Grr! The ‘Flipping’ iPad (Top 3 Workflow Solutions?)

It’s not a problem as such. It’s not even a real concern. But every time I think I’ve got a consistent workflow solution for my students, a slightly better one comes along. Choice is always fantastic but . . .

CONTEXT

The ‘flipped’ class exam results were very good, in fact, among the best we’ve ever had. Consequently the impact the iPad and ‘flipping’ had in the classroom couldn’t be ignored (alongside the influence of twitter and screen-casting).

Students in the class referred to the iPad when asked about the reasons for their success. They engaged with numerous apps and workflow solutions and thankfully came out with excellent grades. The ability to research material, interact with different applications, and present work in an easy format meant the iPad had a time-saving and enhanced learning effect.

EDMODO

So I began the summer break confident the workflow solutions we had would suit the next cohort. Edmodo was our weapon of choice as all students had access to computers and could easily upload work to the website. I could then annotate their work on the iPad and hand it back to them before the next lesson. This had such a positive effect that we made it through course material much quicker than I could have hoped. Edmodo ran alongside Dropbox for sharing any work from the iPad including Explain Everything slides and presentations and all was well.

Holiday work then centred around the creation of ‘flipped’ class videos and a rejigging of schemes of work. Then Evernote reared its head!

EVERNOTE

I had been using Evernote personally as a filing system but hadn’t thought to use it as a workflow solution. Suddenly, via twitter, I understood that with Evernote premium students could construct an e-portfolio and I could annotate their work through the shared folder option. This provided the same solution as Edmodo but they could upload any work direct from the iPad (a feature I’m sure Edmodo will develop). If you add to this the option of linking audio notes with Evernote then the future was looking bright for Evernote as a workflow solution.

So I tried it with the students’ holiday work that was due in mid-August and it worked fine. Students received my annotations as soon as I saved the document and everybody was happy.

Until now.

Nearpod have announced that their latest updates will allow students to review work as they see fit and it could become an ideal tool to ‘flip’ your classroom with. Granted they are a few weeks off this solution but it is ideal in principle. Don’t get me wrong it is great that the innovations are happening, they are just happening so fast. I fear that without consistent workflow students may become disillusioned as well as staff. This will come in time but unfortunately the perfect solution doesn’t yet exist. So what do we include in training for staff?

SOLUTIONS

With all this in mind my top three workflow solutions if you have iPads in the classroom are:

  1. Edmodo – wins the day with social interaction capabilities.
  2. Evernote (premium) – the easiest way to receive, annotate and hand out assignments.
  3. Dropbox – using the shared folder option.

(Plus an honourable mention to Nearpod – your promises have got me excited! Please be true)

I am confident that the flipped approach (I don’t necessarily like the term) is worth pursuing if only for the time it creates for student interaction in the classroom. It is just a challenge to marry the concept up with increased iPad use. The options educators now have with the iPad are so wide and varied it is almost overwhelming. If you couple this with students being faced with content being delivered outside the classroom, it can be quite daunting.

I love the iPad for challenging my style of educating and I love the ‘flipped’ class approach that gives us freedom in the classroom! I almost wish they hadn’t come along at the same time for me but the challenge is difficult to ignore. With student feedback being so positive I will persist and hopefully come out ‘winning’ on the other side.

Top 5 iPad Apps for the (Experienced!) Educator #edchat

I know. I know, the (Experienced) part doesn’t quite fit.

The majority of apps for the iPad are so intuitive that they are very easy to use. Indeed, developers who are successful, concentrate on simplicity to allow those of us with little technical know-how to use their product.

This post is in response to a request for a follow up to the ‘Top 5 Back to School Apps‘. The apps below have multiple uses in school and have become integral to classroom practice for staff and students alike.

1. SKITCH

‘Annotate, edit and save your photos & scribbles… fast. Skitch, the popular desktop app has gone mobile. Annotate an image with arrows, shapes and text. Sketch something new and markup an existing photo, then save your creations to Evernote or share them with other applications.’

