Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Setting up an iPad cart and iPad accessories

When the iPad cart first showed up in my room, I was so excited to use them with my students.  But there were some things I needed to do to set them up to ensure that they would not get scratched up, to ensure that they would all be returned to the right spot, and actually returned, and that I had all the right accessories for my students.

First, I made sure to assign each student their own iPad.  I have a class set, so my six classes of students needed to share them.  They are all responsible for their iPads and I know if something is wrong, I can narrow down who might have made any changes.  I also gave each student a log in sheet where they wrote their assigned iPad number and any user names and passwords for different websites and apps we were using.  My students were hesitant about writing down their passwords, but it has come in handy many times for MANY of my students.

To protect the iPads, I purchased covers for them.  The first ones I ordered were too big for the Breton cart - one iPad in a cover would fit in its slot, but not all of them next to each other.  Amazon let me return them, and I ordered another set of covers.  These ones included a clear back case (which allows the iPad number to show through) and a black smart cover (an apple knockoff).  They fit in the cart and allow the students to cover the screen when I am talking to them and want their full undivided attention.  The iPads tend to be a little distraction when they are on and in front of them.

Next, I added sticker labels to the cart.  The Breton cart had numbers in the metal, but they were above the iPads.  Students seem to have a hard time putting their iPad in the correct slot, since the number is too high above the iPad.  The stickers were easy and ensure the students are putting their iPads away correctly, I placed them right in front of where they slide their iPad in.

The iPads get smudgy and lots of fingerprints on the screen, so I purchased some inexpensive microfiber cloths to keep on the cart for students to use to clean the screens.

Next, I discovered that when my students were making videos and screencasts, and the entire class was doing the same thing, the iPad microphone recorded everything.  It was hard to hear the student speaking in a lot of the videos.  So I purchased some earbuds with microphones built in, the kind that come with iPhones.  Amazon has some cheap knockoffs that work pretty well.  I purchased 14 of them.  I don't need one for each student, many of my students had their own.  I also got little headphone cord keepers to store them neatly.  I have required that students bring their own earbuds with them daily, not all of them do, but enough have them.  I did also purchase a alcohol dispenser (like the kind at a dr.'s office) and cotton balls so they can wipe off the earbuds before sticking them in their ears.

When students are in groups, I don't always want to hear their iPads, so I purchased some Belkin earphone splitters.

The headphones and earbuds can disappear very easily, so to keep track of them, and to not have to rifle through them and count them each period, I purchased some organizer boxes from JoAnn's craft store.  They are all numbered, as well as the earbuds and headphones, and I can easily see if any are missing at the end of the period, w/o having to count.  Students check them out by putting their student ID in the compartment that they took the headphones/earbuds out of.  It has worked well, and I have not lost any of the items since I bought the boxes.

I am sure there are more things I will learn as I continue to use the iPads.  My next step is to make a background screen for each iPad with the iPad number.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Change of Plans

To review for exams, I like my students to become an expert on a topic and share their knowledge with their classmates.  Having a class set of iPads, I wanted my students to create a screencast on their assigned topic, then share the different ones with the class as a review activity.

I had heard great things about teachers using the Educreations app, but I realized there were a few things that were going to make things a little difficult for my classes.  So I had to find a way to use it a little differently than the app was intended.  First, if you create a student account, you can't actually create and save screencasts.  I didn't want to give students my personal log in and password, so I had them create teacher accounts.  Second, you can't save works in progress and come back to them.  The app is designed as if the iPad was only used by one person.  Since I have a class set of iPads, and 4 periods of students were going to use them, they had to start and finish the screencast in one period.  I had planned the lesson as a two day activity.  One way around having to save whole screencasts is that students can plan out each slide, put whatever pictures and text on it, and take a photo capture of the screen (by pressing the home button and the button on the top of the ipad - this will save a picture of your screen to your camera roll.)  Then students can just put all their pictures back on each page the next day and explain and record their screencasts.  After saving and uploading their screencasts, I have my students put the link into a google form on my website, then all of the screencasts are on the same page and it is easy for me to share them with the class, and they can watch all of them to review for the unit exam.

