Friday, October 12, 2012

Elementary School iPad Rollout

Fourth grade students at Woodbridge
creating their first movie.
Elementary students were brimming with excitement this week as the iPad carts were assembled and loaded into their classrooms.

Teachers have been patiently waiting and preparing for this digital disruption in their learning environment for over a year now.  To say that everyone is ready and excited is a total understatement. Already after a week of use teachers and students are off and running using the iPads in a variety of ways.

Before putting the device in the hands of students, teachers communicated a message of expectations for use and care for the iPad.  They got a little help from some courages and destined to be famous fifth grade students from Quincy.  Check out the great job they did putting together proper caring and sharing techniques for using the iPad. Other topics covered included:  Responsible and safe internet searching, proper communication protocol with teachers and peers, and teaching students about their digital footprint.

One great aspect of the iPad is the camera. Students love to take pictures and pose for them too. In Mrs. Timmer's elementary class students were learning how to classify objects, specifically contrasting human and natural characteristics of landforms.  Students were given the task of heading outdoors and capturing objects that were a part of the landscape and classifying them as human or natural.  Heading outside with the iPads gave students the feeling of exploring their surroundings like an archeologist. After capturing human and natural landforms students discussed the differences and created a pic collage of both types.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teachers Delivering Content through iTunesU

It's a new year and for some of our teachers @Zeelandschools they are choosing to use iTunesU to host their classroom content.  Zeeland Public Schools launched their public iTunesU site this past September offering a few classes, not just to their students, but to the entire world as well. This is one of the fascinating aspects of Apples iTunesU space- anyone around the world with access to iTunes can access content from any institution using iTunesU to host it's content. In fact it is interesting to note that over half of our institutions content is being downloaded from outside the United States.

There are many great features about keeping content in iTunesU.  Teachers enjoy the vast amount of file space they are allotted for videos, links, and digital textbooks. Building a course is as simple as uploading your content, linking external sites, and dragging objects to create a correct order of appearance. Content, such as apps and digital textbooks in the iBook store are all linked together making student workflow easy and seamless. One great feature to note is the ability for students to take notes while watching videos.  These notes are automatically bookmarked to the video timeline for easy referencing later.

Perhaps the most important issue that using iTunesU address is the one of limited internet access outside the school building. A 1:1 program can go a long ways towards leveling the playing field, however, once students step outside the school wi-fi access the field can again become unfair and the device limited.  Similar to apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, iTunesU allows students to download content for offline viewing.

While the platform is easy to use for both teacher and student it does have a few limitations. As of now, iTunesU is just a one way channel- delivering content to the student.  Besides the ability to email an instructor there are no interactive discussion boards, quizzing features, or widgets.  However, it is owned by Apple and you can bet there is a team of highly trained innovative educators who are working to make it better.

As a teacher it excites me to think I could be helping someone in far off country learn math or science. In addition, it encourages me to connect my students to similar(and different) classes with the same content (or different) and different instructors...why wouldn't I want to expose them to different teaching styles? This could be a great way for struggling students to get the support they need. Likewise, this can be a great way for advanced students to move ahead and be challenged.