I started thinking about the amount of time I was spending on dealing with files, their types and their availability online. I was being sent Microsoft Word Docs, converting them to Pages, exporting a PDFs and uploading them to websites and the school Learning Management System (LMS).
Problem 1: Managing the availability of your documents and worksheets online can be time consuming and difficult when allowing for iPad access.
Problem 2: Teachers emailing files to each other for checking and updating and then collating the result is also time consuming.
Problem 3: Re-printing or uploading revisions to worksheets and docs and deleting old copies is annoying too.
Solution? Using a central department or school Google account, I can operate and organise permanent, online dynamic Docs as the standard for the school / department files. From my Google ‘Drive’, Students can download PDF versions for working on in any of the iPad PDF apps. Multiple Teachers can access and update the single copy of any file knowing the existing links to these will access the latest version. No more work is required in updating and uploading new files as the links point to the same live document in Google Drive.
My staff have seen many benefits in the first month and started working much more collaboratively. Here’s a diagram to explain the features and setup.
“Teacher, I’ve finished your work”
It can be easier for a teacher managing a class of iPadding students to design projects where students own their own learning and thus care about the quality of their outcomes. For me, ensuring students care is my primary goal when designing tasks and programs. If they are doing ‘the teacher’s work’ then any motivation to produce the best result will probably have to come from external sources, like material rewards from the teacher or even as simple as making the teacher happy (Teacher’s pet). The teacher’s work is always seen as ‘work’ and genuine engagement is difficult.
Here is a list of ideas for adding incentives to tasks to help the kids intrinsically care about the outcomes.
- The success criteria should be devised by the students themselves before commencing any task. These should be discussed and agreed upon by the class or group. Design a success criteria template that’s always filled in by the group.
- The teacher only asks questions. Give no answers. Students should find their own answers and be taught to confirm them with more than one source including each other’s research.
e.g. Try to always prompt for output with ‘Why’ questions and never start a lesson with “today class we will…” because who knows what the kids will do in todays lesson!
- Choose a creative & fun task for all and / or allow freedom of expression (choice of app) but remind students of the success criteria.
e.g. You must record a TV news story containing an interview but it must explain how X affected Y. This will be shown on the class TV channel.
- Focus on the students producing ‘products’ that could actually be used to benefit others, be they classmates or the community. Even if it’s not used in the end, work should seem purposeful and be seen as usable in the real world.
e.g. If you are writing stories then ensure they look into how one self-publishes online. This opens the possibly of a real audience with real feedback. student blogs are an obvious starting point but why shouldn’t a child consider starting their writing career now, earning real cash? (There are examples online of this happening)
- I think the world is getting to a point where evidence of all student work should be stored / published online. My students always react with amazement when they first realise the videos / animations are going onto Youtube on my dept. channel. This creates an environment where students can easily peer review and encourage but also parents too, which I find has the biggest impact on motivation.
I have started to have a go at this with my year 7s and 8s and am now considering how future senior classes who have iPads will also own their learning whilst still working towards the national qualifications. I am lucky as the New Zealand assessment system if very flexible and I look forward to the challenge!
I recently became head of a large enough department that centrally organising media and resources as a department has become more important. It’s also nice as the manager to see this organised media to get an overview of what’s being taught. The starting point is to setup a department Google (gmail) account. This account then operates many systems for sharing files, videos and pictures. All the staff can then permanently log in to several apps and systems and load, share and view the department files at the touch of a button.
Flickr allows the Google login and offers brilliant editing and organising tools for photos. The album sets can be used for either courses or topics. They can then be embeded in your school LMS systems or any website as a slideshow. I run a weekly update on a class’s project work by simply taking the photos of work with my iPad and uploading them into the existing course album, knowing they will appear in the schools Website/LMS. This is a great solution of your school systems don’t do iPad uploading particularly successfully. Because the uploading is easy, staff are more willing to do it and:
A) The HOD gets a regular update of activity.
B) Student work is showcased more often
C) Marketing the courses becomes much easier.
Youtube is well known but with all my department’s iPads permanently logged into by all teaching staff, videos of student work, video lessons, and course playlists start to appear much more readily. The iPad’s camera, iMovie and most other video apps will stay logged in and upload immediately, including Explain Everything (Whiteboard App). See my Help Docs like this one or this one to get more setup information.
