I am probably not the only one whose school iPad was, until recently, collecting dust on the bottom of my office shelf. I believed that my computer was a better tool to complete my tasks. Even as a history teacher, laptops tended to be my tool of choice for student work. This belief in the superiority of the computer changed after I met with our school’s Apple rep.
He was not surprised that a lot of the teachers don’t use their iPad during instruction. He attributes it, not to iOS’ limitations, but to our discomfort with the unknown. Finding the buttons on our favorite apps on the iPad takes some learning and it is often easy to just rely on what we know. He explained that by design, computers inherently limit successful tech integration because of their lack of mobility. Computers are portable devices and require a lap or desk to be used. This means the user must revisit a fixed location to utilize it during instruction. The iPad, on the other hand, is a mobile device that enables the teacher to move and engage with students while still connected to the necessary instructional tools. And, he argues, the iPads are more robust than we give them credit for. Apple Classroom and the large amount of creativity apps have only gotten cooler with the iOS11 update. I wasn’t convinced yet, but I was willing to give it a try.
Beginning the very next day, I took the pledge to rely on my iPad as much as possible. Most of you know me as the one you see running around the school going from meeting to meeting with my pink MacBook Air. This change was really hard for me at first. During the first few days, every time I began a project on my iPad I would normally do on the computer, I felt this confusion. The simplest task, like writing an email, was difficult. What do I click? How do I add a picture? A link? Fix a mistake? I borrowed a keyboard, which helped with the typing but it still took time and patience to feel as comfortable on this tool. I am now going on week 6 in this challenge and there is no going back. I am convinced that the iPad offers better tools for teachers than a computer. This blog post will focus on two of the benefits: productivity and mobility.
Be More Productive
With iOS 11, you can actually have dual apps on a screen at the same time. I love this for many reasons. For one, I can organize my screens based on productivity. In one screen, I have my calendar app next to the mail app. In another, I have Evernote, my note-taking app next to my to-do list app, Google Keep. On the other hand, I like that this dual view is only limited to two apps at a time. It actually helps me concentrate and be more productive on the task I am working on. If I need to see my other screens, I just double click the home screen. When using the dual screen, you can easily drag images and text from a website or photos into your document. Watch this 40-second video I made below to see how seamless it is to use two apps at the same time to add things to a class newsletter on Pages.
Many of us choose Word or Google Docs for our word-processing needs. Because the students have iPads, we should be modeling use Apple-based products. Often, Apple products work better and more efficiently on the iPad and with iOS 11, you can save documents in the Cloud and collaborate with others the same way Google Drive allows you to. For instance, the Numbers app is very simple and has a lot of features that make it so much more than just a spreadsheet app. It is also more user friendly than Excel. It would be a great tool for teaching the research and writing process. Each sheet can be a different step in the process: one sheet for obtaining sources. One for organizing research, another for the outline, etc. Teachers can design the template and share it through Apple Classroom or choose the “Collaborate with Others” option to have the whole class work on the same document. One thing that is always tricky about Google is sharing a document you created and having students have their own version. This usually takes extra steps by you or the students to make this work. With the sharing options on Apple products, we can share copies to each other seamlessly. Word is not even available for students so we should not be posting assignments as Word documents. Students are forced to convert before they even open it.
Any document or PDF on your iPad can be shared with your students via Classroom. Imagine instead of posting the worksheet on OnCampus, you just opened the document and sent it to everyone’s iPad? It would certainly save some login time and allow you to adjust your lesson on the fly. And, with Apple Classroom on your iPad, you can see what everyone is doing in the room while you walk around and work one-on-one with students.
Use the iPad as your white board! Use a drawing app like Paper 53, Notes, Evernote or Notability and a stylus to solve math problem or model outlining for a couple examples. Project it on your Apple TV or use the app, Reflector, and suddenly everyone has a ‘smart board.’ iOS 11 actually allows you to screencast and record what you are doing on your iPad with or without sound. Imagine just pressing record as you teach a lesson and then sharing the video through Apple Classroom with the homework. What if you did that for a year and collected your lessons? The following year, you could use the flipped classroom model and support them as they do their homework in class, having got the lesson at home via YouTube. #mindblown
Your iPad has a way longer battery life than your computer. For someone like me who was consistently carrying a charging cord with an almost dead computer, I feel really free having just my iPad. And, iOS apps use way less battery than third party apps. Think about running Google Maps on your phone- kills your battery right? Well, Maps does not!
Mobility in Practice
I have been challenging myself to have students use the iPads as much as possible in real-world ways. “Real World” refers to ways people would use technology as a tool to be more productive, to communicate and to collaborate. For instance, in my 7th grade Idea Lab class, students used whatever app they wanted to brainstorm for the design thinking project. The only requirement was that it had to be an app that allowed you to draw and write/type. I gave them each a stylus, which they loved. It was interesting to see which app students chose. A lot of them chose Notes, and by the end, they had all switched to Paper 53. They had to get all of their brainstorms onto one iPad for the presentation, so they air dropped them to one student who connected to AirPlay to present.
After this assignment I realized that the kids are not as comfortable with iPads as we assume they are. I asked the kids: how many of you know how to use the dual screen and use it to drag pictures from one app to another? They all attempted to convince me that they knew: “Oh yeah, I do that all the time…..” But when I asked them to use the dual screen, many didn’t know how or claimed it wouldn’t work. Upon further investigation, it was clear many hadn’t even upgraded to iOS 11. In addition, giving kids stylus’ was like giving them a brand new iPad all over again. They were mesmerized by them. Some even used it to type letters. This was not the most efficient way. 🙂 Finally, when the first group presented, I had to remind them to connect through AirPlay. They tried to just hold up their iPad.
I want to get my students to a point where the tools on the iPad are not foreign or novel but just part of every day use, so they are better equipped to decide which app or tool works best for them. In order to accomplish this, we must constantly be modeling best practices ourselves.
Take the Challenge: #GoMobile
Have I convinced you yet? If so, I challenge you to join me in this movement and close your computer for an hour, a day, a week, a month or whatever time frame you choose and rely solely on your iPad.