Teaching and Learning: Using iPads in the Classroom
What would I do if I had thirty iPads in my classroom and no idea what to do with them? What would I do with them to help my students learn more effectively and to help me teach more effectively? Perhaps a better question is: what would I be able to accomplish with them that I couldn’t accomplish with other, more readily available, and less expensive tools? iPads are unquestionably less expensive than computers, whether desktop or laptop, and they are also more mobile.
Speaking of computers, they were intended to usher in a new era of teaching and learning that would be unlike anything we had ever experienced before. Although there has been a shift in certain aspects, the fundamentals of teaching and learning have stayed unaltered. Perhaps the iPad will be the technology that truly transforms the way students learn in the classroom. With that in mind, I’d want to offer some of the unique characteristics of the iPad as well as some apps, some of which are free, that you may use and explore.
With several unique features, the iPad offers a variety of intriguing possibilities in the areas of education and learning. The iPad’s motion sensor has a variety of unique learning applications that are worth exploring. Most students today would be classed as bodily-kinesthetic learners, which is the most common type. Students can use their hands to guide the iPad to equilibrium, balance abilities, or remote control of real or virtual robotics, hovercraft, or other vehicles using the motion sensor. To determine the level of a wall or surface, as well as the specific angles of inclination or descent, students can utilize the Clineometer mobile application. The internal accelerometers in the iPad can be used to measure the acceleration or change in the force of physics experiments performed on the device. Consider the possibility of bringing your iPad on a roller coaster trip. Imagine calculating angles and forces, then launching weird birds from a slingshot, smashing buildings, and clashing with green pig heads (have you ever heard of Angry Birds?) to see how far you can get. In gym class, students can use rubberized iPads and iPods to track their levels of exertion, balance, and repetitions.
Because the iPad camera is a completely portable learning tool, it allows for documentation to be taken to a whole new level. Field Notes LT is an app that not only allows students to create detailed notes about their observations, but also allows them to attach the date, time, GPS location, and images of what they have observed. These notes can be shared, collaborated on, and published in real-time while out in the field.
Students can also attach films and voice recordings to their field notes in addition to writing them down. They can use the Dragon Dictation app on the iPad to dictate to the device, and the app will type their words. Students can use the Assemblee software to construct a collaborative web with their iPads connected to the same network but located in separate locations, allowing them to exchange discoveries and discuss conclusions regarding diverse viewpoints on the same subject.
In math class, the iPad’s GPS establishes location in a variety of significant ways. Students can use the Map app that is provided to calculate distances, compare itineraries, and determine the exact speeds of the westbound and eastbound trains, which are frequently encountered in word problems. When using apps such as the Google Earth app, Big Blue Marble HD, and others to provide real-time images, maps, and meteorological data, the mathematics involved in trip planning and decision-making comes to life. TourWrist, an app developed by Google, provides students with 360-degree views — or “tours” — of places of interest all over the world. Students can use DerManDar to shoot their 360-degree photos of the areas they visit on their own time.
Connecting Beyond the Classroom
The mobility given by the iPad’s wireless telephone connection feature, on the other hand, allows students to have unprecedented access to the Internet no matter where they are. This is a true “information on demand” situation. When questions emerge, students can use Google to find answers and insights that will help them begin their research. Even more significantly, students can have access to large numbers of primary source documents and data through the iPad phone connection, which can be used to assist them in their investigations whether they are in or out of the classroom, on the bus, in a restaurant, or at a football game.
A technique for exchanging data with other computers and devices over the Internet or “cloud” has been devised because iPads do not have USB connections, disc drives, or CDROM/DVD capabilities. Dropbox allows students to create a personal account in which they can save iPad-created papers, images, field notes, and other types of media, among other things. They can also access those papers from any other computer or device that is connected to the Internet. Using Evernote to keep track of their notes and Mendeley to arrange their research documents, students will be able to take their studies done on their computers with them wherever they go, saving them time and effort. Students can download thousands of classic books from the Project Gutenberg website, which can then be read on any number of free book reader apps that are available. Because of this software, students can access the whole Houghton-Mifflin Algebra One textbook, as well as exercises and aids for studying algebra, on their mobile devices at any time.
Remote Mouse, an iPad application, allows teachers to operate their computers from their iPad while they are walking around the classroom and interacting with students. The iPad application Prezi Player allows teachers to display their unique and creative Prezi presentations created on their computers to their students utilizing a simple cable and the Prezi Player application on their iPad. The document can be controlled by the teacher by just pinching, twisting, and sliding their fingers across the iPad’s screen.
Beyond the zillions of games, tutorials, and meaningless apps that are accessible for free, a dedicated teacher can uncover hidden gems of iPad apps that engage and challenge the minds of their students in innovative ways. The following are some of my favorite games: Lasers Free, Trainyard EX, Words with Friends, and Contre Jour (which is not free but is well worth the $.99).