I have been working with my Year 6 children now for about four weeks. They have access to an ICT suite with networked PCS, but for cross curricular work we use IPADS. That is when we can get hold of them.
I just wanted to throw down a few thoughts and observations of my early experiences with these devices.
Some notable points
Choice – For a teacher the device does open up a broader realm of possibilities – no longer are you limited to the 30 or so tired network based applications. It is all about apps – of which there are hundreds and the choice improves every week. Part of the fun is looking at apps or looking for apps and reflecting on how you can use them with your class.
Mobility – The whole PDA? mobile learning thing passed me by, but I am really seeing it now with the IPADS. A few weeks ago we were outside and each child had a device and due to the wireless, apps and device they could both shoot and edit video on a playground bench. Compare this with the stuffiness of an ICT suite and (erhem) Windows Movie Maker. Unlike a laptop trolley which gives a degree of flexibility, these devices can be taken anywhere - residentials, school trips, the school nature area etc.
Stop and Listen – There is a period of time that children need to go through with the devices in order to get used to them. They are a captivating novelty and it is hard to put them down. I am fortunate that I have very well-behaved children who are very focussed, but it can take at least 90 seconds longer for all the class to come to a stop when they are in front of an Ipad as opposed to a PC. I have timed it.
Time – Children need to play and learn the functions of IPAD apps and indeed the device itself. I lose patience with the whole digital native argument sometimes. Not all children growing up with an IPAD in their playpen, though go to a tech conference and doubtless you will see videos of toddlers tinkering with devices. It is more likely they are using consoles or the basic functions of Iphones at home. Of course children are keener to use tablets that many teachers, but they do need time to play with and familiarize themselves with a new application. This does not just happen, you will need to take time to try things out for yourself and (if you have them) give opportunity for your digital leaders to get a handle on things too.
Sharing and Pedagogy - The nature of the device and the fact that I don’t own one of those devices that lets you connect to your projector has caused me to change the way I teach and share. You can’t get everyone around an Ipad screen, so giving children the opportunity to try out, experiment and share with others in a sort of state of viral empowerment is far more effective than trying to do the whole recipe of click here then here method.
Displaying, Saving and Printing – I am not sure I have this cracked yet but it is part of my criteria for choosing apps. How easily can my creation or rather what my children have made be linked to, embedded or in whatever other way shared online? It is no good if the video, music track, panorama, poster or animation just stays on the device. If nothing else the device soon fills up.
What is an educational app?
A visit to the app store education category shows a list of Ipad apps that changes on a daily basis, and it can be very easy to miss the good stuff as positions change and because there is just so much. Equally you can also find yourself downloading something that is well rubbish. Thankfully Mark Warner has a new site of app reviews, which is a good place to start. It does pay to do some research and to be clear about what you want to achieve, the Ipad does allow children to be creative, it is not just a drill and skill or gaming device for them. You do just have to seek out the gems of creative application in amongst the myriads of icons.
My criteria for choosing Apps:
- Cost - free or 69p is acceptable, anything more than that will have to be pretty special
- Need – does it fit with what I am currently teaching?
- Approach - i prefer apps that offer creativity rather than games/ games to learn, however some of the games to learn apps can be very well done indeed. I have mentioned, What Time is it Mr Wolf by Teachers Pet before, which is an engaging game built by teachers and contains features such as results output and the ability to customise to need, which makes it both versatile and very appropriate for a UK classroom.
- Originality – does this app allow us to do things which our PCS won’t do as easily
- Ease of sharing – is there a linked site as in the case of Animoto or Photosynth, which my class can easily upload their creations to
A few tips/ Final Thoughts
Teach your class to turn off the devices before passing them to the next class or you will find the next class is very disappointed. A blank screen is not the same as powering off!
It is also a good idea to get them to delete any unnecessary photos or videos from the camera roll at the end of a lesson. Not everyone wants to see the fish eye or sepia pic that Charlie and Leo took 12 times last week!. It can also cause the memory to fill up.
Invest in some moist wipes for electronic devices – I got some from Homebase for a £1 – I hope I don’t need to explain why!
involve your children in evaluating apps – you will be surprised by what they think.
Find an Ipad champion in each Key Stage as there are plenty of opportunities and application for all phases.
As with all new technology Ipad are part of a bigger picture and just like interactive whiteboards, they will take time to become standard kit within school. But unlike whiteboards, which are 6 foot and screwed to a wall with only have some customization, These devices offer portability, a growing bank of new and fresh applications, a shallow learning curve and kudos with the children.I am loving the way the device pushes you to try out both new apps and new ways of working.
More to follow..
- Beebots on the iPad (antsict.wordpress.com)
- New Modern Technology is Great for School Kids Today! (wookysboutique.wordpress.com)