Show me something clever.

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I spoke to a very frustrated lady the other day. Her son was to submit an assignment using Microsoft PowerPoint. It had to include photos, text and music. He had finally completed the task, but submitting it seemed to cause some problems. He couldn’t email it to his teacher, because the file was too big. He couldn’t upload it to Dropbox, because our school hasn’t made that technological advance yet. So, he was back to putting it on a USB to give to the teacher…and on that particular day, the teacher didn’t bring her computer, so the file STILL couldn’t be transferred.

Technology can be frustrating. But so can the way teachers implement it.

The issue with this lady’s son wasn’t the fact that it had to be transferred via USB. It was the fact that the task that students were required to do was to use a specific program on the PC. By limiting the choice of program students could use, the teacher was limiting the creativity process. Couldn’t they use an app on the iPad like Keynote, iMovie, VoiceThread and use AirDrop to submit it? Couldn’t they use a Web 2.0 tool, like Photopeach or Vimeo and submit it by sending the URL?

I found that when first introducing the iPads to my Year 4 students, I gave no more than a 2 minute introduction of the app. I told them the name, what the app icon looked like (with a fantastic whiteboard texta-drawn piece of art) and asked them to make something clever. That’s my catchphrase in my classroom: “Show me something clever”. It was a great way for students to become more familiar with apps and there were shrieks of excitement (my classroom is rarely quiet!), as students showed each other how to add text, or change that colour, or add voice recordings to their “cleverness”. Rather than seeing it as ‘free time’, I saw it as peer teaching at its best.

As time went by and students were familiar with more apps and their capabilities, it became more free range. “Show me something clever” was extended to “Show me something clever… on the iPad to demonstrate the science experiment you just conducted”, or “Show me something clever…to explain to someone the different ways of working that problem out”. There were, and still are, a few students who find this confronting because I haven’t told them exactly which app to use. Sometimes we list suitable apps on the board as a scaffold for those students.

I’ll admit, sometimes I will request that students use a specific app. But I’m doing it less and less. There is always that one student that will pipe up with, “But could we use this app instead?”

That student is the one who is thinking outside the box more than the teacher is.

How important is it to introduce apps explicitly to students?

Do you request specific apps or programs to be used, or are your students more “free range”?

What do you think?

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