The other presentation I did at TMEA/TI:ME 2015 was the one above. If you missed the presentation slides for Teaching Untethered, click HERE. I was very excited to give this presentation because management and organization are definitely my strong qualities. Plus, there seem to be a lot of presentations about apps and programs to use but not a lot on the actual use of them in a typical classroom.
What is the point? Why implement technology in your classroom?
The role of technology is to ENHANCE, not replace, teaching and learning. Effective teaching can not be replaced by technology (no matter what _________________ (insert big business claiming to know what is best for education without any actual experience here). Pah-hah-hah!
Technology is a tool; not a reward. It is so heartbreaking to see these fantastic devices being used solely by students when they finish their work. Powerful tools in education reduced to a gameboy.
Technology is not the end-all-be-all. It doesn’t have to permeate every facet of your classroom to be effective. It is a tool; not your curriculum.
Starting off “Things to Know/Do Before Getting iPads,” is Logistics. How is it going to go down? Are you going to get a class set, a small group set, or one? Are you going to have them all the time or do you have to share/check out?
Next, we have Infrastructure. What are the capabilities of the network at your school? The day that my district was told to update the iOS on our devices, no one could get anything downloaded because the network couldn’t handle everyone updating at the same time. Another facet of infrastructure is connectivity. How are students going to get onto the wireless network? I’ll tell you, trying to log into the network on 22 devices because the kids don’t have their own logins and/or the network kicks everyone off the wifi at intervals that I couldn’t quite figure out is incredibly frustrating.
Onto to Funding. Although there are a lot of awesome free apps, there will come a time when a paid app catches your eye. What is the procedure for purchasing apps? Apple has Volume Purchasing for Schools. Does your campus technology team know about that? What are the purchasing procedures? Do you go through your campus principal or the technology department? Does funding for apps come out of your classroom budget (which, for some, in no much if anything).
Regarding Security, when you put a wifi-connected iPad in a child’s hands, you are opening a proverbial can of worms if you don’t have security measures and procedures in place to protect yourself and your students. Hopefully, your district tech team will have measures in place but that doesn’t negate effective classroom management in regards to these tools. Have your heard of Guided Access? It can lock students into an app through Settings but you’re totally going to have to do that through each individual device each time you use it. What procedures are you going to have in place within your classroom in regards in security?
What are you going to do to store all of these devices? What kind of cases are available to use? We use the iGuys for the little ones but they are a beast to get off and on which you have to do to get them in the charging cabinet (seen in the picture above). Once, I let a 4th grader put cases back on the iPads and she shattered the screen trying to force the iGuy on. It was a complete accident (she was quite devastated though) but it was an unforeseen issue with the cases. I prefer having the iPads on a shelf for easy passing out/turning in but that’s just me. I know other teachers that prefer to have the iPads in student cubbies or stacked on a cabinet. Where is the best place within your classroom for easy (but not too easy) access?
How do you plan to charge these devices? The thing with a battery is that it has to be charged……frequently if used a lot. How are you expected to keep them charged? Will you have a charging cabinet (they are amazing) or will you be expected to run several chargers on a power strip (I’ve seen it done; it’s not pretty).
Finally (in this segment at least), how are you going to get tech support when you need it? This is pretty self-explanatory but it’s a good question to know the answer to in your situation.
There are certain things that you need to figure out (for yourself and your situation) when the iPads get into your classroom BEFORE you start putting them in students’ hands.
There are so many awesome apps. I started drinking the apple juice a long time ago and had my own personal iPad for a couple years before there was even talk about deployment within the district. However, some of my colleagues had no idea what to do with an iPad even as it was put into their hands. Do your research for what apps will be appropriate and helpful in your classroom. There are so many lists rating apps (both free and paid) for every subject. There are even apps with the function of recommending apps for various subjects in education. When you find an app you think might be worthy (yes, I said worthy because not all apps are created equal) to be used by your students in your classroom, test-drive it. Figure out what pitfalls your students may find while using it. Figure out if it really is effective as an instructional aide in your classroom. After you test-drive the app, rate it according to it’s usefulness. Just because it’s cute, doesn’t mean it is effective. Trust me; there are a ton of adorable apps that I would totally let my nieces (when they were younger, they are not into cutesy anymore) use but that doesn’t mean it is appropriate for me to use class time utilizing.
