Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's Great to Begin Again!

It is hard to believe that I have not written a blog since May, but as the old adage goes, "time flies!" and yes it has! After having the summer to reflect on my first year of having shared iPads in my classroom, I am very excited to begin again. Now that I have finished week one of the new year with my BioBulldogs, I feel like I am at at good point to reflect on what I did differently to start this school year than last year.

I am now officially in my second year of having iPads in my classroom. I think what surprised my students the most is that we didn't even talk about iPads on day one. My focus was on honor, community, and understanding of the individuals in our classroom. In fact, we didn't even use the iPads on day two. If you are thinking about adding iPads to your classroom, just starting out with iPads this year, or you have experience under your belt with iPads, maybe you can find my take-a-ways of value.

1. Introduce your content, your expectations and yourself before the iPad.  If your school is like mine, the kids want to know you first and the technology second. I am blessed to teach in a community where the relationships between students and teachers trumps all else. The moral fabric of our community rests in honor and trust.

2. Make sure you have clear iPad etiquette expectations so that technology doesn't interfere with learning. In my classroom, all students are assigned a numbered iPad for the year.  When this number is given, students write the number on a log that they will use for all of their username and password information for the year. Students quickly get used to learning phrases like "screens off"  when I need to make sure they are tuned in to what we are doing. Little things such as not changing backgrounds, screen savers and moving apps are important points to make with shared iPads. It may seem very trivial, but you do not want students becoming frustrated because they cannot access their i-text or find the project app.

3. Assume that the first time you introduce iPads to your class that all students have zero experience with them.  This way, you are starting everyone from the same point. They will quickly show each other new features and ways to use the iPad. Even the most experienced users don't know everything. Many students are going from using the iPad for entertainment and consumption to using it for a totally new purpose in school.  Using a simple checklist of skills will give you a quick gauge on ability levels.

4. Allow time for discovery.  I have already noticed a stronger comfort level in my students this year since I have given them two full days of class to explore. The first day they were given specific tasks to do. The second day was devoted to working with the i-text version of our book, Biology by Miller and Levine. My students are using e-texts at home and i-texts in class. I want to give them the opportunity to get used to using the book in different platforms to write their notes. We also explored using one of my favorite apps, Nova Elements. Students can build atoms, much like a game, to show understanding of the periodic table and properties of matter.

Overall, the year has started off smoothly thanks to patient students who have a willingness to keep a solid balance between tradition and technology. Stay tuned for next week when we officially launch our class Twitter account and announce our first term project!

To learn more ways in which I am using technology in my classroom, follow me on Twitter @eglassman757.

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