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Geology and the iPad

-by Lisa Nelson, Grade 7 Math/Science

Teaching a group of grade 7s who have used 1:1 Macbook laptops for the past three years and are now part of a 1:1 iPad initiative has been somewhat challenging. The students were slightly discouraged by the limitations of the iPad at the beginning of the school year. It was our goal as a grade 7 team to get students to buy-in to iPads and to note the good things about them.

We started the year with the ‘Planet Earth’ unit in Science. To alleviate some of their frustrations, we decided to give them a project that would showcase some of the positives of iPads and ensure that they had the opportunity for success.



In past years, in collaboration with two geologists and other colleagues, my partner teacher, Erin Couillard, and I designed a field trip through the Bow Valley, showcasing different geologic landforms. We chose to modify the field trip this year to include a visual timeline depicting the geologic history of the Bow Valley region as the main product. In previous years, we had experienced challenges with the follow-up from the field trip. With the iPads, students were easily able to record or capture evidence of geologic formations which could then be used once we returned to the classroom.

Advantages of using Mobile Technology for this project:

Portability/Flexibility
Students were able to take their iPads on this trip. They had their iPads in their backpacks, and were even accessing them on the not-so-simple hike we went on. The ease in which iPads can be transported and used made them ideal for this task.

Built in camera/HD video camera
On the field trip, students were asked to use their iPads to document evidence of different geologic activities including evidence of an ancient inland sea, mountain building, deposition, glaciation and erosion. They were also required to complete a booklet, answering questions about the various landforms they saw. iPads made it easy for students to document the trip.


Project options

Following the field trip, students created a presentation using only images taken on the trip and a script using information learned from the geologist and Science class. The students needed to work collaboratively within a group to choose the best images taken on the field trip to represent each geologic event. They then placed them in the appropriate historical order in a slideshow. Students gave a presentation to the class discussing how the photo provided evidence of the geologic event, and linked the event to other stages on the timeline. We worked with students to generate a rubric for assessing the presentations. The students used Keynote to create their slideshows. You can watch a sample slideshow here (though there are no words, as the students presented in class with a script) Students had the option to use iMovie as well to show their images and record a script.



The field trip was deemed a success by most students, though some seemed to think it would have been just as easy to complete the project without iPads.

Some student thoughts:

“…without the iPad, we would just have used a camera to take the pictures.”

“On the field trip, (iPads) made things easier in a way because we didn’t have to upload photos from a camera. We could take notes on the trip, too.”

“It was harder without a laptop because normally I would make an iMovie with external sound, but I had to do a Keynote instead and I don’t really know Keynote.”

From a student who is new to our school (from a school without 1:1 laptop/iPad access): “The iPad helped so much with this project. We got to make a presentation to the class without having to make a poster or something. Keynote made it easy to collect and order our pictures of the (geologic) events. I also like how now I can do research without having to use the textbook all the time. It’s so much lighter to carry my iPad than textbooks.”

1 comments:

  1. Lisa, through your blog you highlight a number of key elements of teaching through a disposition of inquiry including: exploring big questions; enriching learning experiences through the involvement of outside experts; taking learning beyond the classroom; engaging students through hands-on learning activities and effectively using technology to gather information and demonstrate learning. You and your students offer some interesting insights in regard to the use of iPads to enrich learning and teaching. Garry McKinnon

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