Baldwinsville At Durgee Junior High School, ninth-grade English teacher Elizabeth Chetney and school library media specialist Lindsay Cesari added a twist to the traditional research paper. This fall, as they taught the ninth-grade teen issues research unit, they were also teaching students how an iPad can enhance learning.
Over the course of the six-week unit, students used the iPad and a variety of its applications to address the ninth-grade ELA standard: Gathers and uses information for research purposes. The project also applies to the shift to informational texts in the ELA curriculum to better prepare students for college reading materials. This is an important focus under the Common Core State Standards (corestandards.org). One of the district’s goals for its Long Range Comprehensive Education Plan (2010-15) is to align the current curriculum to the Common Core State Standards in all content areas.
Students chose a topic relevant to teens such as drug abuse, athletics and eating disorders. As they conducted their research, they had four subtopics to investigate: definitions and statistics, signs and behaviors, reasons and causes, and plan of action. They used the iPad to find information and take notes, moving from basic skills to advance critical thinking as they progressed through the research process. With their information, they wrote traditional research papers and created iBooks, which were available on two iPads in the school library for other students to review.
This was the first time that Chetney and Cesari adapted a unit normally taught on the computer and on paper for the iPad. One of their goals was to determine if they could use the iPad technology to replace or enhance traditional computer technology since the skill set of the 21st century student should reflect mastery of a range of technologies and platforms. Although they experienced a few small trouble spots with the project, which they will work on fine-tuning, Chetney and Cesari anticipate teaching the unit on the iPad again.