Grade 7 iPad Survey: Results! Part 5

Question #9: What do you think the school could do to make the use of the iPad better for students? 

This was not a mandatory question. 19 students answered and 13 skipped the question. I have separated the comments into three broad categories- comments that have to do with how we can support them in their learning, comments about discipline and distraction and the no complaints section. Here is a quick graph of how many comments we received in each category:

Make it better

SUPPORT AND LEARNING

“The school can have an app to show the new students how to get used to the school. A how to app…”

 

“More tips like how to turn off notifications during the day.”

NOTE: When the students told me that notifications were distracting them, I showed them how to turn the notifications off during the school day. They were all very grateful…

“I know we had a list of school apps, maybe we could have more apps that we need for each class. For example, a calculator app or know in advance the shakespeare app that we need. Have a more comprehensive required app list.”

 

“I personally don’t like the ipad. If they would give us individual keyboards, that would make a big difference. Send an email home to parents saying had ot get them.”

 

“Using it a bit more in French classes. ”

 

“We could use it a lot more in classes. We use a lot of paper when we could use it on the ipad.”

 

“Maybe give us more resources if we have to do a project instead of having to find a website , or maybe an app that can give info.”

DISCIPLINE

For certain classes if you don’t need the ipad to turn the internet off in the room…

NOTE: I don’t think this is possible. It is  possible however to turn the internet off the iPads…

“[The teachers] should take our ipads and put them on their desk so we don’t get distracted.”

 

“Make it so you can’t use an app during the day so you can’t access games or facebook or twitter.”

 

“Tell [the students] they can’t download too many games. Games distracts us…”

 

“Personally, I wouldn’t get ipads for next year, because I come into class and everyone is on their ipads…You ask them what they are doing and they say they are playing together…”

 

“Limit the amount of apps you can buy. Arranging the seats so the teacher sits in back of us…”

 

“Without getting distracted I think we should sit in a certain way where the teachers can see our ipads because you can miss a lot of info if you are playing games.”

 

“You know when you can see what everyone is doing on the ipad. Put all the ipads on airplane mode during class.”

 

“I was told that snapchat and instagram was banned but I still see people [using these apps] as well as games. A lot of the time in class, I will see at least three people playing a game when they are supposed to be doing their work. The teachers need to reinforce it more.”

 

“Maybe take the ipads away for awhile if you don’t need them during class. I would find that helpful…”

 

NO COMPLAINTS OR I DON’T KNOW

“I think it is already pretty good. No complaints about the ipad itself. ”

 

“Don’t know. Feel supported.”

#10: Any additional comments?

For this question, many of them had nothing to say so I ask them if they liked the iPad. here were the results of that query:

Do you like the iPad

 

Here are  the actual, unprovoked additional comments I received:

“I feel like it is my own responsibility to manage my own distractions. I have no complaints about the ipad.”

 

“I like the ipad but I would rather have a l laptop because it is easier. It stays open but sometimes apps automatically shut down and don’t open to the spot where you where you were at.”

 

“I think the ipad is a cool idea. At my old school smartboards were the coolest thing. Bt this year ipads are the coolest thing.”

 

“I like computers better because it has less distractions. The app store has so many games. But it is lighter to carry.”

 

“I don’t think we should use them next year.
Suggestion: have a tech free day or week. No tech during school hours. ”

 

“I really like the ipad but I think it is very distracting. From what I see the schools that don’t have the ipad are more successful. They have less distractions.”

 

“I don’t like the ipad because it is very addicting, they take up a lot of your time and I don’t like touchscreen and you can’t use flash.”

 

“I would rather have laptops because it is harder to hide laptops. Not a lot of games that you can play won your laptop. Laptop would be less distracting. I find I also make a lot of mistakes with the ipad. ”

 

“For music no, because there is no smart music for ipads. But otherwise I like it. You like the feeling of the typing and how light it is.”

