Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two Questions to Ask Before Using iPads for Secondary

Several secondary teachers have recently approached me with the same question about the iPad: What am I supposed to do with this thing?
Searching for "confused teacher" images was the highlight of this post.

Fair question. The first thought most teachers have is to use the iPad to do things they've been doing - writing papers, doing Power Points, completing worksheets. Simply using new technology to do these things is supposed to be more motivating for the students.

Well, teachers are having second thoughts. Kids are so over the newness of the hardware. They and their teachers are finding that presentations and papers are complicated to save and share on tablets. And we already knew that worksheets are boring after a while no matter what.

Can tablets be useful for older students doing "real" work? Yes. But first, we need to answer two important questions:

How will they turn it in? My district is switching over to Gaggle, an all-in-one solution for student email,
digital lockers, and more. Their assignment dropboxes are a feature that initially attracted me to the product and I will write more here about how that goes for us.  In the transition we've also used Dropbox and Evernote to create classroom folders where students are expected to turn in work.
I also recommend familiarizing yourself with the AirDrop feature of iPads - students can easily share images during class (also something watch out for!). 

Where will you show it off?  You want groups of students to see how you've evaluated their and others' work..much like that old classroom bulletin board. Again, we're moving toward using Gaggle's class blog feature, but teachers have been posting to classroom webpages, featuring student work on Pinterest, or creating Flickr galleries  (For 7th and younger, I am a big fan of KidBlog as well).

Once your digital workflow is established, think of the end product with an open mind.  If you aren't teaching the specific skill of long-form paper writing, consider the workplace. Smart, snappy, visually helpful presentations are required to efficiently share knowledge and help others know what to do next.

Several applications that work beautifully with tablets' touch screen can create good looking, smart packages that your students will be proud to share. Check them out in my next post.

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