Posted by: carlsumner | October 25, 2011

IPad in the Classroom

Having had an IPad 2 available to me for school use since mid-summer, I thought it was worth reflecting on any benefits or difficulties I may have found in that time.  This may be updated over time as I become ever more used to the possibilities and limitations, including a list of applications that have proved themselves worthwhile.

First of all I need to make it clear that this is not a comment on the benefits of Apple versus Android – the school choice was made to go with Apple based on personal experiences of similar technology, the consistency of the software available and recommendations made as we were going through other design programmes to develop the school.  We also bought 5 for teachers on the leadership team to develop evaluations before potentially enabling all school staff to have one.  Essentially this is a look at the use of a mobile tablet as an educational resource.

From a classroom management point of view, the IPad has proved invaluable.  Using the Groupcall Emerge Application, access can be enabled to our SIMS whilst mobile. Ease of use for registering, up to date and handy information on pupils and staff and even the availability of Messenger to send direct messages home, particularly useful for praise and reminders. The system does depend upon a readily available wireless network but is easy to use, safe and best of all portable.

The addition of a camera/video camera facility to the IPad 2, that allows straightforward download to e-mail or cloud based file sharing, makes redundant the need for another camera source – a usual expense for schools’ budgets.  The size is not always the easiest to manage but the picture quality is adequate for usual classroom needs – assessments, display, upload to website and blog posts. However, if you require better quality for special events then you might want to have a particular high quality alternative available.  Additionally, the camera allows for the reading of QR codes through any number of free apps including Scan.

Whilst not wanting to just create a list of available apps (too many to mention) that I have found useful, a number do make the IPad an essential resource in the classroom for both teachers and pupils.

Office2HD allows the reading and creation of Word documents, Excel and PowerPoint – transfer can be made through e-mail and cloud sharing.  Both Box and Dropbox provide excellent cloud sharing apps with good entry-level free storage.  Next Thing is a handy app for organising and prioritising events and forthcoming tasks or the more advanced Evernote.

A number of apps, including Saisuke or Google’s own, provide organisation through a calendar but a huge advantage we have found is being able to link our school based calendar to the built-in calendar on the Pad (something we were told initially we couldn’t do) – this then links events and invitations in meetings and notes straight to the calendar which is updated instantly and passed on to all who are linked to it also.

The built-in voice recorder and notes applications are excellent in their own right for use both on a management scale and for within the classroom.  The fact that you may play music is an added bonus too and I have found this useful for stimulating ideas, creating atmosphere or generally entertaining myself and the children (Planetary is a fabulous app for storing and playing your music).

I have found the ability to group my applications an added bonus. Giving the folders specific names keeps organisation easy and where there are many available, makes particular ones easy to find.

In terms of working with children, the IPad has worked very well in small group settings and with individual children.  It can be used as a Whiteboard, a source of imagery for ideas and stimulation (Flickr), reference tool (Qwiki or Discover), or a specific learning machine with designed apps for a whole range of subjects.  It’s vital, as with any program used, to investigate the value of the software before use.  It is even available to children at lunchtimes with a specific games folder created.

Because it is on a tablet does not make it an essential educational tool.  What I have found is that it generates huge enthusiasm, can explain or reinforce ideas where ordinary class-based techniques do not and provides opportunity for both individualistic and group involvement that can be collaborative and fun – the fact that two or three children need to huddle around the machine lends itself to more thoughtful learning.

The fact that it also looks (and actually is) quite expensive has also created a sense of calm and better purposefulness around the resource that may not always be there.  Children take care of it and value it – this may be very relevant if the thought were to buy more in for a class – would it still have the same value for them?

As an aside, I recently visited a newly built school as part of an information gathering exercise into our own design proposals within Fleetwood.  The availability of an IPad was, for some staff, cause for interest and potential enthusiasm.  But within the school they were lacking – they still took registers on paper.  There was one LCD screen in a corridor, interactive whiteboards were poorly positioned and the ICT suite was a scrum of machines.  The distinct feeling is that, despite being in the 21st Century, our children’s education and their accessibility to the technologies that will dominate their lives, is clearly not.  Thoughts for another post, but a worry nonetheless.

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Responses

  1. Very interesting and helpful. We’re considering investing in iPads in my primary.

    A couple of points …. are most of the apps you’ve downloaded free? With multiple iPads paid for apps would presumably become expensive.

    Also, have you found a way to project what’s on an iPad onto your interactive whiteboard?

    Ta!!!

    Duncan Milner

    • Hi Duncan, thanks for the comment. We have a school based iTunes account so when you buy an app it becomes available to all on that account – so you only buy it once. We’ve probably spent no more than 50 or 60 pounds in the last few months – many useful apps are free.
      You can also buy a connector for the Pad to an Interactive Whiteboard – will do so myself shortly. About 20 pounds in most big electrical stores.


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