NOTE: smart music just launched their iPad app for students. Our music teacher is testing it out to see if it is worth getting…

“One thing: for the cases with the keyboard. A lot of people bought a case with a spongy keyboard and they all got a new case for keyboard. For future years suggest a good case. I use a targus with a hard keyboard.
I find it useful. For example, an ipad can do almost as much as a laptop but is cheaper, more portable and lighter.”

 

“I like the ipad but worry about the time I spend on it.”

 

“I like the ipad but I think for the next grade I would suggest getting a keyboard it is easier to use.”

 

“I find it very useful and much more portable than a laptop but upsetting when people are not using it appropriately and the whole class gets punished for that one person’s misuse.
More managing of notifications.
Group work can be hard if group mate is distracted by notifications and is not listening to instructions.
Also would like to have some support that encourages socializing instead of ipadding…
Maybe try to find a way to shut the game notifications.
This year’s grade 7s should be a role model for next year’s grade sevens on how to use it responsibly.”

 

“It is a great yet horrible thing. Useful but distracting…”

 

“I think they should ban mindcraft because students pretend to take notes but are actually playing mindcraft.”

 

“I think we should have a limit to how many games on our ipad…”

Phew. And that folks, concludes the data part of this survey.

Next post: So what do we do with all this data?

 

Grade 7 iPad Survey: Results! Part 4

Question #6: What was your favourite class project where you had to use the iPad?

ProjectFavourite

The least favourite?    

ProjectLeastfavourite

This question was interesting in how it said nothing much about the iPads and a whole lot about the students.  The students who loved the multimedia projects tended to hate the word processing activities and vice versa. here is a sampling of their responses:

 

 

Favourite: multimedia the animation one

Least favourite: Making a brochure for english

 

favourite: horror movie for multimedia

Least favourite: using pages and keynote

And then the other side:

Favourite: the writing assignments for english using pages

least favourite: I did not like multimedia

 

Favourite: small story for multimedia where I had to learn pages.

Least favourite: animation project for multimedia.

However, it was also interesting to hear why they didn’t like certain projects. Most often it was because they did not find the app intuitive, or they simply did not know how to work it.

Here is a sampling of some of the reasons why they did  or did not like a project:

“Least favourite: English: filming for the interview. When you have to put together photo collages and slideshows. It was hard.”

This comment is referring to the background documentary project I had them do at the beginning of the year. Personally, I take this comment as a compliment- it was meant to be challenging!

“Least favourite: I find it is hard to do research on the ipad because it is a smaller screen and I feel more disorganised on my ipad than I do on my computer…”

 

“The least favourite: english elizabethan project, big and a lot of writing and hard to keep track.”

 

“least favourite: the science project now because you have to have it in 32 font and it prints wrong.”

 

“Least favourite: the blog project was hard to do on ipad. I was also having trouble saving my work.”

The above two examples are examples of where some troubleshooting help would have been handy.

Least favourite: animation creator because you have to draw every single little thing again and again. 60 frames.

 

“least favourite: the movie make thing because it was hard to edit on the ipad.”

 

“Least favourite: probably  Geo when we had to use keynote for our presentation. We just had to do it but did not get to present it.”

 

“Least favourite: when you just have to be typing up reports. I love to write but I like it to be more hands on. Like making a presentation.”

 

“Least favourite: Anytime the project consists of simply writing text on pages. It is boring. ”

 

“Least favourite: Science project. Astronomy project because I had to carry around both books and ipad.”

 

“Favourite: in science we had to make a pamphlet. I transferred the template from my computer to ipad.”

 

“I liked it in art when we had to draw on the ipad and then follow steps and do certain things in this app called sketchbook. I also liked the english project where we had to research a different religion.
In geography I didn’t like how we had a picture and had to answer questions but couldn’t have them on the same screen.”

It is interesting to learn about what the students liked doing and what they didn’t like so much. A lot of the times they don’t enjoy it because A) they don’t know how to work it, B) they are experiencing technical difficulties and need support C) it doesn’t fit their personality (they prefer writing to making animations or vice versa).

Next up: #9: What do you think the school could do to make the use of the iPad better for students? 

