18.04.47Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 18.06.56First Graders Take iPads Into The Woods On Their Mushroom Walk

Accurate identification of fungi sometimes depends on being able to examine the gills on the underside of the fungus. This often leads to careless handling breaking the fungal stem. Mirrors are the traditional way round this problem, but the iPad offers a superior alternative in the shape of the inbuilt camera. The captured image of the fungus’ underside can then be compared with an online database, a teacher-prepared database or (as is the case in the last picture above) a traditional chart.

IMG_6166 IMG_6168 IMG_6170High School Computing Class Using iPads to Emulate Camera Shake

Here we jump to the other end of the school scale and see a high school (tenth grade) computing class.  They have been designing video games. We caught them on a day when they were using a combination of iOS and Mac apps to insert real world camera footage into their games. The teacher explained that an important component of video game authenticity is the camera shake you get when you’re moving through an environment. The students took their iPads outside and filmed as they walked a few steps along the road.  This shake was then imported into an emulation app on the Macs and integrated with their video games. Next stop is composing the music.  This too can be done on the iPad.

IMG_1474 IMG_1472 IMG_1466Measurement Of Angles (4th grade)

Finally, last Friday (February 8th 2013) I caught up with a fourth grade class measuring shadow angles by photographing and marking them, and then both using on-screen and manipulative protractors to work out the size of each in degrees.  This maths lesson could easily have been done indoors in a stuffy classroom.  It was a cold day, but as the teacher explained “there’s no such thing as bad weather: only inappropriate clothing”. Well wrapped-up children got some fresh air and the chance to contextualise content and the experience of learning in an outdoor setting. How bad can that be?

What is notable about the above examples is that they incorporated iPads with other forms of technology (analogue and digital) as well as with the outdoors.  We have certainly loved using specialist expeditionary learning apps like Aurasma in the school’s many outdoor learning locations, and such apps remain awe-inspiring. But it is important to include easy-to-master lessons such as the shadow angles too. These give both teachers and students the confidence to experiment and to see that at its simplest level outdoor learning is nothing more than learning outdoors.