Personally, I was very surprised to hear how many students wanted more discipline. They don’t want to be distracted in class; they know that they are shooting themselves in the foot when they do. But they are also young and need to practice managing their time and their own distractions (for some this is a lifelong challenge).
I was also pleasantly surprised at how many students self-regulated their use. From the students (there were a couple of them) who took the initiative to delete the games from their iPad because their addiction was getting out of control, to the student who was grateful to her parents for taking away her iPad when she didn’t need it at home, the students are also finding their own solutions.
I think the biggest lesson we learned this year was that we need to implement a very structured protocol when it comes to iPads in the classroom. We are starting to work on this for next year but here is the general idea:
1. When the student walks into the classroom, the iPads should be closed and either on the corner of the desk or underneath in the seat’s basket (depending on how the classroom furniture looks like).
2. Notifications should be on do not disturb mode for the school day. In fact notifications at all should be kept to a minimum. We will show the students how to do this either on their orientation day or in the first classes of multimedia. We will also add this to the parent workshop we are planning on having in the fall.
3. Whenever internet is not needed for a class, airplane mode should be used. Obviously, this needs to be checked periodically as the students can easily switch back, but given the fact that most students do not want to be distracted, this should help.
4. Reconfigure the classrooms as much as possible to allow the teacher to be able to easily see what is on the screens of their students.
5. At the beginning of the year, review with the students, parents and staff the disciplinary consequences associated with using technology inappropriately. This is already laid out in our student handbook, but for some reason our brains disconnected and I think many of us forgot to apply the rules to the iPad.
6. Remember that it is hard even for adults to remain focus when our machines can do so much and that it takes practice and discipline- two thing that do not come naturally to many people. A prescriptive approach (eg. guided access, banning games, and social media) will not give the students the practice they need to be able to manage the digital world.
1. Although most of the students like the iPad and did everything on it, it is good to give them a choice whenever possible. For example, some students work better with a paper agenda than online (though the ones who still use the paper agenda did so out of a paranoid fear of losing their data, not because they preferred writing by hand). Having a couple of print copies, whether it be the agenda or a workbook might be helpful.
2. Having said that, most of the students are very happy and eager to go paperless. They enjoy having their notes on the iPad because it means they are less likely to forget them at home. Anything we can do to go paperless I think will be well-received by the students.
3. External keyboard. We are in the midst of updating our iPad FAQs to recommend an external keyboard. The cheap, squishy kind was proven time and again to break easily- the students with the hard keyboards attached by a case to their iPad like it the best.
In the Classroom
1. List of apps that compliment the program: students were asking for more apps related to the subject matter. For example a calculator app or to know in advance what Shakespeare app they will need.
2. They also asked to use it more in the classroom. The trick is to find how it can enhance a project or a lesson and use it for that, and not only for the sake of using it, a distinction that is perhaps lost on the grade seven students…
And this concludes the great iPad surveys of 2013!