November 11, 2010

A Few Days with an iPad

Now in my fifth year of teaching, I believe I am ready to integrate more technology into my math classroom. Receiving the iPad last week comes at a perfect time. I see it as an opportunity to grow as an educator and an interesting challenge to come up with different ways to use the iPad to help all types of students achieve.

Everything starts with management. The iPad can be a powerful educational tool that has unlimited potential - when used properly with a set of clear cut expectations and/or routines. When I was thinking about how to present the technology to my class, I realized that I did not necessarily need to make a list of Do's and Don'ts for the machine. What I needed was for the rest of the class to be on task so that I can work with individual students on the iPad. Without any major set up, I rolled out the iPad during 704's independent reading period during extended day. I conferred with individual students about their first marking period grades using the iPad.

I let a few (responsible) students look through their grades on Engrade to see how they would react to using the technology. Not surprisingly, most of them caught on quickly to the iPad's functionality and were soon scrolling through the page to see which assignments they were missing, their quiz average, etc. I also noticed that several students demonstrated the same apprehension that I felt when I first received such an expensive machine. They were afraid to do anything wrong that could break it. This helped somewhat ease one of my concerns, which was that students would be careless when using the technology. Overall, this first experience served as a nice introduction to the iPad for the class.

In the next few days, I began taking down "Do Now" grades on the iPad. Students quickly realized what I was doing and responded positively by getting to work right away. It should be noted that a timer was also projected on the board to show students how much time they had to earn their "Do Now" points. I know there has been a big push to transition students from one classroom to another quickly so that we can minimize the loss of instruction time. This use of the iPad has certainly helped hurry along my students. Now, they know that if they don't get to class on time, a zero will appear in real time on their Engrade.

The next step is obviously to find some meaty Apps that will enhance instruction. Admittedly, I have not been able to shop around the App Store because of our day-to-day work. I am open to any recommendations you may have when it comes to Apps (especially FREE math ones!!). For example, I checked out Mr. Little's suggestion on The Elements: A Visual Exploration for science and YES, it was pretty cool. I just wish it didn't cost $13.

I believe this is where the real work will be - finding the appropriate tools on the iPad for our students' learning styles as well as levels. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will often be using the iPad as a way to differentiate for my low level students who need to solidify basic skills and as a vehicle for challenging my high achievers with real life applications of our current topic in class.

Now, enough writing about it, let's get to work!!

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