Earlier this week a group of educators from Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta were privileged to visit St Gabriel's School to see how they were integrating the use of iPads in their students learning. St Gabriel's is an independent Catholic Primary School catering for children with hearing impairment and other special needs such as intellectual disability and autism in the mild to moderate range. Most students had their own iPads purchased by or donated to their families.
What we saw was a wide range of use by students. Here is some of the Apps and the usage comments:
Doodle buddy - for writing letters
Intro to letters, by Montessorium - teacher says sound of letters, students select and then trace the letter.
Pocket phonics - letters, tracing and sounds
Intro to maths by Montessorium - includes number rods which provides the visual confirmation of number concepts.
Pearl Diver - number concepts, gross motor skills, good for tracking skills too.
Notes app for writing sentences - okay for typing but print is a little small for kids ‑ Predictive text can be a nuisance ‑ can turn it off in settings.
Pictello ‑ used for student news - creating their own talking book
Proloquo2go - Assistive Communication Device
What we saw was one on one instruction with a student. Teacher had her own iPad too, as well as child.
They were doing a listening task with the student selecting the right word from the image and text choices.
Word lists were created in the app for the student ‑ While it is labour intensive to put words in, it is extremely useful for personalisation of learning. You can drop your own photos into it and they had programmed it for this students holidays as well. Can link word lists with books.
They were using word groups from National geographic magazine and replicating sentences from the book in Proloquo2go. The teacher felt that this App had assisted the student greatly with his comprehension.
It was also used as a diary for parents to know what's been happening at school. My school diary with visuals, eg I played with (photos in photos section), I did ... In religion ‑ Screen shots of any work, art works, etc.
Where did they found out about good Apps?
Aspect, Spectronics, and from their families: a whole community learning together.
Comments on the iPad
The iPad is a lot easier to access than laptop or dedicated devices for eg: dynovox, due to portability and touchscreen features. There are more things you can do with an iPad than a dedicated device. Don't have to read a manual to use it. Ipad allows easy researching on the internet and Youtube.
Businesses have been happy to donate iPads. Easy to replace if they break.
The advent of Air Display will also help with teachers and students able to project their iPad to a TV wirelessly.
Need to ensure that settings are chosen to stop inadvertent deletion of Apps or in App purchases.
Bluetooth keyboards are useful for some students. However keyboards with built in batteries are better as without batteries it can drain iPad power.
Possibilities of the Pad in the playground for move about therapies reading communicative intent of students ‑ what other kids are doing ‑ Need to prepare students and families, possible‑ insurance, accessories for carrying the iPads etc.
The iPad is seen as a 'Communication Partner'.