Ever since I was a kid, I loathed back to school commercials. They always showed parents gleefully skipping through aisles of pencils and notebooks as the kids, sullen and dejected, sluggishly followed along. It's a scene we are all too familiar with, and one that creates a negative stigma around school. But what if that scene were flipped? What if the kids were happy and eager to get to school? Is that possible after roughly 90 days of sun and fun? It is, and at Burlington Public Schools, we have seen it over the past two years during our iPad launches at the high school and middle school.
Although this post is a little early for the back-to-school season, consider it an early reminder that summer is near and that, eventually, the start of the 2013 school year will be close at hand. One of the elements that is changing dramatically at both Burlington High School and Marshall Simonds Middle School is back-to-school supply lists. Those long laundry lists of items that parents must purchase for their son's or daughter's classes are something that students dread, and for some parents, these lists can be a budgetary hurdle every summer. But it doesn't have to be that way. The iPad can eliminate many of the items purchased each year and save schools and parents hundreds of dollars annually.
I’m going to share five applications for the iPad that will take the place of student supply lists, provide savings and replace dread with anticipation.
While some may argue that there are better options -- and free options -- out there, I find, along with many of our students, that Notability is the go-to application for note taking. One of the primary reasons I like this app is because of the workflows that teachers and students can create in order to retrieve, annotate and submit work. Plus, Notability integrates Dropbox, Google Drive and Box drive. If teachers set up a shared folder with their class via Google Drive, students can access their documents, annotate them and push them back to their teacher via a privately shared folder. In other words, this is a big step toward the paperless classroom. Also, students can open PDFs from any website in Notability and annotate directly on the PDF.
A note about Notability: I would strongly endorse Evernote here as well. However, the connection between students and teachers in Notability, along with Google Docs and Dropbox integration, put it slightly above Evernote. One feature that puts Evernote ahead of Notability is the ability to access the application and features from multiple devices and platforms.
Haiku Deck is one of my favorite applications for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is that it is free and really boasts clean, intuitive design. Along with the crisp interface, students and teachers can access Haiku Deck presentations directly from the app and via the web. When building a presentation, users can search for images from within the app and embed them immediately. The app also allows users to take pictures and upload from the camera roll and from Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Picasa accounts. Users can play their presentations directly from the iPad, email them, and share with Facebook and Twitter.
Edmodo is a one-stop shop for all of your classes. The highlight of Emodo's learning management system is that it presents a clean, familiar design for teachers and students. Teachers can set up multiple classes and can connect and share documents, assessments, etc. from the iPad app or web-based interface. Our middle school iPads don't travel home with students, so this application's web-based access is a big plus. Any teacher can also assign and create small group projects directly in his or her Edmodo page. This allows both teachers and students to stay organized in one place and follow along with the progress of individual and group activities. Edmodo also connects teachers directly to their Google Drive for quick transfer of documents. Overall, Edmodo gets a lot of good reviews from both our teachers and students. Plus, our parents like this option because they can monitor what the class is doing, receive updates and stay up to date with assignments and projects. And the best part about Edmodo: it's free.
The ShowMe application is a dynamic presentation and creation application that is free. ShowMe provides an iPad app and a web-based interface for accessing the ShowMe database as well as your own presentations. This application integrates at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and allows teachers an opportunity to create lessons, remediation options and accessible references for student review. One of our Spanish teachers, Ms. Abbott, uses this application consistently in her classes. She creates ShowMes for her lessons and makes them public so that students and possibly other Spanish teachers can use them. In my digital literacy class, one of my students, Gabriella Gonzalez, created a ShowMe sharing a story about her life. There are so many ways that teachers can incorporate this dynamic tool across grade levels and content areas. And again, it comes free.
A year ago I would not have endorsed Google Drive or any of the Google apps for iOS. However, the Google apps development team had a good year blending their apps into the iOS platform. Whether or not you are a Google apps for education school, Google Drive is a great place for students to begin learning how to use the cloud as well as archive and access their work in multiple places. Plus, Google Drive for the iOS has recently launched the ability to collaborate with other users on a document or spreadsheet in real time. Users can also upload (and download) photos and videos directly from their iOS device and save them in the cloud. Students can use this application to work on a collaborative project in school, take notes, and then access that same document or spreadsheet from any computer that boasts an Internet connection.
And that's it. Add these five applications to your back-to-school lists and eliminate everything else!
Technology Integration Made Easy
One of the big misconceptions about the iPad is that teachers need to seek out applications tying directly into their content area. The simple fact is that even in the absence of apps, the iPad comes out of the box with a wealth of resources. Add a wi-fi connection to the equation and you've got yourself and your classroom a pretty dynamic resource. The five applications listed above only add to the ease of connecting and sharing in your classroom. Each application can be integrated across all grade levels and content areas.
The one thing to remember when approaching technology integration for the first time is that you don't have to completely change your way of teaching. Teachers are and always will be the content experts in the classroom regardless of the technology or tools integrated. Adding the iPad only enhances the learning opportunities for teachers and students alike.