For the educator sketch has excellent implications for producing classroom material and other resources. The ability to annotate over any image enables the educator to tailor material for the individual as well as the class. Skitch allows you to add or take away annotation and share with a group or individual to enhance learning. A truly wonderful app.

2.  GOODREADER

‘GoodReader is the super-robust PDF reader for iPad. With GoodReader on your iPad, you can read virtually anything, anywhere: books, movies, maps, pictures. Use it once and you’ll be hooked. Soon you’ll be wondering how you ever managed to use your iPad without GoodReader.’

As well as being an excellent place to store material to read later, Goodreader allows you to annotate PDFs very easily. It is particularly useful for annotating student work and also material for them to review. The interface does take a short while to get used to but Goodreader quickly becomes the ‘go to’ PDF reader.

3. iBOOKS

‘iBooks is an amazing way to download and read books. iBooks includes the iBookstore, where you can download the latest bestselling books or your favorite classics – day or night. Browse your library on a beautiful bookshelf, tap a book to open it, flip through pages with a swipe or a tap, and bookmark or add notes to your favourite passages.’

At first glance iBooks wouldn’t seem particularly revolutionary as a classroom aid. However, it is when you couple this with iBooks author that the true implications can be found. True, you do need a Mac to use this application. Trust me it is well worth the investment. In short you can create your own resource that looks like an iBook using existing material. Presentations, video, text etc can all be dragged and dropped alongside using ‘widgets’ that make the experience more intuitive and user-friendly. Take a look at this ‘how to video‘.

4. TWITTER

As educators we are familiar with twitter in the social media world, but not that many schools are using it with their students. Alongside information giving, the real power of twitter can be found in a department or class account. As long as the students follow back with an ‘academic’ account the group can interact with each other and debate a topic, or seek guidance. The most successful use of twitter has been via a ‘twitter chat’ at a designated time that replaced the normal homework. The ability to question each other as well as the educator serves to enhance learning in a very different way to the norm. The account can of course be private and secure so the educator and the students can feel free to comment without outside influence.

5. 

‘Flipboard turns your Facebook and Twitter account into something that looks like a magazine. It also lets you build a custom magazine, either by choosing from Flipboard’s pre-built curated “boards” or by importing Twitter lists.’

If you are using an iPad I’m sure you have encountered Flipboard and it may seem like it is just a social magazine for browsing interests. However, as a way of collating information, it has become particularly useful for students. The ease with which they can browse articles and look for balance of opinion on a subject, makes it a useful tool. It can also act as a useful starter and/or plenary for a lesson with the most up-to-date information being displayed. If you have a class twitter account you can also use it to display information from the group and act as a prompt for collaboration.

Any suggestions for educational apps are gratefully received.

Back to School – Top 5 iPad Apps for Educators

What apps should I use?

The number one question when an educator receives an iPad. Whether it is training colleagues with the technology, or educators finding their own way, the ‘best’ apps always find a place in the discussions.

With that in mind, these 5 applications may help with integration of the iPad into the classroom.

1. ESSENTIALS

‘Introduces you to the iPad, exploring the working parts and touchscreen interface. The app is highly effective in showing you how to carry out each task or function via a series of screens that have hot linked regions that must be touched or swiped in order to progress to the next step.’

The most impressive feature of this app is that the user cannot move on unless they tap the right area of the screen that relates directly to iPad functionality. In the second section there is a very useful guide to using the mainstays of the iPad in terms of work production – Pages, Keynote, Numbers. A very useful starting point for any educator or student.

2. EXPLAIN EVERYTHING

‘Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. You can create dynamic interactive lessons, activities, assessments, and tutorials using Explain Everything’s flexible and integrated design. Use Explain Everything as an interactive whiteboard using the iPad 2 (and the new iPad) video display.’

