Currently we are halfway through our fourth week with the 1-to-1 iPad project and I cannot imagine our classrooms without them! Students are already asking when they have to give up their iPad and are not often impressed with the answer I have to give them. Seeing as it is the first few weeks back from Christmas holidays, all of us are taking some time to get back into our school routines and I have to say the iPads in our classrooms have become just that. Our students having constant 1-to-1 access to iPads in our classrooms has become natural; something we often do not even consciously think about anymore. In many ways this is a positive and the opportunities our students have had to expand their learning is without a doubt engaging and effective. Yet being the reflective people we are, beginning to explore some of the potential obstacles this could present in our students’ learning is only a logical next step. (I think it is mostly the fact that our iPads are going to magically disappear in less than two weeks!!!) But we do need to start considering some important questions. Is 1-to-1 the key? Or is the iPad the right device?
As one of our students said, “the novelty has worn off, we like aren’t that excited that we have iPads anymore because now it is just normal, we use them all the time for so many things!” To some degree this is true and we still witness both ends of the spectrum in our daily interactions with the iPads. Students have become accustomed to having constant access to a personal device but there are still “aha” moments; moments where students discover something new and exciting about the topic we are studying or about what the iPad can do. We think it is important to continue to push students to further uncover the potential the iPads have as a learning tool without losing focus of our main goal, which is student success. Even though students are used to having the iPads at the tip of their fingers the effectiveness of how students continue to use the devices has not diminished. Instead of viewing the iPads as more of a “fun” addition to our classroom learning, we have truly integrated 1-to-1 into our daily routines.
Consequently, students have been working with several apps regularly throughout the majority of content areas as well as integrating some new apps for specific inquiry project-based work. Students are consistently working with their Gmail accounts and Google Docs to collaborate with their peers and teachers, providing an online learning community for further exploration, connections and even assessment. One example relating to Humanities was the availability of students to instantly create, edit and rewrite topic sentences for our RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) paragraphs. Students could read each others topic sentences, edit a friends and receive some feedback on their own sentence within the same document. As for myself, I had the chance to quickly assess the students on who understood the main components of a topic sentence and without even having to leave the document I was able to quickly type in some formative feedback. Furthermore, students are working with social media apps to continue to broadcast our learning and the creation of both iMovies and Haiku Decks is still a popular pastime! In addition to the consistent use of certain apps, we have made an effort to get students exploring some apps that are being used for specific projects.
Our main inquiry project we began recently is a research focussed cross-curricular project highlighting the cultural, historical, environmental and economic impacts of particular plants including cotton, coffee, sugar cane, bamboo etc. Obviously the iPads are going to be used for researching and collecting information as well as the creation of the students’ final presentations, but we wanted to go further. In addition to the presentation we are asking students to individually hand in a written portion, which can be published on their blogs. In order to provide students with necessary supports that the iPad has to offer, students will be collecting and organizing their research using Inspiration, which has proven to be a powerful tool for all students. Looking more specifically at the Science portion of the project, students are going to be using an app called Skitch that allows students to take a picture and add arrows and text boxes right on top of the picture. Students are going to use this app to not only explain how their plant works through charts, diagrams and visuals, they are going to create the charts, diagrams and visuals! Stay tuned to hear how Skitch worked out!
Although our 1-to-1 iPad project has completely changed the dynamic of our classrooms in a positive way, we did start to wonder if, to quote the wonderful Marshal McLuhan, “the medium was really the message?” Is the iPad the medium to be using? Would a different device offer better/worse opportunities? Does the way we present our information change depending on what medium we use? Would a laptop or netbook or iPhone for that matter be better or worse than the iPad? I don’t know if we have the answer right now, but the debate is open and the reflection continues. In our final couple of weeks with the Mobile Learning Initiative we are hoping to gain further insight into both the positive and negative influences 1-to-1 iPads have had specifically in our learning environments. Through good conversation and reflection we are looking to better understand the potential opportunities the iPad has in the classroom versus other mobile devices and maybe even add some of our thoughts into the ongoing debate!
Thanks for reading,
Brad & Jenna