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iPads in my classroom… now what?

July 26, 2010

I’m very fortunate that I’ll have access to a classroom set of ipads this fall.  It’ll be the first investment in ipads for the school.  The challenge will be to make the best use of them possible.  These are my thoughts so far (in no particular order), but I’d love to hear what others are planning or any suggestions people might have for best use.

smartNote screenshots

1.  Note-taking and practice problems– I’ve looked at a number of note-taking apps and it looks like Smartnote ($2.99) will work best for me.  I like the idea that I can provide a framework (outline or activity) in the form of a pdf and these can be downloaded to the ipad, marked up and annotated, and saved on both the ipad and in a Dropbox account of the student’s choosing.  This app also has the added feature that ‘notebooks’ in the app can be password protected so that students sharing the same ipad can protect their work from other students.  They can also upload or share their work with me in a shared dropbox folder.  I’m hoping this all works out.  It’s not as easy as using google docs to share work but I’m sure we’ll be able to get into a workable routine.  This is likely to be a daily app.

iLab: Timer screenshots

2.  Lab tools – right now there are some great calculator apps and timers.  I’m currently using TouchCalc (free) and iLab: Timer HD. (   Both of these are great for the lab.  SpaceTime is also a great app which I think could replace their TI-whatevers for only $20 or so.  (It perform all the trig and calculus functions and creates beautiful graphs, but you wont’ be able to bring it into the SAT or AP exams).  There are also some limited measurement tools right now – like Multi Measures HD ($0.99).  I’m sure that more will follow.  Pasco has also developed an interface to use their lab sensors using the Sparkvue app.  Since I don’t have Pasco sensors, I’ll have to wait for Vernier to get on board or for the next budget cycle.

3.  Analysis and Writing Tools – I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use the spreadsheets and forms from google docs for students to input, and analyze data and to communicate results.  I know they can’t create a form on the ipad right now, but they can certainly input data and access and edit the spreadsheets.  They can also write up their lab results.  For this, I expect to use Office2 HD. ($7.99)  This is a great way to access google docs and although it’s limited in terms of the tools available, it should be sufficient for classroom use.  I’m not too enamored of the the iworks apps only because its so darned difficult to share the documents the way I need to.

4. Simulations and Creations – Unfortunately, there are gobs of physics simulations that I won’t be able to show on the ipad since they are predominantly flash animations.  There are, however,  lots of demos on youtube that we’ll be able to use as illustrations or discussion points.    There are also some interactive science apps, but none that I’m in love with.  I do have “G” ($1.99) which illustrates gravitational forces between planets.  For now, I’ll just be using youtube or other online videos until I find some good apps.  On the creation side, I expect to use things like Reel Director (with photo editing in Photogene ) to have students create video responses. Unfortunately, this might be too time consuming to do in the classroom.  We’ll see.

EMD PTE screenshot - Periodic Trends

5.  Research and Resource – I expect to have pdfs (which I create), and CK12 textbooks (free) loaded on iBooks for student resources.   In addition, students have the internet at their fingertips if I want to direct them that way.  In terms of apps, as a chemistry teacher, I  love the periodic table app  EMD PTE (free) which gives a wealth of info about the elements and periodic trends (with some interactive features as well).  I might also load the Wolfram Alpha app ($1.99).

6.  eClicker interactions – I like the eClicker Host ($9.99 for teacher) and eClicker (free for students) apps for doing on-the-fly and planned clicker questions.  At this time, it only accepts multiple choice and true-false type questions.  It might be nice to have the capability to input numeric data at some point, but for now, its a nice  way to have classroom clickers without needing an additional piece of hardware. (This system also works without a classroom set of ipads – students can use any device that connects to the internet.)

7.  Moodle/Webassign assignments – I use the online homework system called webassign for practice problems in chemistry and physical science.  There are times when we are working on these in class or going over some of the problems.  They will have quick access to this as I place the shortcut on the ipad desktop.  I’ll also have some assignments on moodle but the rich text editor is not available on mobile safari so this may not be the best use, but it will still be good to follow other links and possibly some hotpotatoes activities I’ve created on my moodle page.

So that’s what’s planned.  (We all know what happens to plans.)  After looking at my list, I see that I’m going to have to introduce the kids to some of these things slowly so as not to cloud the subject with the tools.  To be effective, the technology will need to be viewed as no big deal.  It took a few months for my students to get used to gdocs, but I recognized that once they started using it for things outside my classroom, it no longer was a hurdle but a useful method of collaborating…  Any thoughts?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Charles Herzog permalink
    July 26, 2010 1:52 am

    Thanks for sharing how you’ll be using the iPads. Indeed, you’re fortunate to have a student set of them. One question; why not invest in netbooks rather than iPads? They’re cheaper, and many, if not all the apps you need can be found online for free. You could still use PDFs, and access websites using Flash.

    Thanks again.

    • mzmacky permalink*
      July 26, 2010 2:46 am

      There are pluses and minuses on both counts. It’s clearly not the same as having laptops for each child. This is new to all of us, for sure. I think we’re looking at the touch screen interactivity and the Apple reliability as well access to low cost apps etc. as some of the justification. Since most of our school is mac based, this is a logical choice for us. I also think that since moving to macs v. pc’s we’ve reduced our maintenance issues so that may also play into the choice. I know some grumble about the iPads, but for me… I’m excited… and I think the kids will be as well. Thanks for your comment!

  2. August 2, 2010 12:52 pm

    This is really cool! You must be so excited! I was thinking recently about putting in for a grant to get a class set of ipod Touches and one ipad. Do you think that would do some of the things you mentioned in your post?

    PS – I will refer to this post when I approach my tech dept for the grant work to be done!
    And I love the name of your site!

    • mzmacky permalink*
      August 2, 2010 1:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I have used ipods informally in class but not on this scale. My clear choice would be to have ipads all around to get the full function. Many of the utility apps are perfect on the ipods, however, like the calculators, timers, maps, flashcards, periodic tables, wolfram-alpha. To me, these are all fine on the smaller screen. What you miss, however, are the notetaking and media creation apps which, while available for ipods, aren’t as easily manipulated or seen on the small screen. That may just be my bias from older eyes, I’m not sure that the students would be just as comfortable with the smaller screen. Best of luck to you. I’d love to hear your progress.

  3. August 15, 2010 11:29 pm

    A fantastic number of apps, but more importantly, ideas on how you are going to use them in the classroom. Thanks for the post. You may be interested in the podcast I have started on Our school is part of a 1:1 iPad trial for two year levels. It would be great to keep in contact and share ideas.



  4. August 17, 2010 6:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Have you heard about the new volume pricing plan for schools? Our school just won a grant and I’ll have ipads as well. I was originally planning on buying one copy of each app and syncing to multiple devices. Now I’m not sure how that will work. This could get expensive. Does your school have money budgeted for apps? Apparently, app developers can decide to discount multiple app purchases up to 50%? This could still add up in a hurry. Any thoughts?

    • mzmacky permalink*
      August 18, 2010 11:54 am

      Since my classroom ipads will all be syncing to one itunes account, we only needed to purchase one copy of the apps which I purchased at full price. (just before discount program, of course). I had spoken with the support people at Apple and they confirmed that we can have as many devices as we want synced to one itunes account. Right now I have roughly $65 dollars in apps installed. I’d say that’s a pretty small investment for the whole class. Some schools are setting up 1:1 programs where the students are taking the devices home and therefore need to sync to their own computer. In these cases, the volume discount for apps will be very helpful.

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