Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Science, iPads and the Early Years

“We are wondering if you would be available to help us out with some science investigations that we will be doing? We are going to do this in an elective type of way where children will sign up for the 2 that interest them the most. The aim of the activity is for the children to gain a better understanding of the scientific process which we will all use. If you are able to help out you would need to come up with an experiment/ activity that could use this process.”

This is my absolute favourite kind of email to receive - it allows me to propose a project for a small group of children and there are very few restrictions in place. What’s not to love?

I started to think about what I could do that would interest the children, be based in science and use a digital tool. I looked through the science apps that we currently have on our iPads.

Not bad choices, but a little too much consuming and not enough creating for this project. So I had a look through our other apps but was not feeling very inspired. Then I remembered that Zoe Page had talked about using a microscope app with her Kindergarten class (loved spending time with Zoe at Learning 2.012 in Beijing).

I quickly went to the app store and found 4 microscope / magnifying apps that I thought may work. We have some digital microscopes (DigiBlues) at school but I only had 6 available, not quite enough for a group of about 20 children. A microscope app could be the answer because then I could give each student their own.

I set the experiment up like this:
1. Ask a Question:
Are there microscopic living things in our playground?

2. Make a Hypothesis (What do you think will happen?)
We thought yes, there are microscopic things living in our playground

3. Do an Experiment (Test your hypothesis)
We used a microscope app on the iPads to get a better look.

4. Record the Results (What did you find out?)/ Draw a Conclusion (What did you learn?)
We found out that there are many living things in our playground

On the day of the science exploration the 15 children and I went out to the playground to test out our iPad apps. This is what we learned:

- iPads are a little tricky to see in a bright sunny playground
- the magnifying apps work very similarly to the zoom on the iPad camera
- we couldn't see in very close up detail like we could when using the Digiblues


- it did get the students thinking in scientific way and it helped explain the scientific process
- it was great for each student to have their own device

The next step is to go back into the classrooms and visit this again with both the Digiblues and the iPads. I might also continue my search for the perfect app for this learning experience!

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