Monday, November 14, 2011

iPads & Wikispaces...A Pretty Good Match!

I am a Google Certified Teacher (GTAWA '11) and there has been a lot of discussion on the GCT forum regarding iPads. iPads are all the craze in education, as you certainly well know.

Last year, my district was awarded a grant that allowed us to purchase 4 iPad labs (30 each), one lab for each core area. We also implemented a hybrid class where English students were each issued an iPad and met in class only about 50-60% of the time. This was to test both flexible scheduling and a 1:1 environment. This year, both middle schools in my district purchased iPads for the Science departments rather than textbooks, another hybrid class is in session at the high school, and we have another high school iPad lab coming at the end of this month.

So, iPads have been on my mind...

The problem is this: The iPad was not made for education. Both teachers and Apple realized, after the fact, that it could be a valuable tool, and that it is not without its limitations. It's not a square peg/round hole situation...more like an octagon peg/round hole. You can make it fit with minimal banging, but bang you must. So we are forced to utilize the 21st Century skills of critical thinking (problem solving) and creativity to make it work.

Here is my advice: Don't rely solely on apps. Mix it up with Web 2.0 tools!

The one I have found very successful with a 6th Grade Science teacher is our old friend Wikispaces.

The WIKI provides an interactive place where the teacher can list the agenda, media, web-links, and the students can access them during the lesson. By using the WIKI, you can eliminate the time-killers that occur with misspellings of URLs (web addresses), add focus to normally misguided searches, and save paper since there is no need for handouts. Everything is on the WIKI and accessible 24-7! These reasons, along with all of the various widgets that can be added to the WIKI, make Wikispaces a pretty good tool!

You can also take it a step further and have a separate WIKI page where students can ask and answer questions or reflect on the information they are receiving.
What I don't like is that video embedding is clunky. You can't have too big of a file when uploading so you have to do pre-posting editing. There are some video widgets, but in the land of school filters and flash, those options come up short. I may be on to a remedy, however. I will let you know what I find out :)
I know you can do similar things with other learning management systems, but not every school has one. We use Moodle and that Science teacher I spoke of before uses Moodle quite a bit. Again, the WIKI brings focus where as Moodle can resemble a warehouse, and collaboration is much easier with a WIKI.
Kids want to use the iPads when they are in the room, so let them! Don't save it to do research or for a later activity; make it integral to the learning of the day! Keep them active, engaged, and focused!

It's not a silver bullet, but it's got some punch!

Have a happy day!

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