Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tablet PC - Kvetching and Praising

Like most of us I’ve recently witnessed the unveiling of the new Apple iPad. I have no plans or resources to purchase one for myself, but I couldn't help but feel a little envious listening to Mr. Jobs describing holding a little note-pad and scribbling freely on it. This is the kind of feature I'd like to have to record students’ use of language in my class.
I’m really grateful and appreciative of the tablet PC which I received as part of the Avi-Chai grant. It helps me keep track of my students conversation. However, some of the features of the tablet are frustrating: while it has many advantages over a regular PC (it’s portable) or even a laptop (when taken out of it’s receptacle it is relatively light weight and stable enough to carry around) working on it without a mouse can be pretty exasperating. I found that I must open whichever worksheet I might need before taking it out of the receptacle and thus losing the mouse connection, because if I try to do it later with the aid of the stylus the processes is difficult and success is not always guaranteed. I calibrated the screen sensitivity to my “touch” but still it doesn’t always respond to the stylus. If other educators are considering using a tablet for taking notes during class my advise it that they should take this into account and perhaps look seriously at other options.
The feature the works well for me is the ease of carrying the tablet around. It allows me to keep notes on charts (albeit only simple notes, more like checkmark type because of the lack of a mouse) to mark my students use of language during class time.
I stimulate the use of new vocabulary in lots of different ways, but usually they involve the posting of the words in class. Students use them in a variety of collaborative or individual language games. They also use the words as anchors in conversations, either in stand-alone sentences or connected to each other. The less advanced students may use only one vocabulary word in a 3-4 words sentence. Others may create longer sentences, sometimes using 2-3 words in the same sentence, and the most advanced students may create a short story made of a few short sentences put together. In 5th grade some students enjoy the challenge of using all the vocabulary words of one unit in one sentence! How could I record all this treasure trove of varied and differentiated use of language if I had to wait for the end of class to do so? This is where the tablet PC is really helpful: I can pinpoint the amount, level and ease of each student use of the words in a certain unit on a certain day according to the notes I've been taking in real time in class. This is authentic assessment and it is made possible because I can go on teaching and take notes at the same time.

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