Finally I have gotten around to reflecting on where we currently are with mobile technology. Not being heavily involved in the process this year I look at it from a different perspective, that of a class teacher rather than the person responsible for integration.
The devices were issued directly to the parents on the day before the students in Year 7 started. This gave the parents time to set them up and download the required apps. Rather than giving out iTunes cards as we did last year the parents were given a list of apps to install on the device. The College went for the 16gb model to limit the number of game apps that could be installed.
Smaller bootcamps were run throughout the first few weeks rather than over a full day as happened in 2012. The essential skill on day one was getting everyone online which we managed to do quite easily. Most students were familiar with the device and having smaller sessions seemed to work well.
iPad professional development with staff has not taken place at all this year although there may have been some sessions run within subject areas. This has mainly been due to the impact of the National Curriculum planning which has absorbed all spare PD time. This is a shame as the device lends itself to opening up new possibilities in the classroom. This will change in 2014 as the College has been selected to host the Slide2Learn Conference in July. It will be a great opportunity for staff to see different ways to use the device and build on the great skills they have developed through the implementation of the 1:1 program over the past five years.
The iPads now sit alongside the MacBooks in terms of learning at the College. Technology is no longer seen as an add-on and staff are very comfortable dealing with either device. I still thing most are at the bottom level of the SAMR model which is ok at the moment. Hopefully we can get some more time next year to get another push going around moving staff up the SAMR ladder.
I am going to an iTunesU development workshop over the next two days to begin constructing modules based on the National Curriculum. I think this is a wonderful tool that staff will view favourably. I have already had our English Coordinator ask me to assist her in developing units for the Stage 4 classes in 2014.
Overall staff and students are happy with the iPads and the learning that is happening around the devices. As always there are pros and cons with any device.
The inability of our Maths classes to access the full suite of Hot Maths products is disappointing. It is a great online learning system for Maths and hopefully the team at Hot Maths will move to get all of their product available on mobile platforms.
The ease with which students can capture images of each other can be an issue particularly with the less mature students. Snapchat has been a problem with some of the Year 8 students. There is no easy solution to this and it has been a real challenge for some staff.
I teach a lower level Year 8 RE class and know the students most likely to involve themselves in this type of activity. As always it comes down to being aware of what is happening in the classroom, constantly checking in to see where everyone is at and having consequences for not staying on task or keeping up with the work. You can never see exactly what is on each screen all the times so you need to develop strategies that keep students on task and moving forward.
Given we are now heavily immersed in the Google world through Cloudshare some of the Google apps do not perform as well on mobile devices as they do on laptops. The Blogger app is ok but not as good as the WordPress app particularly around embedding videos on your blog. Google sites are also hard work on the iPad and fairly limited to work with. These are not big issues and really you just find ways around the issues as the iPad gives you many different options to create great stuff.
I am constantly highlighting great things happening with the iPads so I won’t go over them again.
It will be interesting to get the opinion of our Year 8 students as they move from mobile devices to Mac Airs in 2014. Given the demands of subjects like Multimedia it was felt the Airs would be the best overall options for the students. It is a sensible decision and keeps everyone on the same page. It is certainly much simpler to plan your lessons when everyone has a similar device.
This is part of the CEO Rental Program that was implemented a couple of years ago to take the place of the DER as it was phased out. Given the Airs will be twice the cost of the iPads it certainly will put increased pressure on parents financially. Whether they offer twice as much potential for learning is debatable.
So as we come towards the end of 2013 I will be surveying my classes in Years 7 and 8 to get some feedback on what the students think of their iPads and how they have impacted on their learning. The results will appear on this blog soon.