Grade 7 iPad Survey: Results! Part 3

Question #5: 

A) What is your favourite thing about the iPad?  

favourite thing about the iPad

NOTE: As this was an open-ended question, I grouped the answers into some broad categories. However, I thought it would be helpful to hear what the students said in their own words about a few of the points in order to get a more nuanced view of the data:

Versatility:

“[My favourite thing is] the little brain it has that it can do almost anything you ask it to.”

 

“My favourite thing is that it has a lot of things you can do on it but it is not as bulky as a computer.”

 

“I like how we use pages instead of writing by hand, I also like that there is apps for a lot of things we do, eg. Periodic table for science.. .I like how you can read books on the ipad.”

Portability:

“I like how light it is and how easy it is to put in your back pack.”

 

“It is light and portable and really easy to access stuff because of the apps and easy to use.”

 

” I like how it is small and easy to carry around.”

Organisation:

“I like it because when I get paper I lose the paper but with the ipad it is easier to stay organised. Also my handwriting is terrible so when I type I can read what I am doing. I also like the games.”

 

“[I like how] you can read off ibooks if you forget your paper schoolwork and need it.”

 

” I like how it is organised and I am not losing papers. Everything is on my ipad.”

Other interesting comments:

 “I like writing on it, it is faster than doing it on a piece of paper. i like how it is small and easy to carry around.”

 

” I like how we take notes on it for science class. I like how we do projects on it.”

 

“It is easy to bring places. I find I learn new something everyday. I find pages easier to use on ipad than computer. Also more portable.”

 

Most of the students enjoyed how versatile and portable the iPad is. However, as in most cases, the best thing about it is also the most challenging thing:

B) What is your least favourite thing?  

leastfavourite thing

The main criticism about the iPad parallels the teachers’ main problem with it (and, by the way, the rest of the world): Apple’s blood feud with Flash. They are frustrated that some of the websites they need or look at do not work on the iPad.

But the second thing is the flip side of the versatility comment: it has so many things on it it is distracting. It is important to note, that the students were not always talking about their own distraction but that of their colleagues.

Here it is in their own words:

“It does not have flash and it is distracting always having everything on it.”

 

“It can be distracting when you are trying to do work and your friend messages you.”

 

“You always have something constantly coming at you: between all the social media there is always something coming. Which is great when you want it but makes it hard to focus.”

 

“[I don’t like] the addiction it has on some people, when people can’t really get off it.”

 

“The fact that it is an ipad. More tech means less face to face talk.”

Other interesting comments:

 

“That it makes people more paranoid. They seem to trust you less- they suspect the worse. For example, I flip from pages to safari a lot when doing a project and because the teacher can see the colour changing they immediately suspect I am playing games.”

 

“It freezes a lot because of some websites and it deletes my work even though I press save. [The] camera deleted [my work] but it was in the beginning and I probably didn’t know what I was doing.”

I appreciated the thoughtfulness most of the Grade 7 displayed when answering the questions. They were able to pinpoint the exact way the iPad is meant to be useful (portability, versatility) and also identify the problems with it. The fact that they identify their own distraction as well as that of their classmates is particularly telling. But more on that in the following posts!

Next post…#6: What was your favourite class project where you had to use the iPad? The least favourite?

Grade 7 iPad Survey: Results! Part 2

Let’s continue with the results of the survey , shall we? Today will be the behemoth question, the 5 parter…

GENERAL NOTE: It is important to remember that these are the students’ perceptions only. Many of them who have the exact same schedule gave very different answers.

8. Out of 5 daily classes, how frequently:    

  • do you use the iPad for note-taking?

notetaking

 

NOTE: The results for this one could be explained in part by the fact that for many of their classes in Grade 7 they are not required to take notes. The ones who said they take notes in only one class unanimously said that it was for science.

  • do you use the iPad for research?

Research

 

NOTE: This is a good example of different perceptions- the answers to this question varied a lot given that they all have about the same classes.

  • does the teacher use it for instruction?

