February 20, 2011

There's a Thing happening.

Marena and I are at the Instructional Technologies Strategies Conference this weekend. I might have snuck into a conference session this morning that I wasn't signed up for...

The thing was, I wanted to hear about Canby. I had to hear about Canby.  So I might have snuck in...

You see, in Canby
"There's this thing happening. We don't know what the Thing is, only that there IS a thing." 

They're using iPod Touches and iPad's in classrooms. I love technology, but I'm definitely not a gadget girl, so the iPad certainly doesn't twitter-pate me. However, what these teachers are doing with this little tool does! Oh my heart! Here's why. If you have a second to look at this achievement data, it's kind of awesome.

I'll summarize. Canby deployed 30 iPods 1:1 to 3rd grade students who then used them to practice reading fluency, math skills, writing. The little gadgets sat on each student's desk day after day. Little readers would record their voices into it as they read an unfamiliar passage and then listen to themselves. As soon as the first listen was done they would have this overwhelming urge to do it again! So they would...do it again, and again, and again. (*We actually did this together this morning, and I will say, the urge keep trying to make it better is unbelievably compelling) Now any reading teacher knows this is the way to build fluency, and that's exactly what happened. The Oaks scores for this third grade classroom, completely outpaced district scores.

The same thing happened in math. A couple of little apps on the iTouch that lives right there on the student's desk means that when there is 5 minutes left before lunch, the teacher can say, "Hey...pull out "Numberline" and play for a couple minutes would you?" Of course the kids jump right to it, because they get to play a game. But this game requires them to take a mixture of fractions, percentages and decimals and put them in the correct place on a number line for speed and time. (Can you do this?...Which is higher, 0.21 or 2/8; 7/16 or 48%?) They play these little games for maybe 5 minutes every day, and a teacher can love it as much as the students, because there is NO transition time wasted. And by the end of the year, these students have actually gotten the equivalent of at least 2 full days practice on decimals, percentages and fractions. And their Oaks scores are reflecting that.

Of course, it's brilliant.
The gadget is a calculator when necessary, a dictionary that will tell them how to pronounce a word, a thesaurus and a spellchecker, a self-correction tool and a motivator.
-They use it for their writing. They'll finish their first rough draft and then read aloud. When they listen back they can hear for themselves what ought to be changed.
-They use it for their reading. When they come to a word they don't know, they look it up instantly. No long stroll across the room to the dictionary shelf, by way of the pencil sharpener, drinking fountain and turtle tank, by which time they return, reading is over. (You know this kiddo!)

intrinsic motivation.
appropriate scaffolding.
active engagement.
student ownership.
Sheesh...talk about multi-functional. Is it all the tool? Of course not. This grand experiment is being done with really good teachers...who love the tool that's helping them accomplish their goals. It's just a tool, but it's an unquestionably good one.

Canby is pretty jazzed about what they're doing. They went from having 50 classrooms with iPod devices last school year (2009-100) to deploying the same to over 100 classrooms this school year (2010-11). Now they're starting to add iPads...260 of them this year.

It's kind of awesome.


  1. WOW, the data is incredible. Please bring home what you have from the session. I would like to implement these apps in my home.

  2. Yep! I'll post those as soon as I can get my notes together. Lots of good stuff :)


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