New year, new kids, new iPad-related ideas…

New year, new kids, new iPad-related ideas…

So…the new term is always interesting for me, a time to think about what I will do differently from the previous year and what will stay the same. This year I had a new element of consideration as it was my second school year with 1:1 iPads. You would think, having done it all once, I would be much more prepared for a 1:1 iPad class, but actually I was a lot more unsure!

The fantastic class that I said ‘Goodbye’ to in July had become adept users of iPads as a tool to support learning. They used them when necessary, and put them to one side when they were not. They chose the app which best suited their learning and how they wanted to share their work with me and used the iPad in such diverse and innovative ways that I never knew what to expect. Could I repeat that again this year? I had no idea where to begin!

Changes for the new year

There were a few things I wanted to rectify this year though. 1) Last year lots of changes happened in terms of my school’s ‘plan’ for iPads. This meant that I didn’t know in October that I would still have them in July. With this in mind, I didn’t assign specific iPads to specific children – they just picked up any and got on with it. This time I wanted to give them ownership of their own device. Not only did it help me out in terms of accountability (should children be changing wallpapers in lessons instead of focussing), but it also gives them an opportunity to take control of the device in terms of personalising the text size/brightness, organising app folders and certain settings that some of us prefer.

Although other children will use ‘their’ iPad, as it is still the school’s property and entirely paid for by the school, they will be the overall users. Unfortunately, as a school, we are not allowed to let the children take the devices home. In maths, we have set groups, so those children will also be assigned iPads (so that I know exactly who has been using what/when) but they will be asked not to change any of the existing settings out of respect for the main user in my class.

The second thing which I wanted to improve was how I collected, stored and ‘marked’ digital work. My main methods last year were either asking the children to email me their work, or uploading it to Dropbox. Whilst these worked, they involved a lot of collation on my parts and saved files often didn’t have the right file names etc. This meant that if anyone asked to see child x’s geography work – it was a manual searching process to find it. As well, most of the feedback I gave with relation to digital creations was verbal or came through peer and self assessment discussions. Although this is a great method of assessment, we of course need a balance of different styles.

At the moment, I am planning to trial several methods for this

  1. Edmodo Assignments – grades and feedback can be given and work is simple for me to see what each child did. However, I think it will be difficult for other teachers to see work submitted in this way.
  2. Dropbox folders – each child will be given a named folder in Dropbox (which they can then sub-organise into subjects) to store any digital creations in. This will make it simple to download that child’s work as a whole load of evidence, but will make it difficult to include written feedback.
  3. Blogpost – embedding digital content blogs is a simple way to share learning. By tagging the blogposts with their first names, children will create an online profile of their work for the world to see. I don’t force children to share their work online, for example, if it wasn’t finished. Therefore this is not going to be effective for collating all forms of work. It does, however, make peer assessment incredibly accessible.

Dealing with Expectations

Another thing which I have found daunting this year, is my reputation as ‘the iPad teacher’. As one of two year 5 classes, those year 4s who were coming up were excited to be in my class not because they get to learn new things, or for the range of opportunities that being in years 5 and 6 at my school has to offer, but because they got to use the iPads (and the others didn’t). For this reason, during the 4 transition mornings I had in July, I didn’t use the iPads with the children at all. I wanted them to know me as a teacher, before me as the teacher with iPads.

When I did mention the iPads, I got questions like ‘I heard we get to use the iPads all the time in your class – is that true?’ and my answer would invariably involve purpose. The iPad is no different to the pencil or pen that you’re using: sometimes it’s the right tool for the job, other times you need something different like a pencil crayon or a permanent marker. I would also emphasise how mature it was to make decisions based on what was appropriate for the situation rather than what we wanted to do because we thought it was more fun. Of course, alongside this comes the praise when someone can articulate why they made the decision to use whatever they have used and other classroom techniques for when children do as you ask.

Introducing the iPads

Upon finally introducing the children to the iPads, I let them take a selfie and pull some silly faces – mostly because once they’ve done this they don’t keep trying to do it when they should be doing something else. This is the only time they get to use them in a way which does not directly benefit learning.

The next introduction this year was wiping the iPads of all the work (and apps) which the children contained from the previous year. I did this with the children for 2 reasons. One, it is easier if the children wipe one iPad each than me having to do all 32 myself, but mainly, two, it gives the children an understanding of settings they may well change out of curiosity with no understanding what they are doing. We look through each section and discuss what it does from why we use auto-lock, to what auto brightness mean, to the accessibility options which allow them to personalise the device. We also used their selfies as the lock screen photo as it makes it easier to recognise whose is whose.

Unfortunately, we had a few problems with the Internet connectivity so we haven’t yet been able to start utilising them in lessons. My post next week will outline the limited number of apps I have begun introducing the children to and also the first uses of them in lessons.

Read my previous iPad posts here:

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