- Some schools and school boards are already starting to deploy iPads in the classroom.
- Yes, there are some reasons why you wouldn’t want to buy iPads for the classroom
- But, there are lots of reasons why you would want to have an iPad computer lab at your school
- Here are 16 great iPad apps to help improve literacy
Before you say a class set of iPads will never happen, know this:
- Auburne School board just invested $200,000 to buy iPads for every kindergarten student (approximately 285 students). Mind you, there has been some parental and citizen backlash against spending taxpayer dollars this way.
- Longfield Academy has become the first private school in the UK to give all of the students (1400) an iPad. Parents can buy the tablet for $576 pounds out right, or make payment spread over three years, donating $16 a month to the school, after which the pupils will be allowed to take home the iPad.
- Cedars School of Excellence (K to 12 private school) near Glascow, Scotland, has given 105 students an iPad. (here’s their blog with some lovely photos of happy students using iPads.)
- St. Andrew school (K-12 private school) in Savannah, Georgia is deploying 480 iPads to students.
- Long Island University is deploying 6000 iPads to students and faculty. Full time undergraduate freshman are eligible to receive an Apple iPad. (“The need for PCs is starting to die,” – Long Island University CIO George Baroody)
there are lots of problems with using iPads in the classroom. Let’s get a few things out of the way right away:
- One. We know iPads are incredibly expensive. The cheapest iPad 2 (including the smart cover) will cost around $600. A class set of 30 iPads and we’re looking at $18,000. (How does that compare with the cost of a regular lab?)
- Two. We know it will be difficult to roll out software installations and upgrades across your entire iPad lab. (We are hopeful that the new iOS 5 will make this a little easier, especially now that you can upgrade your iPad over the air without syncing to iTunes. We also like how new app purchases will automatically appear on all of your IOS devices that use the same iTunes account.)
- Three. We know how distracting technology can be. We know how easy it is for students to flip to a different app when they should be working in class. (You can’t install monitoring software like NetSupport, but iOS does allow you to enable parental restrictions that prevent students from using certain apps or installing/deleting apps. At least you can prevent students from installing Angry Birds on a school iPad.)
- Four. We know how tempting it would be to steal an iPad from the classroom. Even if you install Find my iPhone, you’re going to need a generic pass code that all the students will know and so in theory, it could be pretty easy for students to steal an iPad and then reset it to factory conditions which would wipe the find my iPhone app.
We’re not sure how to make a class set of iPads a reality, but we know it needs to happen. Here’s why.
We’re not going to talk about how quick iPads are.
- From the time that you enter your pass code, with a tap and a swipe, you’re ready to be productive – whether it’s taking notes for a history lesson, doing independent reading, or writing an essay, it takes literally seconds.
- (Compare that with the time it takes to boot up your netbook or laptop computer, log into Windows, and open your application – we’re talking minutes, if not more, depending on the quality of your lab.)
- An iPad could literally replace the heavy binders and textbooks that students need to bring to the class.
We’re also not going to talk about how easy it is to create and access content in the cloud using your iPad.
- We are eagerly waiting to see what Apple does with iCloud and iOS 5 – photos, books, apps, and documents are supposed to be synced and pushed wirelessly across all of your devices “effortlessly.”
- In the meanwhile, you can use Google Docs to create and share documents and access your work easily at school, or at home.
- If you install DropBox on your home computer and on your iPad, it’s easy to move files back and forth. (Although on a shared iPad, you would have to constantly log out of your dropbox account and we’re not sure what information actually gets stored on your iPad itself. With Google Docs, everything is stored in the cloud.)
Heck, we’re not going to talk about notetaking apps on the iPad like Note Taker HD, Evernote, or AudioNote.
- Students can type notes, handwrite designs, copy down diagrams, draw graphs, use mathematical expressions, and even take photographs of your blackboard or whiteboards to add to their notes.
- It’s easy to share PDFs of your notes with your students, and it’s easy for students to share notes with each other.
- Heck, AudioNote even lets you record a lesson as you type and afterwards, just click on the word and your iPad will jump to that part of the recording. (We wish we had this back in university. Think about it, you’re reviewing your notes from a lecture, and he didn’t quite understand what you wrote? Just click on that part in your notes, and you can automatically listen to that section of lecture. For privacy reasons, we can’t see this happening use in the K-12 education system, but it’s still a great app.)