Many school servers are difficult to access from iPads and sharing files across the department without lots of emails is challenging. Dropbox is a solution that works well on iPads and shared folders are easy to setup and free. Using the Department Gmail account you can setup a free department Dropbox account and use it to share folders will all the department staff’s own dropboxes. This makes sharing any type of file between iPads much easier as the department folders appear in everyone’s dropbox and nearly all apps will send material and files to the Dropbox app to share with the department.
Shared documents for group editing. The creation of Department policy docs, for example, is often a shared duty for a number of department members. With the same Department Google account, you are offered Google Docs (Online Office apps). The new Google Drive app now edits Google Docs and Spreadsheets on the iPad. This is also good form recording Meeting minutes and agendas.
One good use of student iPads is to appreciate that all creative output that comes from the device can feed directly from real-world stories, delivered by the various news apps. There should be one of any day’s events, stories or features that connects to a learning objective in any subject area.
The iPad can be used to produce media products or documents that cover how the story connects with the learning objectives in question. Appropriate news apps for your country or even local area can be used by the students to make learning more real and tangible.
Connect the learning to the story. It’s just a matter of asking the right question.
How does the story:
- relate to current immigration issues?
- prove or disprove the wave equation?
- parallel the mindset of Macbeth in act I Scene V?
- show that humans need to change their approach to politics?
- indicate that health problems are linked to religion in more than one country?
These are just some examples (from the top of my head) but given that the news apps divide stories and features into categories, teachers should always be able to find something appropriate and design decent projects from it. It doesn’t have to be that exact day. Anything from the last week will still feature in the apps and offer a range of opportunities. Connecting topics to real-world stories often humanises the context and engages students through an emotive connection. Studying weather patterns is one thing but connecting it to the effects of 8 million people loosing power after hurricane Sandy is quite a lot more powerful, especially if you demand solutions to their problems!
This approach to learning does go hand-in-hand with project-based learning and does not fit well with the more common approach of one-size-fits-all topic by topic approach (fixed curriculum factory schooling – see right). This is precisely why I encourage it. 21st Century learning, if it is to be engaging and successful (long-term) must appear relevant in today’s world. Separate from what school offers, information is delivered to students too easily and quickly for schools not to connect it to bigger learning objectives and discuss it’s meaning and impact.
Technical issue 1: The news apps don’t often allow for the saving of images or the highlighting of text.
Solution: Use the 2-button (Home+off) screenshot to grab content from the screen and crop using the photos app. These can then be entered into any iMovie project / keynote or in fact any app.
Solution 2: Many allow sharing through email. This will give you the website link and you can grab content using Safari with the normal copy-paste.
Remember copyright and kids should attribute their sources when using the material.
Technical issue 2: Which apps?
To save me a lot of time, here’s a good list but I would add 4 things:
- The Guardian Eyewitness app
- The Boston Globe Big Picture app (now US only?)
- Summly app (quick story summarizing – great for kids)
- Look for your local TV news channel, it might have an app that covers more local stories.
Technical / teaching benefit: Safe surfing
Using the News Apps gives you a simple internet filter and is safer for younger students over general internet surfing
Make want to teach relevant to today’s world because it is and always will be. Humans will always be human and so everything you want to teach still has relevance even if it’s to discuss the stark difference between ‘then’ and now. Make the students think and make connections, hopefully while tackling problems that have a real purpose.
The iPad empowers students to create products within any subject context, physical space and even on the move. This is why the iPad is so important in transforming education into a genuine learning experience, not a knowledge absorption space. This well known Ken Robinson video has, for a while, indicated the importance of creative process in learning. Creating is important because during the process of creating something new, a student is:
- the owner of that process
- fully immersed in the experience
- genuinely engaged
- driven by and personally connected to the learning objectives
Under these four circumstances, you create truly life-long learners, who are intrinsically motivated by their own demands and ideas.
