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!