Sunday 25 September 2011

Third Week Using iPads in the Classroom

Nowthat the third week has passed, I have decided to do a quick postwith my thoughts on using the iPads in the classroom. Really it'sjust been two weeks of using them in the classroom since the firstweek was spent getting them properly registered in our librarytechnology tracking system. Then there was some time taken to get theWiFi setup on them by our local tech guy. I was inspired to blog weekly because of posts from KeithRispin, another B.C. educator doing a iPad pilot.

I have approached this newschool year with both excitement and nervousness. Excitement with thefact that there are 30 shiny new iPads waiting to be used whileteaching Social Studies. Nervousness mostly with the fact that I knewthey were not fully setup and I felt there was some technologyinfrastructure issues that were unresolved.

How I have used them sofar:
I have started my studentsoff on using the iPads slowly trying to use their strengths andfind out their limitations. I am currently using them in a Grade 8class, Grade 11 class and a Grade 12 class.

With my Grade 8 class I usedthem for web research at their desk. Students were able to go beyondtheir textbook and find more details. This went really well andintuitively the students knew how to use the web browser knew how tonavigate on the devices. I had pre-selected some links for them tovisit and posted them on my Moodle page. I also had students doingsome map review by using a few different map quiz apps.
I think that this is wherethe iPad really shines, we can do extended individual research rightat our desk. No more leaving the classroom, going to the computerlab, students find seats, start up the computer, login, wait, then goon to research. With the iPads it is becoming way more efficient andwe get to work quicker.

With my Grade 12 Historyclass I dove right in and we tried all kinds of different ways to usethe iPad in class. They were kind of my guinea pig class totry things out. The results have been hit and miss, however thelearning immeasurable. I wanted to really try to reducepaper usage in this class and do much more work on ouriPads. I am posting notes, handouts, and web links all in my classMoodle page. I have experimented a few different ways for students tocomplete some class work. I posted a PDF up on Moodle and they had towrite some answers...this turned out not to be that great becauseeven with the GoodReader was hard for them to edit and typein the blanks. Mostly we waisted a bunch of time and the student werefrustrated. If I only wanted them to highlight then PDF format mightbe okay.
Next I posted a Worddocument on Moodle and they were able to download it into the Pagesapp. This worked really well because the students were able to get towork and answer questions right away. However, I think I want to getPages on my Macbook and post documents on Moodle in that formatinstead, there were a few glitches with the formatting ofthe MSWord document. I am having trouble getting the finisheddocument from students because our WiFi won't let us email from thedevices...frustrating, I think it has to do with the proxy server orfirewall. Not sure, but I am trying to get our Tech guys to fix it.
I also had student post someof their work onto Moodle directly in a Forum. This was terrific andI am leaning towards this type of entry in the future. Also thinkingabout EverNote, but this currently doesn't sync to the cloud. Mightalso be a proxy server or firewall issue.

With my Grade 11 class wehave had some issues and this last week did not go as well as I wouldhave liked. We just used the iPads basically for the first time thislast week and we were using the Pearson e-Text app. When we weretrying to download the chapters it ended up completely bogging downthe school WiFi network and no one was able to download theirchapters. I tested the WiFi that the iPads connect to and it showedaround 4Mb/s for speed. Is this fast or slow, I don't know? It mightbe an issue; however, we won't be downloading stuff like thiseveryday. The next day I had two students at a time download, I couldonly get 6-8 students to download the current unit...owch.Fortunately, the chapters are also available in the app
In the Grade 11 class I havealso been posting work in Moodle and have used MSWord format thatallows students to edit the document in Pages. I will be making alotof use of Moodle forums also in this class. I am waiting for all mystudents to get Wordpress accounts hosted on our server- our schoolwill be piloting this. I am hoping to use this for students to postonto and create a sort of e-portfolio to showcase their learning overthe term.

It has been a good week,still some glitches to work out with the district tech guys. I amgetting alot of support from my principal and district tech staff, soI am hopeful the these issues will work themselves out over the nextweek.