Teacher

  • do you use the iPad for a specific project?

specific project

  • do you get distracted from your class work?

Distraction

 

NOTE: This was an interesting question. As you will see in the following questions, many students cited the distraction of others as a hinderance, yet the majority claimed they only got distracted 1 out 5 classes. Hmmm… Curious. Very very curious…. But more on this in the following posts!

Grade 7 iPad Survey: Results! Part 1

Here are a few of the easily quantified results of the Grade 7 iPad survey:

#2: What do you use for your school agenda:
School agenda 1

Note: Calendar and reminders refer to the built-in apps that comes with the iPad. The person who said other uses Pages for their agenda. I am not sure how well that works out for them…

Here is a graphic that shows the number of students who use their built-in iPad apps as opposed to the paper agenda:

School Agenda

Which means that about 75% of students use their iPads as an agenda.

#3: Do you Use an External Keyboard?

External Keyboard

Note: This is a bit skewed as a few of the students who said no said they started with a keyboard but it broke early on in the year. Most of those who had broken keyboards were using the “squishy” or soft keyboards. They did mention that they are trying to convince their parents to purchase a harder keyboard as they felt it significantly enhanced their iPad user experience.

#4: In a typical week, how many hours do you read on the iPad or otherwise?

REAding

Note: As I mentioned last post, the students had trouble answering this. Part of this problem was that the librarian was giving them the survey and they felt that there might be a “right” answer. I tried to assure them that there was no judgment but I don’t think I was successful. Also, many of the students cited the busy-ness of the school year eating away at their reading time. Although many of the students like to read, they feel they don’t have time.

#7Outside of the school day, how many hours do you spend using your iPad?  

Hours oniPadNote: though I tried to tell the students not to include the time spent on homework, I don’t think they were able to separate the two. The ones who did cited the fact that they did everything on their iPad from leisure reading to games to social networking to homework. I was also surprised at how many students said they only spent about an hour a night on it. A lot of them said that they liked to do other things when they get home.

Grade 7 iPad Survey: Questions

photo

I know, I know- it has been survey mania here in the library. The one thing I learned about making these surveys is that I have a lot to learn about the survey process. Still, I think the Grade 7 Survey benefitted from the lessons I learned from the Teachers.

In many ways, the results were much clearer. This has a little bit to do with the questions I asked, but also the fact that kids usually either like something or despise it. It makes it a little easier to interpret the result.

I took some questions from student iPad surveys I found online, but now I can’t find the initial surveys and feel bad. Other survey people, if you see your question here, contact me and I will sing your praises! Quick note- many of the questions were my own, as many of the surveys of students were very specific to that particular high school.

I would like to re-iterate that any comments I make on the data on this blog or JUST MY OWN INTERPRETATION AND OPINION.THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL, METHODOLOGICALLY CORRECT SURVEY.

Because I don’t quite know how to do that yet.  But am willing to learn. I think that message might have been lost with my thoughts on the teacher survey.

I just wanted to know how to help people better. That’s all.

But I digress.

QUESTIONS:

1. Your name

2. What do you use for your School Agenda? 

The options were:

  • Calendar
  • Reminders
  • Calendar and reminders
  • Paper agenda given by school
  • Other

COMMENT: This was a pretty straightforward question for the students. No problem answering it.

3.Do you use an external keyboard? Yes or no?

COMMENT: Also pretty straightforward. The only hedging came when a student started off with a keyboard but it broke so now she did not have one.

4. In a typical week, how many hours do you read (articles, books, pdf’s etc.) on iPad or otherwise?

  • 0-2 hours
  • 2-4 hours
  • 4-6 hours
  • >6 hours

COMMENT: This was a little harder for the students as there was some confusion about whether to include reading for school. Many of them also were unsure whether or not to include the weekend or the summer. I also got the impression that they thought there was a wrong answer, like I was going to judged them if they said they didn’t read too much. A negative side effect of being the librarian I suspect…

5. What is your favourite thing about the iPad? What is your least favourite thing?

COMMENT: This was an open ended question but pretty straightforward.

