Over the past week, I've had the chance to use our 16 iPad 2s with each of our KS2 classes and wanted to share some of my reflections about using them with you.
To begin, I've spent the last couple of months researching about what are the most effective apps to install so that our money is spent wisely and so there is a large (and varied) enough collection put on them ready to have an immediate impact when they are first used. Inspiration came from many sources, including: reading blog posts to find out real opinions, examining the charts on the Apps Store to see what is currently popular and looking through the online inventory on the Teaching Appz website. You can view my Google Spreadsheet of what's currently installed by clicking here - you'll notice how I've taken the time to describe what subject folder I have placed each in together with some links showing a good lesson using them. Even though they are not apps as such, I've also included some web shortcuts that I've put on too - like for the school website and the literacy and numeracy mats we use.
Downloading apps is an exciting activity to do - syncing them across devices slightly less so. Whilst the majority of apps can be transferred onto an iPad within seconds, I've discovered there are a few that take a very long time because of their huge file size (Garage Band being the worst offender) so this made the process take slightly longer than I'd anticipated.
The tediousness of doing this was quickly forgotten about though when the children began anticipating getting the chance to actually have a go at using the devices. With each class I explained to them a few rules (e.g. how to hold it safely) before letting them have a go at just exploring the apps that I'd installed upon them. Normally I don't like giving children 'play' sessions as they waste valuable learning time however on this occasion I felt that it was necessary to help generate a 'buzz' around using the tablets and to help them become familiar with working on iOS since it is so vastly different to working on a Windows PC (I tried to partner up those children with prior experiences with those who'd never touched one before). I delivered these sessions at the end of the day as a bit of 'light relief' and the overwhelming response from the children was that they were all extremely impressed with the iPads - the long time taken to install the apps had certainly proved worthwhile!
One thing that came as a bit of a surprise to me was how easy the logistics of actually getting the children started on the iPads were - in contrast to walking down the corridor to get a laptop which then takes a few minutes to login, the children just swiped to unlock the iPads that they collected from the small trolley that I'd wheeled into to the room. The fast speed of this process literally amazed me and could have huge potential in improving the 'flow' of lessons as more time for learning/working is available. In addition, it was also nice not to have to worry about batteries dying too since the iPads work for up to 10 hours between charges which is more than enough to last your average school day (in contrast to our laptop which only last about one lesson).
This afternoon, I ended up having a whole two hours with Year 6 in which I could introduce the iPads to them. Similar to with Years: 3, 4 and 5, I let them have some time just exploring them before I then chose to actually try getting them to produce work on them. I've installed several 'productivity' apps that enable content to be generated however since this was my first proper lesson with them, I opted to just ask them to do the straightforward activity of creating a photo collage of the Olympic Torch Relay so I that could observe how they worked.
As you can see from the images below, both the children and I were very pleased with the quality of the work that was produced and the majority of them co-operated well with their partner to learn how to use the software. Pic Collage is a great app, not only because it is free but also because it has so many formatting tools available that the more confident children can use to further develop/improve their collages.
The only two issues that I had were demonstrating how to use the app at the start to the children since our iPads don't connect to the projectors (although Apple TV seems like it could be a good solution like I saw at the Essa Academy in Bolton and read about in this blog post) and how to share the work with me at the end (I'm struggling to get an email account set up on them as it keeps returning the error that an imap server can't be found, although I am currently investigating whether this is a filtering or proxy server issue with our technical support team).
Despite these, my initial reflections upon using iPads in the classroom are very positive because they are so easy to get loaded up and so intuitive to use. I have extremely high expectations of the impact that they are going to have on teaching and learning and am really looking forward to seeing how our journey with them continues forward...