-by Lisa Nelson, Dan McWilliam and Jody Pereverzoff, Grade 7 Teachers
Near the start of this year, our Grade 7 team began a research project about using iPads in the classroom: Through a variety of sub-questions, we hoped to address the larger question, “Where do iPads fit in Education?” Using real projects, student exemplars, and parent feedback, we would explore where and how iPads fit into teacher practice.
In the initial stages of the project, both students and teachers felt that we wouldn’t be able to exclusively use iPads for a whole school year. We felt that for certain projects, laptops would be required. As the year progressed, we saw that students were able to demonstrate their learning using only the iPad or more traditional learning methods. Many students became effective problem solvers. They were able to make meaningful technology choices (whether it be pen and paper, iPad, or other). Given this choice, we have noticed that paper consumption has increased from previous years.
Our initial findings were that students felt limited by the applications offered by the iPad. Students had been previously exposed to full versions of iMovie, Pages, and Keynote and they shared concern that they could not challenge themselves using the app versions. In terms of collaboration and professional development, our experiences with iPads have allowed us to provide outreach to others. For example, our blog postings have received attention in a variety forms, including the following online articles:
The limitations of some of the applications also had the benefit of keeping the student focus on the content of the assignments. Though iMovie for the iPad doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that the laptop version has, the students were able to focus on the content of the movies rather than the extras. This would be a huge benefit to younger students who can become overwhelmed with the features and sophistication of the laptop versions of such applications.
A strength of the iPads has been the class time saved due to the solid state hard drives- meaning the device didn’t need to be shutdown when moved between classes. We were able to use more of our class time productively rather than in the start up and shut down of laptops.
Though we didn’t take full advantage of it, the iPads create the possibility to take the technology on field studies or camps. Having a 1-to-1 computer that is also a camera and video camera is a powerful idea for future years.
The iPad is still somewhat of a peripheral device that needs a computer to ‘dock’ with for backing up. Students who do not have access to a home computer are at a disadvantage by not being able to easily backup their data. When the iPads are re-imaged by the school, students have had to make judgment calls about which assignments, movies, music, applications or photos they will sacrifice and which they will try to back up through email or Dropbox.
Our findings throughout the project have been documented on the Connect! Blog. Check them out by searching the ‘iPad” tag.
We feel iPads would be a good transitional tool between division 1 (students entering our school) and division 3 (where they would receive laptops).
Another recommendation is a remote management or monitoring system for teachers. With students able to carry their iPads all over the school with such ease, it is essential that we find some sort of monitoring system.
Apple has been promising a bulk purchasing plan for applications in Canada that will mirror what is available in the United States. This will go a long way to help with providing students with the quality applications we find and wish to purchase. Today it is difficult to purchase and distribute an application to students.
Overall, iPads offered many benefits and some limitations. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to weigh in on the conversation.