I wanted to diverge slightly off the suggested resources for Thing 8 of 23 Teaching Things and share what I use for digital writing in my iPad classrooms. Although we all have access to Google Docs, I really like taking advantage of the digital mark book offered by iTunes U, combined with PDF Expert for its superior annotation functions!
A really successful task I did with my Y11 Classics class recently involved the students choosing a Greek sculpture of their choice, then creating a submission to the curator of the Auckland Museum. We imagined that the Museum had the funds to put on a show of Greek sculpture and was inviting suggestions from the public; they had to use their knowledge of Greek sculpture to identify and recommend a particular work. The students wrote their submission using the app of their choice (usually Pages) and we did a peer review lesson where they worked in groups of 2-3 to read and critique each other’s submissions, before handing in their final version. I don’t normally do this but, somehow, they were very self-conscious of their peers reading their spelling and grammatical errors! (They don’t have the same feeling towards me, unfortunately…)
I export the assignment into PDF Expert (it can be directly annotated within the iTunes U app, but I find this really glitchy!) and I mark the work as I would on paper. I then import it back into iTunes U and fill out a mark scheme using a document I’ve imported from Pages into PDF Expert, which links to the level/standard we are studying. Despite how complex I’ve made it sound, the process is pretty efficient and has been working well so far this year!
Advantages of iTunes U for Digital Writing
- All my marking is easily located on my iPad, so I can do it at school or home. No more carrying around (and losing) bits of paper!
- Students can use a range of different apps to do their writing; they just need to export it as a PDF for me to annotate.
- It’s pretty quick and easy to mark on my iPad (with a bit of teething time) and I find I write longer comments because I can type faster than I can write.
- Both the students and I keep my feedback – invaluable for parent-teacher interviews and report writing!
- The process does involve several steps and can be confusing until you get used to it.
- Students have to have, and bring to class, their iPad – iTunes U doesn’t work on all platforms.
- The dialogue is just between me and the student concerned, so it is tricky for students to collaborate on work – I get them to upload a copy each, and I give them both the feedback separately.
I would love to encourage students to take greater pride in, and ownership of, the work they produce. I am keen to get students to do some blogging next year, so that they can investigate topics in more depth, create resources of improved quality and share them with the world. I think this would also help my teaching to reach a more transformative level!