The main reason for my lack of reflection to date has been due to time! I really don’t think that I estimated appropriately how long it would take to set-up, hand-out and reflect on the use of iPads with students each week. Until now I have been focused on the administration of the iPad... I think after five weeks I can start to relax!
In a few words the trial can be summarised as follows: Each week a number of students are given the opportunity to interact with an iPad. The students use them in class, at home, on the bus, at the beach etc! Students have a limited App store budget, which is monitored by a centralised email address and at the end of the week students are required to justify their App purchases (Even the free ones!) and explain their journey with an iPad. Students also complete a reflective survey and discuss with me the pros and cons of the iPad interface and they are given the opportunity to state their thoughts about the future use of iPads in education. The students feel important! They feel they are being given a say about the way in which they learn.
So back to the beginning...
The technical part of the trial was not something that I had given much thought to. While I had the generous support of some Mac friendly IT guys I knew that this was something I had to figure out myself!! Luckily when you take an iPad out of the box it shows you a USB symbol and instructs you to plug it in to a laptop. After that it was all pretty simple! With all the iPads synced to my laptop I downloaded and installed some basic Apps; Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Star Walk and of course Angry Birds!
Then it was time to notify parents and put the devices in the hands of the students!
Initially, we experienced some difficulty gaining approval for students with an iPad to have access to itunes and dropbox via the school’s server. The first students were required to connect to these Apps at home and I nervously awaited their first App purchase. After almost 4 days of waiting patiently the students started to explore the ‘paid’ Apps option. Upon reflection almost all students to date believe that there are so many apps available that it is not worth paying for them!
After justifying the need to access itunes and dropbox the IT and Senior Management team came to the conclusion that my trial was not about the logistics of iPad use in schools, it was more to do with answering the basic question ‘How will an iPad aid a students learning’. So after much discussion access was granted on the condition that each week I emailed the IT team the names of the students with the iPads and these students are then given permission to access dropbox and itunes for the week.
Having access to the itunes store at any time of the day was an important necessity which I felt could not be negotiated upon. I felt that students needed to have the flexibility to download a French App when they were in a French class or learn addition of fractions when in a Maths class. Dropbox was also a vital tool for students to ensure that they could easily transfer documents from their laptop to their iPad. To me this was about a seamless transition where students could alternate and decide which device best suited their needs.
Apart from using an iPad in a normal class situation the students have been given other opportunities to experience mobile technology at its best. Our educational field trip to Phillip Island was made all the more ‘eco’ friendly as the students completed their worksheets, scavenger hunt and digital reflection on the iPads. Combined with four iPod touches the trip had a real techno feel and the students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to engage with technology.
Similarly, on our excursion to the zoo last week students were able to complete the required questions and answers using their iPad. While I realise that the technology is still new and exciting for students I believe that this has aided their productivity and I have received some very well thought out responses to probing questions, as opposed to the scribbled scrawl I received from the hand writers!
Whew what a relief to have got all that out... there are still so many things to talk about including; teacher response to the program, how we have overcome projecting your screen, and the success of using mobile technology in class and how this has influenced other students to bring and use their devices to class.