A Local Area Study with iPads in Early Years

Last half term our investigations were all around our local area. The outcomes of this project would focus on children talking about their home, community, school and their place in the world. As well as the regular practise involved in this kind of learning in the early years, technology enabled us to share this learning in a purposeful way.

First up in the project came International Dot Day which put a spot light on children from other parts of the world who shared the same interests as us. You can read more about International Dot Day here. It’s a great festival that shows children how they are connected to the rest of the world. This initiated conversations about our place in the world, where we live and what it is like here.

Similarities and Differences.

Teacher Authored Texts are a great way to share with early years children a real insight in to what another place is like. This has traditionally been achieved by sending a mascot out on holidays with children and teachers, and usually begins with a great example of photograph journal from your own holiday.

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With the Apple Distinguished Educators in San Diego I authored a teacher text about a place called ‘Cuyamaca Rancho State Park’. This is a real contrasting locality to where our school is set. Using Book Creator on the iPad, we could creating a multitouch book with sounds, panoramic photographs and videos about this place. It really brings it life!

The book has a simple structure of chapters:

What happens here? – photographs of a problem in the local area (a forest fire)

From Where I Stand. – videos and sounds of what it is like to walk around this place

Who Lives Here? – meeting local people (Native Americans) and a look at the plants and animals here.

A Call To Action – a prompt to make a book about your place

Next time you’re visiting somewhere different, take your iPad and Book Creator to make a teacher authored text for your class.  When I share mine with the children, there is a much more authentic discussion around the place because I have been there and the excitement to create our own non-fiction book about our local area is much more evident! The children see me as an author and know that they can create a book in the same style using the same tools as I did.

To take this even further, the children find book creating much more purposeful when their books have an audience. This is why International Dot Day is an important first step of our local area study. We share our book with our connected classes.

Our Local Area Book

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Download Book Creator here.

This is the scary part for teachers. It’s where you take your class out, in small groups, on to the streets WITH iPads. It is much more effective for each child to have an iPad each as they can create the entire book themselves, with their own images, sounds and videos.

Working in that way means that each child creates their own book, meaning you have 1 book for each child. That’s a lot of books! But also very personalised. If you take a class book option, it’s easier to take 1 iPad for each group to edit. Make sure that they are the ones button pressing, navigating and photographing though, otherwise it becomes your book. It helps for you to carry an iPad yourself and model the skills alongside your group, that way you don’t feel the need to button press for the group as well!

To prepare children for this experience, it is crucial you have already taught photography skills and mastered the basics of using iPads in your setting. Read more about that herehere and even here! These 3 posts will give you lots of ideas of what to do with iPads to progress to a local area study. Find out more about using the features of Book Creator here.

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For this activity you need to teach the children how to use the Book Creator app. It is a very easy and age appropriate app for early years. Every tool the children need to author their book is found in the + menu at the top of the screen. Book Creator menus are complimented with symbols so it is very accessible. Work is also saved automatically!

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Sharing the Book

This is the teacher part. In the Book Creator app you need to type in title of the book and then export is as an ePub document to email to your connected classes. Remember that there are limitations in size of email attachments, so the amount of videos contained in your book needs to be scaled down! The gallery below shows the 3 processes in Book Creator you need to complete to share your book by email.

If you use a cloud based storage service such as Dropbox, you can upload your book there and share the link to download it with your connected classes. That way you can include more videos and media.

Our Book

Below is a gallery which gives a peek in to some of the pages that are included in our book. I added the small typed captions to scribe the labels and captions children have included with their photographs.

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Download Book Creator here.

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