Now Entering: iPad-Landia

challenges-aheadOn Friday I received a school-issued iPad, and this opens all kinds of exciting new territory.

Our district is rolling out iPads for student use in a big way. We are the largest high school district in Illinois, so this is a major investment. By next year, roughly 50% of our 2,800-member student body will have school-issued iPads. Some course sections are designated as iPad classes. Every student in those classes will have an iPad, and the iPads will play a central role in how the learning and instruction are designed. I would love to teach one of those classes, but because of my impending retirement from our school (June, 2014), I was gently told that I am not exactly the “preferred demographic” for those classes. That’s fine. I like a challenge.

So, here’s how I’m looking at this. I have two primary iPad goals. First, I want to figure out how I can best use it to help me do my job better. How can the iPad help me organize, discover, communicate, and share in ways that benefit my students and my profession?

The second goal is more contextual and probably a larger challenge. Next year I will teach several classes, none of which is likely to be one of those iPad classes. Because of the way our iPad program works, a certain percentage of my students will have those school-issued iPads, but it’s unlikely that it will be 100% of the students in any class. So how can I maximize the learning potential of these iPads when not everyone has direct access to one of the powerful gizmos?

I’m guessing there are methods and models for using this technology when it’s not comprehensively distributed. There will be a variable number of iPads in my classroom each day. It seems a shame to ignore them just because there is not 1:1 coverage. At lunch on Friday I ran into our Shawn, our resident 1:1 expert, and asked him about this issue. He said, “You need six.” I like the sound of that.

I have two other smaller goals for the iPad. Because I also use a laptop and an iPod Touch, I need to figure out what functions work best for which hardware. What can an iPad do better than the other tools?

The second goal is related to the first when it comes to writing. I write a lot. As a writer, I’m a keyboard-based life form, but I’d love to leave behind my laptop and become proficient at writing on the iPad. Right now it feels foreign. I miss the little indentations on each laptop keyboard key. My fingers seem to just slide around on the iPad’s flat simulated keyboard. I can easily type out a quick tweet or something short on an iPad, but my fingers don’t act the same way on that iPad keyboard as they do on my laptop, and it distracts me from what I’m writing about.

My next few months will include learning apps, thinking about how to optimize this tech integration in a classroom of “haves and have-nots,” as well as discovering new ways to make my job easier and more productive. I’m especially interesting in how iPads affect writing instruction. I know iPads make it easier to incorporate non-text elements, and publishing opportunities abound. I’m excited about exploring those.

I know many teachers are way ahead of me on this journey. Help me learn. Do students have this same reaction to the iPad keyboard? How do they write differently when using an iPad instead of other word-processing platforms? What are your favorite apps? Do you have any experiences with the divided classes I will mostly likely experience? How can iPads enhance writing, revision, and publishing? What support resources should I know about and investigate? I appreciate any suggestions or advice!

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8 Responses to Now Entering: iPad-Landia

  1. For serious writing, I have an external keyboard. Period. And a stylus. I travel exclusively with my iPad now, leaving laptop, kindle at home. If I will only be answering email, the little keyboard stays home, but to write and edit, the other tools are essential!

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  2. I like iAnnotate for text-marking and other PDF markup. Notability is great for note-taking. I’m slowly falling for Canvas as a learning management system. Canvas also has a pretty nifty little grading app.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t administrate your Ning on there, too. I just don’t have a Ning that I run in order to test that theory.

    Also, get used to the Cloud. If the District is allowing you to sync, try Skydrive, since it it pushes everything into the same account with your Outlook (I think… I may be wrong about the way they set up your emails).

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  3. And how could I forget Socrative for immediate feedback… that is, if you had a classroom set.

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  4. I’ve had my iPad for a year now, and I still can’t get used to writing more than a paragraph or two, even with a Bluetooth keyboard. And then there’s autocorrect….

    I lug both my iPad and laptop around. Apple would do well to find a way to make it more writer-friendly.

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  5. Because my iPad has pretty much been lost to my kids (my biological ones, not my students), I have not been able to experiment much with it in the way of education or even for my own writing purposes. Would love to get an external keyboard and abandon the laptop when it comes to leaving the house. Since I don’t have much in the way of suggestions, I’m going to take advantage of your useful post and check back to see the great feedback you get from those who are using them in the classroom. Retirement or not, you would have been a great teacher to pilot an iPad class next year, especially since I know you do not teach in a vacuum and would have willingly offered help/advice/PD to others looking to bring iPad technology into their classrooms. Kind of like what’s going on on your great blog all the time.

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  6. Lisa says:

    Android actually has a keyboard that you can download where you can swipe between letters and it figures out the word you’re trying to write. It’s still more cumbersome than a real keyboard, but (I think) much easier than typing on an iPad.

    When I was a student at Fremd, you were one of the “cool, young” teachers — I can’t believe you’re already retiring! But high five to near-retirement-Mr. Anderson for not being a luddite and working on integrating technology into class.

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  7. Oh, you are going to love it! You must have Evernote for note taking–if you use googledocs, you will find the iPad recalcitrant. My students have no complaints about the keyboard, but I find it constricting, too small. External keyboard is a must. Try Flipboard for consuming media and news. And for English teacher fun, you must check out the Sonnets app and the Wasteland app: you will never look back. Blogpress is a good way to consolidate and manage blogs–I do not know if it will work for the Ning, though. My classes won’t have the iPad for two years, but I already use it whenever I can. Take a look at iBooks Author as soon as you can. I am trying to build each unit as I go, so I can put them on iTunes for my kids. I’ll stop now. http://lhealey7604.blogspot.com/2011/08/ipad-apps-you-have-to-see.html

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  8. Pingback: Adventures with iPads: Three Questions | What's Not Wrong?

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