In this installment of TeachOntario Talks, we are profiling and celebrating teacher Leslie Boerkamp's project called "Bringing Itinerant Teachers into the Now Generation." Leslie teaches at Sacred Heart School in the Bruce-Grey County Catholic District School Board.
Teacher Leslie Boerkamp calls herself a “techie wannabe.” But based on the impressive ways she’s integrated technology into her elementary school classrooms, some might say she’s earned the title Full-Fledged Techie.
Boerkamp is an itinerant teacher (moving from class to class) of The Arts, Health, and Physical Education at Sacred Heart School, a small rural K to Grade 8 Catholic School in Bruce-Grey County. In 2013/2014, she embarked on a project to carry a class set of iPads with her to all of her classes and use them to bring traditionally 20th Century subjects into modern day. “I wanted to take my love of teaching, technology, and the subject areas I teach, and roll them into one to create learning goals and objectives that my students would enjoy,” says Boerkamp, who is also a half-time Special Education resource teacher at the school.
In order to fund her project, and set aside the time and focus to make it happen, Boerkamp applied for, and received, a grant from the provincial government’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP). Her project called “Bringing Itinerant Teachers into the Now Generation” focused mainly on Music class, but also included Drama, Health and Physical Education.
Focusing on the Learning
So just what did she do?
Finding “meaningful and planned uses” of technology in her lessons was critical, Boerkamp says. That meant finding the best educational iPad applications and matching them to specific curriculum expectations and co-constructing the design of learning opportunities with her students.
Using iPads and subject-specific educational apps improved student performance and engagement substantially in all subject areas, Boerkamp says. “The results are most clearly evident in the quality of student work that the students produced,” she says. “And many times I had students wanting to work straight through recess, even though it was a gorgeous, sunny day outside. That level of commitment and dedication in task completion is pretty awesome and inspiring to see.”
The students also reported a significant improvement in their learning. The Grade 4 through Grade 8 students completed a pre and post TLLP project survey, reporting how much they believed the iPad would and did improve their learning. The students ranked three areas, engagement, creativity, and learning, on a scale from 1 to 5. A 1 ranking on the scale meant “not much” of an impact on learning and a ranking of 5 indicated an “amazing" transformation. “The results (see chart, left) show the students found the iPads to be a great tool for their learning, creativity, and engagement,” Boerkamp says.
Beyond learning the curriculum and enjoying class, the kids also acquired valuable digital skills and knowledge that will ultimately aid them in future learning, Boerkamp says. “I’ve worked hard on getting them to realize the skills and possibilities of creativity that the iPad opens up,” she says. “I hope going forward the students will think creatively about how to present ideas and assignments using the multi-leveled tools right within the iPads.”
What She Learned
Learning new ways to engage young minds, and connect traditional subjects to digital tools, has been a rewarding journey, Boerkamp says. “I’ve learned that a willingness to try new things will take you far,” she says. “It will open your mind with your students, to new ways to think, problem solve, collaborate, and contribute.” She’s also learned how important it is to adapt your approach when what you’re doing isn’t working. “Learning is a continuum,” she says. “We will often need to lighten our load and toss aside items that no longer fit or mesh with our new ideas.”
Boerkamp's Favourite Apps
Below, Boerkamp shares her favourite educational iPad apps in each of the subject areas she teaches.
With the GarageBand app, Boerkamp was able to virtually bring hundreds of different musical instruments into the classroom. “It’s like having an orchestra in your backpack!” she says. Students were able to play the iPad instruments with the touch of their fingers, often in much the same manner as you would play the real thing, she says. “iPad instruments are fantastic when used in conjunction with real instruments, or when you don’t have access to real instruments,” Boerkamp says. “While it’s not completely the same, real musical ability is still required to play these instruments.” With GarageBand students can explore instruments that otherwise might never find their way into an elementary school classroom. Kids can also record multiple tracks of music and layer on dozens of effects on the recorded sounds.
In one of Boerkamp’s class projects, students used GarageBand’s sampler feature to record themselves saying their first and second names. By adding drum tracks and changing the pitch settings on the app, the children were able to create a ternary (A-B-A or Mi-Fa-Mi) form piece of music. Recording oral reports for research assignments is also possible with the app’s podcasting feature. The iBand option, meanwhile, allows the entire class to play different parts of a song together as one big band. An application like GarageBand can be particularly helpful as more and more schools invest in more technology and less in music programs, Boerkamp says.
MadPad is another of Boerkamp’s favourite apps for use in her music classroom. This application invites users to “remix your life” by recording sights and sounds from everyday surroundings to create your own percussive or melodic instruments. In one project, students were asked to record 12 different sounds all made from a single object or a limited space, like a chair and the playground. The students then used those 12 sounds to create a Stomp performance group-style rhythmic composition. In one Kindergarten class Boerkamp used MadPad to help the kids learn about a variety of different musical instruments. Check out some of Boerkamp’s Kindergarteners learning about different instruments with MadPad in the short video (below, left).
Recording silent films in class was made possible with the iMovie app. “Without iMovie we wouldn’t be able to share the evidence of student learning with others,” Boerkamp says. In this project students created a pantomime that introduces a character and setting, establishes and develops a conflict and then shows its resolution. An example of one student film project is called The Amazing Flea Show. You can view a sample of this project in the video on the right.
The Video Frames FREE! App allowed students to record four different “found space” group dance routines and play them together within four video frames. A found space dance is when a group comes up with a series of movements within a set physical space that uses interesting aspects (i.e. staircase) of the space within your dance. “What the app allows you to do is to essentially make a collage of videos, helpful for students to see the same dance from multiple points of view as well as a performance to be captured in stages, and then come together to make the final performance,” says Boerkamp. This video is an example of this found space style dance performed by teachers at Boerkamp’s school.
Health & Physical Education
Quick Response codes, known as QR codes, helped Boerkamp bring the internet into the Health and Physical Education classroom by connecting students’ iPads to the required webpage within seconds. “The students could scan the code and have a sample of the game/activity played out before them on a video,” she says. “As easy as that, everyone would be on the same page.” For Physical Education, Boerkamp often turned to the physical education games channel on YouTube.
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