Sunday, October 28, 2012

iPads - The election issue

Recently, I worked with a teacher to develop ideas on how to best utilize the iPad to teach 10-12 year olds about the presidential election process (and much of what we did could be done with almost any age group). She had never used iPads in her classroom before, but was determined to take advantage of the school's investment in this technology. The challenge would be to take as few as six iPads and give the entire class an opportunity to use the tool in a meaningful and enriching manner.

Her strategy ended up having three phases to it.
  1. First, bring some learning apps and websites to the students' fingertips that would allow them to learn about the states and the presidential election process. 
  2. Second, have the students put together a booklet that would highlight info on key issues with perspectives from both major candidates. 
  3. Third, create a political ad using a combination of photos, videos and voice overs, allowing students to synthesize all of the knowledge they had gained throughout the unit.

Phase 1

She and I met several times over the course of this unit. We researched and found a variety of apps and websites that would help students learn about the states and how presidential elections work. Our favorite state app turned out to be by Discovery, US Geography. With video clips, trivia questions, and a variety of factoids, students were able to research different regions of the country with various interests in mind. We combined this with various free apps and links to websites at appropriate reading levels, where students could learn about various issues, the Electoral College, and where each candidate stood on the issues. Students were able to use the iPads independently at their own pace, and with a projector, the teacher was able to showcase and share particular apps and websites that she wanted students to see.

Phase 2

As the class moved into phase two, we decided to use Pages as a way for students to design their booklet. Each group took on one issue and designed one page. The pages were designed with images, a breakdown of the issue and a comparison of where each candidate stood on the issues. The final result was a six page booklet that could be emailed home to families as a PDF and printed to share with classroom visitors. Throughout the process, students were engaged in research, analyzing and summarizing their findings, and creating a final quality product to share what they had learned.

Phase 3

This week, students are working on the third phase. In small groups, the students are writing their own political advertisements supporting the candidate of their choice. This assignment is designed to engage students in synthesizing their acquired knowledge into a product reflective of turning understanding into a persuasive argument. Each advertisement will combine images from the Internet, photos students take with the iPad, videos students film with the iPad, and voice overs students record with the iPad. After a brief look at different options, it was clear that iMovie for iPad was the tool for this assignment. While the final products are not yet complete, the students are once again combining 21st century skills. From their use of technology, to creative problem solving, and collaboration, this project is proving to be fun, educational, and skill building.


Why was this unit successful? The goal was not to teach students how to use a new tool, it was to teach students about the presidential election process. Bringing the iPads into the classroom allowed the students to utilize various apps and websites to achieve this goal. The level of student engagement remained high throughout, with many students commenting on how much they were enjoying what they were doing. In addition to the students learning, the teacher learned how to integrate new technologies into her classroom. This verteran teacher spent several hours preparing on her own and in meetings with me. Instead of fearing the unknown, she embraced it, and accepted that the bumps and bruises along the way were worth creating a rich classroom environment for her students.

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