How Daniel’s School Improved Literacy and Language Skills Using BookWidgets

“With the introduction of new automated spelling tests using Text-to-Speech technology and BookWidgets, testing now takes 15 minutes, students are given instant feedback on how they performed and even look through their results to compare their input with the correct answer.”

Daniel Budd, e-Learning Facilitator at Christ Church Grammar School in Perth, Western Australia"

Why Christ Church Grammar School adopted iPads

In 2010, the Australian Government gave schools considerable funding to ensure all students were connected with a suitable device for educational needs. The Christ Church Grammar School decided that the iPad was capable of performing a core set of functions, which are necessary in and out of the classroom. The device is also unobtrusive, minimalistic, utilizes touch screen technology and provides near-instant access to the Internet.

At the time, the iPad was the only device on the market, which could last a full school day without requiring power.

Christ Church Grammar School performs well academically and the students are generally engaged in traditional learning activities, so the iPad was not implemented as some sort of quick fix for improvements in student attendance, motivation or engagement, but rather to support existing pedagogy, improve the general ICT capabilities of the students and allow access to up-to-date teaching resources.

Improving Teacher-Student Communication

The iPads have had a big impact in the level of communication between teachers and students, the distribution of content and resources and on managing time and productivity with administrative tasks. So much so that they have managed to phase out traditional paper diaries.

“After we began utilizing iBooks Author for the creation of multimodal resources, I began experimenting with the creation of my own interactive widgets to help teachers move away from flash simulations which were dated and not supported by modern web browsers. In the process of doing this I found the BookWidgets software which allowed teachers to create custom widgets easily themselves. Further discussions with the team at BookWidgets allowed us to request modifications to widgets and development of custom widgets for specific classroom requirements.”, explains Mr. Budd.

One customization that was implemented, was the ability to create a timed test that would freeze student input at the end of a period. Christ Church Grammar School utilized this technology in Year 9 Chinese reading and writing tests with fantastic results. The teacher reported that the boys actually enjoyed doing the test and she was able to get a lot more out of the students, which has encouraged them to further engage with the language. The school is still working on remodeling the questions to improve the automatic marking, however, it was a lot quicker to mark than a traditional paper based test.

Before BookWidgets, there was no time to give students the kind of individualized feedback that is the norm now.

Saving Time, Improving Spelling

With the increased time, staff can spend more time developing activities to support the Sound Wave phonemic approach to spelling. As such students are attempting more challenging lists, and interactive widgets support students in learning their spelling lists. These widgets are specifically designed to teach spelling and reading skills, which have been researched to support the development of literacy. By developing a deeper understanding of how words are constructed, teachers are discouraging rote learning and encouraging continuity and consistency in spelling activities.

Benefits of Teaching With BooksWidgets

  1. Better Memorization of Complex Sequences: In Year 9, students have been able to improve their reading ability in the Chinese language. Students often struggle with learning the sequence of writing Kanji, but the testing allows them to work on memorization and understanding of Kanji, which makes them more effective in the communication. Due to improved results, students are also more engaged in their learning.

  2. Extra Teaching Time: The spelling programme has created extra teaching time in a week as it has made a time consuming task into something that boys can do independently. The scores and feedback are immediate and can be easily filled in as a record of progress.

  3. Simplicity: The software is very easy to use. With the new addition of the BookWidgets iPad app it is now even easier for teachers to distribute tasks.

“Before BookWidgets, there was no time to give students the kind of individualized feedback that is the norm now.”

Daniel’s favorites

Worksheet

“These allow me to utilize lots of different styles of tasks within the one widget. For example I can have putting elements in orders as well as a fill-in-the-blanks question. I can also embed images and audio into the worksheet.”

Timeline

This widget type was created following a request by Mr. Budd and is a great example of a widget that engages students to actively apply the course content.

YouTube

“The Video widget allows us to embed videos into our iBooks without breaking copyright laws and without increasing the size of the book. We can also add questions under the video as a way to measure student understanding.”

Game widgets

All learning requires a lot of practicing and this is especially true for language learning. Game widgets such as Hangman and Crossword help students practicing vocabulary and save teachers a lot of time.

Related articles

For more information on how Christ Church Grammar School uses BookWidgets, check this article on a French textbook, created by teachers.

Or find out how Fran├žois Hanton, Lorinda Whitlow, and Brian Dawson are teaching with BookWidgets.