iPods are Learning Tools Not Just Entertainment Devices | Mr. Keenan

Last week, Blogger of the week and High School English teacher Derek Keenan outlined 5 essential traits of 21st century educational leaders. This week, Mr. Keenan shares his insights in an interview on authentic teaching and learning, 21stCentury tools for success, using iPods in the classroom, and more.

What advice do you have for administrators and academic advisors on training and empowering teachers to incorporate technology in the classroom?

The best advice I can give on empowering teachers to incorporate technology is to take the roadblocks out of the way.  I speak to many teachers who are hampered more by policy, minor supplies and logistics than by anything else.  If teachers are ready to run, support them and let them go.  We see amazing use of even existing technologies if we open ourselves to the possibility for innovation.

In terms of new technologies, give it to teachers.  Our division made a commitment to get each teacher a new laptop and get projectors into every room.  Not innovations in themselves, but teachers are doing great things with them because they have access to the technology.

Likewise, mobile technologies like iPods or iPads will get far more use and adoption after teachers become comfortable with them. Before we buy class-sets or look at one to one projects, we have to create the conditions for teacher comfort with these devices. We do this by giving them to the teachers who raise their hands for them.

How has the integration of iPod Touches made a difference in your classroom?

The biggest and most important difference for me is that students see these devices as learning tools instead of entertainment devices.  I know from initial feedback from this project that they don’t even consider the technology in their pockets as functional for school work, or really anything other than movies, music and internet access.

What I really love about the devices, is how seamless they are now in the classroom.  We don’t use them as a class all the time, but they mix with personal devices, more traditional work and creative processes to create a classroom culture where we just do the work the best ways we can with whatever we have.  It’s collaborative, engaging and fun.

What does authentic teaching and learning LOOK like?

Very much like what I have described above.  It is being a team and working through the learning process together.  Aside from during required tests, I ‘forbid’ very little in my classes; as long as we are learning, students can arrive together to their understanding.

I find it amusing that we talk about authentic learning and then give them a ‘scenario’ and tell them to the technology to use.  If I am giving a talk or planning a lesson, I use everything available to me to make it happen, students should be the same.

If we are talking about an example of an assignment for authentic learning, my 20-1 students each semester write, edit and publish a full-length novel, including artwork and writeups.  I would even get them an ISBN and offer it for sale, but our school division hasn’t worked out a legal method to do it.  Everyone works, we use the best resources we have, and it is an immense task, but we all learn so much from the process!

What are some of your favorite tools, lessons, projects to use on iDevices with your students?

I love doing film analysis and running a backnoise chat as the film is running.  Students can pop in and out of the discussion, raise issues and seek clarification without disturbing anyone else’s experience.  Once the film is finished, I take the dialogue and speak to the key points of the film, it’s wonderful.

Another great project is giving students a film clip to analyze as a short story.  Using the built in screenshot tool, they can take bits out of the movie and put it into a program called strip designer to annotate their analysis.  It’s much like ‘Comic Life’ on Mac computers.  Very engaging!

Do you use podcasts, in any way (teacher or student led), with your students?

I have done podcasting, but I rarely post it as we use it for in class analysis more than anything.  I have had students rehearse dramatic readings and record, read essays and have other students analyze for content, and have group discussions. I love how the dynamic shifts when voices are recorded, students are forced to think far more thoroughly about their voice.

What are the tools you use to incorporate podcasts into your classroom? What other web 2.0 tools do you utilize in your classroom regularly?

I have a nice piece of software for the ipods called Poddio that allows us to record, edit and export all in one app.  It is expensive, but it works well and is extremely easy to use with professional results!

In terms of web2.0 tools, I don’t require students to use any particular one regularly.  If I see a student that needs an alternative way fo working with some material, I will suggest it or point them to a web 2.0 tool list.  Students use what they are comfortable with in my classes.

3 words to describe education today?

Transitional, Experimental, Experiential

-Mr. Derek Keenan

Photo from www.mrkeenan.com

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