How the iPad is changing my teaching Forever

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Great coverage of actualities and potententials. I have phased out carting my laptop as religiously as I once did. My IPad is just part of my clothing. And the Prezi app has been working fine so far. It’s all good and we don’t have to preach just do our thing.

  2. The winning formula is YOU as a proactive, engaging educator plus the tools that compliment your work and open up new opportunities and increase efficiency (and fun), in this case the iPad. Well done!

  3. Hello Mark

    This is great! I am holding out for the next generation but I know I will make great use of the iPad. it will be an easy tool to take me through the various meetings and the wide variety of agendas my mind has to deal with each day.
    I hope you don’t mind but I am forwarding this link to my staff.

    Thanks for your creativity.

    Kind regards

    Narelle

  4. Thanks, all for the comments – and thank you, Narelle, for passing on the link. I must admit I am craving an ipad2, mostly for the video mirroring capability and partially for the iMovie and Garage Band. However, I’m not particularly crushed at not getting one quite yet.

    I’m continuing to find uses for the pad, such as today when we went on an excursion to see Romeo and Juliet, where I used the Attendance App, checked emails from school, was ready to take notes about students who misbehaved (fortunately, no notes needed to be taken), and emailed questions to all attending staff that could be posed about the play during the next lesson.

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