Well we are three weeks in, our routines are entrenched (kinda), the curriculum is flowing and summer break is a distant memory. This coming week will be our first scheduled check in with all the iPad teachers and I am looking forward to finding out how things are going.
For the most part, it would appear that things are going fairly well. At the very least, when an administrator walks by the classroom, the gentle glow of the iPad shining up on the students faces creates the illusion of engagement. I am not sure that this is what was imagined when the word “enlightened” was coined but somehow it is strangely appropriate.
What I do know for certain is that kids are getting work done and with surprisingly little fuss or muss. To be honest, I envisioned being in a constant battle, keeping kids on task and off Angry Birds but it really isn’t working out that way. Certainly I have kids playing games instead of doing their work but they are isolated incidents and hardly difficult to control. I have far more difficulty in my other classes with kids squandering time on addicting games in a networked computer lab, where I have complete control of each and every computer.
I think the difference is that because the iPad is application based, the ability to transition quickly from classwork to game and back to classwork is clumsy and inefficient. With a computer, this transition is much faster because almost everything is browser based and switching between tabs is quick and seamless. The result is that the iPad student is locked into one task at a time, therefore eliminating the tiring game of catch me if you can.
The biggest issue around distraction comes from getting the kids to listen for instructions and pay attention to what you are doing at the front of the class. As a general rule, when I talk, I like their attention. What I have to do is get the kids to turn the iPad face down on the table or put the cover on but it is astounding how quickly 25% of kids will be back on the device. As Stuart Shanker would say, they have some difficulties with self regulation. I have yet to master how to get the kids to resist the urge to play but I am working on it.
As for how I am distributing curriculum using the iPad? I am using the Edmodo App and for the most part it is pretty magical BUT there is one glaring shortcoming. Students cannot turn in completed work done on the iPad to Edmodo. This is more of a shortcoming of the iPad, as it is the way Apple has created the device but it is a pain in the backside regardless of whose shortcoming it is. I have been reduced to getting kids to email me the assignments but this is messy and time consuming. Kids can still link to an on line document and submit that but then you are defeating the purpose of having Apps like Pages or Keynote. I am investigating options such as Google Docs, Evernote or simply blogging an assignment but in my mind it is defeating the power and the purpose of the iPad and its Apps.
Finally, I had a little bit of a Twitter breakthrough this past week using the iPads, which was really kind of cool. I have used Twitter before to participate in various current events over the past year and I set my classes loose on a our Province’s Administrators during their 2010 BCPVPA conference but I haven’t used it as a question answer medium within a regular class. I have always been a bit hesitant about letting kids loose in this manner but this past week I had the kids fire up questions and observations they had about a documentary we were watching using Twitter and it worked phenomenally well. I find our iPad cohort a pretty tight lipped group but the twitter thread generated some great thoughts and questions which spun into a fantastic post viewing discussion. Twitter served as a fantastic discussion starter and I will definitely be doing this again.
So this is my third week. Nothing earth shattering or shocking to report just steady as she goes. At this point I cannot make any definitive statements about whether iPads are good bad or indifferent, they just are, and only time will tell if they are the panacea of an education system in transition.
Check Out: iPads In the Classroom – Assumptions