Last year my school, Trinity Valley, supported my grant request in purchasing an iPad for me to use as a teaching tool. This past summer, they have also rolled out an initiative for the faculty – providing a small number of iPads for the faculty and staff to ‘play with’ and use how they see fit. I have now had my iPad for about a year and I am regularly asked by inquisitive colleagues, students, and administrators – just how am I using my iPad as a teaching tool?
Outside the Classroom, “Invisible Use”
There are many ways that I use the iPad outside of the classroom – and I would say that this is my primary usage. I use it to access journal articles using an app called Papers. It allows me to store, organize, and annotate journal articles. I use it to keep up to date on my subject area as well as teaching methodologies and pedagogy. This is highly portable and readily accessible.
I also use it to keep up with news and blogs via my Google RSS Reader (see my earlier post, “RSS Readers – Keeping Up With Your News & Blogs“). I like to use a program called Reeder, which has an iPhone, iPad, and Mac Application that all sync and it is hooked up to my Google RSS Reader. It’s a great way to keep up to date on current events, topics on your subject areas, and your friends’ favorite blogs – especially on the go. When I find myself in a long line at the post office, I will open up Reeder to catch up on the news.
I also use it to access and tweak my lesson plans, notes, and PowerPoints. The best tools for this are Apple’s Office suite, iWork, with the applications (with an iOS counterpart) Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. Apple’s new iCloud service will sync documents between device (this is fairly new, so I haven’t done much with it). However, I have found that the best way to sync documents between devices is a handy free program called DropBox. If you’re not familiar with DropBox, check out my earlier post “DropBox – An Excellent and *Free* Resource for Educators.”
In addition to these tools, I use it to access email and manage my calendar. It’s a great computing tool for people constantly on the go – like most educators.
What About In the Classroom?
In addition to using it as a portable computer and eReader, I also actively employ my iPad in the classroom. One simple and direct means of use is to plug it in to the projector and use it to project my KeyNote presentations. It’s a great, portable means of using Presentation software. Plus, my students are all willing to sign over their lunch money for a chance to ‘do the slides.’ I can also put my notes for the day on my iPad (accessible everywhere, no need to print up and risk losing while I move from classroom to classroom). Also, I can read it if I dim or turn off the lights – not doable with standard paper.
However, there are far more creative and fun ways to use it. The most common in classroom means of use for me is as a second screen with programs like “Poll Everywhere” and “mindmeister.” This way, I can use my primary display to project a program screen and my iPad as the secondary screen, by which I employ moderator tools. For example, I can enable a back-channel chat using “Poll Everywhere” (see my previous post, “First Day Using Poll-Everywhere” and “Using Poll-Everywhere Day 2.” I can put the primary display screen on the projector, so this is what my students see:
However, I can be moderating in the background, keeping inappropriate posts off the screen (and even identifying who made them). Just an FYI, I made this one up, my students would never pull such a stunt:
Another program I’ve just started using with my students is mindmeister. Again, I can put up a map on the primary screen while I moderate it on my iPad. This means that I can quietly keep control of how my classroom – prevention misbehavior from detracting from the exercise and our activity.
This is how I’ve been using the iPad directly for education having owned it for less than a year. It’s a great tool – easy to use, a low learning curve, and ready access to tons of tools and materials. I know that as developers produce more applications and my colleagues employ it more in their classrooms, I will only use it more and more – perhaps upgrading to an iPad 2 or 3.