Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today is the day I've been waiting for since I was hired back in June.  When I went through the interview process I was told that the school was instituting a 1:1 iPad initiative in the middle school and high school and that the 5th and 6th grades would share a cart of 20 iPads to share.  In fact, it was because of my technology integration background that I was hired.  Initially my role at the school was partly to be a technology integration specialist, but that title got downgraded due to my course load.

Of course, there's one little problem.  Until July I had never touched an iPad and had no idea how to integrate it into the classroom.  Like most people who are remotely connected to the outside world, it wasn't too hard to read the writing on the wall.  The iPad was going to revolutionize the classroom like desktop computers did a dozen years ago.  I was excited to be hired by a school that saw this potential and wanted to get on board quickly.  However, I knew I had a lot to learn.

The school gave me an iPad midsummer to play with and I picked up a few apps.  However, until you see kids using the technology, it's all just theory. I was nervous to start a new year at a new school with new technology with expectations high that I would lead the way.  Then I discovered an odd twist... no wifi in the elementary building.  When I asked about it I was told that everything was in the works, but they had to hold off on the elementary angle of the iPads till October at the earliest.

What I thought was a negative turned into a positive in the end.  It took all of August and September to become comfortable at the new school.  Had I had to worry about iPads too, I might have had some serious health issues due to the stress.  Now that things have calmed down on other fronts I'm finally ready to tackle iPads in the classroom. (Though, they still aren't in the room, at least I'm ready.)

Today was Day 1 of iPad training.  The school brought in a rep from Apple to teach us how to use our iPads.  Tomorrow is the last day of the training.

The morning was, I admit, a bit boring. It was basically geared toward someone who just picked up an iPad for the first time.  I did learn a few new tips (like how to turn off an app), most of the morning was review of things I already knew to get everyone up to snuff.  I played a lot of Angry Birds and got caught up on some blogs and such.  Too bad Facebook, Twitter, and Words With Friends are blocked at the school.

The afternoon was a bit more informative and I walked away excited about a few things.  Here are some of the apps that we looked at and how I might be using them in the classroom.

  • Scan: This is to scan a QR code, something that I had never done before.  For some reason this is something that is taking America by storm in the consumer world.  It's cool to scan the code and have a site pop up, but in the end it's just a fancy way to call up a web site.  It was suggested to use QR codes in centers, and that is a cool idea.  This would help re-engage minds into an activity.  However, I think my students will be using an iPad 1, so without a camera... Moving on.
  • Alice in New York:  The link is for the Lite (free) version, and I'm excited about it!  It's an interactive novel based on Alice in Wonderland.  As our instructor said, the way books are being published is changing, and this app is an excellent display of what all books could look like down the road.  I would love to have the kids download this free version (for the whole story you need to buy the full version) and read it.  Then, I could have them create their own interactive novel.  Of course, they don't have the tools or skills to reproduce something this cool, but it could still be interactive.  Awesome!
  • Zapd:  This app claims to help you build a web site in 60 seconds from your iPhone. I have a Google site which I like and is rather easy to work with.  Once you have been using Blogger for a while, Google Sites are easy to build.  However, I may give Zapd a chance.  Maybe I can coerce the kids to build sites with this.  Then, I have to consider their security.  Thoughts? 
  • Maps:  This app comes with the iPad.  It is very much like Google Maps, which I've been using for years as a geocacher.  However, I guess I didn't realize that you could zoom in on the Sphinx and take a picture of it for a report.  That transforms what reports would look like.  I think of the Country Reports I used to do in my previous school and think of what kids could have put in there.  Why not do something similar with the Biography Reports my fifth graders will do this winter? A picture of the person's birthplace?  A famous landmark in his/her life?  It doesn't just have to be from the maps.  The possibilities are endless.  Oh, behold my Sphinx picture: 

  • There are a ton of note taking apps out there, but one we played with a lot was AudioNote Lite, which allows you to type notes and speak into a microphone to record your notes.  This would be another great tool to create the interactive books I spoke of earlier.
  • You know what I would love to do?  I would love to do an entire class novel unit on iPads... no paper at all.  Wouldn't that be cool?  We learned how to take notes on iBooks, and we were pointed to free books too.  Hmm...  

Tomorrow is another day of training, and I'm hoping that we get to learn more cool ideas so I can start prepping for the day when the iPads are unveiled to my 5th and 6th graders.

However, tonight is tonight, and my wife just came home from work.  I'm going to spend the rest of the evening with her because I enjoy her more than an iPad... even an iPad 2.  :)