6. What was your favourite class project where you had to use the iPad? The least favourite? 

COMMENT: also an open-ended question.but the students were surprising uniform in their answers. There was a very intriguing pattern emerging that I will talk about more later on…

7. Outside of the school day, how many hours do you spend using your iPad?  

The options were:

  • 0-1 hours
  • 1-3 hours
  • 3-5 hours
  • >5 hours

COMMENT: There was some confusion about whether to include schoolwork or not. I told them not to but I think some girls couldn’t separate school from other activities.

8. Out of 5 daily classes, how frequently:    

  • do you use the iPad for note-taking?
  • do you use the iPad for research?
  • does the teacher use it for instruction?
  • do you use the iPad for a specific project?
  • do you get distracted from your class work?

COMMENT: This was the hardest for the students and I think it had to do with the actual question. I should have asked for them to think of out of all their classes, which would have been about ten, not just five.

9. What do you think the school could do to make the use of the iPad better for students? 

COMMENT: Open-ended and straightforward. Also a bit intriguing…

10. Any additional comments?  

COMMENT: Here I had to prod a bit. It is important to note that I had to guide the students a little. Not in giving them the answer, but in asking if they liked the iPad? Disliked it? Stuff like that…

 

Teacher iPad Survey Part 7: Conclusion! Comments on Behaviour

tumblr_lsvfxnEDti1qdzq7ho1_5004The comments made about whether behaviour problems increases or decreases were surprisingly diverse.

Here are a few of the comments:

“Behaviour problems decrease because the students who need tactile engagement get it.”

This is a good point,as it showcases how the iPad can be a real ally in the challenges with differentiated learning.

“7th grade behaviour is very rude when it comes to turning off their devices. They are not self-regulated at all.”

Aaah. The big one. I think our major lesson learned this year (and one that was supported by my surveying the Grade 7s) was that we need to teach our incoming students how to manage their technology in a healthy, respectful way. Our IT committee has begun brainstorming some simple, uniform methods of classroom management.  I think we need to make it clear to the students what our expectations are at the beginning of the year. I am also working on a workshop for students on tips to avoid distraction during classes.

“Behaviour problems decrease because it allows them to be on task. They don’t have to wait for me or each other and can go off and do their thing…As long as they have something to work on they are good.”

A few teachers mentioned this and I think it goes with the last comment. When are students most prone to get distracted? Alas, when you are lecturing. If the students are busy and engaged with the tasks they need to complete in class they are less likely to get distracted. Now, sometimes lecturing is unavoidable ( I do it all the time. Just ask my kids). But if it is possible to keep it to a minima, then switch it up with an exercise or a  task with a set time limit on it, that seems to work the best.

“Behaviour increases a little because it is tempting. It takes a lot of discipline even as an adult. It takes a will power to resist.”

I like this comment because it acknowledges the very prescient fact that it is not only kids who need to manage their distraction with technology. As adults we are equipped with better tools and more practice at discipline than a 12 year old. It is important to remember that these are skills they have to learn and we have a major role in teaching it to them.

“Student behaviour: with the grade elevens there is a change. They get very engaged [when we use relevant movies or youtube clips.] It helps to calm them down.”

The older grades tend to have less problems with the iPad then the younger grades as the following quote illustrates:

“I tried the whiteboard app [with the grade 7s] and for the first ten minutes was fine but then they started fooling around. Or they will go change the answers of another group.”

The latter part of this quote is the most disturbing and has more to do with the bad etiquette side of behaviour and even bordering on bullying. The collaborative aspect enabled by the iPad only works if people trust each other. Google docs, real time whiteboard apps where the class can brainstorm, depends on a strict adherence to this one rule: never be a jerk. It is jerky behaviour to erase other people’s answers and we should send a clear message that it is not tolerated.