Explain everything has the added advantage of students being able to show their work with annotations and also have a sense of pride as it is easily displayed to the rest of the class. Any Explain everything slide can be shared via a number of means –  email, YouTube, Dropbox, which lends itself to classroom participation. An impressive collaboration tool with multiple implications.

3.  SOCRATIVE

‘Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.’

Put simply, Socrative is a superb ‘assessment for learning’ tool. An educator can ask a pop quiz at any point and have the answers from students graphically represented for feedback and to display if required. Educators can also pre-load a quiz that can be assessed straight-away. The beauty of this app is that it is cross platform which means that students can be on existing desktops or laptops whilst the educator has the iPad at the front of the class displaying results.

4.  EDMODO

‘Edmodo makes it easy for teachers and students to stay connected and share information. Use an iOS device to send notes, submit assignments, post replies, and check messages and upcoming events while away from the classroom.’

Again the beauty of a Edmodo is that it is cross-platform so can run as an application on your iPad alongside existing IT equipment. It is a great way to contact and interact with students as well as being a workflow solution. The ability to annotate through dictation provides an excellent time-saving function for any educator wishing to feedback in detail to students. As soon as the educator finishes any annotations students can see and indeed improve on their work.

5. NOTABILITY

‘Notability powerfully integrates handwriting, PDF annotation, typing, recording, and organizing so you can take notes your way! Discover the freedom to capture ideas, share insights, and present information in one perfect place on iPad.’

As well as being a superb app to collate notes, Educators and students can organise their work in the same way they have with written notebooks. The sharing options make this app stand out with export functions to Dropbox, email etc. It is very easy to add pictures and highlight text, within the app, which makes it very functional for all users. It came out on top during our test with 60 students and staff.

There are many, many apps that could be on this list, however these five allow existing practice to be enhanced without too much adjustment. Allied to subject specific applications the iPad can very quickly become an integral part of teaching with a functionality that enhances learning for all.

Scared? – Exam Results and the iPad

The standard by which we are all judged.

Those yearly ‘data-bats’ (think baseball) are upon us again. A-level results are out this week and all manner of statistical analysis is about to be thrown at us. Questions will be asked, people will want to know, what went well what could be better, and we will wonder what else we could have done.

All educators want their students to do well and worry at this time of year that pupils will obtain their place at University, or get on the course they want to do or get the job they applied for. At school we will receive comparisons to previous year groups; like for like schools in the area and indeed national league tables.

But to what end?

Having experienced the annual discussion, reflection and decision-making for a decade, I wonder what really changes as a result of the grades our students receive? I have often discussed with colleagues from other schools what we actually change in education in order to improve grades. There are many good intentions and indeed some outstanding practice within our walls. However, every year we see the same structure to lessons and indeed all round school experience that leads to very similar grades.

I believe in the maxim that a great teacher leads to high achievement levels. It will always be true that the educator is the key to any learning process. However, I don’t necessarily believe that educators have been given tools to change things simply. This isn’t the fault of anyone, there are just too many restrictions on education to allow everything to happen. Time, money and the ability to adapt within the framework of the school day are very difficult barriers to overcome. Consequently we often revert to type.

Yet this year I feel different.

Sure I’m mindful that my class, who have experienced all manner of new technology and concepts this year, could underachieve. I also believe that the ups and downs of the year could have had a detrimental effect. Yet I’m excited.

I think it’s because I feel I now have the tools to change something if I want to. The school day will still be the same, the hours I’m given for contact will still be the same, but I have the ability to change things next year. Educational technology has improved to the extent that I now think I have the means to improve the level of contact and enhance the learning process.

Screencasts that deliver content to my students have opened up a number of opportunities (flipped learning) within the classroom walls. These videos, that they watch at home with parental support, allow us to try all manner of things without feeling that we are under a time constraint. The iPad allows access to information, and indeed applications, that can enhance the learning process with ease. Now I am better informed about the technology, I feel I can make decisions that will allow next year’s students to develop. If something hasn’t worked this year it will be easier for me to change and indeed find a different way of delivering a topic.

