Sunday 2 October 2011

Week 4: The Good, Bad & the iPad

This week has not been all that revolutionary in using the iPads in class. But I have found out some ways of using them and some limitations.

I am finding that I have trouble getting 2-3 iPads to automatically sync when I plug them into the Bretford Powersync 30 iPad cart. I have not figured out why yet, but I just have to plug them in separately, so its not that bad of an inconvenience. I probably should call Bretford up about this.

This week I spent alot of time trying to get the School District mail setup on all the iPads with a generic "no-return" email. However, to date all I have is some frustration, wasted time, and no ability to have students email from their desk.

One of the problems that I am having is getting student created work off of the iPads for me to assess. I have been involved with a great discussion on this over twitter with some tweeps and this has given me some ideas.

So far I have used the following techniques to get student work:

  • students enter their work directly into a Moodle forum, this works well and is easy for me to access and mark. The only problem is everyone in the class can see each others posts...might be okay for some things, but some copying can occur.
  • students create their work in the Pages app and then copy/paste it into a hand-in folder (called: assignments-online text) in Moodle. I used this for the first time this week and it worked great. Students posted a historical letter they wrote, it was private and I could easily mark, assess, and write return comments for them. I plan to continue to use this method.
  • I had students setup Evernote accounts this week for them to enter notes into and be able to access them on the iPads at school and at home on their own computeres. But, the sharing features really only work on the paid version, so this won't work for sharing files. If I want to share some files with students, I can put them up in Moodle in less than a minute. I love Evernote, but for class its only good for student to keep notes organized.
  • I have attempted to get students to put a Pages file into dropbox, but you can't do that... Too bad because this would have been a convenient way to have a "hand-in" shared folder.
  • I have also resorted to walking around and physically viewing and assessing student work right off the iPad. Not very efficient and it interrupts their other work.

Here are the ways that I would like to be able to receive student work on iPads:

  • via email, it should be easy to setup, but no I am having infrastructure issues with IP ports blocking connections. I might resort to setting up a generic hotmail account to test and see if students can just email me content.
  • Google docs....but its relatively incompatible on the iPads. Why can't Apple and Google just get along.
  • I would like to be able to have students be able to print from their iPads. I am not sure how to go about this and what it might cost though. I do know that we can get a WiFi printer or we can setup dedicated print-servers. But again not sure how to go about this?
  • Blog. Waiting for word on the setup of Wordpress accounts for every student at my school. We will be piloting this for the district. I am wanting students to reflect on what they are learning here and comment on other classmates work. We have the Wordpress app on the iPads and will be able to post content easily once setup.
  • Wiki. MediaWiki is already setup and I will shortly begin having students develop our own school-wide wiki. This will be all student created content. I just have to teach them some of the coding before we start. 
  • Video. I am hoping there will be no problem posting to Youtube from iMovie on the iPad at school. I have a project starting with my Grade 11's this week. So my fingers are crossed here also.

I am looking forward to the October 4th Apple event where they should release new products and especially iOS5. I will be upgrading to this new version right away and hoping that some of the difficulties mentioned will evaporate away.


  1. Great post!

    Anyone who is trying to use an iPad as an educational device is suffering as you are. Together wee shall prevail!

    I like the fact that you are using Moodle as your Education CMS. I self hosted a Moodle site for 3 years and loved it but I abandoned it for cost reasons. You do know there is an APP for that?

    As for blog privacy in Moodle, you should be able to set all students to private blogs in the back end of the site.

    Keep on writing!

  2. Thanks for your comments Keith. I agree that over a little time we will have the iPad figured out as to what are its strengths in education. Conversely, we will find out its limitations and hope they disappear over time with upgrades.
    In my School District (Kamloops) every teacher has automatically Moodle created space and encouraged to use it: no cost for us at all. All the students in the school automatically get logins for Moodle, so its a breeze to get started using. I think every school district should do this also.

    I just downloaded the Moodle App to try out, but I have found NO issues with Moodle in Safari browser anyway.

    I was wanting to create public blogs that students use, I think Wordpress gives us lots of features compared to Moodle. I sort of want to use the blog for students to build a course portfolio. Once I get started with it I am sure there will be a blog dedicated to student blogging.

    Again, thanks for your comments and keep writing also.

  3. Jeremy a couple of handy things you might do with moodle if you haven't done so already. For forum discussions I setup groups with 4 to 5 students in each. Then select separate groups on the settings page for the forum I am using. The students then can only see the comments of students within their group. This leads to less copying and more onus on the students to contribute to the discussion. The second is the ajax marking block a great module you can add to moodle. All assignments waiting to be marked will show up in the block and let you access them directly from the block.

  4. Have you tried the Advanced Uploading of Files Assignment type in Moodle? The students should be able to upload Pages files and as long as you have Pages on the computer you are using to mark the files it should work just fine. I don't have access to an iPad to try this out, so there may be some issues that I'm not aware of, but thought I'd mention this just in case.
    Good luck!

  5. Thanks for your comments Richard. I am just playing with the forum discussions - separate groups. Do I chose Visible: Show or hide?
    Also, I don't see any settings for selecting groups or individual students. How do groups get formed?

  6. Thanks for your comment also Claire.
    Unfortunately, it is really difficult to get the files off an iPad & this makes it unable currently to be able to select a file to put into Moodle. The iPad doen't have a file system except for photos. I hope this gets addressed as time goes on. Pages doesn't even let me upload a Pages file to Dropbox.
    But, thanks for the idea...its on my wish list for features updates.

  7. To use smaller discussion groups within a forum you must do three things. First, setup your groups, look for the groups link in the admin block. Second, create your forum and select separate groups in the settings. Third, create your discussion questions in the forum. You will need to enter your questions separately for each group. I have uploaded a video at that goes through the steps.

  8. Thanks Richard for the video you uploaded on how to create discussion groups. I will try it out shortly.
    Again, I really appreciate you explaining this feature to me.

  9. Another solution to your concern about students copying everyones earlier posts is to change the Forum Type to a "Q and A Forum" where students may reply with an answer, but they will not see the replies of other Students to the question in that discussion until they have themselves replied to the same discussion.

  10. I don't want my tax dollars paying for ipads because a couple of teachers are Apple fan boys/girls. You're trying to make this work but why? You're wasting money trying to make ipads work in the classroom when textbooks are cheaper better and last much longer. You're obsessed with making this work but why? Why spend a fortune for distracting devices that aren't working and will be junk in 5 years. Textbooks are cheap, last forever and can't be used to play games. Why fix what's not broken.... with expensive toys? What happens when a child drops these very fragile devices... $500 down the drain that's what. Who's going to pay for a new one? ipads don't have replaceable batteries either so they're very expensive disposable toys. Tablets aren't ready for school use stop trying to make it work with my tax dollars. Buy books and pencils not itoys.

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