I mentioned this before but, start small. Just because the device can hold 50 apps doesn’t mean you need to decide on those 50 apps right this minute. Add as you see fit and/or necessary.
Finally, organize your apps to best suit yours and your students’ needs. Now that the iPads iOS allows for folders (which has been awhile but that wasn’t the case when I first got one), you can organize your apps based on concept or grade level. Some teachers really like the use of what’s called a OneScreen which has all of the pertinent apps for students on, literally, one screen. However, as music teachers with several grade levels, we might need more than one screen (may two or five, or six, whatevs).
I mentioned before about storing the devices in your classroom but this blurb is mostly about organizing the devices within the designated space. I use Custom Wallpapers like the one in the example above. The cases have the corresponding number on them so, when cases and iPads are separated, they can go to the mate. Mine correspond with my seating chart because I want the devices to be assigned. It is not easy to have assigned iPads but I prefer that level of organization because I think it creates accountability with the students when they know it can be traced back to them. You might prefer something else so do what is best for your classroom and students.
Headphones/Earbuds are a downright necessity with a class set of iPads, particularly in the music classroom. Do you want students to bring them own or do you want to purchase a set for your classroom use? Earbuds are gross when they are shared so I won’t suggest that but a class-set of headphones could be very helpful if you have it in the budget. Of course, you have to really trust your students (and have the management structure in place) when you give them a screen and headphones. What kind of headphones will you use? Those cheap, dollar headphones sure are a simple fix but they won’t last longer than a couple weeks.
Where will the children sit when they are using the devices? Will there be any restrictions? This picture is blurred but, during independent work, I let them pretty much sit wherever in the general vicinity of the classroom (not down the hall or in any corners) with one main restriction: they can not sit with their back against (or their back to) the wall. This goes back to security because, as teachers, we have the responsibility to be mobile within our classroom and actively monitor our students. One major way to actively monitor what students are doing on devices is to watch their screens. To do that, we have to always be able to see their screens. That’s during independent work. During group work/guided practice, students have the devices in their laps but, since they sit fairly close together, they can easily monitor each other (and they totally will do this; they LOVE to tattle). Even so, keep a close eye.
If your district does not have a usage contract signed by both the parent and student in place, your must take the initiative to create your own for your classroom. Make it easy for your students to understand depending on the age group. Make sure there are clear expectations and consequences.
I’ve already mentioned active monitoring so I won’t harp on it (but it is completely necessary).
Follow through on your consequences. This isn’t just for technology classroom management. This goes for all behavior and consequences in your classroom. If you say it, do it, otherwise, your students can’t trust you and, if they can’t trust you, you won’t be able to effectively teach them. If a student loses their device, have an instructional back-up plan for what happens next. I usually have paper versions of anything we do on the iPads. As I mentioned above, technology enhances the lesson instead of replaces it. If a student abuses the privilege of the enhancement, they still get the instruction regardless.
If you not currently doing this with all procedures, you should. Teach procedures as you would any other lesson in your curriculum. These lessons should not take hours upon hours (hopefully) but effective management is the key to effective instruction. You can’t teach music/math/science/etc if you don’t have control of your students and classroom.
Practice those procedures like you would do guided practice in your classroom.
Example: You want students to pick up their assigned iPad from the shelf (the example is apparently in my classroom). Tell the students how you want them to do. Show them how you want them to do. Show them how NOT to do it (sometimes I make this quite hilarious but that is probably frowned upon). Ask for volunteers to demonstrate how to pick up their assigned iPad. Ask students if there are any questions about picking up their assigned iPad. Have students practice picking up their iPads in small groups and see if the group can work together to have everyone in their group do it successfully and efficiently. Time your small groups to see which group can pick up their iPads the quickest while maintaining their success. Assess your students by asking guided questions about picking up their iPads.