I’m also excited that the students will continue to play a greater role in the learning process. I was as guilty as anyone of feeling I had to deliver content and be in control at all times to ensure I was doing my job. Now my schemes of learning encourage students to be an integral part of the process and indeed lead on many projects. The iPad is making this thought process easier and I feel quite lucky to have used and learnt with it across the last academic year.

I have honestly never felt as comfortable with being asked what I can do to change anything should it need to be improved. In fact I look forward to discussing with the students what areas of the course I could change both for the new cohort and indeed those entering their second year at A-level.

If you’re reading this and wondering whether the iPad is worth looking into I can assure you, as a tool, it keeps providing me with opportunities to develop me teaching.

I welcome any thoughts on this post particularly as it feels strange to be looking forward to so much change.

Technology v Education

It’s happening.

Despite a lack of ‘hard’ data, schools worldwide are taking delivery of iPads for the new school year. There are 1:1 initiatives, iPad carts, and all manner of charging solutions taking over school classrooms. The decision to go forward with the technology has come from school trials or administrators suggesting to schools that this is the ‘future’. Funding has been made available and revenue streams channelled to make sure schools can stay one step ahead of others.

There is a problem.

Not all educators are on board, in fact regularly you can debate at any point on twitter/social media that the new technologies do not necessarily help in the classroom. There are iPad aficionados who will preach the virtue of the iPad all the way down to those who feel they have no place in schools. The trouble is these iPads are going into schools for all staff to use with their classes. No doubt students will find little problem with the new technology,however that is not to say it will work as a tool for learning.

The educator is still the most important resource in the classroom and without these educators on board the iPad will not work as a tool for learning. I fear that there will be a battleground between those who use technology in the classroom and those who don’t. Students will walk into some classrooms expecting to use the technology because they believe it makes sense to them. This automatically creates a barrier for an educator who may not be comfortable with the technology and also may not see a use for it. We certainly don’t need another excuse for students to create problems in the classroom and no one should feel like the technology has to be used.

Having integrated iPads into my classroom for the last academic year, I’m firmly of the belief that it has its place at certain times in a lesson or indeed within a module. I have moved past the ‘iPad’ lesson that I used to think all lessons were going to be! Gone is the sentiment that because I’ve booked the computers I must use them for the full hour. However, it is a long process to get comfortable with the iPads and there is time required to let this happen. When you have some educators using it frequently and others barely at all, the behaviour management of students then comes into question. Educators should not feel forced to use the new technology just because others are.

This brings me on to professional development. I believe this is the single most important aspect for educators when introducing new technology in the classroom. If they can see how it can enhance learning and feel comfortable with the technology then they are more inclined to use it. Both of these aspects take time to come to terms with and I fear the normal school day will not afford that luxury.

I am hopeful that our planned professional development alongside iPad ‘leaders’, who will assist with the training, will help our staff. I just don’t want it to seem like a battle. It shouldn’t be technology versus education, it should be technology enhances education.

There may be nothing to worry about and indeed staff may embrace the iPad as a new way to deliver learning. I hope that the level of training is appropriate and the selected applications will stimulate interest.

I’ll let you know!

iPad Classroom Next Term? – 10 Things to Consider

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If the iPad is making a ‘move’ on your classroom this year then these ten points are worth considering:

  1. Check your wireless network for everything from capacity to ‘dead-zones’. Leave no stone unturned as a failing wireless network will severely hamper iPad use in school.
  2. Be hands on with apps/methods you might ask students to use and see what it is like to produce ‘work’. The iPad is just a device and without an informed educator it will be ineffective as a learning tool.
  3. Set out clear behaviour guidelines and link them to school policy. Consistent expectations when using the iPads can help prevent the device from being a disruption.
  4. Don’t expect an app to ‘teach’ a lesson. Many educators ask if there is an app that will specifically deliver a part of a course/syllabus. Apps should be seen as another way to enhance learning and if they don’t work you can still use existing methods to deliver the lesson.
  5. Start slow. Use one or two apps/functions and allow the students to get used to the device and its nuances.
  6. Decide on a workflow solution and stick to it. If you are going to use Edmodo, Dropbox, Evernote etc to set assigments or collect work, you should make a decision as to which is the best option(s). Changing the workflow pattern can be disruptive for students and difficult to maintain above the usual collection of paper.
  7. Consider how you are going to display work in class. The simplest method would be to link Apple TV to a projector but there are different programmes out there to link a desktop to the iPad. With Apple TV any iPad can be mirrored to the projector as long as the user knows the password. When students are aware their work could be displayed, at any time, it has a dramatic impact on their focus and productivity.
  8. Be prepared for lessons to change as students progress and have fun doing it. There are so many opportunities to personalise a lesson for the student(s) when they have a device in front of them. As long as the objective is kept in mind the students can find themselves all doing something different to get to the same result!
  9. Ask for feedback from everybody. Peers, observers and students are integral to the development of iPad use in the classroom. Students are always honest and are happy to say what went well and/or badly.
  10. Share your experiences – on Twitter, on a blog or in the staffroom. So many people are willing to help or discuss iPad use it makes sense to make use of the free professional development.

After a year of iPad use, it is clear to me that it can be a very effective tool for learning. Students and educators can all learn together with the device and it complements existing methodology. It does take sustained effort and an acceptance there will be challenges to overcome, however, it is definitely worth it.

Please add any other pointers in the comments section. Contributions are much appreciated.

The Importance of Blogging – iPad in Education

Blogging is important for educators. It allows for reflection, stimulates opinion and provokes debate. This blog only began as a colleague suggested it would be a suitable way to record thoughts on an iPad project in school. I am very thankful he suggested it!

The rise of iPad use in education has led to clamour for research and evidence to support its implementation. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that the more evidence, the more informed a decision, I struggle to see how sufficient data could be collected in the first years of trial.

It would be fantastic to have control groups compared to iPad classes and whole school 1:1 initiatives compared to a similar school without iPads. Unfortunately this isn’t feasible, in such a short timeframe, so schools wishing to make a decision about a 1:1 iPad model have conducted their own trials. This is where blogging comes in. Without this blog I would not have encountered such widespread opinion on the use of iPads in education.

Having collated information about iPad projects across the globe we began our trial to see if it suited our school and students. There were no standardised test scores to compare and no schools in the UK who had completed a GCSE/A level course using iPads. Instead we relied on student/staff/parent feedback and asked opinions of hundreds of educators across many countries. Blogging allowed opinion to be put forward and debate to be stimulated. Many schools got in touch because they were conducting similar trials. Without a blog (and twitter) these contacts would not have been made and decisions would not have been so well informed.

We still clamour for hard evidence but this will not be available until the end of next year, in the form of national standardised test results. Consequently, our decision to move towards a 1:1 iPad model has been made in consultation with a number of other schools. To date we are yet to find a school who have made the decision to remove iPads from their thinking having trialled them for a period of time. This does not mean that the iPad is the only device to use. Rather, it has satisfied the need in our school and this is supported by other educators who use the device. We still have in mind that the 1:1 model is likely to include different devices across the school but at the moment the iPad is the class leader.

When reading the superb educator blogs that are posted everyday I feel compelled to write a blog to maintain the balance required to enhance learning. This blog has been central to my own learning this academic year and I hope it will serve just as well from September. I would encourage anyone who is undecided to give blogging a go and give it time to develop. I would never have considered it an option a year ago and yet now I am indebted to all the people who commented and pointed me in the right direction as I posted my thoughts.

Here’s to another year of learning with fellow educators and a promise to continue the debate!