A few weeks ago I had big plans for my class.  To review for their unit exam, they were to plan out and create another screencast using the Educreations app.  They knew how to use the program, so they would be able to get the screencast done in one period.  However the app's webserver was down for the day.  I checked on twitter, and there were lots of tweets asking why it wasn't working.  So I knew it wasn't my school's network.  Having to change plans, I had my students use the video part of the iPads camera and my class set of whiteboards.  They created "screencasts" using the whiteboards.  It was a quick solution that still allowed me to have the students review and share their work. I did learn that when all the students are talking and recording in class, that they need to use mics to record.  I know have headphones with mics built in and it really helps limit the sound recorded to their own voice, and not the whole class.

Using new technologies in class doesn't always go as planned.  So you always need to think of another way to meet your lesson's objectives.  Luckily, there are lots of apps and features of the iPads that will allow students to create things when there is no internet.  And the students are flexible and just love to use the iPads, so they don't really care if things don't go completely as planned.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Big Changes

This year I have changed how I teach my biology classes.  

I have always been interested in technology and have integrated it into my classroom since I began teaching in 2000.  From Smart Boards to student response remotes, digital stories and vodcasts using our school's mac cart, I have found ways to incorporate technology to increase student engagement.  But I learned about something new, Flipped Teaching, last spring.  I knew I wanted to try it, but wasn't sure how I could make it work in my classroom.  This summer I went to a worskhop led by CUE at the Krause Center for Innovation, and knew that I couldn't just try out a lesson or two, I had to completely flip.  

Students creating a video review for an exam
Beginning this fall, I have recorded all of my biology lectures using Camtasia for Mac, and have posted all the lessons with google surveys at the end of them, on sophia.org.  Students watch the videos, take Cornell Notes, and fill out the online survey for homework.  In class, we get to discuss the notes and the students have created videos, diagrams, and screencasts explaining what they have learned.  In the past, students just took notes in class, and we moved on to the next planned activity.  Flipping has allowed me to really let the students have time to figure things out by asking questions and working collaboratively in class.  I am able to see what they are thinking by reading their online survey answers and questions, and can address any misconceptions or reteach concepts that they still don't understand.  Students also get to practice higher order thinking skills by taking the information from the notes and connecting concepts, analyzing ideas, making predictions, and really digging into the content.  We are using iPads as a tool for students to share their learning and to teach others.  Without the students watching the videos at home, I wouldn't have time to do this. 

One of the big goals of flip teaching is that the teacher has more one on one time with each student in class.  I do have more time as I can walk around and talk to each group as they discuss the notes from the previous night.  When they are working on their iPads, I can stop and talk to them about what they have learned.  I can have them share their progress adn final products by having them mirror their iPad over the Apple TV.  However I still don't feel that I have enough one on one time with them. 

My goal for our first unit of the new year is to switch over to more of a mastery unit, where the students can work at their own pace through all the activities.  I plan on using the iPads to help facilitate this.  The students love working on them and they love having choices.  My plan is to map out the standards and objectives of the unit and  then give the students choices of how to meet those objectives.  They can get the basic knowledge of the concepts by watching my screencasts or by reading a section of a CK12 book.  They can watch tutorials on how to solve punnet squares, or review step by step instructions online.  Then I will have sets of genetics problems that they can practice with and labs and activities to complete.  At the end of the section, they wil have an assessment to show me that they have met that standard.  It could be a quiz or maybe they can make a screencast or book that shows that they know the material.  If they pass, they move on to the next objective.  If not, they have to do more work, review, etc and reassess.  It will be interesting to see how this will work in a class of 35, and if they all manage to complete the work before we do our big biotech unit (which we all have to be on the same pace for).  
My iPad Cart

I am wrapping my head around all of this right now.  I have found lots of great ideas from posts on twitter, blogs, and facebook.   It is hard to do this without having others in my department doing this, although I get to collaborate with a special ed teacher who I coteach two periods with.  I wish that there were more biology teachers near me who were doing the same things that I could plan with.  I am hoping to go to lots of tech conferences and workshops this summer to learn more.  And I am hoping to get some great comments and suggestions from any readers (if there are any) of this blog.  

In future posts I will share some of the activities and technology and apps that I have used in class, as well as how my genetics unit goes next semester.  Wish me luck!