Saturday, June 8, 2013

My First Year with iPads

Our middle school got our first cart of 30 iPads in the fall. I was sooo excited to finally get to use them with my students in October! I had spent most of the previous summer researching and investigating how I could integrate them into my lesson plans. I knew they would be very engaging to my students, but I wanted to use them in a way that would increase their learning, not just because they were "cool".

The first few times I let my students use the iPads, it was just to "play around". I wanted them to explore and get comfortable with them before I attempted to use them in a lesson. Some students had already worked with one, but there were some who had never held one before and needed a little help to get started.

Stupid as I am, one of the first lessons I used the iPads for was during one of my observations with my assistant principal. Fortunately, I teach three sections of the same Pre-Algebra class, so my first class was a trial run. There were a few glitches, so I tweaked it a little for my second class. I spoke to my assistant principal after the second trial and told her all about the small fine tuning I had done to the lesson since I had sent her a copy of the original lesson plan. She observed me during my third run-through. There were still some minor issues, but overall she was very impressed that, for one, I had even tried to use such a new piece of technology for my observation, two, that I had made revisions as needed, and three, that all the students were highly engaged in the lesson. This gave me the courage to move forward and try to incorporate the iPads in more of my lessons!

Here are some of the other "apptivities" I have tried out with the iPads:

Oringinally, I thought I had to find "math apps" to use, but I have found that finding good creation apps is much better! Math apps have a very limited use, whereas a creation app such as Nearpod can be used for just about every concept in the curriculum. More bang for your buck (even if they are free)!

I should add that my experience this first year was not limited to using just the cart of 30 iPads that my school purchased. We also initiated a BYOT policy this year, so the students have been able to use their own smart phones or personal iPads in the classroom as well. Some days when I could not reserve the iPads, the students would use their own devices and they would share with a partner who did not have one. This worked out well, especially for QR code scavenger hunts (see photo). In the case of bingo, I had paper bingo boards for those who did not have their own device.

One thing I have learned is that iPads cannot replace the paper and pencil. Some students just prefer to do their math work on paper, which is fine. If I have a lesson planned where students will be annotating on a PDF, I always bring along several paper copies just in case someone would prefer that method. I also found that paper and pencil works much better for assessments. I tried an assessment using a QR code scavenger hunt with students solving equations by annotating on a PDF, and it just led to frustration for many of the students. (I retested on paper the next day and used that as a learning experience for me and practice for the test for them).

I have had so much fun planning lessons with iPads this year, and can't wait for next year! I am also planning on teaching a profession development class on incorporating iPads into the content areas in the fall to share my experiences and knowledge with my colleagues.

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