I came to realize just how much the MLI iPad project had impacted our students as one of our darling Grade 7 boys was telling me, in elaborate detail, how he was going to “kidnap” his iPad because he couldn’t bear the thought of being at school without it! We knew going into this research that inevitably the dreaded day would arrive where the iPad cart would be wheeled out of our room, but I don’t think any of us knew how much our daily routine would be interrupted. We talked about how having constant 1-to-1 access became the norm in our room and we all felt a bit of a void the day after our iPads left! Although neither of us completely changed the way we teach, having the iPads did push us to challenge ourselves and our students to try new ways of doing things. Consequently, everyone in our pilot project learned so much and we hope to summarize some of our greatest achievements, discoveries and challenges in an attempt to further the discussion and reflection of implementing technology in the classroom. In addition, we hope to provide opportunities for future participants to connect with some active research as a starting point for their MLI initiative.
So, we are going to highlight our three major positives or benefits of the iPads and then touch on a few challenges or downfalls. With that being said, the most important characteristic of the MLI iPad initiative was the fact that it was 1-to-1. As my colleague said earlier, “1-to-1 has completely changed the dynamic of our classrooms,” and even at the end of the project that is still the key. Regardless what device you are talking about, the fact that each student has a device is what changes the dynamic!
Thus after having the iPads in our classrooms we found the three key positives or benefits included: ease of use and mobility, availability of apps and the peer mentoring that flourished.
First, the iPad is inherently easy to move and use. We loved the quick access of turning the iPads on and off and literally having the world at our students’ fingertips. Students could take their iPads with them wherever they went, which allowed for flexible learning spaces because learning was no longer defined by the boundaries of the classroom. Being able to quickly and efficiently access information, create content and share or make their learning public promoted an authentic audience for our students, which is so motivating and engaging. We think that the iPad is one of the best devices to engage in these sort of learning activities because of the availability of apps.
So, having constant and consistent access to the countless apps that the iPads offer was another major benefit for our students. We have mentioned some of our favorite and most effective apps in earlier blogs posts but did want to recap a few and talk about the purpose and reasoning of why these apps were so successful in our classrooms. We believe that the availability of certain apps makes the iPad one of the most powerful tools to access, create and share visual media. Our students loved working with iMovie, Show Me, Haiku Deck, Prezi and Inspiration to name a few, and although each different program or app has something unique to offer the common theme is creating and sharing content. Using Show Me, out students created Math tutorial videos similar to Khan Academy and through Haiku Deck and iMovie were able to visually represent and teach their peers about several curricular topics. Being so immersed in visual media, our students had the opportunity to further their learning by actually becoming the creators of the media instead of the ingesters. Consequently, the 1-to-1 access to iPads allowed for this to happen. Having our students constantly engaged in creating and sharing content brought life to our third major positive or benefit of the iPads, which is ironically not something that is very “techie” or directly related to the device itself.
Although our students are constantly immersed in technology, we found that the ability levels still vary so much from student to student, which is why the peer mentoring and teaching really shone through. We saw the iPad as a tool for collaboration, not only through online communities but as an opportunity for students to shine as the teachers! I know I was constantly asking my students for help and without a doubt could always find a way to solve our problem. It was so refreshing to see our teens teaching each other and often some of the teachers about new apps or how to upload something or access a certain piece of information. Not only were students sharing their learning online, they were sharing in the learning face-to-face. Amazingly enough some days I felt like the facilitator and was learning just as much, if not more, alongside my students! Therefore, the iPads served as a tool for collaboration, both on and offline and helped build confidence, as well as strong tech skills in all our students through peer teaching.
So now after highlighting our three major positives and benefits of the iPads, we need to touch on a few challenges we had in order to further the discussion and reflection of which device is best used in a 1-to-1 environment. In talking with Brad, we both felt that the major downfall of the iPad was the ability to create writing. We loved the availability and efficiency of the iPad in creating visual media, but we both felt that writing content was not successful. We had our students create EduBlogs accounts and often in Humanities we used the EduBlogs app. Although our students loved writing blogs the quality of the writing and editing capabilities is not matched to that of a laptop, net book, Chrome Book etc. Further, the ease of using Google Drive, Google Docs etc. still fell short on the iPad. Knowing that the iPad is an expensive device, we just want to make sure that it is the most effective tool to put in the hands of our students. Even though we absolutely loved having 1-to-1 iPads, both Brad and I felt that creating writing based content was something that was not very successful because of the device being used.
Regardless, having 1-to-1 iPads in our classrooms was such a great learning opportunity for everyone involved, providing us with some great reflection, tools and skills to push forward with our implementation of technology.
We look forward to reading, discussing and connecting with our colleagues who join us on the MLI journey! Thank you so much for sharing in our reflections and thank you PSD70 for the opportunity to do some active research in our classrooms!
Brad & Jenna