iPad: $500 – Enthousiam: priceless…

iPad – Day 1

So, once the hysteria of the new toy calmed down (a wave of smiles and giggles filled our little windowless room for the first 5-10 minutes – even the concrete walls seemed to glow), kids got to work.

Besides calling each other, and trying to call every teacher on the list of the ‘facetime’ application, all students managed to save a minimum of 3 articles for their research projects, read and summarized 1, all saved in their individual EBSCO Host folders. Some even started to put together their essays, one student, who had completed everything I had asked for, asked me if she could read ‘juste pour le plaisir’, because she found and interesting article ‘The Princess Syndrome’.

There was no learning curve here: everyone was on EBSCO, using the tools, and downloading PDFs without any effort. I know they don’t generally use their iPhones for this purpose, but having used iPods either in the classroom or their own devices prepared them well. They were at home from the start. One boy (towering over me by several inches), was so excited, he even ran out of the class at one point when he saw our drama teacher, Mr. Billo walk by, shouting ‘Mr. Billo, look what we’re doing in class today!’. Another boy, who’s a chronic bathroom user and the best escape artist I have ever met in my 7 years at Mouat never once left the room; I believe this was a first!

One student, who has poor fine motor skills, struggled some, but even at that, she smiled through the entire 77 minute class and completed all tasks on the agenda.

Among the ground rules: no drinks of any kind on student desks. All iPads are signed out to individual students by number, and all activity is traceable (admin tells me).

One problem was that the MS Doc. application didn’t seem to have a language option; this has to be installed manually for regular Office 2007 and I assume the same applies here, at least I hope. It was frustrating for one student to see a red squiggle under every single word she wrote (even though she was only taking notes in point form), at the same time, the APP. would not suggest a correct spelling.

Student success was a combination of iPad affordances, and Web applications. EBSCO Host was the right tool to use for the task. Students saw the potential time savings, liked that they could easily enlarge the print they were reading, and found the organization tools in EBSCO Host Tools to be simply magical. Proximity also played a role in students’ success. Where as students in a lab can help each other out, being close to friends, and  having unrestricted access to view their work platform made it much easier to support peers.

In all, did they do a better job than if they were at the lab? I’m pretty sure that they were more productive, and I noted that they supported each other much more than in the lab. They certainly were engaged for the entire time. The proof is in the pudding: JT never once left to use the washroom!

What a great way to end the week. I love my job (and my admin too!). 🙂

Are we going to use iPad to its full potential in the near future?

A colleague asked me a couple of days ago, why I was using the iPads when it was just as easy to use the computer lab? Or better yet, why wasn’t I using the iPads to do something that couldn’t be done with a regular desk top… Why wasn’t I using the incredible APPS… A-P-P… Such a great buzz word… After he left, I though about his question, and it bothered me because I have always been an advocate of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. There was no real need to use the iPads, other than the fact that I wanted to find out more about them…

It got me to thinking: If we all wait for teachers, teaching a full load with no prep time, to spend time finding APPS and trying to figure out how they can integrate them into learning, no one will ever use these machines! Machines are like people, in order to really know them, you have pretty much have to live with them (this is why every administrator should buy one for each of his staff member!)…

I think that, the more we use the iPads, albeit for doing things we already know how to do, the more we’ll get to know its ins and outs…

Besides, APPS are fine and dandy, but unless they serve a particular purpose in our curriculum, and are obviously advantageous to students, there is no point in forcing the fit. Apparently, there are millions of cool APPS, but I could only find a few in FRENCH. At that, none that would make a difference in secondary level kids trying to develop language skills… Except perhaps for ‘Facetime’.

What would be really cool, would be to hook up with another class in the francophone world, and spend some quality ‘Facetime’… But this is easier said than done. There are very few schools that fortunate enough to have access to technologies like video-conferencing, or iPads… Even in the developed world. Sometimes I feel like, we’re living in a castle: all the toys in the world, and no one to play with…

Another possibility would be to use ‘Facetime’ to take virtual tours, to discuss various topics with experts… I JUST KNOW that the possibilities are endless… But I need to live with iPad in order to really know it! 😉

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