I know that sounds like I’m either crazy or a control freak, however, you will (hopefully) NEVER have to remind students how to pick up their iPads on the shelf again. In the event that a student “forgets” or the group completely fails one day at picking up their iPads, have the practice it again. Reteach the procedure as you would any other lesson. Guess what? They won’t “forget” again because they know it will be retaught and/or practiced. Instead of wasting time getting onto your students daily for procedures, use this new-found time to TEACH. By the way, if this sounds sarcastic or holier-than-thou, I sincerely apologize. Sometimes my writing has that tone but it is completely unintentional.
Here is a list of procedures you need to teach and practice with your students. There may be more depending on your situation but this is a good start.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to implement technology in all of your classes. Pilot in one grade or even one class if you want. Experiment with your procedures to figure out exactly what works best.
Consider your scope and sequence: don’t just use an app because you think it is cool without any correlation to our curriculum. Align your iPad objective to the objective in your curriculum.
Objective: Students will compose a 4 measure, 16 beat pentatonic song in the key of G and then play it on a barred percussion instrument.
Objective Including Technology: Students will use IWriteMusicFree to compose a 4 measure, 16 beat pentatonic song in the key of G and then play it on a barred percussion instrument.
The objective is still basically the same and can be done completely without technology if necessary. The technology enhances the student’s experience with the objective because, with the app, students will be able to hear their composition before playing it. That way, they can make sure they like their composition and make sure it sounds good to their ear. With the ability to hear their composition as they learn to play it, they can make sure they play it correctly because the technology will not have mercy on them. Also, it frees up the teacher to monitor all of the students instead of constantly having to play their compositions or allow them to practice their mistakes.
Realize it isn’t going to be perfect and have a back-up plan. If your objectives are closely related, you can easily go back to your initial objective as necessary. Don’t let a hiccup get you down.
My district uses eBackpack so this decision was pretty much decided for me. I say pretty much because, even though eBackpack is a district-funded and organized, the students need logins to use it and I don’t have access to that information. Above is a list of apps/programs similar to eBackpack that have logins and passwords. Below is a list of other options for workflow.
Because eBackpack requires logins and passwords that I don’t have access to, I need back-up plans for getting information to and from the student. Furthermore, although we are supposed to use eBackpack, not every grade level seriously utilizes it so the students don’t know their logins/passwords or how to use the app. I use a combination of these resources to exchange information with students.
Download Apps for yourself. Don’t give out your iTunes password to students. It may seem easier to let them download apps but you open up a can of worms by giving them the power to download what they choose. If you really want the time-saver, go to Settings and enable automatic download on each of your devices. That way, each app you download using your iTunes account will download onto the devices associated with your account.
Try apps out beforehand. I mentioned this earlier but it merits repeating.
Have a clear objective. Don’t use technology for technology’s sake.
Look for potential pitfalls students may face. If you know as much about what could go wrong, you won’t be surprised by it.
Guided Access is a great tool for managing students.
NOTE: at TCEA, I was introduced to a program currently in beta called TabPilot. It allows the teacher complete freedom to control the students’ devices from either their device or a desktop computer. It looked super cool. I’m looking forward to trying it out and sharing with you when I know more.
Automatically sync apps rather than allow students the freedom to download onto the classroom devices.
Take care of the battery and monitor their usage. It used to be recommended that to let the battery go all the way to zero and then recharge but now, it seems the best place for the battery to be is around 50-70%. I’m no expert but it doesn’t hurt to know the facts.
Finally, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Have a back-up plan. I almost wrote a comment about not wanting to be caught with your pants down (since that is a figure of speech about being unprepared if you didn’t know) however, I have decided that is completely inappropriate (yet not inappropriate enough for me not to make a joke).
Here are some credits so you can get more information if you so choose. Technology graphics are courtesy of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs. Backgrounds are from PixelScrapper and the frame is from Lovin’ Lit.
Thanks for reading!