Another Week in the Life of the iPad Pilot

So,  I’ve finished my second full week of integration and it’s going…well, it’s going. There are definitely unexpected challenges that have crept up.  Although I am doing more with my students, I am beginning to feel that that the iPad is better as a learning tool rather than as a teaching tool.  Sites I am attempting to use aren’t fully integrated or compatible with the iOS or with the iPad platform.  The kids have been great, but I am finding that they are not really that tech savvy.  It truly been been a learning process for me.

Like the students, I love having the iPad.  It has helped me to be more organized, it’s helped me to be more mobile and it’s helped me to be a lot more efficient in terms of finding resources for the students and me to use. MentorMob, a collaboration website was my first true foray into collaboration and while it was useful as an exercise, it also showed the difficulty with collaboration, open source and relying too heavily on the technology.  Although I instinctively knew this going in, use of technology has to be a blend of the old and the new.  I am finding that while I can really teach students a lot about smart use of the web, it’s not a great tool for actually DOING chemistry. Chemistry is best done in the lab with the iPad supporting the learning through on-line support activities like tutorial websites, or playlists such as those created by students on the MentorMob website. Computational programs are good and helpful, but for first-year chemistry students nothing can replace the hands-on labs that we do during each week.

Other ‘findings’ suggest that the students can and will check email, blogs or web pages IF and only IF they know that failure to do so will result in a lower grade.  Calendar Alerts have helped dramatically since the alerts are sent directly to the iPad.  The chimes and physical alerts work.  But, the real truth is that students are still enamored with and excited about having an iPad and are thus “showing” off their new toys.  I’m okay with that, but also wondering what will happen over the long haul when the ‘newness’ wears off and they don’t feel special any longer?

Another positive seems to be that the students like to take notes on the iPad both during class and while doing homework.  They are also requesting to load apps that they believe will assist them with their productivity and/or organization.  In most cases, I have allowed them to do this after checking the app myself. It seems that they are being thoughtful and discreet as they seek ways to help themselves as learners.

My final observation is that the students enjoy the social part of using the iPad.  This is good in as much as it taps a strength that we all know that they have.  In some cases, the socializing has been through FaceTime or chatting.  But they are also chatting about assignments and class-related stuff.  This is good.  FB, along with other social media and social tools can be helpful and at least in early phases of this pilot, are proving to be helpful as students contact me and each other about class-related stuff.

Last words…in the early discussions, Jesse, our Tech Guru shared his insights comparing iPads and Google Chrombooks.  He suggested that the iPads were better for learning input while the Chromeboks were seemingly better for learning output.  After two weeks and a few days I am beginning to see the wisdom of his insights.  We’ve got a ways to go and I look forward to the continued challenges as well as to the new things that we will learn.

Until next week…

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