The iPad can actually be a bit frustrating for me at times. Any technology for that matter. I have clearly in my mind what I want to do, but often run into road blocks. One app does this, another that, but no one app does exactly what I need to do at the given moment. Recently, I ran into this problem with iMovie. I am learning more and more, the easy and intricate features of iMovie (at first glance, it almost appears to basic). However, a frustration that I have come across is that I want to be able to import pictures from another device. Well, if you have any experience with iMovie, impossible. You can import a picture from your camera or your camera roll. Period. Even Dropbox on the iPad does not integrate with the camera roll, so I was left frustrated. My only option was to export all of my photos and videos to Dropbox, then use my computer to create the movie. Given that my students don’t have this functionality, since they only have access to the iPads, I had to find another solution.

iDownload is a wonderful little app. You can download media content from virtually any website (including Dropbox!). There are two versions, the free version is rather simplistic. You can share media files with others, however you do not have the ability to download files to your camera roll. $2.99 (I recognized they just upped the price, I paid $1.99) is well worth the investment. I can now use photos and video content from websites, my digital camera and photos shared through email, and download them to my iPad Camera Roll. I love this little program! iDownload, you made my life so much easier!!

Jumbo Stopwatch

I know, it seems silly, but one of my new favorite iPad apps has become the Jumbo Stopwatch. It is very simply, just that. My battery ran out recently, so I downloaded this one for the fun of it. Students enjoy having the stopwatch in front of them when they are taking the timed math tests. I also use it during our collaborative discussions so that the “timekeeper” can easily keep the group posted on how much time is left for discussion. It has a lap timer as well as a countdown timer. And it is FREE.

iPad Pilot Program

I am so excited! My classroom is one of two Deaf and Hard of Hearing classrooms to be selected for a district pilot program using the new iPad2(actually the only two classrooms selected in the district!). I have watched the hype when iPads came out this past year. Many members of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) of teachers on Twitterare also utilizing the iPad in the classroom. I read amazing stories of student interactivity and flexible learning environments associated with using the iPad in the classroom. Recently, however, there have been more skeptical stories emerging. Are they from the jealous “non-users”, or do they have a valid argument? I will be considering both pros and cons of using the iPad in the classroom over the next several weeks until their arrival. I will also be investigating which applications I will need and trying to weed out the ones that may have a “cool flair” but do not encourage learning or meet my goals. I teach Math and Social Sciences at the High School level, so my discussions will be focused on those two subjects. I will encourage my counterpart to blog about his experiences as well and cross-link his posts here.

I do have one task at hand this weekend: to write a brief justification for the use of the iPad in my classroom. Specifically, 1. What is it that I hope to achieve, or that the students will achieve by using the iPads within the classroom (are there goals for achievement?); and 2. How will I plan to use the iPad during class to enhance instruction (that is an easy one!). I am working from a bottom up approach, much like I do with my lesson planning. I will be starting with the GOALS: what I want students to achieve, then move on to the plan of action (actual use in the classroom to achieve those goals). I am a bit nervous that I will overwhelm myself as I tend to have many ideas that I want to accomplish (especially witnessing how other teachers are using the iPad in the classroom), therefore need to be sure to use the iPad only for the specific GOALS I have set for the students (this year…SMILE). I can’t let my mind wonder, I know it is an addicting tool and there are so many fantastic applications out there, but I need to narrow it down to a few very specific applications so I can really focus my energy and DEMONSTRATE student learning. I have such a short time to do this (3 months to be exact). I can investigate other applications and uses for next year over the summer. Patience, it is all about patience. With that said:

What are my GOALS for student achievement?

