This is not an advertisement for Apple Computers, nor is it a clarion call for people to buy ipads. It is simply about how the ipad is revolutionising how I conduct myself in a classroom with the ipad in hand. I never really got how it could do it – after all, people criticise it for not being a phone, not being able to play DVDs or Flash, not running Windows applications, having a keyboard that annoys touch typists. However, it all starts for me when I get to school.
As I sit down and dole out my spoonful of coffee into the plunger, I have the day’s newspaper ready to read, to see if there are any articles would be useful to look for later. Otherwise, I am on my twitter account, seeing if there are any articles about education or the outside that have been sent by those I follow. Sometimes I find articles that I tweet to my audience on the account I set up for students, where they follow any relevant article I find.
I then can get onto my Planbook, which I am still working out how to use. I have only had it for a week. So far, though, I have been writing point form lesson plans for the day, ready to refer to them in class. I was never a huge one for taking lesson plan books with me – I had a habit of leaving books behind and it was also a pain sometimes to sit down at my desk and write out the lesson plan. With the ipad, I just tap away in next to no time, wherever I am.
When I am in class, I take the roll with the Attendance app, which is the easiest attendance taking tool I have used – I simply tap whether students are absent, late, excused or present. I can also enter notes relating to a student from that lesson. The app provides a running tally of how many times students have been absent and/or late, so you can immediately tell the students that they are skating on thin ice by being late 3 times in a week. For someone who hated taking the roll each day, this app is quick and very useful. A drama teacher colleague whom I put onto the app told me that she loves the way the app can place students into randomised groups of three or more – excellent for assigning students into groups for group work. All of it is instant and I’m not bent over a markbook with a pen. This ease of access cannot be underestimated.
During class, I have also used the ipad in a variety of ways. I buy ebook versions of textbooks used by students and use my Kindle app. The Kindle app is excellent, in that I can now find the quote I want much more quickly through the search function. Otherwise, I scan worksheets into the school system, which I then email to the ipad. I can then download them and read them through the iBooks app. Alternatively, I use QuickOffice to read Word documents. In addition, if I want to show any quick videos or play music immediately – instead of waiting forever for the lumbering Windows machine to decide to start up – I fire up the Youtube or ipod functions, accompanied by a lovely hand-sized portable speaker bought from Officeworks for $20. (Name escapes me right now). At the moment, I can only use my 3G connection for the Youtube, but I never get near my 1GB download limit. It is worth it.
As students do activities, they ask a variety of questions which can be answered by a number of approaches – such as my mind, or the wonders of the internet. That way, I can show how I search for items, modelling internet usage. The other day, I had students who were struggling with how to write about characters because, as they said to me, they don’t read much in the way of prose fiction. So, I had a search for some Matthew Reilly – it’s a style that is engaging to the make student who doesn’t like reading anything – and then handed them the pad. They read it, fascinated. I can see that being a useful tool in terms of helping individual students access certain styles, openings of texts, all sorts of creative material. I cannot say enough how great it is to be not waiting, not going to the computer box and clicking endlessly, or lumping a laptop about – I am with individual students, providing individual answers.
During break times, I will be talking to staff and questions arise about texts, school dates, whatever arises, in my role as Assistant English Co-ordinator. With the pad, I can answer questions through whichever notes I’ve taken, the internet, book references. In addition, I know exactly when school events and assessment tasks are about to occur through CalenGoo – a nice app that makes it easy to read the school’s Google calendar. It all has meant that I am organised in a way I never have been – a bit of a Holy Grail for teachers, especially those who have a lot to do. Then, when school has ended, sometimes we have those pesky meetings. I have been using the pad to take notes from meetings – using Pages – emailing them to myself or other people who need them.
I haven’t even touched on prezi and the other apps that are being continually developed for the ipad. I dare say that will come as I experiment more – and continue to follow excellent ipad users on Twitter, who mention what they are up to. In my school, I am a curiosity – and cop comments about “toy”, “fun”, etc I also have teachers talking about a reluctance to adopt a new device, because they have all their stuff on a laptop and/or desktop. However, there needs to be a change in the way they think about this technology. The ipad is a device with which you start from scratch – you don’t use it with Windows style thinking. I use it in conjunction with other computer tools to organise what I do and deliver a fast lesson without technology lag. It is the best tech tool I have ever seen for teachers.