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September 6, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Going mobile!

We have iPads in our early years classroom. Over the last two years we have been exploring ways to use these mobile devices to support teaching and learning. As my own understanding deepens, I am discovering that there is so much more out there than the “stand alone” apps(eg numeracy and phonics) typically marketed to early years teachers and am discovering the power of using web 2.0 tools with mobile devices.

In our classroom area we have several different globes, a large world map and a big book atlas. We refer to these regularly during day to day discussions about story settings, current affairs, absent family and friends and, increasingly, our class on-line learning network.

Recently I have observed groups of children crowded around the globe, looking for countries to which they have a personal connection. Trenton tells a group of children that he was born in Seattle and reminds them that Ryan was moving to Seattle before he moved to Ireland. Walter moved from Denmark. Hal has visited Hawaii. So has Leander. Maya’s grandparents visited from Canada. That’s where our KinderPals are from. Daan is trying to find where his last school was, but he can’t remember the name (Qatar). Soon he is moving again to India. The children are interested in finding India to see how close it is to the equator. Nikhil is worried that Daan will be too hot. The conversation goes on and on, carrying over days.

In order to support and extend the children’s spontaneous inquiry I gather up a collection of iPads with the Google Earth app, globes, atlases and a large world map. Then I sit back and watch, ready to support if needed, but otherwise letting the children explore and find out by themselves.

Some children are absorbed in the landscape of our planet, noting the frozen poles, commenting on the amount of water and discovering mountainous areas.

Others are more interested in finding countries that have a personal significance. Someone discovers the street view function and the children marvel at the detail.

Yet others are absorbed in looking at an atlas.

A few children decide to record their ideas on paper. I am fascinated by their careful, intricate drawings.

The children collaborate and work together, switching between the iPad app, globes, map and atlas. They share findings, dispute ideas, test theories and co-construct their understandings, revising their schemas in the light of new information.

It’s time to pack up. As the children tidy, a snippet of conversation floats over to me:

  • Trenton We did a whole earth inquiry!
  • Hal Now we know everything about the earth!
  • Nikhil But we can still learn more.
  • Daan Yeah, we can always learn more.

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