iPads in Class

by stephenholloran1

The iPad is more and more becoming the paper and pencil of the modern day teacher and student, but with innumerable other uses. It is very much more than a simple writing aparatus, in that it is an all-in-one tool where a plethora of exercises and projects can be done with the whole class together, in small groups or individually. Essentielly a ‘smart screen’, the iPad’s  functions are manipulated with touch technology. Its dimensions and light weight make it suitable for learners even at the very early elementary levels. There is also of course the recognizability factor. Most elementary and secondary students now have grown up with technology and are referred to as digital natives. The iPad is something they are familiar with and thus very willing to use. Getting students to use a particular pedalogical tool is a big step in teaching, and the next step is to get them to use it properly. this will be explained aa little later in this post. Once the teacher is able to establish a teaching environment, with the iPad as the primary faciliating tool, organization of instruction, exercises, and projects will be very efficient. For instance, students are often required to keep a personal porfolio of activities they do. This can easily and effectively be done with the iPad. Applications such as educlipper can be used to do this, but, as stated at ipadeducators : whichever tool you select, remember that the heart of developing a digital portfolio lies in granting ownership of the content to students and allowing them some freedom to share that content with an audience. Portfolios are a wonderful tool for showcasing student work and they’ll motivate your students to create quality content that they want to put on display. This quote gives excellent insight into the iPad’s use in the modern classroom, in that it points out the fact that students will be motivated to work if they are given a certain degree of control over their own learning and are able to share their efforts with others.

There are innumerable benefits in using the iPad, but the savy teacher must not ignor the dangers of it’s use.  An article published in the Globe and Mail on December 11, 2013 caught my eye : A third of Quebec students surveyed about using iPads in class admitted to playing games during school hours and an astounding 99 per cent said they found the gadgets distracting, suggests a new study based on the experiences of more than 6,000 tablet-toting kids. Of course, this sort of problem will exist if students have easy, uncontrolled, access to ‘fun’ activities, but the problem is not in the use of iPads but just how in fact they are used. This quote at iphoneincanada effectively illustrates the real problem : But the problem lies deeper in the system, as highlighted by the study : about 70% of the teachers had either never nor rarely used an iPad before they got one from the school as their new teaching tool. For this reason it is absolutely necessary that teachers be very well-educated on the use of iPads before their use them in class. In fact, once the teacher is familiar with its use they will find it an excellent pedagogical tool and, in fact, a great class management tool also. For instance, software such as airdrop and doceri allow teachers to send activities to the students wirelessly and thus have control over their students’ iPads.  This technology can be intimidating to some teachers, and especially when faced with the vast array of apps that are continually being marketed. In order to navigate around this myriad of information the teacher must seek out tools that will guide them properly to useful iPad applications. For instance, the iPad pedagogy wheel can greatly assist the novice, as well as seasoned iPad user alike, and a taxonomy such as Bloom’s provides a framework in which to seek out the most effective apps for their classroom.

 In terms of assisting the teacher pedagogically, two other tools are of particular interest as facilitators of class activities. Educreation and Explain Everything  are excellent tools used with iPads that have become standards for teachers that are up to date on their software know how. Starting out with Educreation, the site itself effectively sums up this tool’s function : Educreations is an exciting app that transforms your iPad into a recordable whiteboard.  It is important to note here that both Eucreation and Explain Everything are not only visual tools but can also simultaineously make audio recordings with the video. The audio element is obviously an important feature in language classes where, for instance, students can hear their own voices. In other words students can self-correct themselves. For instance, they can keep redoing their audio-visual presentations until they are happy with the result. The Quebec Ministry  announced in 2011  a planned investment of CDN$160 million over the next five years to equip every kindergarten through twelfth-grade classroom – 43,000 in total – with interactive whiteboards and other technology products. This is great news for teachers, and students, but the classroom in this context is still a traditionally based environment where the board is at the front with the teacher. With technology such as Educreation the white board is in the students’ hands. This makes learning a more direct and interactive experience … quite literally a hands on approach. In terms of the activities the students can do, the selection is limited only by their imagination. For example, the students can create films for class projects, which can be recorded, saved and sent to others. A useful feature is that they can make the video private or public, therefore having control over who views their creations. Another advantage of Educreation is the price tag … it’s free.

Moving on to Explain Everything, the first thing that must be mentionned is that it is essentially the same as Educreation, but with certain more advanced features. For instance, students can edit and correct videos with Explain Everything, whereas Educreation is a one shot deal  where the video must be done correctly the first time or else students must 1) redo it, or 2) live with their recorded mistakes. The added features on Explain Everthing does come at small a very price ($2.99 at itunes). In terms of being cost effective I noticed this comment at newschooltechnology  Explain Everything can be a cost effective solution and/or replacement of whiteboards. This is quite true if all students own their own iPad, but, quite simply, they don’t. In addition, the Quebec Governmnet, as mentionned above,  has invested millions of dollars in placing interactive whiteboards in every classroom. Never-the-less, in terms of pedagogic efficiency, teachers can balance teaching time between the class interactive white board and the iPads, with those that students own, or are supplied by the school. Simply put, the more screens in the class, the more ground that can be covered in a given time. Another interesting comment I noticed, this time at Edshelf, was by  Mr. Greg Kulowiec, who stated that Explain Everything  is the only iPad screencasting app that allows for direct upload to YouTube. Whether or not this is the only one, is more or less important, but the fact that direct uploads can be made is a handy feature. In particular, if the teacher has created a private Youtube group where only the class can access it. In addition, at edshelf I noticed this comment : Explain Everything is currently being used by thousands of teachers and students in over 60 countries.  The fact that Explain Everything is so widely used shows that it has become a standard teaching tool. As such, teachers who are familiar with it’s use can get teaching ideas from around the world. Additionally, more and more teachers are making good use of, what has become to be known as, the ‘flipped classroom’. Basically, the flipped classroom is an environment where the explanations are done as homework and the in class time is dedicated to exercises and projects. The use of iPads with Educreation or Explain Everything facilitates this by allowing the teacher to record instructions, then send them as homework to the students. The students can then follow the instructions at their own pace, without the distractions of the classroom.

In summary, the iPad is an excellent tool that should be used by teachers; but, only if they are well aware of exactly how it should be used properly. Many teachers who grew up with little or no use of computer technology are often intimidated by it. This definitely does not have to be the case. No matter how old, or young, teachers are, they should become familiar with as many new computer technolgies as they can. Things are constantly changing, and this should be embrassed as a sort of continual rejuvenation rather than feared. So, get informed and show your students a thing or two they don’t know on the iPad. That’s how you will get their respect and interest, which will then allow for an environment that is efficient, enjoyable and enlightening.