Experimenting in Language Arts

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about experimenting in class. I announced last Friday that we were going to try an experiment.

Test tubes and other recipients in chemistry labOne student said, “Experiments never work out.” He’s a solid kid, not just trying to be the class clown at all.

I replied, “Getting iPads was an experiment. . .”

He was quiet for a second, “Oh, that’s true.  Never mind. I like experiments.”

And we were off.

A little background: my division (lower school in a prek-12 school) is going Mac. Teachers all got new MacBook Pros a few weeks ago. We will be getting a number of laptop carts with MacBooks for next year. One cart arrived the other day. So, of course, I was eager to give those computers a test run. It just so happened that we were at the end of an assignment that fit perfectly.

We have been reading Tuck Everlasting. (I wrote about it the other day.) One of the things I asked students to do was collect examples of great figurative language and descriptive writing—not hard in this book. So students have been collecting examples, sharing them on our blog, and commenting about why they like the passages they chose. This was all practice for a final recording of each student reading his or her favorite passage and commenting about it.

I figured we would use Garage Band (there are some Macs in the music room) and then share the files to iTunes and from there to our eportfolios. We have iPads and have the Castor app, but have not been able to send podcasts for some reason. I think it may have to do with our network at school. Anyway, I learned that I could make a recording with Quicktime and upload directly to our wikis. Since these recordings will be short, we don’t really need all the Garage Band extras.

Then, I was talking to @TeacherDebra and she suggested adding an image to the recordings. That way there is something to look at while you listen to the podcast. Super idea. This is why I like to talk to other teachers about what I am doing. I like to take their ideas. (For great resources on web tools check out Debra’s wiki here.)

So, I asked students to find an online image that they felt went with their passage.

Here comes the experiment.

We got out the Macs, first use in class. In small groups, I showed students how to use Quicktime, selecting new screencast, and then built-in microphone. It’s not as if everyone saved their first try, but it worked with a minimum of fuss. I don’t think anyone had used this application before, although I have many Mac users in my class. But, there continues to be just one of me so I could only help some students. As students figured out various steps, I assigned them as experts for others.

In less than 40 minutes, everyone found an image, leaned how to use Quicktime, made a recording (or several until they liked what they had), and saved. The vast majority also uploaded the file (.mov) to the language arts page of their digital portfolios.

Then, I did a little happy dance. It was a good experiment.

(Photo by Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons license.)

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