“[There is] more distraction with the iPads. [I] have yet to find an efficient classroom strategy for iPad management. Getting the students to put it away is hard. I am sick of policing their use. Are they going to get better with time in terms of respect? The change will have to come from me and the way I teach in order to make no room for distraction. I must adapt my own teaching.”

I love this last comment. The teacher acknowledges it is a problem that is not going away and that simply putting your foot down with prescriptive rules will not solve it. In fact I heard this from several teachers- that the iPad is going to force them to rethink the way they conduct their classes, they prepare their lesson plans.

All in all, the issue of student behaviour with the iPad is not as dire as we thought it was. Many teachers claim there are less problems when the students are dynamically engaged in a task.

I just want to go on record to say that I don’t think this is earth-shattering news. I think it has always been that way- students are more engaged when they are occupied. The only difference is that there are now so many ways to to do this at your fingertips.

Thank you very much to the wonderful Traf staff for taking the time to talk to me and for being so honest. I think we learned a lot about what is working and what is not working and what we can do in the future to make it better!

Next: The grade 7 iPad survey!

Teacher iPad Survey Part 6: External Constraints

Remember that scene form Star Wars when they are stuck in the garbage compactor? They’ve got the walls closing in on them and to top it all off there’s some icky creature who’s hungry for some human flesh.

Trash

It reminds me of that old saying: Stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes that is what it feels to be at the forefront (well, at least in the middle ranks) of a new technology.

There were three major external constraints staff consistently identified as barriers for the effective implementation of tech in the classroom:

WALL #1: TECHNICAL CONSTRAINTS

On the one hand, there’s this new technology that we have embraced because of it’s enormous potential. We know it’s going to be great: to have everything in one place- textbooks, word processing, multimedia viewing and creation and so many other possibilities.

But though a lot of that is true now, there are still a few problems.

Compatibility:

There are still a lot of sites teachers rely on that use Flash. From simulations in science to french language exercises many teachers cite the fact that the sites they want to use do not work on the iPad and they have not been able to find an equivalent. This whole Apple feud on Flash is one of the big technical constraints with the iPad.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a way around it, but it still is a major inconvenience.

Writing:

The typing on the iPad is difficult for many people. In fact when asked about student writing on the iPad, many teachers stated that the quality decreased- typos, autocorrect and the lack of proofreading made some texts incomprehensible (although I would argue this latter issue is a behaviour that needs to be modified and is not exclusive to the iPad but true of any word processor).

WALL #2: THE MINISTRY

Sounds like a Dystopian novel doesn’t it? The ministry. By that I mean the curriculum and the rules for provincial exams.

The ministry exerts its constraints in different ways on the various subjects. Out of all the subjects, the Math department seems to have the most unforgiving curriculum. They have a lot to go through and are under a lot of pressure to make sure their students see everything they need to see before they move on. Here are some quotes:

“With Art there is enough liberty to explore and make mistakes. Not so with math because you have to get through the curriculum.”

 

“[Math teachers] still have to teach the same things you had to teach before computers.”

(This comment is referring to the fact that students still need to learn how to use a ruler, a protractor- that especially in geometry there are certain tasks they need pencil and paper for.)

“The curriculum acts as a barrier to trying new things as there is no time for trial and error. Instead of using [tech] to get them to think, I am using it to cover the basics.”

 

“There is no time in math to try and explore or use the students as guinea pigs… If I am teaching science [I implement tech in the classroom] very frequently. Math, not so frequently.”

Obviously this is a problem. There is no way you can try out something new if you have no leeway for it to crash and burn the first time (and crash it burn it will, at some point).

Another way the Ministry exerts its negative influence is through the dreaded provincial exams. Many staff expressed frustration at the disconnect between the tools the students have access to during class and the rules the ministry imposes for exams. Because the teachers must teach to the exam, they want to re-create as much as possible the conditions in which the exams will take place. Which means:

“The Grade ten and eleven’s exams are pen and paper so we do a lot of pen and paper.”

 

“Only students who are diagnosed can use a tablet for texts because the exams are on paper. I feel there is a need to revise the MELS stipulation of no devices.”

