At the end of the last academic year it was agreed that the MFL department would get 20 iPads for use in the classroom. As a department we were all delighted that our bid had been successful as we had perviously had 20 crummy laptops that were powered by steam and that rarely connected to the network let alone the internet, as a result we NEVER used them. Everyone in the department can see the potential that iPads hold but we are all at different stages of learning when it comes to using iPads in the classroom. I was asked to take a lead on embedding the use of them into our work in Languages. It has at times been a bit of a struggle and I have had many lessons that have well and truly failed, however during the last 2 weeks I feel that myself and my students are really getting to grips with using them. A number of my colleagues have given them a go too and are also having success which has been great to hear about.
How do you begin to embed iPads into your classroom practice? I am no expert but these are the things that I have done, some have worked and some have failed miserably.
Once I knew that we were getting iPads I made sure I knew how to use one. I was lucky in this respect, I had been using a single iPad in my classroom for about a year so I was fairly happy with many of its functions. My next step was to then research apps so I spent the summer discovering apps, reading about apps, asking questions about apps and tried to find those that I felt would work well in the classroom. I blogged about this here. With some apps in my back pocket I then introduced the technology to the students.
Many of us think that our students are going to know everything there is to know about technology, and certainly that is true of some but I would advise that before you launch into any sort of full on iPad lesson that you teach your class some iPad basics. How to get photos from the internet onto the camera roll, how to easily move between 2 apps by sliding 4 fingers across the screen, how to open and close apps by double tapping the home button and then flicking the app upwards. By teaching them some basics it will stop them pestering you during a lesson and make them feel more in control. Next I would advise iPad rules. I found a fabulous set of iPad rules on Pinterest and adapted them for use in my school. It is vital that you give students some rules to work by, using iPads in learning is a privilege, they are expensive and students need to be aware of the consequences should they fail to follow the rules.
Rules noted, basics learn and it was time for us to give them a go. Initially we had lots of issues with our school wi-fi which seemed not to be robust enough at times and would make our apps very glitchy. I also encountered problems with apps such as DJ Spreaker, Soundcloud and Audioboo as our network will not support them because they have a live stream attached and the bandwidth is too narrow to enable all schools on the island to use apps with live streams. I have to say that this was a bit of a disappointment because all I really like all 3 of the aforementioned apps and I have had to find alternatives as a result of the restrictions placed on us as a school. These were teething problems but they did teach me to try apps out in school and not just at home so that I could eradicate any potential problems that I might face once a whole class started to use them.
I also began to realise that it is important to look at how students will get their information off the iPad, they must be able to put it somewhere, either in their Google Drive directly from the app or they must be able to email it off and then put it into their Google Drive. It’s also essential that you teach your students how to set up Google Drive or the equivalent so that they can start to build their own digital portfolios. I would recommend that they create a folder and share it with you, within that folder they can have sub topics so that they can collate their work effectively.
The first app that I really used to good effect was in fact, Google Drive. My Y10 GCSE class have trialled this for me. They have been preparing for a controlled assessment and it was fabulous to be able to go online look at their work, mark it online and leave meaningful feedback for them. I particularly like the comments feature in Drive as it allows you to highlight a word and comment specifically on it. If I wanted to comment on a sentence I highlighted the first word of the sentence. I found that it enabled to me to open a good dialogue with the students about their work and for many students in my class it worked well and they have produced some excellent controlled assessments. For others it worked less well and we must remain aware that some students really do prefer pen and paper and find typing tough going.
With Google Drive successfully under my belt the next app I tried was whiteboard. Students are used to using mini whiteboards in my class and it seemed a natural step to make the whiteboard electronic, it also helped them to understand that the iPad is a tool for leaning and we don’t just do “an iPad lesson”. Whiteboard needs no real explanation it does however have a collaborative element to it which I have yet to discover. Whiteboard worked well and it also achieved the aim of making students understand that we use iPads for one activity and then maybe we do something else that doesn’t involve them. Whilst we are on the subject of not using iPads for a while but the students still have them on the table, my top tip is to ask students to turn the iPad off and then turn it upside down this, I have found, prevents them from being a distraction to learning especially for Y9 boys!
From this point on I slowly built up the use of the iPads so that in lessons we were using more than 1 app and students were beginning to see their potential. In one lesson for example I might start with a whiteboard activity and then use no tech activities until the end of the lesson where I would use Socrative or Zondle. I am now at the stage where I am trying to a number of apps in a lesson for example tomorrow Y10 are using quizlet, secretive, showme and time permitting pix n tell in 1 lesson! My aim this term was to try and find simple apps that worked well and the results of which were easy to share. I have had a number of lessons where it has all gone horribly wrong and if you are about to embark on the same journey as me I suggest that you always have a back up plan. I have road tested a number of apps this term and I feel that I can now recommend some of them to the department. To try and help them on their way I have created how to videos using the Showme app. You can have a look at them here:
To date, my apps of choice are: Socrative, Quizlet, Linguascope, Zondle, Whiteboard, Pix n Tell, Moodboard lite, Voice record HD, Infinote, Google Drive, Show me, Tellagami, Nearpod, Keynote and Book Creator.
I have found that the iPads have increased engagement with many of my students. They enjoy having a purpose for using their language but my next step is how to showcase their digital work to the world. I am going to a meeting next week to discuss how we, as an island, will try to do this and I will report backI am just at the beginning of my journey into using iPads in the classroom and it is without doubt an exciting one, it is not without its problems and there are always failures on the way, however both the students and I have learnt from them. I am very fortunate that I am supported by a number of Apple Distinguished Educators here on island and also by countless people on twitter. Special mentions must go to @joedale and @ICTEvangelist however there are many more, so if you have suggested apps or helped me to try and solve an iPad problem in any way I thank you.
Here’s a link to the iPad rules I mentioned.