This year I’ve been lucky to be able to support an iPad project. The project involves five grade 10 applied science classes and teachers. Each teacher has the full class set of iPads and a macbook for 3-4 weeks for a “learning unit” with a focus on literacy skills. We’ve just wrapped up the first block. Pam Jeffery was the teacher librarian teaching-partner with the SNC2P teacher and has shared some highlights of the project through her twitter account, @pjeffrey. I was only involved in the project in the background as a support person, Pam and John really drove this project, so I feel a bit odd writing about the project. However, I learned so much from them that it must be shared! 🙂
In summary (and, Pam/John, please add to or correct me), they used the iPads for a variety of literacy activities (the main focus was finding the main idea and supporting details in a variety of media including TED Talks), for a creation task around alternative energy sources (video, audio, images) and to increase collaboration among students (Facebook, Edmodo, Evernote and Google Docs).
Here are some of the highlights of what I learned:
- the iPad is not always the “right” tool – typing on them was painful and students disliked typing large amounts of text
- the iPad was great for “creative” tasks like creating video, images and audio. It allowed students to make good looking video quickly so the focus was on the content not learning the tools
- students preferred Facebook to Edmodo because it was where “they were” already, but it was extremely limited in how it allowed them to share files and documents. Edmodo ended up being the teachers first choice.
- using Facebook with students sparked some great conversation around privacy settings on Facebook (and resulted in a lot of changed settings by students)
- the co-learning of how to use the devices between students and teachers was important and helped to create a great learning environment
- there was not always the need for a full class set. In fact, it was often the fact that having about 6 iPads would have been better than 1:1. They were almost always used for group work and sharing a device created more accountability for how the device was being used. Computer labs are still available for times when everyone needs a device to complete something.
- our devices could not be shared between students throughout the day – meaning only one student could use them each day. There is a thing between iOS devices and our guest wireless networks right now that keeps a login to the network stored for 8 hours, preventing others from logging in using a new login.
- 30 devices take a lot of time and energy to maintain and manage. Lots of updating, wiping when needed, logging in things such as dropbox, evernote, etc. Initial set-up was the worst – updating operating systems, installing all apps, logging in some apps one at a time
- the mail ports are blocked on our guest wireless, and because you can’t attach a file to webmail on the iPad, we used dropbox for sharing files. This worked well.
- having a “network” or “team” to support each other while implementing new things is incredibly important. Watching the partnership between the teacher librarian and science teacher was fascinating. They collaborated on lesson planning, co-taught and then debriefed almost every single day. This type of partnership or team approach was invaluable.
- Evernote for shared note taking and resource collecting was great. In this case they all shared an account, but it could have easily been set up as a shared folder between multiple users.
- the cost of iPads is not glaringly “cheaper” than laptops. Our board can do a laptop, for 5 years for about $1100. From a schools point of view that is guaranteed to work for 5 years, updated with new osapac software as it comes out. The iPad is $519ish + $90 apple care + case + screen protector + project cord + charging trays if needed (super expensive, but makes storage much easier). At the end of the day, these devices are only guaranteed for two years with apple care and we still have to update apps and potentially add more apps to keep them relevant. Much more research needs to be done to determine how long they last in an educational setting and if they are economical at the end of the day. The need really must be for this particular device (touch screen, iOS), not just “any device” to make this worthwhile at this point in time.
We learned a lot from our first school (who were awesome to agree to go first and problem solve all the bugs and hurdles that go along with being first). In addition to the literacy and science learning that occurred, teachers found that the SNC2P students felt “special”. Often students taking applied courses do not feel smart. There is a misconception that students in the academic courses are the smart ones –> but this is an issue for a whole other blog post. This project made the students in SNC2P feel proud and special. We will be looking at attendance and achievement “data” soon. I use quotations around the word data, because the project wasn’t set up to be a statistically significant research project. With a small population size, it was an inquiry and we will look at this information to guide our learning and options for next steps, but will not make decisions based solely on “data” that is not statistically significant.
I look forward to learning along with our other schools participating in turn throughout the rest of this year. Thanks Pam and John!