Thursday, 20 June 2013

Five practical tips for iPad success in the classroom

When embarking on any process involving change it’s vital to prepare your teaching staff and students through communication, encouraging involvement and managing resistance.  Once you have planned your launch, at the stage of initiation the first goal is to build iPads into all daily school activities carried out by educators and learners. Start by ensuring staff begin to transfer daily routine tasks to their iPads and that they don’t relapse if they are pushed for time or other factors make it more appealing to use paper-based options.

The speed and success of the realignment will, however, be dependent on several factors:
  • Leadership team’s commitment to the change process (management)
  • Ensuring the infrastructure and resources are in place to support students and staff (preparation)
  • Communication of the new initiative and prior warning of the switch-over (communication) 
  • Staff’s understanding of and ability to demonstrate iPad best practice (training)
At the helm should be at least one senior leader, fully fluent and competent on the uses of iPads in education and who in the beginning can offer support and guidance on successfully transferring daily routines onto an iPad. While here at LearnersCloud we offer exam-tailored GCSE tutor videos that complement staff’s teaching strategies, it’s clear that many attempts to integrate mobile technology in the classroom fail or are at least delayed due to the lack of a skilled and experienced iPad leader. Here’s a simple checklist of iPad good practices that senior leaders must understand if they are to achieve successful integration:

Five everyday iPad practices that staff need to know:


     Adobe reader for mobile
  1. Getting the format right: Converting and sharing documents in pdf formats is a fundamental toolthat will make websites, LMS and shared folder files accessible at any time. When using our laptops, PCs and notebooks we tend to use Word, Excel or PowerPoint but these should not be the final file types that are shared. Most free and paid-for Adobe Readers allow users to view, complete, sign and annotate the form or task sheet.

    Converting to pdf is essential, not only to secure the content of a document but also to ensure it displays appropriately across multiple devices, without the condition of needing the proprietary software (Microsoft Office).
  2. Making communication easier: While email is by no means dead, students don’t regularly check their inboxes and so essential information, actions and feedback could be missed. Combine email with an instant messaging service such as iMessage or your LMS’s in-built messaging service or even Twitter or Wikispaces Classroom. In this way, teachers can guarantee that all students have been given equal opportunity to view the message and reply to the owner (i.e. the teacher).

    To communicate externally, most schools now have their own websites which allow them to announce school-related information to parents and the wider community. However, iPads have not needed the facility to update HYML as social networks − Facebook being a notable example − have now supplemented parents’ access to school information. As they like their children are consumers in a digital-age and while they will search for more information when needed, it’s useful to have an instant feed that they can access quickly and conveniently. And one that teachers can update instantly via their iPads.
  3. Bringing learning to life: One of the key benefits of using iPads in education is the use of imagery to engage learners and bring the learning experience to life. While flipped classrooms and the use of tutor-led videos may be a more advanced prospect, senior leaders will need to decide on a file upload and storage process that all teachers use. This is an important practice to ensure students and teachers can share images and also enable teachers to share work and images with colleagues directly from their iPads. Using online tools such as Pinterest and flickr offers easy file storage and management, and while Apple devices may not support website updating, social sharing sites can provide an embedded code that can be simply added to a school’s website or blog code.
  4. Appealing to students’ preferences: As I’ve mentioned, flipped learning may be a goal in the next phase of your digital integration scheme, but for many young people video is replacing paper and text when it comes to sourcing information. When we’re online and want to find out a definition or broader explanation of a term we’ll often search on Wikipedia or eHow. For the younger generations video would be the preferred choice, and sites like YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo would be their first step to understand information quickly.

    Young people are not only benefitting from content posted on these sites, they are also contributing, often using their mobile devices to capture and upload videos to their own personal page. This, however, should not be seen as a threat to learning but rather an opportunity. Teachers are looking at new ways to harness students’ creativity and offer them a platform that allows them to show off their understanding and even to start learning from each other’s videos.

    It’s significant that an official system is set up to organise class work and courses from the outset, to fairly showcase students’ work and to optimise search and storage. YouTube has been developed with mobile compatibility at its core and works seamlessly with Apple devices. I’d recommend setting up a school Google account from which a YouTube channel can be created and playlists can be added for different classes, courses and year groups. Administrators can then be added to enable students and teachers to login and upload content. This channel can then be embedded into your school’s website, so that the latest content to be added updates continuously on your site.
  5. Progress updates: Using blogs and advice articles are a great way to keep staff and students informed on the progress of the integration programme. A senior leader’s blog becomes a way of documenting the school’s experiences by encouraging guest posts and individual case examples. In this way the school can identify successful applications and recommend tips and techniques for others to use. Linked to the school’s website and communicated through their social networks – the whole community becomes involved in the digital integration.

The important point to take away from this article is that forming a strong foundation of basic skills is essential. Individuality and creativity will naturally follow but by transferring daily tasks onto the iPad, possible resistors to change are slowly persuaded. They begin with small, easy-to-follow tasks that help them to build their confidence in the resource until those that once categorised themselves as technophobic become curious and start to branch out, stretching their ability and using more advanced applications and web tools.