  • Students will become active participants in their own learning as demonstrated self-exploration.I currently use technology in the classroom and I attempt to give frequent opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning using technology. I also give opportunities for self-exploration when introducing new topics to encourage students to be “curious”. Most of the time, the projects to demonstrate learning, they enjoy. They have to be short, not take a lot of time to complete and I have to be very specific about their “outcomes” and what I want to see. Currently they tend to give the absolute minimum required to obtain a C and are happy with this.  In regards to the self-exploration (learning through exploring topics as opposed to me standing at the front of the room teaching), they shut down every time! I demonstrate self-exploration myself during my lessons, we often veer from the subject to answer a question or find more information, or look at pictures to help with vocabulary. But, every time I attempt to put the powerful tools of the Internet, Google  and Google Earthin their hands, they freeze. They don’t want to do the work. They actually WANT me to stand in the front of the room and just teach them! I envision the iPad to give them frequent opportunities to answer questions themselves during class discussions (at first with guidance, but I would like to see this become natural). I want my students to be explorers, to want to know more, to investigate their environment and the topics we study and how they apply to THEIR lives, to be curious.
  • Students will be 100% engaged in instruction as demonstrated by self-evaluation at the end of each class.Students want to use technology. They have technology at their fingertips with their Smart Phones. They want to take pictures of class thinking maps instead of actually writing, they want to use their phone calculator feature instead of hand held calculators, they love to text message, they love Facebook. They other Deaf friends on Facebook that they “video chat” with that they have never met in person (ok, yes I realize this can be dangerous, that is another topic in its entirety, and safety will definitely be enforced in our classroom). I want  students to be eager to take notes and participate in class (from their chair since my High School students don’t seem to like much getting out of their chair to come to the front of the room to use the Smart Board). Will the iPad get them excited?
  • The next goal actually stems from the first two above. Students will demonstrate increased learning as measured by student work samples and end of unit evaluations.It is not knew research associated only with using an iPad (the iPad is merely the tool to achieve the result). Students who are curious, learn and retain more knowledge. Students who are engaged in instruction learn and retain more knowledge.

So, how will I use the iPad to achieve these goals? (self-reminder to keep my list short as not to overwhelm either myself OR my students) I have three tasks (see Goals above): 1. creating curiousity; 2. engaging students during instruction; 3. keeping a portfolio of student work samples that demonstrate learning.

  • The iPad can be used as a desktop resource. The internet and cool HD and 3D applications) at their fingertips to encourage curiosity and investigation. I frequently utilize GoogleEarth, VisualThesaurus, YouTube, and a variety of other tools to explore topics, answer questions and encourage curiosity. But again, it is ME from the front of the room. I will use the iPads (or rather the students will use their iPads) to explore these opportunities on their own, and share what they find with the class.
  • Blogging can be utilized to encourage involvement in their own learning and create curiosityby responding to topics frequently and briefly during class discussions, or at the end of class. With the iPad, students wouldn’t have to waste valuable time moving around the room, starting up the incredibly slow desktops, and fighting over computer time to do this. No additional applications needed, just the internet.
  • I often use KWL charts and thinking maps at the beginning of units to explore what students already know and help connect their experiences to what we will learn. This is generally done at the board, students at their desk with paper and pencil in hand. I do use the SMART board and encourage them to come to the front to write. BUT, iMindMaps(by are a powerful, engagingtool that can be harnessed to encourage student involvement. They are fun to create. They are colorful, bold, and can be saved and embedded into ePortfolios (task 3). And the best part, you can purchase for the iPad!
  • Evernote and Diigo are useful resources to engagestudents in notetaking (there may be other products out there that I have not investigated yet). Its fresh, its new, its technology that they have been longing for. They can organize notes into files. My students already utilize Diigo when completing projects, but we haven’t used this much for “notetaking”.
  • The iPad is a fun, easy to navigate tool to create end of unit projects that can then be embedded into their ePortfolios (task 3). We currently use the 3 desktop computers (and their home computers) to do this. I am not looking for something “different” necessarily, as much as looking for something fresh to “motivate” them.

I would love to hear how YOU are using iPads in the classroom to accomplish the above goals. Any ideas and guidance will be greatly appreciated!