Our feature this week is written by Lynette Mattke, CEO of PicPocket Books, and Moms With Apps co-founder. Through interactions with her customers, Lynette relays a first-hand account of how iPod Touches are used in a middle school classroom. While reading, I noticed how the teacher evaluates apps according to a child’s specific needs and learning levels. She also chooses apps where the subject matter supplements her lesson plans. This integration is a helpful example for parents who are learning how to use apps in their homes.
Mrs. Torres’s 4/5 grade class at Zuni Elementary Magnet School for Communication and Technology in Albuquerque, New Mexico is one of the growing number of elementary schools across the county that has access to a set of Apple iPod Touch devices for the classroom.
Michele Torres recently contacted PicPocket Books to let us know that her students have been working with a number of our apps for reading. Mrs. Torres uses the book apps to get her students excited about new titles and subjects and they write book reviews in their writing journals, record reviews in Photo Booth and also present book recommendations to their classmates and “Reading Buddies” from younger grades. Mrs. Torres noticed that the recommendations from the more advanced readers and the inherent appeal of the iPod touch device are successful ways to get reluctant readers more motivated and interested in reading.
In addition to book apps for reading, the class uses several apps for math. The students do math drills, complete story problems, and listen to math lessons. Torres uses lessons from iTunes U to supplement some of the concepts they are learning in class. “If a student isn’t “getting it,” I look for a lesson to download and have them complete it on their own,” she says. Some of Torres’ favorite apps are the iLive Math series. “I like that the apps provide different levels for the students to work on. For example, I have several special education students in my room, and they are able to use the same apps (but at a level appropriate for them) as everyone else, and no one notices and it seems as if no one cares. They love to work cooperatively on these apps as well.” Torres adds, “I also LOVE the Stack the States app. The kids spread out all over the room with their iPods and atlases; looking up facts about their states and answering the questions on the screen. They have learned a lot about the states using this app.”
Mrs. Torres continues, “I love that the kids are so excited about using these amazing little pieces of equipment. Using the iPod Touches engages my students in learning and increases their motivation. I am able to accommodate the many learning styles of my students by finding different apps for the students to use.”
The flip side of having a huge variety of specialized apps in the App Store is that finding appropriate educational apps in Apple’s vast collection takes some research. “I didn’t want apps that the kids would just play a game on, I wanted to use the apps to supplement what the kids were already doing in the classroom,” explains Torres. For age-appropriate and subject appropriate recommendations, she turned to Moms With Apps. Through their popular website and catalogue of apps, Moms With Apps brings app developers together with parents and educators to share best practices and feedback.
A recent day found students from Mrs. Torres’ class reading and discussing PicPocket Books’ Human Body Detectives: The Lucky Escape, written by Dr. Heather Manly, N.D. Because the contact information for the publisher and the author is included in the app, Mrs. Torres was easily able to contact PicPocket Books and the author to provide feedback and ask questions – most importantly, “When is the next book in the Human Body Detectives series coming out?” PicPocket Books directed Mrs. Torres to online resources on the author’s website to supplement science lessons and also let the class know that the next adventures will be published as apps in the early summer of 2011.
Torres’ students have an “iTouch Notebook” to record their notes and feedback on apps and iTouch activities. Torres added, “I love when the kids come to school and tell me, ‘Mrs. Torres, I did some research last night, and I found a couple of apps you should check out for us.’ Most of the time, the apps are very appropriate for what my goal for them is, and that is to learn.”
Michele Torres has been teaching 4th and 5th grade for the last 18 years. She is a National Board Certified Teacher. She says, “I absolutely love what I do, and am always looking for new ways to challenge myself and my students. I feel like I learn as much from my students as I hope they are learning from me. I look forward to experimenting with and implementing all of the new technologies that are headed our way – starting with the iPod Touches!”