 

“The exam is all hand written. There is a disconnect between the government exam and what is happening in the classroom.”

So what do we do about this? My only answer, as inadequate as it is, is to write our ministry, get our voices heard and be patient. I am certain we are not the only school to express frustration at the fact that we have this amazing technology we are not allowed to use.

 Internal Policies

The third most common constraint voiced by the teachers in terms of feeling comfortable with the iPad was the contract they have been asked to sign stating they are responsible for the cost of the iPad if it breaks. This makes many teachers very nervous. Everyone agrees that if they drop their device or spill coffee all over it, they should pay.  But there are too many situations where their device is at the mercy of other forces- students; inadequate surface areas in classrooms; field trips, exchange trips. Teachers stated that though they were going to explore the iPad during the summer, they have decided not to bring it with them on vacation as they do not want anything to happen to it.

I hesitated to write this last bit because I am not sure what to do about this. But in the interest of full disclosure I decided to keep it in.

I see both sides: on the one hand- they are very expensive devices and the school has to have an insurance policy to ensure that people are taking care of them. On the other hand, teachers are placed in situations everyday where they must make the decision between keeping their device safe and actually using it in a classroom with a bunch of teenagers. For those people who have embraced the iPad, this is less of an issue. But for those who are not comfortable with the technology and who feel like it has been foisted on them to begin with, this is just another reason not to use it.

In Conclusion:

The constraints voiced by the staff are all valid and real. Still, I believe they are temporary. Already in the last couple of years of the iPad’s life the improvements have been vast. Publishers are scrambling to get on board with E-textbooks, apps are becoming more and more refined and built for education. All those who want their websites to be relevant will either have to make them compatible with the apple suite of devices. As for the ministry? Well, as always, the tectonic train of bureaucracy will get there eventually.

Teacher iPad Survey Part 5: Attitudes Concluded: There’s No Despair Here…

If you’ve read the last couple of posts you might be under the false impression that our staff labour under a dark, ominous cloud of pessimism. It is not the case. I thought I would conclude the attitudes section of this Post-mortem with some of the positive comments I received about integrating tech in the classroom:

“Technology makes the class dynamic. If they have a question they will try to answer on their own instead of relying on me.”

“The grade sevens use it everyday from writing, to filming to showing stuff on screen.”

“The students respond well if you start using technology they have never seen before that has an impact. They have the ability to suck it up so fast because button pushing is now in their DNA so when you bring something new it excites them. You have to put these equipments in kids’ hands because that is the environment they are going to work in.”

“I am comfortable and %100 on board with the idea but a little less comfortable with the implementation.”

“I am very comfortable [with using tech] and by tech I mean all sorts and by comfortable I mean I am willing to try stuff even if it fails.”

Though many of the staff may not yet feel comfortable with the tool or feel like they know enough about it, they all had projects they would like to implement, things they would like to try. The following quotes are from a range of staff- not just those who have embraced the iPad:

“It would be good to have a list of apps that would compliment the program.”

“Would love to talk to Dan and the English teachers about what we can do with Apple TV.”

“Would like to get the kids to blog about math.”

“Would love to make iBooks instead of giving them all notes.”

“I have work to do in terms of the way I am thinking about the classroom.”

“I have no problem trying to learn it. Most things are made to be user friendly if you take the time to learn it.”

I think that the more concrete, subject specific examples we give on how the iPad can be used effectively in the classroom , the more we enable the sharing of ideas between teachers, the more those of us comfortable with the technology make ourselves available to those less comfortable as one on one resources, the more the hindering attitudes will recede back into the darkness whence they came.

Sorry- went a little Lord of the Rings there…

gandalf_vs_balrog

Teacher iPad Survey Part 4: Attitudes Cont.: The Failed Spin

ATTITUDES, CONT.

hammer_head2. The Failed Spin: YOU MUST USE TECHNOLOGY NOW!

I can’t think of any other way to put it except to say that this was a colossal mistake in the way some of us promote the iPad and technology in general. The problem stems from the difference between people comfortable with technology and people not so comfortable with comfortable.

