On September 12th, Matt Scully (our Instructional Tech guru) and I handed out iPad2 tablets to 21 seniors in my AP Environmental Science class. This is my third pilot class (we are not a 1:1 school) since June of 2012. Each pilot has been a little different, and one of my main goals in the previous two pilots was to run a paperless class using iPads as “digital backpacks.” This time around, that is much harder to do as I could not find a “new” iBooks format digital text (yet) that met our needs for “covering” the College Board syllabus for the course.
As with my last pilot, I waited until after the first unit to pass out the iPads. Why? Well, I did not want the kids to take the course just to get an iPad and I did not want the course to be about the iPad. This is a great, interdisciplinary, capstone course for our seniors, and I wanted to start the year with a focus on the science and issues instead of the technology.
So, what was that first day like? Well, I stood at the door with a cart full of iPads and handed each student one (with a charger and protective cover) as they entered. Of course, they were thrilled. They set down and opened them up and started checking out apps immediately. As for the apps I choose for their “digital backpacks,” well I will have to divulge the choices in a later post.
Once everyone was present, Matt Scully went over a few housekeeping items. He discussed some basic iPad operating instructions, charging instructions, and what to do if the iPad gets damaged. After that, he showed students how to load their mail accounts in Apple Mail as well as G-Whizz! (we are a Google Apps school). Then, he made sure our “digital natives” were clear about the negatives of CPA (continuous partial attention). Frankly, he said he wanted students to use the devices in all their classes–just to realize that they were helping us break new ground and to make good choices that reflect well on the pilot project. Then, Matt and I reminded students that these were school machines and they needed to think carefully about what they do on them in a K-12 environment-everything from the wallpaper they choose to the emails they send or websites they visit. We want them to establish a positive “digital footprint!”
Next, I showed the kids how to make our class blog a “button” on their homepage (a shortcut, if you are not familiar). Finally, I showed the students how to open a PDF attached to an email in iBooks. Other skills I will teach them in time-maybe a app at a time. What is nice this time around is that so many more kids own a personal iPad device. When I did my first pilot with a class in Costa Rica about 18 months ago, none of the kids owned iPads–I had to teach them everything. Now, things have changed…
So, in the last two day I noted two cool observations. Small, but cool.
First, we had a little down time after a quiz. I suggested students in this class work on flashcards for an upcoming chemistry quiz. I even handed out index cards. Right away, three students asked if they could take out their iPads and make virtual index cards on the Quizlet website. Of course, I said yes!
Second, the next day we were collecting data after from a lab. The football players were missing from their lab groups. So, I suggested the remaining group members take a picture with the iPad2 and email the data to the missing group members so they could finish their lab over the long weekend.
Both of these simple examples are part of why I like the tablets. The first you could do on a computer, the second you could not. Will we be a 1:1 tablet school or a 1:1 computer school? I don’t know, stay tuned…