(picture via @gcouros)
Common misconception 1:
“My subject’s not creative”
Many teachers do not see creative process as part of their subject. The factory based education system used throughout the 20th century, isolated subjects as disconnected silos of information and creativity was removed from most of these study areas and confined specifically to the arts subjects only. This is not how the real world operates and creative thoughts and processes are demanded in most, if not all industries. All subject areas within schools (while those areas still exist), must harness both the students’ genuine will to create and the iPads power to enable this in so many forms and under so many circumstances.
Common misconception 2:
“I can’t grade & compare different creative output styles”
What exactly does grading do for a student? It gives them a record of how they compare with their classmates or even national year-group. What does this positioning mean? … nothing! The minute you leave school you will be working and competing with different groups of people of various ages and your grade comparison becomes meaningless immediately. Yes, you looked amazing in your school when up against your fellow students performing standardised tests, but now you’re suddenly struggling against people from different backgrounds and may even look quiet incompetent.
Students also become distracted from their learning when focusing purely on their grade comparison with their friends. This removes any interest in learning for the sake of bettering oneself and even engagement with the objective of the tasks. Students take shortcuts and do anything that would increase the grade regardless of the impact it might have on truly understanding concepts or not. Students also find it very difficult, if they can do it at all, to articulate what an A or a B means. The grades themselves are arbitrary and mean nothing in terms of personal achievement and only make the lower grade achievers give up on learning anything.
This UK BBC documentary, The Classroom Experiment, covered many common traditional teaching habits that actually do harm rather than good in education, including grades:
A shifting agenda
An increasing number of educators are agreeing that:
- Personal creative processes should replace fixed content delivery and
- meaningful comments from both peers and teachers should replace meaningless grades
The iPad is both a personal creative device and a great tool for collaboration and documenting discussion. This is the basis on why and roughly how schools should push forward with 1-to-1 iPad integration.
It is common for outsiders (like me) to picture America as:
- conservative (traditional and proud of their American way);
- security conscious (all ‘foes’ must be known and controlled);
- having a poor standardized public education system (Something the US is currently debating publicly – “Waiting for Superman”
If true, all 3 ‘generalizations’ would have an extremely detrimental effect on introducing iPads in schools. Below is a personal view of how these 3 factors will impact on the success of iPads in transforming American education.
- The new mobile world needs new thinking (not conservative)
I found a blog post, glowingly discussing the iPads potential to transform education and you might think I’d agree with it. But for me, most the writing and attached picture sum up all the obstacles facing iPad integration in the US. The article does mention collaboration and iMovie (specifically only in regards to FIlm courses), but essentially describes the iPad as a great note-taker, textbook and consumption device. That consumption is of the teacher’s education. In particular, the image advocates standardized education where one-size-fits-all and a teacher is the only source of learning. Here’s an indication of what I’m getting at in two images:
As a simple starting point, american schools must dismantle the traditional classroom layout which isolates the students as mere educational factory products and places the teacher at the centre of all learning. This is simply not the way the world operates anymore.
- The world no longer recognizes the carrot & stick external control.
One of the driving theories behind 20th century education was the idea that given a choice, students would not want to be at school. This thinking led to the traditional carrot and stick approach, where rewards were offered for conforming to the teacher’s demands and punishments issued for breaking from the “norm.” The article mentioned above, also positively refers to how “schools can be in control of what applications are on the device as well as what students do with it.” This desire for control is only needed within the out-dated education model that expects students to conform to an education put upon them rather than expecting them to enjoy exploring and understanding the world they live in. If it’s the school’s education, a student might not feel a connection and avoid it. This is where external control is required. If the education is student-centred and demands the student prove themselves within an open-ended model, then the student can genuinely connect as best suits them and the control measures will be detrimental to the freedom and thus are not required. The iPad is a personal device and pushes a personal education agenda. The iPad is not a school device, ready to deliver an externally controlled experience of the world. Read this book for more info.
- Poor education?
Until the US reduces its devotion to 1 & 2, and stops trying to press a pre-written education into every american, then iPads will never be allowed to transform learning. As I’ve mentioned before, The professional and personal worlds we now live in are both personally curated and social. Young people now have these factors as normal life expectations and school systems that isolate individuals physically & academically will not seem relevant and will cause disconnect and continue to fail.