Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tachlis! How do I use the iPads to engage students in writing activities?

You have a learning objective for a specific topic, unit, chapter etc. You always had one even before the iPads entered your classroom or even your mind. Your learning objective has not changed. What is changing is the way your students will learn and how you engage them to get the results and objectives that you want.
These iPad project ideas will focus on writing and publishing projects. Please note that you do not need to limit these project ideas to General studies. Most of these apps and project ideas can be implemented in a Hebrew or Judaic studies classroom. Let’s explore.
In general, your learning objectives may require your students to demonstrate writing and communication skills by researching material, collaborating and communicating with their peers, and documenting their sources. In traditional classrooms this may be done with a standard research project and research paper or book report assignment. Maybe even a Powerpoint presentation as an individual or group. In a 21st century classroom, objectives may include incorporating imagery and sound with written elements, citing online resources or interactive web sites, and possibly audio and video details.
Here are some examples to get you started on using iPad apps to engage and stimulate your students' learning.
Apps examples - 
Develop your students writing and communication skills through posts and commenting on a topic of your choice. Insist that your students comment on at least one of their peer’s comments. You would be able to provide students a creative outlet through journaling and give those quiet students a voice they never had before. You can take blogs one step further and have them write posts as if they are characters in a novel your class is reading or historical figure. Blogs can also be used collaborate with classrooms from all over the world to discuss similar interests and international topics.
Apps examples - 
Have your students create 1-2 minute video trailers to advertise a book that they read. Like with movie trailers, these videos need to draw the audience into the plot, and introduce characters and setting, but not give away the ending. They can also get into character here as well and create a newscast or interview on a famous person or historical event. You can create a moving video but a photo video from many different resources can also culminate in a powerful project. This may be a way in which students with artistic talents can shine if they are able to create their own digital images.
PostersApp examples - ScrapPadGlogsterSkitch
Students can create a movie-style poster to advertise their book. Poster elements would include the title, author, a representative image, a “hook” to get others to want to read the book, a student review or quotation of a review which could in character or from a peer. The class can each create a poster of a US state or different country and create a whole “book” with everyones “page.” Other ideas can include a parsha scrapbook, or pages for each part of the Seder to culminate into a class Haggadah. Web tools like 
FlipSnack can be used to create the book.
Online Presentations
App examples - KeynoteSlideRocketSlideSharkPrezi
Presentations are an oldie but goodie way to show a final product of research and collaboration.
The presentations are in the cloud so it works well in groups. No more excuses about not be able to get together with your partner because they can do it all online!

Instead of the standard book reports, have your students create cartoons. The dialogue should be creative and relevant and could take a story to a whole new level. You can also empower your students to be published authors. Have then write the next chapter in a book, their own creative writing story, a biography or autobiography about a relative. They can create informative and interactive iBooks for their classmates, teachers, and family members.

As you can see, you can use simple apps to engage your students in a lesson and in a project. You can use the iPad as a tools to promote collaboration, interactivity, publishing and digital citizens without separating the class from the learning objectives. As they say, “when in Rome.” I think that we are already there, might as well enjoy the sites and be in the pictures!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Managing your iPad Classroom

So your school came into a large donation or grant and handed a 12 year old a $400 toy with the hope that this academic year will be one of great achievement, enhanced learning and collaboration with their peers. Uh oh. What did we do? Middle school students lose things all the time, they are not the most careful of age groups and they LOVE access to the Internet! It wasn’t that easy before. How am I supposed to manage them in the classroom now?

One of the scariest things about new technology is putting it in the hands of students. My fellow educators and I have shared some tips and tricks over the last year to help each other integrate iPads into the classroom and basic strategies help manage student behavior when using online tools. Here are some that may help you in your journey using iPads in your classroom:

1- Set expectations - Classroom management challenges can easily be overcome by setting clear and simple guidelines and expectations for iPad use. Remind your students of the school’s iPad and Internet use policies that both the students and their parents agreed to at the beginning of the year. Remind them that they are using a school-issued iPad for academic purposes only and it should not be used to play games or shop online. Remember that the best lever available to you is simply taking the iPad away from them. Tell your students how you would like them to behave during iPad time and that there will be “iPad time” and “no iPad time” during class. Perhaps you want them to have your full attention for 15 minutes at the beginning of every class before they even take out their iPads. Communicate your expectations about iPad use at the beginning of every task.

2- Set a routine - If you ask your students to get their iPads at the beginning of class and leave them face down on their desks, it will direct the students’ attention away from the iPads and on you during instructional time. In addition, when it is time to use the iPads, they should be placed in a slightly elevated position or flat so that you can see what the students are doing on the iPad at all times. Do not let students use the iPad in their lap where the desk/table can block your view. You can also set up a reward system based on how long the students take to set up their iPads.

3- Differentiate - Our students differ in their style of learning and their ability to perform a task. They range from visual learners to audio or verbal while others are readers and writers. When you ask your students to perform research on a topic and create a presentation, you may want to give them options so that you can avoid distraction and disengagement from the task at hand. For example, you can offer an essay option using the Pages app but a presentation option using ShowMe or Educreations as well as a more visual scrapbook type assignment using ScrapPad. The end result will be the same and by using the iPad you will have differentiated the learning and engaged the maximum number of students.

4- Get up and move! - Currently, teachers are very limited in being able to “see” their students’ iPad screens from their desktop computer or from their own iPad. The technology is still not available. So the only way to be able to see your students’ screen is to really just take a look. Circulating around the classroom is your best bet in order to give your students the signal that you are fully aware of what they are doing on the iPads. Arrange your classroom so that you're able to see all iPad screens easily. If your students are facing the front of the class, stand behind them. If they are in a circle, just do a walk through. You want to send them a message but also make sure that they are on task and keeping up. Some apps like Nearpod can create an environment where your students login to the app, only work in that environment and you are alerted when the student “left the room”

5- Test your apps and sites ahead of time - Make sure your school isn't filtering a resource you need (and try to do it enough in advance that your tech team can unblock something you need). Make sure the student iPads have required apps installed and updated so that the features you need work properly. Technology does let us down sometimes. The most important thing is: don’t panic in front of students and relax, show them that you control the technology, not the other way around.

6- Steps for technical issues - Define procedures for when technical issues arise in the classroom. Should students ask peers or you for help? Should they be sent to tech support? You could assign a couple of iPad student “experts” in your class to be your go to team so that you can continue with your instruction.
I came across the iTunes U course Classroom Management with iPads by the Palm Springs Unified School District that also gave me some more ideas and suggestions on class setup and behavior management apps like ClassDojo and PickMe.
In order to maintain order in your classroom when every one of your students has access to the outside world at their fingertips, you should always remember that you are the adult in control. In the beginning, constant reminders and communication needs to be given to your students about the consequences to poor classroom behavior as it relates to the iPad. Whether it’s the iPad taken away, loss of privileges, communication to parents or detention, the results must be enforced and made clear to your students. Over time, very few students will want to have their iPad taken away from them. Some may even prefer detention over that! You and your band of educators will have to stick together and enforce the rules so that it maintains consistency throughout the students day.
Although technology is often one of the best tools we have for instruction, it isn't the only one and does not necessarily need to be used for every lesson. Once classroom expectations and consequences are set and followed, managing iPads in your classroom will become second nature.