Self-Evaluation after reading “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (and how to correct them)”

via Edudemic

The Grade 7 parent rep forwarded me this very prescient article on the implementation of the iPads in schools:

Read more…

As an interesting exercise, I am going to evaluate our own implementation in relation to these five common mistakes.

“1. Focusing on Content Apps”

 I see the danger in this, but I think we have been able to avoid it, as evidenced by this blog. Many of the lesson plans laid out have been using a creation app not a content app.  As well, the apps we have asked our grade seven class to use are all things they can use in any class (with the exception of the French/English dictionary and the calculator):

What iPad software must I purchase?

Pages @ $9.99 (similar to Microsoft Word, and allows compatibility with Word documents

Keynote @$9.99 (equivalent to Powerpoint)

Numbers @ $9.99  (equivalent to Microsoft Excel)

Garage Band @ $4.99 (music software)

iMovie @ $4.99 (video creation software)

Dictionnaire illustré Larousse @ $8.99

French dictionary
Dictionnaire Anglais / Français Larousse @ $5.99

“2. Lack of Teacher Preparation in Classroom Management of iPads”

Hmmm. Though I think we are doing our best with – giving the teachers the iPads before the students, organising workshops, training sessions and one-on-one sessions, the following paragraph made me pause:

Even the basics of workflow– sharing materials, collecting student work, making comments and grading, passing student work back–can be unfamiliar to teachers and quite complicated. The challenges of iPad workflow include understanding cloud computing environments and options, how different apps and types of files interact with each other, file format compatibility and file conversion tools, evaluating all-in-one management solutions, and translating these concepts simply and effectively to students.

Lately these questions have been popping up. Ms. Art teacher does many projects on the computer with her students and then needs a system to gather the large files from the iPad. Science teachers want to share their ibook with their class. These are questions that are super important in the daily working of the class and which we might not have addressed as much as we should. It’s hard to give one workshop on this as the need differs from classroom to classroom. However, I have addressed this issue with movies (uploading to your youtube account) dropbox, iCloud, etc. and I am always available to help find a solution to a problem.
Come and see me!
“3. Treating the iPad as a computer and expecting it to serve as a laptop”
Oooh- this is a very good point. The iPad is not a less effective laptop. It is meant to serve as an active learning tool when in school. Its effectiveness lies in its mobility, versatility and ability for easy collaboration and creation. I like how Mr. Daccord puts it:

Instead [of focusing on how an iPad is not as functional as a laptop], schools should focus their energies on what iPads do best to engender active learning. iPads enable students to kinesthetically connect with their work (especially important for young learners). These tactile elements – using fingers to zoom, rotate in, pinch close, or swipe across – as well as increasingly interactive and immersive apps, facilitate hands-on learning.

Students can take pictures with the iPad then use them in a presentation or as part of an imovie. They can record their own soundtrack, research and write their own script, videotape their friends all with one device:

In addition, iPad mobility means that students can take pictures, record audio, and shoot video, in any number of places. They can tell multimedia stories, screencast how to solve math problems, create public service announcements, simulate virtual tours of ancient cities, and so much more. Active consumption, curation, and creativity ssuit the device. Stand-up-and-deliver teaching does not.

I think that most of our teachers understand this. Certainly the different uses of the iPad in the school will confirm it. 
“4. Treating iPads as Multi-User devices”
It is true. The ipads are not meant to be used as public machines. I can attest to that as I am in charge of the 24 iPad lab and must figure out a way to make sure students can export their work off the ipad and that teachers can get to to the work without any technical snafoo (another user deleting the work, for example). Also the way Apple has set up itunes does not lend well itself to sharing very well. 
Until everyone at our school has an iPad this will be necessary. As our implementation of the 1:1 iPad program is gradual, this won’t be for a few years. However, the iPad lab serves its purpose. Many teachers book it when the library and the computer lab are taken in order for their class to do research. The Art teacher has it consistently booked for her class, as it allows the students to access the documents they need to look at while they are producing their work without having to get up and make several time-wasting trips to the library. Other teachers use it to videotape class discussions. In English class they use it as an option for reading their Shakespeare plays, a practice that has the more tactile minded students more engaged than they would be otherwise. Even though it is not ideal, it does have its purposes.
“5. A Failure to Provide a Compelling Answer to ‘Why iPads?'”
Whoah. I just had a look at our iPad FAQ pages and realised we are guilty of not providing a better answer to the parent. Though I write a lot about why the iPad is so useful on this blog, the reasons are nowhere to be seen on our website. 
This is what we have right now:

Why the iPad?

  • The iPad is by far the most developed tablet format on the market, with many more applications available for iPads than for other platforms. Other platforms (like Android, Blackberry or Microsoft) are not as well developed and have fewer applications.
  • Apple’s strong quality control ensures that applications work once they are installed.
  • By requiring that all students use the same system and platform, we can provide an integrated network and ensure that devices always work in the school environment.

Though this information addresses why the iPad as opposed to other tablets, it does not address the issue of why a tablet at all?

Here is what Daccord thinks should be included in this section:

School administrators should be explaining to their constituents that the iPad supports essential skill areas — complex communication, new media literacy, creativity, and self-directed learning. Instead of focusing on the convenience of ebooks, they should instead be emphasizing the incredibly immersive and active learning environment the iPad engenders and the unprecedented opportunities to develop personalized, student-centered learning. They should highlight some of the beneficial consumption, curation, and creativity activities the iPad facilitates — as well as the student empowerment it inspires.

Yeah. What he said. It is funny how it is always the case that what we are doing in the classroom always exceeds our own promotion of it. Although we know how we are using the iPad in the class and can see the benefit and efficiency of it, we have not given any argument whatsoever on our website telling our parents why. This is an omission I hope to fix, so stay tuned!

So how did we fare? 

I think we are on the right track, but there is definitely room for improvement especially in the area of teacher training and a written, compelling argument accessible on our website.

What do you think?