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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest: Eberopolis - 6 Tips for iPads in the Classroom

One of the things I love about designing blogs with Erika is that I am sometimes the first to discover new blogs! Okay, okay...  I was number 2 behind a bunch of anonymous people. Anywho... When I was working with Alison on her blog design, I kept sneaking over to her site (shhh! don't tell Erika) to read all that she had posted.

I read every post. I learned so much! Alison is amazing so I just HAD to invite her over so I can read more! I do have to warn you all.... she has a technology-based classroom. Paid for buy her school district. You will be jealous and want to move to Georgia to work with Alison.

Okay... you have been warned!
Read if you dare!
Just don't drool on the computer screen!!

Hi there! My name is Alison and write over at Eberopolis: Teaching Reading and Writing with Technology. I'm thrilled that Misty has invited me to share with you today, and I hope you'll consider visiting me over at Eberopolis.

I teach fourth grade in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and I am incredibly fortunate because I was chosen by my district to pilot 1:1 iPads in my classroom this year. Can you believe it? I have an iPad for every student! It's been an amazing experience, but it's been quite a learning experience, too. I share some of the things I've learned about it over at Eberopolis, but today, I want to share with you some tips for introducing any type of new technology in the classroom -- whether it's available as one-per-student or one-per-classroom.

1. Create some clear ground rules.
At the beginning of the year, I sat down with some of the tech people from my district and brainstormed what some of the problems might be and what rules needed to be considered. With that blueprint in mind, I then met with my students and had them collaborate to develop some of their own rules and ideas for how the iPads should be used. They had some great ideas, and whenever I felt like they weren't addressing an issue that needed to be covered, I just steered the conversation with some hypothetical situations. Eventually they were able to develop all of the rules I felt we needed before I even let them touch their individual iPads. (You can read about our rules here.)

2. Consider logical consequences.
Typically students are very interested in using technology, so in my experience, they haven't abused the privilege much. When they have, it's usually that they're playing on websites or apps that aren't related to their assignment. As a class, we agreed that a logical consequence of not using the iPad appropriately would be that the student lost their iPad privilege for the activity or a portion of it. They could either follow along on another student's iPad, or they could do an alternate assignment. Similarly, when a student accidentally knocks an iPad off the table and cracks the screen (which I have witnessed happen twice this year despite our very best efforts to be careful with them), I have the student take the iPad down to the media center, explain what he/she did, and ask how they can make amends. In both of these situations, I try to connect the consequence to the technology, and it helps to make students more cautious and aware.

3. Have a backup plan.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've had glitches for one reason or another. Maybe the wifi goes down or an update freezes the device or a website isn't compatible with the device. If that's the case, you'll want to have another way to teach the content.

4. Give time to explore and play.
Technology can be so much fun to use in the classroom, and it can definitely engage your students. Before you ask students to use the tool for an assignment, however, I think it's important to give them an opportunity to explore and play. In my experience, students are so excited just to be using the device the first time around that they really can't focus on the learning anyway. And giving them that freedom to explore and play will get some of that excitement out of their system, making them easier to manage later on because they won't be as tempted to get off task.

5. Develop common vocabulary.
Take some time to identify buttons, features, and actions, and develop a common vocabulary with your students to describe them. This is another time-saver because it will make it easier for you to communicate directions if everyone is using the same terms.

6. Remember it's just a tool.
As great as many technology tools are for reinforcing and extending skills, they're no replacement for having a teacher interact with students. Even if it gives feedback, it won't be as meaningful or helpful as what you can do working with a child. Technology resources are just another means of delivering content, and you'll need to figure out the best ways to use them. Without some careful thought and planning, they can become a more modern version of a boring worksheet, and that's obviously not the outcome you want. Take some time to explore and play with the tool yourself so you can see how it will best fit in your content instruction.

I hope that you have fun incorporating technology in your classroom, and I'd love to hear about your experiences over at Eberopolis. Before I go, though, I want to share with you a classroom freebie that I created in case you get to use iPads with your students.

This file has some general information about how to use iPads as well as a full page of tips and tricks that will work on an iPad 2 or newer. The bulk of the file, however, is materials you can use with your students to create a common vocabulary for all of the buttons, toolbars, and gestures. You can either go with the terms I've suggested in the file (based on what we've done in my class), or you can develop your own. There are color and blackline versions of the activities, and ones that are pre-labeled or that the students can label themselves.

In my class, students had to earn an "iPad operator's license" before I gave them their own iPad at the beginning of the year. You could use the unlabeled version as an assessment that students need to pass before they get their license.

To get your copy of the freebie, visit my TpT store or click on the images from the file above.

Thanks again to Misty for letting me share with you today, and I hope you'll come and visit me in Eberopolis

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