Monday, January 30, 2012

brief thoughts on ipads

As you may or may not know by now, our district has an ipad pilot program going on and my classroom (as well as several others) is a part of this program. The district began this pilot by asking teachers to apply for a classroom set of ipads. Several teachers at our school decided to apply together and we were chosen as one of three classrooms to receive a set of ipads.
Now, after a few months of using the ipads, I feel like I might have a bit of insight into the nuts and bolts of ipads in the classroom. So here are a quick few thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly of using ipads in a high school social studies classroom.

We'll go in reverse order to end on a high note.

The Ugly:
Ever had one of those days where nothing goes right? If you are planning on using ipads in the classroom then prepare for several of those days early on. There will just be times where the technology doesn't work the way that you think it is going to work.
We had days where only half of the ipads would connect to our school wifi. We had days where the students had entered less than desirable "phrases" into auto-correct. We had days where students had deleted the apps that we were planning on using. We've had days. Boy, have we. But now, we have solved most of those problems and those days happen a lot less often. We still have problems here and there but it isn't as ugly as it once was and we are still learning and tweaking what we are doing. The point is, we're learning along with the students and although we had some ugly days, we worked through them and now things are running much more smoothly.

The Bad:
Ipads require a lot of upfront time and planning. Really, all lessons require planning and thought whether or not you are using ipads or books or paper and pencil. The thing that makes the ipads stand-out as really useful and cool for education is the amount of apps available. Of course, if you are going to use these apps, they have to be loaded on the ipads. Sometimes they have to be PURCHASED. This takes time. The district has done a great job of streamlining this process but it still takes a few days. So, if I want to use a PAID app next week in one of my classes, I've got to know that a week ahead of time and I have to plan accordingly.
If I want to use a free app, I still need to give myself time to load the app on the ipads. This usually takes me a little time and can't be a last minute thing. One of my colleagues just came in here with an idea and looked at the ipads to see if they had an app he could use tomorrow. They didn't. Neither of us has time in our schedule today to spend loading new apps. So he'll have to come up with another idea or wait until tomorrow when I have a planning period or he has lab time to look for an app and to download it and sync it to all the ipads.
Another time suck as far as the ipads go is actually finding and testing the apps. You have to spend some time looking at apps, reviewing apps, and playing around with them to see if they do what you want them to do. Some of this is fun. Some of it is not. It is all time consuming. It helps to find people you trust and ask them what they are using. For instance, there are all kinds of mind-mapping apps. Which one should I use. Which one has the most functionality? Should I pay for one or is there a free one that works? All of these questions have to be answered before you load the app on the ipad.

The Good:
Instant Engagement. As soon as students touch the ipad, they are engaged. We did an oregon trail lesson and students didn't want to leave when the period was over. They begged to keep playing. They have never begged me to keep lecturing.
A variety of tools. This is an instance where the ipad is like a swiss army knife. There are so many different apps that are available. Want to take an easy survey? There's an app for that. Want students to look at maps of the world? There's an app for that. Want students to read a text and make their own flash cards? You guessed it. There's an app for that. There's an app for almost everything and students LIKE using these apps. The ipad is, without a doubt, a game changer.
Couple that with movies, books, presentations, etc... that students can view on the ipad and it quickly becomes apparent that this little tablet device is going to make the classroom of the future the classroom of the present pretty quickly.

Let me know what you think.

links are to our district ipad pilot page and to my colleague geoff crosson's blog where he is also talking about ipad lessons and other related educational type things. there is also a link to my blog where this post originally appeared.

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