Saturday, May 1, 2010

The iTouch and iPad In The Classroom

My iPad was delivered yesterday and I couldn't be happier. I took it out of the box and loaded it with all of the goodies I've had my eye on for months. The picture is clear and sound is great. The keyboard is easy to use and few mistakes are made. I would say I make the same amount of mistakes I do using a normal keyboard. I've never hid my nerviness when it comes to Mac. Some might call me a fanboy, but Apple is the company I grew up with. My dad bought the first Mac and told us that computers were going to be the future and we needed to learn how to use them. Since that Christmas day many years ago, I've been a Mac fan.

Back to the "magical" device. I understand that some people say it's just a bigger iPod touch. Yes, it is bigger and does many of the same things as the Touch. That argument does not hold any water if you are still using 12 inch screens to watch TV. The iPad allows me to see much more and read easier. My iCal is much larger and I can now see all of my lesson plans at once, instead of shuffling through other screens on my iPhone. Reading books and news articles is wonderful on the iPad as well. I loved using my iPhone to cruise through the news, but it is small and tough to maneuver at times. The iPad allows me to quickly surf the internet with little problem. It will make that part of my life much easier.

After messing around with it for a few hours, I was constantly thinking of all of the ways that this can be used in my classroom. Here are some of the ideas I came up with. I'm sure this will be a growing list and please feel free to comment and offer other ideas.

I would love to have a class set of iPod Touches. The uses would be endless and my iPad would allow me to interact with all of my students at once. Here is what I'm thinking.

As an English teacher, discussion plays a large part in the learning process. Getting kids to discuss new and different ideas can be tough, but it is important. I've used Discussion Boards and Wallwishers to help facilitate discussion and it has helped some of the quieter students have a voice. While Wallwisher does allow for some instant feedback, I would like to see even more in the classroom and that is where iPod touches could come in.

I would love for each one of my classes to have a twitter account and we could make connections with other schools around the world and tweet about books, poem, short stories, themes, etc. We all know that education needs to move toward a more global mindset. Technology offers schools the ability to knock down old barriers and make global connections. Imagine a 30 minute class discussion on Rome and Juliet with a class from New York, Atlanta, Boston or even Grosse Pointe North. :-) Instant communication around the globe is just one great use of the Touches in the classroom.

Twitter could also be used as a way to quickly poll the class on ideas or questions that have come up in class. By using a hash tag, the ideas then can be archived for students to review at a later date. That is what makes it special.

Blogging is going to be a major part of my classes next year. Each class will have their own blog and a student will be assigned to recap the days learning and post the next days topic and homework. Students will be given the chance to comment on the student's post and add anything they felt was important for the days discussion. This will allow students who miss school to see what happened while they were gone, parents will be able to see exactly what happened in their son/daughter's class and the blogs could be opened up to other schools from all over to keep the conversation going. Imagine a blog run by a Freshmen English class that posts their comments on "To Kill a Mockingbird" and they wake up the next day to see what students in Germany, Italy or Japan have to say about the text they are reading as well. This type of connection is crucial as we push our students to expand their view of the world.

The Touches would allow the students to view the blog, respond to comments and even search for information without needing the teacher to sign up for limited lab space. More classes are going to be computers for projects and work and there is only so much lab space. The Touches allow computer access to a full class of students without having to leave the room.

The iPad would be used as a hub for all of the information flowing in and out of the classroom. It will allow me to keep a Twitter feed flowing and walk around the classroom while I project information from my desktop onto the Smartboard. My classroom will become a completely interactive zone. I'll be able to send information to all of my students at the touch of the screen. Students will then be able to access the information from their own iPod or iPhones once the information is out there.

I downloaded the Shakespeare App and it is awesome. I have complete access to all of his works with the ability to annotate as I read.This app is available for Touches and the iPhone as well. It would be great to be able to have students have access to the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Have you seen how big those books normally are? They are huge! Now I have every word he penned at my finger tips. E-book are the next step and the iPad is a great tool for that. Buying large textbooks is not very economical today. In English, they are too big and bulky for kids to carry around and most of the book can be found on-line as it is. Why have kids carry around these huge books when they can read the same story on-line for free? Most English teachers use other content to supplement that reading that comes from other sources outside of the textbook. We've seen SciFi movies where students walked around with their tablets and had complete access to all of the content presented in class. That doesn't seem so crazy anymore.

As teachers, our job is to make the information as accessible to the students. The information is out there and the students can get it without us if they really want to. We need to teach them how to find the information and the true capabilities of the devices the have. It will always be tough for teachers to learn and manage new technology in the classroom, but this movement toward free flowing, social networking, global education is not going to go away. The iPad and the iTouch could be used to knock down walls and introduce our students to a world they would never see otherwise.

- P.S. - I wrote this entire post from my iPad. Cool huh?