Friday, January 24, 2014

Using Subtext in the Classroom to Promote Collaboration and Communication

Subtext is an awesome app that I couldn't wait to use when our class set of iPads arrived. I had learned about it in August and sort of played around with it and thought it had a lot of potential.  After receiving our iPads, I promptly started exploring the app again.  
The app is marketed as, "... a free iPad app that allows classroom groups to exchange ideas in the pages of digital texts. You can also layer in enrichment materials, assignments and quizzes—opening up almost limitless opportunities to engage students and foster analysis and writing skills."
I decided to just dive in and try it! What did I have to lose? I figured the kids would help me along the way and probably even teach me a few things! I went out to Wonderopolis, Time for Kids, and the internet and downloaded some articles onto my library. It takes away all of those gross ads and things that kids(and teachers) find inappropriate while they are on different websites.  The students opened their app, typed in the access code, and joined my class.  They were able to then take the articles from "my library" and download them onto their iPad.  I started by having them   read an article about Nelson Mandela from Time for Kids.  They were figuring things out faster than I could process. They were so intuitive with using it! 

"Did you know if you tap right here you can highlight words?"
"Did you know you can look up words on the online dictionary?"
"Did you know that you can change the highlight colors?"
"Did you know you can comment to each other?"
"Wow! You can ask a survey question on here?"
"You can click on this link and see a video!"
"I can change my icon and personalize it?" Me..."okay, do it!"

The students collaborated and communicated by helping each other with unknown vocabulary, encouraging each other to use context clues, affirming each other's thoughts, challenging each other's thoughts, and learning how to communicate respectfully online.  As I monitored the online discussions within our class, I had to discuss protocols for proper behavior, being respectful, not typing in ALL CAPS, and not using sarcasm.  They were surprised that I could see EVERYTHING that they write! 
Bottom line...they love SUBTEXT! They ask to use it, you can hear a pin drop in the classroom when they are using it(my class is not known for their silence), they amaze me with their knowledge that they share with each other on subtext, and they learn so much from using it!  
I've decided to use the "dive right in and try it" approach with other apps as well. Next up is Explain Everything! We'll see what happens! 

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