Instead, we’re going to talk about literacy. You can call it boys literacy, or differentiated learning, but the fact of the matter is, the iPad is an incredible literacy tool for the classroom. It is so easy to access online content in a multimedia way, that it is much more engaging than a traditional print library.
If you’re an English teacher or a Language Arts teacher, chances are you’ve invested a lot of money in buying literacy resources for your class library, not to mention the money that’s gone into your school’s literacy room and library.
With an iPad and a Wi-Fi connection, you have access to a gazillion resources on the Internet. Yup, the iPad doesn’t do flash websites, but there are a heck of a lot of apps in the iTunes store. Here are some iPad apps that will engage student reading.
(App #1) iBooks. Sure, you can upload hundreds of really old and outdated (but free) books to your iPad. Chances are, your students do not want to read Dracula. You’ll probably end up buying e-books, but with a new iOS 5, buy a book, push the button, and your book gets synced to all of your devices. (Unfortunately, if you bookmark a page, the bookmark this post all of your devices as well. There is also a limit to the number of devices you can sync with one account. Chances are, most of us will only have a small iPad lab, so this won’t be a problem.)
(App #2) Kobo. They have an iPad app as well. They also claim that you can “enjoy library synchronization across all your Kobo apps” which in theory means that you can use multiple kobo apps with a single global account. In other words, you should be able to buy a book once and then push it over to your iPads. (We’re not sure if there’s a limit to the number of devices you can sync to a single kobo account, but the fact that you can buy a single e-book and share it with multiple students is really significant. How many times have you bought multiple copies of a book for literature circles or class novel study?)
Sure, you could use Safari to browse Wikipedia, but sometimes it’s just easier to click an app. (We’re always surprised at how difficult it is for some students to access specific websites when we ask them to – spelling errors.)
- (App #3) Wikipanion basically just shows you the content of the Wikipedia article without the sidebars.
- (App #4) Discover is a cool app that lets you read Wikipedia articles like a magazine. The cool thing about Discover is that if you hold down a word, it’ll highlight the word (or phrase like “Harry Potter”) and show you the definition. Both apps have a search engine which means that students can find topics that they want to read about.
- (App #5) Qwiki is a very cool iPad app. It’s a multimedia, highly engaging way of combining images, videos, maps and text to describe millions of topics. For those of your who have reluctant readers who need high-interest low-vocab texts to catch their interests, Qwiki is a great app to engage your students – the app narrates the text as it displays the text and the Qwiki facts are significantly shorter than Wikipedia articles. The Qwiki app can tell you facts about local areas based on your current location or based on a search term that you type in. A lot of the information seems to come out of Wikipedia, although images can be pulled from several sources. Just make sure your students bring in headphones.
There are lots of news apps out there that you can install for your iPad. Some news organization publish a lot of content, while other apps only show teaser content before requiring a paid subscription.
You can access headline articles and videos from many news outlets including the Globe and Mail, CNN, National Post, New York Times, CBC news, Ottawa Citizen, etc. The satire newspaper, the Onion, is also available (and was launched on April Fools’ Day). (Apps #6-12)
For the students in your class who are into sports, (App #13) TSN has an app that lets you read headlines and watch videos. They cover sport news for the NHL, CFL, NBA, NFL, MLB, golf, soccer, tennis, raising, curling, etc.
Website reading apps
In this modern day and age, newspapers and magazines are no longer the only source of information about the world. It is so easy to publish content online that anyone and everyone can become a source of information. Look at Wikipedia. Look at how social media is breaking news first, and mobilizing people.
Reading doesn’t just mean reading novels anymore. Websites (and other nontraditional texts such as graphic novels) are becoming recognized as respectable sources for reading. (Me, Read? And How! Ontario Teachers Report on How to Improve Boys Literacy Skills Page 9)
Here are some apps to help students read websites.
- (App #14) Hitpad is cool. It’s an app that shows you what topics are trending today as well as the short list of news articles, videos, photos, tweets, and website articles about those trending topics.
- (App #15) FLUD news is a cool way to read the most recent posts on various trending websites. You can also customize the app to add your own class website, so if your students do any sort of blogging in the classroom, this is a quick way for them to access what their classmates have been writing.
- (App #16) Flipboard is another cool way to access the web. It basically turns the Internet into a magazine that you can flip through articles with the swipe of a finger. The cool thing about Flipboard is that you can customize it to read your Google feed, Twitter account, Facebook, or other social media which can be a good thing or bad thing depending on whether you consider those forms of nontraditional texts, “reading”
Photo Credit: flickingerbrad
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