Yesterday we had a trainer from Apple come and spend the day with our Assistive Technology Team. The AST consists of 8 members including myself, our IT Coach, our Media Specialist, two Resource Room teachers (Primary and Elementary), one inclusion Kinder teacher, a Speech and Pathology staff member, and the Director of Unified Student Services. AST meets once a month to share best practices and evaluate assistive technologies such as the iPad, the Neo2, and other software.
Using grant money, we were able to purchase a set of 10 iPads, professional development, and money for itunes and the app store in an effort to investigate the impact of iPads on teaching, learning and administration in special education. Each AST member was issued an iPad in December and our IT Coach kicked off the program with an overview of the tool.
Yesterday, I found the discussions we had to be equally if not more valuable than the skills we learned. The iPads and their capabilities can be very overwhelming, and the wealth of online reviews and blogs to help our search for its best uses takes a lot of time to go through! It was both reassuring and frustrating to know that there are many K-12 educators like us who are investigating the best practices with the iPads, and that Apple acknowledges their need to adapt their purchase programs, PD, and content to meet our needs. It made sense that most of the content is aimed at very young children and young adults and professionals – their primary market is stay-at-home moms with young kids and college students and businesses. So as we learn, Apple is learning too.
Some of my quick wins (or A-ha!s) were:
- scaffolding projects for children by assigning specific and achievable tasks or roles per child, per device
- pre-loading content onto the devices to drive the lesson (folders of web site bookmarks, photos in the photo app, folders assigned to a child’s name, etc)
- re-thinking the “group” project as a presentation on 2 or more devices. They don’t have to combine all of their work into ONE device…
- …but if they did, use BUMP to share content between devices! BUMP now shares photos, music and apps, not just address book info!
- games can be incentives for learning in addition to being stand-alone skill-builders – and that’s OK!
- the ipad mobile lab may be best used in a regularly scheduled small group/center as opposed to a whole class teacher-led instruction projected from the device (only some apps project, not all)
- podcasts are professional development tools – itunes U and itunes is rich with content!
- use the power search (search by keyword etc) in itunes on your laptop and it may be easier to find content than the itunes or app store on your ipad
- our searches should not be for the “best” app, but what is “best” for the child! Search with the AIM in mind and craft the device to your lesson, not your lesson to the device.
- This accessory was a BIG hit: my pink pogo at https://tenonedesign.com/products.php
I am looking forward to continuing the investigation!