I used my iPad in the classroom today for the first time. I wasn't able to do too much with it, but here are some of the things I really enjoyd about it and what I think I could do with it in the future.
For the most part, I was able to use it for email and attendance without any problem. I have to use the 3G because the school will not allow teachers access to the WiFi that is in parts of the building. No reason has been given to us, we are just not allowed to use it. It was nice to walk around the room and take attendance desk to desk and talk tot he students. I think little things like that can save some time and allow me the walk around the room and make sure the kids are getting ready for the rest of the class period. Since out attendance is web based, it was easy to log on and mark the students absent if they were not here. My iPad moved much faster than the Dell Desktop. I jumped right on the web and had attendance taken in half the time of using the school computer. That is a huge bonus.
There were a few instances that students needed copies of documents that they missed and I was able to use DropBbox and my email to send them the documents they needed for later in the day. Sometimes I find myself waiting for emails from other teachers or students regarding projects and I run back to the computer when the email tone goes off. With the iPad, I can easily check my school email on another Safari page without a problem. I can then use that to respond to teachers or students on the spot while keeping a close eye on the students around me as I stroll around the class.
Many people asked me what my favorite app for the iPad has been so far. I would have to say Dropbox. The reason this is my favorite app, is because it allows me access to all of my documents when I want them. There is nothing worse than when a student wants to talk about a handout and I don't have one on hand to explain what I was thinking. Dropbox allows me to have all of my documents right away. I don't need to go back to the desktop of the filing cabinet. I can even send the kids a digital copy if they want an extra just in case. That type of convenience is what I love about the iPad.
Some students said that it is just a big iPod Touch. Yes, it can be if that is how you use it. I see it as so much more. I have been using my iPhone to keep all of my lesson plans on. I use a program called Planbook that allows me to create lessons and then sink them up to my iCal. It has been great to use. It allows me to be free of writing everything out by hand and trying to decipher all of my notes for the next year. Now, I can just set the start date for the next school year and all of my lessons will shift to that new date. No longer do I have to go through lesson plan after lesson plan. I also save the weeks worth of work as a PDF and post it on my school web-page for students and parents to download. It allows me to bring all of my lessons onto one color coded page. I don't have to search for the lesson plan for each class because they are all in one spot that I can then share with any student I want.
A dream class would be 35 16G iPads with WiFi. This would allow all of the students the ability to clearly see and type responses to blog posts or even create blog posts to share with the world. Tweets, texts, files, videos, etc could all be shared through the WiFi network and a piece of paper would never have to exchange hands. The future is now. Besides price (Which I understand is the biggest issue in education and everywhere else), there really is no reason why entire classes, at least at the HS level, could not completely function on iPads. In English, just about all of the texts we use can be accessed for free or at a small price through the iBook Store. It seems like a simple step to take instead of spending tens of thousands on brand new textbooks.
I feel confident that I could run my classes effectively and have even more students engaged in learning if I had a full set of these in the room. I would no longer be chained to the computer lab sign up sheet. My lessons would be able to flow freely to my students and back to me without all of the walls that separate the free flow of information. If anyone knows Steve Jobs, tell him I'm on board to move education in the right direction if he can help me foot the bill. :-)