Friday, August 27, 2010

Using My iPad In The Classroom This Year

I have had a full summer to think about all of the different things I plan to do with my iPad this year. I've surfed the 'net and have had some conversations with people and I have come up with a few ideas. I'm really excited to get started. I hope some of my ideas help fellow iPad educators use the iPad in their class.

Safari (Free)

No big surprise, but the web will be very important to my use of the iPad in the classroom. I have the 3G version because I do not have WiFi access in my building (yet). Our attendance, grades and school email can all be accessed through the web. I no longer have to sit behind my desk and wait for the desktop to load up attendance. I can walk around the room and talk to students as I check them in for attendance. As I walk around, I can also check the grades of students to see if they have any missing assignments. By quickly shifting from one page to another, I can mark a student present and let them know their grade in the class.

Another great thing about the web access is that I can email students any piece of content I have on the iPad. If there is a site a student mentions in class discussion, I can plug it into the iPad, review it and then quickly email it to the entire class. The ability to freely move around the room allows a more fluid class discussion. No longer will I need to stop and go back to the desk and look up information. Safari allows me the freedom that a desktop cannot.

iBook (Free)

I love reading books on my iPad. It just a nice way to keep all of the books I want in one space without all of the clutter. I'm an English Teacher, so my collection of books has been growing every year. The iPad allows me to keep as many books as I want. I can bookmark various parts of a story and bounce back and forth when I need to. In the classroom, this ability can be very helpful. 

Many of the books I teach in class are free downloads. Those that are not, are fairly inexpensive and worth the download. One book I use every year is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Here is a picture of the original cover of the book. The iPad edition is fill with the original illustrations. Those are just nice extras. When I'm discussing a book with different classes, I normally have to leave little notes for myself to remind where we left off or specific ideas the class did or did not discuss. These post-it notes clutter the book very quickly when you have three or four sections of a class. iBooks allow a reader to post notes wherever you want. Here is an example. 

Here is a shot of the note when selected by the user. When it is not on the front page, it sits nicely on the margin with the date it was created. The notes are also indexed in the book mark section of the story so I do not have to search the chapter for the notes I have left. iBook allows for quick transitions between pages and notes so I do not have awkward pauses as I look for information. Quick highlighting of passages and simple note taking make the use of iBooks in the classroom a no-brainer. 

Another cool thing I could do would be to  take the highlighted portions and the notes and email them to others. The long way would to copy and past the quote and note and send it through traditional email. That way important quotes could be quickly shared with the rest of the class and posted on class blogs. It would take a little prep before class, but it could be very valuable in the long run. 

Things for iPad ($19.99)

I really like Notes for iPad. I'm going to use this for my day to day planning. Things for iPad allows you to create various notes and prioritize them. You can create due dates for certain notes and have them emailed to you as reminders. You can create different tags to keep your different notes together. I will be creating different tags for each class. This will allow me to sort the various notes quickly. 

The quick email is also very nice. I will create a separate tag for Freshmen Homework. If I keep the homework up to date on Things, I can quickly email it to students who were absent or parents that request it. The various Apps on the iPad do a great job integrating email so information can be quickly shared. Sharing information is crucial in education and Things for iPad makes this possible in a quick and easy fashion. 
Dropbox (Free)

I've written about my love of Dropbox before. I was talking to a new teacher in my building and I was sharing all of the wisdom I had to offer. After those 3 minutes we started to talk about some of the tech constraints she might encounter in the district. We currently have no way to access files on our school computer from home. If someone forgets a test they wanted to alter on the school computer, the only way the teacher could get it would be driving all the way back to school. Dropbox allows the teacher to store everything in the clouds and pull documents down when they need them. 

I have stored my documents on Dropbox and I couldn't be happier. I have access to all of my documents whenever I need them. This is handy when I'm walking around the room and a student ask for another copy of a handout. I can quickly send that document to them through email without having to dig in my file cabinet for an extra copy. It is important that teaches have access to information quickly because they need to pass it along to the students. Dropbox has never been a problem for me and I highly suggest you use it whether you have an iPad or not.

Diigo (Free)

Bookmarking tools are great for the classroom. In a previous post, I Heart Diigo, I talked about the wonderful things I was doing with Diigo. Bookmarking allowed me to present a series of sites to do research. Instead of just giving them the entire Internet to search, a handful of sites saved to Diigo allows a more controlled search. To really test the kids, you could throw in some unreliable sources to really test their research skills. 

For the iPad, Diigo collects the websites and allows the user to access them quickly. Instead of taking note after note from various websites, I can look at all site directly downloaded onto my iPad. I can use the different sites as I facilitate class discussion. The iPad allows for the collection of information in one spot. I'm a type of person that likes to move around the room and the iPad allows me to have all of the information at my finger tips without being chained to my chair. I can keep students on task and still facilitate class discussion. Diigo is a great tool for collecting information and sharing with others. That is one of the roles of a teacher. Using the iPad in the classroom has made that role easier. (Free)

This app is an obvious choice for an English Class. The app is a Dictionary and a Thesaurus. Students have this thought that as an English Teacher, I know the definition of every word and multiple synonyms and antonyms. On the rare occasion that I do not have the definition on the tip of my tongue, this app allows a quick search for the right definition. I have hard copy Dictionaries in my classroom, but they are stored at the other end and it takes too long to look up a word. If a students asks me and I don't know, I can find the word much faster on my iPad than I ever could using the book version or the desktop version. It's a nice app that every iPad user should download.

These are just a few of the apps that I plan on using in my class this year. I'm sure there will be other apps that will come out or I will find that will be helpful in my class. My dear friend Kelly Tenkely has a great site,, that is filled with great reviews of apps for the iPad. Check out what she has to say and see what you can do with your iPad in the classroom.