I know, duh.

One thing I think people with technology don’t realize (and I place myself in the camp of these comfortable, clueless people) is that when we keep on repeating that the iPad is the wave of the future, that they need to start using it or a big crater the size of Chicxulub will fall on their heads and leave them in its pedagogic dust, well, that is not so helpful. In fact, it is downright intimidating.

A few teachers I talked to mentioned how this kind of talk has almost paralyzed them. The 2001-a-space-odyssey-ape-monolithiPad has become has big and scary as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is not good.

We all see it in the students: how anxiety can cause the brain to shut down. Well, we have inadvertently done that to our own colleagues by touting its greatness and not reassuring them that it is simply another tool in their toolkit. And I will repeat this until my voice is dry and crackly, until I sound like Tom Waits with strep throat: a tool is only as good as the task you use it for.

The iPad is a great tool for students: they can research, write, study, create projects on it.But it is a little different for teachers. The fact is, many of the tools that can be useful for students have to be created on a laptop or a desktop. Look at iBooks- you have to use a desktop to create the iBooks that your students will view on their iPads. The role of the teacher when it comes to the iPad implementation is, in my humble opinion:

  • to be familiar enough with the tool to be able to help students who need it though many times it will be the student helping the teacher and that is totally okay, nay awesome!).
  • *****To use it when it makes sense– using a whiteboard app to present and record your lecture, to record students (which many are already doing). To bring it to meetings to take notes, or roam around the class helping and evaluating students. To use it to project to apple TV. Make your notes and hand outs into pdfs and stick them on the portal so the students can download them to their iPad. All the stuff that is easier to do on an iPad rather than a laptop. In science using it for measurement  or attach it to probes. In English use something like Haiku deck for the photo essay, or in history make a movie for a presentation.
  • To create lesson plans and workflows for the student to complete on their iPad. An iBook for the notes and paper handed out so the students always have a reference on their device. See what the lesson plans used now can be translated and made better on the iPad.

That is all. I think we need to be aware of our own attitude when we implement a new technology. It is good to be gung ho about something, to show enthusiasm. But we also have to show some humility and understanding when our colleagues don’t immediately jump on board or see how it can be useful to them.

Which bring me to the next attitude I have observed…

3. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Fair enough. The teachers at our school have been teaching for years and are very good at what they do. I know this as a colleague and as a parent of a Traf student- seeing the time and commitment they put in to helping the students is awe-inspiring.

And I agree, you shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken. But what about enhance? I was talking to a teacher the other day who teaches a subject with a very rigid curriculum ( more on this in following posts) and who has very little leeway to experiment inside the class. But as we were talking, we realised that she gives a lot of paper worksheets out. Paper that the students inevitably lose and then are forced to waste classtime going to photocopy again. What if those sheets could be distributed through the iPad? What if the students could write their answers on the sheet and simply email her their homework?

She would be continuing with what works in her class, but the experience would be streamlined.  I am in the midst of looking for suitable solutions to this problem. Will keep you posted if it works out!

4. I don’t want to rely on technology

How many times have you tried to load a movie and the internet is slow. Or pulled up your presentation and half of it is missing? Or used an app that is having bugs and keeps shutting down?

Technology is great. It makes life so much easier. But sometimes I want to throw it out the window.

A lot of teachers have negative experiences with trying to implement a project that requires tech in the classroom and have a whole period wasted because of technical difficulties. I get how frustrating this is. And alas, all I can say that nothing is perfect. yes, sometimes it bugs. Sometimes it won’t work.

Is there any good solution to this? Alas no. The only thing you can do is to go have a backup plan.

A lot of the time, these tech glitches can be avoided by a bit of prep. Trying the technology out beforehand. Going through the whole workflow for your students from downloading the app (or whatever) to how to submit it in the end. This might take some initial time, but once it is done it is like any other lesson plan- another tool in your toolkit, ready to be taken out when needed!

Next Post: EXTERNAL CONSTRAINTS