How Technology Is Helping Students Take Ownership Of Their Work

As a teacher who has been using technology in my various learning environments for the past seven years, I pride myself in never doing the same project twice. When I taught high school physics two years ago, I was guilty of doing too much of the work for my students.

I had just begun using iBooks Author so I would spend hours creating fancy units of study for my physics students. If they made an iMovie or a Keynote I would certain bundle that material in the book; however I was still doing most of the hard work. Also, the audience who viewed the book was limited to the four walls of my classroom.

The fact that I did not allow my students to extend and expand their learning beyond the four walls of their classroom is a crime. Anything I did with my students and technology would certainly be an enhancement to their learning but it was not transformative teaching or learning.

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Students Own Their Learning

Fast forward to the 2013-2014 school year. I found out the week before school that I would be teaching physics again. So I began to reflect upon ways to make the physics learning environment more transformative. The Book Creator app helped me cultivate a project that transformed my learning environment.

After finishing a unit about Newton’s Three Laws we decided to write a children’s book for the iTunes Store about the way that Newton’s Three Laws relate to the rides at Six Flags/Great Adventure Theme Park in Jackson, New Jersey. Each student chose his or her favorite Great Adventure ride to become an expert on.

It was important that I asked them to do things like explain how Newton’s Three Laws relate to rides like Kingda Ka or Bizarro in kid friendly language. The ultimate test of understanding is taking a concept and teaching it to someone else. I told the kids to write the ibook .

Students Are Authors and Publishers

The students loved working on their books. It was easy for them to type in their text and they also liked that they could record audio on each page. Since we were publishing the book it gave the students the opportunity to learn how to search for images that had no copyright issues. Also, another great thing is how easy it was to publish the ibook into the iBookstore with my iTunes Connect account.

Expanding Horizons

Once the book was published my students were filled with pride about their work and they are constantly asking me to show them the metrics about how many copies have been downloaded and what is the geographic location of the people who downloaded them. There were so many learning opportunities that presented themselves throughout this process.

The next step they want to take is having Google Hangouts with elementary classes who have downloaded the iBook. Talk about transforming the learning environment with technology!

I am so grateful that we have such great technology tools available to us that allowed my students to author their own content. I am also grateful for iTunes Connect and iBooks for providing a platform for the seamless publication of free content.

Link to the Book:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/rides-at-great-adventure-how/id791868429?mt=11

3 Comments

  1. Patrice

    July 28, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    What a great example of technology integration! I would LOVE to be able to do something like this with my students. I could if I had a class set of Chromebooks. BTW, what is Google Hangouts? Sounds interesting.

    • Will McCambley

      August 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      It’s google’s chat app – http://www.google.com/hangouts/. They make same-time-different-place chats and video calls really easy. It’s also integrated really nicely with Google Calendars – you can add a video chat link to any calendar event and have everyone invited hop on the same call. Pretty cool!

    • Will McCambley

      August 6, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      This is very cool! I love seeing students take creative initiative.

      I work for a learn-to-code website, and we have one activity at the end of our Animation and Games curriculum that tells students to “Draw Something.” It’s made so that students can freely apply their animation skills, and it’s left totally open ended. I’ve kept a running imgur album of some of my favorite student work here http://imgur.com/a/1aBp4 – not quite as official as publishing, but not a bad start!

      Will

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