Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Introduction of iPads

This post is long overdue and as I have been stewing on this blog post for a few weeks now, I finally am sitting down to write it. I had the wonderful opportunity to implement iPads into my 1st period Algebra class a few weeks ago thanks to my district and to our wonderful tech coordinators! After a semester of training and many conversations with colleagues and other teachers who have implemented iPads I was finally ready to begin. We started by teaching the students how to use the iPad and a few essential apps. Notability, the Drive, Explain Everything, iTunes U, Tellagami, KidBlog, and Khan Academy. We took a little over two weeks off of math and just worked on getting to know our iPads and how the workflow would work. We luckily found out about gClass Folders which worked amazingly with the setup of our drive and allows for very easy sharing of material and turning work in for the students. We have a running daily agenda that the students look at each day to find their tasks at hand and get to work right away. I keep saying we because I am lucky enough to be doing this with 2 of my closest colleagues Tina and Sarah. They are my lifesavers right now as well as Ann! I am not sure how I would have been able to do this on my own!
The students are loving the iPads and having a device in their hands. We are working on our blogs and they are improving each time we blog and I am hoping to be able to share them with the world soon! Yesterday we focused a good chunk of time on Khan Academy. If you are a math teacher and are not using this yet YOU NEED TO!!! It allows for my students to work at their own pace on the skills that they need to in order to improve their math skills. We worked for 30 minutes and I reflected my iPad up on the screen with our classes energy points. Once we as a class hit 100,000 energy points we are having a donut party! We started the day yesterday around 30,000 points and ended around 90,000 so we are close! This helps bring out the competitive edge in the students and at the same time allows those that are at a lower level to compete just as evenly as those at a higher level! I LOVE IT!
We did a wonderful activity today with QR codes. I took the students down to our senior commons and laid out 24 QR codes that had different problems on them. I had the students going back and forth from i-nigma to notability to answer their questions and then at the end they shared their answers with me in their drive! The students love being out of the room and up and moving. It also helps because then my students can go at all different paces and not feel bad for being too slow or bored being too fast! It really changes my views on differentiation completely. It is harder and harder for me to teach my other classes each day without the iPads because I know how much more I could be doing for them if they had a device in their hand. I am going to try and do as many activities as possible with iPads in those classes, but I am not doing a shared model as I believe the iPad is a personal device and I think the students love knowing that it is their device. I have a student in another class who is at a very high level and is bored often so I signed him up with Khan Academy last week on a review day since he was done with his work and let him go. He earned almost 10,000 energy points in just that one sitting and was already working on math I would have never been able to teach him while still working with my other students! He asked me yesterday that if he set a goal and made that goal if he could have his own iPad. We talked about what he meant by that and he just meant one of my spare iPads that he could put his name in and work on whenever he was done with his other work. I said ABSOLUTELY! His goal is 100,000 energy points on his own. I love that he is learning math while working towards a goal.
Tomorrow we start in on math. We are using iTunes U to share the course materials and then letting the students work at their own pace knowing there is a set date for the units end give or take a few days. This will allow those students who need the extra practice ample amounts of time and opportunities while those who catch on quickly can move ahead and then do more in-depth projects that help them with the understanding piece of the Algebra that most of the students will not have time for. We will still bring them together and work as a class somedays, but others my students will be at different paces completely and I will be more of a mentor and support along the way as they take on the journey of learning the 2nd semesters material. I am very nervous and excited to see how they do on their own pace. I know some will need a lot of support in the beginning, but I think I will be able to differentiate in a way that I was never capable of doing in the past!
All in all I have had a blast implementing iPads. It has been a lot of work and will continue to be work, but it is work that is worth it and will pay off as I see my students improve on a daily basis!